Todd’s Ride the Rockies Journal: Final

2012 Ride the Rockies recap and “Unbottled” rider of the tour

One of my favorite things about Ride the Rockies this year was that the brewery had the opportunity to host the finish. This was our second year sponsoring RTR and I think we’ll continue to sponsor the tour, given the great experience we had connecting with riders and Colorado communities.  I certainly hope to continue to ride it each year as it was about as much fun as I’ve ever had in the space of six days.  The tour, however, will not end in Fort Collins each year, so I savored the rare opportunity to cruise to a familiar finish line, seeing so many of my friends and co-workers cheering us on was a great feeling.  I was quite proud of myself for a little idea I had to appropriate a Tour de France tradition; during the last stage, with the places already set, riders sip Champaign during the final stretch on the Champs Élysées.  For our group, I felt beer was more appropriate, but not just any beer.  We stopped about a ¼ mile from the finish line, popped a bottle of our new collaboration brew, Pond Hopper, and poured seven glasses for the seven riders that were in our group on the last day, we rolled down Lincoln Ave and sailed across the finish line enjoying the aromas of the Double Extra Pale Ale.

Leading up to the suds quaffing finish, the final day of the ride could not have been more enjoyable; we started in Estes Park and cruised down Devils Gulch Road beside Monument Creek before dropping into Big Thomson canyon, which took us all the way into Loveland. We dropped a couple thousand feet of elevation which meant the ride was a simple cruise on a morning that was not to hot and not too cool.  I hate to veer into clichéd territory here, but feel as if I have no choice, the birds were singing, the sun was shining, the smell of the pine trees was intoxicating and the pleasure of riding through the canyon was the perfect cap to this year’s tour.  In what had to be the least important consequence of the High Park fire the ride final portion of this year’s ride had to be diverted from the original path that would have taken us through Masonville and around Horsetooth Reservoir.  Instead of the rolling hills and canyons that route would have provided we simply rode into Loveland and took a left and headed north to Fort Collins.  This made the final day, which already was the easiest of the tour, even less taxing.  Fewer miles, fewer hills, and a tailwind that made the last stretch a breeze (pun intended).  All that was left was to celebrate, and celebrate we did, both my co-workers at Odell Brewing and the RTR staff did a wonderful job at the finish line, it was a great party, Unbottled indeed.

 

Speaking of Unbottled, one thing I tried to do over the course of the ride was to exude the OBC Unbottled spirit whether it was while pushing up tough climbs or gliding down the back side of a pass, the Unbottled attitude can be infectious, but as much as it pains me to say it, I was not the Unbottled rider of the tour. I thought I would be, I mean, I’m a fun kind of guy, but then I met and started riding with Josh Carnes, and he put me to shame.  I met and chatted with dozens and dozens of people over the course of the week, but Josh met and chatted with hundreds.  Leading sing alongs to James Brown and the Beatles up the passes and being the personal cheerleader for every rider that looked like they might be struggling a bit, the Windsor-Severance firefighter’s enthusiasm for fun was contagious all week long.  If that wasn’t enough, Josh was also the designated “Green Rider” for this year’s tour, as he has been since 2010.  He’s been tasked by his friends at Zero Hero to find a rider each day of the tour that goes out of his or her was to green the tour.  Whether that’s picking up trash at an aid station or on the road, directing people as to which refuse is recyclable vs. which is compostable or any other action being taken by riders to lighten the RTR environmental footprint.  After each day’s ride, on the evening’s entertainment stage, he presents a green jersey to that day’s deserving recipient.  It also probably helps that he rides the coolest bike on the tour, a Panda Legacy.  Panda bikes are handmade in Fort Collins with Bamboo frames, they co-sponsor the “green rider” initiative with Zero Hero, in fact to two sustainable Fort Collins based companies are not only close in vision, but also physically close, as they now share and office.  The green Rider is a great program and the green rider himself, Josh Carnes is also my Unbottled rider of the tour.

