right as i left the visitor center feeling all tough, i looked out at the road and this is what i saw.


very steep uphill, no shoulder, and it started raining again really hard and the wind was just out of control. i had forgotten that the visitor center is not the highest point on the road. it was some 400 feet higher just east of me [the direction i was heading] . it wasn’t just 400 feet, it was climb 200 feet, drop 200 feet, climb…etc.

i actually didn’t mind the climbs too much, because it was keeping me warm. on every descent, i had a very hard time of it. there was no shoulder and the traffic was coming on strong. i couldn’t keep a straight line because of the wind gusts. i finally just had to dismount my bike and walk down hill. i was getting colder by the minute… really cold. the wind and rain were both getting more intense. because i was walking i was getting no where. it was so depressing, after every climb i would look over the bend and only see more descent followed by more climbing. each next climb seemed higher than the previous. at this point i was really worried the something was going to happen to me. i couldn’t stop shivering, and my hands were getting too numb to do anything. one weird thing was that my hands could not do anything, but squeeze the brakes.

at one point i had to wait for a construction traffic light and there was no protection from the wind and rain. i had to sit there in front of all these car, pretending like i was ok. i thought my uncontrollable violent shivering might have given me away… but it didn’t. when the signal waiting was over the traffic guard told me to go first. i went ahead and tried sprinting across, so i wouldn’t hold back the drivers. i was “sprinting” into a direct headwind with rain/ice pounding my face and glasses. i couldn’t see anything but a blur of the other construction signal. right after i got to the other side i pulled over and tried to rest, while the traffic passed me by.

i little while after i stopped i found a place to hide from the wind. here is a picture looking down.


this is what i looked like at that moment.


more of trail ridge looking down.


this road seemed to never have any relief. the only thing that kept me going, was the fact that i could live to tell about it. when i finally got to tree line, things didn’t get too much better. the road is completely shady and the rain seems to be going strong. i could not warm up.


i was very happy when i got to the top. i ran into a few people that had seen me riding up. they were pretty impressed with my accomplishment… and so was it. i asked one of them if they could take this picture, so i could have something to show for my pain.

i was pretty happy… “mission accomplished!” i put on my new hat, and pulled my jacket sleeves over my hands/gloves and headed out of the parking lot. it was going to be an easy cruse down trail ridge road…. or so i thought.


there is the visitor center. it finally stopped raining hard.


i don’t know how many miles i’ve been in the saddle so far but i do know that i have 2 miles to go.


right now i can hear the thunder all around me. it’s almost every thirty seconds apart. remember those beautiful peaks in my last post? well they are echoing the thunder all around me. every time lightning strikes the sound circles 360 degrees around me. it’s quite disturbing.


can you see the visitor center? it won’t be long now before i get to tree line. it’s raining really good right now. in the picture just below, you can see a white minivan. nothing special, just i thought it was inspiring to see someone actually at the end.


the rain turned to hail, and it’s not feeling very good. i guess the good part is that i am not getting wet :) the lightning kind of stopped and i am starting to see tree line. i was going to stop and wait under a tree till the lightning stopped, but since it stopped i can keep going.

i got about a half mile into tree line and the thunder and lightning started! now i’m scared no where to hide… crap! i pulled over to the side of the road near the embankment hoping to get a little shelter from the lightning. there was no where to really sit down unless i felt like sitting on tundra… which i didn’t. so there i was standing over my bike in a ditch next to the road [sorry no picture].

one couple passed by and the guy asked if everything was alright dude… yeah i’m fine. while i was there i thought that i would get some food. remember it’s pouring rain at this point. i pull out my burrito from this morning and carefully remove the soggy paper that it’s wrapped in. this is not easy, because it is very fragile and breaking into very small pieces. i manage to pull it back about an inch or so and take a bite. not sure if i got all the paper off. so i don’t want to hold the burrito in the rain while i am chewing, so i bit off as much as i can before i get to the start of the paper.

ok, so do you have a good picture: it’s raining/hailing very hard, there is lightning every thirty to forty seconds, i am standing in a ditch over my bike, eating a cold taco bell burrito… with my mouth full. at this point some lady drives by and asks if i’m ok. i can’t speak, because my mouth is so full… i don’t know what my face looks like at this point, but i just nodded my head. i probably looked really sick at this point, she had this kind of scared look on her face. she said, “are you sure?”….”i have a bike rack in the back…” i really wanted a ride but, i was so close. i thanked her for the offer, but turned her down. i wonder if she even understood what i said, my mouth was so full. by the way that cold burrito was so good, i can’t believe how much better it was that the one i ate down in estes.

