Monday, June 4, 2012

Weekend Recap Part II: Hot and Hilly Riding (a week late)

I began this post a week ago, after my Memorial Day bike ride with my dad. This was intended as Part II to the special surprise party post. But I have been a crazy person ever since, with barely a minute to relax, even on the weekend, so it has yet to be finished and published. I'm going to go ahead and post what I have from last week and I'm sorry for the delay.

Having stayed up past 3AM at my party on Sunday night, I caused my bike ride with my dad to start way later than we'd hoped. Our plan was to drive to Poolesville, MD and, from there, ride 53 miles to, up, and around Sugarloaf Mountain. My mom would follow a few hours after us in the car and ride her bike 15 miles to a town near the end of our ride and then ride the last 15 with us.

My dad and I didn't set out until a little before noon and rode the first 13 miles to the mountain without stopping much but once to pee and once for water. It was clear in the first mile that this ride was going to be hilly. For me, that was great because I love the challenge and excitement of a hill, both up and down. Flat terrain is much more boring. For my dad, though, they were somewhat of a wake-up-call that he hasn't been training as much as he should and that he needs to get himself in gear. When we got to the base of the mountain, he laid down in the grass while I took some pictures and searched for water. We ate some trail mix and began our ascent.

It is only about a mile and a half up the mountain and there are a lot of switchbacks but you are climbing steadily, and pretty steeply at some points, so there isn't any relief. Aside from the presence of cars trying to pass us on this narrow mountain road, I loved the ride up. We got to the top and took a peak at both the east and west views. It was pretty sweet but nothing that my camera, or my lacking photography skills, could capture.

The ride down the mountain was quick and fun. We continued on our journey, up and down many a hill, and came to a stop atop one long and steady one, at which point my dad claimed to be getting the chills. This happens to me sometimes when I'm pushing really hard on a run but I assume that it's not exactly a good sign, especially on a 100 degree day. We shared a gu, rested a while, and continued on. 

We rode about 6 more miles and then checked out our map. We found a shortcut that looked like it would cut 3-5 miles off the ride so we took it. The road that we turned on to avoid our planned route took us down a series of long hills into a deep valley. We got to the bottom and began riding on a gravel road alongside a creek. And we all know that what goes down must come up. It turned out that the hills out of the valley were much shorter than the ones in but they were much, much steeper. The first was pretty long and entirely gravel. I rode up it, mostly because I'm stubborn, and was going so slowly on the gravel that I thought I might skid and topple over many times. At the top of that hill there was a little downhill and then a sudden, extremely steep climb on pavement.

We met back up with our route and, scared by our shortness of water, pulled over as soon as we saw a hose on the side of a farmhouse. We knocked on the door and, when nobody answered, we decided that the safe thing to do was fill up our water bottles in their yard anyway.

The next stretch was entirely in the beating sun, on dark pavement. The thermometer on my bike computer reached 102 degrees but, strangely, I never felt overheated. We passed a cow pasture with many adorable calves and my dad yelled "Shade!", pulling over in a grassy, shady area ahead. He was suffering from heat exhaustion and I began to worry about him. His mouth started to turn white so he drank a lot of water, took a 20-30 minute nap, and seemed ready to ride again. We decided, again, to cut about five miles off of our ride and take the next road straight over to Route 28. When we got there, we sat in more, less pleasant shade and waited for my mom to ride in from the town she'd been waiting in. She showed up with sandwiches and bottles of gatorade. My dad claimed to feel instantly better after chugging some of the electolyte-filled liquid.

That is where I left off last week. The last 12 or so miles were fine. We were re-fueled and also cooler. Here is what the overall elevation looked like for the day.

But this ride was quite the wake-up call. For my dad, it made apparent how much more he should have trained. For me, it brought to light how mentally unprepared I might be for the trip. It made me realize how wholly excited I've been for the ride without really grasping how intense and hard it will be. Even though it wasn't too hard for me physically, it was hard for me to watch my dad's frustration at his lack of training. It was hard when I got really bad stomach cramps from a probably combination of hunger and dehydration and had no option but to keep sitting on a bike seat and to keep riding in the sun. It was hard to be scared, when my dad got so hot and de-hydrated that his mouth turned white, with the knowledge that we were very much in the middle of nowhere.

But at the same time, this ride was beautiful and fulfilling. The tough times on a bike ride are truly what make it special. It felt like we could be on day 1 of our cross country ride and I know with certainty that, had we been, we would have been wholly capable of cleaning off, setting up camp, cooking over a campfire, sleeping soundly, and waking up the next day to do it all over again. As painful and as tiresome as our ride may be some days, especially early on in the journey, I say with confidence, that it will be so worth ever minute. I am scared, overwhelmed, and somewhat in disbelief at the trip's proximity, but I am also unbelievably thrilled that, ten days from now, I'll be about ready to pass out after the very first long day of biking on my journey across America.


  1. Beautiful photos! I can't believe your ride is almost here!! Yay!
    Check the blog when you have a spare nanosecond--I nominated you for a blog award. :)

  2. I hope that your dad is alright! I'm glad this ride helped you both realize some things about the upcoming ride.

    I'm very excited for you!