Arizona Bike Tour in 2016

Day 0 (Saturday, March 26): Mary and I drive to Tucson for the start of the six-day Trail of the Apaches bike tour with Lizard Head. To break up the drive, we do a 27-mile warmup ride in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the largest state park in California.

Day 1 (Sunday, March 27): Mary and I are joined by my brother Jay for the start of the tour near Tucson. We bike a 25-mile loop in Saguaro National Park and do a 7-mile round-trip hike up Wasson Peak.

Day 2 (Monday, March 28): We bike up Kitt Peak and finish with another ride through Saguaro National Park for 49 miles total. We again spend the night near Tucson.

Day 3 (Tuesday, March 29): We shuttle to the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge and bike 46 miles through Arivaca to Arivaca Junction. After another shuttle over a busy stretch of road, Mary and I, along with guide Emily, get on our bikes again for the last 18 miles and finish in Patagonia with 64 miles overall.

Day 4 (Wednesday, March 30): We bike 62 miles from Patagonia to Parker Canyon Lake and then back to a winery near Sonoita. After that we shuttle to Bisbee, an old mining town. During the bike ride, Jay sees a herd of pronghorns, and Mary sees a javelina. Along the way the cable breaks for the rear derailleur on Mary’s bike. Mitch, our second guide and mechanic, is unable to repair the cable, but sets the derailleur so that Mary has three reasonable gears in front to continue riding.

Day 5 (Thursday, March 31): We bike 77 miles from Bisbee in Arizona to Rodeo, just across the state line in New Mexico. The weather is cool but sunny at the start. As the day wears on, the skies become more ominous, and we are treated to rain and sleet just before we finish our ride. After the clouds depart that night, we view the Milky Way in all its glory.

Day 6 (Friday, April 1): We abandon our original plan to bike up Mount Graham because its summit of over 10,000 ft is predicted to have a high temperature in the 30s with a chance of snow. Instead, all of the guests do a short 16-mile bike ride into beautiful Cave Creek Canyon, and some of us follow that with a strenuous 9-mile round-trip hike up 8,000-ft Silver Peak.

Photos follow, and the captions include the names of a few of the many mountain ranges in Arizona.

Colorado Cols Bike Tour in 2015

Mary and I rode the Colorado Cols bike tour with Lizard Head in June and July 2015. Over seven days we covered 540 miles, including two centuries, with 36,000 ft of climbing. Bruce from Chicago was the only other guest, and Emily was our only guide. John Humphries, who runs Lizard Head, made special arrangements so we could do this tour with only three guests. We really appreciated that 🙂

Here is what we did each day.

On Day 0 (Saturday, June 27): We drive from Colorado Springs to Grand Junction after finishing the Spanish Peaks and Great Sand Dunes tour the day before. We visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park along the way.

On Day 1 (Sunday, June 28): We shuttle to Mesa and bike 70 miles (with 6,600 ft of climbing) to Paonia over Grand Mesa. We rate this our best Lizard Head cycling day yet!

On Day 2 (Monday, June 29) We bike a shortcut from Paonia to Crested Butte over 10,007-ft Kebler Pass. It is only 47 miles (5,000 ft) compared to the 110-mile recommended route. However, 23 miles of the shortcut are dirt and gravel, which is why it is not recommended. We manage to make it on our road bikes without falling, see beautiful scenery, and get to Crested Butte early in the afternoon.

On Day 3 (Tuesday, June 30): This is the Queen Stage of the tour, i.e., the longest distance. We go 134 miles (8,000 ft) from Crested Butte to Creede. Mary and I bike all the way in 13 hours!! She is only the second woman to do this on a Colorado Cols tour. We follow several rivers and go over two high passes: Slumgullion and Spring Creek. We have perfect weather with mild temperatures and very little wind. Bruce completes the bike ride too but gets sick afterward and rides in the van for the rest of the tour 😦

On Day 4 (Wednesday, July 1): We bike 65 miles (3,100 ft) from Creede to Pagosa Springs and go over Wolf Creek Pass. This is net downhill and easy compared to the day before. Soon after we get to Pagosa Springs a spectacular thunderstorm arrives. While we are soaking in our first pool the light rain turns to heavy hail. The pools take on a new dimension as the water jumps up when the hailstones hit. Before long the pounding on our heads makes us want our bicycle helmets. That and nearby lightning prompt us to go inside until the storm passes. Afterward the hail is piled up like snow in many places.

