I went, I rode, I …not exactly conquered – but I got there. Not without some early in the ride almost disasters but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
We got to the start, checked in, got armbands and hit the road by 6:15. Tried to, anyhow. About 100 yards into the ride I was still trying to get my left shoe in the clip and finally had to yell for everyone to stop so I could look at my shoe. Surprise, surprise -that shoe that lost a screw last weekend was once again minus a screw and the cleat was crooked. Terrific – we haven’t even gotten going and I’m having a wardrobe malfunction. I straightened out the clip, tightened the remaining screw as much as I could and started off again, hoping for the best.
It was still sort of dark and we weren’t entirely sure of which way to go but we managed to navigate a few corners and finally came on a guy who was just putting out the signs. We beat the sign guy but we were not alone. We met up with these 3 guys who rode along with us for a while. I thought I recognized one but we were moving along and I wasn’t sure so I didn’t say anything. At one point my friends decided to pass these guys which turned out to be really great because just as I passed them they started calling out – ‘Hold Up! Stop! You have a tire hanging off the back of your bike”. I had a spare tube tucked into some straps on my little seat bag and it had come undone and was just flapping around waiting to insert itself between a couple of spokes. I did my best not to think about how that would have stopped the bike short tossing me ass over tea kettle over my handlebars, choosing instead to just wrap it up, stick it in my pocket and ride on.
The first rest stop was a mere 12 miles into the ride. I was still keeping up with my friends so we all ended up at the rest stop with these 3 guys we had been riding with. I finally got a good look at the one I thought I knew and surprise, surprise, he is a guy I used to work with so I said, “hey – Steve” and he gave me a look that was blank as a freshly wiped white board. Very complimentary. I reminded him of who I am and then ducked into the port-a-potty which seemed like the only reasonable thing to do under the circumstances. I didn’t really need to pee.
On we went…. up the first incline. It really wasn’t bad at all. It was mostly up with a little down here and there and although it went on for quite some time it was never all that hard and I was able to the keep the front gear on the middle wheel (so what’s that called, anyhow?). I tried to practice the good stroke technique Bold passed on and I think it really helped.
The scenery was fabulous. I really wanted to stop a zillion times to take photos since I did have my camera with me. My friends had left me in the dust, though so I just kept pushing on past Lake Hennesy, gorgeous wineries and other historical monuments like the Hubcap Ranch
I didn’t know you could ranch hubcaps, either.
We hit the 2nd rest stop at about 8:30 or 9:00 and I looked around for my friends who I hadn’t seen in ages. I thought maybe they had already come and gone but then I saw Steve and he said they were down the road changing a flat. I had ridden right past them! I went ahead and got some food and they showed up and we ate and then hit the road again, headed for something called Ink Grade.
Now you know that when something is called ‘Anything Grade’ you are in for a climb. This climb was steeper and longer and harder than anything I’d ever handled before. When my speed dropped to 4 mph I got very afraid of falling over so I clipped out and stopped. Then I did a little walking and pushing the bike but that didn’t last long. It isn’t really any easier and it would have taken forever so I decided to ride out of the clips. My left shoe just kept sliding right in but I kept my right out and it made me feel better. I ended up getting off the bike to let my heart rate come down a couple times but I hung in there and rode to the top. I really wanted to take a picture at the summit where you can look down and see the whole Napa Valley laid out before you and I kept looking and looking for that view and it kept not coming up which should have told me I wasn’t to the top yet. Sure enough, there was one more section of up left and my legs were trashed and I just didn’t’ have ‘up’ left in me anymore but I hung in there. When the view finally showed up I was heading downhill and veeeery happy about it so no stopping to take pictures.
The rest of the ride was mostly down which I really enjoyed. Toward the end things got really crowded with the 65 and 100 miles riders joining the 35 mile riders who didn’t seem to get the rules of the road. This was especially annoying since we were now traveling a road with a 55 mph speed limit and a lot of traffic. Nothing like 2 gabbers riding side by side in the bike lane at about 10 mph. Very annoying but we worked it out and brought it home. There was a great BBQ at the end so we sat and ate and talked and then headed home.
I was really glad that I didn’t bail on this ride because I was afraid to go. How crazy is that? I learned an important lesson on this trip. I NEED MORE WATTS! I got no watts, baby. I am really slow and I run out of juice early on. My thighs were just completely trashed due in part I’m sure from running on Saturday at a 9:45 pace. I only went 2.5 miles but they were fast and that was a bad idea. The climbing did me in, too. I need more work on the bike so I’m glad I live in an area where more work on the bike = more beautiful rides. Yay!