I earned a new respect for Skyline Drive last weekend. I’m usually the first person to point out that Skyline Drive is “not that hard.” Possibly, to an annoying degree. My reasoning is because the climbs are not that steep and you can ride up them at a comfortable pace without redlining your heart rate. But even though they are not steep, they are long, and I think Skyline had enough of my trash talk against it and decided to completely demolish me last week.
The day started out bad and it didn’t really get better. My husband and I got out to a later than planned start, which is pretty much normal for us when we are not meeting anyone else to ride. As we were parked on Skyline drive and about 90% ready to head out, John realized that his back tire was worn down the the casing pretty much all the way around. It was totally unrideable.
Our plan was to do the SkyMass loop, but now our new plan was now for him to somehow obtain a new tire on a Sunday when all the local shops are apparently closed, and I would just ride Skyline Drive as an out and back. Before he left in the car, I figured I better try out my new cleats I just put on my shoes on the way over. They didn’t work. Great. So I put the old cleats back on, and as I was tightening them, the top of one of the screws popped off. Wonderful. Luckily, two screws still hold a cleat on quite well, so off I went. I was about a mile into my ride when a runner warned me that a HUGE black bear was up ahead. YIKES! I never saw the bear, but I did prepare for a quick turn around back down the hill if needed.
As I continued on, I passed through some areas of fog, but luckily I had my lights. Maybe the only organized aspect of the day. I started getting hungry after about an hour. Not like maybe I should eat hungry, but REALLY hungry. Probably because it was already lunch time after all the morning snafus. I ate half of one of my waffle sandwiches, and then when I stopped to refill my bottles at the gas station, I ate my second one. 2 hours into a 5 hour ride and I have eaten 3/4 of my waffle sandwiches with no sign of actually feeling much better.
After my stop at the gas station, it really started to get ugly. I did not realize that I would be on my way to the highest point on Skyline. As I saw the road wrapping around the mountain in front of me in the distance, I considered turning around, but for some reason I had 80 miles stuck in my head and that is what I wanted to ride. I just kept telling myself that the way back would be easier because it would be mostly downhill. I would turn around at this so called “Skyland” that would be at mile 40. Skyland sounded wonderful, so that is where I would go.
Mile marker 40 finally came into view. Nothing. No Skyland. At this point I didn’t want to ride a minute longer than needed for fear of starting down a hill that I would then need to climb on the way back, so I would turn around at the next overlook. I didn’t care if it was only .5 miles more to Skyland, I wasn’t doing it. The next overlook appeared and I pulled in. I think it may have been the worst view of the entire park. There was an ugly tree and lots of fog. I stuffed some more waffle sandwich in and headed out, happily telling myself that it was mostly down hill, and the way back would be MUCH faster.
It was in fact more downhill, but every uphill felt worse and worse to the point that I barely even noticed the downhills because they were over so quickly. Even the flats felt terrible. My neck and back started to hurt in a way they never have before, energy gels were not helping, and I kept thinking about John waiting for me. He must be SO BORED, I thought. I felt like I was taking forever. I considered just riding straight off one of the overlooks, but I stayed on the road. I thought about calling John to come pick me up, because at this point, even riding downhill was becoming completely unappealing, but I didn’t want to be such a wimp.
Finally, I made it back to the car where John was about to drive to look for me because he thought I would have been back by now. I didn’t take that long but none of my texts were going through to tell him where I was. I got in the car about as fast as I could to GET AWAY from stupid Skyline.
I’m not sure if this made me never ever want to do a ride like this again, or if I now need redemption. I’m still tempted to do 100 miles out there, but Skyline drive is actually kind of boring. It’s just one road and everything looks the same: trees, beautiful views, butterflies, stuff like that. When I am suffering up a climb, little fluttery butterflies in my face are actually quite annoying. But the butterflies really have nothing to do with anything. I’ll think about my redemption ride.