On Day 5 (Thursday, July 2): This is nominally a rest day. However, we do an easy 31-mile loop west of town (1,900 ft). We have lunch by a lake that reminds us of Wisconsin. Afterward we soak in several pools without worrying about hail and lightning 🙂

On Day 6 (Friday, July 3): We shuttle from Pagosa Springs to Durango and then bike 72 miles (7,500 ft) from there to Ouray through the spectacular San Juan Mountains. We go over three high passes – Coal Bank, Molas, and Red Mountain – and descend one of the most incredible roads we have ever been on: the Million Dollar Highway. We spend the night in an “unusual” room at the Columbus Hotel, the last hotel in Ouray with any rooms on the holiday weekend.

On Day 7 (Saturday, July 4): We celebrate our anniversary by biking 121 miles (3,900 ft) from Ouray to Gateway. We do one more climb to nearly 9,000 feet, but the rest is mostly downhill following the San Miguel and Delores Rivers. The ride begins with cold rain as we leave the mountains and finishes in desert heat moderated by high clouds.

Photos and commentary follow.

Spanish Peaks Bike Tour in 2015

Mary and I rode the Spanish Peaks and Great Sand Dunes bike tour in Colorado with Lizard Head over six days in June 2015. There were seven guests and two guides, John and Leslie. Three guests besides Mary were engineers! One other guest was doing bioinformatics like me, and Leslie did graduate work in phylogenetics before she decided to become a guide. This was our kind of tour!

Here is our itinerary.

On Day 1 (Sunday, June 21): We shuttle from Colorado Springs to Beckwith Reservoir and then bike to Westcliffe. We cover 51 miles (with 5,800 ft of climbing) and go over four 9,000-ft passes!

On Day 2 (Monday, June 22): We bike 61 miles (1,800 ft), mostly downhill, from Westcliffe to Walsenburg.

On Day 3 (Tuesday, June 23): We do a short shuttle to Segundo and then bike 112 miles (7,300 ft) to Great Sand Dunes National Park. We go over two high passes: Cuchara (9,995 ft) and La Veta (9,413). We pass riders going the other way in the Race Across America. This is the Queen Stage of the tour, i.e., the longest ride, and we are really tired at the end.

On Day 4 (Wednesday, June 24): We hike in the park for awhile and then bike 59 miles (500 ft) against a strong headwind to Joyful Journey Hot Springs Spa. We spend the night there in a yurt.

On Day 5 (Thursday, June 25): We shuttle to the Royal Gorge and then bike 55 miles (7,500 ft) to Victor. We encounter showers and a rainbow above Cripple Creek before going over Victor Pass (10,201 ft).

On Day 6 (Friday, June 26): We shuttle to the base of Pikes Peak where we begin the big climb to the top at 14,110 ft. I do the whole climb (!) but Mary shuttles the last few miles because she is not feeling well. We have an exciting descent to finish the ride and the tour. I bike 39 miles (6,900 ft) for the day, and Mary does 32 miles (4,000 ft).

Photos and commentary follow.

Sierra Climbing Trip in 2015

Betsy and I spent five days backpacking and climbing in the Sierra in June 2015. We did a big clockwise loop that took us through the Evolution Basin where many peaks are named after famous scientists who did pioneering work in evolution and genetics. We climbed three mountains, packed over three passes (one without a trail), got snowed on the last two days, and did not see another person from the time we left the trailhead until just before we returned.

My blog of our wilderness adventure follows.

Zion to Santa Fe Bike Tour in 2014

Mary and I did the bike tour of a lifetime with Lizard Head in August and September 2014! It was called Zion to Taos, but we actually biked all the way to Santa Fe. We covered nearly 900 miles in 13 days and biked EFI (every fricking inch) of the planned route plus some bonus miles without a shuttle, except for 25 miles after Mary fell and got a concussion. That required a quick trip to the ER for her to get a doctor’s OK to continue.

For the first week of the tour we had 15 guests and two guides, which was more than would fit in the single van that accompanied us after we left Zion. Three guests besides Mary and me biked EFI, which meant that there was enough room in the van for the others when they took a bump at the end of the longest day 🙂 Six guests left after the first week.

