Posted by: robinson2000 | August 1, 2012

Oh Gosh, The Hills!

30th – 31st July

Waking up in a tent is never the ideal start to the day, and this day was no exception. After a particularly clammy night spent on top of my sleeping bag and Chris getting up for his usual 4am pee and to re-inflate his punctured roll mat, all I wanted was a nice relaxing shower to wash away the cobwebs. On entering the shower block, dazed and bleary eyed, the first thing I saw was a huge 6 inch flying bug trapped in the wash basin, flapping around in a blind panic to escape. I dismissed it instantly as just another of those struggles of life and hopped into the only shower cubicle available. What luck I thought, as usually there’s a queue, but my optimism with instantly squashed as I small spider ran out of a hole in the wall and took a flying jump at my naked body. Needless to say, I had the last laugh as he drowned in the plug hole.

Breakfast was spent in a classic American diner, with a friendly waitress and a freshly filled cup of coffee. The menu gave me the option of a 2 or 3 stack of pancakes, so just to be on the safe side I ordered the 3 stack and a bagel with cream cheese and watched the endless drivel that was on the TV. The featured show consisted of a blond Barbie-doll-like woman and a suited gentleman discussing topical events and then every so often they’d liven it up by showing a bikini clad girl dancing to a Beach Boys track with inflatable beach balls being thrown at her.

The start of the day began with some fierce hill climbs that absolutely drained the legs of any energy and coupled with the intense heat, left you a sweaty wheezing wreck at the top of the hill. The hills were so steep that for the first time I discovered by 27th gear and even then I was gritting my teeth and pedalling like road runner on a bike. After 2 hours of this, it finally paid off and we were rewarded with a long downhill to the town of Stafford, where we sat in a cool diner and revitalised ourselves with a lemonade and tuna melt. We also got speaking to an incredibly large American boy who forced himself upon us and chatted away obliviously about his 13 mile cycle ride.

We pushed on through beautiful farm land in the afternoon where the hills eventually flattened out and gave way to some wonderful rolling countryside. By 3.30pm we had covered about 50 miles and were on the outskirts of Windsor Locks where we nipped into a bar and consumed another sandwich and a cool drink. The final 20 miles were absolutely brutal as the sun seemed to be at its hottest late afternoon. The route led us onto a horrible, busy highway with a thin shoulder and aggressive drivers. Chris also managed to find the verge and his bike skidded away from him and deposited him onto the burning tarmac. By late afternoon we were still gunning towards the campsite, but the miles were moving so slowly as hill climb after hill climb sapped our strength and also our water supplies that were running dangerously low at this point. With only a few miles left to go, we stumbled across a convenience store and downed a couple of drinks each. We were absolutely parched and were so grateful to see the entrance to the campsite a few miles on, near the town of Winsted. Mileage for the day was 73 and we’d had to fight for every inch of it.

We both felt particularly exhausted the following morning and were of the mind-set that an easier day should follow the horrors of the previous ride. It didn’t start as well as hoped as the breakfast place that my GPS guided us to, turned out to be a closed hotel. We had to make do with a convenience store next door, which turned out to be pretty good and provided us with coffee and egg filled muffins. As we were getting the bikes ready for the ride, a passing cyclist struck up conversation and filled us with dread as he began to describe some of the hills that we were about to face coming out of Connecticut. He wasn’t wrong either, as within the first hour of the ride we had struggled up to 1400 ft on some of the most vicious hill climbs I’d ever tackled. They were the kind of hills that didn’t really give you much of a chance as they basically sprung out of nowhere, usually around a sharp bend, and started with a gradient of 10% or more. Rather than gracefully spin away up these climbs, you had to stand up and grind out each rotation of the pedals, straining on the handle bars as the bike weaved its way up and watching the beads of sweat dripping down onto the crossbar. After two hours of this I was ready to throw in the towel but thankfully we turned westwards onto highway 44 and was treated to some spectacular down hills where our speeds regularly hit the 40 mph mark carrying us up and over the next hill with little effort. Five miles short of the New York State border, we stopped for a rest at a cake shop and quaffed down a blueberry muffin and a cookie.

Our 6th State was rapidly approaching and soon we were snapping photos of the border sign and whizzing on for the next stage of our ride. Unfortunately, there were no campsites at convenient stages of the day, which meant pushing on and doing another 70 mile day. Fortunately the hills had flattened out somewhat and the afternoon turned out to be a great ride with hair-raising down hills slaloms and hairpin bends to whizz the bike around. The route ended strangely as we came to a dead end in the middle of nowhere. A local man sitting in his garden called out to us that the campsite was through a trail, marked by a mound of dirt down the road. After a bit of faffing around, we picked up the trail and were soon camped up for what was an excellent days ride and another big 70 miler done in hilly terrain.

Total Mileage: 520 miles

Top Speed: 42 mph

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  1. Hi Ben & Chris,
    Sounds like an ordeal overcome. Hard to imagine the extreme effort. Good pictures. Let’s face it Ben, once you’d dealt with the spider the bike ride was always going to be easy !!!!

    Carolyn & Colin.

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