Randonneurs  USA

Colorado High Country 1200km Randonnée
Rocky Mountain Cycling Club
Randonneurs USA
Randonneurs Mondiaux

Rocky Mountain Cycling Club

Last Chance 2012 Report, Photos, and Stories
Updated 31-July-2012

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"Sunset over the Front Range" - JLE photo, © 2010

My CHC Story
by Dave Cramer


I've never finished a 1200k. My only attempt was PBP in 2007, where I was sick before the ride, started going downhill (figuratively) the first morning, and nearly fainted at the control in Villanes. The next year we adopted a baby from Guatemala, and so I was semi-retired from randonneuring, doing a single 200k at best some years.

But then it didn't snow last winter, and I couldn't ski. So to stay sane I had to ride the bike, and so when the brevet season started in March, I was ready. The first rides went much better than expected, and soon I was wondering if a full series was possible, and maybe even more. I had lived in Colorado for eighteen years, and have keenly felt the absence of the high country ever since I moved to New England in 1998. So I was immediately attracted to the Colorado High Country 1200k as soon as I heard of it, and it became the logical goal for my return to randonneuring. So I ended up on the waiting list, and checked that list far more often than I like to admit as I chugged through the brevet series. Optimism prevailed, and I bought a ticket to Colorado while still #1 on the wait list, and before my 600k. I was officially part of the ride right as I qualified, even though I'd promised myself during the 600k that if I finished that, I wouldn't have to start the 1200! Ah, the things we promise ourselves during brevets! Of course, even by that night I was wavering, and emailed JLE to tell him I'd qualified.

So I flew to Denver, and rode the bus to Louisville, and met wonderful randonneurs at the hotel and hung out in Boulder and generally had a good time, while trying not to think too much about the task looming overhead...

DAY 1, LOUISVILLE, CO to SARATOGA, WY, 220 miles, +10,500 feet, 14:48 riding time, 17:00 overall, 14.9mph moving average

Of course it was raining. How many times this season have I woken up in a hotel at 3am, quickly gotten dressed, and opened the door only to see rain everywhere? But this was different, as I was 2,000 miles from home in Colorado, and the ride would be 1200 kilometers, twice as far as I'd ever ridden. I'm always anxious before brevets, but this ride was so overwhelming I didn't know what to think. But the solution to every randonneuring problem is to get on the bike and ride, so off we went at 4:05, on wet roads but not quite raining.

I was dropped within the first mile. Everything felt too fast. Lots of downhill on wet 4-lane streets through shopping centers, but with no cars in sight. Everyone had told me to take it easy on the first half of the ride, but I didn't want to ride the flattest part of the ride alone, especially not knowing what the wind would do. I never did see the leaders again, but I caught a ride with Brent and Beth on the tandem for a bit, and eventually fell in with Mordecai, Bill, and one other rider who's name (embarrassingly) escapes me. I dropped off on one hill, but was saved by a traffic light. But we were going very fast—19 miles the first hour, almost 35 miles in the first two hours, and so on. It was raining some, including very heavy rain as we headed through Loveland. Before that, we hit some traffic on US 34, including two cars in a row yelling at us. Luckily, that was the only bad feelings from motorists the entire ride. At some point on Taft Hill Road, I just gave up, and dropped off the little group. Too fast for my blood. But there were only ten more miles to the first control, at Vern's in LaPorte. I found lots of riders there, and didn't feel as left-behind.

* * *

The clock is always ticking. The sooner you get to the end of the stage, the more you can sleep. Riding faster is hard, but stopping less is something you can learn. A million things need to be done at the control--get the brevet card signed, eat (lots), take a “nature break,” adjust clothing, replace water and food supplies, touch up the chamois cream, throw away the accumulated debris from the previous segment, refold the cue sheet...

* * *

At Vern's, I drank some chocolate milk, ate part of a two-pound apricot danish, and bought some water. I needed to stock up, as there were no services between there and Laramie, Wyoming. I'd been a bit scared of this segment. Back when I lived in Colorado, I sometimes drove Highway 287 to Laramie, on the way to the Wind Rivers or the west coast. It always felt so desolate. Once I saw a funnel cloud, not so far away. Passing through all that nothing on a bike seemed daunting. But it wasn't hot, the wind was at our backs, and the terrain more varied and interesting than I remembered. Best of all, I was riding with fellow easterners Ed and Mary, on the tandem. They were great company. Just before the Wyoming border, at Virginia Dale, Jim Kraychy had an informal support stop with food and water, so we stocked up on water and bananas, and might have eaten a cookie or two. I stay with Ed and Mary up all the climbs, but then the road descends towards Laramie, and I lose them on one of the many descents.

I rode the last 20 miles into Laramie alone, but still going very fast. More than 120 miles by noon? That was good for my morale. Laramie of course was still ugly. I rode through bumpy nasty streets, there was a big bridge over railroad tracks, and then I finally stopped at McDonalds. A double cheeseburger, fries, and a coke—yummy! Lots of fellow riders were there. Then I went across the street to get water and some V8. It's getting hot. Then off towards the Snowy Range on Highway 130. Desolate, false flat, hot, hard to find a rhythm. I rode with Fred for a bit. A larger group passed me, I try to hang on but can't, so I drop back. Seems to take a long time to get to Centennial, at around mile 150, right at the base of the big climb. There's a combination bar and store; I hang out for quite a while drinking Pepsi and eating potato chips and fearing the road ahead. 3,000 feet of climbing in ten miles, up to 10,700 feet. How will I handle the altitude? I moved away from Colorado fourteen years ago.

The road was steep right away, but it did feel good to be in the trees again! But I chugged away, and slowly made progress. By the top I was really feeling the altitude, but the scenery was just stunning, with a row of snowy peaks to the north, and beautiful open forest to the south. There was a quick descent, and then another steep uphill, where my lungs nearly exploded. At last I reached Mirror Lake, chatted with Fred for a bit, and then started down. What a descent! I'd sit up as tall as I could, and just cruise at 35mph for what seemed like forever. As I passed Rorie she stopped suddenly, with a bottom bracket problem. But she got going again. Down and down. At the bottom a bigger group formed, including Ed and Mary. Then we reached the turnoff to Riverside. We're eight miles from the hotel, but had 28 miles to ride. Nasty rollers, expansion cracks in the road, I was very discouraged. It was slow going, and I'd have to ride back over everything. I leapfrogged with Fred. I finally gott to Riverside, and thank goodness the store was open! Coke and chips. Going back was easier than I anticipated. Really cruising as dusk falls, I pushed to make it in before 9PM. I just made it, as both tandems passed me on last stretch.

