Confessions of a Vail Pass virgin |

Confessions of a Vail Pass virgin

Steve Gall

Well, the time is now. It’s a beautiful evening here in the valley, and following my first three months as publisher here, I thought it was about darned time I emerge with a column. The reason I’ve waited this long is so I can talk intelligently about whatever may develop in the next thousand words or so. But first, let’s dispense with the formalities. I’d be terribly remiss and completely thoughtless if I didn’t thank everyone I’ve met for the wonderfully warm welcome I’ve received to the valley. From the bottom of my heart, to all of you, Thank You. A special personal thank-you goes out to both Steve Pope and Bob Brown for their faith in my abilities. Today was a milestone for this former Midwestern flatlander. Though I came to Vail directly from Hermantown, Minn., a small suburb of Duluth, my home town is Cable, Wisc. Cable is the home of the now-defunct Mt. Telemark Ski Area. Ask any Midwestern skier where they skied early on in their careers, and chances are they graced the runs of our famous little hill. The lodge they built in 1972 was bigger than the entire ski hill. Nonetheless, Telemark was famous for every inch of its illustrious 320 feet of vertical covered from Thanksgiving day to April 15 with what we locals referred to as “loud powder.” If nothing else, it was the cat’s meow for learning how to edge – homemade and bulletproof, to say the least. This should be understood when picturing the rolling terrain of northern Wisconsin versus what I tackled for four hours this afternoon. This is not bragging by any means, but a man has to start somewhere doesn’t he? For today I made my virgin bike trip up Vail Pass. I was certain my trusty Trek 8500 mountain bike would do the trick. Flatlanders don’t see many, nor really have the need for road bikes in the north woods of Wisconsin. The area I hail from is famous for the Fat Tire Festival and many, many miles of great single-track stuff. So, needless to say, I don’t own a road bike. Sure could have used one today. After witnessing the obvious gazelle-like speed of the new high-tech cycles passing Emily and I (Emily is my bike!), I am a self-proclaimed hot prospect for such a machine. I digress. Anyway, armed with plenty of water, and a couple of candy bars, I emerged from my temporary home in Eagle-Vail, (A cozy apartment just 8 feet vertical of my office here at the Vail Daily building.) and headed due east. I cruised through West Vail, circumvented the Farmer’s Market in the Village and kept heading Denver way. I was determined. Come hell or high water, I was going to conquer this summit. Following a small and necessary lunch in the Alpine Gardens, I resumed my climb. I’m sure the pros who were passing me from both directions thought I was certifiably nuts, but I indulged them and always took my time. “Slow and steady” kept cycling through my mind. That was, until slow and steady wasn’t working anymore; slower and steadier took over. Passersby may have defined it as, “Hey, didn’t I pass you on the way up?” Regardless, I was mentally prepared to do what it would take to reach my day’s only goal: to live through this endeavor. I found a couple of shady spots to help my heat index, drank water like it was cold Leinenkugel’s and kept my eyes and mind on the road. The last thing I wanted to be was a statistic. At one point, I walked a short distance just to change things up a little. Then, precisely 2 hours, and 22 minutes later, I reached the summit of Vail Pass. I had crossed this point at least 100 times before in a vehicle, but never ever thought I would reach it on a bike. The first thing to go through my mind was what the hell was I thinking? Holy Cow!, as Harry Carey said, how do these guys do this daily? Or how do they ever go from Denver to Avon in a Triple By-Pass ride. If it were available, I would have thought about taking ECO back down. But noooooo way, it was time the sweet reward, the payback. So, following my short little “Rocky” dance, I was off for the sweetest reward I’ve ever experienced. Very cool, and as far as I was concerned, long overdue. Still resistance-challenged by my big fat tires, I wasn’t moving as fast as everyone, but believe you me gang, it was awesome – and I even passed a few scaredy cats who were working their brake pads. Not me. My virgin trip was surrendering the good stuff. Fast, faster and lots of it. I never looked back. I never slowed down unnecessarily. Slid along I-70, then under and up to the north side. I kept cooking down by trailhead parking lot, through East Vail then into the Village and directly into Pazzo’s for a cold adult beverage and a slice. Aha, another sweet reward. Following my meal, I took my time back to Eagle-Vail and began to take it all in. Now I know why these pros make that ride often. I recalled the eloquent marketing slogan of the 55K off-road challenge of the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival” “For all of you who said you’d never do this again; we’ll see you soon!” Tomorrow’s classified ad will read: Needed, new or used road bike. Don’t fret Emily, you aren’t going anywhere!Thanks again to everyone for your heartwarming welcome. I’ll write again soon. Steve Gall is publisher of the Vail Daily. Contact him at or at 748-2992.Vail, Colorado

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