Editor’s note: After some gentle prodding I’ve decided to post my “Mad Dog Unleashed” columns here at the blog, 30 days or so after their dead-tree publication (the folks at Bicycle Retailer and Industry News are paying good money for these things after all). Still, you can’t buy your own personal copy at the Barnes & Noble — BRAIN is a trade magazine, found near the toilet in all the better shops — and so the non-industry types among you may wonder what the hell is it that I do to pass the time when I’m not raving for free here. Speaking of which, this particular column had its roots in a blog post, so don’t be surprised if bits seem familiar.
If Bilbo had had a bike, he’d still be out there
“So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their ending!”
— Bilbo Baggins in “The Hobbit”
In mid-November, after an overlong stretch of working for a living, I decided to treat myself to an adventure.
I had planned to head for Arizona for some sun-splashed cycling. But then I thought about the driving there and back, and all the cycling I would not be doing as I motored along, enduring various NPR pledge drives.
And frankly, the weather was not too shabby in Colorado.
Old Pueblo Road, just south of Hanover Road.
So instead I equipped my Soma Double Cross with racks, panniers and about 25 pounds of things I would not need, and went for a ride. Call it “There and Back Again,” in honor of Peter Jackson’s overstuffed epic “The Hobbit,” though my trip took only three days rather than three films and cost considerably less money.
The Road goes ever on and on. The Adventure Cycling Association, for which I do a bit of work, has been promoting “bike overnights”, the idea being that not everyone wants or needs to cycle clear to the Lonely Mountain and back.
I first rode one in 2011, a simple 100-mile round trip, and I had been itching all year to do another.
There were two downsides: One, I was woefully unfit, having ridden the office chair more than the bike. And two, the first leg of my planned route, Highway 115 to Penrose, had for months been a quagmire of construction.
When a quick recon found the work nearly complete, I took a deep breath, tugged on my roomiest bibs and pedaled off.
Down from the door where it began. Day one was a rolling, 50-mile ride along the broad, winding shoulders of 115 to Cañon City, with a stop outside Penrose for a soak at Dakota Hot Springs. Rather than camp I spent the night at the Cañon Hampton — for free, thanks to Hilton Honors points.
Come morning I wolfed a complimentary hot breakfast; took note of a plump coyote trotting alongside a nearby creek as I wandered around, unkinking my legs and waiting for the temperature to rise; then kitted up for the ride east to Pueblo.
Once past the traffic signals I settled into a pleasant rhythm that eludes me on short rides around town. Highway 50′s high-speed traffic was a distraction, but so are the Internet, the telephone and the doorbell.
Now far ahead the Road has gone. Outside Pueblo I turned south toward the Arkansas River Trail. Despite the chill fishermen worked the river — one of them in shorts — and several folks were walking or cycling the trail, which was a pleasant contrast to Highway 50 in terms of traffic/noise volume.
Leaving the trail downtown I stopped for lunch at Hopscotch Bakery, where I learned they wished to expand their Bingo Burger operation to Colorado Springs.
Some uninformed contributions on this topic won me a free cookie, and thus restored I rode north through Mineral Palace Park and across Highway 50 to another Hampton (free bed, free breakfast, what’s not to like?).
And I must follow if I can. One great thing about travel by bicycle, even a short trip, is the discipline it enforces. If you skip that day’s ride, you don’t get to where you’re going. And it was a temptation to skip the final leg to Colorado Springs, which began with a few miles of Interstate 25 (yikes!) before veering east at the defunct Piñon Truck Stop onto a rough, rolling frontage road.
Still, “third time pays for all,” as Bilbo Baggins was fond of quoting. And once past the rest area, with another short stretch of I-25 behind me, I rolled through an underpass to the west-side frontage road and thence to Old Pueblo Road, which leads to the Front Range Trail and blessed freedom from infernal combustion until a few short blocks from home.
The trip was less Lewis and Clark than Martin and Lewis — old fat bastard on a bike to no particular purpose, dragging bags of superfluous doodads along the way a snail does its shell — but it was refreshing to leave all my other baggage behind for a few days.
And while no dragons were harmed during the making of this column, I particularly enjoyed giving a dope-slap to that remnant of lizard brain that likes to whisper, “You can’t do it, y’know.”
This column first appeared in the Jan. 1, 2013, edition of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.