The second leg of the bike tour began today. I said a tearful goodbye to Noah and Eli early this morning and then headed out to the great big world all by my lonesome.
As I rode out the driveway I had two alternate plans for the day forming in my mind. Plan one: ride the 65 miles to Hartsel, Colorado and rejoin the Transam Trail. Plan two: ride up to the summit of Pike’s Peak and spend the night in a campground ten miles away from my brother’s house.
The entire time my family and I were visiting in Silverthorne, I had planned to ride up Pike’s Peak, but when Noah and I returned to Colorado Springs with Eli, I made a grave mistake.
I googled, “cycling up Pike’s Peak”.
Suddenly I realized that the climb would be really tough. I got scared.
So this morning I made a deal with myself. I would ride up to the toll gate (using the road to the summit costs $12) and ask the rangers if they could hold on to my heavy panniers while I rode to the top. If they refused, I would turn around and ride to Hartsel.
But the lady collecting the tolls was super awesome and did not hesitate in allowing my panniers to hang out with her in the tollbooth. I wasn’t sure whether to be grateful or petrified, but either way it was time to climb.
I made the turtle my role model for my ascent, I had 19 miles of road to travel before the summit and those 19 miles were the slowest I have ever ridden. It took me five hours in total! Halfway up the mountain, I met a young, thin guy who was also climbing to the top. We chatted for a bit, complaining over the price of water (3 bucks a bottle!!!), and encouraging each other that we could indeed make it to the top of this stupid road. He was going faster than I and I tried keeping up with him for a few minutes but then I realized that I would not finish the climb unless I did it at my own gentle pace. The thin alpine air was my enemy and I wasn’t letting it beat me down.
I rode up switchback after switchback, wondering which bend in the road would be the one that would trigger extreme suffering. But physically and mentally I was doing great. Many of the people passing in their cars cheered for me as they left me far behind and it meant the world to me on that lonely mountain. I couldn’t stop smiling.
Then the thunderstorm came. I have never been afraid of lightning before, but above the tree line there was no shelter and I felt so exposed to the furious power of the storm. The thunder ricocheted its explosive blasts across the mountain range. I prayed for safety with each pedal stroke and then, just like in every snowstorm, I felt the overwhelming presence of God. He had been with me the entire time, I just hadn’t been paying attention.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that everything was easy-peasy, pumpkin pie. Oh no, because that is when hail/sheet stuff began a barrage against me. I stopped to put on another layer of clothes, those things hurt!
With four miles to go, things looked bleak.
But my pace was so slow that the storm only lasted for three miles. Then the sky cleared and the people coming down the mountain kept yelling out of their cars, “You are almost there!”
And suddenly I had finished the last switchback and I was clear up to the highest point of the mountain. I couldn’t control the dry, weird sobs that came from the back of throat.
First, I felt relief.
Then, I felt happy.
And then, I got scared.
I had a mountain to descend, and it was wet. I began seriously considering trying to find someone who could haul my bike and I back down the switchbacks. As Noah will readily confirm, I have terrible descending skills. One curve on a hill? Cool, I got that. But if things are more complicated than that, I crawl down hills at speeds that would only make snails proud.
But while I was eating greasy doughnuts and hot dogs, the road dried up. I bought a warm, very expensive, hoodie (my clothes were so soaked that I would have frozen in the first five minutes of my ride back), took a few pictures and shakily got back on the bike.
It was time to fly. Within a few miles my fears dissipated like the water on the road. This was fun! Even though I remained very cautious, I was passing car after car. I sang happily all the way down to the tollbooth.
Climb every Mountain. It’s worth it!