The Missus and I hauled Junior up north for a bit, visiting her mom and step-dad up in Maine. Last time I came here I got bitten by two dogs. The trip before that I went out on a "20 mile" ride on what ended up being about a 65 mile loop and had to call the Missus to rescue me. This time I was so leery about bringing the bike I actually asked the Missus if she thought bringing a bike would be a good idea. I phrased it carefully, though, to try and keep the demons at bay.
"You think I should bring the road bike or the mountain bike?"
"The road bike, don't you?"
"Um, yeah, that's what I was thinking."
With all of Junior's stuff we'd have to bring the bike on the roof, not ideal for mileage. On the way up I reverted to "gas mileage" mode, meaning I was happy going 70 mph instead of pushing 80 if I could, and if I was behind a line of cars going 68 mph I didn't pass them right away. Incredibly we averaged over 43 mpg and 65 mph for the 6+ hour drive.
(The 65 mph average means that yes, we must have exceeded 70 mph for long stretches at a time, making the 43+ mpg even more fantastic, consider we had a bike on the roof.)
We got here and the Missus unpacked a whole lot of stuff for Junior - Pack N Play, a couple bags, our bag, etc. I grabbed the bike, put it inside, grabbed the computer and camera, and by then the mosquitoes were biting and I was hiding inside.
Unfortunately this part of Maine hadn't been hit with a hard frost yet so the mosquitoes were out in (relative to Connecticut) force. Up here it was "wow, it's so nice" while I was swatting and swinging and running around like my hair was on fire.
We came up here because Nana and Pap (the Missus's grandparents) were making a rare trip outside of their home in Florida. It's hard for them to move around so for them to even consider flying was a big deal. Since we could drive here pretty easily it was easy for us to make sure we were here while they were here.
Due to Skype and some regular video calls with everyone Junior knew everyone. I think he was surprised that they weren't in the computer, but still, he recognized everyone and smiled and charmed and all that.
Luckily Junior really took a liking to everyone. With them and the Missus looking after Junior that left me some time to go for some rides. I decided to avoid the dogs route (to my dismay I learned that the owners had to put down the two dogs that had bitten me but at least the owners are friends of Grandma and Grandpa now) so that left me really with just two options. One was the big loop, the 65 miler, but I'd cut through and shorten it to about 50 miles. I didn't remember much of the loop but cutting out about 15, maybe 20 miles of it would make it doable. Keep in mind that I'd never completed the loop before.
The other route was a desolate road that headed up to Canada, Route 2A. I'd just do an out and back, a training ride that made it pretty predictable in terms of determining exactly how long the ride would take. I'd just figure out when I'd need to turn around (by halving how much time I had to ride) and that'd be that. I like out-n-back rides for recovery because I can decide exactly when I've reached the halfway point of the ride.
The first day I set out to do the 50 miler, one I call "Kingman Loop" on Strava. With fresh legs, enough time, I felt it a doable thing. I mapped it out on a much-improved internet signal here at the Outpost, and it came out to about 50 miles. I kitted up, Pap asking questions about this and that.
"How long you gonna ride for?"
"I mapped out a loop, about 50 miles."
"How long you think it'll take you to do the 50 miles?"
"About 3, 3 1/2 hours."
"3 hours for 50 miles!"
I set out, as I did for each ride, with a vest on, flapping in my wake. The human eye sees motion first, color second, and shapes third. I wanted any drivers to see me flapping in the distance. With such a sparsely populated area most people drive 50-60-70 mph on all the roads here, even the ones with literally no shoulder. I'd be relying on their attentiveness and courtesy to stay safe. Luckily the lack of strong cell signals meant fewer texters and talkers, but still, you never know.
I also installed my Superflash taillight before we left, and I'd leave it on during each ride. At one of the rest stops on I-95 we saw a poster about the dangers of moose and such. The posters showed two moose, one on the road, one in the shade. The one in the shade was virtually invisible, especially since the moose on the road drew your attention. I decided that I better use the blinky taillight so that I wouldn't be just another flapping shadow under the trees.
