Ride report: Putting the 'where the fuck am I' back in fall

I took a rare day off work this week for the sole purpose of going for a (very) long ride. I try to sneak away at least once every fall, sometimes with a friend, sometimes just by myself. I have a favorite route saved that requires a full day with an empty schedule. It's become one of my best traditions.

If I have the option I'll always choose to ride with someone else, but taking off for the entire day on the bike by yourself can be satisfying in a different way. It's a uniquely freeing feeling: you can stop whenever you want, leave whenever you get bored, and go as slow or mostly fast as the mood strikes you, the moon is your package of oyster crackers!

On the flip side, I do find it pretty lonely. Stops are a lot less appealing without anyone to talk to. What's the point of just standing there by yourself?

When we ride in groups of any size, something I really struggle with is the amount of–and more importantly length of–stops. If it were up to me, we'd do our necessaries in short order chop chop and keep it moving along. Of course, we all know that isn't how it ever goes down.

For every additional person, your stop length increases at exponential rates. If there are 6 of you, at least one will forget to use the bathroom until everyone else is already geared up and sweating bullets and then once they get back and put on their helmet one other person will realize they've lost their sunglasses and have to dig around in their tank bag for 10 minutes and then go buy water. So it is written. So it shall be done.

So when I'm by myself, I take that opportunity to do the exact opposite -- ie, I hardly stop at all. Time to live your dreams! Billboard slogan: Experience bliss! Never stop! Never stop stopping! Always stop stopping!

I was gone for 9 hours and was off the bike for a generously estimated total of about 36 minutes.

This ALSO meant that when I finally pulled in to the driveway at the end of the day, sweaty and covered in a thick coating of grey dust, I flopped down onto the floor and didn't move for 10 minutes. I suppose there's some kind of lesson here about moderation, but I'm not going to learn it. (More like the lesson is that everyone else should take the day off to ride with me.)

Okay back to the dream route—I won't bother listing it out. Unless you're local you won't care, and if you're local you have your own favorites and will want to argue about mine like gladiators spearing each other to the death.

This time it was a 450 mile loop, though normally it's intended to be more like 390 due to REASONS WE WILL DISCUSS AT LENGTH, and it winds south through Kentucky towards the Appalachian foothills. Here's a partial:

Of course some of you will recognize the big name faves: Route 10, 19 & 62. After that it devolves into an obscure noodly mess (the very best kind). No matter what I always go out of my way to pass through Rabbit Town because the section of 52 that leads east out of Ravenna is THEEEEE BESTTT.

This time I tried something new and detoured on to a much smaller noodler that looked like it cut through an interesting part of the gorge and would (presumably) save me a few minutes over my normal route. There's no cell service down there, so no googles at the fingertips. I knew I needed to take the first right and then just keep straight and not turn to (after even more noodling) end up at the other side near Slade, where I would magically know where I was going again.

Below, you can see how this turned out. I did it THREE TIMES.

During my first (unsuccessful) pass through, I stopped to pee in a field and text Jon.

"I'm lost," said the idiot person.

"You're not that lost, I can see you on my map. You're like 2 minutes from town."

"Oh, ok."

After which I promptly turned the exact wrong direction, entering a mind-numbingly technical single-lane 20 mile section of road with a series of intense switchbacks that took me right back to where I started.

And then I did it again.

After I passed the men building a barn for the second time, I pulled off to the side of the road and flipped up my visor. "WHERE AM I!?!" I howled, hands to the sky in a plea for help from the gods/shirtless construction workers. It was clear that they didn't quite know what to make of me, so I turned the bike off and walked down to where they were working.

"Oh at the end of the road if you go right, you'll go in a big circle—" said old-man-clearly-in-charge. "YES!" I shouted excitedly at top volume in my helmet, "YES, that's what I did!" He kept talking as if my outburst hadn't happened at all, "...so you'll want to go left."

I got back on the bike and rode away, but not before giving them a little wave of thanks which was not at all well received.

And thus, I finally escaped the Lööp of Dööm. Which, in retrospect, was quite lovely riding! With not another soul in sight for miles and miles! But by my second time around the circle and my fifth hour of riding, the panic of lost-lost-lost-lost had taken a lot of the wind out of my sails.

In comparison to... well, all that, the rest of the day was nice and remarkably uneventful—aside from two dogs that decided to take a fucking adorable nap right in the middle of this corner, which I have lovingly recreated in excruciating detail and accuracy for your enjoyment. You're welcome:


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