I have always wanted to go credit card camping on a bike adventure…. By that I mean- ride somewhere cool with a credit card, clean pair of clothes and flip flops, and explore the new spot, then maybe ride back.
On Tuesday of this week, my friend Chris introduced me via email to the owner of the Buffalo Lodge Bike Resort in Manitou Springs, Colorado Springs, saying, “Megan, you need to know this place and the woman who owns it!” I checked out this cute spot online and as I looked ahead to the upcoming weekend I thought- why not go and visit? When I learned they were hosting a “folk & flannel” festival with live music, I decided I was in— I was ready for a new spot to visit and a new adventure to experience …
I don’t know why but my immediate reaction to their website (upon learning that it is ALL about bikes AND that it loves dog guests), is “I gotta take my girls with me.” I have taken my dogs on short bike-trailer rides like to the vet and to the park but never more than 5-6 miles. This would truly be an adventure for all 3 of us. ;)
I don’t really talk much about my dogs but since they are my family I feel they deserve a bit of storytelling time here…
My girls are a 14 year old pittie pup named Phoenix and my 9-year old endlessly energetic running partner, Ramsey aka Rambo. 14 years ago on a bike ride, I found a mom pup and a box of 5 puppies someone had stashed under a bridge embankment in KCMO - they were pit mixes, illegal in KC at the time and it was clear someone just wanted to be rid of them. I took them to the vet as they were all in very poor health- the puppies were only a few weeks old and were starving, dehydrated, had heart worm, etc. Once we got them in good health I was able to find homes for them all- primarily with friends but I kept the runt- the peanut butter brindle girl and named her Phoenix, as in, risen from ashes. She has survived and outlived her siblings and a major neck surgery and even a dire prognosis back in July and she’s still here with me game for morning walks, human food, and face licks. I know my time remaining with her is running short so I savor my days with her by my side.
I say all the time that I rescued her once, but she’s rescued me right back 100-fold.
She’s truly a special animal.
Ramsey is also a rescue- we adopted her in 2011 from Foothills animal shelter in Golden right about the time I was trying to mourn the death of my bike racing dreams after a heart-breaking season. We asked for a puppy and she is what they had that day- approximately 9 months old they told us she was a “tri colored collie” and not knowing any better we accepted that as true … well she’s not really a collie, though she is clearly a working or herding dog of some kind. The closest thing online I’ve found for her is a “new zealand heading dog,” described as virtually inexhaustible, and that sounded about right… Ramsey has been my Ironman running training partner and is known to go on a 12-14mile run and then come home to immediately grab her ball to play fetch. She is wicked smart and teachable - she thrives with exercise and mental stimulation.
Combined, Phoenix and Ramsey are quite a duo- protective of me when it’s called for, otherwise fairly relaxed and chill once they’ve had a bit of exercise— just like their Mom ;) …
Initially as I began planning this trip- I thought that I might leave Phoenix home since she’s old and tired and loves to sleep all day AND she weighs about 55#. But then I felt bad for leaving her out of our adventure. So I decided we’d ALL 3 hit the road - four days later - Friday - and ride from our house in north Golden down to the resort in Manitou, COS.
Early mapping recon showed me this would be around 100 miles and approx 4500 ft elevation gain. Not a big deal by Colorado and front range riding standards (honestly) … but taking into account the 90#+ of dog weight plus Burley trailer weight + supplies and backpack weight, the difficulty in this ride would come from me basically doubling my body weight. I weigh 120# on an average day and I was undertaking the task of towing my bodyweight behind me- asking my legs and body to push around 240# on this adventure.
Could it be done? “Only one way to find out,” is my usual response.
After scouting the route and using Ride with GPS to create the route and download the file to my garmin so I’d have turn by turn help in the unfamiliar areas, I turned my focus to packing.
I feel like I nailed the goal of keeping it light yet covering all of my bases. The one thing I wanted to bring but couldn’t squeeze in was my tennis shoes- so I settled for flip flops even though the evenings are cool now. And it would limit my hiking options. The one other thing I forgot in light of the evening festival was a stocking hat to keep my head warm at night. (I bought one once I arrived). Otherwise I covered it all and kept my backpack pretty manageable. I’d guess it weighed in around 15-20#.
Friday morning, it was time to depart. I figured optimistically we would average 10mph including the stops I knew we’d need to make for the girls and for me to refuel. And that ended up being spot on. We left at 8:16am and (spoiler alert) we rolled into the hotel exactly ten hours later, 6:16pm.
The route was great leaving Denver- I know the roads out of Golden, and the C-470 trail took me south towards Chatfield. While we were in BCLP, I let Ramsey out and she ran alongside me for awhile to burn up some energy.
I decided to stop at a gas station off the trail to grab a jug of water - while I hated to add that extra weight to our rig for the remainder of the day, I wasn’t sure when we’d be able to fill bottles again once we got further south. (Turned out to be a GREAT plan - we never had to stress about water, and to be candid, there were no other spots to stop the rest of the way!).
