Courage Classic 2012, Part 2

Courage Classic CollageLast weekend, the lovely Miss Erin and I completed the 2012 Courage Classic, a three day bike ride through the Colorado Rockies that benefits the Children’s Hospital of Colorado. In total we rode our bikes 128 miles and climbed approximately 7,000 feet. For some, just another weekend of biking, for myself, probably the most physically demanding thing I’ve done in my life. Our ride was dedicated to the life and memory of Miss Erin’s Uncle Brent.

Courage Classic Day 1 Miles

Day 1 (43 miles, approximately 3,000ft elevation gain) :
In retrospect, day one was probably the toughest of the three for me. The ride started in Leadville, Colorado, took us around Turquoise Lake, and then to Copper Mountain via Highway 91 over Fremont Pass. We rounded Turquoise Lake as the sun started its day and I remembered camping at the lake with my family when I was a kid. Fremont Pass heading to Copper Mountain was my personal hell and often had me contemplating why I was doing what I was doing at present moment. I feel I do better on short but steep ascents. Long drawn out climbs are not my forte, and I felt that is exactly what that climb was. The decent into Copper Mountain was well worth the effort of climbing the pass. We could have tacked on an extra 12 miles and climbed the east side of Vail pass, but with impending rain and the desire to conserve energy for the next two days we opted not to. I’m not sure I would have been able to complete the original ride scheduled for the day which was slated to go around Turquoise Lake, down highway 24 to Vail, and over Vail Pass into Copper Mountain.

Courage Classic Day 2 Miles

Day 2 (53 miles, 2,230ft elevation gain):
The second day of our ride was my favorite of the three. Much better suited for myself, my steel framed bike, White Lightning Thunderbolt Booyah, and her 5 working gears. She flies on the flatlands. We stared in Copper Mountain at a balmy 42°F, followed I-70 to Frisco, crossed the Lake Dillon Dam eventually making our way to Keystone, climbed Swan Mountain to get to Breckenridge, and thru Frisco once again to finish our ride by returning to Copper Mountain. I’m not sure I had ever been over the Swan Mountain Pass prior to this ride, so it was nice to see that part of my state. The biggest challenge of the day was the onslaught of rail and wind we received as we arrived in Breckenridge for lunch. With no end in sight, we ended up having to ride from Breckenridge to Frisco in the rain rendering all clothes, shoes, and gear soaked.

Courage Classic Day 3 Miles

Day 3 (32 miles, 2,200ft elevation gain):
The final day of the ride had me the most anxious of the three which was the day one ride in reverse. The climb from Copper to the top of Fremont Pass was no joke. Much steeper in parts than the opposite direction while still comprising 11 miles from start to summit. Plus, the highway on that side of the mountain has much softer shoulders which made me rather nervous prior to starting, luckily the State Patrol closed one lane of 91 for riders. The decent from the summit to Leadville was complete with wonderful vistas and passed rapidly at 35-40 miles an hour. The three day ride concluded with a gradual ascent to Leadville with thunderstorms looming over the mountain peaks in the distance.

All truth be told, I bitched and moaned about training for this all summer. I had a lot of fun riding my bike around Colorado, however, it wore me out and was rather time consuming. Once again, for some my preparation and the ride was a walk in the park. For me it was hard. Training cut into the precious time I have for my other hobbies. and I’m no model for human physique. In the end, I am glad Erin encouraged me to do this ride. I am proud of what I accomplished, as it was a feat for me to complete. I’m proud of her and thankful for her encouragement, I couldn’t have done it without her. I’m humbled to have helped out a great staple in our community. The positive impact the hospital has on the community is evident through out the ride.

