Sunday, March 15, 2009

111 As good as it gets

When I saw the weather forecast for Saturday, March 14, it was clear that it would be a great day to ride. The route was yet another loop around one of the Finger Lakes, this time Owasco Lake. I had the great company of Jamie Gartenberg, Bill Fischer, and Andy Goodell. After 111 miles of beautiful scenery, many climbs and blue skies, it was unanimous, this is as good as it gets.


As usual my pre-ride preparation the night before got delayed and I made it to bed only at 2am, leaving a mere 4 hours of sleep. It was good sleep deprivation training for longer events, so I did not complain too much.

At 6am I got up, had breakfast and took a nice long warm shower, followed by a quick peak through the window. It was still dark. The weather forecast for the day consisted of clear skies with a low/high of 18/52F. That is a significant temperature swing. I decided to use a base layer of wool with wool arm warmers and my cycling jersey. On top of all that a wind barrier, my Double Century Showers Pass jacket. On the legs shorts and tights. I would start the ride with lobster gloves and them switch to lighter gloves as it became warmer. The plan was set. I also had a brand new chain that I was eager to ride with.

Jamie, Bill and Andy were already at the start when I arrived. This would be Andy's longest ride. Previously he had come just short of a century a few times. I was truly excited about the weather. By this time the sun was visible above the horizon, bathing us in its light. As soon as we rolled away and started a gentle downhill I was reminded that it was 18F outside, in spite of the sun. Luckily I had prepared the route with foresight.

The first miles included one of the climbs I like the most, Mount Pleasant. It is by far not the most difficult, but it is unique in that it alternates between steep sections and flat terrain, bringing you up in increments. It also is home of Swan Cycles, a very friendly place for cyclists (and non-cyclists too I suppose). There was no doubt Mount Pleasant would warm us up. If for some reason it did not, we still had Yellow Barn ahead of us, another little Ithaca treasure. A week had gone by since my last ride, and I felt it. My heart rate reached 191bpm on Mount Pleasant and a bit less on Yellow Barn. When you set out for a long ride, the last thing you want to do is blow up during the first 10 miles. However, I do like to push myself just to see what happens.

As we approached the descent on Yellow Barn I shouted "Descent ahead! If I crash someone please take me home!" and pushed as hard as I could on my largest gear, accelerating into the unknown. This was my first time going down in that direction. A week ago I crashed on a descent in Pennsylvania, but my mind had healed from the traumatic event. The body however, had not. I still carried Tegaderm patches on my right elbow, hip and knee. The descent was all that I had hoped for, gentle at the beginning, steep at the end, followed by a long flat section with no stop signs. There were also some curves along the way to make it more exciting.

After I reached our next turn I had time to take a picture of Bill and Andy finishing their descent. Jamie was nowhere to be seen. At this point Bill and Andy crossed SR13 and headed straight instead of making a right turn according to the cue sheet. I tried to get their attention in several ways, to no avail. For a moment I feared the worse and was about to head back up the hill. Then I saw Jamie. It turned out his odometer sensor had got in the way of his spokes and he stopped alarmed by the rattling noise this produced. As I examined the transducer it snapped off and Jamie stored it in his saddle bag. Eventually Bill and Andy noticed that we were no longer in their company and returned. Time to move on.

We headed north on George Rd, followed by Ed Hill Rd and then Lick St, a first for all of us. Lick St was a pleasant surprise. It is a straight line 10.2 miles long with good pavement, except for some bumpy sections. The incline is very gentle and there are several rollers along the way. This road offers incredible views, including some impressive highland cows. I think it is a great alternative towards Moravia over some of the more conventional routes. During this part of the ride I remember congratulating Bill Fischer for his recent nomination to President of Big Horn Velo and also telling him about my intent to use Delorme to map out (and publish) all of the hill climbs that were posted on the FLCC list during a recent discussion initiated by Cameron Cogburn.

Lick St came to an end, or a "T" better said, on Fillmore Rd, named after the 13th President of the United States, born east of Moravia. A 4 mile descent on Skinner Hill Rd would bring us into Moravia. Unfortunately a car pulled out in front of me and I was not able to overtake it safely on the descent. So I remained behind it, grumbling to myself. The slower speed did enable me to observe a curious mailbox that was protected by what looked like a telephone booth reminiscent of the kind found in Brazil. Unfortunately I was going too fast to take a picture, but it looked like what is shown in the picture below.

