Highs and lows of our fall vacation

When you’re talking about Colorado, the highs are obvious: 10,000-foot peaks and passes. The lows include the lurking reality that your life isn’t this interesting all the time. And then there’s the day you rent a mountain bike with the expectation that it’s gonna be a blast. I was ready to commit to a ride with the bike tech at the shop where we rented. That was before I had actually tried to pedal a bike there.

We found the trail head after much uphill driving, prepared helmets and water … then rode approximately 50 yards on a slight incline before collapsing over the handlebars, chests heaving. I looked at Mike. We were bewildered. WTF?? We are bikers. Were we having simultaneous heart attacks?

a little mountain biking on vacation, what’s the big deal?

It was the altitude, duh. I was expecting headaches, maybe the tummy upset that my 2-year-old had all over the Realtor’s back seat years ago when my family moved to Nevada. I wasn’t expecting my body — the lungs that I never think about — to completely give up after 30 seconds.

We’ll never forget that bike ride. We were up in the “hills” above Estes Park, the gateway to the Rocky Mountain National Forest. We pushed the damn bikes up moderate inclines that we’d never have noticed riding at sea level. We laughed about working so hard we thought we’d puke. We took frequent breaks. And we enjoyed the downhills like never before (until I ate dirt on one).

It was our only bike ride in Colorado. The cost of renting and bother of transporting bikes in the rental car just wasn’t worth the respiratory agony. We hiked a lot instead, and enjoyed the feeling, 5 days in, that our bodies were adjusting to the changes. On one short hike that included a steep hill, we congratulated ourselves for doing it without stopping, hands on knees, to catch our breath. Is this what getting old feels like? Yikes.

the downhill part was much better

The bike path along the Yampa River at Steamboat Springs made me envious of the lifestyle here, that doubtlessly increases longevity as so many people are out enjoying the great active opportunities. And, it was flat enough that I wouldn’t look like a total fool trying to cruise into town on it.

a great — FLAT — place for a bike ride in Colorado, the path along the Yampa in Steamboat

Heading home, I thought it would be great to do a 10k race this weekend. My lung capacity had doubtlessly improved during the vacation, right? That was a great idea until I started sneezing and coughing, having picked up a great virus somewhere between Denver and our brief visit to flat-as-a-pancake Nebraska (which made me think about biking across the country if so much of it is that damned flat, but that’s another vacation).

I can bike this, no prob.

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