Responses to my “style” of bike riding helped me get through the ride while also making me smile. Everything from “animal” to “crazy” were adjectives used to describe my vintage-esque bike, clothes, and shoes by fellow riders who easily passed me by at all points in the ride. Truth be told, my shirts were boss. So are my shoes. My bike is sexy as hell. Unfortunately, while cleaning White Lightning this evening, I found a few more concerning maintenance issues, so this may have been her “last tour hurrah”. Same goes for my yellow kicks. All joking and humor aside, I don’t deserve kudos for any of them in regards to my completion of the ride. Fact of the matter, 30 years ago, people were probably completing similar rides on the same bike with ease. If anything, I need to get in better shape. The people that deserve praise are those that complete the ride on bikes powered by their arms. Those that completed the ride with disabilities. Those who road the race on tandem bikes in order to provide an experience to individuals who otherwise might not have been able to ride the ride. I am blessed to complete the ride under my own power.

Finally, I want to extend a sincere thank you to those who donated to our ride. I really appreciate the generosity. Times are tough and a lot of people in our community are in need of help. It means a lot to me and I’m sure it means a lot to the people that the hommie papers will benefit. If you’d like to make a donation to either of our rides, they can be made through the end of August.

Donate to my ride: http://www.couragetours.com/2012/dhilgier
Donate to Miss Erin’s ride: http://www.couragetours.com/2012/erinwilliams

Courage Classic 2012

Old School Tour de France

In a matter of a few short days, as the Tour de France is wrapping up thousands of miles away, White Lightning Thunderbolt Booyah and myself will be riding in the 2012 Courage Classic. The 157 mile ride through the Colorado Mountains supports Children’s Hospital Colorado and most importantly the kids who benefit from the support, care, and community the hospital provides.

Miss Erin’s Courage Classic Thank You

Miss Erin’s Courage Classic Thank You Collage

The lovely Miss Erin has been working for the hospital for almost 3 years and during that time I’ve come to understand what an amazing place it is and the positive impact it has on our community. While completing the ride will be a miracle for me, the awareness and money raised for the hospital will far outweigh my personal feat. If any of my loyal Beer & Coffee readers would like to donate a few hommie papers to the cause, it would be greatly appreciated. In order to take part in the ride, I’ve committed to raising $300.00 for the hospital and my goal is to break $500.00 dollars.

Donate to my ride: http://www.couragetours.com/2012/dhilgier
Donate to Miss Erin’s ride: http://www.couragetours.com/2012/erinwilliams

White Lightning Thunderbolt Booyah

For those interested, I’ll be riding the race on my late 70s era Peugeot road bike aptly named White Lightning Thunderbolt Booyah. She is pictured above. Steel framed classic. She is a ten speed, but only five gears work at press time. I’ve conquered the ride from our place in Denver to the top of Lookout Mountain and back as well as numerous other 40+ mile rides around Colorado, so I’m fairly confident in my abilities for this weekend. Other noteworthy gear will be my yellow Nike kicks, “How is the water, Bob?” lobster tee-shirt, and handle bar mustache tee-shirt. I’ll be one of the slowest, but at least I’ll be lookin’ good! Specs of the ride are below. I’m a bit disappointed about how the first leg of the tour has been drastically altered due to the sinkhole on Highway 24, but it will be a noteworthy challenge none-the-less.

Courage Classic 2012 Day 1 Route

Original Courage Classic 2012 Day 1 Route Prior to Highway 24 Closure

Courage Classic 2012 Day 2 Route

Courage Classic 2012 Day 2 Route

Courage Classic 2012 Day 3 Route (Day 1 in reverse)

Courage Classic 2012 Day 3 Route (Day 1 will ride in reverse with the addition of the East Side of Vail Pass)

Austin Pearl

Austin, Texas

Nearly two years since our last, and what I consider my first, visit to Texas, the Road Warriors were back in Bush country*. The impetus for the trip started back in February on a snowy winter day when I acquired tickets to see Eddie Vedder play Bass Concert Hall at the University of Texas in Austin. Thus a trip of Eddie, beer, BBQ, and friends was planned. A few weeks before our departure, we found out that the show was postponed until November. Steadfast, we determined not to alter our quest for good beer, good times, and good BBQ as a result of the postponement. A week ago this past Thursday, in the midst of thunderstorms we were off to Austin. The following is a recollection of my experiences.

