wine by the color

Monday, October 08, 2007

leisurely: (adv.) [lei·sure·ly] showing or suggesting ample leisure; unhurried

That was the word the promotional materials used to describe the bike ride my uncle and I undertook yesterday. The Hudson Valley Fall Foliage Tour was advertised as a ride for the "casual or experienced cyclist," and came in a variety of lengths. We chose the 40-miler, based mainly on our successful completion of Bike NY earlier this year, which is a similar distance.

Allow me to use some rudimentary graphics to show the erroneous step we took with this line of thinking:

I consider myself to be a casually experienced cyclist. I cycle semi-frequently when I am home, which, if you've been following along, hasn't been often in the past three months. There are some stout hills around my house, which would have been good practice for yesterday's ride, but I have not been on my bike since early August.

My uncle, however, not only did some wise pre-ride training but also did a test run of the entire course in his truck. He warned me that there were at least two severe and several moderate hills along the way. Being somewhat familiar with the area, I knew that would be the case. I just didn't realize how frequently it would be the case.

When we reached the first notable incline, I asked my uncle if it was one of the two severe hills he mentioned. It was not, and that was disheartening. When we finally reached the first of the severe hills, I was stunned at how steep it was. My brain, heart and legs held an emergency meeting to discuss the trauma they were all experiencing. About 3/4 of the way up, I had to admit defeat and walk my bike the remainder of the way. Upon my arrival at the crest of the hill, I sent a quick text message to my cousin, asking him to make sure lots of Springsteen was played at my funeral.

But things improved from there, even if the hills did not. The ride up Storm King Mountain was an absolute bitch, and I downshifted my bike to its lowest-possible gear. But we eventually made it all the way up without walking and were treated to this view:

The ride's brochure promised the "opportunity to see the Hudson Valley at its most beautiful time of year." Well, it was definitely beautiful. It will be more beautiful next week, when more of the leaves have turned, but it was still a scenic, enjoyable ride. It's a really pretty area, and certainly quite a contrast from the streets of New York City.

One of the highlights of the trip was the Orrs Mills Railroad Trestle. We passed it at a distance once, early in the ride, and then rode under it a few hours later.

Another high point was the lack of fellow riders. Bike NY, while fun, gets ridiculously crowded and backlogged with its 30,000 riders. Not a problem here. This is one of the rest area/food stops along the way. Much different from the mob scenes at Bike NY, at which I once had a run-in with a fellow biker over a banana.

All in all, it took about four hours to go 34 incline-filled miles (we skipped a side trip or two, and rode directly back to my aunt and uncle's house, rather than returning to the starting point). Upon arrival, I collapsed into the recliner for the balance of the day, thankfully sleeping through most of the J-E-T-S' second-half disappearing act against the Giants.

I made it through the rest of the day with minimal pain (except for watching the Packers-Bears game, but that was more emotional torture than physical) but was sure my body would take the night to think about what I had put it through and make me pay today. My biggest fear was that I would be unable to bend my knees when I awoke, which would result in me having to tell two little faces that we would not be going to New York City today because Aunt Jersey Girl was unable to walk.

Imagine my surprise when I did some preliminary knee bends this morning and found everything in working order. And then stepped out of bed and experienced no knee buckling.

So off to the city we went. More on that tomorrow...


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