Photo by Morio



Our first stop came 31 miles into the ride. The Coffee 'N Cream in Moravia was the chosen destination. I had a large hot chocolate with whip cream. Bill ate a muffin and drank coffee and Jamie, well, I am not sure. I think he just drank coffee. Andy brought his own snack along. While my whip cream sank into the hot chocolate I headed to the bathroom to take care of some business. The bathroom at the Coffee 'N Cream is very spacious, in contrast to most places. When I returned to the table the whip cream had sunk into the hot chocolate, which by this point was not so hot anymore. After some pleasant chat we decided it was time to go. Outside was just above freezing, so I decided to keep my wind breaker on.

The first time I climbed Long Hill Rd I started too hard, only to fade behind Stewart Wolsh's wheel on the second half of the climb. Yesterday I knew what laid ahead of me, and I announced it to everyone: the climb starts steep then it gives you a break and gets steep again, winding as you go up. I had to stop even before beginning the climb because my top tube brevet bag had come loose. I secured the velcros and began my mini-chase. As I reached Bill, Andy and Jamie, I paused for a bit. Bill was telling us how it bothered him when lighter guys just passed by effortlessly on the climbs. He did not mind being dropped, it was the lack of effort that bothered him. So I gasped for air like a dying fish and dropped him. Andy must have too, because he was not far behind. I now realize how nifty it is to have a mirror. I can always peak to see what's going on behind me. At the end of the climb Andy joined me and we both waited for Jamie and Bill at Lyons Rd.

The four of us continued on Lyons Rd, then bearing right onto Sally Rd, which merged into Sherwood Rd. While on these roads I had the first glimpse of Owasco Lake. I also saw a small wind turbine. It was still, an indication of how calm it was. Soon we were on SR38, the route for most traffic out of Moravia towards Auburn.

On SR38 we maintained a nice pace line, moving swiftly along the lake. This was a bit of a dilemma for me. I was enjoying the view so much I felt like going slower. But I had the perfect excuse to abandon the pace line. I needed to take a picture! And I did. I stopped next to the rode and watched the others move away at over 20mph. I forgot about that and moved my bike on the gravel to get closer to the lake. I took a picture looking north and one looking south. Now I had to move! As I accelerated I was not sure if I could catch them before we reached the top of the lake. I rode hard for my standards, over 24mph for most of the time. When I once again had them in sight I eased off just a bit and patiently waited until the distance grew shorter and shorter. I celebrated my chase with yet another picture, this time of the pace line I was about to join. This makes me an efficient picture taker, as I rarely waste any pictures. The cost of bad pictures is too high.

As we reached the top of Lake Owasco I noticed a park on the waterfront. The pace line was too busy moving along, but now when I think about it, we should have gone through the park at least. The view was splendid. It would make a perfect stop on a summer day for a quick swim in the lake, one of the shallower, thus warmer of the Finger Lakes.

While we headed south on SR38A we had Owasco Lake on our right. After about 4 miles we were on Rockefeller Rd, where the boyhood home of John D. Rockefeller still stands. I did not even see it. I just heard Jamie say it. The time spent on Rockefeller Rd was very enjoyable. I seized the opportunity to take several pictures of the wheeled companionship, with the lake as testimony. Our speed increased as the distance to Moravia grew shorter. With a little over 4 miles to go, at the foot of a shallow climb, I decided to go all out. I did not look back (as in turn my head) until I reached the Coffee 'N Cream in Moravia. My mini time trial effort paid off, as I was able to park my bike, put on my coffee shop cleat covers, stow my gloves, jacket and balaclava and sit on the curb to wait for the other guys to roll in.

During our second stop at the Coffee 'N Cream I refilled my Camelbak and mixed another batch of Spiz. In the process I observed Bill munching on a bagel sandwich. It was now in the mid 40's and I was eager to continue the ride. 63 miles gone by and 50 remaining. Jamie and Bill cut the ride short, returning to Ithaca due to parental responsibilities.

