Circling The State On A Cycle

“One thing cycling has taught me was that if you can achieve something without a struggle it’s not going to be satisfying.”

– Greg LeMond, three-time winner of the Tour de France

Shortly after I was elected president of the Colorado Parks and Recreation Association (CPRA) for 2007-2008, I felt that it was paramount to learn everything I could about the communities, people, places and politics that make Colorado such a great state in which to live. In the months leading up to my term, I wanted to learn more about the members of the association and to better understand the challenges and opportunities that exist in Colorado for leisure activities. I also figured that I had been preaching the benefits of an active, healthy, and environmentally sustainable lifestyle through parks and recreation. Since I am good at riding a bike, I decided to complete the annual CPRA president’s tour of Colorado from border-to-border on a bicycle. However, this decision would haunt me for several weeks as I had never attempted anything of that nature before. In fact, I didn’t even own a road bike!

Plotting And Planning

Undaunted, I made the arrangements, bought the necessary equipment, blocked out some vacation time, and started planning the tour. Immediately, it became evident that things could get ugly. Severe weather is common along the Colorado Front Range. A massive tornado caused severe damage in Windsor just one week prior to my planned start. Additionally, I had to cross over the massive Rocky Mountains, which are always good for changing weather conditions and other biking challenges. I ultimately decided to travel through Rocky Mountain National Park, over the Continental Divide twice, and west through the high, arid desert. Trail Ridge Road, in Rocky Mountain National Park, was the one part of the tour that worried me. Eleven miles of the road are located above the tree line (around 11,500 feet). The road’s highest point is at 12,183 feet. The air is thin, traffic can be heavy at times, weather can be treacherous and change in an instant, the grade changes can be significant, and there are some scary drop-offs along the road.

I officially started the tour on May 28 just east of Wray. My mom Ingrid lives in Fort Morgan (about 97 miles west of the Nebraska line), so she gave me a lift to Wray in her hybrid vehicle (estimated gas used +/- 4 gallons). On the first day, I rode my bike approximately 97 miles from Wray to Fort Morgan, and met with members of four parks and recreation agencies and the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s Brush office.

Small Towns, Big Hearts

As I traversed eastern Colorado, I noticed how tight-knit the communities were. Their budgets may not have been big, but community pride, steadfast involvement, commitment to a good standard of living, hard work and overall quality of life more than made up for the lack of money. Volunteers were abundant and community involvement, collaboration and social networking were evident. As I visited each facility in these communities, the pride that went into the planning, construction and implementation of these areas shone brightly.

Hospitality also was a common thread in communities along the way. I was treated like a family member by the parks and recreation professionals, city officials and community members. I visited several small communities that didn’t have a full-blown recreation or parks department. Each of these communities still echoed the importance of recreation and parks in their neighborhoods. Many found ways to provide these types of services despite the lack of funding or staffing. With each stop, I not only got a little rest and nourishment for my body, but also received a little gift for my soul–seeing first-hand the impact of parks and recreation professionals and the opportunity to observe the fruits of this labor in the field. This inspired me beyond what I imagined. In fact, when the hills became steep and the wind picked up, those memories kept my legs moving. I figured since everyone is working so hard for their communities–hey, I can make the next ten miles, no sweat!

Along The Way

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