*An email was sent to both Jr. and Sr. inviting them to slay some brews and BBQ with my Comrades. At press time, that email has yet to receive a response.

Tubing in Texas

Friday, without question, was an exquisite break from the daily grind of pushing pixels and being cooped up in front of a computer for nine hours. The day started with tacos and coffee followed by leisurely tubing down a slow moving creek/river. Nothing beats the heat or the repetition of daily life like laying back in a tube, moving at a snails pace, towing another tube filled with Texas’ finest beers while listening to a Texan’s version of hip-hop blasting from a cooler retrofitted as a water-proof stereo system. Perhaps only in Texas can one meet a gentleman like this guy. Sporting a bucket hat hat housing his remote-control for said cooler stereo and slamming Bud Lights, I wager he makes friends with every soul he encounters. As we meandered down the river watching ducks fornicate and the sun arch across the sky, the prescription from my nonexistent doctor was filled.

Austin Beerworks

Feeling like a million bucks, with the river washed off of me, we made our way to Austin Beerworks to check out their story. My first encounter of the brewery was through their dead sexy website and simplistically bold cans posted far and wide across the internet. One could say the way to my stomach is through my eye for design as I’ve had a taste for their beer long before their nectar had ever hit my lips.

I won’t hesitate to say that Texas is a weird place. For better or worse, its politics, culture, and climate amongst many other of its quirks put it in a world of its own. The same can be said for its laws regarding breweries and the way they can sell their beer. In Colorado, I have it made. Nearly anytime I want, I can belly up to a bar at a brewery, slap a few hommie papers down, and in a matter of a few moments in time be sipping on some of the best beer in the world. In Texas, a similar course of action would be met with “Not so fast partner” or more realistically a locked door. The way it works for breweries that distribute their beer is that they cannot sell it on the premise of their brewery (this is a very drastic simplification of laws I know little of). No tap room, no growlers, no bombers – nothing. A shame in many regards. What the breweries have done to circumvent this law (using the term very loosely) is to create brief moments in time when their breweries are open to public visitations. Once a week for a few hours, beer lovers can visit these breweries where they offer all sorts of boss schwag, the most noteworthy of items being a pint glass. For the low price in my experience of a Hamilton, one acquires a souvenir glass to take home and the privilege of having the brewery fill said glass to try their creations. The man is happy, I am happy, and my liver isn’t. Most of us win.

I really can see how this could be rather frustrating on many levels for the local (If I was a Texan, frankly I would be miffed), as an outsider to the Texas beer scene, I enjoyed this quirky aspect resulting from the will of the man. The brief period of time where the public was allowed to be drinking at the brewery creates a very lively scene filled with lots of people, hipsters, food trucks, live music, and really fucking good beer. I’ve had some great brewery experiences in my drinking life. Knocking back some Pearl-Snaps at Austin Beerworks while eating a Korean Pork burger topped with fried egg in the midst of the golden light of the day is right up there for me. And before I move on to the subsequent parts of this brilliant narrative, I must say that Pearl-Snap is one nasty beer. I’m not normally a pilsner fan, but this brew melted my face. What a companion to the Texas heat and humidity. If I could buy this beer in Colorado it would be fighting Dale’s for space in the brew fridge. Right on Austin Beerworks.

Franklin Barbecue

As aforementioned, one of our main reasons for heading back to the Lone Star State was to gorge ourselves on some boss barbecue. Leaning on the expertise and knowledge of our guide, we decided to forgo leaving the city limits of Austin and try our hand getting our fix at Franklin Barbecue. What once started as a humble food truck feeding the masses during their lunch breaks, in the matter of a year, Franklin has evolved into a brick and mortar establishment all the while gaining mythical popularity. Six days a week a line forms outside of Franklin that stretches through its parking lot to the adjacent neighborhood filled with those hoping to spend their hard earned money on some slow cooked meats.

