Zero Day Diary: Miles of Smiles

Ed Billings

Note: Today (July 23) is my son Sam's 17th birthday. I held this post back for today. Happy Birthday Sam.  

Cañon, CO July 17

Today marks the halfway point of this grand adventure. Halfway in both time and distance. 

This morning we made our final descent out of the western mountains, and into the plains of Eastern Colorado. It was a short ride where we started at 8,500 feet and bled off 3,500 feet of elevation in two dramatic descents. With only 30 miles of riding, it provided a spectacular coda to this section, and I smiled the entire way.

My smiles were of relief that I got the crew through the long mountain descents unscathed (it's been my biggest concern). When you are riding a bike at over 40mph in the mountains, things can go wrong in a hurry. The guys did great. 

My smiles were also from the memories of sheer beauty we have pedaled through over the last 1,950 miles. And I smiled as I recalled the continuous and genuine parting refrain of "You boys be safe!" from all the people we have met along our way. 

But the biggest smile on today's descent came as I rode behind my son Sam, as we plummeted into Cañon Colorado. During the descent the climate began to gradually turn dry. The landscape began to remind me of inland portions of my native Southern California.

Ortega Highway came to mind. It's the old steep road that connects Riverside and Orange County, built before the interstates. My parents used to take that route for weekend family drives, back when people did that type of thing. As I recalled my sister was usually car sick. I began to feel nostalgic. 

It took me a while to catch Sam, and to be honest I did not want to rush it. I was a 1/4 mile back, watching him sweep through the long steep turns, occasionally glancing back for me in the brief straightaways. As his father, I enjoyed taking it all in. 

Eventually I caught Sam. We rode side by side for some time on the quiet, arid road. Finally, I slowed and slipped in for the draft. 

Throughout it all, no words were exchanged.

None were needed.