Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Over Hill, Over Dale...

They say you never know what you can accomplish until you set your mind to it and just do it. Well, I set my mind to this little trip and I finished it. All I knew for certain was the general direction to where I was going and a rough distance in kilometers (around 60 give or take). I had no idea of what to expect on the roadways once I started or what I would have to endure to even get out of the city never mind the back roads of the country. In deciding what would be required on the trip, just in case, I almost drove myself nuts. I had a general check list of items I would need and made sure I had everything that I thought I would need. You know, essentials like tent, sleeping bag, cooking equipment etcetera. Then I added a couple of things that weren't on the list. Such as spare tubes for my tires and bicycle tools....just in case. I also came across a web page by a renowned bicycle camping and touring enthusiast, Ken Kifer, who basically lived and breathed this form of activity. Sadly, because of the web page I was on, I didn't find out until I came home yesterday afternoon, that Ken was killed by a drunk driver in September of 2003. Regardless, his website is still being cared for by a friend of his and is well worth checking out for both the stories he left behind and his guidance to other cycling/camping enthusiasts.

Most of the gear I would need I was able to fit into the panniers or saddle bags on my bike. The rest, clothing and other odds and sods were carried by me in my backpack. Without weighing it, I would have to say it weighed in excess of 50 pounds. (Will need to whittle that down some the next time.) Who the hell knew clothes for 4 days could weigh so much! I was hauling a 65 litre backpack full of everything else I thought I would need. Of course, not finding out until much later that I was forgetting one of the most important items of clothing. Can you guess what? You probably guessed right! I forgot underwear! Fortunately I was leaving with a clean pair on, just in case they found my carcass on the side of the road. At least I had that going for me.

I think I only slept about 3 hours while my brain began to do a mental check of everything that I still had to do. Getting out of bed around 5:30, I showered and got myself ready. I kept hefting the bags wondering whether the bike would be able to handle all of this stuff not to mention carry my hefty backside. Would I be able to strap on that backpack and endure the weight of it? That was when I said a little prayer to God asking Him for strength and also for calm winds and a relatively flat ride. Well, one out of three wasn't bad. The sun was beginning to peak over the trees and I began to get nervous. I wanted to be on my way by 7am so I could try and avoid the early morning traffic along some of the roadways leading out of town.

It was actually 7:10am when I left and of course the very first hill was at the end of my street. My original plan had me going along a path I had ridden before but knew contained many more steep hills and this early on, I was not prepared to start any major climb. So, I dissected the city as best I could. It didn't matter. No matter which way I took, the hills were inevitable so I endured them until I got to the top of what I thought would be a temporary plateau whilst meandering my way through the outskirts of town. That was when some wise ass tried to take me out at one of our round abouts. Considering the weight of the bike with it's cargo, I managed to stop and jump off the seat in time to get it under control. Now my heart was pounding in my ears and I was angry. I regained my composure, remounted and kept on going eventually getting out of the way of the worst of the traffic. I managed to find my way to one of the roads that would begin my journey out.

My initial goal was to survive, which of course, I did. Otherwise you wouldn't be reading this. What I saw ahead of me however began to make me doubt not just my sanity but whether this was all worth it. It appeared as though there weren't a flat piece of land in all of the area. Who the hell was I kidding. I peddled on, listening to the sound of the passing vehicles, my breathing and the thumping in my chest. Monitoring my speedometer, I was getting around 20km per hour in the early stage and that was on the flat surface. I was just trying to get comfortable with the weight and making sure it was snug on my back with little movement. What I didn't need was to start some irritation that would start to worsen. Believe me, my intention was to get there, not to break any speed records. My first mistake was going farther down the first country road than I should have. I missed a turn somewhere but when checking that out later, the turn would have had me go down an unpaved road so no harm done...or so I thought.

One thing is for certain, to put a little twist on the old saying, “what goes up, must come down”. What goes down, must also climb back up! And oh, did I climb. You will see that I only took a few pictures of my journey on the actual ride. I had some form of momentum going and did not want to get too relaxed. There are a few pictures here, that will give you some idea of my surroundings. Including the downhills and the uphills. I drank a combination of water and Gatorade and just small swallows. Enough to say I did. I stopped for about 10 minutes near a junction to get my bearings. I was still heading in the right direction, so that was good. I remounted and continued on. I was supposed to keep going straight at the last turn but came across the name of a road a friend mentioned would bring me through a small town. So, needing to get restocked, blindly, I took it.