What Franklin falls short of experientially, it makes up for it two fold by way of spectacle and its offerings. It is worlds away from the small-town, gritty, and utilitarian experience of my barbecue hunt in Lockhart a few years back. You won’t find a small room containing an open fire with walls lined by black soot staffed by a cranky old man unfazed by the 125°+ temperature serving you your meat at Franklin. However, what you will find is a spectacle more akin to a rock show or a sporting event. Part of the fun, and what makes the food great at Franklin, is the wait and perseverance required to do so. One must stand in line for hours, baking in the Austin sun to be afforded the chance to try their offerings, which depending on your spot in line, might not be available when you reach the register. To pass the time, the line turns into a pseudo tailgate party complete with beers, coolers, foldable chairs, more hipsters, meathead fratboys and lingering games of tossing the football around.  Is it worth the wait? I would do it again in a heartbeat. Don’t trust my novice opinion? Perhaps Anthony Bourdain’s will persuade you. The sausage was incredible. The brisket: from another world. Indescribable indeed.

Jester King Craft Brewery

After a helping of gluttony at Franklin, we made our way south to pay a visit to Jester King Craft Brewery. Situated in Texas Hill Country, this brewery operates on a generous sized piece of land and brews out of a building with an outward appearance more akin to a farmhouse or livestock shelter. Both the landscape and architecture in combination with the gentle breeze, outside seating, live music, and yard-games contribute greatly to the laid back country atmosphere. Fittingly, their efforts are focused on brewing beers that embody the visceral sights, smells, and tastes of the countryside and farmland. During my visit I was able to try a trio of their offerings: Noble King (my favorite), Wytchmaker, and a high ABV beer, the name of which I cannot remember. For me Jester King fell somewhere in-between a visit to a secluded winery nestled amongst rolling hills and an outdoor picnic. There was something rather refreshing about sitting at a picnic table looking out over acres of farmland dotted with wildflowers and sun bleached grass all the while drinking a beer that embodies the sprit of the land I was on.

Taco Truck

As the minutes of our brief adventure slipped away, we made one last gastronomical stop on our way to the airport. In a matter of minutes the humble woman staffing the stand hand made some corn tortillas and filled them glorious varieties of meats. I really like corn soft shell tacos and hers were barebones greatness. Communicating in Spanglish was an added bonus and the hand crafted lettering: utilitarian beauty. Austin speaks greatly to the food truck. There is something wonderful and raw about them. Hers reminds me to seek out similar in Denver as opposed to the restaurants who make it big and decide to create a food truck to send out to Civic Center on summer Thursdays.

Beer Coyotes

In addition to my illustrious career as an artist and designer, I’ve also taken up a side business alongside the lovely Miss Erin as a beer coyote. It would have been a sin not to help some of Denver’s finest make their way to Austin (Funkwerks, Crooked Stave, Tea Cup) and I’d be stupid not to bring some of Austin and New York’s greatest back to my stomping grounds (Austin Beerworks, Jester King, Brookyln Brewery, and the brewery of Mr. Johnson). I’ll gladly provide this service to anyone interested. Please write me at: masterbrewer at beerandcoffee dot net.

Thanks Texas

In the guise of wrapping this bad-boy up, my time in Austin was tits. A real laid back experience. Wonderful culture, food, beer, and people. Got a nice base for my summer tan. One would think I would get tired of tacos and beer. I didn’t and I doubt I ever will. I cannot end this without writing an heartfelt thanks to our hosts. I’m forever grateful to them for allowing us to crash at their boss joint, driving us around the region, sharing their insights into Austin, and their home-brew which kicks ours in the balls. To say the least, the hospitality is much appreciated. So that is that. I’ll be back soon Austin. You better be there Eddie.