Day 12 – Queen Stage / Carl’s Century

Wednesday, July 31

Carl Ames is now one of my heroes.

I met Carl yesterday in Durango.  Carl traveled from Phoenix with his family to meet us in Durango so that he could ride the longest and hardest stage of our cross-country ride.  Carl is a crazy guy who likes to have fun.  He met us this morning at 5:30am at Santa Rita park in Durango and once we had the car and trailer sorted out (rest days are actually hard on organization) the four of us hit the open road.

Carl’s nickname is “Bolt” because he just takes off down the road, and true to form, he took off and was soon about a half mile ahead of the rest of us.  We eventually found a good cadence and the four of us took turns taking pulls.  As the day progressed we bonded as cyclists do (nothing like a good butter session to break down the walls) and Carl was soon mooing at cows along the route and singing John Denver songs as he rode along.

Fast-forward to Wolf Creek Pass, and Carl is kicking my butt going up that pass, but he’s having troubles with his legs, and has to stop several times.  Tom and I check to make sure he’s OK, and eventually he continues upward.  After about 2 hours we finally get to the summit, and Carl’s family is there to greet him as he struggles to get off his bike.  He takes very short choppy steps as we line up for a picture.

And I’m crying my eyes out.  I cried many times on my bike today.  And not because it was a very hard day on the bike.  I cried because Carl was working so hard to get to the top.  I’m crying now.

Carl Ames has Parkinson’s.

He’s another wonderful, generous, funny, inspirational person, and I’m lucky enough to now know him.  The Davis Phinney Foundation’s mantra is to help and teach people to “Live Well Today” with Parkinson’s.  Carl is a living example.  And I’m very proud to have ridden with him.

I didn’t know I would be so touched by the people I’m meeting when I embarked on this journey. If you know me, I can be pretty cynical.  But these people are ripping my chest open and grabbing my heart.  They are SO STRONG.  They live with this disease 24 x 7 x 365, and each day they get up and Live Well.

Phew.  What a day.

Queen stage: The stage of a multi-day road race which includes the highest point reach of the whole race. Also usually, but not always, the hardest stage of the race.

So yes, the Queen Stage today.  Our longest and hardest stage.  Mike Casey and Liam took over the sag and by 3 or 4 stops in they were veterans.  They had water, food and other items ready for us each time we stopped.  They’re quite a team, and we really appreciate them volunteering for this trip.

Today kept pushing uphill, uphill, uphill, with some nice little downhills to keep us happy.  We made good time on Highway 160 out of Durango, and had good traffic once again.  Stopped in Pagosa Springs for lunch and went to the park by the river and watched lots of folks inner-tubing and having a great time.  It’s a nice town.  Great lunch of sandwiches, grapes, pickles, etc.  The route was just beautiful and it sure is good to be back in Colorado!

And lurking out there at 75 miles was Wolf Creek.

It got really hot during lunch so the ride to get to the base of Wolf Creek was tough.  Many stops to re-fill on water.  But once we got to the base we each found our own rhythm and headed 9.5 miles upward.  Rick was (of course) feeling strong so he rode away from us, and would eventually wait 55 minutes at the top for the rest of us.  Tom, Carl and I played a leapfrog game up much of the pass as Carl would surge ahead with his strong body and then have to stop from the effort.  We proceeded up the mountain and ultimately joined Rick at the top.  I tired to ignore the filthy Grackles who were croaking at us from the trees in their vulgar language as we struggled upward.  Not even they could stop us.

As mentioned, Carl’s family joined us at the top for a photo op.  There was a Canadian family from Montreal at the summit, and when they found out what we were doing and who Carl was, they donated on the spot!  It was a great moment and showed what getting the word out can do.

But wait, it wasn’t over yet.  Carl had never ridden 100 miles before, and this was his chance to bag a century.  So we headed down the hill.  Carl was feeling the effects of the ride and we proceeded at a slow, stately pace to ensure his safety first and foremost.  When we got to 99.5 miles Carl “bolted” away from us and pounded out that last half mile.  When he finally stopped he was at 101.4 miles and had his first century.  There were hugs all around and more tears.  It was a powerful moment.  At that point, again for safety, we loaded his bike into the trailer, got him comfortable in a seat in the car and then Mike and Liam took him onward to Del Norte to join his family.