I'd read, in the last week, about how braking hard will loosen your headset. I don't brake hard that often but the Kermis had a 180 that had me braking quite hard. I checked my headset.
I tightened it back up and set off. I had to stop a few times to straighten/align the stem properly, swatting at a mosquito that landed on my leg on the last one. I decided that if it was off I'd just deal with it. Luckily it was finally straight.
My first Kingman Loop went well. I talked about the loop with Grandma and when I said I'd be taking Route 168 she thought it was 158. Then she said, no, it's Winn Road, it goes from Lee to Winn. Winn Road? On the map I just saw 168. And Lee? That's the town?
Well while I was hammering down Route 6 I came to Lee. It's about 6 buildings long and then it turns into trees again, so I looked suspiciously down the road at the one intersection in town.
No Route 168 signs.
ATVs to go get lunch in downtown Lee.
168, aka Winn Road, is the right turn at the top of this short rise.
I kept going for a couple minutes. I hesitated at the top of a little descent because I'd have to climb back up the thing if I had to turn around. I brushed away that doubt thinking, "Naw, it has to be up here" and plunged down the short drop.
The houses went back to the "one in every quarter mile or more" spacing and I decided it'd be worth it to stop at the top of yet another hill. I checked the map, GPS'ed my location on it, and voila, I just passed 168, aka Winn Road.
I turned around, went back down a descent and then up that "short drop". Now that I'd already passed it I saw Route 168 signs everywhere (okay, in two spots).
I tried to remember about how long 168 was but I didn't have to think too long.
"Road Construction Next (10) Miles"
The "10" was written in very small numerals with a Sharpie.
Since 168 hits Route 2 and ends there it had to be at least 10 miles long.
I got into the drops and started going. The miles wouldn't pass by themselves. The road seemed hilly but not that hilly. I mean it wasn't like I was climbing for an hour here and there but at the same time it never felt like I was coasting.
Suddenly I was 50 yards from Route 2, a short steep drop to the intersection, a sign right there that said "End Road Construction". I guess Route 168, aka Winn Road, is 10 miles long. I stopped, looked both ways, and went right.
I was in Winn.
I mentally thanked Grandma for our discussion on if it was 168 or 158 or Winn Road or what. "Lee" and "Winn" were enough to keep me on track.
A few blocks of Route 2, sort of, over a bridge, and then I looked up at a wall of a hill. This was that party house hill, where the kids were all bundled up outside drinking beers. I quickly resigned myself to grinding up the thing in my bottom gear, a 39x23. My legs started to fade a bit. The endless wavy roads after the hill really zapped me. I tried to roll in the big ring, on the drops, but all too often my legs would give way, I'd shift into the small ring, and sit on the tops.
Route 2, heading north.
If I hadn't lifted this shot from the helmet cam I wouldn't know it's Route 2 either.
I started to fade pretty hard, my legs starting to buckle. My last ride was the CCNS Kermis, six days ago, and although fresh from rest my body wasn't used to this amount of riding.
When I got to Kingman Road, aka Route 170, finally, I was pretty toasted. I neglected to bring any food so I sipped at my water bottle, trying to will my body into some kind of super duper fat burning mode.
It didn't work.
I struggled at less than 10 mph on the flats, rallying here and there, then sitting up and turning over some ridiculously low gear at some ridiculously low speed.
My phone cut out after about 49 miles so I didn't Strava the whole thing, but I finally made it to the house. Strava says I did 17 mph until my phone died. It took me something like 20 minutes to go the last non-Strava 3 or so miles.
I finished my ride in about 3 hours and 10 minutes.
Pap was beside himself. "I can't believe you just went out and rode 50 miles!" he kept saying. I was too tired to do anything but give him a glazed look and a small grin. The Missus knew I had hit the wall so she asked some succinct but important questions.
"What do you want?"
I had no idea what they had prepared for dinner but I wanted it. I sat at the table after a brief cold shower and the Missus brought me over a plate of food.
It had everything.
Junior was reaching out and waving both his arms, his way of showing joyous greetings and happiness.
I dug in.