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I had a pretty rough day on Friday. As much as I love my job, sometimes there can be trouble in paradise. It was so rough that it was on my mind all weekend and dragging me down. Which is a shame because today, June 3rd, is supposed to be great: It’s Sharon and my 24th wedding anniversary! 24 awesome years with an awesome woman. WOOT! I even took the day off from work today to celebrate with her, however all the celebrations were muted. Thank you work. Ugh.

I needed a win. I needed something so crazy that I could say, “Despite that crap, I did this!” I needed that feeling that I could focus on something big, crazy, and somehow still achievable today. I thought for a second and suddenly some uninvited voice in my head said, “Hey, why don’t you Bike to downtown Denver?” Wait, what?

The Problem

You see, I live in Louisville, which is about a 30 minute freeway drive to downtown Denver. I occasionally bike to work in Westminster, which is about 8-10 miles away depending which route I take. I can go the shorter route, but the hills are steeper and longer. Or I can go a longer route, which have less steep hills, but still hills. Either way I’m stuck on a path that has me sucking wind like a dying bagpipe. It takes my slow butt just under an hour to bike there. It’s brutal. Oh yeah, then after working 10 hours, I get to bike home too. Hills both ways. How is that even possible?

Also, I’m not exactly the poster child of health either. Just a month ago I weighed in at 250. I’ve been actively trying to lose weight and I am down to 231 right now, but it’s still a far distant glimmer to my goal weight of 185. Being overweight has been a struggle my entire life. Hopefully that’ll be the subject of a future blog post, how I lost the weight.

So, when my brain farted the words, “Bike to Denver, Webb!” you can now understand the context of why it felt a little crazy, and probably exactly the kind of crazy I needed.

The Plan

Ok, let’s plan this fool’s errand! I excitedly opened Google Maps, typed in my home address  with directions to Union Station in Denver.  I switched from “Car” to “Bike” mode, and Google quickly found a reasonably safe bike route.  I dragged around a few of the blue lines it until the path looked interesting and I was able to stay on bike paths and sidewalks nearly the entire distance.  I used Street View to verify the bike safety conditions were when I had a doubt.

You can Click the + below to see the map.




























Quick Tip: I learned that pressing CTRL+SHIFT+4 in Google Maps will display all bike routes. WHAT! Right? Bikers rejoice!

Union Station as a destination was a practical goal, but it wasn’t a fun one.  Years ago I had seen a cool bikeway along the Platte River, which then forks into Cherry Creek and runs through downtown Denver.  It was beautiful to see a river and a bike path, slightly recessed beneath street level, running through the center of a city.  That was my prize. To be able to ride peacefully along that creek!  I adjusted my path to include that stretch of awesomeness.

Thank You

The above photo is from Denver Portfolio Group. This would be my prize!

The Ride

  • Turn on Strava, check.
  • 2x Bottles of water, check.
  • Clif Bar (Caramel Toffee w/Sea Salt… Oooo yeah), check.
  • Overcast and 77 degrees, check.

Time to hit the road!  The first 10 miles were exactly the torture I had come to expect since they were effectively the same path I take to work.  They were tough.  Up hills.  My bald head leaking sweat like a water tap.  Down hills. Heart pounding out of my chest. Gulping water like I’m stranded in a desert. Etc.

I was now pushing past the 45-minute mark and suddenly I felt like Samwise Gamgee in Lord of the Rings.  I had never gone this far before, and I was about to leave the Shire.  I passed over Church Ranch Blvd, and onto undiscovered country.  Thanks Bilbo!

I got through a few more tough climbs, including the 1.5 mile stretch from Walnut Creak to 92nd Ave, but then something happened I didn’t expect.  The path evened out. No more vomit-inducing climbs.  Heck there were even some nice downhills to give my chrome-dome a well-needed breeze.  For the next hour and a half, all I experienced were enjoyable light rolling hills.  I couldn’t believe it.  My leg muscles still groaned, but I was able to force them to push my 231lb body along at 15-20 mph.  What was happening?  Had I hit some sort of “bikers high?”  I don’t know, but it was awesome.  I need to figure out how to find this zen more often.

Cruising along, and I read a sign in passing. Screeeeetch! I jammed my breaks and backed it up… what did I just read? Yeah, that’s a pretty accurate assessment of the moistness situation.

About the 25 mile mark I turned a corner, the trees parted, and I saw the silhouette of the downtown buildings against the sky. How did 10 miles go by so easily? Crazy! What was in that Cilf Bar? Just to be safe, I had another bite.

Yeah… I was so in the moment that I forgot to take photos.  Sorry!  Honestly, I didn’t plan on making this a blog until after it was all over.

The next 5 miles were interesting.  There were soo many people living along the trail.  They had all of their belongings with them, some in backpacks, some in shopping carts.  A few people were doing some hard drugs, and of course being Colorado, a few guys smoking some MJ.  They didn’t cause any problems or even try to engage with me, they were just doing their thing.  It reminded me that the problems I was having at work… well, let’s just say it put them into perspective a bit.
Before I knew it, I was there!  First stop: I had to swing by a landmark in downtown Denver, Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park.  I took a quick photo and sent a text to Sharon to share with my kids.  “Guess where I am right now?”
After a few strange dead-ends, I then found the entrance to the bike path along Cherry Creek.  Peace in the middle of a city.  Awesome. I felt absolutely great, like I could go .. I don’t know… another 10-20 miles. Part of me wanted to just keep going and follow the Cherry Creek trail the entire 12 miles where the river empties into the Cherry Creek Lake.  But what I really needed, was for this unexpected journey to end with a win.  That’s why I stared this after all.
Final step was getting home.  Thanks to RTD public transit system, it was easy to strap my bike to the front of a bus and take the FF3 express back to Louisville.  Just in time because it started to rain.

The Journey’s End

Today’s adventure was very well needed.  The world feels a little bit smaller.  30 miles doesn’t seem that far away or as scary to me now.  Maybe next time I go for 50?  Fort Collins, I’m looking at YOU.  I hope that this experience will put those 10 miles to work into a different perspective.  Maybe I don’t suck (wind) as much as I think.  Maybe those hills, both ways, are helping me more than I realize.  Maybe I should be thankful that the overly-hard bike commute I have gave me the strength to bike 30 miles and still have energy left.  Finally, maybe tomorrow when I go to work, I’ll be able to see my problems from a different perspective as well.

Thank You to my Patrons

Thank you to my Patrons on Patreon for your support.
Pathfinder: Jay Kimble
Rock Star: Sharon Pickersgill