Sunday, June 22, 2014

Having my keister handed to me on summer solstice

Happy Summer Solstice!
If memory serves me correctly, it was Christopher Robin, from the Winnie the Pooh books, who said, "I think that we ought to eat all of our provisions now, so we shan't have so much to carry."  Well, Christopher Robin, in my book, was a goddamn genius!  This was one of the few thoughts my oxygen starved brain could handle while climbing hill after hill after hill on my summer solstice bike tour.  The other thought was, "this is the last time I'll let my husband plan a route without checking it first."

A couple months ago, my husband surprised me with a two day bike tour in the driftless area.  We'd done many tours, some long, some short, in what I consider to be one of the best places on earth to ride, so I was more than willing to set aside my dreams of riding in the Madison naked ride again this year.  We saw this as a quick chance to get away, explore some roads we hadn't been on and for me, do a bit more training for the Ten Thousand, which is quickly approaching.

Oh oh.  We're following all the Horribly Hilly markers.  This can't be good.

Pinnacle Road got it's name for a reason.  I briefly thought this gun could take my pain away.
Almost every road in the driftless area is this pretty.

Of course, the problem with my thinking was not about being able to handle the hills--I've done many of 'em and have survived, the distance--it was a measly 65 miles each day, or carrying weight on my touring bike--we'd done 8-10 day tours in the hills before.  The "problem" came in with climbing the biggest hills we could find for over 50 miles each day while carrying extra weight, being attacked by gnats and horse flies, not carrying enough water (we each carried 3 20 ouncers), and getting soaked the first day.  When we hit Blue Mound Trail early in the first day, after climbing Moen and JJ, I knew something was up.  After checking his cue sheet, I quickly realized he had put us on the Horribly Hilly route!  18% grade hills aren't big enough for you?  Let's throw one or two 20% graders in there too.

A luna moth in Governor Dodge park.
After making our way into Governor Dodge state park, to fill our water bottles and eat lunch, we were rewarded with one of my favorite roads, Norwegian Hollow.  Flying down through a mixed forest, I couldn't help but sing a very off key version of Norwegian Wood.  This abruptly came to a stop when we hit the incline on the other side.  One more thrilling descent down M and then a five mile climb up Q dropped us into Dodgville looking like wet rats from the rain.  What was on my mind?  Checking into the hotel for a shower?  Nope.  Beer stop!  Yes, I have fallen into the dark depths of needing a cold beer, while I shower, after a long ride--don't laugh, it's a "thing".  Better yet, we got to see our cycling friend, Chris, drive by in the fire truck!

This motel fridge must look familiar to any Wisconsin cyclist
*Warning, any woman who has delivered a child, will hate me for my next comparison.  Post shower, beer, food and nap, I felt like a new woman.  I consider these types of rides, ones I'm on the brink of falling to pieces on, kind of like childbirth.  Once it's over, and I've taken care of a few necessities, I completely forget the pain and suffering I just experienced and am ready to ride again.  And that we did...down to Bob's Bitchin' BBQ for a feast that could bring any meat eating cyclist to their knees.  The only issue arose when we had to climb another big hill, on a full stomach, to get back to the hotel.

My look of confusion as I crested another farm roller
Day two, we were told by our friend Chris, wouldn't have quite the hill punishment we had on day one since we were riding South of 18.  A few miles into it, and I thought "Huh?  Really?"  Big ass farm roller after big ass farm roller greeted us.  From the top of each climb, we could see what waited for us at the bottom of each descent.  At 8am, I found myself covered in a slurry of sunblock, sweat and gnats.  By 9am, the sweat started dripping off my arms, legs and nose.  By 10am, I was thinking that taking the limestone trail back wouldn't have been such a bad idea.  And by 11am, it was all business.  Head down, into the headwind, up another huge farm roller, no talking--just saving any energy I could to take swigs of water.  Yes, the views were amazing and I have now added three or four more "favorite" roads to my list, but I'm just not sure I was ready for the fatigue and pain--I never use chamois butter, but oh god what I would have done to get my hands on some!

This whole experience was wonderful but also an eye opener.  I consider myself a pretty strong climber, but have now realized why we didn't see any other tourers on this route.  The biggest eye opener is how much fluid I needed.  Never on my other driftless tours did I go through this much.  It makes me very nervous about the upcoming Ten Thousand which will have very similar conditions.  No, I won't be carrying the same amount of weight, but the climbing will match what we did, will be on gravel and will be very exposed to the sun.  Time to start asking myself a bunch of questions!

Want to know some of my favorite roads from the ride--even the painful ones?  Here they are!

Day 1:  Of course I love Zwettler, Blue Mounds Trail, Pinnacle, and Knutsen, but I had never experienced the joy of Erdman or Dyerson.  Norwegian Hollow near Gov. Dodge will also be one of my favorite roads--one not to miss.

Day 2:  Jacobson off of Y South of Dogeville was beautiful!  After that, I don't think any of the farm rollers disappointed in beauty or pain.  McGraw, Sunny Ridge, Twin Bridge, Birch Lake (this was amazing), Sylvan, Star Valley, Sandy Rock and Perry Center are all worth a visit.

Markhm rolling up and over hills covered in oak trees

Birch Lake Road

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