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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Day 20: 14,110 ft at Pike’s Peak– Got Oxygen?

Up at 6am to meet the tour group at 7am at Pike's Peak MountainBiking shop. We are pumped!  We get up to Pike's Peak and it is 34F, 24F with the wind chill. The puddles are ice but it's a clear and beautiful morning. The view is incredible.  The drive up had so many switch backs and we could easily see where the tree line ends.   The road runner (bike leader) showed us where Devil's Playground is at the top.  There is so much iron in the rocks that the lightening just bounces around in this little valley. She said you could see from down below during a storm.  The power of this climate just dwarfs what we see back home in Ontario.

 

After some early morning shopping at the gift store (the girls got sweaters – they wanted them to say "Got Oxygen?"). Sophia especially liked this logo.   Later in the day she said that it would be an appropriate shirt to wear to a funeral since the person who was dead would not have any oxygen.   She constantly surprises us with how her mind processes things !

 

What can I say about the bike ride down a 14,000 ft elevation , 20 miles long and 7000 ft elevation descent, going at speeds of 20 mph?   It was a thrill from start to finish!!!!  I'm usually a goal oriented person.  But up on that mountain, flying down through 5 climate zones, seeing the world unfold as you round each switchback, feeling the majesty of the mountain and smelling the fresh pine scented air, feeling your body at one with the bicycle and the earth and air all at once…well it was as if time stopped.  And it was just pure joy.  Also an adrenaline rush to be going this fast out in the open air – a wipe out up there would have been fairly serious.  But it was a thrill to actually do it and see the confidence of the kids (and me) improve mile after mile. It was incredible how fast we rode through a  6 mile stretch.  At the top with the hairpin switchbacks I stayed back with Sophia and we switched off so that she was always on the "earth" side of the road and I biked on the edge that hung over the cliff. But when the trees started, it felt a little safer and Sophia got the hang of her first ever "gear" bike, she was off and riding as fast at Tom and Jessica were. Jessica was way up at the front of the group, leading at one point even.   Our kids were the youngest in the group. A few other families and one older couple (maybe in their seventies – good for them!).   I was still at the back of the group on my brakes pretty well the whole way down.  This was a memory of a lifetime.   What a great day.  You really do appreciate oxygen when you see you're so high that trees can't even grow.

 

On the drive back from the bottom our guide showed us the roads washed out by the flood – a huge chunk of the road had fallen away since Friday. There was so much mud – they had at least 4 dump trucks that I saw lined up to carry it away. Up at the top we easily saw the burn area that contributed to the flood – they said it was started by arsonists and now without those trees, the water just comes off the mountain into Manitou Springs which is at the bottom like a basin to catch it all.  This is a huge clean up job.

 

The tour company dropped us off at at a Greek restaurant – Jake and Telly's for a late lunch (it was 2pm by this point – I'm glad we had Twix bars and granola bars for snacks since breakfast was at 6am).  I had spanakopita , Tom had a gyro and the girls had grilled cheese pita. Delicious food that we devoured in about 10 min.   Then we headed back to the RV and I took the girls to the Trading Post at Garden of the Gods (established 1900) and then to the Visitor Centre to get their 6th Junior Ranger badge of the vacation.   We got back and went for a swim but only lated about 20 min before lightening started flashing and we had to get out.

 

Back at the RV we just had a ton of snacks and watched "The Tuxedo" with Jackie Chan and had a relaxing evening packing things up and getting ready for a driving day the next day.

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