Sunday, March 22, 2009

Otisco Lake - A ride to remember

Pingo ??/??/1997-03/19/2009

This past week I lost a companion of over 12 years, my cat Pingo. She was born a stray cat in Brazil and picked up by my mom from a pizzeria. At the time I was 18 and today I completed 31 years of age. Just a week ago when I returned from the Owasco Lake ride she seemed fine. That would quickly change. In a matter of three days she stopped eating altogether and became extremely lethargic. The diagnosis was pancreatic cancer and nothing could be done. So on Thursday afternoon she was put to sleep while I held her in my arms. Yesterday was a ride to remember: there was the great company of Jamie Gartenberg, Bill Fischer, and Andy Goodell, a 125 mile scenic route with many challenging climbs and lastly the many memories of wonderful moments spent with Pingo. A few pictures over years are posted below.

A young Pingo in Brazil

Pingo and me then

Pingo and me two weeks ago

As I ate breakfast hearing the weather forecast for day I could feel the chill already. The temperature in Ithaca for the start was 14F and would rise to the mid-40's. That was colder than I would have wanted. This meant I would have to adapt to the warmer temperatures as the day progressed.

I was about 5 minutes late but since I mapped the route and made the cue sheet I imagined the others would wait for me. And they did. Jamie, Bill and Andy were ready to ride as I strolled in the RiteAid parking lot. After a couple of pictures we were off to a pleasant start. The initial miles, in contrast to the Owasco Lake Ride, were relatively innocuous. We moved swiftly in a pace line on Lower Creek Rd, Upper Creek Rd and then McLean Rd to Cortland, our first stop 21 miles in. Thanks to Jamie we were able to find Tim Horton's, which is located inside Tops. How would I know that? Well, Jamie did. This was more of a get-warm stop than a need-to-eat one. Bill actually had inquired about 5 miles before if we wanted to stop to get warm. If Bill manifests discomfort, it must be pretty bad. At Tim Horton's I had an oatmeal raisin cookie, my absolute favorite. Oddly it looked like it had been bitten already, but I did not make a fuss about it. Bill and Jamie ate bagels with coffee and Muscle Milk, respectively. Andy had brought all his food with him, an assortment of granola, fruits, juice for the occasional sugar deficit and celery.

As we left Tops I noticed I once again had forgotten to remove my coffee shop shoe covers. The time I spent to stop, take them off and continue created a sizable gap. Before I have continued pedaling and taken them off while riding, but the traffic on SR 281 was not welcoming. I took my time and eventually caught up with the pace line, which at the moment was pulled along by Bill. The pavement on SR 281 is very bad at some points. Jamie nearly hit a huge crater in the rode that probably would have ruined his brand new Independent Fabrication, or at least damaged it significantly. Not to mention Jamie. We were constantly dodging these craters on the road and I was happy to see our next turn ahead, Cole Brook Rd.

Cole Brook Rd exceeded my expectations. I had read on the FLCC website about the beauty of the Otisco Lake Valley. I can imagine that it will become even more so when the foliage returns. The pavement was excellent, the air crisp and there was not a cloud in sight. As we began a gentle incline I was determined to maintain our speed, observing Jamie in my helmet mirror. I worked hard during that stretch and when I eased off the pedals we had only lost Bill. He soon rejoined us. I could not help but notice the several abandoned homes along the valley. I wonder why this is so. I do not know much about the economics of the region, but I can imagine that these are small farms that may have encountered tremendous difficulty competing with larger producers. I would be very interested in learning about what led people to literally abandon their homes and farms.