I took the bike path into Chatfield where we enjoyed nice smooth bike lanes through the park. We stopped for a quick stretch and snack at one of the campgrounds before leaving the park. From that point on I was entering the unknown part of the day.
Douglas County surprised me with these brand new glorious bike paths leaving the park headed towards Titan Road, and a nice bike path along Titan - PLUS huge bonus, I was able to skip 85 by heading south on the road just west of Santa Fe instead (south on Moore Road) , and low&behold discovered a new and gorgeous stretch of road near the airport that made that entire stretch a breeze (Airport Road?). We took that to the frontage road and just like that we were in Sedalia.
…but then it was time to tackle 105.
This was the stretch I was most worried about after reading other people’s accounts online. I knew it was the most common cycling route however it didn’t have a shoulder and was heavily trafficked by trucks and semis. I was not prepared for the difficulty I would experience in the endless rollers. The miles ticked by painfully slow and on several climbs I had to get off and walk and push the bike and burley uphill … thankfully every overtaking vehicle (except for one) was kind to us. But the volume of traffic was much heavier than I expected.
I wasn’t able to look around much and enjoy the scenery, and I neglected to eat or drink enough on this section which further resulted in the proverbial wheels falling off…. it was a rough stretch and for those thinking of doing this route, I am not going to sugar coat it - I was desperate to get that part over.
We were SO lucky to have a tailwind the entire stretch.
Finally we arrived at Palmer Lake and the entrance to the Santa Fe trail- which would take us through Monument and the Air Force Academy and south into COS. I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief, since the remainder of the journey would all be bike path. THAT SIGN WAS SOOOOO GOOD TO SEE!
Ramsey got out again and ran alongside me for a few miles - we took in the sights of Palmer Lake and Monument:
On this stretch about 10 or so miles south, my friend Chris (mentioned above), met me and escorted us through the final 20-25ish miles on the bike paths through COS -into Colorado city and finally into Manitou Springs to the Bike Resort. I was so thankful to have him navigating those miles so that I didn’t have to stop and consult my phone or the bike trail maps. My brain was fried by that point of the day.
As we rolled into the Bike Resort we were greeted by the owner and she came out and took photos of my tired little caravan - by that point the pups and I were exhausted and hungry. Thankful for arriving before the sun went down, I got us settled, showered and then pursued food. I was tired and the pups were tired too—but it felt so great to have accomplished the thing I set out to do. And the girls were so good all day and so cooperative with my crazy idea. ????
Saturday at the Resort was a blast. The resort owner Torie led a morning group ride through Garden of the Gods to the Castle, and there was no way I was going to miss this (even though yes let’s be honest my legs were tired!). I detached the trailer, downed coffee, savored a fresh chamois and a clean bike, and off we went for a gorgeous spin. ?? ??
Saturday afternoon included a kombucha and then an evening walk with the girls, followed by the Folk & Flannel festival hosted at the resort. Such good times and fun - just being part of community, even while wearing masks and keeping our distances, felt so good for the soul.
The original plan was to ride back home Sunday - but after having such a fortunate ride with zero mechanicals, flats, incidents with motorists or injuries- I decided not to press my luck and instead opted to “phone a friend” for a lift home. Aka - Bill, owner of 303 Endurance. Serendipity played a role here - he had texted Friday to thank me for a package I’d sent him. I’d responded during the ride telling him what I was doing — then, full circle and because he owns a cycling media company, he wanted to check out the resort anyways —he got to interview Torie about the Resort and hear all about its history from her, so it worked out great. Check out 303’s Video interview of Torie HERE.
Before he arrived, we snuck in one last walk and I hopped on the bike for one more short spin through GOTG…
All in all and as you can tell above, it was an amazing experience and wonderful weekend.
The top questions I got from folks along the way and at the resort were:
What route did you take? View the route on RIDE SPOT- HERE. (My Strava post is HERE but it’s private unless you follow me). Generally speaking the route was: Golden to BCLP, to 470 trail, south to Chatfield, through the park to Titan Road, to Airport Road, to Sedalia. Then, Hwy 105 south to Palmer Lake. Sante Fe Trail south into COS, then city bike paths the rest of the way. Approx 95 miles/4500 ft elev gain, give or take.
Have you done this kind of thing before? No- not really. A bike Packing trip 4 years ago but that didn’t really count as there were no dogs involved.
Did you train for this? No. This idea was hatched on a Tuesday and the ride happened Friday.
What kind of sunglasses are those? Ride 100% (not sponsored). Highly recommend.
What made you want to do this? Haha have we met? If you don’t know me, know that my answer is usually -”Why not?”
Do your dogs just lay down in the trailer? Mostly, yes. They face opposite directions so that they each have a view (either forward or backward) and we stopped often enough they got to get out and stretch their legs, have a snack and a drink, and then they were game to hop back in. (Ahem- copious treats help).
What did you eat along the way? Normal bike food- Crafted Energy Bars, Clif Blocks, a couple bananas, Skratch hydration mix and then I also had sour gummi bears in my bento box which were the only thing that sounded good to me late in the day. Probably did not fuel enough as I reflect back on the day- that is an area for improvement for future adventures.