What a spectacular day for a ride. It's a cliché to say, "You couldn't ask for a nicer day than today." but you know what, on Saturday, you could not ask for a nicer day. Low humidity, low wind, reasonable temp and a sky having a range of spectacular blue hues from horizon to horizon. Pretty good turnout of 40-50 cyclists, beginning to gather around Peggy for the announcement that the one store at the bottom of Tar Hollow had enough water for half of us so you better get there quick. OK, she didn't say that but I wish those of us who organize rides would think to notify a restaurant or market of the onslaught so they could adequately prepare. I always think of it after a ride (remember the 1 hour wait at the restaurant on my Bladensburg roving ride?) so I'm as guilty as anyone.
As I have said several times, the Rocky Roving ride is my favorite with long stretches of valley riding punctuated by monster climbs. We rolled out and Flyin Tuna headed to the front for a pull, which I assumed would last to the outskirts of Circleville, but she stayed there for a long time. At mile 5, yep, still there grinding it out, mile 8, yep, doggedly guarding the front, mile 9, like a dog with a steak bone still.... Around then, Da Boss blurted, "Oh, that explains it" but refused explanation when I asked him for some specificity. For me, it was nirvana for a nice relaxed pace with plenty of opportunity to swivel the head and take in all the sights. At mile 10, Da Boss finally broke from the pack and others joined in and the peloton went to single file. Eventually, we reached the base of one of Tar Hollow's climbs and reaching the top. coasted to the bottom and worked our way to the aforementioned market.
Must have caught the market in between stocking inventory. The liquid choices were bleak, cheap beer, cheaper beer, sody pop and water bottles. Our large group found what we needed but I heard some of the late arrivals found their choices limited to the beer and pop. We left the market and went back up Tar Hollow on a different road. I hung back with Kenda Janet and Paul (Kenda's Rick and Dave had taken the short cut earlier) and was surprised to listen to Kenda Janet privately admit to fear of having to get off her bike and push, either on this climb or later on Rocky. There is something about discussion of unclipping on a hill that is unsettling. It is just like golfing and having a member of the foursome start talking about shanking, a condition when the ball is struck from the hosel rather than the club face. Just talking about it can cause one to begin shanking the ball or as golfers put it, "Getting the shanks." It's a terrible condition that comes and goes and no one really knows why. So, as I listened to Janet express her fear of unclipping, doubt began creeping into my mind too and I thought about getting the cycling equivalent of golf's shanks. I shuddered.
We reached the foot of Thorton-Splung and the thought of having to watch Janet go through the humiliation of unclipping (and knowing my urge to catch it on camera would be too great to pass) I picked up the pace and left her to the challenge. Eventually, I caught up with SuperDave and Dennis and we had a great time exchanging stories about experiences with other cyclists and openly guessing if the next turn was Rocky. We were always wrong until we were right and there it was. What a grueling stretch in which 700' is gained, equal to the 5 mile stretch on Blue Jay but this 700' gain is achieved in less than a mile and at the top, I thought I saw 29% on the Garmin. This is easily the toughest climb in our area, I think. We coasted down and were surprised to see Gary standing by the side of the road, having crashed. This is understandable since one is near delirious at the top of the climb and then the road narrows on the down hill and gets a little twisty so if you don't have all your mental faculties about you.... Anyway, Gary appeared to be ok other than road rash.
We reached the bottom and the option of going straight to stay on the 68 mile route or left to do a 10 mile loop that repeats the Rocky climb but from a different direction. I had an obligation to get some images of exhausted cyclists reaching Rocky's summit so my plan was to hit the market and then retrace my path back to the top, before the others arrived after following the intended route. I thought the market was only a mile from the bottom of Rocky but it was much farther, almost 5. Now it was questionable if retracing was the quickest way but I did it anyway as the group stayed on the route. OK, I left once, realized I forgot the camera and had to ride back to the market to retrieve it from Steve O. How embarrassing. On the way back to the foot of Rocky, I passed Mitch and Ryan traveling on the route and in the opposite direction. I think Ryan had at least one flat but maybe he can fill us in, in the comments section.
At the top of Rocky following the steep and traditional route, there is a broken pavement road and for some reason, I thought this is the direction the group would approach for the second Rocky climb. Instead, as I began working my way up the back side, on which we had coasted down earlier, I could see a group of cyclists suddenly flash through a turn ahead and realized the group had gotten onto basically the bottom of Rocky from a side road and were now ahead of me and on the same approach as I was on. Oh well, I continued and upon reaching the top, made a right onto that broken pavement road and in fact, it peters out and goes no where. From there, I turned around and followed the marked route back to Circleville for 80 miles and 4400' of climbing. Seems like a lot more climbing then that.
Tonights Canal ride will be 92 and humid. One of the peloton's elite already sent me an email and urged me to form up a slower A group. Maybe I can get Poobah to do the senior start at 5:55 open to sub-50 agers too.