This past weekend I did a ride I've been planning for and working towards for most of the summer. I wanted to ride Skyline Drive in Shenendoah National park (twice) over two days. I've ridden sections of it before, including a 101-miler in the center a few weeks ago, but I had never ridden the southern section.
My plan was to start in the middle, at Big Meadows. I booked a room at the lodge for Saturday night.
I started the ride from there about 7:15 in the morning, and headed south. The first stop was at Loft Mountain, about 30 miles. The turnaround was at the southern entrance of the park, at mile 105. Unfortunately there's not anything to see at that end without riding on into Waynesboro or Afton, so I just turned around and headed back after having lunch beside the entrance station. That meant the only food and water I had for the middle 50 miles or so was what I had with me on the bike. I had plenty of food, but was cutting it close with only two water bottles for 50 miles.
I ended day 1 clocking about 110 miles. I saw numerous deer, especially early in the morning, a small bear, and a couple of wild turkeys (I think ). I had a bit over 8 hours of saddle time, plus about an hour total off the bike rest time.
I got into the lodge about 5:00. I had big plans to go for a hike and wander around, but I was just too beat. Had a nice dinner in the old lodge dining room and hit the sack early.
Sunday I was up early again, and checked out by 6:00, and was on the road before the sun was completely up. The weather was kind of strange -- very dewy and humid, windy, but fairly warm. I was afraid it would be a cold start, but it was really very pleasant. My legs didn't feel pleasant though. I was really stiff and dead feeling for quite a few miles.
Although Sunday's ride was shorter, at about 102 miles, I think the riding was harder. Either that or my legs were just fried. No it was harder. The elevation went from a high of 3680 feet at Skyland, about ten miles out of Big Meadows, down to under 1000 at the entrance at Front Royal. And then I had to climb back. The second day's major climbs included a 5.5 mile stretch at the entrance of the park, and a 3 mile stretch (both directions) up Hogback. Both kicked my butt, frankly. I've done them before and did fine, but that was not on day two of a long, long ride!
I took almost as long to ride 102 miles on Sunday as I did to ride 110 on Saturday. The weather was threatening thunderstorms most of the afternoon. About ten miles from the end the fog and clouds descended on the mountain. It was extremely cool to see the clouds just DROP and ROLL down onto the road and then back up again. It got down to about 68 degrees at one point. But the rain held off -- until I was about a mile from home base at Big Meadows (of course.) At that point a huge thunderstorm opened up and I ended up doing the last mile completely soaked, standing up the long steep section back to the start. But it was great!
I was pretty beat on Monday morning, but now I'm thinking about doing it again