Well Saturday was a long, hot, adventurous cycling day. I had planned to ride a bit before the group ride at 7:30, but sleeping was nice so didn’t make it. Still had 80-100 miles to get in though, so I knew I’d end up extending the group ride. But when I got to the group ride start, I found there were not many people (like 3 of us) that planned to actually ride, and a few people had already ridden some and were just going to ride back to their start. A 20-30 mile fairly boring (Baseline Rd.) ride didn’t sound great, so I ended up joining another guy and doing GMR.
Now let me clarify that… I don’t mean riding GMR with him — he’s way stronger! But at least starting with him, and riding to the gate with him. GMR is a great local ride… going up GMR means about 8 or 8.5 miles of straight climbing (around 2500 ft elevation gain) on a section of road closed to cars. Not super steep, but definitely a tough, slow ride. Having done it only once before (and that time climbing the back), I knew it was going to basically kick my butt. But hey, it’s gorgeous and climbing practice is always good.
I didn’t have any definite plans past that, except that I would need to get in a decent number of more miles, so I knew not to take it too hard. We got to the climb, I said goodbye to Joe, and starting gliding my way up the mountain. I was fairly comfortable for much of the climb, and was feeling pretty good. I passed a few other bikers, and no one passed me, which is always a good feeling. I made it to the top of GMR (just over 3400 feet) and decided to keep climbing for a bit by heading out towards Baldy Village. I didn’t want to go all the way there, though. I decided that it would be nice to drop down East Fork (GMR’s backside) and ride the dam before heading back to the shop.
But what “not all the way there” meant kept changing. Started with 5 miles out, then turned to going as long as I didn’t drop below 3000 ft, and then became 10 miles. Soon the heat was kicking in, as none of the climbing sections of GMR or here had any shade, and it was HOT!! My skin was drenched, and it was humid enough that sweat just sorta stayed there. My HR started staying higher, and I was starting to get tired. This was about mile 25, but I thought it also meant the tough part of the ride would soon be behind me. Having never ridden here before, I knew it was a general trend to climbing, but wasn’t sure what to expect. Soon the 10 miles before turning became “10 miles or 4000 ft, whatever comes first” which then became “10 miles or 4200 ft, whichever comes first”. Realizing I was getting a bit too low on water, I did end up turning around at about 8 miles and just over 4200 ft.
On the way back to where GMR ends, there was mostly decents but a few moderate climbs. While on one of those climbs, I was on the edge of the right side of the road. It’s a windy road, and the parts past the top of GMR are open to traffic. I’d seen a number of motorcycles out enjoying the turns and swoops of the road to Baldy as well. As I’m almost at the curve, one comes flying around that curve towards me, taking it so wide that it is also on the same edge of the road I am! He sees me, and swerves hard… fishtails a bit in the center of the road beside me, and then regains balance and continues on his way. A bit shaken, I continue. I had pictured getting hit, or riding off the edge of the road (where there was little room before a drop)… Sometimes I’m amazed at the invincible attitude. There could have been another motorcycle, or a car, or (as there was) a bike around that turn… and the rider just took all of it. At least it worked out ok…
I finished the 5ish miles back to the top of GMR, ready for the 5ish mile ride down East Fork, which would drop much of the hard-gained elevation; curvy, it requires more breaking than pedaling. As I turned to being that descent, a lady biker came up to me… “wait!” So I stopped, hoping she was ok. “There is a bear!” I looked, and yes, about 400 ft down the road a bear was playing. “I started down, and he was on the side of the road. I locked my brakes and almost wiped out I was so surprised!” Colleen (I think that was her name) told me. We sit there for a bit, wondering what to do. We could do a little climbing and then go down the way we came, but East Fork is what we’d been working for. At this point, the bear starts walking towards us, curious. He wasn’t big, but wasn’t a baby, either. A few motorcycles came by, and they rev’ed their engines trying to scare him off the road. Instead, he looked at them, still curious, and watched a bit and wandered toward them some. Then a really load engine rev’ed, and he jumped off the road and walked beside it and away from us. Soon out of site, we still weren’t sure what to do as we didn’t know where he had gone. Finally decided to just go for it, knowing that on a downhill, and with him interested in food more than anything, we would have a good chance of just sliding past as he was eating. So we went… and soon caught up to him. However, he was off the road checking out some bushes, so although he watched us ride by, he didn’t move at all. And I thanked him… and told him to have a good day. Yes, outloud. 🙂
That done, Colleen and I enjoyed the decent together, and ended up riding together for a bit. It was the first time she has seen a bear on that ride in 20 years of riding there! We stopped at a deli/grocery for a campsite on the mountain and refilled water and gatorade, running into Joe there. He had gone on a bit, but was just too hot. So he was heading back up and over and home, and we told him about the bear (turns out it was still there when he got to the top of the road).
Next Colleen and I rode down the canyon to the bike path that goes to the dam. I figured this wouldn’t be horrible, since I know it’s tough to ride up it. However, I didn’t count on such a strong headwind! Combined with more tired legs some of those sections felt tougher than the original climb, and it was supposed to be basically downhill (although had a few little climbs in it). But we made it, and went our separate ways at the bike path. I dropped down to the dam, and rode the dam itself twice so that I’d get back to the bike shop at exactly 80 miles. Here I was hurting though… I had about 20 miles to go, and my right arm cramped or had a nerve pinch or something. Not sure what. But it was not happy — holding handle bars, in aerobars, didn’t matter. Oh well, I thought. I’ve gotta get it done (a benefit to knowing the whole rest of the ride was just the way home). So constantly switching positions, and with some amount of headwind, I was on my way home.
And I made it. Got to the shop, where I fairly quickly removed my helmet and laid down on my back on the cool cement floor. It felt great! The GPS claimed 80.10 miles since I had left the shop that morning, and just under 6 hours of total time. My moving average was 13.8 mph. Not flying, but with over 8500 ft of total climbing I’ll take it! Its a comforting thought that Vineman is about 2600 ft of climbing the first loop (so just under that for the second)… so less than 5200 feet over 112 miles. So I should live through that since I lived through yesterday! I’d like to do that same ride a few more times over the next month to make Vineman’s hills seem easy… but we shall see what the weeks bring.