It's cold here in the Colorado mountains today. Feeling chilled while on my mountain bike reminded me of a day during our last summer vacation.
We awakened to sunny weather. We were surprised because we'd heard that storms were bearing down on our location that might even bring snow. For that reason, we'd decided to cut our time short at our high altitude campsite.
As I took off for my ride, I thought that we were making a mistake to leave so soon. Our campsite was warm and inviting.
I set out full of energy for a great ride. Angry clouds invaded the sky quickly. However, I'd seen dark clouds over the mountains every single day that we'd been at this campsite, and no big storms had ensued.
In fact, I'd taken this photo from my "phone booth" the day before. It was the spot where I accessed an on-line course that I was taking (it was in the 50 yards of trail where I got good cell reception). I thought it was a spectacular spot to "work"!
On the day of my "departure ride", it looked less threatening than on other days. Sure, there were clouds, but none looked immediately dangerous.
Here's another view from that day about halfway to that high mountain pass I wanted to "tag" before heading down to the LabMobile.
Since the skies didn't look too bad, I kept hammering my pedals with the goal of quickly riding up to the pass. In fact, I barely looked up at the sky for a long time because I was so fully engrossed in the flow of the ride.
About 200 yards from the top of the pass, a rumble of thunder broke my trance. I looked behind me. Oh my. I needed to ride back in that direction - and it looked scary.
As I paused, I decided to risk those last 200 yards to the top. Just as I restarted pedaling upward, a loud CLAP of thunder made me hop off my bike, turn it around, and start zooming downward. I have almost no photos from that rapid descent. It started hailing and then pouring rain. I made it back to the vicinity of our campsite fast enough that I thought that perhaps the pack hadn't departed yet. I was already soaked and freezing so I wanted to avoid riding the 3,000' descent if possible. There is nothing colder than going downhill in a freezing rain.
Alas, they were gone. The view from the campsite showed snow on nearby peaks.
I already had all my rain gear on, and the rain had already seeped through it. I was wearing mittens (one smart thing) but they were soaked. So, I just put my head down and descended as fast as I could. It felt like I was crawling because the rocky road was so slick that I had to be careful. However, I passed two jeeps on my way down so I knew that I was moving pretty fast.
I became so cold that I couldn't feel my handlebars with my fingers. I started to worry about hypothermia. I felt relieved that those two jeeps were behind me in case I needed to stop and ask for help.
In the meantime, I kept riding down as fast as I could. I realized how totally dependent I was on the Runner meeting me at the designated spot. Worries about whether we both understood our meeting spot to be in the same place invaded my mind. I wanted to use my DeLorme satellite messenger to check with the Runner but I was too cold.
The bottom of the descent flattened and smoothed out. I rode as if I was possessed, and eventually, I spotted the big white LabMobile parked by the side of the road and sighed with relief. The Runner was ready for me with the propane heater going, warm towels, and a hot drink to help me dry off and warm up.
I was pretty helpless for a while because I couldn't feel my hands. Then, finally, I felt myself starting to thaw as comfortable warmth invaded my extremities. Just as I started to relax, I got a wicked migraine aura. I couldn't see anything but the sparkling zig-zagging lines that filled my visual field.
With the Runner's help, I gulped a migraine pill and hoped for the best. The good news was that nothing but a minor headache and a slightly queasy stomach followed the aura. Thank goodness! I think that was a classic example of physical stress inducing a migraine. In other words, it was my own fault!
Days like that one are almost inevitable for someone like me. I'd rather take a risk or two while having an adventure than living a more conventional life.
Due to the wintery weather predicted for the high peaks, we headed toward a high desert area. We drove through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison on our way there. It is an extraordinarily deep but narrow canyon. It was beautiful.
However, I have to admit that I always feel like National Parks are museums. You can look but you can't touch anything. The dogs' paws can't leave the pavement and don't even think of riding a mountain bike there.
The cold snap here today made me remember that bone-chilling mountain bike ride vividly!