Monday, August 30, 2010

Mountain biking, Roadie style

I do not ride mountain bikes anymore.  That’s because I am more of you what you would call a mountain bike crasher.  I simply cannot stay upright and off the ground.  Every significant cycling scar I have is from my feeble attempts at mountain biking.  Now, I know that the dirt rats see these scars as badges of honor but I do not.  So, when I say I am going mountain biking that only means one thing.  I am heading for the Sierra Mountains with the road bike.

Sherry and I have a friend with a cabin, near Pinecrest Lake, in the Stanislaus National Forest.  (This is on Hwy 108 about 30 miles west of Sonora.)  Every year a group of us head that way for a long weekend of eating, drinking, laughing, and relaxing.  For me, this weekend also means cycling.

I absolutely love cycling in the Sierra Mountains.  The long climbs, the gorgeous views, killer descents, gorgeous views, fairly smooth roads, and gorgeous views create magical rides.  Did I mention the gorgeous views?

After our 5 hour drive it was time to unpack and then hit the road on two wheels.  Since it was already 3:30 pm, I opted for a short loop I do each year that takes me up to the Dodge Ridge Ski Resort.  It was a beautiful sunny day and the temperature was hovering around 80 degrees.  Absolutely perfect “mountain biking” weather!

IMG_0344As I start to roll along, I can feel myself begin to relax immediately and then my mind began to wander.  As my mind wanders, especially while riding at 7 mph up some long climb, I always ask myself the same question, “How fast can bears and mountain lions run?”  I don’t know for sure but I am pretty sure it’s faster then 7 mph.  Still, on Friday’s ride there were no such sightings.  Only birds, butterflies, ground squirrels, and one snake who I damn near ran over.  There were also many, many beautiful lakes and streams.

The highlight of the ride was actually when I missed my turn.  As I kept climbing I started to realize that the road no longer looked familiar.  Fortunately, a Forest Service truck came my way and I was able to ask the rangers how to reach Dodge Ridge.  Sure enough, I had climbed about  a mile and a half  further then I needed to.  Oh well!  At least I got to hear one of the rangers say that they admired my tenacity.  I finally reached the resort, which was followed by an awesome descent most of the way back to the cabin.

Saturday’s weather was a different story.  It was overcast, a little windy, and very cold.  Still, I came up here to ride so off I went.  The plan was to ride Highway 108 up to Kennedy Meadows and back.  The only trouble is the start.  I roll from the cabin down a short hill (less then half a mile) and then begin climbing immediately.  It took me quite a while to find a rhythm and I actually considered cutting the ride short numerous times.

IMG_0341 Instead, I persevered and made it to my original goal.  There are three real reasons this was necessary.  First, I wanted to take this picture so it could explain why I do not go pass Kennedy Meadows.  Secondly, I needed a good double espresso to perk me up.  And finally, I really look forward to all of the looks I get as the campers and RV’ers look at me like I’m crazy. 

On the ride back home, which has just as much climbing, I started to feel the altitude and was unable to take deep breaths.  Of course, this meant not as much oxygen and I began to fatigue, quickly.  The last climb before I reached the cabin felt brutal but once again I persevered and made it back.  I was both exhausted and exhilarated at the same time.

I choose to skip riding on Sunday and instead we lazed around the cabin for a few hours before heading home.  As always, it was a most excellent adventure and I can’t wait until my next opportunity to go mountain biking.


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