Thursday, July 19, 2007

Tour de la Campagne--Stage 2

Thursday, July 5

6h45: I am amazed that I’m awake now. I set my alarm for 7am, and I figured I’d have to drag my ass out of bed. Instead, I’m totally up and ready to go.

I’m not as sore now as I was at the end of the day yesterday. There are several reasons for this, I think. One was the long, hot shower I took after I got here. Just being able to warm up after having been cold and wet on the road for so long did a lot to relax me. Another was the walk I took to go down to find something to eat (there’s a nice little eatery tucked away behind the man on the bench). It helped to loosen up those parts of my body that were all tight from the ride. Then there were the nachos. Can I just say that there is nothing like the perfect food to satisfy a craving when you are ravenous? The nachos came on a plate the size of my bike piled high with chicken, beans, veggies and cheese. I could have done without the cheese, but I was in no mental state to pick it off just to save a few calories. I know I’ll burn through them today. Finally, a little Advil® took the edge off and allowed me to sleep after I’d done some chores.

I made it back to my hotel room with plenty of food for today’s ride, and I set straight away to trying to fit it into the limited space I have in my pack. It helps that I have pockets in the back of my jersey. There are three big pockets back there that can hold a lot of stuff. I keep my mp3 player in the center pocket, along with my phone (when I need to have it out). I put my maps, in the one on my left, where I can get at them most easily. The one on the right holds Power Bars and my handkerchief.

Everything fits where it needs to, but the pack is now heavier than it was yesterday. I decide not to wear it on my waist today, but to attach it to the aero bars on the front of my bike. I’ve experimented with this during training rides. I know it fits there, but this is not an ideal situation. If the pack is not on my body, it won’t put pressure on my hips and back, but I lose the ability to use my aero bars as a result. It’s not what you think. I do use the bars to tuck in and reduce wind resistance when I’m moving fast (an example of this is at right), but they are far more important to me as pain relief. I rely on them to take pressure off my upper back, shoulders and arms when they get tired, and to allow my body to shift in the saddle (you sit on different parts in a tuck than you do otherwise). Not being able to use them means that I will not be able to shift around as much, and I will get sore faster. It’s a decision based on how my hips and lower back feel today. The Advil helped last night, but I can really feel the pain deep this morning. I’m reluctant to abuse them more at such an early point in the journey. I’ll take the chance that my upper body will absorb everything, and the lower parts will appreciate the day’s rest.

Before I went to bed, I repaired the puncture in the tube I replaced. It took 10 minutes and I did it while watching fireworks on TV (sadly, there were none to be seen locally because of the rain). I also made sure my clothes--all of them--were well on the way to drying. My shorts, especially, need to be dry. Riding shorts that are wet on the inside will chafe instantly, no matter what creams you put on your parts.

8h30: It’s still raining as I head down to avail myself of some continental breakfast. The Weather Channel says it’s supposed to clear up soon. I think I’ll wait a bit, to see if it does. While I’m waiting, I’ll share with you some photos of Great Barrington.

This is the road into town. This picture is not noteworthy for anything except to show you the road shoulder. It looks nice and wide, doesn’t it? Wide enough for a car to pass a bike? I thought so, too. Then why did the driver last night whiz by me so close I could have touched him and HONK HIS HORN?

Road riding is filled with stuff like that. Drivers in this country simply don’t have an understanding of what that kind of behavior does to cyclists. I consider myself a veteran cyclist, but when someone blows their horn right next to me as they pass, I goddamn near jump out of my skin. I know less experienced cyclists who have crashed as a result of such things. Somewhere along the line, drivers have forgotten (did they ever learn it?) that they must have respect and attention for everything and everyone around them. We need to start educating people to do better. I am writing this to encourage you to spread the word, and to act by example. Give cyclists (and everyone else on the roads) space and lay off the fucking horn!