That left Tom and Rick and I with 17 miles of work, and we attacked those last miles.  We got a paceline going and flogged those 17 miles in a hurry.

When we got to the Windsor Hotel in Del Norte there was a reception waiting for us with press and interviews and a gathering in the Hotel courtyard.  There was an article about us in the Alamosa paper today as well.  It gave us our chance to one again promote the Davis Phinney Foundation, and we received several donation checks.  Del Norte turned out a great crowd and we answered many good questions and had a good chance to talk with lots of great people.

Key thanks go out to Laurie Robertson (one of our BHS classmates who now lives in Del Norte) for organizing things and providing a room for Tom, Mike and Liam.  She did a stellar job.

When I started this ride I had never ridden 10 days in a row.  I had never attempted to tackle three 100+ mile rides in the course of 7 days.  I didn’t know how I would react to this challenge or if I could even do it.  I always say I learn more about myself on the bike than in any other venue.  I’ve learned a lot about what I can do if I put my mind to it.

However, more than that I’ve learned what Parkinson’s people live with every day and what THEY can do when they put their mind to it.

Carl Ames lived well today with Parkinson’s.

I learned something else about myself through Carl today.  I want to live well too, like Carl.


About to take off from Durango with Carl and Liam and two of our host family members (John & Kristi):


Rest stop – the riders with Liam who did an outstanding job all day:


Lunch stop – Carl sitting and Mike Casey’s friend Lisa joining us:


Carl and his family at the summit of Wolf Creek:


Phinney victory salute for Carl as he finishes his first century:


Arriving in Del Norte – 119 miles after starting:


Tom and Laurie at the reception:


Carl and Rick at the reception:


< Stat’s coming at some point – my Garmin lost its mind again >


16 thoughts on “Day 12 – Queen Stage / Carl’s Century

  1. Catherine

    Tremendous story, Kevin. Thanks for sharing. How amazing that you all got to share in Carl’s accomplishment – something he may not have done if it wasn’t for you guys. Pretty overwhelming all the way around.
    Can’t wait to see you all on Friday…

  2. Diane McGrew

    Had to keep the Kleenex handy while reading this update. How inspiring! Wonderful job everyone.

  3. Amy

    You guys started off my day with a good cry. Thanks for sharing Carl’s story. I can’t wait to meet him at Copper Mountain this weekend. Congrats to everybody for completing this milestone day!

  4. Sue Zorichak

    Love, love, love this post, Kevin. Never knew you had such a powerful pen (or keyboard, as it were). What a journey. Please tell Rick that I love his hair. :-)

  5. Wendell & Diane

    Great riding guys!!! very cool writing too, love reading the story. See ya in Boulder!

  6. Lori

    Ok you got me crying today too-so proud of all of you. I’m getting worried about my sag abilities when I meet you guys in Omaha-sounds like you’ve had some stellar crews-hope the old mama can pick up the reins quickly. Looking forward to seeing you all in copper!

  7. laurie robertson

    It was SO fun to meet you guys, and Carl !! So honored to “host” this gathering for you all. Val, and I loved being able to help out with the bunk house sleeping arrangements. A fan is on the list, of things to get. Love you all, and be safe out there ! Thanks for coming to our little town !!!

  8. Carl

    Kevin, thank you for putting in writing the experiences of yesterday, the day that I was blessed with to ride a most incredible segment of your cross country ride, and more importantly with all of you. You all are so awesome and I. consider it a great blessing to have met you in the manner in which we did and to be able to draw strength from each other as we tackled that amazing ride together.

    Kevin, Kathleen, Rick, Tom, I am so happy to have taken the time to reach to you all and get involved . Michael and Liam, great support as SAG drivers and For being such great motivators along the way.

    I could not have done that ride without all the advance rides I have done and without the support of those involved. And if I did not have PD I most likely would not be doing these rewarding experiences I love you all and hope that after we see you again soon at the Copper Triangle ride, that we keep in touch, continue to strengthen each other, and hope that are paths cross many times.

    Davis Phinney, you have some great friends!

  9. John Barday

    Looking for a start time and start location for this Sunday AM from Copper to Boulder?

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