Thursday, September 1, 2011

Scorching Sun, Blazing Saddles....Utah of the Mormans, Moab and Misery.  Even though I had headed out to ride there at 8:30 am, I miscalculated how long it would actually take to get to the jump off site, and didn't begin pedaling until almost 10:30.  The temperature was still in the 80's, so with a full camelbak and two water bottles, I parked my car at a convenience store and began pedaling towards Hovensweep National Monument.

In this remote area, these are ancient Pueblo Indian ruins, dating back to 900 AD.  The village is estimated to have been home to 2500 people.  Now, however,  as I rode through desolate landscape, I could see that it is home to only a handful of hardy souls.  It's a hard life here, as evidenced in the many beer and alcohol bottles that litter the roadside.  The route into the park goes through a Navajo reservation, and, as I have witnessed in other reservations, proof of rampant alcohol use is  obvious.
Piles of beer and booze bottles....they are everywhere along the road
Under the morning sun, the bottles glisten like lights on a Christmas tree.
The land here is is a desert.  Nothing breaks the montonous brown except for the gun metal grey of the asphalt road.  Even that has faded, though the Federal government has spent a considerable amount of money paving that which was once dirt and repaving the deteriorated areas. So a new black line now snakes through the territory instead of a faded gray one.
Thank  you, Mr Obama for the new roads and the work
Old road....cattle road
New road...thank you very much Mr Obama, but did it have to be chipseal?
Chipseal.....brand new chipseal....
For those of you that don't know, chipseal is an extremely durable surface, but it is also very, very rough.  It is almost like cobblestone, but the stones aren't as large and they are impregnated into asphalt. So what this meant to me as a bicyclist was, that not only was the surface very bumpy, but also sticky with new ashalt....that equals a lot of resistance.  It means that one has to pedal even when going down hill. The asphalt was so new that there wasn't a mark in it.  It was beautiful to look at, but there weren't even the smoother wear marks in which to ride.

Additionally, the temperture was rising quickly, creating big head and crosswinds.  Once the temperature climbed above 102 degrees, the wind picked up considerably and ceased to be cooling; it created more resistance against which to ride.  It was like opening a hot oven while sticking to melted chewing gum!

This was my ride--43 miles in the desert. I think I must have been half baked to have attempted this in the summer.....(half baked.....nah, try fully fried!)  I was fortunate, though, that traffic was extremely light, and I only had to share the road a few times.

Open Range.....
With the paint
With the sorrel
and his brother horse
With the sheep
And those pesky cows
And the buffalo....but they were pretty far away.

Interesting enough, there was also a baseball diamond....America's favorite pass time.  I cannot imagine playing in this heat, but obviously, someone has watch "Field of Dreams".....
"Build it, and they will come"
The dugouts.

I reached Hovenweep with an empty camelbak and two empty water bottles; that is 80 ounces of water in 20 miles.  It was hot!  My face was so crusted with salt that it looked like it was part of the Great Salt Flats; all I had to do was rub it and I could give myself a microdermabrasion!  No wondered  people were staring!  At least, for once, I knew it wasn't because of my spandex shorts!  

I rested and cooled down before heading back; I just did not have the energy or enthusiasm to tour the park and see the wonderful ruins.  I will save this for another time when I am in an air-conditioned car. Right now, though, I still had to cycle back in this heat.

As I departed the ranger station with full water bottles, a full camelbak, and freshly applied sunscreen, I happened to notice that my bike thermometer registered 107*. Despite the reading,  I felt good and was grateful that it was a dry 107 instead of the humid triple digits in Dallas.  
Relentless, blazing sun
I truly do not know how our ancestors lived here and traversed the area in their heavy, long dresses and stiff shoes.  I guess I am a weinie....I was struggling in my light clothing.  It was scorching hot....

There are two kinds of quitting; mental and physical.  I've had plenty of experience of the mental quitting--allowing myself to make excuses and succumb to the mental conversation of "I can't".  Physical quitting is when the body just can't go on any further.  On this ride, I experienced the latter.

As I reached my start point, I was short on my mileage to make 50 miles, so I turned right and continued to pedal.  To that point,, I had been ignoring the growing and pounding headache; I also decided to disregard the cold chills.  I've experienced both these symptoms before, and knew my body was beginning to go into heat exhaustion.  However, on this ride, I only had 7 more miles and I could just push through's only seven miles.  I wasn't far into picking up this mileage when I began to get nauseous.  This is when I knew I was being foolish; my body was quitting, and I had better heed the warning.  I turned around and returned to the car.

I must say, the drive home was challenging; I was very light headed and sick to my stomach.  I don't regret not finishing the qualifying mileage; I did the right thing.  It did take me several days before I felt normal again.....

Desert everywhere...........

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