20081213

Location =  To Sandia Crest and Back  
Distance =  77.23
Time =  9:22:58
Ave. Speed =  8.2
Max. Speed =  35.5
Monthly Dist. =    136.30
Yearly Dist. =  3276.93

After last weeks Streak Ride fiasco, I really wanted to complete this ride. I was a lot better prepared this time, but it was still going to be quite a challenge.

I decided to take the mountain bike, because we had a storm last week, and I knew that there was going to be snow up on the mountain. I also decided to go up the dirt road from Placitas, which in hindsight was a bad idea. I dressed up in my full winter gear ensemble, and I was ready for everything. I had on a thin pair of shorts, padded shorts, a thin pair of long underwear, a thick pair of long underwear tights, and another pair of shorts. I had on a thick pair of winter ski socks, and booties over my shoes, with heat packs tucked into the toes of my booties. I also wore two shirts and a jacket, and I had my raincoat in my backback, just in case. I took along my winter gloves and hat, headband, and face mask. I was determined that being cold wasn't going to stop me this time.

I left at 8:00 in the morning and headed down Tramway past the casino, to the highway up to Bernalillo. It had rained during the night but it had stopped by the time I left, although it was cool and cloudy. From Bernalillo I headed up the road to Placitas, stopping along the way to take this picture. I continued up the road to the dirt road, and then stopped about a half mile up, to take a break and eat a PowerBar. The road near the bottom was in pretty good shape, mostly dried out, but I knew that things would get more difficult as I gained elevation.

Breaktime was over, so I got back on the bike and continued upward. Temps were above freezing, so the top of the road was melting a little bit and getting watery and muddy. It wasn't too bad because it was only the top one inch or so. As I climbed higher there began to be some snow and ice on the road, which was also watery and muddy and slushy. It didn't pose much of a problem except for the spots that were solid ice. At one point the bike slipped out from under me, and I had to drop it on the ice. A few minutes later the sun came out, and I immediately became overheated. I stopped and removed my headband, and unzipped my jacket. My pit zips were already unzipped. I continued upward and the snow became deeper, and the temperature became lower. When I reached the Las Huertas area, the wind began to blow. It would keep reminding me of its presence, throughout the day. Pretty soon, I started having to walk on some of the curves where the snow was too deep and powdery to get any traction. I was still about three miles away from reaching the crest highway, and I had to walk -- a lot. I contemplated turning around and going back, but I wasn't cold, only tired, so I decided to persevere. Walking became increasingly difficult. I could feel my booties becoming full of snow and ice, and large clumps of ice were forming under my feet, especially my left foot, which made walking even more difficult. I noticed that if I wasn't able to walk at least two miles an hour, the computer on my bicycle wouldn't register. That made this ride about two miles farther and another hour longer than the stats would indicate. I started thinking about quitting again, but by now it would be just as hard to go down as to go up, so I figured that I might as well keep going. Eventually, I reached the top, and I had to stop because my feet were freezing.

I spotted a patch of dry pavement in the middle of the parking lot, so I went over there and sat down, and started taking off my booties. I was amazed at how much snow and ice had gotten inside of them. No wonder my feet were cold. They had been in a bucket of ice for the last 90 minutes or so. I scraped out all of the ice and put the booties back on, and now my hands were cold. I put on winter gloves, tucked everything in, zipped everything up, and headed toward the crest. Right away the wind gave me a blast in the face, just to let me know it was still around. A little while later it would catch me by surprise as I entered a curve, and blow me into the guard rail. That had to be at least a 50 mph gust of wind. At other times I could feel the wind at my back, pushing me along. I like that feeling the best.

My progress upward was very slow. The road was full of water, snow, and ice. I did my best to stay out of the road as much as possible, but I'll admit that there were times when cars were forced to go around me. They all did so with great care. I was also slowed down by the snow itself. My rear wheel was constantly spinning in the snow and ice, and I was having to use twice as much effort to get half of the normal results. I was feeling seriously fatigued, and beginning to lose hope. The sky was dark and gray and gloomy, and so were my spirits. Just then a woman coming down the mountain started yelling words of encouragement at me, and gave me a thumbs up. That cheered me up and I began to think that if I could make it to 10,000 feet, I could stop and eat a another PowerBar, and then I would have the strength to make it to the top. I toughed it out to the 10K parking area and stopped to get that well-deserved PowerBar from my pack. The thing was completely frozen as hard as a rock. I had to warm it up in my mouth in order to bite a piece off of it. Even taking a break was hard.

I got back on the bike and started up. Only two and a half miles to go, and I was stubbornly determined to make it. I washed down the PowerBar with the last of my water, and concentrated on turning the pedals, round and round. I had been out for so long, that I was starting to hear some songs on the mp3 player for a second time. All I wanted to do at this point was to keep moving forward. I came upon a scene of half a dozen cars stopped in the road, helping to get some guy out of the ditch. As I went past them a lady said to me "You're crazy." All I could say back was "I know." I continued upward and a guy coming down was leaning out of his car window and he said, "Smile" as he took a picture of me with his cell phone. I can just imagine him telling his friends at work about the nutcase that he saw riding his bicycle above 10,000 feet, and here is the picture to prove it.

As I approached the top the wind became a jet stream. It roared through the treetops and the radio towers, sounding like a freight train. Chunks of ice were blowing off of them and landing all around me. It was unreal. At last, the final curve was in sight! Nothing could stop me now! I could walk from here! And a minute later I was walking. The driveway into the parking lot is steep, and there was a too much snow on it to get any traction. I was humbled, but I was happy. I went inside the gift shop for a couple of minutes to warm up, and to put on more clothes.

It was 19 degrees at the top, and I pulled out everything I had for the trip down. I replaced my headband with a hat, put on my face mask, and put my raincoat on over the coat I was already wearing. I was toasty. I didn't stay inside for very long, because I wanted to get down to the gas station to fill up on water. I headed out the door for what was sure to be an exciting ride down. I passed a guy near the top who was pulling a car out of a ditch, and he yelled at me "You're f--g crazy." I yelled back "I know" but he probably didn't hear me because of the face mask. The road was very slippery and I had to balance two competing interests. My desire to get to the bottom as fast as possible, and my desire to do it without falling down. I tried to maintain that fine line, and I managed to succeed. Of course, a lot of the time the bike was skiing down the road. It was slipping and sliding and wandering all over the place. Occasionally a car would come up behind me, and they would give me time to get under control enough so that they could pass me.

I was very relieved to make it to the gas station. The worst of it was over, but I was still a long way from home, and it was after 4:00 p.m., much later than I would have liked. I knew I would have to hustle to get through Tijeras Canyon before it got dark. I wouldn't mind going back up the Tramway Trail in the dark, but being on the side of Old 66 after sunset wasn't something I wanted to do. A guy was killed there last year, in broad daylight. I quickly took off my extra jacket, face mask and hat, filled up on water, and headed for home.

I managed to get to Tramway just as the last few drops of sunlight were disappearing into the west. The ride up the trail was mostly done in complete darkness. I was just hoping that I wouldn't crash into somebody that I couldn't see and also doing my best not to run off of the trail. I did leave the trail one time, somewhere between Manitoba and Spain, I think. Somewhere around San Rafael an animal dashed across the trail in front of me. It was the size of a big prarie dog, but it was much too cold for one of them to be out and about. I think it must have been a giant rat.

This ride has to go down in history as one of my most epic challenges ever. It feels very good to have completed it, and I made it home, safe and insane.



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