A Long Time Coming
On August 31, 2019 I pedalled from Murray, UT to Nephi, UT. A distance of 133.13 km. It was a mixed bag of a ride. Some good. Some bad. Some, well … down right awful. And, if you’re one of my few loyal readers, you may remember that said ride in no way ended well. It’s hard to believe that more than 240 days have passed since that ride. 247, to be specific. And there hadn’t been a 100+ km cycling day for 246 of those. But on the 246th day of that streak, I decided to change that.
Yesterday, I woke to a beautifully sunny day. And a not-so-beautiful howling wind. Literally, howling. Despite that, I decided I needed to spend some time outside. And not just briefly. I needed to go for a long ride. Wind or not (just to be clear, the “or not” was merely wishful thinking).
Over the past week or so, I’ve done a bit of pedalling including a few 30 km rides. A couple of 50 km rides. And I maxed out at a little over 60 km once. Most of those included a frequently strong breeze. Regarding those breezes, my typical strategy is to determine the direction of the wind and then head into it for a predetermined distance or until I’ve just had enough of it. From there, I turn back and enjoy the tailwind for the remainder of the ride. And that was my strategy yesterday. The main flaws in that plan may have been underestimating the wind and wanting to do 100+ km – half of which would obviously be heading into that underestimated wind.
My travelling companion for the day was blowing from the northwest and so my direction of travel was determined. A quick look at the map and I further determined that the day’s destination would be Listowel.
Getting out of the city went smoothly (despite the wind’s protests) and the remainder of my route consisted primarily of isolated country roads. And the roads in question were good … although, I was more than a little surprised as I neared Hawkesville and saw a sign indicating a 14% grade ahead. And not of the descending variety. Somewhat surprisingly, it turned out to be a fun climb – I’m not sure I’d be saying the same thing if my bike was fully loaded though. I’m certainly not in that kind of shape! That said, I kind of have a love/hate relationship with hills. Their challenge is compelling.
To say that the wind was a bit gruelling would be a bit of an understatement. Then again, I couldn’t really be all that surprised since I did in fact consult a weather report which indicated the winds would be 25 km/h with gusts up to 39 km/h. On the upside, the gusting was pretty minimal. On the downside the 25 km/h (and likely more) never relented. There was one glorious section (after the 14% grade) where the road was lined by trees which graciously offered me a temporary reprieve from the wind. Once I passed said trees, the wind was waiting for me. As we parted company, I thanked the trees for their help and pedalled on. Trees are like nature’s front line workers!
As this was to be my first long ride in, well … a while, I actually prepared a bit. My last long ride didn’t go so well, after all. I brought lots of water – and even drank some of it. I brought fruit. And ate all of it. I also had a sandwich, peanuts, and pretzels. All of which were consumed over the course of my ride. I even remembered to put on sunscreen. Well, sort of. I covered my neck, ears and arms and I really thought that I had covered the backs of my hands as well but, based on the colour of my hands today, well … clearly I didn’t.
The final stretch of my ride to Listowel had me riding along Highway 86. Not the most cycle-friendly road I’ve travelled but, then again, not the worst either. But that wind. Ugh. I was 54 km into my ride and (an estimated) 8-10 km away from Listowel when I stopped for some sustenance. As the day progressed the wind was showing no signs of relenting and it was definitely taking its toll on me. I started to weigh my options. Essentially, I could either push on and power through to Listowel. Or I could turn back. The thought of NOT reaching my destination was not a pleasant one. Then again, said destination was more than a little arbitrary. Not to mention, it wasn’t like there would be anything to do once I arrived there … other than take a photo of the welcome sign. Also, some math came into play. I was currently at 54 km. With the estimated 8-10 km still left to go, that would put me comfortably over 60 km. And that would translate into over 120 km round trip. With my legs already starting to feel the effects from 2.5 hours of pedalling, I decided to leave Listowel for another day. And so, after a quick photo of the conveniently located “Perth County” sign, my ride back began.
To say that my ride back was glorious would be an understatement. Not only was I enjoying a very strong tailwind but much of the ride had a slight descent to it. It was truly effortless. And my legs were grateful. Despite the bike-unfriendliness of Highway 86, I opted to forego the country roads which I followed on my outbound route and stayed on the highway for most of the ride back. And, as has typically been my experience, the vast majority of cars and trucks gave me a wide berth as they passed.
The highway route ended up being a more direct route back and the day’s ride ended up being 103.82 km. I was pretty happy with that. The first 54 km took 2.5 hours and the last 50 took about an hour and 40 minutes. The wind giveth and the wind taketh away (or, in this case, vice versa).
While the ride back was thoroughly enjoyable, I was definitely pretty tired and glad that I didn’t press on to get to Listowel. As decisions go, it was a good one.
My final act of the day and (as it happens) my fifth decade saw me once again baking banana bread at 10:30 PM. At that point, I was mere minutes from my birthday so it seemed like a reasonable thing to do. I had even considered (and even researched) making a chocolate cake because, well … it’s cake. And chocolate. And my birthday. However, my attempts to acquire the cocoa needed for said cake was denied. Instead, I could only stare at shelves which once held said cocoa but had since become very much bare.
As cake substitutes go, banana bread (with chocolate chips) is a good one.
Distance: 103.82 km
Ride time: 4:10:00
Average speed: 24.92 km/h
Maximum speed: 57.22 km/h