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Iron Horse race is hot and planet Earth is melting

Cycling insanity, intersection mayhem, climate catastrophe.

Knowing that readers’ attention span is sometimes limited, today’s column is subdivided into three sections. It’s kind of like watching “60 Minutes,” but without the commercials. And, other than segment three, this isn’t quite so pompous.

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“It’s the first time I’d seen people stand in line for 25 minutes and be happy about it.”

The voice of Gaige Sippy, Iron Horse Bicycle Classic director who helped host a locals-only registration party at 5 p.m. Nov. 30, just five hours before online registration began for the 2013 ride and race. The party – a first-time event at Mountain Bike Specialists on Main Avenue – attracted about 200 entrants.

These couple hundred clued-in cycling enthusiasts were fortunate – if paying $95 for the privilege of pedaling 50 miles with 5,500 feet elevation gain can be defined as “fortunate.” At noon Dec. 2, just 36 hours after online registration opened, the road ride from Durango to Silverton was sold out.

“I think the locals appreciated it,” Sippy said of the party.

So if you’ve been Rip van Winkling, even for a few days, you’re out of luck. The 1,900 road ride slots are taken. A few of the 600 race slots are available, but only for women.

The 2011 Memorial Day weekend tour sold out Jan. 15. Last December, it took just six days to fill the 2012 tour, and Sippy assumed they’d reached a zenith. But as the entries rolled in on Dec. 1 and 2, he was blown away again. He’d refresh his screen, 30 more entries. Refresh, 30 more.

“This year it just went crazy,” Sippy said.

Those of us who didn’t register can continue to pig out over the holidays and watch tons of sports. Those of you “fortunate” enough to enter, better get out and ride.

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Let me start this by saying that the reconstruction of Florida Road, begun in early 2010 and finished in May 2011, turned out just fine. It’s smooth for cars, it’s relatively safe for bicyclists and pedestrians, and how can you not love all those brown wooden fences? Yes, we got our $17 million worth.

So what’s wrong? OK, here it comes:

That intersection at Florida Road, East Third Avenue and 15th Street still scares the bejesus out of me. On a bicycle or in a car, it’s a crapshoot whether you’ll live or die.

Recently, I was driving up 15th and veering onto Florida, as another car headed toward me, turning left from Florida onto Third. The right of way was mine, but still I was on guard, taking nothing for granted at this crazy intersection. So I wasn’t too stunned when the car suddenly turned in front of mine; I mashed the brakes and avoided an accident. What stunned me was what happened next: The offending driver honked and glared at me!

Earth was moved, concrete dividers added and repaving completed during the reconstruction, but the improvement was miniscule. I just feel sorry for this poor crossroads – it’s always been so misunderstood.

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Hope you weren’t expecting great things from the United Nations climate talks. It’s possible you didn’t even notice the two-week-long session in the Arabian Peninsula country of Qatar that concluded over the weekend. Global-warming discussions seem to fly under the radar – in the United States particularly.

The main sticking points are the amount of carbon emissions to cut and a battle over money: poor countries want rich countries to help fund their struggles against climate change.

Some stubborn folks are still stuck arguing about whether the Earth’s temperature is going up. I’m sure it’s just coincidence that most of those people have connections with carbon-energy-producing industries. Well, whatever. Common sense tells you that it’s possible that humans are having an effect on the mercury. And if that’s true, then shouldn’t we be doing something – especially considering the potential catastrophe if we don’t?

It’s easy to postpone things for a year, and maybe not much harm is done. But if you do that 20 times, and if the preponderance of scientists are correct about the Earth’s warming and what’s causing it, then you’ve really jacked things up.

Part of the problem is humans worry most about what’s in front of our faces. For the average person, that means jobs and families. For the media, that means Syria or the “fiscal cliff” or Duchess Kate’s baby.

It’s time to look down the road. Science and recent experience – Hurricane Sandy, a typhoon last week in the Philippines, quickly melting ice sheets – indicate that world weather is abnormal.

The legacy of this generation continues to erode. On everything from the national debt to health care to climate change, we keep punting the key issues. It’s embarrassing.

In the future, I’m afraid, we’re going to have some explaining to do.

johnp@durangoherald.com. John Peel writes a weekly human-interest column.

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