This past Saturday I rode Tour of Happy Valley again – EK, myself, and newly minted randonneur Mike Lewis did the ride. I should note we were doing it in reverse for the first time. This way we would avoid the potential of 70 something miles of headwinds that the normal direction can inflict (erm, has inflicted in the past…).
All three of us ‘needed’ this perm to continue our respective R-12 streaks. This was #8 for me, #4 for Mike, and #30-something for Eric.
The weather forecast was reasonably promising. It included a somewhat chilly start at 20 degrees, with a warm-up into the low 40’s by mid afternoon (but with some clouds), and with a near-zero chance of precipitation. For late November, that’s not great, but not too bad either.
We started at 7:30a in order to avoid the very worst of the cold, but as it turned out, it was only 13 degrees then. But at least it was sunny and there wasn’t much wind. We pretty much all had cold feet, faces and hands (but not dangerously so) for the first 45 miles. On my torso I was wearing two long sleeve wool layers, one short sleeve wool layer, and a lightweight sorta-breathable shell. On my legs I had a pair of thin tights with PI Amfibs over top. Ski gloves on my hands; winter cycling boots and expedition weight wool socks on my trotters. And a wool balaclava, headband, and cotton cap on me noggin. It was enough.
At 45 miles (after doing the out and back to Warriors Mark), I shed the short sleeve wool layer and the cotton cap, and put on lighter gloves (but stashed the heavy ones in my seat bag). By this time it had warmed up to about 38 degrees or so. Quite a rise (25 degrees in only 4 point something hours…)!
Nothing much eventful happened on the ride out to the Buffalo Valley turnaround at mile 90, however the skies had turned overcast and we were intermittently sprinkled upon. Not enough rain to get us truly wet or make us cold(er), but just enough to wet the road and make a mess of things. It would sprinkle lightly for 5 minutes, then stop totally for the next hour or so. Then the cycle would repeat. You know, I just can’t seem to entirely avoid rain on permanents lately. I tolerate riding in the rain, but I don’t like it one bit. I am not a real randonneur, you see. A real randonneur relishes in such challenges, right? The more of a test of your skills, experience, and determination, the better, right?? I see half of you are nodding ‘yes’ and the other half ‘no’. Huh. At least I am not alone…
Anyways, we made it back over the Happy side of the mountain just before nightfall and turned onto the very quiet Pine Creek Road. Shortly after that, Eric had a curious observation: The road was crunchy. Come again? Turns out we were hearing the occasional isolated patch of textured ice as it would pass under our wheels. So, upon discovering this, we all slowed down a good bit, and debated the origins of this ice while we gingerly rolled along. You see, at this point, it had cooled down a bit, but we still had an air temperature of 35 degrees or so, and it had been above freezing for about the last 6 hours. And none of the wet roads we had ridden on all day had given even the tiniest indication that they had ice. Because they didn’t. So, several theories regarding the origins of the mystery ice were exchanged between the three of us, and we all chalked it up to being a freak anomaly. But still, we all got the obvious message that we needed to be careful. Eric advised to avoid riding on the shiny parts of the road, but it all looked pretty damn shiny to me. We all kept the speed down, tried to ride smoothly, and stay off the shiny bits. What a plan! What could possibly go wrong?
Sooo, we were heading down a gentle grade (right after Eric said that we would be ok if we were careful) and BAM, I hear Eric hit the deck. I turned my head slightly to look in my mirror and this may have caused the slightest turning of the handlebars in the process and BAM, down I went too. Eric hit his knee and hip, and I hit my elbow, but neither of us had any significant injury, thank goodness. And our bikes didn’t seem to be damaged. We got pretty lucky. We picked ourselves up and inspected the road, which was a total sheet of very, very shiny ice.
At that point riding was out of the question, so we started walking down the road on the verge, as it was impossible to even walk on that bit of road without tempting fate. We tested the road intermittently and in places it was merely wet, and in others it was very slick. We estimated that we were almost exactly in the middle of nowhere, but that in about 4 miles we’d be slightly more somewhere than we were then, which was the tiny town of Coburn. This was kind of important because it’s easier for someone to come bail your ass out with their car when you can actually be located. We all pretty much decided that there was no way to finish the ride. It was regrettable since we were 107 miles into it, with time in the bank, so we were certain to finish the permanent so long as fate didn’t intervene. But, of course, it very much did.
Eric found that he could ride his bike cyclocross style in the mud and grass on the side of the road, and fairly soon he was out of sight. Mike and I tried doing that too for a stretch but decided that it was only going to slightly modify the reason why we would crash again, so we just kept walking.
I will finish the story with a set of bullet points:
- We eventually made it to Coburn and arranged our 4-wheeled motorized vehicular salvation.
- Mike and I had to stand on the side of the road in Coburn for over 2 hours during the wait.
- A salt truck went by while I was standing there.
- Mike and I had plenty of time to talk about the differences between Types I, II, and III fun.
- We decided that the day had definitely now included all three types.
- We also decided that we would let our R-12 streaks die.
- Eric made it another 3 miles down the road to Millheim, where I believe he spent his wait time in a warm bar drinking cold beer. (Edited to add: and eating a burger and fries too….)