We had been steadily climbing for a few miles and now it was time to contemplate our prize. We made a right on Willowdale Rd and shortly thereafter I caught a glimpse of Otisco Lake, the easternmost of the Finger Lakes. Willowdale offered spectacular views of the lake as we headed north along its western side. I noticed that large sections of the lake were covered with a thin sheet of ice. For an instant I started to think about the time required to form a 1 mm thick sheet of ice over such a lake exposed to 20F. That thought subsided in face of such a beautiful sight. Once again I felt the urge to take a picture. That always means I have to catch up later, so I choose my spots strategically, such as the beginning of a descent, or the beginning of a climb, when I know that I can catch up. But you will not often see me taking a picture on flat terrain with blistering winds. But it does happen if the scene is just too precious to be left unregistered by the lens.

The next stop was in Marietta, on the northern tip of the lake. We chose the D&R Convenience Store. They had an ample supply of cycling food and drink. The sun was high in the sky and the temperatures were relatively balmy. I stowed away my Showers Pass jacket and my balaclava, switched to thin gloves and enjoyed roasting in the sun for several minutes. I also used the time to have a picture taken that I had thought of on another ride: the action of fueling the bike. Jamie was kind enough to do the favor, the result of which I am proud of. During this stop we also discussed the usefulness of generator hubs. Jamie was questioning his recent acquisition because of a post he had read somewhere about the added friction these hubs introduce. OK, if you are racing to a finish line I agree that those extra 10W or so might make the difference. But really, is that the case when you are on a randonee? I hardly think so. The notion that you are using your own power to move forward and also illuminate the path ahead is poetic at the least. Honestly, after purchasing my generator hub I am seriously thinking about substituting my rear blinky with a generator powered tail light. Batteries, I need you no longer! Maybe just in case the hub fails... :)

The returning leg along the eastern side of the lake, on Otisco Valley Rd, was arguably the most enjoyable part of the ride. There was however, a steady annoying headwind and also the fact the my cyclocomputer bonked on me. I tried to reanimate it without any success. Oh well, back to old style navigation, cue-sheet and no more. It's better not to dwell on these issues and just move on, doing the best with what you have. The function I find the most useful is the odometer reading. Without it you really have to stay alert. Since I was the route planner, I decided to move on ahead of the others, so I would have time to investigate all the intersecting roads without disrupting the pace. Everyone else had functional cyclocomputers, but I had caught a missed turn or two before and I did not want to go off track.

We stayed on Otisco Valley Rd for about 13 miles, until we reached Preble, the starting point of 9 rides of the Onondaga Cycling Club. On their website they offer well over 100 rides in the region. Plenty to choose from. We were heading south towards Cortland for our lunch stop. Instead of staying on US 11 the entire way, we branched off on Health Camp Rd. I did not see a health camp, but maybe the road is named that way because of the lump you have to go over while on it. It keeps you healthy if you ride it enough times. Health Camp Rd brought us to SR 13 and into Cortland, 75 miles into the ride, 50 to go.

Our second stop in Cortland was originally intended to be at the Subway on Main St. As we were riding along I noticed a deli to the right and thought how nice it would have been if I knew that deli existed when I mapped the route. But the cue-sheet said Subway, so we went to Subway. There was a big line, which was not moving. The woman in front of us said she had been there for over 30 minutes. That was unacceptable. Just the excuse I was looking for. "The Deli Downtown"
offers a large variety of subs, wraps, paninis and much more. It was buzzing, the staff was cheerful and people in line were not complaining about the wait at all. A stark contrast to where we had just been. I had a "Tuscan Chicken" grilled panini and I enjoyed every gram of it. Bill and Jamie ate subs and Andy had more granola. I was proud of Jamie for having tomatoes, pickles and even cheese on his sub. This was an tremendous improvement over bread with chicken.

When I planned the route initially, I noticed that there were not that many hard climbs during the first 75 miles (a modest 4,200 ft over generally shallow climbs). It did not make a lot of sense to re-route what I had already done, so I decided to add some pain on the way back. The ability to control the level of pain of your fellow riders can be enticing and I just kept adding more of it.

