Monday, August 6, 2007

Tour de la Campagne--Stage 3

Friday, July 6

7h30: It’s a gorgeous morning, filled with sun and promise! I can’t believe I’m in as good a mood as this, given what’s ahead. Maybe it's that special New York air. Maybe it's that special blend of "continental breakfast" coffee. Maybe I’m just excited because I’ve worked myself up into a nice lather over the mountains I'm climbing today. In any event, I’m in good spirits and rarin' to go. I patched the flat from yesterday before I grabbed some of the aforementioned "continental" breakfast. I’ll pack up in just a second.

Today is the day Wifeness and the girls catch up to me. They’re supposed to leave Wayfarer House around noon with Auntie Alex (who is coming on vacation with us, the fricking weirdo). My guess is that they’ll find me somewhere around 3pm. I wonder where that will be?

A review of the map confirms that the directions for the first part of this stage are as simple as they can be. Route 28 West to Pine Hill. I think the sign in the background says “34 miles”. That’s 34 miles straight up into the mountains at 4%. Pfft! I got that. You like this show of confidence? It’s masking a lot of inadequacies right now.

8h30: I’m on the road and the hill starts out pretty much as soon as I hit the highway. Fortunately, the road is wide and well paved, with a broad shoulder and plenty of visibility. It’s also a consistent uphill grade, so I can settle back into the seat and just focus on the climbing. It’s helpful when you can just withdraw into yourself and block out everything but the act of pushing and pulling the pedals. It makes the time pass by as smoothly (and as mindlessly) as it can.

I have a scenic detour built into this stage: A short (8-mile) trip around Ashokan Reservoir, one of the many reservoirs in this part of the state that supply water to New York City. It’s only 4 miles up the road. I may pay for it later, but I’m feeling really good, so I think I'll take it.

The road up to the reservoir is perfectly tranquil. There are occasional houses here, but I can see more seasonal camps tucked back just off the road down little used rutted vehicle paths. I can appreciate why someone would want to come up here. It’s beautiful! I come upon the spillway for the reservoir in just a couple of miles (see photo, right). That mountain in the distance (below) is Pine Hill, I think. Looks tall enough, doesn’t it?

I little further on, I come to a bridge that crosses the reservoir. It’s a picturesque spot to stop, so I enjoy a snack and take in the view (pic at end of post).

It’s only a mile or two back to Route 28, where the climbing resumes.

10h15 (25 miles/40km//168 miles/270km total): I’m feeling tired. I’ve been climbing for almost two hours, so that could certainly be part of the equation, but it feels more like I’m in need of some electrolytes. I wonder when I’ll come across someplace that sells Gatorade? Ah! Here’s something.

Well, it’s not the Four Seasons or anything, but there’s a vending machine just behind that car on the left. That works!

11h35 (36 miles/58km//179 miles/288km total): Buoyed by my overpriced energy drink, I’ve managed to make it to Pine Hill. I’ve been told that I’m not done climbing yet, though. There’s a little bit more before I’ve reached the high point of the road.

12h00: There it is.

This picture doesn’t really show you just how steep it is. Hold on…

There! That’s about right. The lady I spoke to a couple of miles ago says this is the last section. Conquer this, and it’s (fairly) smooth sailing from here to Margaretville. Fine. Bring it, then.

12h20: Well, now, I don’t mind saying that this part of the climb certainly lived up to the hype. It was steeeeeeeep and about .9mi/1.6km. I also don’t mind saying that I totally kicked its ass! Boo-yah! That was empowering! It also drained me of about half my body’s fluid reserves. I’ll just stop here and drink six gallons of water. It has not escaped my notice that "The Final Countdown" by Asia is playing on mp3.

12h35 (49 miles/79km//192 miles/309km total): I’ve just passed Margaretville. I have a while to go before I turn onto the road that takes me to Roscoe, where we’ll be staying for the night. I could choose to ride all the way to Hancock (my scheduled end point), but that would put my mileage total up over 100 for the day. I’m just not sure I want to abuse myself to that degree with 200 miles still to go. Going straight to Roscoe is half the distance, and it would save the van an extra trip up to Hancock to drop me off to start. I can just leave from Roscoe in the morning.

One of those “scattered” afternoon thunderstorms hit just a moment ago. The picture I took after it passed doesn’t show it, but the rain evaporating off the hot asphalt created fog like conditions that were simply incongruous with a bright, sunny day. It was also strange because it was only from about 20 feet down to the road. The fog was thick, though, and I was forced to take a break for a good 30 minutes to allow the visibility to improve. I've taken off my shoes and I'm walking around to keep my legs loose. I really don't want them to turn to cement at this point!

15h35 (63 miles/101km//206 miles/332km total): Wifeness’ red van just passed me! It took a little longer than I thought it would for us to meet, but I’m excited that they’ve found me. I've missed them! Here are my kids expressing their excitement.

So much strangeness!

It’s starting to rain again. Wifeness backtracked to ask me if I just want to put the bike on the back and ride to the hotel in the van. It’s a tempting offer, but I really don’t. I don’t relish getting soaked again, but I really want to ride the whole way. I’ll feel somehow like I cheated myself of the honor if I don’t and it’s important for me to be able to say at the end that I did it all. No, I’ll bike it, thanks. We decide to meet up at the intersection to the road to Roscoe. It’s probably a dozen miles out. I’d better get moving. This rain isn’t going to make it pass any faster.

15h35 (70 miles/113km//213 miles/343km total): What the crap! I’m at the meeting point where we would turn to go to Roscoe, but the road is closed! There’s no indication as to why, and I’m immediately tempted just to ride it. The thing is, though, that the van can’t follow me. They have to drive all the way out to Hancock and cut back--35 miles or more. What’s more, if I get down the road and discover that it is, in fact, impassible, I’d have to backtrack and then do those 35+ miles. That’d put my mileage at over 115 for the day if I made a bad choice, and it’s already nearly 5pm. I’m not sure I’d finish the long mileage before dark if I had to do ride it, and I’m not well equipped for riding in the dark. I’m just not willing to take the risk. Bitterly, I put my bike on the back of the van, peel out of my wet, smelly riding clothes, change into something dry and climb in. I’ll end up leaving from Roscoe in the morning, and take it as equivalent mileage.

All told, this was a great day! I made it through the mountains in good form and, except for the road closure, had no issues to contend with that weren’t related to climbing. I didn’t even have to deal with a flat! I’m feeling good about my chances to make it the rest of the way. I won’t have to carry a lot of heavy gear, starting tomorrow, and I should be descending out of the mountains. Yay! Downhills are nice!

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