To be fair, it’s not all the fault of drivers. Cyclists, too, have forgotten their own obligations to road safety. I see cyclists routinely riding against the flow of traffic or darting across streets, not signalling or stopping at lights and not looking to see what cars are doing. I say it to you now: If you are riding a bicycle, you will lose every interaction you have with a car. Your best defense, your only defense, is to be as predictable as possible. Obey the rules of the road, and teach others by example.

This next photo (above) is for Fran. It’s St. James Episcopal Church, named (I must assume) for the same saint as the Episcopal church in my town. It’s quite majestic, and I thought I would share it with her because she likes beautiful buildings.

The photo below demonstrates what my pack looks like when installed on top of my aero bars. Can you see why I chose to put it there? It’s heavier than it looks. The gallery I’m parked in front of had some nice pieces on the walls. Mostly modern and probably overpriced, but nice to look at.


8h30: The rain has stopped. I decide to head out after a short walk to loosen up my muscles. I’ve had breakfast: A bagel with cream cheese, a banana and Gatorade. I know. It’s not my first choice either. The thing about Gatorade, though, is that it does an excellent job of replacing electrolytes lost through sweat. I need to replenish them regularly if I’m to avoid exhaustion or, worse, heat stroke. This wasn’t an issue yesterday, but it will definitely come into play as the temperature rises today and the sun breaks through the clouds.

I mount up and set off. It takes a minute for my legs to quit snivelling, but soon my cadence is up and I’m cruising along quite nicely. The roads are wet at first, but they dry quickly so I’m able to take advantage of the generally downhill grade of the road. Simply Red is playing on my mp3 player. It’s an exquisite morning!


9h05 (9 miles/42km//81 miles/142km total): I stop at the top of this hill to take things in for a moment. You can’t see it in the photo, but the fog disappears just off the top edge to reveal a mountain that pokes up another 500 ft/150m. The air is cool and heavy. There’s only the smallest hint of a breeze, but there is the promise of warmth held in it. The trees and plants along the edge of the road give off a cacophony of sweet and earthy smells, but there’s also the weighty aroma of asphalt serving as an undertone. The birds are busy chirping and calling back and forth, and something small is scurrying about just out of view in the underbrush. There’s a truck rumbling up the hill behind me, it’s engine bearing down as it sets to pushing its payload up the incline.

I wait for it to pass before setting off. A truck is broad and boxy, and is an excellent windbreak. If I stay about a car length behind it and just off to its side as it goes down the hill, I will get pulled along by the wake it produces in the air. This process, called drafting, is a great way to conserve effort because it removes the single biggest contributing factor to work in distance cycling: Wind resistance. The more you can make air work for you, the less you have to work to move the bike forward. It sort of works like surfing. If you can catch the wave just right, you can go a long way. Unfortunately, trucks go much faster down hills than bicycles, even racing bicycles, can so it’s not possible to draft for long. Even so, I’ll take every bit of help I can get.

As it turns out, I don’t make it down to the bottom of this hill before I see this sign.

I decide to stop and have the bike strike a pose. One state down, two to go.


9h25 (12 miles/19km//84 miles/135km total): My planned route takes me along a country road shortcut around the town of Hillsdale (in the distance in the photo, left). I debated whether to do this because one can never know what the road will be like. It could be really hilly, or the pavement could turn to dirt or be of a condition that otherwise makes it not suitable for skinny road bike tires. This choice turned out to be a great one. The road was in great condition, and it was quiet. There were beautiful farms along it and the views, as you can see from the photo, were were truly eye-catching. Relegated to the position of “nice afterthought” was the fact that this shortcut shaved two miles off my trip.


9h50 (16 miles/26km//88 miles/142km total): I make my next scheduled stop here, at the town of Copake. Please note the quaint clock located at the main intersection. I’m making decent time. If the roads stay as they are, I could be in Kingston by 2pm. That’d be nice! I’d have time to go exploring. After all, I’ve never been to Kingston. It might be a wonderful place!