The hotel seemed nice. I got my card signed, and then Paul Brown offered me a baked potato! I devoured it with lots of butter and salt. Food first, then everything else. Go to room, take bike to room, shower, organize gear, expect another person but it never happened. I was in bed by 10:15, but didn't fall asleep for a long time...

A day to be proud of. I survived the biggest climb, did the longest day and was done by dark. Of course, there's more than five hundred miles to go :)

DAY 2, SARATOGA, WY to STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, CO, +8900 feet, 15:30 riding time, 17:34 overall, 12.7mph moving average

Up at 3:15, wolfed down a breakfast burrito, and was off at 3:46. I could pedal, more or less, which was good after the intensity of the first day. But it soon became apparent I couldn't pedal very fast. After Riverside, it got much worse, and I was more and more discouraged. Headwinds, endless rollers, those god-forsaken cracks across the road that you hit fifty times a minute—it was no fun. I was even starting to worry that I'd miss the time cut at Walden, or at least have a very long day. A ten-mile-per-hour average on a 200 mile day would get me to Steamboat at midnight, not a pleasant thought. The whole morning was the low point of the entire ride. Contact points were hurting, I was slow, I'd likely be short of sleep the rest of the ride, and I thought I was the last person on the road. Negative thoughts in the desolate landscape were a bad combination. I'd latch on to small things—just get to the Colorado border, get to the next mile marker.

I finally made it to Walden with some time to spare, had something to eat, and headed east on Highway 14. I was still discouraged, and the rollers still seemed more up than down, but now it was hot and trucks were nearly scraping me off the road.

Slowly, very slowly, it got better. As we gained altitude, the sagebrush gradually turned into irrigated grazing land, full of cattle. “Eat Beef Every Day,” the signs said. And there's some feeling of accomplishment merely from finishing some part of the day's miles. “Only a hundred miles to go” hardly feels like an optimistic statement, except in this business. Muddy Pass and US 40 arrived without a monster climb, and on Rabbit Ears I saw several fellow randonneurs, which always cheered me up. The climb wasn't that bad, and the meadows and forests were beautiful, although traffic was heavy. I much preferred the climb to the descent, which was just too long, too steep, and too unrelenting to be much fun. But covering seven miles in fourteen minutes helps the average speed.

Steamboat Springs felt like a furnace. Lots of traffic, and no handy bike lines through the innumerable right-turn lanes (Boulder/Louisville had spoiled me). I stopped at a bike shop to get some chamois butter, went to McDonalds for some fat, salt, and sugar (lots of randonneurs there), and finally stopped at a convenience store for water and V8. It wasn't a very efficient stop, but lots needed to be done, and I was afraid of the heat. Did I mention I was, due to poor planning, wearing a black jersey? I rode through Steamboat's yuppie downtown, and then ugly industrial zones, with the heat radiating from the pavement. A tailwind was probably more of a hindrance than a help, as moving didn't cool me down. Lots of traffic and the heat made for an unpleasant ride all the way to Hayden. Filled up with liquids at the control there, and then had to ride five miles back up US 40. But it was after 5PM, and not quite so hot, and the road back didn't seem quite so bad (traffic was probably all the people who work in Steamboat, but couldn't afford to live there). Right past Hayden Station (a giant coal-fired power plant), we turned onto County Road 27, and all of the sudden the cars were gone, and the world was quiet again. The roads were soaking wet; storms were afoot. It rained a bit the first few miles, never enough to stop and put on a jacket, never cool enough to be refreshing.

The glory of the High Country 1200 is the constantly changing terrain. By this time I felt like I'd been in fifty distinct landscapes, and Twenty-Mile Canyon, as this area was known, was one of the most interesting. I'd do a big climb, only to come around a corner and lose most of the hard-won elevation in a 40mph descent. I came across a huge coal mine, and then started what I could only assume was the big climb. The cue sheet noted a 7,800 foot high point before the next control, so I was trying to keep track of my altitude. But the big climb ended, once again, in a big descent. It was psychological warfare, with my expectations being no match for the physical reality of the road. Two feet up, one foot down. I was counting off the miles, knowing there would have to be a huge climb ahead, but eventually I was running out of miles! We were up in the forest again, and finally a sustained climb appears just as the miles run out. Two miles from the control, I'm on top, and a corkscrew descent takes me to Oak Creek. 8pm, and twenty miles to go—my day has turned out better than I could have thought, and after too many miles on US 40, my faith in the beauty of Colorado is restored.

There were lots of folks at the store, and there was news. There was three miles of loose gravel on the route to Steamboat, due to road contstruction. JLE had recommended an alternative route, but we weren't clear on where it started, and Rod's wife (who was supporting him) hadn't even found it in her car. But I have 42mm tires at 45psi, so I wasn't too worried about the original route. It was a fast descent, and I finally reached the construction, which was nasty at first, but not bad once I got used to it. I went slowly, as I didn't want to experience an "involuntary deflation incident). Soon enough the pavement was back, and I descended into darkness, and, eventually Steamboat Springs. I was at the hotel at 9:20PM, far better than the midnight arrival I'd feared in the despair of the morning.

I had a pulled pork sandwich, started some laundry (graciously put in the dryer by Dottie), and was in bed at 10:30. Once again I didn't sleep for a long time. Was the altitude affecting my sleep? I probably should have listened to my more experienced fellow riders and had a beer before bed!

DAY 3, STEAMBOAT SPRINGS to WALDEN, 182 miles, +8300 feet, 14:55 riding time, 17:21 overall time, 12.2mph moving average

Up at 3am. I can't remember breakfast. Was there a hard boiled egg, or just Honey Nut Cheerios? Off at 3:33am or so. Mostly up at first, and I was using the alternate route to avoid the gravel from yesterday. It was a bit hard to find that first turn in the dark. It was windy, but I was feeling OK, even though I was peeing seemingly every half-mile. Lights ahead of me, lights behind me, and so quiet... Riding past Stagecoach State Park, there's a lake, behind the lake is a ridge, over the ridge is the morning star, with the horizon just starting to show signs of dawn. Beautiful.

I'd never ridden this far before, and a third day of 300+ kilometers was unprecedented. But here I was, in the thick of things, riding along. For the first time I felt like I could do this, finish the 1200k. I'd been warned about this: hubris.

