Saturday, August 3, 2013

Day 73 - Smooth Sailing

My alarm startled me this morning at 5 am. We were sleeping outside in a tent. It took me a while to come to and sit up. The temperature was freezing, a mere 39 degrees. I quickly folded up my sleeping bag and thermarest and ran for the indoors, tripping over the tent flap in the process. I pulled on my arm warmers and tights. It was going to be a cold ride out of Alturas. 

The bike ride over to where breakfast was being served was painful. My already sore muscles did not appreciate the cold wind cutting through my clothing. My eyes watered and my fingers froze. The weather was supposed to warm up to the high 80s today, a 40 degree jump. We couldn't wait for the sun to rise. We looked at Nyx disdainfully because she's from California. "Why isn't it sunny and warm? Your state is broken... Fix it!" we demanded. She shrugged and said, "I tried to warn you!"

We were feeling a lot warmer after a big breakfast of eggs, pancakes, biscuits, and other goodies. We only had one lunch planned for today halfway through the ride and, on a 87 mile day, you have to be sure you're getting enough calories.

Eventually, we took off in the cold morning air. We moved quickly, taking 3 mile pulls at the front of a 20 mph pace line. Mountains appeared in the distance and got larger as we raced across the valley. In no time, we were climbing. Beautiful forests surrounded us. Majestic Ponderosa pines stood tall, the ground beneath them littered with pine cones the size of small footballs. Lime green moss covered the low-lying branches of some trees. The whole world felt like it was holding its breath, and everything was silent. I panted softly as the earth rose beneath me. Austin pulled ahead of me and I concentrated on cranking on my pedals to stay with him. The sight of the summit gave me enough motivation to power to the top, stopping only to manually shift my chain to my big ring. My front derallieur has been giving me issues lately and I wanted to make sure I was in my biggest front gear for the descent. If I was in a smaller gear, I sold be spinning my pedals too fast while I gained speed downhill. 

The descent carried us into lunch. Lunch was located in a little mountain town called Adin. We met a new friend there. 

We named him Phillip. He really liked sausages!

We still had 46 miles to go after lunch and the weather was heating up fast. I left lunch in a fast line with Dan, Marcus, Austin, and Brian. Brian pulled hard at around 20 mph before dropping back, leaving me to lead. I pulled at 20 for a mile before a surprise climb rose steeply from the plain. I can hold my own in a fast pace line, but when it comes to climbing, those guys blow me out of the water. I dropped back with Brian, watching as the rest of the group disappeared up the pass. It was a tough climb but the view at the top was rewarding and we reached the summit to find the rest of the group waiting patiently for us. 

The descent was gorgeous. A yellow valley, separated from us by a small guard rail and a steep drop, opened up on our left. Sweeping turns helped us gain speed as we hit 45 mph. My bike felt comfortable underneath me as I rolled at high speeds. I pedaled to catch Dan who was all tucked in to reduce wind resistance. It was breath-taking! I have to be careful not to take any of these mountain descents for granted. I will miss them when I get back to flat Indiana. 

The rest of the ride was literally a blur. Marcus pulled hard at 21 mph and the Dan pulled harder at 23. We cruised for 10 miles that flashed by in no time. Eventually, we hit some hills and my legs were toast from keeping pace. I fell back again and was dropped. With 12 miles left, I struggled uphill for half of it, my legs barely turning. Luckily, the scenery was beautiful and distracting. I stopped at the small summit to snap a picture. 

The next 6 miles were relatively downhill and my legs recovered quickly. I entered Lassen National Forest and was blown away by the beauty. Ponderosa pines stood proudly in rocky soil. White thistles with flowers the color of rubies grew in bunches by the road. The winding road was so smooth that I couldn't feel it. It felt like I was soaring across the ground. Even with my weary legs, it was one of my favorite rides. That last road was the most beautiful place I have ever cycled. 

Tonight, we were treated by the wonderful people of Cassel, CA. We feasted on a taco bar and washed down dinner with door beer floats that hit the spot. Tomorrow, we have our longest climb of the summer: we gain over 5,000 feet in elevation in one single climb. It is going to be a tough day, but the townspeople reassured us that it is gorgeous so we are very much looking forward to it. I have to get some sleep to preparefor it. 

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