Today we rode up and over 5 major mountain passes as we made our way from Eureka to Ely. Most of the hills today were easier than I remembered from last year except one – Robinson Pass. I actually didn’t even remember the climb from last year at all, so maybe last year it was hard too and I just mentally blocked out the entire climb. Our major challenge today was the wind, which really slowed our pace at times as we concentrated on not getting blown over sideways. More than once I reminded myself about that comment I had made in the first day’s blog about making the best of it when mother nature presented challenging circumstances (e.g., 30 mph headwinds). Just after lunch on the road south of Ely we got hit with a huge gust that immediately had us all in our small chain rings, as if we had suddenly hit a 10% grade. Finally we saw the road curve to the east and going up Connor Pass actually felt like a dream because the wind was then at my back. The trip down the other side was a bit blustery also but on the other side of the mountain is a wind farm, which is actually one of my favorite spots on this entire ride. Of course all the windmills were spinning. The headwind we had struggled against on the other side of the mountain had become a tailwind as we headed north toward today’s stopping point.
Today’s ride was for my friend Mike Sanderson who passed away from cancer in April 2011. I was Mike’s manager when I worked at the Zions call center but it really isn’t fitting to say that he worked “for” me. He taught me so much and saved my bacon, as a new manager, more times than I can remember. After having some prostate issues that he thought were not cancer, things seemed to get worse instead of better. Mike went to Phoenix to the Mayo Clinic for an evaluation during early December 2010 and never came home. He went thinking he would be staying a week and ended up passing away after a valiant fight. Mike was kindhearted and loyal and left a big empty space in the lives of his family and friends.
Tomorrow morning we will climb up Sacramento pass, and the time we spend at the top of that hill will be in remembrance and honor of the names that we are all carrying with us. The pains and struggles I experience on this ride quickly seem insignificant as I consider the fight against cancer. As others have written, even a day where all I can manage is 15 mph because the wind is so bad, is still better than a day of chemo treatment.