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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

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