Detour finished, I was back on CO 131, and it was getting light. Yampa was a bit confusing; it felt like I was leaving town before a store appeared, so I went "downtown" and went into the diner. I joined Beth and Brent for breakfast, headed back out of town, and found the store, which was worth another stop for chocolate milk. Back on the road, what looked like old volcanic necks rose from irrigated farmland. I rode with Beth and Brent for a bit, as the landscape continues to rise, and slowly dries out. I turned onto CO 134 at Toponos, and the drylands gave way to forest. There was an unnamed pass; I put on my jacket for the descent. Up again, through beautiful open forest and meadows, classic Colorado high country. It's a long climb, but it's a beautiful day. I ride with Fred for a bit, see a few other folks; what a pleasant way to spend a morning! I took a few pictures at the top of Gore Pass, and then a long, long descent, taking me from the subalpine forest back to the sagebrush, past an odd-looking development on a hillside. It's getting hot fast, and too soon I reach US 40. The next six miles were HORRIBLE. No shoulder, heavy traffic, trucks buffeting the bike as they sped by. I kept asking the trucks to please not kill me, not after all this riding. Did I mention how hot it was?

Finally, I stopped at a big supermarket in Kremmmling. Lots of bikes there! I go into the deli, have a fried chicken leg (fearing food poisoning) some fries and a Coke. Go to the bathroom, buy a gallon of water, assemble my stuff. Fred was chatting up some bike tourers, who were happy to find something other than a convenience store. Then I continue down US40 towards Hot Sulpher Springs. Still no shoulder, but less traffic. Dry and open. Cliffs, rangeland... downhill, tailwind. As I was going along the Colorado River, I started to see signs of fishermen. Finally there was a shoulder, things weren't too bad for a while. Byers Canyon was very narrow, with no shoulder, but not scary like before Kremmling. It reminded me of the Big Thompson Canyon where I rode thirty years ago. I had another Coke and some chips in Hot Sulpher Springs, and then it was off to Granby, mostly downhill. Bought a V8 at the sub-optimal store there, and then headed up US 34 towards Grand Lake. The traffic here was relentless, the busiest highway of the whole trip. There was a strong headwind, and this was another low point of the entire ride. At least I could see some of the faster riders returning from Grand Lake—it's nice not to feel alone out there. Climbed up a big hill to Arapahoe Bay. Suddenly the headwind was a strong tailwind, which lasted a mile or two before switching again. Once again it was looking like a whole day at 10mph, and a late arrival at the control. At least the views over the lakes were fantastic, as I tried to guess at the peaks I knew so well from the other side.

Finally, I made it to Grand Lake. Ate some Lunchables, but there was no chocolate milk, and I had only one Ensure left. Lots of riders were there. Headed back as quickly as I could, with something of a tailwind, although the wind was quite variable and hard to predict. Back in Granby, I stocked up for the remaining 55 miles with no supplies. I was still miserable as I started up CO 125. But leaving the traffic behind was wonderful. Big climb at first, gaining 600 feet in 3 miles just to get in the right valley. Riding was painful, for my hands and my butt. But it was getting beautiful again, and I watched as a horseback rider led a hundred horses at a canter down the valley. Eventually I started hammering, as riding slowly wasn't any less painful than riding fast. I caught up with Fred and some of his friends, and tried not to think about the pain. It was starting to look like moose country, but I didn't see any. There were great views of Parkview Mountain, and I was trying to remember all the complications of the Continental Divide in this area. Soon enough I was on the final climb to Willow Creek Pass, and JLE was waiting for us! I asked about the descent, and he said it was downhill all the way to Walden. Woo-hoo! North of the pass was just magical. Open woodlands, expansive views, opening up to grassland ringed with mountains. The world has never felt so large! I watched the mountains, and watched the small storms playing in the distance, as I cruised down twenty miles of a one-percent grade! It would have been perfect if they'd bothered to fix the damned cracks in the road. There was no traffic. At one point a windstorm appeared out of nowhere, but quickly disappeared. All was well.

Never assume all is well during a brevet! With six miles to go, all of the sudden there was a 30mph headwind. My speed dropped in half. Luckily I ran into Hugh from Seattle, and we joined forces to fight our way into Walden. One of us would grind into the wind at 9mph, while the other coasted in the draft, enjoying a bit of a psychological break. It's a bit scary, and I can't imagine what it's like for people further out from Walden.

The town was a huge relief, and a great control! I had some thick black bean soup with rice, some watermelon, and then was off to my room. In bed at 10:30 again, and as usual I didn't sleep much. I was up before my alarm at 2:15, and finally got up for good at 2:50. I put on almost all the clothes I brought, ate some bacon and eggs and chocolate milk, and headed into the cold at 3:22am.

DAY 4: WALDEN, CO to LOUISVILLE, CO 148 miles, +4300 feet, 10:47 riding time, 12:39 overall time, 13.8mph moving average

The terrain was the perfect mirror of yesterday. This time I was going up the endless one percent grade, with lights ahead and behind. I was feeling OK, although getting increasingly cold in spite of a wool hat, softshell jacket, and toe covers. I finally stop and put on a balaclava and helmet cover. Still cold, and now I'm hoping for steeper grades. I'm greatly surprised to encounter a tree, after so much time in the expanses of North Park! By Gould I'm in forest again, leapfrogging Bob. Finally, the climb starts in earnest, and I'm in the midst of the high mountains again. I keep stopping to take pictures. At the top, there's a little marsh with six moose, and a car containing JLE! He takes my photo, and I joke I would have asked for a refund if I hadn't seen a moose on the ride. It's just before 7am. I've ridden 1000k in 75 hours. 200k to go. Could this actually happen?

Down, down, down. There was sun at the top, and it was bearable; fast but not too fast. Almost get hit by a deer on that first strecth, it passed 10 yards away. Then into the shadows, and it's borderline freezing, but it gets a bit better after a while. And it's beautiful. And it keeps going down. As I make good time, I'm increasingly optimistic about a reasonably quick day—it would be nice to be done before rush hour in the suburbs. I arrived at Glen Echo to find lots of randonneurs sitting down to breakfast. It sounds like a good idea, so I have orange juice, eggs, sausage, and hash browns. And of course this was the moment of the day when it switched from too cold to too hot, so I switched from my winter gear to my summer gear, and headed into another world.

The evidence of fire wasn't dramatic at first. A few charred trees, a smell like a drowned campfire. But the destruction became more and more obvious, and more and more random-seeming. I saw one house that was burned to the ground. I could see the mudslides that had closed the road repeatedly, including on the first day of the ride. Everywhere were signs thanking the firefighters and emergency workers. Those signs extended all the way to Ft. Collins.

It really was a 58-mile descent. Towards the bottom I saw some rafters. One rapid would have six or eight rafts. I don't know how they even floated, as the river was barely flowing. It must be pretty cool with normal flows... There wasn't that much traffic going down, as so much was closed—like campgrounds—and no one travels from Walden to Ft. Collins early in the morning.

