AXC - The bike

AXC - The bike

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Crucible

 Monday, May 26, tour day 23

The experience of this trip can turn on a dime from perfect to pathetic.
Monday, the route threw everything it could at me in an effort to defeat me, but I persevered!

A few weeks ago, it was naive to declare the day 'the hardest day ever', because that seems to be redefined on a regular basis. Monday was one of those times. 

We knew it was going to be a long day and difficult day. An 81 mile day was by far the most mileage we've done yet. People in the group planned to tackle this by getting up and on the road early. I did not. I'm not a morning person, so I got up at my regular time, was a little more expeditious than normal, but got on the road around the time I normally do. 
The campsite the night before was in a bit of a 'food desert' so there were no stores to pick up breakfast and lunch fixins for the day. That was the first challenge. 
We hit up a convenience store/mini-mart at the corner on the way out, and made due with what they had. 

The day started off nice, but warmed up quickly. It had been cool and dry the last several days but that broke some time overnight and the heat and humidity were bearing down on me by 9 am. 

The prior few days had been really nice, with gently rolling hills that were barely noticeable after the hard climbing we've done. That changed on Monday though, and the steep Kentucky hills were back with a vengeance. Right off the bat, there was a hill so steep that we all had to get off our bikes and push them up the hill. That happened several times throughout the day, either because the hills were that steep, or they just came in such quick succession that my legs couldn't handle them! 

Written on the road at the top of the hill. 
Around 10 am I found a little greasy spoon restaurant and had 'second breakfast', which was wonderful. There's been a dearth of restaurants along the way, and when we do find them we've either already eaten, or the timing just doesn't work. But today I was riding alone and the timing was just right!

After breakfast I ran into some of my group about a half mile up the road, they had stopped for flavored ice, and were just getting back on the road, so I fell in with them and we rode on. 

Being Memorial Day, there was a lot of vacation traffic, and we were heading into a place called Rough River Lake, which was apparently a popular recreation destination. People were heading there with their boats and RVs. We ended up with a lot of traffic stuck behind us on a narrow 2 lane road going up a hill. This is a double whammy because we're really slow going up the hill, and the cars are stuck behind us and they can't see over the top of the hill for oncoming traffic to safely pass us in the other lane. So they're basically stuck waiting for us to get up the hill. One the one hand, it was good that there was a larger group of us, so we were more visible as a group, but it also made it more difficult for people to get around. For the most part, people were very patient and courteous, but there were one or two people who were not. The worst offender was one big RV that would rev it's engine every time it passed a rider - the exhaust belching out black smoke that totally engulfed us in toxic darkness. 

So far we have; Hill, heat, traffic and toxic exhaust. And that was all before noon! 

As the day wore on, it continued to get warmer, and the hills felt like they got harder. Stores were few and far between, so I stopped when the opportunity presented in order to get gatorade and something to eat. 

Then, it was noon, again! We crossed the timezone line and traveled one hour backwards in time! Great Scott! 
This was apropos, because time seemed to drag on, and felt like it flowed backwards as the miles stacked up and the hills were relentless. 

Adding to the rough day, I also finally started getting saddle sore. Nothing terrible, but on a day where I spent 9 hours on the bike, it certainly wasn't pleasant. 

Then, around 3 pm, as the hills wore on and my legs wore out, nature decided that we hadn't quite had enough yet, and the skies opened up on us in a heavy downpour. But the joke is on Mother Nature, because the rain felt great. The other riders around me stopped to don their rain gear, but I just tucked my phone away someplace dry and rode on in the rain. I was already soaked with sweat, what's a little more moisture going to do? Steam rose off the hot pavement, and I could taste the salt streaming down my face, but I wiped it away with the back of my wet glove and just smiled. 

Still, the hills didn't relent, and at one point I was barreling down a hill so fast that the rain was stinging my face!

The downpour eased up after about forty minutes, and another half hour after that I was just about dry! Which was the cue for it to rain, again! Then, the sun came out and I was riding in a sunshower, which was kind of neat and a little pleasant. 

After the rain let up the second time, the sun came back out and I was baking again. By then, I was only 10 miles from the end, so of course the hills ramped up, with several long, steep climbs to the finish. With just over 2 miles left, the last big hill did me in and I ran out of energy. I stopped and ate a Cliff bar I'd been saving for an emergency, drank a bunch of water and had the power I needed for one last push. 

We stayed that night at a volunteer fire house in Utica, KY, a town of less than 500. There was still very little around, so we ate dinner at the local gas station / food mart across the street. 
Then, exhausted, we slept on the floor of the fire house. But, the place was air conditioned, had a shower and even a washer & dryer. To us, it was like the four seasons! 

Exhausted, but having traveled backwards in time by one hour, we crashed for the night. Preparing to do it all over again the next day.

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1 comment:

  1. And yet every picture has you smiling. Good to see you! Love you.