Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Riding Up That Hill (Campbell Grade to Finish)

A rider sees a scene like this and reaches for an energy bar. In this picture you’ll see a faint but distinct line in the hill ahead, angling up and to the right. That’s the road I’m about to ride: Campbell Grade, climbing up Box Canyon toward Shelter Valley. This grinding grade came after a couple dozen miles of good strong headwind.

Riders coming down the grade toward me . . .

. . . and there they go!

This was a serious hill, and the longest, steepest, tallest rise of the day. I have seen worse, but it got my respect. I won’t say it was easy to climb, but I will say it was nice finally to get to somewhere sheltered from the wind.

I slogged all the way up the hill, but about halfway up I started noticing a little extra bounce in my rear tire, which by about two-thirds of the way up had turned into downright softness. I’m not complaining—all’s well that gets back home alive—but I probably wouldn’t have minded a somewhat crisper interface with the road. Better traction and lower roll resistance and all.

The view looking back from near the top of Campbell Grade. The dirt road through the valley is the actual old stagecoach path, for which the Stagecoach Century is named—the Great Southern Overland Stage Route of 1849. The paved road to the right is San Diego County Road S2, coming across the valley floor and hitting the hill I’ve just climbed.

Modern road near, stagecoach route in the distance.

Riding back south across the same valley we’d come in through. Most of the way home was slightly downhill, and significantly downwind. My legs were going faster, in top gear, and still not working as hard as they had all the way out.

Note the guard rail above these riders, against the sky. That’s the road we’re all riding toward, about one bend away from where we are here. Sweeney Pass, the last big hump on the way back to the starting point, was a short climb, but distinctly a climb. Beautiful scenery, though.

How sharp are your eyes? Do you see the car on the road below? That’s where I was standing when I took the last picture. (The climb was somewhere between five and seven minutes.)

How sharp are your eyes? Did you notice this bend of road in the last picture? Did you see those black specks on it? (It’s O.K.; you can go back and look again.)

How sharp are your eyes? These guys were about 10 minutes behind us, about to hit the grade I had just climbed. (No, I didn’t ride back down to warn them.)

I did eventually find out where all that wind had been coming from. Apparently someone left these turned on, several miles further west.

They were still turning when I drove by them hours later. I hate to think how much juice they were drawing.


Papa Bradstein said...

Nice work. At first, I thought maybe the PV Peninsula was suffering a worse drought than I had heard of. Yes, an energy bar would help, I'm sure, but more than that, I wanted a bottle of cold water, just looking at those shots.

mrjumbo said...

Water's always good out in the desert and when exercising, but oddly enough it never felt overwarm that day. I'm sure the wind made a difference. Once or twice on the way back, when the wind subsided a little and I was riding as if in still air, I noticed how warm it really was.

Because it was the desert and dry to begin with, I was making a point of drinking a lot, especially knowing that the wind meant I could be perspiring a lot and not know it.

I had 80 oz. of fluid (water and exercise drink) with me on the bike, and each rest stop (spaced at about every 12 miles) gave me a place where I could (and did) refill. Along with sag wagons and roving mechanics, that's another real advantage of a supported ride in such a remote location.

Aside from a tiny bit of cramping toward the last climb, which I quickly fixed by changing cadence a little, changing position a little, and taking several quick slugs of something with electrolytes in it, I never really noticed any signs of dehydration, on the ride or after.

Of course, the dehydration can always be masked by general fatigue. Particularly after the last outbound climb, I was definitely ready for a lot of red punch, fast, right now please, and a half a banana before I was really ready to say five words to anybody.

But in general I have to say the weather was very pleasant. I would just have preferred that it not be moving across the landscape at such high velocity.