Sunday, January 16, 2011

My hardest journey

Route 78 heading east

Route 78 heading west. I wish I could show how steep this grade is.
No, this post won't be about my long battle against cancer or how hard it is to be a mother of challenging children but a physical challenge I undertook around 1994 biking from coastal California to the mountain town of Julian. The linear distance is only around 50-60 miles (my record in a day is 112 miles, mainly against a wind) but starting from sea level, I would climb 4280 ft. There are few hills in Ann Arbor that involve climbs of much more than a 100 feet and I whine about them (especially when I used to live perched on the crest of Broadway Hill). Added to my difficulty was that I was still recovering from Graves' Disease, which limits how much oxygen I could process at a time. I was only able to run 20 minutes at that time (as opposed to running an entire marathon). Biking generally isn't so aerobically challenging as running except when hills are involved. I started my journey during rush hour (it was in November and the sun sets especially early in CA) to get to the beautiful sounding Paseo Delicioso del Del Dios. Southern California certainly has more intriguing sounding names for its road (versus Southern Michigan, 8 Mile, 9 Mile, etc..). The Del Dios Highway hugs a reservoir while it climbs steeply east to Escondido. Since this is a good sized town and there was a lot of traffic, I skirted around the southern edge of the city to get to Highway 78, which I took for 40 miles. There is only one town on the way, Ramona, where I stopped for lunch. I was riding my brother's hybrid bike which had 24 speeds. As he is 8 inches taller than I, the bike was too large and I had to plan my stops carefully so the bike would be at an angle. At some points,I would be in 1st gear standing on the pedals with my heart pounding out of my chest. Worse, on the switchbacks, it would appear that the ground was flat. The road had mile markers every tenth of a mile. Sometimes it would take a minute just to do a tenth of a mile (like how slow I am running now!) Bikes are incredible machines but at some point on very steep inclines, one loses the advantages of it being a machine as you hauling up its weight along with your own. I made it and stayed in a cute B&B. It is a resort town. The next morning I awoke to snow! (it was November). The day before in the desert, it was 80 degrees but it is cooler at higher elevations. I waited as long as I could to ride down the mountain. It was cold and foggy. I worried that drivers could not see me. Also controlling my speed on the sharp switch backs was scary. It was a long way down off the edge. I had a west wind to battle though most of the route was downhill. Eventually it became warm and sunny again but with 20 miles to go, I had a flat in the middle of nowhere. I remembered there was a battlefield with a tourist center about 3 miles away where I could call for help (this is before cellphones). I started running with the bike but in less than a few minutes, someone offered me a ride to a bike store where I got a new inner tube and was on my way.

Sunny is gone as her humans returned from their ski trip at Boyne. Julia lived in Zurich, Switzerland for 3 years growing up and learned to be an expert skier. She also learned to speak German but somehow forgot most of it. Their family took Josh on ski trips and he learned quickly. He was able to handle the mountains in Colorado.

I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of my college housemate from CA as I type. Shoulkd be fun.

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