I woke up late today, knowing it would be a shorter mileage day. I checked out of my motel and spent an hour procrastinating at Starbucks before finally hitting the road around 11:30. I left in a light drizzle, wearing my rain and cold for the first time.
A climb started immediately out of Placerville. No warm up miles today, straight into climbing. My knees didn’t like it, and I did not feel strong as I’d hoped. Not more than half a mile up, and I had to shed my thermal layer. I slept at 1600ft elevation, and the climb stopped at 2500ft. Then a downhill that had me going 30mph.
My arms froze going at that speed, so again I had to stop and add arm warmers. It’s tough to balance between being cold and overheating. Your body seems to frequently change its requirements. I looked at my computer after a few miles and saw it was 44 F. I needed to stay on the warmer side of this balance, which meant clammy and sweaty under the gear. Six miles in, and I was cranking in granny with not a lot going on. Constant big climbs, descents, repeat. This was the toughest biking of the trip, and it’s only going to get worse.
The rain picked up. I found myself walking a lot. I didn’t have much power on the climbs. Anytime I asked my body for more, to stand up and attack a hill, I’d get a hundred yards or so up, and my legs would refuse to do anything but spin again in granny. Often, having to shift down again meant losing momentum, and having to walk the bike. It really is better to just take it steady, if slowly.
In Somerset, I stopped to get WiFi, and ended up having a beer at Bones Roadhouse. A lot of local hill-types looking at me kind of sideways, but they warmed up. When you’re wearing a neon yellow coat and black three-quarter pants, you usually get some attention. We ended up talking weather and road conditions, and they were very helpful.
When I came back out, my cyclocomputer had stopped. No more speed or mileage. That’s a problem, because I navigate a lot of these subtle turns on my maps largely by mileage. I left town, and into another climb. This one huge. I started at 2500ft, and turn after turn, I see it climbing. 2700. 2900. This seemed awfully steep for a bike route, but I have to climb as high as 9000 at some point, so I didn’t think too much of it. 3100, 3200. This is really out of the way. I feel like I should have crossed a river, according to my map. I was worried I was on the wrong road, when I saw a road sign for E16. Thank GOD, that’s what I needed to be on. Turn after turn, all uphill. Too many steep sections, lots of walking. 3300, 3400. This cannot be right, I haven’t crossed a river, and a river wouldn’t be running at this altitude. Finally I come across a residental sign with the courtesy to list the address on it.
Yep, took a wrong turn 3 miles back. I cursed as loudly as I could up into the rain, and turned and rode down. The downhill was nuts. I had to really hard clutch my brakes just to feel in control. I didn’t have my speed, but what took me about 45 minutes to climb up took me about 4 minutes to descend.
I was losing daylight. Not good. It’s already 2:30, and after this wrong turn, I’m barely halfway. A guy in a truck stops, guessing correctly I’m biking across the country. He warns me not to go over the mountains today or tomorrow, and I tell him I know and thank him.
More hills. An enormous, gorgeous valley for the Columbus river valley, with a long, 1000ft descent along a very narrow cliff road. Dark clouds hanging over the top of the valleys. The storm was going to pick up again. Down, across the bridge, then another steep climb into the next town. This is the way it’s going to be non-stop, until its nothing but straight up to 9000ft. It’s not going to get better.
I walked a mile. I’m tired, and the cold was sapping my strength. I didn’t have a lot of energy, and ate as I walked. I checked my phone, and it no longer had signal.
No GPS, no bike computer for help navigating. Nothing but maps, estimates, and country roads with frighteningly rare signage. Up into Somerset, straight into to a cafe. More for the WiFi than the food. I get my bearings in Google maps, and head out. Immediately on leaving the cafe, it starts to pour.
It’s coming down hard. The screaming fast descent to another river crossing pelts my face with freezing water. I can’t tell if it’s sleet or just rain. My shoes can’t drain fast enough and get waterlogged. This is getting worse, but I think I’m close. I flag down a car just to make sure I didn’t take a wrong turn, because I don’t think I can make it back into town up the way I came. I’m good. Just two more miles.
I finally see the driveway my hosts described, and rip out a scream of triumph. I slogged through the dirt road, pushing it through mud I can’t pedal through, and finally lean it up against a porch and knock on the door. I am so cold and wet and tired and happy to be in a warm house that I can’t stop laughing as I’m saying hi.
This was a really tough day. I have to estimate for most of the mileage, but I’m guessing even after the wrong turn, no more than 28. Twenty-eight miles in a degrees of rain, near freezing, through the mountains.
Tomorrow not looking much better. I need to look at the weather, make a couple plans, and play it by ear in the morning.
I cannot wait to get over the worst of these mountains. I know I have weeks of up and down ahead of me, but I think the weather is making this so bad. I could knock out 60 miles through these mountains if it was sunny and 70, but thats not how this works.
Tomorrow, more work.
I’m really cold at this point, and there’s nowhere to hide and add layers without getting soaked.
My name is Charlie Rohrlack. I live in Chicago.
I happened upon the app TrackMyTour on iOS, and I was hooked. There were several people blogging their long distance bicycle trips, sharing photos, thoughts, and their day to day life while on the road. I was completely in love with the idea, but it was late in the season, and life (and fencing) interfered a bit.
In 2013, as spring came and went, I began talking and thinking about bike touring again, and started to set aside a little money. I did some light planning, which turned into serious planning, which turned into a new bike and lots of gear, and it now looks like it will be possible to depart in late April, 2014.
This site was created to document my travels. Having read so many blogs and seen the excellent way it archives and enables yourself and others to look back or follow daily progress, I know that this blog is going to be an integral part of the trip.
If you have a comment or suggestion, want to share your touring blog with me, or just want say hello, I’d more than love to hear from you! DO IT NOW!
The weblog is here: http://charliesride.wordpress.com/about/