FRIDAY (July 14):
Today I turned a planned 78 mile ride into an even 100 miles.
No, Google Maps didn’t sabotage me and I didn’t get lost. Instead I wanted to take some of Saturday’s 121 mile ride and spread it over 2 days.
Friday started with breakfast in Dubois. We met Doug and Donna, 2 self supported riders on a cross country trek heading east to west. Their photo is included. We wish them the best of luck on their adventure.
I then started out on what was probably the best stretch of this entire ride. Over the first hour I averaged 22 mph. And no, it wasn’t all downhill. There was some elevation loss but there were also uphills. The surface was great and I guess there was some tail wind. Mostly, though, I was just feeling good. I caught another long distance rider who was at 17 mph over the same distance. Of course he may have been the only rider I have met who is older than I.
At my first rest I met Taylor who is also riding east to west. She is a college grad who is now studying to be a nurse. Turns out she had met Donna and Doug a couple thousand miles earlier and is staying in contact with them via text. The ever ubiquitous smart phone.
My conversation with Taylor touched on something that many have asked me, namely what do I think about during the hours on the bike. Interestingly, Taylor’s answer was similar to mine. Though we do think about various things, including some of at least a little consequence, most is focused on the ride. Setting interim goals to break the ride up into manageable parts, measuring the percentage of the day’s ride we have completed – for me often starting at 5%, to 10%, to 25%, to a third and then to 1/2 – and then counting down the miles to go. When I get to around 25 miles I tell myself that that is our typical Thursday ride. When I get down to 10 miles I tell myself that that is the distance from Danville to the finish so I am almost home. Then at 5 miles I tell myself that that is equivalent to being in Alamo and home is just around the corner.
I continued to push on, still feeling good but not flying as I had at the start. Partially because conditions weren’t quite as ideal and partially because I just can’t maintain that pace.
Because of this year’s and last year’s rides I realize how much of our country is comprised of desert. Some low as in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. And some of it high desert as in Oregon, Idaho and Wyoming. All of it desolate and, to my eyes, bleak. On this ride, though, there have not been the stretches of road that appear to extend into infinity as was the case last year.
When I got to Riverton i was feeling good so knew I would push on after a short rest in the shade on a sidewalk In town. It turns out that the next town, Shoshone, was 21 miles away which would leave about 100 miles for the next day so that was the obvious goal.
This was a ride where when I got down to 4 miles I did not feel like I was almost home. The heat – high 90’s – together with a pesky headwind, plus the previous 96 miles, had taken their toll and I was definitely looking forward to the end. However, with only 4 miles to go I had no doubt I would make Shoshone despite how I felt. As, of course, I did.
Ale got there not long after I did and we drove back to Riverton. We finished the day with an ok Italian dinner and I was too tired to post.
SATURDAY (July 15):
I knew today would be more difficult because at least the start of Friday was too perfect to be duplicated. Also, there was going to be a bit more climbing (1,952 feet yesterday, 2,550 today).
What I didn’t count on were the unrelenting and often quite brisk headwinds.
The ride started in Shoshone where I finished yesterday.
When I started Ale visited a hot spring a photo of which is included.
At 30 miles – through yet more desert – I was wiped. Not just legs, but more just total fatigue. I pulled over and laid down just off the highway and took a shot nap. Knowing that I had to get up sometime, I finally did. I had a caffeine laced gel, some water and pushed on.
10 miles later I reached the only store in the nearly 100 miles between Shoshone and Casper, the day’s goal. Just as I pulled up, Ale arrived. We went in for the air conditioning and to get something other than the cold water and ice that Ale had.
My fuel? An ice cream bar, a root beer, a coke and a coke to go that I drank in the truck before I took off.
I don’t know if it was the rests, all of the caffeine, the combination, or what, but I felt totally rejuvenated. Thank goodness because given how I felt before, it would have been a total suffer fest otherwise.
I felt good but the headwinds – those unforgiving headwinds – were a constant drain. I still felt good but the going was slow.
At around 54miles I saw a Hell’s Half Acre turnout. It is an impressive pit – small canyon? – into which Indians used to chase buffalo over the cliffs to their death. Large feasts no doubt followed.
I met Jim and Bill who, together with a third, were driving their classic Skyline Chevrolets from a rally. Bill told me about the annual week long ride across Iowa ride that he has participated in for 7 or so years. He said they get 15,000 riders and is the country’s largest bike riding event and towns along the route bid for the honor and all of the business it generates. I had heard of it but don’t remember its name (typical me). This year’s is the last week of July.
I set off again with the goal of meeting Alejandra at about 68 miles (actually we said 68.5 miles which was 1/2 way to the end) the rendezvous we set.
More desert. More heat. And more wind. With a road surface that wasn’t as good as yesterday and more rollers. But mostly more wind.
As I was approaching 68 miles I was looking forward to seeing my hero because my ice had melted, my water was warm, my mouth was dry and the wind and less than ideal road – a “C” – were taking their toll. I didn’t see the truck parked waiting for me and thought maybe it would be 70 miles. Then I saw what I thought was Ale approaching – the Suburban with its “coffin” on top (the name coined by Nick last year) – is fairly distinctive. I was right, it was. And I swear that she passed me to turn around just as my computer showed 68.5 miles. Amazing. But in many ways, Alejandra has been consistently amazing. The fact that she had not only cold water and ice but a cold water melon only confirmed that assessment.
The rest and refreshments were welcome and leaving wasn’t easy. But then I only had 29 miles to go. Barely more than a Thursday ride at home. Of course on Thursdays I haven’t ridden nearly 70 miles before starting the ride. Nor do we have winds like this at home. But I tried not to remind myself of any of this so I could focus on finishing.
I have done a number of centuries in the past, all with more climbing. But only once do I recall being quite as tired at the end. And I believe that one also included fighting winds. But that I had ridden 100 miles yesterday was also no doubt a factor.
I remember a lot of pedaling, some up hills and some down. Although down was easier, even down took effort because of the wind. There would be occasions when it would let up and I would accelerate only to have another gust hit me in the face and make me slow down and down shift. Yes, the ride included lots of slowing down and down shifts.
Well, Casper appeared. Finally. I turned off of 26 where I have been living lately into what was the steepest climb of the day on a road under construction with a restricted shoulder. I stopped to wait for a break in the traffic to get around a broken part of the road and made it to the top. And the climb was actually ok.
Here I have to thank Matt and Dee of Sharp Bicycle. Matt had mentioned an 11-32 cassette which offers a significantly lower gearing than my 11-28. However it is not available on DuraAce, which is what I have. On a subsequent visit Dee told me that an 11-30 is available on DuraAce and I ordered that. Though I haven’t needed that range at home even with steeper climbs, the cost was worth it because I have used it often on this trip. When going up any kind of a climb I shift lower than necessary to save my legs, not only for that climb but for the rest of the day and for the days to follow.
Well, finally the end came. I was actually feeling pretty good even if I was very glad to get out of the wind.
Or so I thought. After I carried my bike up 1 flight of stairs, I felt light headed and totally spent. And I have to tell you it wasn’t because my bike is heavy because it decidedly is not.
Well now I am into my rest day and I am enjoying it.
Until the next time. Hopefully our donation total will have increased some by then.