Day Two: I checked out of the Rugged Country Lodge around 6:30. Their continental breakfast would be available at 7:00, but I was anxious to get riding. I ate a well-bruised banana that I saved from Saturday. This was probably better than the Egg McWildhorse John had.
The route began with a choice: a 25-mile straight shot up Bingham Road to the Bar-M ranch, or a 49-mile, “let’s go in the opposite direction and see what’s there!” jaunt.
Taking the short route meant I’d get to the Bar-M around 10 a.m. whereas the long route meant I’d arrive around lunchtime, but I’d get to explore the area northeast of town. My knee was killing me with every step, a sign that I overdid the previous day’s effort, but in the saddle, the pain was manageable. Since every time I’ve opted for the longer route, I’ve been glad I did, and Monday’s “Worst case scenario” was a 25-mile slight downhill, I pressed forward … into the first headwind. Unlike Saturday, today was overcast, cooler than forecast, and breezy.
The climbs were shallow enough, but with no landmarks or vegetation to block wind, every direction was a headwind. We went west, and there was a headwind. We went northeast, there was a quartering headwind. Northbound, the quartering headwind came from the other side. Finally, turning east on the Athena-Holdman Highway, we had a tailwind. This and the rollers made for brisk rhythm until the rest stop at the bottom of the hill. Wah!
There was another set of rollers after the stop. These were harder on a full stomach and without the previous rollers’ momentum to get a rhythm. Once we turned south, the scenery improved a lot. Above/right, is the delicious descent on Spring Hollow Road.
Photo by John Calnan
And speaking of delicious, there was a rest stop situated where the 49-mile route joins the 25-mile route. Its theme, Pootenanny Plantation, included folks dressed in historical southern accoutrement, a couple of dogs, a banjo player and snacks like beef jerky and warm grits. Grits seasoned with cheddar cheese and salsa! Served warm!
The profile for the rest of the ride evokes a psychological sense of dread because it looks like it’s all uphill. It is, but on close inspection of the axis, and some mental arithmetic, you realize it’s a scant one percent. The excitement of being close to the destination makes it an easy one percent.
I was coming around the corner a few miles before the ranch and saw four cattle in the middle of the road. Neither they nor I were sure what to make of all this. The large, pointy one seemed content to continue eating from the side. Another nervously ran in front of me. The little, furry guy on the left stared at me as if he was about to say:
Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father [for your leather saddle]. Prepare to die.
Beth, the manager of the Bar M, greeted riders and gave the verbal dime tour. My priorities were to find a spot to set up my tent, shower, and eat lunch. There was a shower available poolside or, for $5, a separate one in the boarding house, alleged to have warm(er) water. This was my only disappointment of the Bar-M. Unlike the $0.50 showers at state park camp sites where you get three minutes of joyous hot water torrent, this was but a trickle. And the door wouldn’t lock. (I hung my sandal on the doorknob, but I still felt in a hurry to do my clean bidding.)
The timing shower was excellent because lunch (sandwich fixings and Polish potato bacon soup (Mmm…. Bacon)). Walking around wasn’t making my knee feel any better. I checked the massage schedule and was pleased to discover Mars had an one-hour slot available!
I don’t remember much about the massage except being summoned back to consciousness when someone poked their head in to ask, loudly, “is there an opening?” (Yo – the schedule is outside.)
Minor rant here, I don’t know WTF is up with people not being quieter. Seriously, I really don’t need to hear some dude yelling on his cell phone. I’m there to relax. Relax Please w-h-i-s-p-e-r, and I’ll return the favor.
The massage was great for relieving some of the kinks in my thigh and hands. It’s strange, though, when I first get up, I feel woozy. Mars was amused how easily I become “one with the massage table,” but noticed how noise averse I am. She also suggested I take up yoga or do some stretching because my ITBs are “like cables.” Yoga is something I’m revisiting.
Photo by John C
I enjoyed a dose of Billy Nichols’ singing cowboy songs and telling jokes, then went back to my tent to sit under the canopy of rustling trees doing puzzle books, counting leaves, and writing post cards. This is how I vacation: bike hard, eat well, indulge in a post-ride massage, and do puzzle books/write/doodle.
The evening cooled off much more than the weather forecast led me to pack for. I slept great for three hours, then had the camper’s equivalent of the Kobayashi Maru: I had to pee, but getting up would make me colder than I already was. The longer you refrain, the colder it gets, and the more you have to go. The more you need to go, the less you sleep. The less you sleep, the colder you feel. I lasted until 4am. I should have just gone when I first needed to.
The next morning — and “next morning” is misleading because I hadn’t slept soundly since 1am (moral: just get up and pee next time) — was too chilly for my shorts and a T-shirt. The cocoon I made with my blanket over my head, breathing back inside, was insufficient to keep me warm, so when the breakfast bell rang, I made a beeline for the lodge. I wolfed down some granola and coffee, then went back to pack up my stuff. It was very tempting to spend the next hour or so in the lodge, waiting for it to warm up. However, everyone else had that idea. With nowhere comfortable to sit, I hit the road.
On the way out, I ran into John, who asked if I was going to be doing Cabbage Hill Road, the “bonus climb.” I wasn’t because my knee was aching every time I walked around. But then he said there was some kind of “bonus” for those making it to the top. Hmmm…
When I got to the rest stop, the very enthusiastic lady at the rest stop offered hill-climbers a special energy bar. I happened to be standing next to them. I could go two miles, and the ride would be over. Or, I could attempt the 27-mile round trip up the hill. Blue pill, Red pill. I was feeling a better, with only a minor twinge.
Okaaaaay, it won’t hurt to see how far I’ll get up this thing, will it?
It was a gorgeous ride up. At the rest stop near Deadman’s Pass, they were giving riders a patch — John cleverly calls this a “Cabbage [hill] Patch” — for making it up. Photos were taken during the ceremony. The descent down the hill was even more fun in the “I have bugs in my teeth” from the grinning as I rode 24-40mph down the hill a dozen, serpentine miles. It felt great! I stopped in to thank the lady for the encouragement, then biked the remaining couple of miles to the cultural center. End of ride.
This event exceeded all of my expectations and is one I’d like to do again, schedule permitting. Its size (limited to 200-ish riders), the enthusiasm of the POW folks, the themed stops, and the general area are fantastic.
|CROC day 1||CROC days 2 + 3||Cabbage patch|