Odds and ends:

Toughest Climb: Day 3 – Independence Pass

Easiest Climb: Day 1 – Black Mesa

Toughest portion to push through: Also day 3 – the last 7 miles up hill and into the wind toward Leadville

Best Summit: Day 5 – Trail Ridge Road – Rocky Mountain National Park

Best Downhill: Day 2 – coming down McClure Pass toward Carbondale

Most fun stretch: Day 6 – Estes Park to Loveland

Least fun Stretch: Day 4 – 13 miles of unpaved, uneven road after summiting Ute Pass

Unbottled Moment of the Tour: Day 2 – Stripping down and jumping in the Crystal River with friends Josh and Katie

Best Food deal: Flippin’ Flapjacks each morning at the first aid station, ally you can eat pancakes and sausage, $5.

Best host community: Granby. Best park, best music, what else do you need?

That’s it, thanks for reading.  I hope to see you next year. Cheers!

– Todd

 

Todd’s Ride the Rockies Journal: Part 4

So far I have endeavored to make these postings something other than a travelogue, not that there’s anything wrong with a travelogue I just did not want to take the tack of merely saying, in order, what has happened over the course of the trip. I wouldn’t like to write it, and I’m sure you wouldn’t like to read. However, we’ve had 2 big days in a row on the trip and I’m now readily to recount a few triumphs and register a few complaints. I hope mu curmudgeonly side doesn’t come out to much, although I suppose if it did I could blame it on this
I’ve just pulled into Granby Colorado after a 95-mile day that started in Leadville. Happily we lost a few thousand feet of elevation, but that doesn’t mean it was easy, I’ll get to that in a moment. Today’s ride follows what I think will prove to be the most grueling of the tour, an 83 mile affair with an elevation gain of nearly 6,000 feet to the top of Independence Pass.
We started out is sunny Carbondale and had an absolutely beautiful ride up the Roaring Fork Valley, through Aspen and then, up that damned pass. I have to say that my two riding companions Katie and Josh were great help in adding Levity to what could have been a purely draining climb. I also have to say that even before our climb we encountered what was the first portion of the route that was horrible. I’ll preface this by saying that the RTR staff is and has done and amazing job on the ride and the logistics to organizing a ride like this must be staggering. I can understand when we are routed through some bad spots there may be no better option; but bad spots are bad spots and I’m still going to tell you about them. For about two miles before we started the steep climbs we were directed onto a “dirt path” but in reality it was much more like sand. This of course would be fine for a mountain bike or any bike with fat tires, but for a ride that consists of 2,500 people, 2,450 of whom are on skinny tires, this was a really tough surface to ride on. We were sinking inches into the loose soil, back tires were spinning out; I’m surprised there weren’t more crashes. I’m no pavement snob either, we rode on an unpaved road later in the day for much longer than 2 miles and it was just fine. Also, the RTR staff did a great job at alerting riders of the surface change and had help posted everywhere just in case anything went wrong, I can’t fault them, I’m just saying it sucked.
As for the pass, it was tough, it was draining, it was really rewarding. Getting yourself up to 12,100 feet on the “Top of the Rockies” trail was a reward that felt all the sweeter since the hill was a big one to conquer. Surprisingly, I’m developing a taste for climbing, yeah it hurts a little bit, but only a little and when you’re done it is an amazing feeling. Not only that, but after you summit there’s always a big downhill ride and there’s not much out there that’s more fun than screaming down the hill on your bike at 50mph. The toughest part of the day wasn’t the summit of Independence; surprisingly, it was the last 7 miles to Leadville. It was uphill and into a stiff wind, by the time I reached the old mining town I only had sleep on my mind. So if you’ll excuse a brief aside, I’d like to address Leadville directly:

I’m sorry Leadville. I like you; you’re a great little town. I wish I had wanted to see more of you, but I wasn’t in a place where I could appreciate you for all the things you have going for yourself. I know I left pretty suddenly in to morning, without saying much of a goodbye, but I really had to go. I hope we can still see each other from time to time, no hard feelings? Oh, I will be pretty busy with work coming up, so I might not be able to comeback for a while, you understand right?

