Sunday, July 10, 2011

Should've Read the Fine Print

I sit here at my desk with an ice pack alternating between my left knee and my right.  I've probably downed about a gallon of fluids while sitting here.  How did this come about?  It seemed to make reasonable sense at the time....

I spent most of the day yesterday doing some painting on the exterior of my house.  I hate house painting but it's pretty easy to do.  You just have to be patient and it eventually gets done.  I finished my little paint project after breakfast this morning and decided to reward myself with a bike ride in the country.. I grabbed my copy of The Washington Area Bicycling Atlas and selected a ride in Virginia wine country.  The ride starts in the town of Marshall, heads southeast to Waterloo, then returns through the towns of Orleans, Jerry's Shop, Hume, Leeds, Upperville, and Rectortown.  I had done this ride 10 or 15 years ago and seemed to recall enjoying it.  I glanced at the description and saw the words "rolling hills" and the 55 mile distance and thought, "Perfect".

When I started out in Marshall, the heat was pretty nasty.  No worries.  I took off and immediately made a wrong turn.  Hey, it's an old atlas; the route numbers have changed. Really.

In short order I was on back country roads, bombing along at a brisk pace. The hills were modest; the heat was hottest.  I started to take pictures of the countryside, but I realized that I'd never finish if I shot everything that was picturesque.

For the first ten miles or so, I thought "Some of these hills aren't exactly 'rolling.'" I slogged up the hills and enjoyed the breeze from the ride down the other side. At about 20 miles, I stopped for food and water in Orleans.  I bought a biscuit with a slice of ham in it.  Dang was it salty!  On a normal day, I think it would have been inedible but on a hot day like this one, it tasted wonderful.   I re-loaded my water bottles and hit the road. 35 miles to go.

I was feeling my oats.  Cruising along and spotting one oddity after the next:: a young longhorn cow, a sign for alpacas, and vineyards to name a few.  I could see the Blue Ridge Mountains looming over me to the west.  How pretty.  Good thing I don't have to climb those babies. Then came mile 38.

Mile 38 started like most of the rollers I had been riding but it kept going up. Around a curve to the right - UP. Around a curve to the left - UP. Steeper and steeper. By the time I reached the top of this beast my throat was burning, my head was on fire, and my knees were screaming at me.  Only after the ride did I see the fine print:: "rolling hills with a few steep climbs."  That would be mile 38 right there.  It was still pretty, except I was looking straight at the pavement in front of me.  Mile 38 looked a lot like pavement to me.  Really scenic pavement as pavements go.

Truth be told, before and after mile 38, there was plenty of scenery to take my mind off the heat. 

After about five minutes I recovered from Mile 38.  The slalom down to I-66 was fun to be sure.  Then the long slog back up past Sky Meadows State Park began.  Yes, mile 41 was another monster. Somehow, I had the climbing rhythm thing down now and took my time riding up beast no. 2. 

The next five miles were on major highways.  These thankfully had smooth pavement and, in the case of US 50, a nice tailwind.  I reached the town of Upperville all but out of water.  I spotted an elderly woman watering some flowers in front of the fire station. She kindly filled up my bottles and wished me well. Angels do exist.

The last ten miles were more to my liking. No more monster climbs.  At one point I spotted what looked like a dog in the shadows on the left side of the road.  As I approached, the dog spread its wings, lifted it red head and took off, just a few feet ahead of my moving bike.  It was a vulture. Ugly.

I had no plans to be his next meal so I got down to business and polished off the last few miles.  When I was finished I had racked up 56 hard-earned miles.  Next weekend I'm heading to West Virginia. In a car.

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