It kept getting warmer as I went down. Then, all of the sudden, the canyon ended. One bend, another bend, and I was on the plains, a mile or two from US 287, where we were on Monday, although it seems like ages ago. I turned onto 54G, some rollers, some new pavement, and then Vern's Place. Had a Pepsi and some chips. Bought some water and took off. Almost immediately ran into a paving operation. Conveniently, there was a bike path to the side, so I zipped by for a while. Ran out of bike path right before the turn to Overland Trail; had to wait to cross the sticky new tar, then hammered behind a few cars to make the turn. Then it was cruising along the road into Ft. Collins, seeing more road cyclists. I wonder what they would have thought had they known what I was doing. Close to mile 700... past the CSU football stadium, could see the Horsetooth dam... then turn onto Drake, then Taft Hill and more construction. Hot, traffic, and miserable. The next stretch along Taft Hill was bad. Heavy traffic, 90 degrees, and the turbulence from the semis would throw the bike around. Scary. "Don't kill me know" I would think. The only saving grace was seeing Longs Peak and Mount Meeker off in the haze. Long's must be my sacred mountain, which I first saw 36 years ago, and first climbed 35 years ago, and lived in sight of for much of my life.

Finally got to Loveland, was happy I didn't have to turn onto US 34, and then headed down into the maze of county roads. Getting thirsty, riding OK but a bit fearful of the heat and the sun. Weird having to navigate after going from checkpoint to checkpoint with a single turn! Loveland, Berthoud... a single road would make a 90-degree turn (section line?) but change names, so cue was a bit confusing. Some of it looked familiar from Monday, though. No place to pee. Every once in a while I'd catch a glimpse of a small creek, completely sheltered by cottonwoods, one even with a 3-foot waterfall. An oasis! Imagine finding that two hundred years ago... some choppy climbs, mostly a tailwind which probably hurt as much as it helped due to the heat. Ran out of water about five or six miles before Hygiene. Counting down the miles. 40 to go, 33 to go, 28 to go... finally cross the Diagonal highway, run into Hygiene. Store there, with (of course) some randonneurs. Pepsi, potato chips. No V8. Water. Sit for a bit, see lots of roadies. Off for the last 20 miles. Climbing up through Niwot. Views of Indian Peaks, which is interesting as I saw them from the other side yeesterday in North Park, thinking then how for I had to go. Crazy that you can see the next two hundred miles of riding!

95th street, turn onto South Boulder Road, traffic backed up, turns out to be a train, zip up the sidewalk, train passes just as I reach the crossing. Almost fell down clipping in. I was out of it! Hard to make left onto Via Appia. Hammering, fierce, don't mess with me, you nasty cars! Five miles, four miles. Pass a girl riding on the sidewalk who must have thought I was a ghost. McCaslin! One mile, looking for turn to Dillon, there! Hammer up the hill in the left lane, no cars behind, sweep into the parking lot, ride up to the entrance sobbing and shaking, practically drop the bike, I can't fucking believe it! I made it! Two women out there congratulate me! Grab the brevet card, my most precious possession, go into the breakfast area, all the riders there applaud, give JLE my card, Ed/Mary take my picture as I sign the card and JLE gives me my medal! I'm in a daze! 83:47, less than eighty-four hours, three and a half days, a good time for a beginner. Wow! Of course I can hardly walk. Knees and legs a mess, the last 40 miles the left achilles started hurting, along with left foot. tip of left ring finger is still numb four days later.


I had to pack the bike that night, as I was flying out on Friday. I flew to Chicago, spent more than an hour on the runway, and then learned my flight home was cancelled. Luckily my brother lives in Chicago, so he rescued me, took me out for pizza, and drove me back to the airport at 4am. So I finally arrived home twelve hours late.

I'm so happy to have done this ride. It was perhaps the most demanding four days of my live, as you need to be focused every minute—if you're not riding, you need to be eating, drinking, organizing, sleeping, or doing something else to keep going forward. And it was weird to see how small things could add up—being a few minutes faster at a control could lead to having a more favorable wind on the next segment. I still wonder that my crazy hammering up Gore Pass probably saved me untold suffering if I had been further out when the winds came. I was so pleased that I could ride just fast enough to get just barely enough sleep that I was more-or-less functional each day, and never had to nap on the side of the road.

And yes, I'm already thinking about another one someday :)


So many people made this possible:

  • John Lee Ellis, for creating this most wonderful event
  • All the volunteers, who really made the ride a reality on the ground
  • My family, for giving me the time and encouragement to ride
  • Don Podolski and Mary, who run the Westfield brevet series, which has felt like home from the beginning
  • John Bayley and Pamela Blalock, for generously sharing their incredible knowledge and experience
  • Ted Lapinski, for encouraging words as well as being a model randonneur
  • Rick LeBlanc, for being the first to tell me about this crazy world
  • The staff at Vecchio's for a last-minute repair as well as entertainment
  • Mike Cone and Waterford for the perfect bike

...and most of all for my fellow riders, who made the whole trip special.

Thank you all!

Dave Cramer
Greenfield, MA


I rode a custom lugged Boulder Bicycle, with 650B wheels, using the Grand Bois Hetre tire, which measures 42mm. I couldn't be happier with these tires. I've never had an involuntary deflation event, and they are supremely comfortable on the linked potholes we call roads in New England. They came in handy out west, too. All my gear went into a Berthoud handlebar bag, which was overflowing at times, but it all worked out.

My favorite piece of kit was the arm and knee screens, the former from Rapha, the latter from Pearl Izumi. I've always considered myself bad in the heat, but this ride seemed to go far better for me, and I think these helped a lot. I wish there was something similar for my face!

The Saturday before the ride, I spent three hours riding busses to Sports Optical in Denver and back to pick up a pair of prescription sunglasses (Rudy Project Ryder) with both clear and brown lenses. These really helped with the sun and wind, day and night.

My CHC Story
by Rod Geisert

Having ridden a 1000K brevet with the Rocky Mountain Cycling Club two years ago in 100 plus degree heat (I was the poster boy for heat stress in the RMCC blog), I was somewhat concerned that the weather could be the major player in completing the Colorado High Country 1200. Certainly the heat wave through the Midwest and fires in Colorado only added to the pre-ride stress of attempting this ultra-cycling adventure. I was also going to ride without my usual cast of cycling companions so I knew my social skills would have come to the front as I do not like cycling alone. The cycling weather gods could not have delivered much better conditions then what we experienced over the four days of the ride. The rains thankfully came before the ride to help the fire fighters contain the major fires and managed to stop just as all the riders started out on Monday morning.