Thanks, I feel better now. The ride to Granby today was easier, because the climbs weren’t as steep or as long and we were able to loose some elevation in total, which is nice for a 95 mile ride. Let me stress that easier is just a relative term, we did have two significant passes to clear: Freemont at 11,000 ft or so and Ute Pass which clocks in at 9,600 ft. After clearing Ute pass, which offered panoramic vistas in all directions, we started heading down the hill towards Granby. The only complaint today again involved a stretch of unpaved road, this time about 13 miles. Since I’ve already allocated too much of this post to complaining about how, when I’m in the remote Colorado Rockies I can’t always have pristine asphalt surfaces, I’ll just say that it wasn’t great and leave it at that.
Two long and rewarding days down, I’m really looking forward to riding through Rocky Mountain National Park and over Trail Ridge Road on Thursday, it’s a route I’ve done many times by car and it’ll be a privilege to ride it by bike. For now I’m kicking back with a Pedal Push Pale Ale and really enjoying friendly little town of Granby, the cute little town nestled in the heart of the continental divide. (Sorry Leadville)

Todd Ewing is the Odell Brewing Company representative in Minnesota. He is starting to be really optimistic that he’ll be able to finish Ride the Rockies strong, quite frankly he is bordering on cocky and needs to be taken down a peg. Tweet at him: @OdellMN

Todd’s Ride the Rockies Journal: Part 3

I like riding my bike. It’s a hobby I’ve been pursuing for about 10 years now, but it should be said that the amount that I like bike riding and the amount that people I know think I like riding my bike are two very different things. I am, mostly, just a casual rider. I’m the kind of guy that receives subtle condescension when he asks mechanics at the bike shop a novice question, the kind of guy that can patch a flat but wouldn’t want to try to repair a broken chain. (Not that I’m superstitious, but all the same, let’s hope that doesn’t doom me to a broken chain on Trail Ridge Road) Many people however are under the impression that I’m a really intense rider, I think the misconception stems from a month long ride I did 8 years ago.

In 2004, after I got out of college, a couple friends and I rode our bikes from Fort Collins to Boston. It was a great trip and a wonderful way to see the country. If you ever have the opportunity to take a good chunk of time off from your real world responsibilities I cannot recommend a long bike tour highly enough. You’ll see things you’d never see by car and you’ll meet a highly varied group of characters that you wouldn’t be likely to come in contact with otherwise. The trip remains one of my fondest memories and one that helped to shape my view of the country.
Fond memories not withstanding, if you had been there to see our tour from Colorado to Massachusetts you would not ever mistake me for a biking expert, the sheer amount of bad choices I made are staggering in hindsight. Additionally, it wasn’t that hard, we only had a couple really long days; we stopped frequently including a couple days when we did not ride at all. Lastly, since that trip almost a decade ago, I have not done a bike ride that took more than a day, not one. I am sure now when folks hear that yes I did a cross country trip (once I’ll remind them) and also participated in Ride the Rockies (also only once) it will only cement mistaken belief that I am “really into cycling” By the way, I ever start referring to my self as a “cyclist” in these posts please find me and beat me about the head and shoulders with my own helmet; it’s as bad a bartenders insisting on being call mixologists. Anyway, the reason I say all this by way of introduction is because I want you to know that what I say next is not the result of my peak athletic shape, bicycle acumen or anything of the kind.

So far, this ride has been easy. I know. I’m as surprised as anyone. The credit is due to the incredible Ride the Rockies team; I realize that they’ve been at this for a while, so they should know what they’re doing, but the amount of support riders have on this tour has been absolutely fantastic. Each portion of the ride has aid stations for food and water, each located perfectly in spots that are not only ideal for a break milage wise but also that offer beautiful views. There are constant patrols by support vehicles for riders with mechanical problems or who might be too weary to travel on. There are numerous medical riders; I see several everyday, if a participant has the bad luck to go down help is never far away. RTR has made the first two ride days as easy as they could possibly be. Not to mention the logistics at each host community has got to be incredibly tough to manage two sights in every town, one base camp for riders, usually a school, a festival area usually a short distance away, shuttles for riders’ bags and more. Luckily though, the very friendly, Elizabeth Norris, the RTR Community Relations manager is handling it with aplomb.
I should also stop to say that the host communities have been great, Gunnison, Hotchkiss and now Carbondale. Working with the local community groups to bring our beers to a mix of riders and area residents eager to share a pint with their guests has been great. I’ve loved pouring Pedal Push for both those intimately acquainted with our brewery and those secluded mountain folk that have never heard of Odell Brewing.
So it’s fair to say that I’m having a great time and it hasn’t been too tough yet; of course the first two days have been short-ish and Tuesday is going to be a bear. Carbondale to Leadville, about 90 miles – ALL UPHILL. So I’ll let you know how that goes… Cheers!

