Sunday, July 31, 2011

Adirondack Loop Stories - Stick a Fork in Me, I'm Done

"That which does not kill me, makes me stronger." - Nietzsche -

After the ride I had just endured, this quote wasn't exactly running true in my head. I was hot - tired - hurting - discouraged. I was at the end of my rope and there was no ledge upon which to place my feet.

This was only the second day of my tour. I still had a lot more miles to cover and mountains to climb. As I lay there, I had no idea how I was going to do it. In fact, I wasn't even trying to figure it out. The only thing I could think about was how to get back to my car, which was parked some 110 miles away. I can honestly say, at this, the lowest point (emotionally) of my tour, if I could have surmised a way, I would have quit right then and there.

I glanced over at my bike and uttered aloud, "if you were a horse, I'd shoot you!".

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Adirondack Loop - Day 7

Warrensburg to Saratoga Springs. 42 miles.

I awoke on the final day of my ride with Saratoga Springs and my car some 40 miles away. Knowing I had a +10 hour car drive to get home, I resolved to get an early start. I was on the road and pedaling by 5:30 AM. The sun was behind the clouds and the temperatures had abated a bit since the day before. These combined to make for pleasant riding conditions.

Reviewing the ride profile I concluded that today's ride would be relatively flat. For 6 days I had been riding up and down, what made me think the final day would be any different I cannot explain. From a profile perspective, the final day's route proved to be no different than the previous 6. In fact I even had a couple really tough, relatively long climbs.

Eager to bring this ride to a close, I had a cold breakfast on the bike of MRE pop tarts and cinnamon scone. No coffee. No hot breakfast.

After 4 hours of riding, I unceremoniously pulled into the parking lot in Sarasota Springs to find my car safe and sound.

I wasted no time in unpacking the bike, loading it in the car, changing clothes, starting the engine and heading home.

As I drove in my comfortably air conditioned car, sipping a hot cup of coffee, I pondered what I had accomplished. It was a hard week, accentuated by long days, steep hills and hot temperatures. More than once I sat alone in the campsite trying to figure another way to get back to my car. If I could have come up with an answer, I would have quit that ride right then and there. Yet, no matter how hard I pondered a solution, the only viable option was to keep pedaling. Now that it is all said and done, I'm glad that was the only path offered me.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Adirondack Loop - Day 6

Port Henry to Warrensburg. 59 miles.

The penultimate day of my bike tour was truly something. It all started last night. Over the last few days, the East coast has been in the grip of a record heat wave. Upstate New York has been no exception. In anticipation of this tour, I've been watching the weather for this area of the country and was anticipating highs in the upper 70s during the day with low humidity and lows in the 50s at night.

Last night at 10:00 PM, I was laying on top of my sleeping bag in my tent and was soaking wet in sweat. I fell asleep drenched in sweat and when I awoke this morning, I was still damp. By the time I broke camp and climbed on my bike at 7:00 AM this morning, I was already sweating profusely.

Today's ride was long and hot. I reached Hague at mile 26 and was feeling pretty good. I stopped to top off my bottles with water and pedaled off for the last big climb of the day. It was a brute. For 5+ solid miles I pedaled at a pace of 4 mph. I reached the top spent, but encouraged that the remainder of the day was mostly downhill. After another 13 miles I reached the next town, Brant Lake. I was down to 1 bottle of water, so you can imagine my dismay when I couldn't find any services in the town to replenish my supply. I had at least 1-1/2 hours left to ride, with temps in the mid 90s and I only hade 20 oz of warm water. I rationed the water in small sips and savored it in my mouth for a few seconds before swallowing. By the time I reached Warrensburg, I was on the edge of a heat stroke.

Last night, I decided that I had enough of roughing it and made reservations in a small motel. It is a hole in the wall. They only have 12 rooms. However, the room is clean, it has AC, I have my own bathroom and a comfortable bed. Plus, I have 3G service for my IPAD and Blackberry. Who can ask for anything more?

Adirondack Loop - Day 5

Lake Placid to Port Henry. 43 miles.

The miles are quickly passing under my wheels. Well, actually they're only zooming by at a rate of about 10 mph. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Today's ride had a couple major climbs. I was definitely in the thick of the mountains today. However, I am about ready to leave them all behind. I have about 30 miles left in the mountains, with one more major climb, after that its downhill and rolling hills the rest of the way into Saratoga Springs.

To be perfectly honest, it is bitter sweet to bid farewell to these mountains. You may find that strange, especially considering how much I've suffered in them. Mountains have a way of causing you to dig deep inside yourself and discover what you're really made of. There's no hiding from them. There's no cheating them. They are there. They do not move. If you want to get past them, you either have to detour around them or go over them. Just be forewarned, if you choose the easy path and go around, you'll never enjoy the view from the top. While I'm philosophizing, let me make one more point. When you find yourself climbing a mountain, breathing hard and sweating profusely, remember, there are but two outcomes that await you at the top, the finish line or an amazing downhill on the other side.

The weather is really hot (90s) and thunderstorms were forecasted for the afternoon, so I got an early start. I made it to the campground around 11:30 am. The campground sits on the shore of Lake Champlain. I've seen a lot of lakes over the past week, but none as big as this one. It's impressive to behold.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Adirondack Loop - Rest Day

I spent the day in Lake Placid, taking in the sights and relaxing. It was a nice day. I am packed and ready to hit the road again early tomorrow morning. It's going to be a hot day, so I want to get as many miles as I can under my wheels in the cool of the morning.

