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Humbling Hills: 140 miles in the Finger Lakes!

Monday, June 13, 2011

I was quickly reminded and thoroughly humbled by the location of our campgrounds in the upper Watkins Glen State Park...the Hidden Valley campgrounds: it must be like a crater at the top of a mountain! To exit the campgrounds regardless of direction, one is immediately confronted by a sudden and oh-so-formidable climb that is only matched and even surpassed by the even MORE formidable climb that is necessary to RETURN to the campgrounds via Watkins Glen after one's long ride...what a finale! Although Friday evening's ride was only 18 miles the climbs involved very quickly reminded me that the rides for the weekend were going to be filled with climbing challenges. I climbed further than last year, due to my improved standing climb skills, but absolutely HAD to walk a portion of it each time.

That began to give me pause for thought on how much of a challenge I would take on for the long ride on Saturday. I knew at the very least I would want to make the circumference of Seneca Lake, the 82 mile ride from the campgrounds. Last year I believe I did a 50-60 mile ride up the east side of the lake and back to the campgrounds. My plan was to get to Geneva on the north side of the lake and see how I felt. If I was going strong enough I'd join the others in the extra loop over to Seneca Falls at the top of Cayuga Lake and back over to Seneca Lake which would put the total up to 109 miles.

One of the wineries along the way:

Some of the rolling vineyards:

You can see how the sun was struggling to break through!

At Geneva, however, the hills had already taken their toll and while I was loving the ride I knew that those extra miles would knock my balance between pleasure and challenge into the wrong direction.

Things brightened in Geneva. Here's a little spot down on the waterfront that caught my eye:

"It Was A Dark & Stormy Day"...that was going to be my original title to my blog when I heard about the weather forecast for Saturday. I kidded around with 4A-HEALTHY-BMI during my journey 'round Seneca Lake on Saturday as my route brought me right through her back yard through Sampson State Park. She was kind enough to catch up with me there and had a big pitcher of water for which I and other cyclists who came along were SO GRATEFUL! We enjoyed catching up with each other for a bit (check out her Water blog for a pic of the two of us that a passer-by took). I was being conservative with my phone-pic taking because I forgot my recharger...ugh!

Here's a brief stop I took at a miltary museum as the State Park I was riding through used to be a military training base:

The day was gradually shifting from overcast to sunny. So what do the weather forecasters know...? Pshaw! I joked that I'd have to come up with a different name for my blog. Yeah. Right.

Took a break a little further down the road in Ovid, chatting with other cyclists. We were facing north during our break...everything looked sunny and pleasant. All done? Head back out onto 414 southward toward Watkins Glen. The final stretch of 20 miles.

And there it was like Godzilla: HUGE, foreboding, dark, storm clouds towering overhead in front of me as I pedaled right into it! Heading out of Ovid the fireworks began. Lightning crackling all about me and thunder rumbling across the countryside! BUCKETS of water coming down in sheets!

I finally found an old shed which looked like it housed farm equipment once upon a time and darted into this for refuge...not wanting to make like a two-wheeled lightning rod out on the road! Some other cyclists came along, towing a cart with a kid behind. I yelled and motioned for them to join me but they soldiered on.

After a while the skies quieted and the rain let up from torrential to a steady soaking rain. I figured this would be as good as it gets and got back on my bike to pedal like crazy through the final miles.

Heading into Watkins Glen the rain petered out as I dealt with the climb up out of Watkins Glen on 409 into the campgrounds. Didn't make it very far before I resorted to hobbling, wobbling, clawing and crawling my way back home! Light, sprite, mighty-mights passed me by. Bet with all her recent practice LADYGWEN25 could make these climbs!

Sunday's replacement ride as an alternative to Keuka Lake turned out to be more memorable than I thought. A 40 miler, this ride included a downhill SWOOP into the little burg of Tyrone that clocked a fellow cyclist at 45 mph. I had made the mistake of fiddling with my bike computer so it wasn't working for me :-( But I figure I was probably going faster than 45 as this fellow was lighter than me.

A story about this descent: not far behind me were two folks on a tandem recumbent. One of the LOW recumbents! They clocked over 54 mph as they SWOOSHED into town! I chuckled as I heard that the fellow in the lead had TONS of experience, however: he begged someone to ride with him in the rear as his wife was disabled and couldn't ride. Could you imagine being new to a 'bent screaming down a hill at 54 mph with your butt only INCHES from the pavement...?!?! Talk about adrenaline OVERLOAD!

This was soon followed (what goes down, must come UP!) by a CRAWL up toward Dundee after passing by a smaller Finger Lake (Waneta). Joined with a couple other cyclists for a short lunch and cycled the rest of the way in and out of local Amish horse & buggies.

Sam, one of our senior bike club members (doing the IDIDARIDE in the Adirondacks later this year...one of the most PUNISHING hill-climbing rides anywhere...not too shabby for someone in his 70's and a titanium knee!) was on SAG duty this weekend and was pleased to report it was a most boring time with no accidents, injuries or mishaps. Lots of SAFE cycling going down! :-)

On my way home I took a little detour to Montour Falls as recommended by a fellow bike club member. Looked around for the falls, not having much luck. Turned the car around and VOILA! There it was, looking like it was falling right into a building!

Here's a closer pic with a person so you can get some perspective:

Pretty impressive! Especially with the recent rains!

Oh and I nominate The Pompous Ass Winery as the most amusingly named winery I've seen along the way...! :-)

So NOW with my added 140 miles this brings my cycling totals so far this year up to 538! Rackin' 'em up!

During the evenings I brought my guitar along to dust it off and see if I could remember the tunes I know. A bit clunky at first, but came around okay...lol!

Already looking forward to my next longer ride this Saturday, a 44 mile ride in Peckville, PA for the Heritage Explorer Bike Tour:


Keepin' 'er rollin'!

Thank you's to everyone following my blogs! Have been falling behind with my Sparkin' being away this weekend!


Update: Just tallied up the total feet climbed this weekend: 9755! Almost TEN THOUSAND! Now I'm not one of those types that CRAVES hills and seeks them out, but WOW...!
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