Todd Ewing is the Odell Brewing Company representative in Minnesota. He is cautiously optimistic that he’ll be able to finish Ride the Rockies strong, but is not taking anything for granted. Tweet at him: @OdellMN

Todd’s Ride the Rockies Journal: Part 2

It’s finally here! Ride the Rockies is upon us, and the start in Gunnison could not be better as far as I concerned. I have a soft spot in my heart for the Gunnison Valley, growing up on the western slope I spent many summer days riding the Gunnison River through Black Canyon, my folks went to college at Western State and when I was still was stationed in Colorado, Gunnison and Crested Butte were among my favorite towns in which to spend time. The low-key vibe in Gunnison is hardly rare in Colorado mountain towns, but because it’s not really a resort town (Crested Butte is a half hour up the road and you have to go just outside of town for fishing and whitewater) it has a lived in comfort that many of the more well known Colorado mountain towns tend to lack.

Since I have such an affinity for Gunny, I wanted to roll into town a little early to relax and catch up with some friends and of course enjoy a beer or two. I arrived in Gunnison Friday night, and the ordeal of getting to the start of the ride may almost equal the hill climbs. I left Minnesota very early Thursday morning, and drove straight through to Fort Collins, my traveling companion, my dog Regina was agreeable enough, but not the greatest conversationalist. Thus the thirteen and a half hour drive felt very long indeed, I would now have to judge it as my absolute limit for traveling by car. I might be able to stomach a longer haul if I was not the only driver, but for me, sitting for 12 or more hours is what the CIA might call euphemistically a, “Stress Position.” After I arrived in Colorado, I was able to catch up with some friends, including a few folks from Minnesota that were coincidentally in Fort Collins. Friday was an additional 5 hours from Fort Collins to Gunnison, once I rolled into town though, I was able to immediately forget about my intense dislike of extended windshield time. My first stop was the Gunnison Brewery, the local brewpub and one of my favorite places to enjoy a beer in town. The Gunnison Brewery also has a Minnesota connection; one of their brewing alumni is now brewing at Fitger’s Brewhouse in Duluth. As per usual the Gunnison Brewery provided a springboard for a great evening of catching up with Odell co-workers, old friends and meeting new ones, well worth the effort to arrive early.

The weather Saturday could not have been better; the 2012 Ride the Rockies kick off was exactly what you’d want it to be. The registration was easy and the party downtown was fantastic. 80 degrees, an ice-cold beer, (those with discerning taste were of course enjoying our own Pedal Push, the pilot batch beer we brewed exclusively for this year’s ride.) and 2,000 riders meeting each other swapping stories and making predictions for the week made for a great evening in the mountains. Of course the abundance of great food and music didn’t hurt much either. The only challenge was to not indulge too much, since after all, a big bike ride on Sunday was looming, I can say that I was just on the edge of imprudence, adjusting to the higher altitude is necessary for not only for climbing the passes.
So now the hard part begins, Sunday’s ride will take us from Gunnison to Hotchkiss, a great little town at the southern base of Mt Sopris. We’ll head past Blue Mesa Reservoir through the Black Canyon and then north to our destination. It’s about an 80-mile ride with a small (relatively) elevation gain. I fear that I’m not going to be quite ready, but this should be mild ride compared to what is to come over the course of the week; it will no doubt prove a good intro day for the tour. Check in this space over the week to find out how it goes. Cheers!

Todd Ewing is the Odell Brewing Company representative in Minnesota. He is extremely worried that living at low altitude and have no hills to climb during training has left him ill prepared for 6 days of climbing mountain passes. Tweet at him: @OdellMN

Todd’s Ride the Rockies Journal: Part 1

Hello and welcome to My Odell Brewing – Ride the Rockies journal. In what is likely to be several meandering, self-indulgent entries I hope to give you, dear reader, a little insight into why so many people are keen to ride 450 some odd miles up 12,000 ft mountain passes, why I chose to ride and why ridiculous things like this are a big part of Odell Brewing’s UnBottled philosophy.

