January 27, 2013

Location =  To Sandia Crest and Back  
Distance =  61.09
Time =  8:03:43
Ave. Speed =  7.5
Max. Speed =  35.5
Monthly Dist. =    61.09
Yearly Dist. =  61.09

I was starting to run out of time in January to get this ride done. I tried to get out last weekend on my road bike but things got off to a bad start. As I was preparing to leave I saw that I had a flat tire so I replaced the tube. As I was inflating the new tube it failed right near the valve and started to leak. I only had one tube left so if I changed it out again I wouldn't have a spare for the ride. I thought about taking a mountain bike but I didn't want to expend that much effort. In hindsight, I should have ridden the mountain bike last week.

The weather forecast for this weekend called for rain on Saturday and a chance of rain on Sunday. Since the weather people seemed very certain about the rain on Saturday, I opted to take my chances on Sunday. This was a good decision because it did rain most of the day on Saturday. What I was uncertain about was whether or not it rained or snowed at the top of the mountain. If I knew for sure that it only rained at 10,000 feet then I could take my road bike. Since I couldn't be sure, I had no choice but to take the red Cannondale. If there was going to be any snow and ice up there then I had to have fatter tires. As it turned out, I probably could have taken the road bike but it would have been a rough ride. There was a lot of dirt and debris on the road that would have been a real stuggle with skinny tires.

I left the house a little before 8 o'clock in the morning. It was cool with temps in the 20s. I was prepared for whatever Mother Nature could throw at me. I knew that the streets would be wet so I wore my raincoat and rainpants as well as my booties. I would not get another chance at doing this ride in January so it was all or nothing. I had to survive.

I rode down to the freeway and along the way I could see the Sandias. They looked very foreboding because the top was completely shrouded in clouds. I would find out what was going on up there in a few hours. For now, I made my way through Cedar Crest and took a break at my break spot. After a few minutes I began the long climb to the top.

The mountain was mostly shrouded in clouds and at times there were some strong gusts of wind. Away from the mountain you could tell that the sun was shining but I seemed to be always right on the edge of the clouds. On the rare occasions when the sun did peek out for a few seconds, it felt great. I rode past the ski area and there were quite a few cars in the parking lot. As I rode up to Balsam Glade I noticed that the sun was shining in the parking lot. Normally, I would keep going up to Capulin and take a break there, but I had to stop and sit in the sun. That was wonderful. It was like a mini-sun oasis in a sea of clouds. After eating a PowerBar, I headed out to continue the climb.

As I climbed higher the cloud ceiling got lower and denser and scarier. Before I reached the 10K trailhead I stopped to take in the awesome sight that was in front of me. I had reached the clouds and they were angry. Huge blasts of wind were taking gigantic tufts of clouds and throwing them down on the road and the trees. As I rode into the fog bank visibility sometimes dropped to as low as 10 feet. The cars that were up there were forced to slow to a crawl. A motorcycle passed me on the way up and we waved to each other when he was going down. We both understood the lunacy of where we were and what we were doing. The trees were completely encased in ice and they looked like frozen, white, giants. All in all, it was quite amazing. Every now and then I would stop and stare into the clouds to take in the spectacle -- but mostly I was just resting because I was tired.

Eventually, I made it to the top and I was more than ready to go inside the gift shop and warm up. Unfortunately, the entrance was fenced off and a sign said, "Closed for the Season." What is up with that? There was nothing that I could do except put on all my clothes and head for the bottom. I suffered through that long downhill as best I could and I was very happy when I rolled into the gas station.

I stayed inside and warmed up for at least 20 minutes. It took me awhile to regain functioning of mind and body. While I was there a guy started talking to me and then he said, "You don't know me, do you?" It was Steve "Otis" that used to hang around at the ski area last year. His scraggly beard was trimmed and I didn't recognize him. He said that he got a DUI so he had to clean up his act.

A few minutes after seeing Steve a lady came up to me and started talking. She said something like, "Are you that guy at the ski area? You are that guy at the ski area. Was that you I saw riding his bike up to the crest? That was you. I drove up to Ellis this morning and skied in on Cibola and it was great and blah, blah, blah...." This encounter made me want to get back out on the road and heading for home. I filled up on water and out the door I went.

The climb up S337 back to the house was very hard. How can I expect to sit around for a month and do nothing, and then go out and ride for 8 hours that includes over a mile of climbing? I am such an idiot. I swear I am going to change my ways and get back in shape.

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