Saturday, July 13, 2013

Appreciation

That's what I'm feeling right now. For the fact that I have, in fact, survived possibly the most stupid thing I've ever done. Well, I've done a lot of stupid things, but I'll detail it and let you the reader be the judge.

Today, I decided to ride to Estes Park. It's almost exactly thirty miles from my house. I left school at 3:00 (actually a little earlier, I ducked out of yearbook, judge me), got my gear in order, fixed a peanut butter sandwich for the road, filled my bottles, checked my tire pressure, etc. I made sure after Tuesday (that's another story) that I took a front and rear light, although I was anticipating that my return would be before the sun set. I was rolling out of the driveway around 3:30. Beautiful day, in the sixties. Not too bad on the traffic either. Wearing short sleeves and bib shorts with a base layer, it was comfortable with (according to NWS) a five mph headwind from the west. Highway 34 was pretty tame, but obviously with ~25 miles uphill, it wasn't exactly easy. In the back of my mind, I kept hoping the sun would magically reverse its course and climb back into the sky. Of course this didn't happen; by the time I reached the entrance to the Big Thompson Canyon, about eight miles in, the sun was already behind Mt. Olympus. Not a good sign. I didn't even reach Estes, I got to about mile marker seventy which was about twenty miles of riding. At that point, the sun was almost completely gone. Which wasn't a big deal in my mind. I slapped my lights on and turned around. But in the five minutes it took me to mount and adjust my lights and fill my main bottle from the reserve, I had gone from a miniscule amount of light from the sun to about zero.

This is Highway 34. The speed limit down the canyon varies from forty-five to fifty-five, which isn't a big deal if you're in the bike lane. Unfortunately, the bike lane is usually strewn with gravel and sand from the slow vehicle pull offs that dot the area. So I decided my best course of action would be to put the bike in the big 53x11 gear and pedal hard in the traffic lane.

That was fun. Well, not exactly. It would have been more fun in broad daylight when I would be able to see everything (which was the original plan), but I won't complain. I was spinning the big gear around 110rpm, which is pretty fast. Full tuck in the drop bars, just praying to God that the cars behind me would follow the law and wait to pass. Thankfully, because my bike has far better maneuverability than any car, I was able to descend rapidly and keep high speed through the corners. I said a lot of prayers and more than a few obscenities though, because the lights of the oncoming cars would momentarily blind me every time and I couldn't see most of the road, except what was illuminated by the headlights in front or behind me. At what I calculated to be 46mph, if I hit an errant rock in the road, I would be toast. 15 miles in 20 minutes.

By the time I hit the bottom of the canyon, I barely feel my hands on the bars, either of my knees, and I was shaking, both from the combination of fear and adrenaline, and the cold. I rode the last five miles home shivering, elated to be alive.

These experiences always have a habit of being ones that come with an activity that was planned, prepared for, and executed. But sometimes life decides to throw a curve ball into the mix. Roll with the punches and appreciate the experience.

Note: I wrote this back in November 2012 for my previous blog. An oldie, but goodie, I laugh now looking back upon the moment of idiocy that I was lucky to survive.

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