I had a "use it or lose it" day off from work today so I decided to take a solo trek to Laurel, NE ("I'd like to extend a Laurel and Hardy handshake to our new...") Comment quiz: Name the movie that quote came from without using the politically incorrect word that follows!
For some reason, I thought Laurel was 45 miles away, and when I found out that it was only 36, I was quite relieved actually. Although I was stoked for an early season 90 miler with a possibility of stretching it into a century, there was something about this ride that didn't go great for me.
I wanted to get on the road early, say 9-9:30. It was REALLY foggy and I tried to wait it out. I finally left at about 10:10 and it was still better that 90% humidity and the temperature was around 52 degrees so I layered up pretty heavy as I hate cold combined with wet. I was fine for the first 15 miles or so, but then the hills set in. It is possible that the temp was starting to rise as well as I was starting to drag as well. When I turned back south on Hwy 15 from Hwy 12, I had a sudden realization: There are endless "rollers" as far as the eye can see. I've ridden this once before (one way) and it was a tailwind so this was going to be a challenge of Bill Cosby proportions (all up hill, into the wind, both ways).
The first 6 miles from Hwy 12 to the Hartington turn can best be described as follows: pedal, pedal, KA-CHUNK, pedal pedal, KA-CHUNK, repeat. I know you cyclists out there feel my pain. The road becomes much better at that point. It was at that point that I started to feel warm with a side of potential bonking. Being too stubborn to stop and remove clothes, I pedaled on unzipping what could be unzipped and I woofed down a Caribou Coffee Granola Bar *drools*. I still struggled. The last 10 miles into Laurel seemed to take an eternity.
At last I arrived. The last three miles I was contemplating my stopping point at Laurel, then I remembered: There is a PIZZA RANCH! I stopped there only to find out they had NO PIZZA as their oven had broken down. After contemplating the seriousness of my situation, I still purchased the buffet and ate chicken, potato wedges, and some salad.
The local guys, and strangely enough they were ALL guys, were all sneaking glances at the "freak show" that just walked into their local establishment. I grabbed my drink and chicken and headed toward a corner as to not disturb any conversations. Too late; one friendly gent had to ask me all sorts of questions:
1. Where ya from?
2. What's with those shoes?
3. Did you get wet?
4. That bridge sure is nice to have up your way, isn't it?!?!
5. Did you see the bald eagles in the hollowed out Cottonwood tree a couple miles north of Hwy 20?
They were all friendly and more than a little curious. Those who didn't ask questions, asked about me from those who DID ask questions so I'm pretty sure everybody knew all about me by the end of the meal. I was also informed by the chief interrogator that a couple of weeks ago they did a cattle drive of over 200 cattle down the same road I just rode, which explained the hoof prints on the shoulder.
Should the nice gentlemen from Laurel read this, I want you to know that I DID see the bald eagles on the way home and I do appreciate you telling me about them!
On the way home, I could sense the wind shifting. I was slowly losing my tail wind in favor of a tail to cross wind. It was still a good push and it helped me up some of the same hills that just about killed me on the way down. I made it back to Vermillion with nary a half hour to spare before the wind really did change completely out of the West and then slowly was shifting NNW so I did get pretty lucky.
Story time is over and now on to the theory of why this ride kicked my butt. Well, it kicked my butt for the same reason I chose to ride it. I wanted a hilly course to continue to build some stamina for The Gut Check and the MS Tour in the Black Hills. What I didn't realize was that the ride to Laurel and back was actually 5,097 feet of vertical climbing. I was pretty amazed at that and decided to compare this the last day of the Tour de Kota in 2005 from Chamberlain to Pierre and what (little) I rode of the MS WRATH tour in the Black Hills last fall. Here is the side by side comparison:
|Total Garmin Miles||Feet of Vertical Climbing|
|Chamberlain to Pierre||101.28||5,168|
It was pretty shocking to see that we had this kind of climbing potential so close to home (without going UP and DOWN the SAME hill OVER and OVER and...). At any rate, others might not be quite as excited about this ride (hills, no shoulders), but I'm thinking that this will have to become a staple of my cycling diet for the upcoming "classics" that I'm going to be riding!