Riding 560 miles on a bike would seem daunting to most people, but for 68-year-old Cindy Hillmer, its just another cycling adventure to add to her growing list.
It came as no surprise to those who know her that she thought biking to her 50th high school reunion in Sidney, Neb., would be a great idea. Fellow classmate and longtime friend Ann Shuman joined her for the adventure while husband Barry drove the sag wagon.
Cindy is not your average grandmother, although having lived in Durango since 1972, she definitely embodies the local outdoor lifestyle.
Ive been cycling forever, said Hillmer. I thought it would be fun to bike to the reunion, something to look forward to and keep me motivated to keep riding.
Heading out Aug. 18, averaging more than 60 miles each day, she allowed nine days to go the distance, tackling mountain passes and miles of prairie along the way.
It was hard to plan distances because I dont sleep on the ground anymore, so the availability of lodging dictated our mileage each day.
Walsenburg to Rocky Ford was the longest day because of a road closure.
We had to double back, which made it a 90-mile day. The following day, outside of Pumpkin Center, it was 112 degrees and the wind was blowing so hard we couldnt talk, Cindy said.
I worried about the wind, but most days we started early enough that we missed the worst of it, she said.
Limon to Brush was her favorite day: We got an early start, and it was cool. We stopped for water at a church in this funky little place called Last Chance, where the minister came out to chat and said bikers come through this junction often.
Cindys training involves about 150 miles of cycling per week, spring through fall, averaging about three to four hours at a time with hill climbing mixed in. Her other activities include running I slog, Hillmer said and spin classes.
Their only scary experience happened on Wolf Creek Pass; although they carefully timed their descent with the construction traffic intervals, upon entering the east-side tunnel, all was clear when all of a sudden, a huge truck came blowing in behind them.
I have no idea where he came from; he must have been parked, Hillmer said. There was only a narrow space between the truck and the curb. We both came out thankful to be alive. After that, all the way to South Fork there was no traffic.
Being from Nebraska, its no surprise that the prairie was her favorite part.
When you grow up and see horizons, you miss that. It is so peaceful.
The funniest incident happened in Fowler, when they entered a store where locals were congregated watching news about road closures because of the Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado Springs. Pretty soon, an elderly lady approached Ann and asked, Howd ya do? Ann replied, Great!
We could have explained, but we were just too hot and tired and didnt want to, Cindy said. We still laugh about that.
Cindy relates this story as though it were just another day in the life of an ordinary 68-year-old.
I didnt do this to bring attention to myself, she said. I still dont think it was that big a deal. Its just a carrot dangling in front of me to keep me riding.
I wonder what new adventure that carrot will sprout for next year?
Reach Marjorie Brinton at firstname.lastname@example.org.