The Raymond Experience

Weekends of relaxation aren’t my style. Even though I’ve not been feeling 100% for a couple of days, I wanted to make the most of the weekend. It’s hard to feel in tip-top shape all the time, and I need to remind myself that training is all about stressing your body until it responds by getting stronger. I’m definitely in the stressed phase at the moment, and I’m really hoping that it all comes together in time for the Whiskey 50 in a couple of weeks.

Christa and I don’t get to ride very much normally; work schedules and racing commitments means that quick spins during the week are the extent of together time on the bike. When we were over in Europe last summer, we had 10 solid days of riding together in the hills. It was great; sharing the views at the top of the climbs is the way to do it.

Raymond is a little gem tucked away in the hills west of Lyons. You wouldn't find it without looking

With this in mind, we decided to head out on Sunday for some quality time. I wanted to ride easy, and Christa wanted to ride hard. This actually works out very well, as our two paces align perfectly. The weather forecast called for sunshine and warm temperatures, then scattered showers in the afternoon. We decided to make the pilgrimage to the Raymond General Store – a small convenience store in the town of Raymond, at the top of South St. Vrain Canyon.

There’s no easy way to get there from Boulder. We chose to ride up to Lyons, where we drank a coffee, then head up the long 17 mile canyon to the small town. From there we were going to crest the foothills on Peak to Peak highway, and descend back into Boulder on Sugarloaf road. We cruised up next to the St. Vrain river, marvelling at the damage from the flood back in September. People had been busy shoring up the road, rearranging rocks and putting the road back together again. We had some stretches of brand new pavement, followed by some rough pieces of road with no shoulder. Christa set the pace up the climb – she likes to tell people she can’t climb, but I know the truth. Having done a couple of 2000 metre days with her, I know that she loves climbing once she gets going.

Pre-climbing coffee at The Stone Cup in Lyons

We turned off the highway through the tiny little town of Riverside. The name giving away how much damage it received from the flooding. The small log built houses here are always immaculately kept – flowers and gardens manicured. As we cruised through the rows of houses, we suddenly saw one completely up-ended and lying in the river bed, where the water had completely undermined it. The rest of the ride on the small side road up to Raymond was a mix of washed away dirt and wet roads. We pulled in to the village centre to find the general store closed up – no sign of life whatsoever. Disaster! I had figured there may be a chance it was closed, and we’d brought a slice of Banana Bread and a Brownie in Lyons to enjoy at the top. It was perfect sitting in the sun chomping down on some well made treats. The sun was shining and the wind was calm.

Enjoying the very last drops of sunshine for the day. Little did we know what would greet us around the next couple of turns

Back on the bikes and making the last couple of turns towards Peaceful Valley. I love this stretch of the ride as you’re next to the river in the trees, but as you climb the switchbacks in the valley, the trees subside and you’re out in the open with the huge array of the Indian Peaks hanging above you. I was pedalling gently up the road, when I noticed we couldn’t actually make out the hill in front of us. Instead we were greeted with a blanket of white pushing towards us at great speed. Within 30 seconds the temperature had dropped below freezing, and we were being pelted by wet heavy snow. It instantly started accumulating around us, and we were stuck.

Christa Descending South Saint Vrain Canyon in a snow storm

It was at this point we had a choice to make. Turn around and flee, or soldier through the snow. The forward option would have us exposed on a high ridge at 9000 feet, with no assurance the snow would be stopping any time soon. The return option would be descending 17 miles of cold canyon in a snow storm. Nothing like a tough choice to harden the resolve. We kitted up with the clothing we’d brought in preparation for the descent, then turned-tail and headed back down the road. Within minutes Christa’s hands were frozen blocks of ice. We stopped and did the star jumps dance on the side of the road.

We kept descending.

We stopped and I shoved Christa’s hands inside my jacket.

Another 10 minutes later, that’s 10 minutes of descending at 40 mph, we reached Lyons again. It was surreal to come out of the canyon into bright sunlight and warm temperatures. We could see the huge black clouds hanging over the hills, and the telltale strands of dangling rain scouring across the plains. Patches of huge clouds tactically placed between us and home meant we were pretty certain of getting wet. Christa locked herself to my rear wheel (a talent of hers), and we rode at her tempo the entire way back to Boulder.

Warming up back in Boulder with a coke and some sweets

With a dearth of sweet things at home, we stopped at Lolita’s market on Pearl Street for a coke and some gummy bears.

What a way to spend some together time. We really earned our evening on the sofa with a steak and a film.