My dad had flown into Denver a week ago, and was in Cortez already. Bruce, my brother, and I were to drive up from Austin. My brother would be driving my car from city to city, so we had a way of getting back home.
We got off to a bad start. I was late picking up Bruce. By the time we started, it was pouring rain, and we took the wrong highway. Eventually we made our way back, and got back on track.
At some point, we decided to drive through the night. It's 1,100 miles, so we were looking at an 18 hour drive. 700 of those miles were in West Texas, which is the most boring place on earth. There are no good radio stations, and there are no settlements. At 10pm, we had stopped for gas, and to ask where we could eat. It turned out the next exit for civilization was 75 miles away. Thank god it was dark, or we would have had to look at bright nothingness.
By morning, we were in New Mexico, and gorgeous red sedimentary rock. The scenery was breathtaking. The change in altitude was visible, both in the grade of the highway, and the octane number of the fuel they were selling. There were mesas and plateaux everywhere, with the highway running through canyons and valleys. The vast openness made gauging distances tricky. We could look out on the highway and expect to pass a hill shortly, but have it turn out to be six miles away.
In Colorado, once we got off the interstate highway, we were to take US Highway 666 (they had just changed the name two weeks earlier to US 491, but the signs hadn't all been changed yet). Rural highways tended to be one lane each way, with speed limits of 70 mph or higher. Passing someone by moving to the opposite lane whilst struggling with a car engine that didn't like the steep grade was quite an experience.
Once we got near Cortez, we could see the signs of the ride. Cortez is a tiny little town, but traffic going in and out was much higher than it would have been normally. We saw a few bicyclists out for a warmup ride. They waved when they saw our bicycles on the rack behind us.
For me, the anticipation was rising. It was like approaching the carnival. I could see the signs of the fair, I could feel the heat, I was like a kid again.
After dropping our stuff off at my Dad's hotel room and taking a quick nap, we were off to the registration desk.
It was quite the crowd. There were people of all ages and sizes, but almost everyone was ridiculously fit. You could look at someone's legs and say whether they were biking or not. There were families who were making this tour a vacation, kids, pets, the camper, everything.
We got to the registration desk, picked up our ID tags, route maps and elevation profiles. There would be much worrying ahead. We then pitched our tents in the field of the school that was hosting us, and headed back to the hotel.
At the hotel room, My dad, Bruce and I sat around discussing the elevation profiles, and talking strategy. Bruce was a much stronger rider, and I figured I could probably do better than my Dad. So we pretty much came up only with a plan of recourse in case someone couldn't make it.
There were discussions of whether we should attend the opening ceremony, or leave early. Eventually, we got back to the tent with plans on who would pick up the car and our bags in the morning.