I checked in for bike inspection early on Sunday and got my packet without really socializing too much. In the spring I purchased a new custom built titanium Mosaic bike from Pro Peloton in Boulder. The bike was fitted for me and gives a fantastic comfortable ride. The first ride I took with the bike was a 600K which was so good I realized out how far off my positioning was on my other bikes. Not to advertise, but Chris Sloden at Pro Peloton did an absolute wonderful job setting this bike up for me not to mention the quality of the workmanship on frame by owner of Mosaic Aaron Barcheck which was made in 4 weeks.

Mosaic Titanium Bike with Couplers

After the check in it was off hopefully for a good night sleep before the alarm at 2:30 am. Fortunately, I can manage to sleep well on rides so I am usually fresh in the mornings. I find the most difficult part of doing a 1200K is the just getting released to start the ride. Everyone is anxious and I know I feel so much better when the cranks are turning. John Ellis gave us a few short opening comments and 43 cyclists were off for 750 miles of what would turn out to be one beautiful ride. The ride out of Louisville at 4 am had no traffic so we pretty much had the road to ourselves. Having not really met most of the other riders, I was just trying to stay with a pack if the winds were to pickup. However, within the first 4 miles I got caught at traffic lights and quickly watched the lead group break away. This actually was a blessing as I did not want to push too hard and the front group can hammer pretty well. I joined up with several other riders (Noel Howes and others ) which we had a nice pace that allowed for good conversation as we rode to the first control.

Nowel and myself along Rd 12 by Loveland (Picture by JLE)

Since I had done the RMCC 1000K in 2010, I was familiar with the route to Fort Collins and didn’t need to really look at the cue sheet. I think this helped reduce the stress of navigating the only roads which we really needed to pay a lot of attention. We made great time to Loveland and had a 3 minute rain shower which is the only time I would get a little wet on the road (got to love it)! The group arrived at Vern’s and there were several other riders preparing to leave. Vern’s has fantastic cinnamon rolls (HUGE) and was an opportunity to get a large breakfast burrito which I needed since there was very little to eat at the hotel at 4 am. After a quick breakfast and reloading water bottles it was back on the bike for the stretch on Hwy 287 to Laramie. I continued to ride with Noel and we were joined by Mordecai Silver. It was great to ride with Mordecai who I would enjoy his company for several days. The scenery quickly changed to arid sagebrush but the country had its own beauty with all the different rock formations. We were now on a slow climb to Laramie but the wind was favorable. As we completed one long climb, I was surprised to see a pickup with Jim Kraychy providing water and cookies. This was greatly appreciated as there were not any stores along this 58 mile section.

Nice break provided by Jim (Picture by Mary Gersema)

We crossed into Wyoming on Hwy 287 and caught a really strong tailwind which just blew us into Laramie. Laramie is not one of the most attractive cities but traffic was not too bad except having to cross an old narrow railroad track overpass to head toward the interstate. Mordecai stopped at the bottom and decided he wanted to go back into town to eat at a restaurant. I rode on to the control to meet Sue (my wife) who was sagging for me. Yes, I had a “SAG” for the ride so I am not the pure strong randonneur like others but most would agree it is nice to have support when needed. Certainly lightens the clothing I need to haul and I have all the spare wheels etc. if there is a major breakdown. Also, Sue is an Angel to not only put up with me but sit for many long hours waiting for me to ride in (I am blessed!). After eating at McDonalds, Vickie Tyler was getting ready to leave and I joined her for the ride to Centennial. One really can see why this is called Big Sky country. A lot of open space as one can see forever. I thought we might have a strong headwind but we only experience some crosswinds along the route. We caught up with another Texan, Fred Hunley who is a friend of Vickie’s. Both Vickie and Fred are just a hoot! Loved their company and was constantly entertained on the ride. Fred is a strong rider and I usually had to work hard just to hang (suck) on his wheel throughout the ride. We reached the store in Centennial where there were a large number of riders resting and preparing for the long climb up Snowy Range Rd. We started the climb up Snowy Range which was long and took some effort and mental strength to push on. I worked my way up and was very happy to reach the summit. The view of Mirror Lake was wonderful and the air temperature was cool as we continued to ride over the summit.

The scenery at the summit was amazing and I greatly enjoyed the quick descent down the mountain. At the bottom a group of riders were resting and we joined up to reach the next control in Riverside. The tandem bike of Fred Felker and Mary Gersema set a fast pace and we continue to descend to Hwy 230. The group spread out along Hwy 230 as there was a light headwind and we were now climbing a slight grade. I headed back down Hwy 230 with Fred Hunley and we arrived in Saratoga just as it was becoming dark. We were immediately greeted by Ronaele Floss who signed us in and treated to a fantastic baked potato chili dinner by Paul Brown. Many thanks to Ronaele and Paul!!!! Although I felt reasonably tired from the ride, I was in good shape knowing I would have a 5 hour sleep to begin Day 2.

Day 2: Got up about 2:45 am and went to breakfast which Paul Brown was still up and cooking. Great eggs and bacon as well as other assorted food to prepare for the day. Hooked up with Mordecai and we started on the long trek to Walden. After we passed through Riverside we had a close encounter in the darkness with a skunk which had its tail up in the middle of the road. Luckily we managed to avoid a very smelly situation. The ride on the next 25 miles was slow as we actually climbing to Muddy Pass. It is a little frustrating to have the illusion that the road is somewhat flat and you are working so hard to only go 10 mph. I dropped off Mordecai’s pace and struggled for a period to get some kind of drowsiness feeling out of my head. This actually occurred each morning that I rode and I cannot for the life me understand why. It would take about 15 to 20 minutes to pass and then I feel good again. I caught up with Mordecai on the road while he was fixing a flat. I stopped to wait but Mordecai said to go on so I rode on since I thought he would catch me before Walden. Came across Fred Hunley and we rode on to the little town of Walden. We finally reached Walden and rode to the North Park Inn to check in the control. Was a little confused where we signed in but eventually found the checkpoint. I decided to ride back a little to the Moose Creek Café and had one gigantic pancake (they called them short cakes) that was as large as the plate. Sue joined me and the 2nd breakfast really hit the spot. The waitress at the café was super nice and the food was very good.