RTR is a Colorado tradition dating back to 1986, when 1,500 riders took part in a ride from Grand Junction to Denver, Today the registration limit has been upped slightly to 2,000. Riders are chosen each year from a pool of 4,000-5,000 hopefuls; those not chosen by lottery to ride in one year have twice the chance to be chosen the following year. This sort of “make up” weighted lottery system must have seemed cold comfort to some not chosen to ride and in recent years another week long tour of Colorado has popped up, it starts each year in the day after RTR and from the RTR end point. Some committed cyclists will even ride both tours back to back. This I must say, seems like showing off to me, but this kind of devotion to play is not uncommon for many, and these are our people.

While as a Colorado native I’m tempted to assert that this kind of aggressive outdoor attitude is something that comes from living is such a beautiful state, one with the gorgeous weather and even better vistas, the truth is that people like this come from everywhere; indeed RTR attracts riders from every state. Hopefully we’ll hear from many of them over the course of these posts.

So there are a few thousand people that think 7 or so hours a day on a bike sounds like a fine idea, but what does that have to do with Odell Brewing Company? For that matter, what is UnBottled? At OBC we love beer, it’s our first passion. We love brewing our own takes on classic styles like 5 Barrel Pale Ale and our IPA. We also love innovation, brewing beers that don’t fit any specific style, like Footprint and Deconstruction. As much as we love beer in any context (I often enjoy a small beer with breakfast), it can’t be the only we do; so what do we do when we’re not brewing great beer? The short answer is: Play. That’s Unbottled; because not only is play awesome, it makes beer better. There are two things that playing does to make our beer love blossom even bigger. First, when you play hard you earn your malty reward. Whether it’s after a day on the river, a big bike ride, a challenging trail you just hiked, or maybe just a particularly competitive game of kickball, beer just tastes better when your rewarding yourself for a good ball kicked. Second, it’s the people we share our beers with, family, friends, co-workers; these are our jogging buddies, tennis partners, and volleyball teammates. Beer is better when shared than when drunk alone, and a 90 Shilling is much better when celebrating a softball win or a good day on the course.

 

Why do 5,000 people enter a lottery to get into RTR? Anyone could take a week and go ride a far as they’d like through Colorado or anywhere else for that matter. It’s not just the ride but also the camaraderie of a couple thousand other like-minded folks. Yes the ride will be tough and beautiful, but it will be each evening after the ride probably over a celebratory brew, that existing friendships will be strengthened and new friendships will be forged. It’s the shared experience the makes RTR the great event that it is. So OBC will be there, we’ll share our beers (the best way to carbo load if you ask me) including Pedal Push, our Pilot batch brewed especially for RTR. I’ll be there too, and though there’s no doubt I’ll be saddle sore and exhausted, I’ll be looking to enjoy a few beers every night with my new friends.

Are you riding this year? Do you have questions about the tour? E-mail me at toddewing@odellbrewing.com I’d love to talk with you. Follow me on twitter: @OdellMN for updates during the ride.

– Todd

Todd Ewing is the Odell Brewing Company representative in Minnesota. He is extremely worried that living at low altitude and have no hills to climb during training has left him ill prepared for 6 days of climbing mountain passes.

Pond Hopping

Our collaboration efforts with Thornbridge Brewery of Bakewell, UK began with a visit to their brewery by Doug in 2008. He was intrigued by what he had heard about UK Craft Breweries beginning to brew unique styles, and using hops other than the traditional English varieties. Thornbridge was and is clearly going in this direction.

This visit was followed by a collaboration brew by Doug and the Thornbridge brewers in the summer of 2010 at their brewery. The beer was a take on the Odell Red recipe, brewed with all English malts, and using English hop varieties with the most intense flavor and aromatic qualities. The result, Colorado Red, was quite popular and was awarded the bronze medal at the 2010 Peterborough UK beer festival in the strong ale category.

The reciprocal collaboration brew took place at Odell Brewing on February 24th. Caolan Vaughan, the head brewer and production manager at Thornbridge traveled to Fort Collins to brew a Double Extra Pale Ale with us. The beer is packaged in a cork and cage 750 ml bottle, and will be made available in both the United Kingdom, and the Odell distribution area in
the United States.

 

Ponder Hopper – Thornbridge Bridge Brewing Collaboration Beer from Odell Brewing on Vimeo.