Bertrand and Ben were our guides for the first week, while Bertrand and Joe were the guides for the second week. Bertrand is a French chef, so we had some good meals along the road 🙂

Here is our itinerary for this awesome tour!

Day 1 (Sunday, August 31): Hike in the Virgin River Narrows with condors overhead, shuttle through the Zion-Mt Carmel Tunnel, and then bike to Mt Carmel (17 miles & 1,100 ft of climbing).
Day 2 (Monday, September 1): Mt Carmel -> Bryce Canyon (64 mi & 4,100 ft) followed by an afternoon hike
Day 3 (Tuesday, September 2): Bryce Canyon -> Boulder UT (77 mi & 4,800 ft)
Day 4 (Wednesday, September 3): Boulder UT -> Hanksville (87 mi & 5,500 ft)
Day 5 (Thursday, September 4): Hanksville -> Blanding (126 mi & 8,700 ft), the Queen Stage!!
Day 6 (Friday, September 5): Blanding -> McElmo Canyon (65 mi & 2,600 ft)
Day 7 (Saturday, September 6): McElmo Canyon -> Durango (70 mi & 5,000 ft)
Day 8 (Sunday, September 7): Durango <-> Pinkerton Hot Springs (31 mi & 1,000 ft) for a rest day bonus ride
Day 9 (Monday, September 8): Durango -> Pagosa Hot Springs (54 mi & 3,200 ft), Mary’s fall!
Day 10 (Tuesday, September 9): Pagosa Hot Springs -> Chama (48 mi & 3,600 ft)
Day 11 (Wednesday, September 10): Chama -> Ojo Caliente (94 mi & 5,300 ft)
Day 12 (Thursday, September 11): Ojo Caliente -> Taos plus a bonus out-and-back ride to Palo Flechado Pass (78 mi & 4,600 ft)
Day 13 (Friday, September 12): Taos -> Santa Fe (77 mi & 6,900 ft)

Photos and commentary follow.

Mount Shasta Climbing Trip in 2013

Betsy and I climbed Mount Shasta at 14,179 ft in June 2013 for our second climbing trip of the year. Here is our itinerary for this two-day trip.

Day 1 (Saturday, June 8): Drive from Oakland to the town of Mount Shasta to eat lunch. Drive from town to the Bunny Flat trailhead at 6,950 ft. Pack 4-1/2 hours up the trail in Avalanche Gulch to Helen Lake at 10,400 ft where we camp for the night.
Day 2 (Sunday, June 9): Leave Helen Lake at dawn, and climb to the summit and back in 9 hours. Pack out in 2-1/2 hours, have dinner in town, and drive back to Oakland.

We were incredibly lucky with the weather. It was in the 50s with no wind when we were on the summit. Two days later the forecast was for a high in the 30s with gusts to 70 mph!

Photos and commentary follow.

Sierra Climbing Trip in 2013

Betsy and I climbed Mounts Haeckel and Wallace in May 2013. Here is our itinerary for this three-day trip.

Day 1 (Sunday, May 26): Pack from the trailhead at Lake Sabrina (9,128 ft) to camp at Midnight Lake (10,988 ft). We go 7 miles in 5-1/2 hours.
Day 2 (Monday, May 27): Climb Mounts Haeckel (13,418 ft) and Wallace (13,377 ft). This takes us 12-1/2 hours roundtrip from camp. We make the first ascents of the year for both peaks!
Day 3 (Tuesday, May 28): Pack out 7 miles in 4 hours.

Photos and commentary follow.

Redrock Canyons Bike Tour in 2013

Mary and I did our first bike tour with Lizard Head in May 2013. It was called Redrock Canyons and was in Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. In six days we covered 474 miles, including two centuries, with 30,200 ft of climbing. There were three other guests – Bob, Mary Ellen, and Charlie from Florida – and two guides – Joe and Chuck.

We had unusual, unsettled weather. On each of the last five days there was alternating sun and precipitation of some sort. Day 2 was the hardest. Not only was it long, but we had 40 miles of light rain into a headwind with the temperature in the low 40s. On the last day we briefly biked with hail stones pounding on our helmets and carpeting the road!

Here is the itinerary for the tour.

