Rifle - Meeker, CO: On the road again! - Exploring northwest and central Colorado with a bit of Wyoming thrown in - CycleBlaze

July 5, 2018

Rifle - Meeker, CO: On the road again!

Some back fill - I took a 20 mile test ride on my former touring with the thought that it was always dependable in any riding situation and had never given me a bit of trouble. That is oh, so true. Unfortunately, the ride felt dull and lifeless. I must not have been as scared as I thought from my bad experience. I want to ride the ROX.

Since having the brakes replaced with SRAM Guide T hydraulic disc brakes last week, I've not had any trouble and have enjoyed the responsive brakes. A little tap, tap and I get full stopping power on any downhill to date. I've gotten in ~200 miles on the new brakes. All seems well.

Honestly, I wasn't real excited to be setting out again on tour. I can hardly believe those words myself. I was enjoying sleeping in my own bed, having reliable and good food, and just being home in general. It's been a very relaxing three week break and I've loved all of it. Jacinto has been quite bored and has taken longer and longer rides. He's pointedly said he's ready for new vistas. He was very patient about coming home and me riding around here, regaining my confidence.

We've recruited some riders to go with us along the way. I hope that spices up our trip. We've been planning all winter to ride with Wayne Estes. He's already arrived and is on route in Fruita. We were planning to go with him, but Jacinto took pity on my uncertainty and suggested we go through Meeker instead to avoid the potential beating on Douglas Pass. Wind in that area can be tough. The last time we rode there we made it to the top, but could hardly stand upright and ended up thumbing rides to town. It is a very pretty pass and there are petroglyphs right next to the road. Wayne should have a tailwind, pushing him to Rangely.

Tom Swanson and Ken Paulsen will be joining us in Craig. They are meeting in Kremmling and riding the first couple of days together until we meet. We saw Tom at Christmas time in December, but haven't ridden with Ken for a couple of years.

OK - now we are caught up - on with the day.

I woke frequently during the night and finally gave up about 6 AM. My goal was to depart at 8 AM. We had packed last night and aired the tires, so there wasn't much to do besides the standard morning stuff. I battled a little get on the road anxiety. Thankfully it went away with some pedaling.

Highway 13 from Rifle has a bad reputation with local cyclists. In the 23 years we've lived here, I've ridden this road three times. That includes today. Most of it has been improved with a wide shoulder, but the part that hasn't been improved goes through the canyon with poor sight distance. There's heavy truck traffic. Gas and oil traffic used to be a big factor, but there isn't much gas and oil work right now.

I wasn't so excited about this road, but appreciated the easier day to get back in the groove. At first there was no pavement at all beyond the white line. Oh, boy. Then a shoulder would come and go. There was a passing lane for a fair distance. That was really appreciated.

Traffic was lighter than I expected for a weekday. Perhaps everyone was staying in place after the holiday. There were hardly any RV's. The most common vehicle was a full size tanker semi. Next was an oddity. I had at least 10 oversize loads pass me. All with pilot cars. I can't say I thought they belonged together. Some were construction equipment, oversize bulldozers. Others looked like gas and oil type boxes.

I had a couple of friendly honks and waves from Subaru drivers. One tanker guy in the opposite lane honked at me. I think it was a friendly honk . . . What traffic there was played nice. My worries about this road were not warranted.

It was a long, gradual climb from Rifle to Rio Blanco hill. Many years ago there was a restaurant here. Today I didn't even notice the former building. I was also supposedly keeping an eye out for the connecter road that hooks Highway 13 with the Rifle Gap Road. Last June Jacinto had taken that route while Jorge, Marty, and I all took the dirt road the entire way to Meeker. That was an experience! I completely missed seeing the connector road.

I never used my granny gear, but I was in the bottom of the middle chain ring most of the morning. My average got more and more dismal. At the top of the climb at mile 17, I had a 6.9 mph average with 2,000 feet climbed. That's a fair amount of climbing for the distance, but still . . . .

Here's the hard part to report - being truthful - with a heavy sigh as I type. I'm still not quite trusting of this bike. Maybe I'm a Nervous Nelly. Known issues are bad road surfaces, riding one handed, and the rider tensing up. This is according to Tim at Lightning. As I crested the top, there was perhaps 12" of shoulder. The road was quite damaged in a squashed spiderweb sort of way. There were many palm size chunks of pavement that were still in place, but broken into pieces. I tensed up. I had nowhere to go but over the bad stuff. The bike started to wobble. Shit! Shit! I tapped the brakes. Thank you good brakes. My speed dropped. I told myself to relax my shoulders.

