"Ya rotten buzzard!" I yelled after the passing motorcyclist. And, yes, I realize my comment made no sense, but after an hour and a half of trying to force my way through a headwind, and then launching a climb up a canyon road with the same headwind, there wasn’t a whole lot making sense.
"You take this road, and it’s mostly flat for about ten miles," my father-in-law had said. "Then you turn up through this canyon, and it’s a fairly gradual climb. Then you come up here, and it’s rolling hills to here followed by a twisty ten-mile descent here–I know that street’s named Clodfelter–and that’ll lead you back to the house. And it actually works out to about 40-something miles–you’ll see." This was the legendary 50-mile bike ride my brothers-in-law all remembered from their boyscout days in Tri-Cities, Washington. For them, it had taken three hours just to get to the canyon climb, and even more hours to make it home.
After getting on the road, I could understand why–a headwind was shooting through the entire valley like a herd of invisible sheep charging the opposite direction. The first ten miles kept me to about 15 mph. I enjoyed a momentary respite as I turned up the canyon, but then that gradient (which was gradual as promised) combined with the same headwind to grind me into the pavement. But the truth is that I wasn’t even sure I was in the right place. My father-in-law, the former scoutmaster, had printed off a Yahoo map and given me some pretty straightforward directions, but all of the off-shooting roads had left me a little confused. I’d ridden by Badger Canyon Road, thinking it was the way to go, only to find gravel after the initial climb (I had the road bike there, ya know). But I figured as long as I was out, I might as well ride, so I kept going and somehow stumbled onto the right roads.
So there I was, midway up the nastiest climb of the day, on some road whose name starts with a ‘W,’ pinned between a guardrail and a bullet bike, unable to hear my own gears shift over the wind, and struggling to keep my speed above 10 mph. I finally crawled to the top and began clawing my way through the rolling hills expecting thirty more miles of distance, when my saving grace appeared after only 30 miles–Clodfelter Road.
Not only was it comforting to realize that I was in the right place, but it also meant that I had only 10-15 more miles to go. The road narrowed as I actually passed another cyclist going the opposite direction. "Hey! How’s it going?!" I yelled cheerfully to no response–but of course he was riding into the headwind now so he probably couldn’t hear me anyway.
To my shock and amazement, the descent brought a whole new adventure with it. The wind was blowing back and forth as a crosswind, so I eased on and off the brakes the whole way down–afraid I’d get blown into some oncoming dumptruck. I got passed by a joyriding Porche owner and then chased by a couple of dogs that managed 25 mph. Fast dogs scare me.
Near the bottom of the descent, I spotted what appeared to be an extremely steep side road. Realizing I was coming up short on mileage for the ride, I veered off and found the road amazingly easy to climb. At the top, some poor dog, obviously at the end of its rope, charged out in front of my wheel in a suicide attempt. It’s a good thing the owner was there to pull it back inside and give it the necessary therapy. When I turned around to descend the side road, I figured I’d take my hands off the brakes and the pedals and find out how hard the wind had blown me up the road. Yeah, I descended at 13 mph if that tells you anything.
Rolling back into town, I had one last climb up to my in-laws’ house, and to my shock it had only been two hours and fifteen minutes. I charged up the last road, coasted into the garage, hopped off the bike and burst in the door to announce to my father-in-law how quickly I’d ridden the route.
"You must’ve gotten lost …"
P.S. I came across another cycling blog not that long ago that y’all might find interesting: Bike Drool