Adirondack Loop - Day 4

Lake Clear to Lake Placid. 46 miles.

Today I faced my first major mountain climb while riding a fully loaded touring bike. Up to this point, the climbs were tough, but Whiteface Mountain took it up a notch, not only in altitude but distance and gradient. I was on the granny gear in front and the biggest ring in back and pulling on the shift lever begging for another. It was tough, but I made it to the top.

As hard as the climb was, the part of Whiteface Mountain I really disliked was the 3 mile steep downhill into Wilmington. I normally love downhills and scream down them with abandonment. But when riding a bike with 50+ lbs of gear, it is a hair raising experience. I applied the brakes to keep it under 40 mph and constantly scanned the road ahead for bumps, cracks and pot holes.

In Wilmington I stopped for lunch and then headed the final 10 miles to Lake Placid. That 10 mile stretch was especially scenic as it followed a river that was flowing in the opposite direction that I was traveling. So you know what that means. It was predominantly uphill the entire way.

I made to Lake Placid early afternoon. I found the hostel that I was staying in, unpacked and headed into town. After a huge dinner of NY strip steak, baked potato and a couple local beers, I walked up and down the main street until I found a small park alongside Mirror Lake. There was a crowd sitting on the hill awaiting the start of a concert. I sat among them and enjoyed some awesome bluegrass music. The food, the beer, the music, the lake, the surrounding mountains and the sunset made for a memorable moment.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Adirondack Loop - Day 3

Blue Mountain Lake to Lake Clear. 54 miles.

Last night was literally a dark and stormy night. The tent was lit with the flashes of lightning and the ground pad I slept upon was not thick enough to cushion me from the thunder that shook the ground and the rain! The rain fell in torrents.

When I awoke at dawn the next morning, there was a lull in the storm, so I packed up a wet tent and rode off under threatening skies. I made it 12 miles down the road to the town of Long Lake just as the skies opened and from it fell lightning and rain! I sought shelter under the overhang of a small motel and waited it out. After 45 minutes the thunder stopped, but the rain continued to fall. I put on my rain jacket and rode on.

In that same town I stopped at the post office and filled two boxes with junk that I had packed and determined that I didn't need anymore. I plopped down $26 dollars and shipped them home. It was the best $26 I ever spent. I can't begin to describe how much easier the climbing was after that.

I stopped in the town of Tupper Lake for a lunch of salad and pizza. It was awesome. Then I pushed on under threatening skies to my final destination for the day. Amazingly, the rain went around me and I even caught a few glimpses of sun.

I arrived at my campsite and I feel really good. I have a lighter load and I am starting to ride myself into some climbing shape.

Tomorrow I ride to Lake Placid and there are two major mountain passes to climb over to get there. Oh boy!

Adirondack Loop - Day 2

Caroga Lake to Blue Mountain Lake - 70 miles.

How do I begin to put into words today's ride. I have been riding a bike for many years. Today was hands down the toughest day I've ever had in a saddle. I knew today was going to be my longest day, but I didn't expect the amount of climbing it required. I lost sight of the number of hills/mountains I climbed, water bottles I consumed, gallons of sweat I expended and the number of gears I shifted through. They are all a blur of pain and fatigue. At mile 38 I had been in the saddle for nigh on 4 hours straight. I was dead beat. I wanted to cry! I wanted to quit! Yet I had come to far to turn around. All I could do was put my head down and pedal. 3-1/2 hours later, after over 7 hours in the saddle, I pulled into Lake Durant State Park.

Two things made my already unbearable position even worse:

First - Every time I climbed a hill, honey bees and horse flies took it as an opportunity to annoy me. They buzzed around my head and bit me on the a$$. I was expending all my strength keeping the pedals going round and couldn't take my hands off the handlebars to deal with them.

Second - when I got to Indian Lake, which was 8 miles from my destination and the prearranged beer stop for the day, I just couldn't brook the thought of lugging a 6 pack over 8 miles of mountains. So I skipped the beer. So now, here I sit in the campground after a long, hard, hot day in the saddle and I DON'T HAVE ANY BEER!!!!!!!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Adirondack Loop - Day 1

Saratoga Springs to Caroga Lake. 45 miles.

Well, day one is a done deal. There were a lot more hills than I bargained for. The last 10 miles were a real slog! Unfortunately, I think the hills are just going to get worst. So I better get used to them.

The route overall was pretty good. Some of the roads had somewhat heavy traffic, but they had wide shoulders. The scenery was OK, but I'm thinking that's going to improve as I head further North.

Well, that's it for now. After struggling with the hills today, I am going to spend some time going through my gear and see what I can toss:-)

Adirondack Loop - The Start

Here I am sitting in Starbucks in Saratoga Springs, NY. I am one cup of coffee and one blog post away from a week long bike tour around the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York.

I am thrilled, but a bit apprehensive as well. The lady in the Visitor Center here in Saratoga Springs captured the essence of my apprehension well when she asked where I was riding. I mentioned I planned to make my way up to Lake Placid and back. She responded, "Why Lake Placid is mostly uphill from here!". Thanks - I needed that blunt assessment of my route.

Provided I can get Internet access, I plan to post each day and give you a brief summary of my adventure. Since I don't have a way of loading pics from my camera to my IPad, you will have to rely on my verbal descriptions. I'll post plenty of pictures when I get home.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Adirondack Loop - Preparation

My gear is gathered...
My bags are packed...
My bike is clean...
All is ready for my week long tour around the Adirondacks of upstate New York which begins this coming weekend...