The ups and downs continued until I actually had to hit the brakes on the way down one of the hills when I went over 52km/hr down the hill. If I had hit anything on the way down or lost control, something was going to hurt. And that something would have been me. As fun as that may have appeared at the time, my brain was already thinking about the climb back up. And it was a climb. Remember, I am not an experienced road warrior so to me, these hills seemed ginormous. And with the extra weight, it just made it that much more of a challenge. I made it up that hill and every other hill after that. I finally made it to that town and realized I was over the half way mark.

I stopped off at a little convenience store and bought some more liquids. Plus a couple of seed type bars that would have been right up Mr. Beaks' alley rather than mine. However, having skipped breakfast, I was getting hungry so I settled on those. Yummy....not! One of the locals stopped to chat, asked me where I was coming from and where I was going. I told him but when I asked how far it was to the next town, he said it was about 15 minutes by car. But the expression that showed on his face led me to believe there was something that he wasn't telling me. Yup! More hills...big deal. The problem was, I could feel myself starting to get tired. My hands, arms and feet were beginning to hurt. As well as a certain other area of my anatomy which was also developing a “minor” irritation.

When I strapped the backpack upon my shoulders, it now felt like about 100 lbs. However, knowing the end was closer than the beginning, I kept on going. Time didn't matter at all out here only gaining a steady cadence and persistence. The one thing I do have to say though is this, the town fathers in this area must have all had some warped sense of humor. Because, it appeared as though they all built their towns on an upgrade. So, no matter which way you were coming into town, you were going uphill. Strange. Anyways, I saw the unmistakable sight of a golf course up to my left and recognized it as one of the courses I had played many times in a town called Innerkip. Which meant of course that the town was nearby. The funny thing was, having driven out here by car many times on the highway, I knew it only took about 45 minutes to an hour. I was already around the 4 hour mark. Yuck!

Peddling through the town, I stopped at a crossed roads where road numbers merged and changed. Believe me, at this point, I did not want to make the mistake of taking a wrong turn and having to backtrack. So I was careful, took off my gear and sat in the shade of a post at a used car lot studying the roads. I knew I was running out of energy and the irritations were beginning to set in. I don't recall how long I sat there. Maybe 20 minutes, but it was good to take my shoes off and just sit and relax.

Now, looking at my watch and knowing the destination was imminent, I wanted to get in under the 5 hour mark. A challenge! I had myself a challenge! Back in the saddle, the first part was a downhill run. Little did I know, it would be the last major one I would get. The rest of the way was a steady parade of steps. One long stride after another. But I climbed them. Definitely slower than when I began the day but with a little more purpose. Finally, up ahead a sign loomed in the distance. Destination, next left. I turned the corner staring one final climb up to the end. I made it and in just under 5 hours. Didn't break any speed records. Wasn't planning on it. Just trying to get there and I did.
(More to come)


James said...

Bogey you are AMAZING! I'm so proud of you. Go Bogey!
That was a very inspiring post and I look forward to reading more.
It's nice that you got the Woodstock picture, after seeing it I can just imagine your sense of accomplishment.

Sarah Lulu said...

Goodness ..I feel quite exhausted just reading!

You showed such courage ....taking on such a huge goal.

Michelle said...

Wow! Determined are you not!

I'm exhausted reading it....


Rob-bear said...

Wow; this is just so amazing. And the best part of it is that you're still alive, and can tell the tale very well.

Not only that, if Woodstock was your destination, I have some idea of where you've been traveling. (As we both know, Woodstock is just a suburb of Tavistock.)

Hope you're having lots of fun. I'm waiting for the next installment.

ms toast burner said...

This is great reading, Bogey!

Though I'm not on a cycling trip, I really like your descriptions of how you just keeping going, despite the hills, hills, hills and pain and doubt and etc... as it's all a part of the journey. Much needed messages to my head, so thank you for being real about it all.

Congrats on getting there and I'm looking forward to reading 'part deux'!

Amel's Realm said...

WOW!!! That was quite a feat...I felt tired while reading your descriptions of the hills (literally speaking, not intending to sound like I'm fed up reading the post)...can't imagine what it must've been like for you, but LOVE the pics and GREAT JOB!!!! Glad you made it safe. :-D

Anonymous said...

Wooo Hooo Bogey! Way to go! I am so impressed, inspired, motivated, proud of you, desperate to do the same thing myself! Good on ya my friend!

smiles4u said...

Way to go Bogey!!! I am so darn proud of you. I love your description of this...it made me feel like I was right there with you...could almost feel the aches and pains you must have been feeling when you arrived at your destination. I look forward to hearing about the rest of your adventure!

PS I sure have missed you!