After IronK's big triumph yesterday, Road Pixie was looking to immediately follow up with a shorter, hilly ride. This is in keeping with my desire to be a better climber and more masochistic. And my feeling that training for multiple day rides involves training for multiple days in a row.
I picked this ride mainly because the forecast was for late day thunderstorms and I have had about enough of those. At 75 miles and 4,000 ft of climbing, this ride suited the bill. It also gave me an opportunity to see my friend Gary again. He was in a terrible accident earlier this spring involving his head, pavement and 30 mplh. Fiill in the blanks, it's a miracle he made it. The man is very tough - tougher than Road Pixie.
So since I planned all this out, I was late to the start. I'd been sleeping strangely all week, really soundly which was a welcome relief from the last few weeks. I was also getting over a host of bites from various insects on last week's camping adventure with IronK and CaptainK (my childhood best friend that I recently reacquainted with). The three of us had spent a lovely 3 days in the wild camping, hiking, canoeing and generally frolicking in the woods.
The day was much windier than the previous one and the strong south wind was a harbinger of the approaching front. It was also supposed to be really hot but I wasn't terribly worried about that. I wound up pulling out just a few minutes after the planned start to very little traffic and temperatures still in the high 60s. And the strong south wind at least meant I would have a tailwind for about 25 miles.
This particular route shares some common sections with the Munger Bungo, my 600k permanent. I noticed some improvements right away namely that all of Norrell Ave has been totally repaved. This used to be a network of potholes and expansion joints, now it is absolutely smooth pavement. What a joy to ride on.
The fine pavement went all the way to Scandia, home of the Scandia Market. At about 18 miles, it's not quite 10 miles from here to the control. The Market had reopened after closing a couple years back and I stopped to buy something. I'm a believer that if you want businesses to stay open, you had best patronize them. Our favorite beer store, the Four Firkins (that also had my favorite cream soda) recently closed due to competition with big boxes.
I got an interesting ice tea drink from Vitamin Water and slurped it down quickly outside. The wind was about 10 miles an hour.
After Scandia, I continued to fly along passing lakes, trees, wetlands and farms. The corn was a reminder of the favorable wind and I was slightly sad to turn onto Panola Drive and have it be a cross. Nonetheless, I continued to maintain my pace and cranked along some shallow rollers. After about a mile, I noticed a bike coming towards me. He passed and I spun around staring - the gait and the bike were familiar and I suppose the face was too. It was Hall Sanders, who I knew from years ago. He must have had the same feeling because we both turned around and met on the side of the road for a nice 15 minute chat. "Are you Kit?". Well no, I'm not (Kit is a racer and, no surprise, has way better thighs). But he eventually figured out who I was. We chatted about brevets we have done and some interesting gravel opportunities in Richland Center. All in all a fun little reunion and we parted ways smiling and promising to get back in touch at some point. Due to a freakish memory, I knew his email address already.
After passing Hall, I continued on, only a couple miles to Osceola, the control. Just before Osceola is a delightful descent and crossing of the St Croix River, a national scenic river. There is a short pedal up and the control sits on the corner. Even with my stop, I was there in only 2 hours. The wind continued to pick up.
Strangely, one of the best delis I know is in the BP station. You would never know it from the size of the place. I ran in and bought a roast beef sub, a V8 fusion and some potato chips. I knew I had a big climb so I threw everything in my front bag and took off up the hill to eat it later.
I was hungry so later wasn't much later. At the top of the hill on ridge road, I whipped open the bag and did some stupid human tricks eating the entire sub while riding.
Problematically, it was hard to steer because I now had a rapidly accelerating headwind AND I was on top of the bluff! I had to slow while eating but the sub was really tasty. I never did manage to eat the potato chips - the wind would continue to be in my face for about 30 miles and I really needed both hands.
This 35 mile section is the scenic highlight of the ride. That also means it is the most remote part. My cell phone doesn't work. There are no towns, few houses and no services at all. But the views are magnificent and the climbing is challenging. Gary had noted that a gravel descent had recently been regraveled with 1" rock and was un-ridable. Having investigated and not wanting to avoid the 8-14% grade climb on the upside of it, I took my own alternative, adding a mile and a half but avoiding the nasty gravel. It was now late morning and it was rapidly getting hot. My left foot was itching a little and felt tight which I put down to the heat.
I had fun grunting my way up the grade on the other side of the descent. It is amazing how you can think you are on a flat road, but realize that you are actually climbing at about 6% then be surprised when suddenly you can't go over 4 mph and realize the grade is about 14%. The half mile or so was so much like this area of Wisconsin and why it is probably still so wild.
Up and down I went enjoying wildlife. Kildeer flitted along next to me, eagles soared and I saw the occasion deer disappearing into the woods. I finally came to the descent into Hudson on Trout Brook Road, a Wisconsin Rustic Road. Being designated as such means particular beauty and I loved the twisting road going down to the creek. It was closed last year due to a bridge being out, but repairs are complete. A fun descent.
I came into Hudson to beautiful old buildings and a fair in progress for the continuing July 4 weekend. Traffic was pretty heavy and I had to creep along past the fair with the cars to get to the road up to the park.
Gary first took me to this park when I was recovering from surgery for cancer a few years ago. It is without doubt the very best view of the St Croix and Hudson that I know of even if the I94 bridge is in the middle. A middle aged man watched me snap photos. "I grew up here and I have been gone a long time, but I also wanted to come up here to see this view so enjoy and have a nice day" were his words. I emailed Gary that I was 10 miles from the finish and took off down to finish the ride.
About 2 miles from the end, suddenly my triceps on my left side cramped and collapsed. I almost fell off the bike it was so sudden. It was somewhat disturbing and there was nothing I could do but finish so I picked up the pace and got back to the start. It had been hot, I reasoned, perhaps not enough electrolytes? I quickly ate the potato chips (which have a lot of electrolytes) and called Gary.
The next couple of hours I spent at his house discussing his recovery. It is amazing how the body can heal and he is debating whether or not to do a planned tour of Switzerland in August with 70,000 ft of climbing. The fact that he is still sort of debating shows just the kind of person he is. I always think of him when I have the occasional down moment on brevets. Sometimes you just have to keep going. He showed me his new bike which is amazing and is already plotting to get back into shape.
I drove home and figured I would shower and write this blog entry. As I pulled my shoe off, my foot was sore and swollen. At that point, I finally saw the cause. A deer tick, right between my 2nd and 3rd toes. It had been there a long time at least a week, was engorged and completely gross. I grabbed tweezers and pulled it off. Undoubtedly an unwanted hitchhiker from last weeks camping trip. It was surrounded by a tell-tale angry bulls-eye rash and the entire area was swollen and hot. Vasculitis covered my foot, a sign of the nasty infection that had set in.
Tests are being run, but exposure to Lyme Disease is very likely. The fatigue from the past week and the muscle cramping are other signs. I'll be spending the next few weeks on antibiotics. Fortunately, it is likely early enough that I can recover completely though this is a grand pain. In my careful tick check, I never thought to look in between my toes. Not a mistake I will make again. On the bright side, at least I know I can ride 300k with a nasty infection and yet another horrible disease.