Andy and I rode up Long Hill Rd for the second time, side by side. Instead of making a right on Lyons Rd we continued straight, joining Poplar Ridge Rd, once home of Jethro Wood, inventor of the cast-iron plow. All along the way we faced a moderate headwind. Poplar Ridge brought us to Cayuga Lake. The view of the lake was spectacular. I took a few pictures from Lake Rd, which we were now on, heading south. Last time I was on this road I followed it to SR90. However, when I planned the route for this ride I thought it would be a good idea to ride as much as possible alongside the lake, so I had us continuing straight on Honoco Rd. It turned out not to be the greatest of ideas.

The entrance to Honoco Rd was marked by a "Dead End" sign. I thought it was worth the gamble and Andy conferred on his GPS that there indeed seemed to be a way out. We went for it. At first the ride was pleasant, but soon the road became gravel. Not just that, but full of large rocks that had rolled down from the ravine on our left. This demanded a very slow ride, about 5mph. The slower we went, the more pictures I took. There were several homes on the shore and most of them were small, of simple construction. I imagined this was partly because of the accessibility and the adjacent ravine. Along the Honoco Rd we discovered several streams joining the lake, making sections of the road very muddy. There is no sewage system and majority of homes had no septic system, so the sight of an outhouse was a recurring event. Most of them were unlocked, rendering Honoco Rd very cyclist friendly when it comes to alleviating the bowels.

After almost 4 miles Honoco Rd came to and end, a dead end. The sign was right. Luckily for us a gate was open. I did not think twice. Before someone saw or had the time to say something I just rolled through the gate and crossed the property exiting through another gate. We were now on Honolo Rd and a sea of gravel. A sea so deep my wheels sunk in the gravel. At least the stones were round and smooth, but this was another first for me. Andy and I laughed as we tried, with difficulty, to move along.

Finally we were clear of the gravel and back to dirt roads with huge rocks lying around. The sight of a railroad crossing light was perplexing. Was this a hoax? I thought so, but now that I look at googlemaps I see a railroad that leaves Ithaca and heads north along the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake. It comes to and end near Lansingsville. We were further north. A search for old railroad maps was unsuccessful.

Honolo Rd was better maintained and our stay did not last long. We climbed away from the shore on Clearview Rd, a very steep initial gradient, joining SR90 into King Ferry, where we stopped for a very late lunch. The King Ferry Bowling Center & Pizzeria place was open. They do not serve by the slice, but they offer subs on their menu. I broke my "Spiz Only" method and followed the "Tuna Sub" strategy proposed by Bill Olsen of Califon, NJ. He is an accomplished randonneur, so I value very much whatever he endorses. Andy also had a sub. We both relaxed a bit as we watched Florida State vs. UConn on TV. When we left Florida State was leading 66 to 62. They eventually would upset #1 UConn, but we missed that.

It was a little past 3:30pm now and we still had 23 miles to go. We headed south on Mahaney Rd, joining Davis Rd and then turning left on Jerry Smith Rd. Somewhere along this stretch Andy completed his first century. He had some extra miles logged because he rode to the start from his home on West Hill.

It was time to descend Lockerby Hill. I had climbed this road several times with Jamie, but it would be my first time down. The descent offers a clear view of the upcoming road. I reached 47mph shortly before the bridge over Salmon Creek. Andy joined me at the crossing with Salmon Creek Rd and for the next 3 miles or so we rode alongside the creek. It was very nice this time of the year, but I can imagine how wonderful it is in the summer, with full foliage.

After a climb on Brickyard Rd, where I took my last picture of the ride, we joined SR34B shortly, before taking a detour along Drake Rd. Then we followed Asbury Rd till Warren Rd, which brought us all the way to Forrest Home. At this point I was in "let's finish this" mode, riding over 22mph most of the time. We were lucky to encounter all the traffic lights green. After two short climbs on Judd Falls we were back to the start, 111 miles later.

I congratulated Andy for his first century, and nearly first 200K. He then continued on his way home and I went in the RiteAid for more Tegaderm patches.

1 comment:

JB said...

Jamie,

Great ride account! Thanks for putting pen to paper! John Dennis