This past month, my rides have been a little less frequent, but definitely longer. A couple of days before I took my brother-in-law on hist first 20 mile ride. I felt a little bad because he was riding his 15 year old mountain bike that had a bent tooth and skipping chain. I spent most of the ride coasting, so when we hit 20 miles, I was amazed at how little I had exerted myself. I was good for another 20 at least, but there was no time that day.
Yesterday morning, I decided that I would race home from work, hop on my bike, and take a nice long ride.
I went to Veloroutes.org to plan my route. It's a great site for pre-mapping out rides. You can do point and click measuring on Google maps. It is nice because it doesn't make you adhere to known roads. You can measure the distance across a farm field if that's where your route takes you. I typically look at Google maps too because some times you need to zoom down to "Street View" to see what condition the road is in and if something that looks like a nice wide shoulder is gravel or paved.
When I was done I had planned a really nice 30 mile loop through some isolated farm roads. I love riding the isolated roads between farm fields and there is a lot of that where I live. Also, I've been on the same 25 mile loop for the past month and I was really looking forward to seeing some new ground.
When I left, it was hot and humid, but overcast. Storm clouds were rolling in but the rain wasn't predicted until after midnight so I felt safe that I wouldn't be caught in a thunderstorm. Regardless, I've read that riding in the summer rain is an experience worth having so I figured either way I was in for some new experiences.
When I first got my bike a couple of years ago, I had these grand plans and romantic images in my mind of being far from home on a desolate road with nothing but my bike, what was in my pack, and my own thoughts to keep me company. When I went on my first ride, the butt pain and debilitating fatigue after 8 miles of riding rudely popped that bubble for me. I didn't ride a whole lot after that. However, a couple of months ago, I got serious about riding again. The goal was fitness and weight loss so pain and fatigue were the goal, not travel guide worthy pictures of me in the middle of nowhere.
I started out from my driveway and I was pedaling away, feeling very good, and being careful to not let my excitement make me ride too fast -- foolishly using up energy on mile 5 that I'd need at mile 25.
At mile seven I turned off my regular route and started down a new road. It was at mile eleven when something odd and wonderful happened. The first of a few wonderful things actually.
I found myself looking at a 5% grade about a mile long. Something that would have killed me months ago. For the first time I looked at a long hill -- happily. It was a challenge that I felt that I was definitely ready to take. I dropped a few gears and rode up that hill. There were no stops, no breaks, no wishing I was dead, no crying, just legs pumping away like a machine all the way over the peak of that hill. I had no serious fatigue either. When I got near the top, I shifted up and just kept cranking away.
I basked in the glow of that achievement for a couple of miles when I realized something. I was riding far from home on a desolate road with nothing but my bike, what was in my pack, and my own thoughts to keep me company. I was living that romantic dream that I had years ago when I first bought my bike. It was a revelation and seriously, I laughed out loud because it made me so happy.
Then things began to happen that added to the experience.
Lincoln road was approaching. I was to turn left onto Lincoln and start my fifteen mile ride back home. When scoping the route out, I didn't see that the road was a gravel road -- impassable for my skinny road tires. Sometimes you just have to ride the route to know for certain. Rather than turning around, I decided to press on. I would take the next paved road south and try to meet up with my route somewhere else further down the road.
I put another 2 miles under my wheels, taking wonderful tight turns through rolling countryside, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Then I came to this sign:
I took that opportunity to stop, have a drink and half of a power bar, and stretch my legs a bit.
I turned my bike around, rode back the way I came, and then took what felt like a correct detour. I passed a road that I thought was supposed to be on the left, not the right. I continued to pedal up the road and for at least fifteen minutes, I was lost.
Now, in the past I might have panicked. But after two months of serious riding, my stamina is much better than it has ever been and I was confident that I could pedal out of any trouble I got myself into. Another mile went by and I found the roads I was expecting on my cue sheet. McCauley Ė L, followed by Raycraft Ė R. I was back on track.
Raycraft road, which Iíve never been on before, is a long steady downhill tree-lined road. I was looking at the great country scenery, beautiful old oaks and the occasional deer when I was stopped dead by this sign:
Crap, again. The thing was, I wasnít going to turn back around. It might be out for cars, but a guy on his bike ought to be able to get over it. The countryside I ride on is cut through by streams. Itís not like Iím going to cross the Mississippi here, if I have to, Iíll pull off my shoes and ford the stream.
I was actually hoping I would have to ford the stream. Talk about adventure cycling! As it turned out, I could carry my bike and hop across a couple of holes in the bridge. A car couldnít make it, but I did just fine.
The rest of the trip was mostly uneventful. I did make another wrong turn, heading north instead of south on a road that I had to share with a couple of tractor-trailers. On the upside, the road had been resurfaced a few weeks previous so it was like riding on glass.
I entered my neighborhood and as I was coasting down the last hill into my driveway, I was truly tired. I think that my rides are getting long enough that Iím going to have to start worrying about on-ride nutrition. I did drink 72 ounces of water, but the power bar that I ate, one half at a time, could probably have been better timed.
Thirty two miles over two hours and fifteen minutes. Endomondo had me averaging a little over 14 miles per hour. It may have been a little better than that had I paused the ride while figuring a way over the bridge, but Iím happy with that for now.
It was a satisfying ride and the only worry I had was that it had gotten dark at 8:30 PM. What am I going to do when the sun goes down at 5?