Both sides now

Today I rode the Horribly Hilly Light. With only five weeks to go until the real thing, it was time to climb some hills. A mere 35 miles, but five nasty climbs. You know it will be a fun day when Pinnacle Road is not the hardest.

Sutcliffe Road has a steep side and a steeper side. The first time I remember climbing the steeper side I was side-by-side with Duke. My lungs were ready to burst. My legs had little left to give. I decided that, if Duke wasn’t giving up, neither was I. I looked over at him. Breathing was hard enough that there was no wind available to waste on words. We made it over the top. This was definitely Type II fun. It was only much later that we discussed that ride, and Duke told me he looked over at me with the same thought.

Some time after that, all of the organized rides that climbed Sutcliffe did it from the “easy” side. I hadn’t been up the harder side in a long time.

I needed some new shoes, and my favorite shoe store is out in Black Earth. That’s a long way to go just for shoes, so I rolled the bike into the van and drove to Black Earth to do the Wednesday Night Black Earth Ride. The first climb out of the valley is up the “easy” side of Sutcliffe. Piece of cake. The steep downhill is where I have hit 50 mph in the past. In my book, 40 mph is fun, 45 is exciting, 50 is scary. Today I kept it below 50 (I presume, not having a speedometer on this bike). It was fun and a bit exciting.

Zwettler Road gets steep at the very end. Doable, but not easy. Pinnacle is long and hard with a few false summits along the way. I had to ask myself a couple of times if I was okay. No dizziness, but heart and lungs at the red line. Over the top and a chance to catch my breath on the descent. Then a long rolling section along Blue Ridge before another descent into a valley – one I had ridden Sunday. The turn into Knight Hollow leads to the next climb.

An All-Star band including David Grisman, Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Jack Lawrence

Roelke Road sneaks up on you. You’re cruising along and turn right to go straight up. It is short enough that there are no switchbacks. What looks like the top isn’t, as there is a left-hand bend and then a little more; but I knew that, so it was okay. Now I was down to one big climb. Lacking an odometer, and with no cell service in the steep hills and deep hollows to check my position on a map, I managed to miss a turn. I found myself on the steeper side of Sutcliffe for the first time in years.

I could have turned around and looked for the turn I missed, but what’s the fun in that? It might have been nice to be on the lighter bike with lower gears, but that’s life. This was the bike I climbed it on before. So we’re both 20 years older. Who cares? I accepted that I might walk, or stop for a breather, without Duke by my side. I don’t know if I’ve ever walked up a hill except with a loaded touring bike, so I did what any sane person would do. I rode up and over the hill without stopping. I’ve looked at Sutcliffe Road from both sides now; and in the same day.

Written by Joni Mitchell, but first recorded by Judy Collins

Back into Black Earth and it was time for some shoes.