Monday, August 16, 2010

Double Triple Digits

I grew up in the South. In my entire life (over 360 in dog years), there's only been one August that I have not lived south of the Mason-Dixon line. As such, you'd think that this statement would not be a revelation to me: It's hot here this time of year.

And this year has been one of the worst. Of course, every summer seems to be the hottest one ever when you're embroiled (literally) in it, but the numbers seem to show that this one has been exceptional. For example, we've now had 29 straight days at the RandoCave with a high temperature in the 90s. The low has dipped into the upper 60s twice.

So, why did I go out Saturday and ride 100 miles in 100 degree temperatures? Because I'm stupid? Because I'm insane? Because I don't know when to get off the road and out of the sun and just take a break?

Yes. Thanks for noticing.

I had a simple goal Saturday: Ride a little, at an easy pace. I was going to go down to Chattanooga on Sunday with some Team Belladium and Harpeth Bicycle racers to ride the River Gorge road race and time trial courses, so I needed to save my legs. Saturday, I just wanted to check out a few roads that I've been curious about, and ramble some. You know ... have fun!

So, I put the Lynskey on the back of the RAAMinator about 6 am and drove down to Page High School, and then biked back home. It was already in the mid-70s, and muggy as hell, but I took it easy and had a good quiet ride.

At the RandoCave, RandoGirl joined me and together we biked back down to Arrington Vineyards for Team Belladium's "Women and Wine at the Vine" ride. Since this was a "ladies only" ride, RandoGirl got to enjoy some "sister cycling" while I went off and did my own thing.

First, I headed down to Chapel Hill, TN, on Horton Highway (US-31). I'm planning a bicycle camping trip for November and wanted to see whether this road would be tolerable on a fully-loaded bike, since it gets a little traffic. The review was mixed, since the road has a decent shoulder that the state has completely ruined by putting in a rumble strip starting at the Rutherford-Williamson county line. You can go to the right of the rumbles, but that's where all the debris is. Your best bet, sad to say, is just stay to the left of the white lane and make the cars go around you. Meanwhile, the drivers are probably all shaking their head, thinking, "Why ain't that boy riding his bicycle on that nice wide road shoulder?"

Coming in to Chapel Hill about 10:30, the bank sign said that it was 95 degrees. I stopped at the Shell station for ice and Gatorade, and then rode down to Sonic for an early lunch. From there, I went further south to Henry Horton State Park, and checked out their tent camping area -- it should be very nice in November, but was pretty warm about 11:30 am on Saturday.

I had agreed to meet RandoGirl back at Arrington Vineyards at 1:30 pm, and figured I had about 30 miles to ride to get there. For the return trip, I went west on TN-99 -- wider shoulder than US-31, but no rumble strips so it's great for cycling -- and then north a few miles on US-431. From there, my plan was to backtrack parts of my new Cathey's Creek permanent to Bethesda, top off my bottles, and then finish the ride with about 90 miles.

Funny thing about riding a route with which you are not yet familiar -- particularly when you're doing it backwards: It's easy to miss a turn.

Next thing I know, I'm thinking, "Hmmm ... this seems hillier than last time. And hotter. Definitely no shade. And the turns don't look right." And then the road ends at some road with no sign, and you turn left because that's the way you were supposed to go about five miles back, and then you keep going that way reading road signs and looking for something you've been on before, knowing full well that eventually you'll get to some road that you know ... or you'll be back on TN-99 or US-431 or US-31.

Fortunately, I hit a road that I knew. Unfortunately, it was well south of where I thought that I was. Almost as bad, it was a terrible road -- rutted, half-gravel, and damned hot. Eventually, it ended, and 10 miles later I was finally at Bethesda, where I filled my now-empty bottles and had three refills of Diet Coke from the fountain machine. I also sat and ate a bag of chips while watching NASCAR on the television, just to get my salt level up and my core temperature down.

Since it was now after 1 pm, I called RandoGirl to tell her that I was probably not going to be at Arrington Vineyards at 1:30. They were having a picnic lunch in the shade, but it was pretty hot there as well, so she said that she would meet me at the RAAMinator at the high school instead. Since I now had cold fluids and felt decent again, it was an easy 10-mile spin for me, and I just beat her back.

Sunday in Chattanooga, I was still cooked, and my friends had to wait on me to catch up on a lot of the early turns. I promised myself then that I was NOT going to do another triple-digit ride in triple-digit heat again. At least, not this year.

I hope.

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