Thursday, July 8, 2010

Take me to the Duchess

Day 17. Riverton to Casper Wyoming. I have to admit, going into today, I was very intimidated by the task at hand. We were going to ride 120 miles (200 kms, or Toronto to Kingston). On top of that, we have just finished a gruelling 8 days of riding, which separated the first 8 days of riding with only one rest day. So, up until this morning, I had ridden 17 of the last 18 days for close to 1,300 miles (over 2,000kms). To make all of us even more wary, there was a 40 mile climb of 1,600 vertical feet in the middle of the ride. Lastly, the winds, which have been against us for the past 3 days, were forecast to be directly into us again today. So, after waking up at 4:45AM and eating breakfast at 5:30, I gave my head a shake and got going. You see, today I had the best incentive ever at the end of road.

My Duchess.

Today my Duchess flew out to Casper to see me. It's been 30 years since we've been away from each other this long and we both were anxious to see each other.

Riding 120 miles is no easy task for me. We've had one day which was 117 miles, so clearly I could do the miles. It's just that on that occasion, we had a huge tailwind, it was day 5 of the trip, and there was a big downhill portion. That was a hard ride, but somehow, given the circumstances, this seemed more challenging. We also had the report from tour leader Mike that last year, this day into Casper had fierce headwinds and saw some people end up being in the saddle for up to 14 hours. We had fierce headwinds 2 days ago, and they are soul-crushing to say the least. I wasn't dying to have a repeat of that today.

We were rolling by 6AM. It was a crisp, beautiful morning. Dry, sunny, and thankfully sans wind. We rode through a fairly insipid landscape of semi-arid Wyoming countryside. We did see a number of antelope and mule deer today, and one antelope jumped a fence and ran alongside one of the pacelines of the group at one point. Also, we rode through a weird area with strange silos (low silos) and odd looking buildings. I actually think they were silos for nuclear missiles, but maybe my imagination is getting the better of me. There were a few rolling hills but after what we've seen over the past few days and what we were facing today, we stayed focused on the task at hand. I'm not lying. Check out the video:

There was one exception though. We stopped at Hell's Half Acre. I thought the term "Hell's Half Acre" was just a saying, but as you can see from the pictures of the dramatic landscape, it really does exist. The Plains Indians used to stampede buffalo over the cliffs here in order to kill the buffalo for food, clothing, and what not. It was really a sight to see (the obligatory "pictures don't do it justice" caveat goes here). Check out the video:

Today was about the ride. We started off by doing 8 mile "pulls" in a paceline to get us to the first SAG stop. That's a really long pull at the front (like a half an hour) but given the mileage, a necessary survival step. After fueling up on snacks at the SAG we carried on. I don't even remember much about the ride as I sit here right now. It's all a dull blur. The endless miles can almost put you in trance, especially when the landscape isn't so rewarding to the eye. However, you can't fall into a trance or else you can get into serious trouble fast. There's highway traffic at 70 miles per hour zooming by. There's Wyoming's bad road shoulders and inconsistent but harsh "rumble strip" (the rumble strip is the grooves by the side of the road designed to wake you up if you fall asleep at the wheel).

Rumble strip – good for motorists; bad for cyclists. If you inadvertently ride over the rumble strip on your bike, you risk falling or going over the handlebars (the road grooves can be that severe). However, we did catch a break today. The winds were in our face (not always even directly) and were benign. Also, the temperature was quite moderate today. It was perfect weather for cycling.

We made it though. We got in around 2:30PM and my Duchess was waiting for me at the hotel. The Duchess will be very popular with all the riders since she brought snacks for our next SAG. I'll say one thing about these cyclists (myself included) – they can eat!

And, by the way, leg 2 is done. We're over a third of the way to New Hampshire. So far, so good. Just a nagging little pain in my thumb. Otherwise I'm in ship (or should I say bike) shape!

On a day like today, your mind wanders while you're knocking off the miles. Maybe it was because I was going to see my Duchess, but I started to think about my family. I do miss them terribly on this trip, perhaps more than I thought I would. I miss my Little TB's wicked sense of humor. I miss my Laurenofsky's quiet determination. I miss my boy's company and shared interest in all things stupid. And I miss my Duchess' company. The folks on this trip are fantastic, but nobody can replace your family, not even a cycling family.

FYI – the DQ Blizzard count is up:

3 flat tires
4 Snickers (including 1 King size Almond Mmmmmm)
5 Blizzards
2 milk shakes

Now on to today's mail:

Jo-Ann and Alan from Toronto write (about my trip to Boise): "Mazel tov, Mark. Today it was "Boise to man". Maybe your next blog will be a song!! Team Golbarth is rooting you on. All the best." Thanks guys. That's the last time I'll bet anybody refers to me as "Boise" ever again.

Dee from Toronto writes about Lara's accupuncture: (and please remember that Dee is Asian, so don't accuse me of being a racist!): "Acu-torture?! Wait until he prescibes ancient chinese meds to complement the treatments. More giggles from old chinee-man. At least it won't be caterpillar soup which I can say from experience is worse than gefilte fish. Wait..I like that dish. Hankering some har gows and sui mais?" Here's to more toe wiggling Lara!" You have no idea how bad I want dim sum, right now. When you're in Ameica, especially out West, you eat American.

Andrea from Toronto writes: "I've been enjoying reading your blog. Absolute joy shines through in every post! However I had trouble sympathizing with your complaints in Tuesday's blog about the cold weather. It's over 40 degrees here and I would swap it for 8 degrees in a heartbeat! Put a sweater on if your cold. Be safe." I heard about the hot weather back home. I guess the grass, or should I say the sagebrush, is always greener on the other side.

Rob from Toronto writes: "Keep pedaling, Mark! You inspired us to take the kids for a nice "hike" yesterday. We pumped our own legs up the Grouse Grind in Vancouver (4,000 ft). They call it "nature's stairmaster" with almost 3,000 steps up through the rugged terrain. We did it in an hour and 14 minutes (non-stop) - WITH the boys (who could have climbed another 1,000 feet, when we could not!). You're inspiring a nation!." If I'm inspiring a nation then I'm worried about that nation. Have a great trip.

Here are my Garmin stats for today:

This is Joe's blog:

1 comment:

  1. Hi Uncle Mark,
    We've been catching up on your blog from Paros Greece. Glad you've enjoyed your time with Auntie Sue, must be nice to see a loving face. We hope the long hours on the bike fly by quickly.
    Much love,
    Erin and Carrie