We left Cortland on Page Green Rd, gaining 500 ft over 2 miles. That was the first spike. I could hear Bill's anger. Right after a lunch stop? Please! The next spike was worse, Van Donsel Rd followed by Bleck Rd, a gain of 450 ft over 1.2 miles. When we reached Harford I promised Bill that we had a nice descent ahead of us. I wasn't being dishonest, but I forgot that we needed to climb Seamons Rd and part of Harford Slaterville Rd for a gain of 500 ft over 3 miles. Not bad at all!

Finally we enjoyed the promised descent into Slaterville, where we stopped for the last time. Bill said he needed to get some work done in the afternoon, so he left straight to the finish with no regrets or shame. I designed the route specifically so that was a possibility. At the mini-mart I savored a reinvigorating ice cream sandwich. 100 miles in the ride and we still had almost 3,000 ft of climbing left over 25 miles. Not gradual long climbing, rather short and painful.

We started with Creamery Rd, a pebble in the path. That was followed by Bald Hill, climbing up Grove School Rd, a gain of about 450 ft over 1.7 miles. This was the appetizer. We enjoyed a nice descent, but a bit scary, on Bald Hill Rd. There was a large amount of gravel left from the winter, and with a ravine to the side, I decided to take it slowly. At the bottom we joined White Church Rd and followed the loop of many of the Tuesday races, down the valley and up the other side on Coddington Rd. This would bring us to the entree, East Miller Rd. This one hurt, 530 ft over 1 mile, a double digit grade almost all the way up. As I crested I turned around and took pictures of Andy and then Jamie reaching the top. Jamie mentioned that half way up East Miller he thought: "Screw it, I'm not going up Cascadilla". Cascadilla Park Rd was our last climb of the day. What? Leave without desert? The catch is that there was really no way out if you wanted to ride to the finish. It was just a matter of which climb inflicted the least pain. By the time Jamie reached the top of East Miller he was once again looking forward to the next climb. That's the spirit!

Before we were to meet Cascadilla, we had an awesome descent to look forward to on Stone Quarry Rd. During this descent I almost went airborne, having to stand to keep contact with the road and reaching 45.4 mph braking along the way. At the end of the descent there is a misplaced stop sign. Obviously whoever put it there did not take us descent-loving-cyclists into consideration.

At this point we were back in Ithaca and looking forward to the end of the ride. That meant climbing East Hill one way or the other. Every year a local hillclimb race is held on Cascadilla. It is a very entertaining, steep, twisty and short climb: 200ft over 0.4 miles. Jamie and Andy started the climb as I took a picture of them. I created a challenge for myself by waiting a bit and then trying to beat them up the hill with time to take a picture of them climbing up. They were not aware of this, so it wasn't really fair, but still fun! So I clipped in and zipped by them somewhere half way up the climb. I could hear Andy in the pursuit and I when I thought I had only a gentle incline left I was surprised by the steepness of the last section close to the cemetery. There wasn't much left in my legs, and I could have just laid down with the deceased, but I did hold on long enough for the pictures.

Is there something served after desert? Maybe schnapps? If there is, then it is Williams St: 100 ft over 0.1 miles. That was the icing on the cake. Of course there remained a shallow climb to the start, but all pales to that last sting I can still feel in my legs.

We were a happy bunch gathering where we had left early in the morning. Celebration pictures were taken and all enjoyed a good night of well deserved sleep. I certainly will remember this ride for long to come, for the ride it was and because it was the first after the loss of my beloved cat Pingo during the week.
From 2009.03.21


Will Hively said...

Nice report, nice pictures. My condolences on the loss of your cat Pingo. She was obviously lucky to have an owner like you. Looks like she enjoyed scratching her head on your beard, just like my cat does.

Will Hively

Juan PLC Salazar said...

Thanks Will,

Yes, she liked that too. I also discovered that she enjoyed my post-ride saltiness, as she would lick my forehead and beard when I got back from long rides.

bullcitybiker said...

No one loves us like our animal friends. I'm very sorry for your loss.