Photo courtesy of Nikki Naylor

This past block break, a fleet of brightly colored CC cyclists could be seen determinedly pedaling up US-24 West. These students comprised this year’s edition of one of CC’s longest-standing block break traditions: the Aspen Bike Trip.

I could never understand how people who have never biked more than a few blocks across town could possibly cycle 160 miles over the course of three days. However, I was somehow convinced of this trip’s feasibility and despite my lack of training and utter ignorance of clip-in pedals, general bike maintenance, and the pain of sitting on a bike seat for such an extensive period of time, I found myself pedaling up the highway alongside 49 other CC students. We were trailed by eight CC support vehicles sporting inspirational comments such as “Aspen or Bust” and “Flash a Biker” across their back windshields. That night, we stopped just past Lake George, our tired muscles made us fall asleep well before nine.

We woke up to sunshine the following morning and readied ourselves for the upcoming 80-mile day. By 10 a.m., we had cruised up and over Wilkerson Pass and were coasting down into the wide open plateau of South Park. We coasted about 40 miles along the flat road, speeding through the tiny town of Hartsel (where we expressed our dismay at the inconvenient relocation of our once-favorite Dorothy’s tamale restaurant) and finally cruised into Buena Vista. We stopped for a picnic lunch where passersby could see the bikers alternately devouring Nutella-covered pita chips and deli sandwiches or passed out cold, trying to get some rest before the final 30 miles of the day. I arrived at our campground at Twin Lakes around five that evening to see rain veiling Mount Elbert’s impressive face while the late afternoon sun illuminated scores of yellow aspens. Even as my body ached from sitting on a bike for about 80 times longer than I ever had before, I couldn’t help but think this was the perfect way to enjoy Colorado’s fall.

The next day marked our big ascent of 12,000-foot Independence Pass, the final obstacle that lay between the town of Aspen and us. That morning we left camp dressed in the traditional CC uniform of tutus and onesies. Pausing at pullouts to give our muscles a break and enjoy the snacks of the waiting support vans, we made our way up and over seemingly endless switchbacks. At long last, my friends and I reached the top where we were greeted by cheering and high-fives by the students who had already finished. Looking somewhat zany in our costumes and bike shorts, we snapped a bunch of pictures atop the pass before heading down the final 26 miles into Aspen.

As I coasted down the other side of the pass to the view of entire hillsides covered in golden Aspens, I couldn’t believe I had just biked to Aspen without the slightest semblance of prior training. No wonder the Aspen Bike Trip has become such a coveted CC tradition.

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