Valerie was never a very strong bicyclist. She tended to ride at a fairly slow pace, for me, and really didn't like to go off-road. The few times that I took her mountain biking, she would become very frustrated because she was struggling and I, riding at her pace, would never even get out of breath (much less break a sweat).
After we had lived in Colorado, for a while, I decided to try and get her to ride more, and show her some of the natural beauty that she was missing. So, I took her to Waterton Canyon.
The Waterton Canyon ride starts out on an old railroad grade, along the South Platte River. This grade is maintained by Denver Water as a service road, which leads to the Strontia Springs Dam, 6.5 miles from the parking lot. There, the road turns steeply uphill, and leads to the Colorado Trail trailhead.
The canyon, as you ride along the gently sloping road (railroad grades are very gradual, due to the climbing limitations of trains), is pretty spectacular. The canyon walls are very steep, and the canyon is narrow at the bottom. In many places, the flat part of the canyon consists of the riverbed and the road, with near-vertical walls on each side.
As you ride along, it is not unusual to see trout swimming in the water, deer on the slopes, or a herd of mountain sheep wandering around like, well, a herd of sheep. Eagles and hawks fly overhead, and the occasional fox will streak across the road. I figured that Val would enjoy it.
To make her feel better about her pace, I rode the high-wheeler. On the gravel road, it would be a pretty good effort for me to ride along at her speed, plus I always enjoyed riding that bike. I figured that would put us on equal-enough footing that Val could stop being self-conscious, and enjoy the ride.
Unfortunately, I neglected to take the "circus act effect" into account. We were riding on a busy Sunday afternoon, when the canyon sees a lot of traffic, both on foot and bike (along with a few equestrians). As we rode up the road to the dam, rider after rider pulled up beside me to ask me about the bike, tell me it was cool, ask how I was managing to ride the gravel etc, etc.
The farther we rode, the less happy Valerie looked. I tried pointing out interesting sights, and talk to her about the history of the canyon, and such, but she ended up just riding along in a fuming silence.
All that time, we were constantly interrupted by people riding up next to me to talk about the bike.
We got to the dam, and sat down on the rocks, overlooking the river.
"What's wrong?" I asked her, for the 20th time. I was somewhat put out that, even though I had gone to such effort to make this a good experience for her, Val just seemed to refuse to enjoy herself.
"It's like I'm not even here," she said, frowning.
"What do you mean?" I asked. "I've been talking to you all the way up the road. It's not like I'm ignoring you." (That's what I thought she meant.)
"All those people riding up to talk to you don't even know I'm here. They almost run over me to get close enough to talk to you."
"It's like I'm invisible."
Needless to say, she never again wanted to ride with me while I was on the high-wheeler.
Back to square one, trying to get her on the bike...