So my original plans for spring break of heading to Arkansas for a climbing trip at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch were shot by the extreme weather that tore through the southeast this week. Instead, myself along with Agatha racked up 360+ miles and over 24 hours of riding time on our bikes. I talked about the 85 mile ride in the previous post, but the other two rides we did consisted of a 110 mile ride to her family's house outside of Elizabeth, and a punishing 155 mile ride to my home in Monticello. These two rides contrast sharply in almost every way.
The ride to Elizabeth was simply beautiful. We experienced wonderful, clear, sunny weather with zero mechanical failures and great stops/scenery along the way. The nature of the route we took was a good challenge, with the total elevation gain tripling in the last twenty miles. Neither of us minded much though, as the gravel hills of northwestern Illinois undoubtedly offer some of the best riding and views in the area. Agatha's roommates met us at her cabin later that night after we arrived, and we celebrated with a gigantic bowl of guacamole and cold beer. Afterwards we both agreed that it was the most fun ride we had ever done, and we enjoyed every second of it.
The ride to Monticello was an altogether different experience. This was going to be (by far) the longest day either of us had spent on our bikes. The beginning of the route was not so bad, heading south into Ottowa, and over the Illinois River though Marseilles. It was about at mile sixty that we started to realize what we had gotten ourselves into. This was when the winds began to really pick up, and for the rest of the ride, we fought a strong headwind coming directly out of the south. I'm sure some people will understand, but it is hard to convey how draining and discouraging it was to ride into the wind for twelve hours straight. There was never a second of relief. I have never felt so frustrated, exerting myself fully against such an unyielding force. The scenery was flat, vast, and uninspiring. The roads were straight as an arrow, with little variation. This was definitely "type two" fun. We also avoided near disaster around mile 65 when the bolt securing one of Agatha's derailleur pulley wheels un-threaded and the entire component fell out onto the road. We managed to find the pulley but not the bolt. Miraculously, one of the bolts from my stem was the right length and diameter to hold the pulley wheel in place, and it worked fine for the final ninety miles of the ride. Other than that, I have little to say about this experience. It was grueling, but it was always something I wanted to do. This was probably the first ride I've done that pushed me to my limits both mentally and physically. It was satisfying to set a new personal record, and I'm sure I'll do another big ride like this someday. Just not into a headwind.
I would also like to add that I am coming up on the one year anniversary of owning my Salsa Casseroll. It has been a fantastic bike and I'm happy to say that I've put over 2,000 miles on it since purchasing it last April. I cannot think of a time where it has failed me in any way on a ride, not even so much as a flat tire. It's a great machine that has taken me on many adventures and made me smile.