December 26, 2011

Location =  To Sandia Crest and Back  
Distance =  61.65
Time =  9:17:22
Ave. Speed =  6.6
Max. Speed =  32.5
Monthly Dist. =    61.65
Yearly Dist. =  856.33

The Streak Ride this month started to come down to the wire. I was going to go last week but it turned out to be the day our latest storm began. We've had three blizzards so far this season. There is more snow in the Sandias and the Manzanos of New Mexico than just about anywhere else in the country. Here's a picture of my driveway.

I picked the day after Christmas to make the ride because it was a holiday and I was hoping for less traffic than on a work day. I was right about the less traffic thing as far as South 14 and North 14 were concerned, but the Crest Highway was another story altogether.

I took my red Cannondale mountain bike for this ride because I knew that there was going to be way too much snow for my skinny-tire road bike to deal with. And because I was on a mountain bike I knew that I was going to need a lot of time to complete this ride so I left the house at 5:15 in the morning. That was totally insane. The temperature was in the single digits and I had on every cold weather piece of clothing that I owned. It was pitch black outside and I had no headlight to see where I was going, but I did have a red blinky light on my seatpost and another one on my backpack so that people could see me from behind. That didn't help me very much as I crashed into snowdrifts twice and fell down twice before I had even gone two-tenths of a mile. I decided that I should probably walk down to where the paved road starts.

I made my way through the neighborhood and out to the highway and started the long descent down to the freeway. I couldn't see the road at all unless a car came by, and there were very few of those. I was just hoping that I wouldn't hit a patch of ice on the road or an ice chunk that would cause me to crash. As I was heading down I realized that since I was wearing a face mask I wasn't going to be able to drink any water, and if I couldn't drink any water the tube was certain to be frozen by the time I reached the bottom. When I finally got down I went straight inside the Tijeras Post Office to warm myself up and thaw out my water. After about ten minutes I was ready to head back out. I was hoping that the sun was going to be coming up by now but it was still too early.

I headed up North 14 and as I made my way through Cedar Crest the sun was beginning to rise and lighten up the sky. The sign in front of Davis Hardware said that it was 8 degrees out. Brrrr!!! I was in great need of some solar energy to warm me up. Come on sunshine! When I reached the Y I stopped at my break spot and jumped around a little bit to warm up my feet. After a few minutes I began the long climb up towards the crest.

It was here that my plan to avoid traffic fell apart. It was the day after Christmas and we had just gotten about a foot and a half of snow and everybody was headed for the mountains to play. Everyone was going skiing and I knew that I would just have to deal with it until I passed the parking lot. A couple of miles up the road my son and his girlfriend passed me on their way to the ski area. They slowed down and told me that I was crazy. I already knew that. I continued on up and I saw them again on their way down the mountain. They said that it was very windy and that the ski area was probably going to open late. They would come back another time.

I continued onward but I was struggling. There was a lot of traffic and they had to deal with going around me. There was a lot of snow and ice on the road and everyone was being very nice and sharing the pavement. Nobody wanted to be the driver that runs over the crazy cyclist. As I neared the ski area a car headed down the mountain slowed down and yelled out the window at me, "You're a fucking stud!" That really improved my spirits. I had a smile on my face that wouldn't go away for an hour. It was awesome. Things began looking up so much that I was even able to take off my face mask, at least for a little while.

I finally reached the parking lot of the ski area and the traffic volume fell to a tiny fraction of what it had been. That was a huge relief but the weather conditions took a turn for the worse. The wind speed began to rise and the temperature began to fall. Back on went the face mask and now I was fighting strong, gusty winds that slowed my progress to a crawl and sapped my strength and energy. Every mile seemed to take an eternity and I found myself taking short breaks with greater and greater frequency. There were places where the wind was blowing snow over the road with such force that it completely obliterated any chance of visibility. At one point a gust of wind came up and blew me into a snowdrift. I was having a very difficult time. I started riding for short distances and then taking short breaks. Sometimes I would only go about 200 yards and then I would stop and rest. I wasn't in a hurry to get there but I sure wasn't about to give up.

It seemed like an eternity -- because it was -- but I did eventually make it to the top. It was 22 degrees up there as I stumbled inside the gift shop to warm up. I started talking with one of the workers up there, named Larry, and he told me that he had seen me way down the mountain and he thought that it was dangerous of me to be riding up the road. He's probably right, but I'm still going to keep doing it. See you next month Larry.

After about 20 minutes I put all my clothes back on and headed out. The downhill was a challenge because of all the snow and ice, but what I hadn't expected was all of the traffic. There were cars parked everywhere cars could be parked and the road was down to one lane in many places. This created bottlenecks on the road that even I couldn't get through on a bicycle. I had to wait my turn in the line of cars like everybody else. It was unbelievable. I was just glad that now I was going downhill instead of up. When I reached the bottom I let out a big sigh of relief.

Now my goal was to get some food and reward myself for my efforts. I decided to forego the candy bar in the gas station in the hope that I could bet a burrito at Pinkie's. If Pinkie's was closed then my back-up plan was to go to Burger Boy. I had to settle for the back-up plan. I devoured the burrito from Burger Boy but I have to say that Pinkie's is way better. Sorry Burger Boy.

I was feeling much better with some food inside me as I headed back out for the final stretch. I didn't need my face mask or heavy gloves any longer so that helped ease my suffering. I took it nice and easy on the climb back up South 14 to Raven Road. It was just getting dark as I pulled into the neighborhood and made it to the house. I was smart to have started as early as I did. I slept like a rock after this ride. Sweet!

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