Since this is my Dad’s last day in Durango, and we hadn’t gone on a father/son ride yet, I decided to go for a ride with him. We ended up driving part of the way up to Kennebec Pass, maybe 6 or 7 miles up and rode the rest of the way. My Dad tried to do the same ride last year, but came up about ½ mile short of the pass. The last half of the ride is pretty tough, lot’s of steep, technical jeep roads, high altitude in the range of 10,000 – 11,600 feet and sometimes sketchy weather. We got a little bit of a late start and I was a little concerned about the weather, however when we started, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky… a seemingly perfect day!
I did the ride up at an active recovery effort and back tracked whenever my Dad fell behind. It was pretty cool taking it easy on this ride for a change because the scenery is some of the best that one can see in the good ole’ US of A. As we crossed over the 11,000 foot mark I back tracked to Dad, he was hiking his bike rather than riding and he looked pretty worn out. He looked at me, kinda smiled and said that he needed to turn around. We were at about the same place that he had to turn around last year, only about 10 minutes from the pass. I had mentioned that we needed to pay attention to the weather also as it looked like the clouds were beginning to gather for their daily shindig.
So Dad turned around and I continued up to the pass and then up to the notch. As I approached the notch, thunder started to echo around the peaks that surrounded me. I looked back down into the canyon that I had just emerged from and it was looking pretty gray. I rode up to the notch, dismounted my bike and looked around for about 30 seconds and then remounted just before this dude in a jeep took off. I didn’t want to get stuck behind the guy on the way down.
I began the descent and started to suspect that the weather was quickly heading in a southerly direction. Shortly thereafter, I could feel rain drops. A few minutes later the rain drops turned into a downpour and the temperature dropped down into the 40’s. As if the downpour wasn’t enough, hail began to fall. At that point, I didn’t care about the hail. I was so cold that I rode my brakes the entire way down because it was way too cold to go fast. About halfway down, the jeep road turned into a flowing river and I couldn’t see anything beneath the flowing muddy water. The parts of the road that were visible were way too rocky to ride, so I rode the ‘river’ all the way down. My hands were so cold that they became numb, which forced me to slow down even more.
After what had seemed like an eternity, I finally made it back to the truck. From the looks of it, my Dad had just gotten there about five minutes before I did and he looked about as cold as I felt. As I was riding down the mountain in the rain and hail, I found myself almost smiling because I knew that my Dad was going through the same weather that I was and we were going to have fun rehashing our experiences. We both climbed into the truck and turned the heater up as high as it would go and made several attempts to talk about our ride through our chattering teeth. We had a pretty epic day, and in a strange kind of way, I’m glad that I went through something like this with my Dad. I can say this now because I am sitting in a nice, warm coffee shop sipping away at a hot cup of Joe!
It took about 2 hours and 24 minutes to get to the notch and about 36 minutes to get back down. That’s mountain biking in Colorado for ya! I ended up with about 3,000 feet of climbing, about 3 hours of saddle time and experienced being the coldest that I’ve ever been. Yes, it was colder than any winter ride that I’ve done in Iowa!
I think that my groin is good to go now, so I’m really looking forward to ripping it up in the dirt tomorrow. Hopefully my somewhat broken rear hub will hold together, I’d hate to have that detonate on me while I’m doin’ mach 4 down the side of a mountain. And yes, I forgot my camera once again and it’s probably a good thing because the rain most likely would have destroyed it. I’ve broken enough things on this trip already…