I can’t believe how much today’s ride tired me out. I’ll only post the high-level details before going to sleep.
I recently got a new used bike—a touring bike designed to carry enough to go bike camping. The summer between high school and college, a friend and I rode from Philadelphia to Bar Harbor, Maine and back—about 1,500 miles. For years I used bikes as my main commuting vehicles, until the unlimited MetroCard made subways more convenient. I sold my last bikes a few years ago to put them back in circulation.
I believe I last rode 100 miles in a day on that bike-camping trip, when I was 16 years old, about a third my age.
With the new bike, I wanted to try riding a few long trips before committing to a camping trip. My mom and stepfather live about 100 miles northwest of the city. That’s driving. Bikes can’t use the big, convenient roads, so a biking route came out to 120 miles. I thought I’d try it.
Lots to tell about riding out, but I’ll skip to when I reached Bear Mountain. I stopped for a bite, to rest, and to call my mom. It turned out I’d gone 50.0 miles. I had left about 7am, so with my rest stops, I’d been out 7 hours.
To that point I’d mostly followed Route Bike 9A—a well-marked route from the George Washington Bridge to Canada. Past Bear Mountain, I’d have to take many roads requiring checking maps frequently, which required me pulling over since I couldn’t read a map and ride at once. Plus, while I’d ridden a lot of hills so far, bigger ones were to come.
One: keep riding knowing I wouldn’t finish the remaining 70 miles. My mom or stepfather could pick me up, but then I wouldn’t ride the whole way. I wouldn’t get close to 70 miles and would have to stop many times along the way, likely getting lost.
Two: ride back, declare victory with 100 miles, which I did.
I’ll write later about the adventure riding back, feeling like giving up, continuing to ride after dark, trying to hitchhike at one point, spending hours in the bike’s lowest gear with all the hills.
[EDIT November 20, 2021: last night I happened to ride the part of the route leading to the George Washington Bridge going north, which I did in the morning. There’s a very steep portion approaching the bridge I just stumbled into but forced me to exhaust my leg muscles at the very beginning of the ride that I think drained me for the rest of the day.]
Bottom line: the strategy everyone uses to avoid giving up of just going to one more landmark works. At 80 miles, I felt I couldn’t go on. I wondered if I’d get into an accident. I wondered if I could find a train station to take me to the city. I don’t know what kept me going—up the hills, in the dark, my legs nearly giving out—except that I wanted to finish.
I vowed to myself that however I reached the George Washington Bridge, I would take the subway home from there. Somehow as the half-mile markers that started from 10 miles to the bridge approached zero, I felt my confidence increase. Though riding in the dark in North Jersey felt dangerous, the city was better lit, flatter, and familiar. So, f-ck it, I decided to ride the whole way and claim the century.
The hardest part
Like my last marathon, the hardest part of the ride was my calisthenics sidcha, including the morning and evening set since I started the ride without doing them, meaning over 50 burpees. Plus I had to pick up my daily litter, meaning going for a walk that included Washington Square Park for commitments I’ll explain in another post.
Plus I cooked a famous no-packaging vegan stew, thought that’s easy and fun.
Time for bed!
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