I put off my ride today as long as I could. Lauren disappeared in a farmer's market and I hung out, did laundry, cleaned my bike, ate, cleaned my bike. Finally I had to ride. Lauren sent me links for must-do Flagstaff rides and I chose to head up to the Snow Bowl. It's the name of a Ski Resort just outside of Flag. After getting lost and flatting, I was on the climbs. And holy geez were those some serious climbs. I haven't ever been on anything that sustained. Norfolk and Corpus Christi bridges just don't go that far. The road just kept switching back and getting steeper. I was trying to hold off using my 25 and 27 cogs, trying to keep them in reserve for when I really needed them. Well, I needed them much sooner than expected. It reminded me of Mt. Faron in Toulon, France where I just couldn't go anymore and had to step off the bike only to find the road was too steep to get back on. Today, I was stronger, though, and was able to keep a high cadence and stay steady all the way up to the lifts.
Halfway up the climb, I came across another rider. After introductions he asked my age only to counter with his. He wanted me to know he was 46, that indeed he was making this climb at 46 years old. Of course, in cycling, that means nothing, but a 28-year old doesn't have the credibility to say that. His name was Julio, Julio from Italy, now living in Phoenix. He asked if I raced. I said yes. I asked if he raced. He said no. "Did you used to race?" "No, never. It is my passion."
Well said Julio. We discussed the climb, complimented each other on our bikes and I took my leave. Shortly after I pulled ahead, I rounded a corner to where the sun was shining perpindicularly on a wall of white and green aspens. I rode through that corridor with ragged breath from the grade and from the elevation and from the beauty the Navy never knew I could see. If there's more green to be seen that what I saw, I never would have made it up that hill.