Friday, June 24, 2011

MRT - Biking Day 3

Fountain City, Wisconsin to La Crosse, Wisconsin

Time: 5:56:24

Distance: 65.395 miles

Average Speed: 10.9 mph

Max Speed: 32.3 mph

Calories Burned: 2028.1

Fat Burned: 173.8 g

Today was a pretty terrible day for me. Definitely not the glamorous side of bicycle touring. Which is really a shame because on a normal day, this probably would have been the most gorgeous ride ever.

I woke up still feeling a little drunk from the Celtic Dream I had yesterday (don’t judge me for being an uber lightweight!) and my diaper rash was feeling better, but hadn’t cleared up and (sorry gentlemen, TMI approaching) I started my period overnight. So before my feet hit the floor, the odds were already stacked against me. And then they just kept right on stacking. It was cold. I mean really, really cold. And windy. And raining. I had only brought shorts because I really wasn’t expecting 45*F weather in June. And my cycling shoes were still soaking wet from yesterday. I put socks on, but soon they were soaking wet too. So I was pretty miserable and slow going and was the last person ready to go. Lucky for me, I’m traveling with some of the nicest people ever and John and Rachel waited for me to get a move on. So when I finally wheeled my bike out the door of my room, I discovered I had a flat tire. Turns out that the foomph, foomph, foomph noise from yesterday was a tiny piece of plastic I picked up in my front tire. Awesome.

So we got my tube changed and were finally on our way.

Now today’s “planned” route was only 37 miles long, so really the plan was to take a side trip. Trempealeau county has been featured in several cycling articles and boasts some of the best, practically unknown cycling in the country on amazingly smooth roads (true) with very little traffic (also true). Also, John had discovered this youtube video of a road called Alligator Slide, which we all just had to do. So we replanned a route of about 60 miles for the day.

Of course the side trip route meant that the first thing we did this morning was a monster climb. This is the only hill on the entire trip that I stopped on for something other than shedding a layer. I stopped three times going up this hill. Although one of them was to talk to Cindy and Amy about getting some leg warmers. No matter that I was already stopped when they found me... :) Amazingly (the one thing in my favor today!) there was a bike shop across the street from our motel. We had stopped by on our way out, but they didn’t open for another hour. This is one of the many advantages of SAG drivers. We put Cindy and Amy on bike shop duty. They stayed in Fountain City until the shop opened (which they ended up doing early, God bless them) and bought me a tube of butt butter and leg warmers.

I did manage to pedal up the entire hill and then immediately proceeded to freeze on the other side. When Cindy and Amy delivered the leg warmers to me, it was great timing as I could no longer really feel my legs at all. I have to say that they were really the most awesome SAG drivers ever today. They plopped me in their van and toweled off my legs to warm me up and helped me wrangle on the leg warmers, which were instantly a million times better for my frozen legs.

We continued on through some rollers and up onto a ridge top where the wind was just awful. At one point I asked John if he was having fun and his answer was, “This is about the shittiest weather we could have.” If I were solo touring, I definitely would have made today a rest day, but we pressed on in the cold, cold wind and rain. I was feeling sort of emotional (by emotional, I mean depressed and loserish and slightly insane, because no sane person would do this for fun), but kept seeing random goldfinches which made me so happy. They’re such cheery little birds. Then, almost to Alligator Slide Road, I rode through a cloud of goldfinches. There were at least twenty of them and they took off from both sides of the road where they had been hiding in some tall grass right as I approached them. It was so amazing, I almost cried from happiness. Birds were really the highlight of my day today.

We turned onto Alligator Slide Road for this infamous descent. Again, I think this would have been quite lovely in better weather. It's a nice, twisty descent that featured a couple of amazing views. I almost wished I was going up the hill so I could stop and take a picture. Almost. However, it turns out that they were doing some road work on the road that connects to Alligator Slide at the bottom (I think that part of it had washed away or something) and we encountered several dump trucks on our way down which made it slightly less awesome. However, those views were amazing, even without the sun shining and I’m glad I did it.

Here we are at the bottom of the hill

At the bottom of Alligator Slide, I sat in the SAG van while we waited to regroup so I could warm up a little more. I also had a second breakfast of leftover bagels and Cindy was nice enough to give me her last Pay Day candy bar. I’m telling you, they’re awesome SAG drivers. One good thing about bicycle touring is that you can pretty much eat whatever you want. Although I think I’ve learned that I shouldn’t ride a bicycle without first consuming an appropriate amount of coffee.

Once we regrouped, we decided to change the route just a little bit so that we could eat sooner. We headed into the nearest town, Arcadia, where we had lunch at the Detox Bar and Grill. I ordered chicken poppers and macaroni and cheese. I wasn’t super impressed with this place. I only ate about half of my food (I was feeling a little nauseous, not uncommon for me in my condition), which I think was a bad decision. It's really important to eat well when you're putting in these kinds of miles. I'm just not sure I could have even forced food in though. I did decide to change out of my wet socks and bike shoes and just wear tennis shoes for the rest of the day since it seemed the rain had passed. I think that was a good decision. My feet were much happier for the rest of the day.

We rode out of Arcadia and stopped to take pictures at Memorial Park. We continued on our way where we rode on relatively flat roads through a wildlife preserve. We saw lots of birds through here. We went up our second 500 foot climb of the day and made our way to a bike trail. This middle part of the day, between Alligator Slide and the bike trail wasn’t so bad for me. I would have ended the day happy, despite my rough start, if we hadn’t ridden on the bike trail.

Memorial Park

Nice riding through here

Sandhill cranes in the nature preserve area

Last rest stop before hitting the awful trail

We eventually turned onto the bike path, which was about twenty miles of gravel. It was flat, but very slow going. I don’t mind gravel roads in short quantity; twenty miles was way too long for me. The gravel was loose in places and had patches of mud that made me fishtail. There were also long bridges that were very bumpy. Maybe I should have put my cross tires on or something, but with my bike set up as a road bike, this path was not very enjoyable. It was also longer than I expected. John kept telling me “Five more miles.” At one point we stopped in a parking lot to check our bearings because we thought we were supposed to be off the path already. I just laid down flat in the parking lot. My entire body hurt from riding on this path. My hands hurt; my neck and shoulders were killing me; my butt hurt; everything hurt. “Five more miles.” Ugh.

The sign makes it look so friendly!

The beginning of the trail, before it got too bad.

Long, bumpy bridges

Parts of it were pretty through here riding over the water. But most of it looked the same for twenty miles.

We eventually made it to La Crosse where we proceeded to get lost. This was the lowest point for me. I was starving and in pain and was just ready to get off my bike. We kept making wrong turns and had to navigate some tricky roads and patience was running low for many of us. I even considered just waiting on the SAG drivers to come pick me up, but I was told (for at least the fourth time) “Five more miles.” I was ready to kill the next person who told me that. But Rachel’s iphone GPS sorted us out and we eventually made it to our motel for the night. We pulled into the parking lot and I was so happy to not be riding my bike anymore and felt so guilty for feeling so happy about that and just hurt so bad, that I just started sobbing. Right in the parking lot. In front of everybody.

Today was a seriously challenging, both mentally and physically, day for me.

Not where we stayed. I just liked the old bike.

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