10h15 (19 miles/31km//91 miles/147km total): I left Copake about 10 minutes ago, but forgot to look for a bathroom. It always pays to take the call to nature when you’re cycling because you never know how you’ll deal with it if you’re on the road when she calls. I’m faced with such a problem now. It’s not that I mind doing my business in the trees. It’s that there is no guarantee that one will find any that aren’t part of someone’s front yard. And let’s take a moment to remind everyone of an essential piece of wisdom from the saddle of distance cyclists everywhere: Bring your own tp. You will never regret the small amount of space it takes up.

Hey! There are some trees over there!


11h30 (30 miles/48km//102 miles/164km total: I almost missed this turn. The sign was partially hidden, as you can see, and I was looking down when I came upon it. Had I not looked up and seen that there was another sign facing the turn, I would have blown right by it. A lucky break! Speaking of breaks, I should take one. It’s about time for lunch.


13h20 (46 miles/74km//118 miles/190km total): I’ve pedaled straight since lunch and moved along at a nice, sibilant clip. The wind has picked up (see flag, right), but heavy traffic has helped mitigate that somewhat. I stop at the top of the Kingston Bridge to snap this pic (below, left). That’s the Hudson River. I’ve made it to the Hudson, people! I’m feeling pretty proud of myself right about now, then I remember that I haven’t been able to check in with Suzanne since noon. We had standing plans for me to call at 12pm and at 7pm, just to confirm I’m ok. There’s a reason behind this that some of you know. Perhaps I’ll post it sometime. Anyway, I tried calling her when I stopped for lunch, but there was no signal. I have tried every 5 miles or so after that, but with no better luck. It’s 1h30 now, and she’s probably freaking out. I’ll scoot to the other side of the river and try again from there. There’s a little rest area I can get to, I think. Before I go, though, I want to show you these mountains (below). Can you see them there in the distance? Yeah, those. That’s tomorrow’s fun. I ride right into those. Nice!


13:40 (not much farther than last time): I’ve arrived in Kingston, but I have to stop to deal with this.

Does everyone remember what this is a picture of? See Stage 1 for the answer. This time, it’s on the back tire. This is a bigger pain than simply changing the front because it’s greasier, but also because remounting the tire requires stretching the frame a little. This is a job that properly requires three hands, but I’m able to do it with two and several choice words to the cycling gods. I was fortunate that this happened in front a beautiful house with a small bench in the front yard. I was able to sit quite comfortably in the shade while I worked! I left the homeowners a small note of thanks.

I have a listing of cycle shops in the area, and one is supposed to be right close by. I think I’ll head over there to see if I can get another new tube. I’ve used the one new spare I brought with me, but with this flat, I’ll only have patched tires. These are perfectly good, you should understand, but I’d just feel more comfortable knowing I had an unrepaired safety net.

15h45 (61 miles/98km//143 miles/230km total): I rode over to where the bike shop was supposed to be, but it appears that they’re now a bunch of Asian women doing manicures and tanning. Who’d have guessed? I wonder for a second if I should work on my rather stark tan lines, since I’m here. I’ll never be able to wear sandals or sleeveless shirts until they fade, otherwise!

The tanning bed rejected, I head to the Sky Top motel, just west of town. It’s name, apparently, comes from its location at the top of this extreme hill (see right). The photo does not do this climb justice. It’s straight up! Just what I need at the end of a day’s ride.

After I check in and do laundry (see Stage 1), I get into street clothes to search for provisions and find pasta. I noticed as I was climbing up to the motel that the clouds coming over the mountains to the west were looking dark and ominous. I’m glad I beat them!
I’m sitting at a country diner enjoying a heaping bowl of linguine augustino as the clouds let loose. Again, the picture doesn’t quite do this torrent justice. The wind is howling outside and the rain is going horizontal. I’ll have to walk home in that eventually, but that’s much better than having to ride in it. I’ll just linger over this pasta a while, maybe get some dessert, too. I left my raincoat strapped to my pack. Does anyone here have an umbrella? How about a large garbage bag?

1 comment:

Kizz said...

There should be a story about checking in twice a day at specified times? You were traveling alone by a mode of transportation that can be unsafe with no one close by to rescue you. Seems like just good common sense to me.