Tuesday, February 28, 2006

In the middle of the highway...

Sunday was such a gorgeous day. After our "pancake Sunday morning", I laid out on the balcony as the house finches feasted on the bird seed, pouring over the San Diego maps and planning out the perfect bike ride. Jason had to study so I prepared to make the trip solo. Very brave of me, I thought. After checking the tires, carefully picking my bike attire, and filling my water bottle, I set out. Since the bag under my seat is relatively small, I had to carefully select the bare essentials for my trip. Usually, I carry a spare tube and a patch kit; however, this leaves no room for a cell phone. Fortunately, as I'll get to later, for this trip, I decided a tube and patch kit was redundant and replaced the bulky tube with the phone.

The ride was totally relaxing and peaceful. 68 degrees and calm with barely a breeze, except for the cooling wind I created on my speedy mount. I made my way to a handy, paved bike path, which connects the UCSD area to Pacific Beach. From there, I headed south and connected up with Mission Bay. I then made a giant loop around the entire bay. I took a small side-trip around Fiesta Island, where some time trials are held in the summer. I saw a ton of other bicyclists, which always reassured me. I don't want to go forging new paths, especially since I still find the San Diego traffic intimidating. However, bike paths lined almost every street to reassure me and coax me to keep going.

As I made my way back, I checked my computer. It read 20 miles at this point. Since I don't have my bike legs back yet, I figured this was about right. Unfortunately, I had a hard time finding the bike path I had rode down on. Instead, I stayed closer to shore and headed directly north through Pacific Beach. It was a little crowded with Sunday beach strollers. I had to pick my poison--make my way on the boardwalk with tons of pedestrians, or brave the crowded side streets, filled with cars and no bike lanes (these roads do exist here, believe it or not). Because I hate slowing down, I chose the road, knowing Bluebell could handle it.

As I headed into La Jolla, I made a critical mistake. Instead of sticking close to shore, I chose the most direct route--the straight line--which lead directly up this mountain--literally--Mt. Soledad. 15% grade for miles, twisting and turning, up and up. By the time I had realized what I had gotten myself into, I was already heading up, committed. Point of no return. I stubbornly continued up. I soon found myself gasping for breath. I had to (gulp) get off and walk the rest of the way up that damn hill (mountain). Considering I have a granny gear, I'm embarrassed to admit, this is the first time I have ever succumbed to walking my bike up a hill. If I hadn't already biked 20 miles, I think I could have done it. However, I simply had nothing left. I vow to return and conquer that mountain soon; after my quads stop screaming at me when I go down stairs. But I digress...

At the top of the mountain, I paused and rested. I turned behind me and saw the most spectacular view. The ocean stretched before me endlessly, meeting the blue sky on the horizon in a seamless line, only barely discernable by a thin wisp of clouds. Incredible houses with spacious gardens lined the street I was on, taking advantage of this view on a daily basis. This is what people pay millions for, I realized.

I got back on and continued pedaling, hoping the road would eventually link up with something more familiar. At least I knew I was going in the right direction. I remember stopping to check the tire pressure. My speed seemed so sluggish; surely I must have gotten a flat. Nope. The tires were full. The bike was great. I simply had no legs left. Then, I started going down the other side of the mountain. Windy, narrow, and just as steep. I had to ride the brakes...hard. I hate doing that. I can just imagine the pads wearing out. I had no choice. Normally, I lightly tap the brakes going down to maintain my speed. I had to crank the brakes...for 1.5 miles...my forearms were about to snap by the time I reached the bottom. I think going down was worse than going up.

I definitely had reached the point of no return by now. There was no way I could make it back up. About a half mile down the road, the road ended and became an on-ramp for a divided highway. No shoulder. No bikes. The interstate snaked off of the highway 1/4 mile down from there. Shit. By this point, I had gone 30 miles and had been out for more than 2 hours. I pulled over to a small dirt shoulder to think. I couldn't go back up. I couldn't continue on the highway. I had no idea how to get home. Shit. I pulled out the cell phone....and called Jason. He knew immediately I needed a ride. Why else would I call? He asked where I was. I replied in a meek, defeated voice, "On dirt sholder in the middle of some highway."

Eventually, however, he found me, picked me up, hoisted Bluebell onto the bike rack, and took me for a sub and a latte. I was ravenous. Jason comes to my rescue again. He thinks the entire event was very amusing and a bit humorous. It is. If you're not me. I'm still walking around, shoulders slumped with my tail between my legs. To my credit, when I got home and looked at the map, the road I was on does look like a way to get home, only you can't tell part of the road dumps out onto a divided highway. So it was an honest mistake. Moral? Never leave home without a cell phone. Also, when studying maps, pay attention to which roads are unbikeable (such as highways where cars go zipping by at 60+ mph).


Mon said...

LOL! At least you had someone to come to your rescue! 30 miles, sheesh!!! It is brave to go out on your own like that though!

Erin Nicole said...

i'm just so glad you're safe!

you know me, i worry.

thank you jason for coming to rachel's rescue!

good ride, though...sounds awesome!

diebenkorn said...

glad you did a solo ride! i do solo rides on my bike (motorcycle) too and it's a little scary but you feel really good afterwards. so glad you got home safe though, don't be hesitant to call for help. i always go riding with a cell phone in my jacket pocket.

Cliff said...

Don't feel bad. :-). Quite funny.

It reminds me of last summer when my Church has a weekeend retreat. It ain't too far. About 63 miles away from home. So i thought why not bike it there. Getting there wasn't a problem.

Getting back though, I was facing gruesome headwind. Few ppl have asked to offer me a ride back. Being stubborn, I said no. Most of the ride back I was riding at 9 mph. It was slow. When I got about 4-5 miles away from home, I had a flat. Called my sis. Picked me up and got home.

Next time..carry two tubes (i always carry one tube and had a flat on the way to the retreat).

RosieBoo said...

Impressive, Rachel! And, Jason, what a hero! You can at least be happy you have your bike legs back. :)

bunnygirl said...

Wow, what an adventure! I hope you're laughing about it now. Or if not now, soon. :-)