I hit the road alone which started to become green scenery with beautiful foothills lined with trees as I climbed to Muddy Pass. There were several riders resting and preparing to climb at the turn to Rabbit Ears Pass on Hwy 40. I thought this was going to be a hard climb but I was actually feeling good and the short steep climb went by quickly as I reached the summit in great shape. Thought this climb was much easier than Snowy Mountain Pass which was maybe not as steep but considerably longer. I took a little time to rest and get a picture with the bike at the summit. The ride along the summit was one of my favorites for the ride. It was breath taking with the lakes, trees and rock formations. Some stretches of meadows with flowers and very little traffic made riding like a tourist for a while worth every minute of time. The descent to Steamboat Springs was a blast. I am not great at making fast descents but there were not any tight curves along any of the mountains we rode. Never just went full out down the mountain but it was a little weird passing semi’s in the bike lane. One semi pulled over into my lane to allow cars to pass which I slowed down thinking what to do. Decided to not follow the cars and passed when he returned back to his lane on the highway. The only thing as I got down further on the descent was watching for rocks in the lane. I find descent’s like this, although fun, to be tiring as you must continually focus on the road and I am tense with feathering the breaks to control speed.

I have reached the Summit!!!!!

The temperature on the ride into Steamboat Springs started to heat up. I stopped at a Wendy’s to eat lunch and take a break. Riding out of Steamboat I found that not all car and buses were all that friendly to cyclists. The streets were busy and there was a lot of road construction on Hwy 40 to Hayden. This was the extra loop added on with the reroute of ride because of the fires and mud slides on Hwy 14. I know John did his best to rework the routes in a short time and I have ridden in worst places and conditions but there were sections that just “sucked” on this road. I also was isolated as I did not see another rider at this time. It was warm but I was handling the heat well and there was a side edge on the road which helped. As I rode, I came to a construction flagman who was stopping traffic where they were working to contain falling rocks on a cliff side. I came up along the cars and asked him what he like me to do. At first he was kind of sharp to me as he said I would need to wait until the end of the cars. I quickly responded that was absolutely fine and that I in no way wanted to cause a problem. That seem to soften him up and we had a nice conversation as the cars move through. He said that he had called ahead and told them a bike was coming behind the cars so I would not have worry about cars coming at me. He released me and said please be safe and I thanked him for his kind thoughts. The road into Hayden was also under construction and rough. The signs were in my lane and I had to watch traffic to go around them. I met a number of riders returning from Hayden which made me feel a lot better. When I arrived at the store in Hayden the tandem of Ed and Mary were leaving and there were other riders getting ready to leave.

Riding in construction to Hayden (Picture by Mary Gersema)

The return to Steamboat Springs took a turn on Rd 27 which was an unexpected tough section of rolling hills and long climbs. On the top of one hill I got caught in a swarm of appeared to bees were going across the road. It took a little bit of faster pedaling to keep them off me. The wind picked up and after 170 miles for the day, I was getting a little tired. Two of the Florida riders passed me and I used them to mark the ride to Oak Creek. How do the Florida riders (Dan Fuoco and James Solanick) do hills so well? I found out from James that he uses weights on his bike and does repeats across the Intercostal Bridge which would be quite steep. Having lived in Florida I understood why this could be the only training for climbing. This section was the first really hard mental challenge for me on the ride. Not knowing what to expect, I was a bit frustrated with pushing up a long climb to find a big descent which followed with another long climb. This repeated about three times. I was having bad thoughts and glad there no others to hear my comments to motivate me up the climbs. It was actually a scenic ride through the coal country of Colorado but physically taxing at this point. I finally arrived at Oak Creek and the Florida boys were relaxing at the store. Sue was there to see if I needed anything and I took time to relax. James indicated that the store manager indicated there was road construction on our descent down Hwy 131 to Steamboat. The road was open but we could encounter gravel for about 3 miles. There was an alternate road we could take which would only add 2-3 miles to the ride. Other riders started to arrive and we asked Sue to see if she could drive to the turn so we knew where it was. The Floridians took off for the alternate road and I waited for Sue to come back. We had about 6 to 8 riders at the store when Sue came back and indicated she did not find the turn but James and Dan must have of found it since she did not see them on the road. When others checked at the store, they indicated the alternate would be 8 to 10 miles longer. So who was correct?

Oak Creek discussion of what route to follow (photo by Toshi)

We decided to continue on the original road and handle the gravel. I was OK with this since we do gravel road rides in Missouri although on my cross bike. Glad there was still daylight when we hit the construction. It wasn’t so much gravel but dirt and rocks. As long as you maintained some speed you could get through the road. We all managed to get through to the end of the construction where we waited for all to regroup to finish the ride into Steamboat together. Sue drove halfway on the construction to make sure nobody crashed and to let us know all were through (As a SAG she could not aid us but for rider safety we wanted to know nobody went down behind us). We had a nice group to head in with Vickie Tyler, Fred Hunley, Dave Cramer, Toshiyuki Nemoto, and Ron Shaw. It was good to have a group to get through a bad section of road and to ride together to the overnight control as it was now getting dark. We arrived in good shape and we were treated to an excellent meal by Leslie Sutton and checked in by Dottie Gibson. Thanks Leslie and Dottie!!!! A number of us decided to leave around 3:30 am so I took a nice shower and was up early to eat breakfast for the third day.

Day 3: After breakfast, I linked up with Vickie, Fred, and Mark Mecalfe (another Texan). The morning ride back up to Oak Creek on the alternate road was scenic and we rode through some really nice meadows and a lake. I loved riding with Vickie and Fred. Their company was so enjoyable and as I said before, Fred is just one wild and crazy dude (in a good way!) who actually was born in Nebraska very near where I grew up on a farm. We rode through Yampa which was a small town and stop to get some food and water. Some of the cars on this road we not all that friendly but hey, try riding in Oklahoma for 10 years and you will learn what rednecks on an open road are really like on a daily basis. Didn’t realize there is a law to ride single file in Colorado so we were getting some pretty nasty comments from drivers. My friend in Louisville indicated yes you are to be single file if there is heavy traffic but that is not necessarily true on an open road. If you are not impeding traffic (open lane to pass) then you can ride side by side. Not sure all the drivers understand that one as we usually got negative reactions on roads with no traffic except the car passing. The traffic to the climb to Gore Pass was very light if any and when we reached the climb we met with the other tandem on the ride (Brent and Beth Meyers), Rorie Anderson and Art Fuoco. Rorie had trouble with her bike the day before but they actually got a bike mechanic to come out on the road to Hayden to work on it. Glad she could continue and finish the ride. The climb up Gore Pass was not too bad and we relaxed a little bit at the top. I continued on with Fred and we reached Hwy 40 to Kremmling. This section was a little stressful as it had no shoulder and was a very busy road. Fred took off hard and I tried to push as fast as I could turn the cranks. For the most part, the cars and trucks were careful passing us but some did get a little close and the trucks could make a swirl of current as they went by. I was relieved to be alive and turned into the store at the end of the 6 mile stretch. The store at Kremmling was really great and had a lot to offer in food and supplies. There were a number of Randos eating and resting. Two young ladies with full packs were traveling across the country to Virginia. Hey, true randonneurs at their best! Fred and I took off to Granby as the traffic after Kremmling became much lighter which made it much easier to move along the road. We turned onto Hwy 34 to ride to Grand Lake against a headwind. I worked with Fred to climb the rolling hills (Fred did 80% of the pulling) and we saw a number of riders along and returning from the control. At the top we saw a large thunder storm was dumping buckets of rain on the Rocky Mountain National Park and were concerned that it was going to arrive just as we made it into the control.