it felt like the lightning slowed down a bit, so i packed up and continued my quest.


i am getting super tired now. i am starting to enjoy these moments when i stop to take pictures. besides the weather looks pretty good right now. hey looks like the tree-line is just around the corner.


these beauties were just above me.by the way it started raining about this point, but not too bad. notice the yellow leaves finally?


i swear that every pedal stroke brings me to an even more beautiful place.



and just for the sake of symmetry, here is a shot looking down.

i finally got the start of old fall river road.


pretty excited at this point. i can see where i am going…. up.


here are some aspen trees that have not turned golden yellow yet. it seems pretty late in the season for these to still be green but i was told that we had a wet year.


there is the start of the one way uphill gravel section. it was actually pretty crowded. the sign actually read: “9 miles to fall river pass narrow steep switchbacks no vehicles over 25ft ” i should be ok.






the road meanders through a ravine for the first few miles before it really starts to kick up. this picture was taken on the south side of the road.


i was about here… but it felt like i was at least twice as far.


once i got in the park everything was so nice. the weather was warm, the sun was out, and there were no hills to speak of at first.


i stopped at this picnic area to organize my panniers a bit.


it was pretty crowded.


right outside this area there was an old flood area. i guess huge boulders came crashing down the hill side. i didn’t read the plaque, so most of this information is made up :).


i was feeling pretty fresh at this point and now that i had my hat i wasn’t worried about the cold weather at the top so much.

i left the visitor center and about one half a mile up the road is the park entrance. i rolled up to the gate so i can pay my 10 dollars, and give the old guy my credit card. he doesn’t even look at the card and right away asks to see my drivers license. i didn’t think i would need that, so i didn’t bring it. he said, “how can i take money off this if i don’t know it’s yours?” well, he had a point, but there is a certain amount of trust that must exist in society for it to be a civilized place. granted i don’t want someone riding around the country spending my money. however i don’t think that someone that would ride his bike some great distance to climb a mountain, is going to be using stolen money.

i didn’t want to get mad at the guy, because he could make my life even more difficult… so i went back down the hill to the visitor center. i tried to get some guy to let me buy his stuff for him with my credit card, and he could pay me cash.. but he only had credit as well. drats! i started talking to the ranger lady behind the counter and she made a call to one of the supervisors and they said that it should be ok, because the card is signed. i had a feeling that even though this was obvious logic, the old guy at the gate was not going to be convinced unless he was told by someone else. i asked if she could tell the guys at the gate, because they needed to be told. she did, and said it would be ok. i wasn’t feeling too comfortable about this but i had no other choice…. or did i….

i remembered the guy downstairs who rang me up for my hat. he was a young guy, with hardly any customers at his register. [no i’m not thinking about robbing him!!]. i went down to ask him if i could buy something for around ten dollars and then return it, and get cash back. i also told him my whole sad story and he agreed to do it. right on! i found this wooden oven mit holder that read “rocky mountain national park” for eleven dollars. he scanned my card and then paused and said that he could not give me cash back after all. some weird story about how i got a discount for buying with a credit card and …. i didn’t understand the rest but he looked like he was telling me the truth. my first thought was, “i don’t still have to buy this, do i?” the last thing i wanted to do was carry an oven mit holder up the mountain.

well no more back up plan. i had to go back up to the park entrance and talk to the guard. i decided to go back to the same guy because i didn’t want to step on his toes and really piss him off. i explained what the park lady told me about the signature… and he still didn’t believe me, but his supervisor was there and kind of eased him though it. i was still trying to be as nice as i could, but this old guy was acting like he was signing his house over to me or something. i pretended like he really was going out of his way to let me into the park, just to kind of make it easier….. but he still was pissed at me.

oh well at least i got in:


at least i thought it was good to be in

i was riding around a bit looking for a place to get hats, when i finally found a hunting and fishing place… wouldn’t you know it, they were all out of ear covering hats! the lady there was nice enough and told me that the visitor center next door had warm hats, down stairs. so i went next door and walked inside and there were some 3d topo maps and pictures of wildlife, and some books. i then went down stairs to find the warm hats:


not quite what i had in mind… besides i don’t think it’s even for sale.

i went to the other “next door” and found the real visitor center that the lady was talking about… wen’t down stairs and bought my hat.


as i was putting away my camera from this shot, some car pulled up to me and a guy jumped out and started asking me road directions. i wish i could give better directions, but i usually just turn down streets by “feel”. i can rarely tell you exact directions. i think i provided good enough answers to them because they actually headed off the direction i told them… have you ever given someone directions and they go off in the other direction? [happens to me a lot :(]