Thursday, August 23, 2007

More Bars In More Places...

Okay, managed to plant my ass in Boulder Cee-Oh for a little more than four days over this past weekend. Wow!

[Let me just get this out of the way: didn't take a bike; the trip was just too compressed and last minute and, with SSWC07 about to get underway in Scotland for me and a few other lucky individuals, I just didn't feel like dealing with the complications of packing, shipping, and reassembling my Inbred. Yeah, I know, silly me, but there will be a return trip. From what I saw of the trails and terrain, and knowing that there wasn't much time for acclimatization, it would have been a strange mixture of pleasure and pain anyway.]

First, no newsflash here, but Boulder is a beautiful town. Nestled up against the Flat Irons to the west, it's awash in brewpubs and adrift in bike culture. Seriously, there are almost as many bike parking racks in this town as there are car parking meters, or "organic" and "fair trade" and "free range" and "eco-cycle" stickers plastered on the windows and doors of all the great eateries. And bike shops abound, sprouting from the concrete at intersections, rubbing shoulders with the aforementioned brewpubs and the occasional coffee shop. Yeah, it's a biking town, one that puts DC and its suburbs to the level of shame normally reserved for unrepentent pederasts. And bar rides? Yep, Boulder's got 'em. Thursday evening, ran smack dab into a group of about 25 or so cyclists dressed in freaky attire and riding freakier bikes—choppers, trikes, fixies, full-sussies, tall boys, singles speeds, you name it—sounding bike horns and bells and cheering madly at onlookers and motorists alike, as dusk settled in around their pulsing bike lights with all the certainty of a post-binge hangover. Beautiful sight, these kindred spirits claiming a little pavement for the evening on a two-wheeled dérive of sorts.

On the topic of beer, offerings from Left Hand were as ubiquitous there as Budweiser and Miller Lite are in the District, and no self-respecting drinking establishment was without a Fat Tire tap handle and neon cruiser logo prominently displayed. The first place I hit was Mountain Sun, a quaint, informal, psychedelic den of iniquity favored by bleary-eyed college students and stubble-jawed drifters alike, and whose owners have an overbearing penchant for Greatful Dead memorabilia, which clung to the walls like lichen in a cave. Good food and a great array of beers, including their own tasty and creative renditions and others from Stone, Left Hand, Breckenridge, and New Belgium, to name a few. I went with their Illusion Dweller IPA...very good, though with a surprisingly (given the closeness of the West Coast) dry finish.

Now a thing or two about thin, dry air and elevation and acclimatization and flatlanders from the east: hop off the plane in Denver, make your way to Boulder, drink two beers, and half an hour later your organs feel like they've turned to sand. I'm talking serious dehydration and thirst, the kind that has you upending a gallon of spring water before you've even paid the cashier for it. Okay, until acclimatization takes place, dessication is a real concern for freshly-expatriated beer drinkers. Next up: three beers in CO equals five beers in DC. Seems that thin, dry air makes "getting there" a little easier, since you're already a bit lightheaded. In no time flat and with your wallet still fat, you find yourself unexpectedly and prematurely "pissed," as the English say. Nice, sure, but I suggest drinking the water along with the beer as a sort of pre-emptive strike. Your liver and kidneys will thank you for it.

Okay, so what fun thing did I do? Well, for kicks of a slightly more sober nature, I ended up summitting two peaks, a 13er (South Arapahoe) and a 14er (Quandary). I had been warned several times about the importance of acclimatization and the perils of altitude sickness. The rule for acclimatization, as I understand it, is one day for every one thousand feet of elevation you plan to tackle. Because I was in CO for only four days, lying idle while my lungs adapted to the thin air wasn't an option if I wanted to partake of the grandeur bursting through the horizon all around me and do something I hadn't done before.

So I went hiking, and was rewarded with some of the most beatiful views my eyes have ever had the pleasure of drinking in. And though I saw one lady sitting uncomfortably just off the crumbled rock trail above the treeline on Quandary, wracked with altitude sickness*, her face knotted in anguish "like a devil's, sick of sin" (as Wilfred Owen so eloquently framed it**), I suffered little more than an occasional shortness of breath, despite a rather strong and fast pace up and down both mountains. That, and raw blisters on the achilles area of both ankles—my own stupidity and poor planning led me to break in a new pair of boots on South Arapahoe. Unfortunately, they tried to do the same to my feet. But the damage was minimal and all but forgotten in the post-summit euphoria I felt on a balcony overlooking the ski resort in Breckenridge at its namesake brewery, a cold 471 Small Batch IPA in my hand and the ghost-prints of fantastic panoramas floating around in my head. Next time I'll experience the beauty (and, no doubt, pain) from the vantage point of a bike saddle.

*Information on altitude sickness can be found here.

**See Dulce et Decorum Est, Wilfred Owen, 1917, first published in 1920.


gmr2048 said...

Congrats on your summits! Sounds like you had an enjoyable trip. Glad the altitude treated you well. I'm betting your bike commuting day-in, day-out helped your lungs squeeze as much O2 as possible out of the thin mountain air.

I love me some CO. We should plan a bike trip out there next summer. Maybe even invite that slacker from New England along for the ride.

riderx said...

How'd you get a picture of Mike Rowe on top of that mountain? ;)

T. Paine said...

Good thing you missed the first snow...
I'm going home to Boulder from DC for a similar trip in mid-September - can't wait to rock the bike on the streets of Boulder.

devin said...

hope you had fun in Breck... My old home some great single track..

Mike said...

Looks like it was hard to take bad picture out there.