‘Beaver moon’ ride a great time for friends
December, with its short days and cold temperatures, is normally the time of year that the bikes get put away and the skis come out.
Although there is still plenty of winter yet, the unseasonably warm weather and lack of precipitation are threatening to derail yet another Colorado ski season. It is also the time of year that spin bikes, rollers and indoor trainers are usually the tortuous methods of maintaining fitness.
The upside of this weather, however, is that daytime rides are possible in just knee warmers, arm warmers and a light coat or vest. Unfortunately, like most employed people, when I get home from work it is pitch black, and I cannot get out on the bike.
One of the positives of winter, though, is that on full moon nights, the moon is high and bright at a reasonable hour.
On Nov. 28, though, we were treated with a “beaver moon,” and four of my friends and I decided to try our luck with a nighttime ride. When I told my wife of my plans, she looked at me like I was some sort of deranged lunatic. But, come to think of it, she looks at me like that on a nearly daily basis.
Undeterred, I convinced Todd, Phil, Monty and Rick to join me in this escapade. We loaded our bikes and the five of us into Todd’s 1966 Volkswagen van. Todd, ever the Eagle Scout, was fully prepared. He brought hot chocolate laced with schnapps, a 12-pack, five camp chairs and a small kerosene heater to keep us warm for our mandatory BS session after the ride.
The weather was mild, but I had about six layers of clothing, a hat and balaclava and two sets of ski gloves. This is a bit like a belt and suspenders, but after a career with hundreds of freezing cold races, I hate getting cold on a ride, and I wasn’t taking any chances.
We drove to Cold Shivers Point, unloaded the bikes, put on shoe covers, hats and helmets, and started riding toward the visitors center. It was about 8:15 p.m. when we left the parking lot.
The sky was crystal clear and the moon was nearly directly overhead. We set off at a nice, social pace. The conversation revolved around doping, cycling, politics and family.
In the distance below, the city glimmered like a treasure chest out of Pirates of the Caribbean, and we each counted our blessings and good fortune to live in such a spectacular place.
I have ridden this ride hundreds of times and several times at night, but this night was just inspiring. The moon was so bright that our shadows stalked us on the road.
We did not need our lights and only turned them on when the occasional car passed, and it’s a good thing too, because I learned that my light doesn’t work in the cold.
From the base of the climb to the high point, we saw a lone rider bombing down the other way. As the climb wore on, we all got warm and started unzipping our many layers to keep from overheating.
From the high point, our speeds increased and we encountered a few inversions in some of the shallow canyons. The temperature would plunge 10–15 degrees, and the cold would begin to seep in. Fortunately we passed through them within a few minutes.
Just before the radio towers I decided it would be a good idea to turn our out-and-back ride into a loop and convinced everyone we should turn left at West Glade Park Road.
None of the other guys had ridden this section of road, and I could sense their apprehension about riding a dirt road at night with no lights. They were all proficient bike handlers, though, and I knew the road would not pose any problems.
The compact dirt is certainly a contrast to the silky smooth tarmac of Rim Rock Drive, but it’s packed well enough to ride on a road bike.
When we crested the climb and hit the pavement again, the expanse of the park was completely illuminated by the moon. We continued on in near silence as the road rolled up and down.
At the Glade Park store we hung a left and rode back toward town. As we descended to Cold Shivers Point I couldn’t help but be drawn by the lights of the city. I thought to myself, “We really do live in a treasure chest.”