Sunday, February 22, 2009

Skaneateles, or there and back again.

I steel the title from J.R.R. Tolkien, because today I felt like Bilbo Baggins on one of his great adventures.

I woke up at 8:30am, a bit late for a 9am start. The first thing I did was peak through the window. The sidewalk was void of snow, but that would not last. As usual, too much was left for the morning of the ride. As I opened my front door it started to snow abundantly. There was no turning back for me. That's the way I operate. I may cancel a ride before I make it to the door, but once I am through I shall ride.

It was 9:21am when I reached East Hill Plaza. There were no other cyclists in sight, so I presumed they had already left or more likely nobody had shown up. I called my cycling buddy, Jamie Gartenberg, to find out he was pondering on whether to go or not. "Are you going? It's really snowing out there!" I have ridden many times to know that no matter how miserable a ride may start out, there is always something that makes it special.

Snow was quickly accumulating all over my bike. The cassette looked like a coconut cake. I did not stop to taste it, but I did start to have second thoughts. As I was slowly moving along Triphammer, I heard a voice come from an car next to me, calling my name. It was Jamie. He asked me if I was really going to ride, to which I promptly replied: "I'm going!". We exchanged a few words, and Jamie decided to bail out. Instead of enjoying the wonderful roads he would ride 3 hours on his trainer, how dreadful. I did however, also have my reasons to turn around. I had spent most of the week mildly sick and in the past couple of days I had developed a cough. Nonetheless, I was feeling good enough, so I continued.

I would rather have company. The thought of riding 108 miles alone was a bit discouraging. But like on many other rides, I try to make the most of every situation. I think of obstacles as opportunities to prepare for the longer randonneuring events I will participate in the future. Hopefully by the time I start my 1200km ride, every situation I encounter will have been dealt with before, on a shorter ride.

The first 25 miles of the ride were miserable. Most of the roads I navigated were covered in snow, and often I was laying the first tracks of the day. Snow had accumulated underneath my fenders and was rubbing on my tires, increasing the friction significantly. Soon things would change, as I reached Long Hill Road.

For the first time, I was able to ride over 20mph on a slight downhill. After 3 miles or so I began the descent into Moravia. I love hills, but I must say it is more fun to descend. Maybe that is the reason I like climbing so much. By the time I reached Moravia my legs were covered in nasty slush. As I made a left on Main Street I felt a void in my stomach. Time to eat!

I stopped at the Coffee 'N Cream. In late fall last year some FLLCC-ers organized a ride to Moravia and back. On that occasion we stopped at the same cafe. It has great food and I was delighted to savor a Southwest wrap and a big cup of hot chocolate. I also enjoyed the spacious bathroom. At the counter I noticed I was short by 75 cents. I inquired about an ATM nearby, as they do not accept credit cards, but the people there said it was not a problem. I thought that was very nice of them. As I ate my wrap I could not help but notice the wandering eyes of the other customers. They would glance in my direction, I guess wondering what on earth I was up to. I checked the clock, 12:15pm, 31 miles ridden, 77 to go.

As I left Moravia I thanked the hills to come. I felt cold and they would warm me up. I made a couple of stops along the climb to take pictures. At this point it had stopped snowing and I could even see blue in the sky. While climbing I noticed my rear rim thump on the pavement. Crap! I had a flat. I looked around for a nice spot to stop and proceeded to change my tube. In the snow a tube change takes a lot more time than usual. I took my time to make sure I did things right. After about 15 min I continued the climb up Sayles Corners Road. Not long thereafter I saw four beautiful horses. "Click" and back on the road.

Soon enough I was heading north on 41A, towards Skaneateles. It was a 15 mile stretch I remembered well from the FLCC ride in the summer. That occasion was my first club ride and I suffered the entire way. Towards the end I dehydrated and barely made it to the finish. This time around things would be different.

As I reached Skaneateles I noticed people walking on the lake. The thought was too enticing to let pass. I was determined to try it out, but I was fearful too. I was not sure if special footwear was required or not. Therefore I decided to wait until someone walked off the lake. The first person off the lake was an ice fisher. He did not seem to be wearing anything lake-specific. I decided to venture on the lake in my cycling shoes. I was able to walk 300 feet out. I could have gone farther, but I decided to stop before it became dangerous. I took several pictures and on my way back I met a couple from California. They were as impressed as I by the frozen lake.

After leaving the lake I made a quick stop at Byrne Dairy. Half of the ride was completed. I made a couple of phone calls, one to my wife and one to Jamie. He had finished his 3 hour trainer session. I jokingly demanded a riding report, while enjoying my chocolate milk and cranberry cookie.

I decided to complete the ride without further stops. My chain started to squeak and chipper as I left Skaneateles. I had not brought lube with me. I have to add it to my take-along list. For the next 20 miles the ride was pretty monotonous, a steady climb. The ensuing descent was exciting, but short lived. It was followed by a rather steep climb up W Glenn Scott Road, Bear Swamp Road and Iowa Road. Luckily there was little snow accumulated on these roads.

As I made a right on 41A the day was growing shorter. I passed the Colonial Lodge, the official start of the FLCC ride. Several cars were parked and the thought of dinner almost made me want to stop. Instead I ate a Clif Bar.

On the way back to Moravia I would follow the same route that brought me. The wind was vicious. When you see snow moving horizontally you know it's pretty bad. On the good side, far to the west I could see the sun setting behind a few clouds. It made for a great picture.

As I reached Moravia I felt tempted to stop. I was fortunate that the cue-sheet did not take me by Coffee 'N Cream, or else I would have not resisted. By that time it was probably closed anyway. Somehow in my mind the climbing was over. But that was not the case. When I made a left on Groton Road I was surprised by the incline. It suddenly was cold (26F) and very windy (NW 21mph). In an unfortunate way, the route always managed to put me in a direction that did not coincide with that of the wind. My cyclocomputer indicated about 18 miles to go.

At this point the day faded and it became night. I was happy once again to have my dynamo powered head light. During the next hour the temperature dropped astonishingly, 22F, and the wind let down a bit, now only 18mph. I was also descending ever so slightly. It felt good once again to see the glow of the Ithaca lights in the distance. I knew I was almost home.

As I made a right on 366 I thought briefly of climbing Mount Pleasant, just to top it off. Not this time. A few minutes later I had the satisfaction of completing this tough ride. That sound of unclipping, when you know you made it, is great.


bsk said...

Pretty impressive that you kept yourself motivated. Flats and slush are enough to turn me around :)

What ride are you thinking of for next week?

Juan PLC Salazar said...

Hi bsk,

The flat did not bother me that much, it was the slush that was annoying. I did could not get rid of it for the entire ride. On the other hand, the fenders kept my back very clean.

I was thinking about the Seneca loop for next weekend.