Saturday, January 14, 2012

adventure in the hills

what an adventure! when dan, brandon, paul and i left pratt around 8:30 it was 32 degrees. quite a bit warmer than it has been the past few mornings, but still a bit on the chilly side. we drove a little over 20 miles to belvidere and parked just off the road beside an old cedar. across the street was the trail end junk shop, a business everyone who visits town should check out!

we unloaded the bikes and layered up before heading north a half mile to the road dan planned for us to ride. we turned onto the dirt and started to climb immediately. not steeply, but it was definitely up! we'd ridden for less than a half mile when we encountered a locked gate. we thought that strange. we were pretty sure this was a public road, so we picked up our bikes and climbed over.

just as we were over and about to click in and head into the wilderness, a pickup truck came flying up the hill and stopped in a cloud of dust. the driver rolled down his window and politely, but firmly informed us that we were trespassing on private property. he thought we should've figured it out since there was a gate to slow us down. "and there's a sign," he said, pointing to an old weathered board that at one time had paint on it. you could NOT read it. i hadn't even noticed it when we rode up to the gate.

we put our bikes back on the non-private side of the gate and talked with the guy for a bit. seems some cyclist had been hit and killed by a water truck on their property fifteen years ago and they didn't want a new lawsuit. there was no way he was going to let us ride on our planned route. we apologized and rode back down to belvidere and headed north on the county roads.

almost immediately, we met with a short, steep hill that i felt the need to rocket up. not sure why hills like that make me speed-hungry. i crested with dan and then we road on and on upward. i'm convinced we were going uphill for six or seven miles. the grade wasn't great after the initial incline. we encountered some cows crossing the road ahead of us and a small herd of whitetailed deer too.

we rode until we came to a T in the road. at this point, dan and brandon got into a heated debate about where we were. brandon was convinced we were west of greensburg. dan insisted we weren't. i mostly stayed out of the discussion though i was pretty sure dan was right. eventually, they came to an agreement that we would continue west and we rode off again. a friend of mine from haviland happened by almost immediately after that. he waved and wished us well as he drove on.

we rode a couple of miles west and then turned south again to begin completing the loop we'd started. the wind was at our backs now, so the sailing was good! dan and i rode behind brandon and paul for awhile, then decided to play breakaway and shot out ahead of them. i tried to latch onto dan's wheel, but he was too fast! he's a demon on wheels! crazy fast! i hit 30mph and he was still pulling away.

we stopped at the top of a steep descent and waited for the other two to arrive. we had to decide again which was to go. to the left was a known road, at least to dan. to the right was new territory. we opted to go boldly where dan had never gone. we shot down the hill, missed the turn and had to double back a bit.

the road took us mostly south to a stream we forded on a newly built concrete bridge. we climbed up from there and road along a fun stretch of rocky terrain. dan rode off the beaten path on a cow trail while the rest of us meandered along on the road.

when we got to the top of the hill, we rode for a long time along the flat top of the ridge before descending into a beautiful valley. the road passed by a farm complete with red barn, then turned suddenly to the right and tilted upward. dan reported at intervals on the grade. he rode out of earshot just after shouting out, "15%!" crazy stuff!

the next few miles included lots more gradual inclines both up and down and then, just when we thought all the climbing was done, we hit another wall! i didn't get shifted down to my small chain ring before this one, so i climbed it slowly. i wanted to give up, but there was no way i was going to stop. i did not want to walk my bike up! that would've been far, far worse!

eventually we came to a long down hill and we hit a road that both dan and paul knew from previous rides. we turned on to it and headed back north toward belvidere.

right before we got back to the blacktop, i got a flat. front tire. i changed it out with some help from dan while brandon took pictures and laughed. we put the wheel back on and continued on to the asphalt.

brandon, paul and i rode on while dan stopped in at the farmhouse of the guy we'd encountered earlier in the day. he wanted to talk to him again and see if he could get phone numbers for others who owned land in the area. dan is quite tenacious when he wants to do something badly enough.

soon after leaving him behind, my rear tire flatted. we could see belvidere at this point, so we aired it up and limped on in. by the time, i pulled to a stop at the van the tire was getting a bit bouncy, but wasn't hitting the rim. i hate flats!

brandon and i began loading bikes and gear into the car while paul watched the road for dan. we hadn't gotten much done when dan rode up. he'd had a nice talk with the farmer and apologized again for trespassing, but hadn't made much progress on the permission front. i have no doubt he will continue to pursue this matter until all avenues have been exhausted.

with all of us back together, we crammed everything and everyone back into the vehicle and set off for home. (32.86 miles @ 11.9mph)
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