Monday, June 29, 2009

Over Cottonwood and Independence Pass: BTC Days 6 & 7

Day 6: We took off from Crested Butte a little after 7 - partly cloudy skies and thunder clouds forming in the distance. Today's ride: 73 miles over Cottonwood pass from 7,800 ft. to 12,126 ft... 14 miles to the summit on packed dirt road.

Twins today:) - sportin' our new BTC riding shirts.
The Taylor River kept us company most of the way up... SO BEAUTIFUL!

The river led up to a beautiful mountain lake. Our destination: over those mountain peeks in the background.
The peeks draw near... green grass, mountain flowers, my D:) and snow capped peeks all in one day - WOW!!
Aid station mile 44. YUM! Our last stop before the summit.
The 14 miles of dirt road begins now. While the rest of us are working, D's doing pop-a-wheelies :)
Climbin' on the dirt road a few miles from the summit :)
We made it!
The 13 miles down hill into Buena Vista started out okay - cold (in the 30's) a bit foggy, but okay.
THEN the DOWNPOUR came... sleet and pounding rain so cold and intense that I had to get off my bike because I couldn't see out of my glasses. Freezing, and wanting/needing to get off the bike and get warm, I started walking my bike down. My shoes were filled with water, pants soaked, hands numb, feet numb, wet and frozen, BUT without the speed of going downhill, at least I could see when walking. There was no way (obviously) I'd make it down the mountain walking, and there was no sign of the rain letting up, so I took my glasses off to see if it helped (it did) and got back on my bike. NOW the problem was that my hands were so numb I couldn't squeeze my brake lever, and the cold rain was pelting my eyes and face so hard, it felt like needles going through my skin... SO dangerous for all of us to be riding off this summit in these conditions. As I continued I knew THIS was too much... there was no way I could withstand these conditions for another 10 miles. People were getting off their bikes and huddling together under trees to try to stay warm. Hypothermia was setting in for many (we found out later when we got off the mountain)... I stayed on the bike hardly able to pull my brake lever; tears started welling up in my eyes - panic was setting in; I was desperate. How would I make it down? D was somewhere ahead of me - couldn't see him anywhere... if I got off to find shelter under a tree, I'd only get colder and colder as the rain kept pouring down in sheets... so I stayed on the bike, squeezed my brakes with all my might, and sobbing, cried out to God, "HELP ME, PLEASE!!!"...
Less than a minute later I saw D waiving his hands at me from a pull off on the side of the road. Behind him was our RV! Roger and Paula had passed us at the summit, and as the rain set in, decided to stop along the side of the road incase we needed help. Dustin found them on his way down (no other day on the tour had we crossed paths with them while riding. We hadn't planned on meeting up - in fact Paula was going to stay at the campground another hour or so to do laundry, but "just decided" to head out early instead and do the laundry later...)... answered prayer! Thank you AGAIN Jesus (and Roger and Paula:)) for taking care of us!
So the story gets even crazier:)... D peeled me off my bike, shaking and crying and loaded me into the RV. There were many people at the door desperate to get in. We decided that we HAD to squeeze as many people and bikes in the RV as we could... no matter the cost. We ended up getting 9 people and bikes in the RV.
When it looked like there wouldn't be enough room for everyone that needed to get warm, D jumped out (to make room for more), grabbed his bike and headed down the mountain in the rain. "NO D, STAY IN HERE!!!" didn't work - he was determined to help - he was out of sight heading down the mountain in the freezing rain. I don't know how he made it, but he did. We met up with him 10 miles down the mountain at the High School. You're amazing D! :)
... A WARM shower never felt so good!

Day 7: 107 miles over Independence Pass (4,000 + ft. elevation gain) from Buena Vista, through Aspen, back to Glenwood Springs.

The morning started out much like Day 6 ended... COLD! - BUT, no rain!:) ... just another head-wind AND:) a beautiful sunrise! The temp. read 39 degrees when we hopped on our bikes. D was riding ahead today, so I was on my own. The first hour and 10 minutes was tough... man, I'm a WIMP when I'm cold!!! My feet were frozen and the cold air made staying focused and positive tough. Once again though, just when the going was getting tough, PEOPLE lifted me through. I looked over my shoulder about 30 miles into the ride and found a string of riders drafting off me:)... after about another 10 minutes, one of the guys rode up next to me and said, "Thanks for pulling! Fall in and take a break." How nice! I fell in behind him and rested for 20 minutes or so. We kept taking turns pulling until the sun crested over the mountain... AHHH, warmth! I pulled into the first aid station, then got off to warm up and eat.
The view from the first aid station... we're heading up and over the snowcapped mountains in the distance.
Still cold and quite tired, my knee starting really hurting (for the first time all week... so thankful!). I made a decision right then that quitting was NOT an option, and thought about how powerful the messages we allow ourselves to think on are. I was reminded of the verse from Romans:
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will." - Romans 12:2
... the renewing of my mind...
"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things." - Philippians 4:8
I decided to change what I was feeling by changing what I was thinking. I started to think about the beauty...
the quiet and peace of the moment, our Creator's power and stunning beauty, God's provision and faithfulness, my health, D's health, ... thanked God for our marriage, our healthy baby boy, family...
Before I knew it, I was at the base of the mountain, warmer and ready to start the climb.
... heading up and over this... :)
Warmer, I was so happy to be climbing. I love being in the alpine life zone, close to the summit! :)
Mile 38, close to the summit... keep climbin'!
... and climbin' ... the beauty was STUNNING!
I can see the summit coming - YEA!
MADE IT! The aid station at the summit was WONDERFUL!
I made it at 9:30 a.m. - D was already down the mountain in Aspen - miss you D! :)
The 20 mile descent was great - fast and chilly, but beautiful! I made it into Aspen around 10:40 and heard D, Rog and Paulie calling out to me on the side of the road. I got off my bike, pretty wiped out. Since we had to leave Glenwood Springs by 1:30 to get the RV back, we had the choice to finish the last 45 miles into Glenwood, OR jump in the RV and ride down so we'd have time to bask in the Hot Springs before heading down the mountain. D had already made up my mind, and it didn't take more than 1 second's thought for me. The picture says it all -

It was HEAVENLY! :) Thanks for following my babbling through this journey. It was a fantastic week! ... one I'll never forget!
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." - 2 Cor. 12:9
Thanks for being my strength, joy and peace, Lord! :) I love you!


Bev said...

Wow - I have tears running down my cheeks. The amazing beauty, the strength of God, family, friends, and both of you. What an amazing trip. You are both wonderful examples to Caleb of what faith and determination can do. Thanks for sharing your adventure and glad you made it safely!

Lynn Haanen said...

Wow! What an incredible experience! I'm impressed with your stamina...surviving that cold, cold rain and climbing summit after summit. I'm so thankful for your safe return. Enjoy your rest. : - )

Erin said...

Thanks for sharing about this trip Heather! We got a good taste of what your journey was like! So proud of you guys!

Kelly and Jeff said...

Thanks so much for taking us on the journey with you :) Love you, K