Day 1 (Sunday, May 5): Fruita -> east side of Colorado National Monument + Unaweep Canyon -> Gateway (62 miles & 4,600 ft of climbing)
Day 2 (Monday, May 6): Gateway -> Dove Creek (113 mi & 6,200 ft in under 12 hours), the Queen Stage and the longest that we had ever ridden!
Day 3 (Tuesday, May 7): Dove Creek -> Bluff (86 miles & 3,500 ft of climbing)
Day 4 (Wednesday, May 8): Blanding <-> Salvation Knoll (49 mi & 5,200 ft), a “rest day” ride
Day 5 (Thursday, May 9): Bluff -> Monument Valley (57 miles & 4,900 ft of climbing)
Day 6 (Friday, May 10): Monument Valley -> Hite (107 mi & 6,000 ft in under 10 hours), another century ride!

Photos and commentary follow.

Trans Alps Challenge Bike Tour in 2012

Mary and I did our last bike tour with Breaking Away in July 2012. Called the Trans Alps Challenge, it was 10 days of epic biking along the border between France and Italy! We biked 57 miles during two warmup days and 594 miles with 78,500 ft of climbing during the tour! There were eight guests plus three guides: Oleg Bozhor (the new owner), Mitch Clinton, and Guillaume Dassonville. We had biked before with all three guides.

Here is the itinerary for the tour.

Days -1 & 0 (Wednesday & Thursday, July 18 & 19): We arrive in Geneva on Wednesday afternoon and shuttle to Divonne-les-Bains in France, where we spend two nights. We do warmup rides of 13 miles on Wednesday and 44 miles on Thursday by Lake Geneva back and forth across the border between France and Switzerland.

Day 1 (Friday, July 20): Shuttle to St Pierre-en-Faucigny on the outskirts of Geneva in France and then bike to Crest-Voland over the Col de St Jean de Sixt (956 m), Col de la Croix Fry (1,477 m), and Col des Aravis (1,487 m) for 43 miles and 6,900 ft of climbing.

Day 2 (Saturday, July 21): Bike from Crest-Voland to Bourg-St-Maurice over the Col des Saisies (1,650 m) and Comet de Roselend (1,968 m), shuttle to Val d’Isère, and then bike to Lanslevillard over the Col de l’Iseran (2,770 m or 9,088 ft), the highest paved pass in the Alps. We bike 71 miles with 9,000 ft of climbing.

Day 3 (Sunday, July 22): Bike from Lanslevillard to Sestriere in Italy. We go over the Col du Mont Cenis (2,085 m) and Colle delle Finestre (2,176 m) and finish with the climb to Sestriere (2,035 m). We bike 55 miles with 10,000 ft of climbing.

Day 4 (Monday, July 23): Bike from Sestriere to Dronero with a short shuttle to avoid some construction. We bike 67 mi with 3,500 ft of climbing.

Day 5 (Tuesday, July 24): Bike a loop from Dronero over the Colle Fauniera (2,481 m) for 56 miles and 6,500 ft of climbing. We are the only guests to do all of this ride.

Day 6 (Wednesday, July 25): Bike from Dronero over the Colle della Lombarda (2,350 m) at the border with France and half-way up the Col de la Bonette (2,715 m) when a thunderstorm forces us to shuttle to Jausiers for the night. We bike 74 miles with 10,500 ft of climbing.

Day 7 (Thursday, July 26): Bike a loop from Jausiers over the Col de la Cayolle (2,326 m), Col de Champs (2,080 m), and Col d’Allos (2,250 m) for 85 miles and 10,700 ft of climbing. We are the only guests to do all of this ride.

Day 8 (Friday, July 27): Bike from Jausiers over the Col de Vars (2,109 m) and Col d’Izoard (2,360 m) and most of the way down to Briançon when a gusty thunderstorm forces us to shuttle the last few miles to town. We bike 53 miles with 7,800 ft of climbing.

Day 9 (Saturday, July 28): Bike from Briançon to the tops of the Col de Lauteret (2,058 m) and Col du Galibier (2,642 m), shuttle through tunnels, and then bike up the famous Alpe d’Huez (1,780 m). We bike 41 miles with 8,300 ft of climbing.

Day 10 (Sunday, July 29): Bike from Alpe d’Huez to the top of the Col de la Croix de Fer (2,067 m), over the Col du Glandon (1,924 m), and down to La Chambre for 49 miles and 5,300 ft of climbing. We shuttle back to Divonne-les-Bais to end our epic tour!

Photos and commentary follow.