Thursday, March 16, 2006

Epic Ride


At long last, here is the ride report:

Day 0 (driving day)

Nate and I left Grand Rapids at 1 PM on Wednesday. The weather was cool but sunny. The drive down to Arkansas was mostly uneventful. We did see a semi blocking the entire width of I-80 south of Chicago. That caused a 90 minute delay. The last 20 miles to Mountain View, AR were through some twisty and steep roads. It was foggy and raining, so that was interesting. We also had some trouble with our directions at the end. As a result, we got in at about 4 AM and woke up Dan who had arrived earlier in the day. Time to hit the sack!

Day 1

We woke up after a few hours of sleep to a heavy downpour. The rain was coming down in sheets, and thunder and lighting were in evidence. We decided to go into town and get food for the rest of our stay. The roads were all half-flooded, and we got soaked in the parking lot of the WalMart Supercenter. Riding was not looking good.

At last, the rain stopped. We put on our riding gear and got ready to head out. Just as we were leaving the lodge to ride the 5 miles to the trailhead, I noticed that I only had half a master link in my chain! Recall that this is the same bike I rode for 1.5 hours on Sunday... So I grabbed a spare master-link, and promptly dropped half of it between the boards of the porch! Now I was looking like a rookie and getting pissed. I decided to just ride the back-up bike and fix the main bike later. So we push off again, and notice that Nate has water streaming down his back! He had failed to close the top on his new hydration bladder. Rookie mistake #2. A quick twist and we were, at last, on the road.

At the trailhead, we decided to do the easiest loop first. Dan had ridden these trails before, so he acted as out guide. Everything was wet from the morning rain, and this turned the 'easy' trail into a suffer-fest! Water was running down the trail in streams, and the rocks (of which there were MANY) were very slick. It reminded me of Whistler--fun when dry, awful when wet. We suffered through the easy lap and decided try the intermediate lap. This went ok. The ground was actually starting to dry out, and the sun made an appearance. There were still tons of rocks, and many slick spots. We finished this loop without too much trouble.

The final loop of the day was interesting. We had been on the trail for about 2.5 or 3 hours, and Nate and I were beat. Dan really wanted to ride, so we set out for the Big Loop. This was about 12 miles long. There were three "stream" crossings, if you call a 3'-4' of white water a stream! Dan said that he could ride across these streams without getting wet only a few days before. The water was moving so fast that a front wheel dipped into the flow was likely to get yanked away.

But we managed! And we had fun. There were some crazy climbs and wicked descents. We were all on the ground at least once. The sun was out and were were loving life.

At the last stream crossing, I noticed a few dark clouds. A few soon became a bunch which soon became a jet-black sky. The winds shifted and picked up. This was not looking good. On the last long climb of the day, the rain started. At the top of the climb, all hell broke loose! 50 mph wind gusts and driving rain. And we still had a wicked dirt road decent and a road ride back to the lodge.

I made the decent in record time. We time-trialed back to the lodge in some nasty rain. Here is a pic of us on the front porch of the lodge:


As you can see, I (the guy on the right with the beer) look like death warmed over. (Nate is on the left and Dan is in the middle.) We had been out for 6 hours! Notice that the sun is coming out again behind us. Also note the hills behind us--that is what we were riding over all day.

As if that wasn't enough, we returned to a lodge without electrical power! That's right, the storm had left us in the dark. We had to take quick showers so as not to use up all the hot water. All the food we bought that morning had to sit uneaten, as our stove was electric. We headed into town for a bite. The power came back on just as we returned, so the rest of the evening was uneventful. The weather channel did indicate more storms overnight, however.

Day Two will follow in the next post.

7 comments:

gjc said...

The photo of you three says it all. Still, I am can't wait to read the next installment.

gary

Endurosnob said...

A beer well earned!!

Anonymous said...

Joe,

You look stoned.

I thought you were kidding about your blog when we talked at the Kisscross event. I'm a believer. Cool blog, well written.

Paddy Humenny said...

nice dude, real nice.

Paul said...

I look forward to the rest of the story!

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