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2015-05-24 11.24.25

The Great Memorial Day Weekend Shake Down Cruise

What has me most concerned about The Ride is climbing through the Rocky Mountains in 100+ degree temperatures.

Ok, “concerned” is too mild a word.  “Scared Shitless” is more apt.  (“Apter”?  “Aptiest”?)

Knowing I’m not a strong rider, I acknowledge I need to get a little training under my fat ass to help me over the elevations.

I took off to a little spot in West By Gawd Virginia called Bruceton Mills.  Not quite in the middle of the Allegheny Mountains, but surely feeling that range’s foothills.

The one redeeming part of this shit-hole town.

The one redeeming part of this shit-hole town.

Bruceton Mills is about 10 miles from the border of Pennsylvania.  Where it crosses over into PA is about 10 miles from the border of Maryland.  Those three states, coincidentally, are three that I’ve not claimed yet.  That was the master plan:  get three more states under my belt, test out the new bike on some gut-busting hills, and do it all in 80 degrees.  Not the same as riding through the Rockies, but short of driving 1500 miles to test it first-hand, this’d have to do.

Starting in Bruceton Mills, I’d ride 10 miles into PA, ten more across PA, then down 10 into MD.  I’d go back the way I came, claiming each state as I’d have “done my 20” (miles) there.

The day started at 4AM.  Bruceton Mills was about 240 miles away.  Four-ish hours of driving there.  Same back.  And at least six hours of riding to get all three states.  (Riding figures computed out of pure dumbassery.)

As I putting the new bicycle rack on the back of the car (something else I was testing out), I didn’t hold my feet right while cinching one of the tension lines.  When I pulled it tight, I also pulled something in my low back.  I must have pulled a back muscle up to my ears as my back said, “Whoa, you and the legs have a great ride.  We’re tapping out.”

I had to go sit down — ok, go lie down — on the den floor for a few minutes.  Breaking your back isn’t smart to do before 14 hours of riding in a car / on a bicycle.

I told my back to, umm, get back to work.  I didn’t have time for this nonsense.  My back got its, ummm, back up about it, but what could it do?

I’m going to write more details as I cover each state I rode through.  This post’s more for the overall thing I learned about riding through mountains:  they thoroughly kick my ass.

For years I’ve been telling stories about a ride I did in October 2012 to Tennessee from Ohio along US 23.  Most of those stories center around this monster:

It was about a mile and a half to two miles long with at least a 10% grade.  In climbing this thing I had to stop every quarter mile to catch my breath.  (There’s obviously no Tour De France over the Alps in my future.)

On today’s trip there were five of these things.  Hills (mountains?) between a mile and two miles long, with as much as a 13% grade.  I spent nearly all day long in the lowest possible gear, doing no better than walking speed of about 3.5 miles an hour.

(Have to admit, the descents down these big muthas was exhilarating.   It’s not often you get to top 40 MPH on a bicycle.  Top speed yesterday was 43.6 . . . and I hit that on two different down slopes.  All the while praying for no tire blowouts, brakes locking up, snapping front forks, or not seeing something in the road until it was too late to avoid hitting it.)

When I wasn’t climbing those behemoths, there were lots of other “junior varsity” hills to sap my strength.  I’m betting there wasn’t more than 5 miles total in the 70-ish miles I rode that I was neither climbing or descending.  At around 50 miles both of my legs started cramping up.  The muscles started to lock from the constant churn.  (My back chimed in around then.  “Can we all go home now?”)

So, what all did I learn from the ride yesterday?  On one hand, I was disappointed in myself for not being able to ride 60 to 70 miles over punishing terrain.  (There’s a note about this in the Maryland posting.)  I know, I know, not many people can, but in just a few weeks, I’m going to have to be able to do this.

The new bicycle performed admirably.  It did get me over those killer hills.  I did have to stop and recupe several times along the ride . . . but, that’s ok.  I keep repeating that mantra in my head:  it’s not a race.  It’s a ride.  If I’m reduced to an average of just 5 miles an hour, there’s no day on The Ride that I can’t go from Point A to Point B in sunlight.

Speaking of things that performed admirably:  my phone wasn’t one of them.  After snapping this picture:

2015-05-24 11.49.49


My phone just died.  Click the shutter and phone dies.  Long story short:  defective battery.  Had to open up the phone, remove the battery, reinsert it, reboot the phone . . . what a pain in the ass.  Grabbed another camera app and was able to snap a few more pictures without the dreaded BSOD hitting my phone.

One thing that performed outstanding:

2015-05-24 14.55.15

My new $27 insulated water bottles.  I had filled them with ice water at 4am.  At 4PM one of them still had ice.  (Only because I hadn’t drank it dry like I did the first one!)  Might have to invest in a few more of these.  They lived up to their claims of keeping the cold stuff cold!