Myself and Fred along Grand Lake (Picture by Mary Gersema)

We got to the control with only a few sprinkles and decided to ride to Granby to get some food before the climb up Willow Creek Pass. The rain did not materialize on the trip back so all was good. We stopped for some sandwiches and chips at the junction of Hwy 34. This station is quite different with all the bikers, campers and cars getting gas. It was like a fair with vendors along the roadside selling various items. Fred stopped and picked up some jerky and taffy. We turned onto Hwy 14 to climb Willow Pass and joined Dave Cramer and Bob Koen. Bob is from Vancouver and a strong rider. We enjoyed the company on the long 21 mile climb. When we reached the summit, John Ellis was there with cookies and water. We took time to get some pictures and pet Buster.

Summit of Willow Pass with Dave Cramer (white legs), Fred Hunley, myself and Bob Koen. (Picture by John Ellis)

We continued on to Rand which the scenery became wide open range land with lust fields of grass. Rand was interesting with a small store which had a sign that said Hippies use back door (but there was no door!!). Dave was hammering ahead and Bob stopped to put on another layer. Fred and I continued on as the cooler temperature felt good to me (Isn’t Bob a Canadian?). It was a rough road and we had a headwind so we worked together to push through. One had to find a line in the road which you were not bouncing across cracks every 5 ft. I thought we were making good time when with about 12 miles to go to Walden the wind picked up to a strong 20-25 plus mph. The wind just crushed us as we were kicking it home to Walden. As we were struggling along, Fred mention that he could see Bob’s light behind us and said we should wait for him. I was in agreement and thought we finish a climb on the roller we were on and wait at the top. When I reach the top, I turned around and Fred was gone. He had turned back on the climb and went back to help Bob. I felt like a jerk as I didn’t know he was going back. I rested on the top of the hill as Fred and Bob made their way up the hill. How many riders would go back help pull someone through a strong headwind. I tip my hat (helmet) to Fred. Of course when Fred arrived he said I could now pull since I had rested. I laughed and immediately took the lead. Three of us working together really made a difference pushing against this strong headwind. We arrived in Walden just as it was getting dark and I was now thinking of all riders behind us that would be dealing with the wind for a much longer distance. Timing and luck is everything! Glad Fred pushed me not to take a long break to eat in Grand Lake. When we arrived Tammie Nakamura had a nice feast for us to consume at the end of the day. It felt good to know that at this point I would clearly finish the ride. I went to my room where Sue indicated she brought my swim shorts and there was a Jacuzzi. I quickly put on the shorts and had a relaxing time in the Jacuzzi. I decided to leave at 3:30 am but did not know the plans of Fred and the others.

Day 4: Tammie had breakfast ready for the riders as I came into the room at 3:30 am. Lots of food which would really help on this very cold morning. Tammie, “YOU ROCK” many thanks!!!!! I started out with a couple of other riders but got dropped quickly as I tried to get my legs warmed up. Isolated on the 30 mile ride to Cameron pass I started a conversion with myself, sang (glad nobody but coyotes could hear) and generally tried to entertain myself as much as possible. The silhouette of the mountains along the east was interesting to see as I rode along but for the first time I was getting just a little cold. Kind of wish I had put on shoe covers but it was not that bad. It seemed my pace was so slow because the illusion of being on a flat road when we are actually climbing. I came across a Moose Crossing sign and thought I have not seen a moose yet. Started looking into the meadows in search of Bullwinkle. Did come across two beautiful elk that just stood and watched as I rode along. I spotted a rider ahead of me and decided to catch him if I could. Just as I approached, there was a new Department of Forestry Wildlife Center along the roadside. We both turn into the center to take a break before the climb up Cameron Pass. I was glad to see Toshi and shared a Honey Stinger Waffle with him. The Stinger Waffles are great and I would recommend them to all riders. They are easy to eat (not open however) and provide plenty of energy on long rides. I knew that Toshi had achilles problems last year and didn’t finish so I was happy that he was clearly finishing well this time. We started up the climb and it was so good to know this was the last Pass we would have to get over. The climb was not bad and there was a lot of great scenery to take in as the sun was starting to peek over the mountains.

When I reached the summit I felt so relieved and was still in good shape. Then I looked into the meadow along the road and thought, that can’t be can it. There were 6 moose foraging in the middle. These are such majestic creatures. The racks on the bulls were enormous. Came around a pickup where a gentleman was using a tripod to take pictures. Several riders stop by John Ellis vehicle to view the moose and take pictures. I guess John didn’t have to make a refund since the moose did arrive. This certainly capped the ride and a bonus with the long descent to LaPorte to follow. It was still cold in the shade so I put on another layer to stay warm on the descent to the Glen Echo store. It was cold when we were in the shape and warmed as we pulled into the sun. When I reached the Glen Echo store there were a number of riders eating and preparing to leave. Went to the restaurant with Sue and had a 2nd breakfast which was very good. Dan Fuoco joined us and we talked about what was our favorite part of the ride. Mine was almost everything except the short stretch on Hwy 40 to Kremmling. Dan said he hated to have to carry his extra layers as we were starting to heat up on the descent. Sue offered to carry some of his gear in the car which Dan was quick to take up her on the offer. I joined up with Dan and Bob Koen for the ride to Vern’s. It was a very scenic, slow descent to LaPorte. We came across the fire damage to the mountains and it was amazing the fire was so hot in spots that only rocks remained. One could see how bad the fire would be with all the trees killed by the pine beetles. The firefighters are very brave individuals to have taken on a fire storm of this magnitude. How do they contain this in such difficult terrain? We made our way into Vern’s and had a 3rd breakfast. I was going to get a cinnamon roll but it was so large there was no way I could eat all of it. I asked if the others would share it but Bob already bought one and offered a portion to me. It was quite tasty and hit the spot for the final leg to Louisville. Bob had a big pack on his back and I asked him if he needed it or would want to put it in the car with Sue. He indicated that he only had one water bottle since one of his had broken earlier in the ride. That was easy to resolve as I had extra bottles in the car and he could use one. Bob thought this was great and was more than happy to remove the pack for the final stretch which would be a little warm for sure. As we were getting ready to leave, Fred arrived. He had started about 20 mins behind me but I didn’t know when he was leaving. We started back on the final road when we were immediately stopped by crews putting new asphalt on the road. There was a bike path along the road so we jump on to it but then realized it turned away behind a school. As we were thinking what to do, Brent and Beth Meyers came by and said follow them. We traveled along the bike path and eventually came out on a road that took us back on the route. We all worked through Fort Collins and then got out on the open road. Fred caught up with us as we hit the rollers to Loveland and we picked up Hugh Kimball on the road ahead. We now had a nice group to work together down the highway. I say working together tongue in cheek as you all know that tandems are magnets for us to wheel suck. Brent and Beth are so strong and with the exception of the hill climbs tough to just not follow behind. We talked about how we all jump forward on the hills and then latch back on when they crank by us. It was a really nice ride with all of them. As we approached Hygiene, I just ran out of water for the first time on the road. We all pulled into a really quaint store and bought ice cream along with bags of ice and water. It was a nice break for the final push to the finish. We came into Louisville in great spirits and made the final turn into the Quality Inn. Sue was there to greet me! I thanked Brent and Beth for the great pull and went in where John Ellis took my card and gave me a Colorado High Country Medal. As I was relaxing with beer in hand, I didn’t see Fred or Bob. I thought they were right behind me when we came into Louisville. Fifteen minutes had passed and no Fred or Bob. I loaded my bike in the car and started to get ready to drive back and find them when in they came. I said where have you been as I got worried something had happen? Bob said they stopped downtown to get a beer to celebrate. Now I was mad because I missed out (not really). Said my goodbyes and headed to the hotel for a shower. Sue and I went to dinner downtown with a good friend to celebrate.