Good. The wobbling stopped. But it was downhill, the bike picked up speed on the bad surface. Wobbling started again. I tapped the brakes again. All of this happened in the space of a matter of feet. 20 feet? Certainly the distance between two delineator posts. Then the road surface improved, my tenseness went away. All was good all the way to town.

At first I was very disgusted. All of those perfect miles at home! Here I was, only 17 miles into the tour, and the bike is wobbling. What the hell. I thought about possible reasons. Rider tenseness. This incident didn't help my relaxing any . . . . we can put a solid check mark next to rider tensing up due to poor road surface. This is a problem. There's poor road surfaces all over . . . some of them are at speed . . .

What else? I have the bike fully loaded. Not that my load amounts to much. The first part of the trip I had 11.5 pounds without food/water. This time I've left home a couple of items, but I'm carrying my own breakfast food. This bike is very particular about how things are packed. Perhaps the load isn't quite right. Sigh.

I debated calling home and having my daughter bring the dependable Stratus. That could be done. Still. I want to ride this bike. I just want it to behave. I want to not be tense. I was relaxed around home. Maybe I have too much weight on the bike, but this is hardly too much weight.

On with the day. I mulled all of that over as I rolled over some small rollers. At mile 21 the big shoulder appeared. It was great. The road took a downhill tilt and I started making up time for that slow climb. I had a number of downhills in the 25 mph range on that wide shoulder. All was great. That's great?

Spaced throughout the day I saw 5-6 dead deer and elk by the road. This area of Colorado has a night time speed limit and a day time speed limit because of the wild life. It's tough trying to coexist.

The scenery all day was interesting. A geologist would love this area. I know nothing about rocks, but there were rock formations and different colored rocks. I saw a few herds of cattle and one sheep herd. It's a difficult life out here on the high plains. Winters are brutal with plenty of snow and high winds. There were very few farm houses, equal numbers of abandoned and occupied.

I was sucking the bottom of my 70 oz. water bladder as I took the right turn into town. I could have stopped at the convenience store for a V-8, but I decided to head on into town and get some lunch. Maybe I would be lucky and get in my room early. They had said I could get in as soon as it was clean.

I stopped at a drive through Chinese food and got broccoli beef to go. It included soup and an egg roll for $7.75 and was a good deal for the money. A couple of blocks down I stopped at a fruit stand and bought three peaches for $3.50. My motel was on the left. Yes, I could get right in my room. We chatted about the hazy sky. I thought it was from the fire up by Craig, but the lady said it was from the Lake Christine fire by Basalt. There are eight fires in Colorado at this time. The Spring fire is by LaVeta - we had just bicycled that direction. It sounds like the landscape will be very changed now.

I was at mile 24 when Jacinto was leaving the house. He had talked about going around the long way through New Castle because this was too short of a day. Let's see what he really did.

If we discount the wobbling, I had a good first day. It wasn't too long or difficult. 93 degrees when I arrived in Meeker. It should have been a tailwind, but I had a light headwind the last ten miles to town. Let's see what Jacinto gets.

Jacinto did go around the long way and added 20 miles to his day. We ate dinner at Mexico House close to the motel. It was busy, always a good sign.

I felt discontented all evening, thinking about my bike and all of the big descents this trip. I tried to calm myself by thinking about how many easy (flat) days we have on this tour.

Wayne rolls out on July 3rd, heading for Grand Junction.
Heart 0 Comment 0
This is the bike Jacinto was going to take on the second half of the trip. It's a good thing it broke near home instead of on tour. Dean Titanium Bikes of Boulder says they have a replacement frame in the production line for a new frame in August. Let's see what happens.
Heart 0 Comment 1
Mike AylingAny idea what caused the frame to crack?
Reply to this comment
1 month ago
One of the more interesting rock formations.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Another one.
Heart 0 Comment 0
You can't read the sign in the distance? It says 'chain up area'. That means the climbing is going to get tough. Except it didn't. I didn't use the granny once all day. This area is known for some fierce snow storms. Perhaps this is just a spot where the road was wide enough to add a chain up area.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Sheep and a sheep herder's camp. I did not see any sheep dogs.
Heart 0 Comment 0
I stopped for some take out Chinese food as I rolled into town.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Jacinto said this was five miles outside of town. I completely missed it.
Heart 0 Comment 0

Today's ride: 42 miles (68 km)
Total: 42 miles (68 km)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 1
Comment on this entry Comment 0