Sue and I celebrate a successful 1200K!

Many thanks to John Lee Ellis for a great 1200K ride. My sincere gratitude to all the volunteers at the overnight controls. The whole ride was well organized and the morning and evening meals really help me on the success of the ride. Thank you to my wife Sue who kept me on my bike and made sure I had everything together each morning when I was still trying to wake up. Last, I greatly appreciated all the companionship of riders I met and rode with across Wyoming and Colorado. My home is open to any who travel through Columbia, Missouri. Randos Rock!!!!

Rod Geisert

Colorado High Country 1200 Ride Report

Bob Koen
July 26, 2012

This ride occurred on July 9 – 12, 2012

The ride started out a bit wet and then got intensely dry. And stayed that way. It was cold at night and very hot in the afternoons. The evenings were nice for a while, but the mornings went from cold to hot with almost no in between temperatures. The sun was intense. The stars were amazing. Venus and Jupiter were extremely prominent in the morning sky before sunrise. Mars and Saturn were there in the evening sky after sunset but I never saw them. I never had to ride late enough into the night to see the early night sky. I regret that.

There were some nice stretches of high mountain scenery interspersed with some incredibly long stretches of sagebrush flats. Colorado is partially bleak, partially beautiful. Wyoming is more bleak than beautiful. There is a college town there (Laramie) with no pretty girls. Whats up with that?


The ride had some hard parts, some easy parts. It was never out of control, not for me or for anyone else. The DNF ratio was below 10 percent. The last day was ideal. It featured a short climb and a very long descent followed by 100 kilometers of moderate rollers to the finish. People were leaving the last overnight control 2 and 3 hours after the closing time with complete confidence in making the next control with plenty of time to spare.

The volunteers were tremendous and the overnight control food was spot on every night and morning. We had motel accommodations every night with no bed sharing, sometimes not even any room sharing. This was a ride where there were no impediments to just getting on your bike and riding. It was a very good ride.

But that's not the essence of this story.

On the afternoon of the third day near the start of the final climb of the day I was passed by two riders who were only slightly faster than I. They were the rabbit that I needed to get me out of my lethargic doldrums, so I accelerated slightly to catch up with them and we started chatting. They turned out to be two southern gentlemen, Rod from Missouri and Fred from Texas. Rod was a southern gentleman who would fit in well in any rando group, while Fred satisfied just about any stereotype that you might conjure up about a Texas randonneur, or a Texan in general.

After an initial steep climb the road up Willow Creek Pass turned out to be one of the best roads that we encountered. Never steep and always scenic, nicely paved. We made good time up and over the pass and down to the one horse town of Rand, Colo (population about 10 on a good day when everyone is home). It was evening at this point and getting cool, so I stopped to put on arm and leg warmers while Rod and Fred carried on. Shortly after Rand the road went from really nice to not maintained in the last century. The endless bumpity-bump-bump slowed me down quite a bit. But there was only 21 miles to go to the overnight control in Walden, so no big deal.

Then the wind turned on like a switch had been thrown. This was at about a half hour out of Rand with an hour left to go to get to Walden. The wind went from flat calm to a force to be reckoned with in no time at all. My speed decreased by about half instantly. I quit cursing about the poor quality of the road. There was nothing to do but just hunker down and proceed on at about 10 miles an hour. I mentally adjusted my arrival time at Walden by an hour. It got darker and darker. This went on for nearly an hour when I noticed a bike light coming down the completely empty road toward me. There had not been any cars coming toward me (why would anyone go to Rand ever? Much less in the late evening?) I couldn't imagine another rider being lost out here since there was only one road and it led to food and a warm bed in the other direction. When the light got near me it turned around and I caught up. It was Fred. He had turned around and come back for me, a distance of about a mile, to help me deal with the wind. Rod meanwhile soft pedaled up the road and waited for us to join up.

I was completely blown away by such a random act of kindness. Randonneurs tend to be good folk, always willing to help each other out and stick together through the rough times. But this act really stood out for me. Here was someone who made his life harder to make things easier for me; not because I was in desperate straits, but simply out of kindness. I vowed that I wasn't going to forget it.

The next day I was on my own again through the late night and early morning, but then a big group formed up at the penultimate control. A tandem couple, Brent and Beth who were locals, attracted a bunch of us to their rear wheel and we made awesomely good time through the rolling country east of the mountains toward the finish in Louisville. Fred and Rod were in this group and we had a good ole time pounding out the final miles. Folks started smelling the barn...

Fred and I smelled the bar instead.

At about three km left to go we peeled off the back end of the peloton and headed into downtown Louisville in search of a pint or two.

I was buying....

How to have a good time, not get a good time

We eventually finished about an hour behind the rest of the group that had been in the paceline. My only regret is that the peel off signal somehow didn't get communicated effectively to Rod. He worried about us when we weren't there at the finish.