I rode 36+ miles on my bike last night -- not entirely intentionally.
When I ride with my Trusty Companion, we generally take our bikes somewhere and ride a route he's picked out. And I just follow.
When I ride by myself, I ride the same 21-mile route. Always.
After putting in 27 miles on my bike up at Newfound Lake last week , I felt the itch to get to the next level -- a 30-miler was within reach. Even though it was only adding three miles, somehow the jump to 30 seemed daunting. After all, 30 miles seems pretty darn far.
But I did it -- and then some -- and even finishing feeling pretty good about it.
Of course, it's easy for me to say that now. There were times last night when I wasn't feeling so good about it, at least mentally.
Plans for a ride started simply enough. A beautiful summer evening, a night without other obligations. TC and I exchanged a few texts as I figured out where I'd be riding. He encouraged me to go for the 30-miler. (I appreciate his confidence in my ability.)
After confirming (several times, actually) that I'd be taking "a right on Range Road" after I came through Derry on Route 102, I set off for my ride -- decked out in my new cycling shirt (love it!) and sassy new checkered cycling socks that I picked up at Concord Market Days this weekend.
At least I looked the part.
TC gave me a headstart, then left his place with the plan that he'd eventually catch up with me. He's much faster than me, so there was little doubt that he'd catch me on the course. Somewhere.
I started along my usual route, pedaling pretty well and keeping up my pace. I practiced the new techniques to get up the hills -- don't take them sitting down! -- and even tried practicing riding in the drops on the flatter sections.
Periodically, I'd glace behind me at the top of a hill to see if I saw TC coming. Nope, no sign.
I kept going, making my way from Manchester, through Auburn and Derry, then into Londonderry. I navigated some pretty busy intersections, clipping out of my pedals as needed and even switching my water bottles on the go.
Wow, was I actually starting to get the hang of this biking thing?
I felt great. My legs, which had run 12 miles with the team the day before, seemed to loosen up and felt pretty strong.
I passed the landmark to start looking for Range Road, which would turn me back toward home. I checked my watch and, per TC's instructions, went about six minutes. I saw a side road up ahead where a car was pulling out onto the main road.
High Range Road.
Instant confusion and decision-making time. Hmm.
TC had said Range Road. Clearly. And I had confirmed it. A few times.
Maybe Range Road was just down the road a bit? Not knowing where in the world High Range Road would bring me, I decided not to take the turn and keep going along Route 102 looking for Range Road.
I passed one intersection, then another, then another. Soon I was into Hudson -- a town not mentioned in TC's directions.
How was it possible that TC never caught up with me? We sort of brushed over the details of the final turns because we were sure he'd be riding with me by then.
I figured he must be ahead of me -- and pulling farther away with each turn of the pedal. (Turns out, he was actually behind me -- underestimated my speed, maybe? -- and reached High Range Road as I was making my way down into Hudson. Just missed each other.)
Decision-making time again. I thought about the hills I'd just gone up and down -- and realized if I turned around, I'd be doing them all over again. But if I went any further, I would just be adding miles.
I pulled into a walk-up ice cream stand and asked two girls at the counter if I could come upon Range Road if I kept going. I wouldn't. But, they said, there's a High Range Road back in the other direction.
Ah yes, High Range Road. I knew exactly where it was.
"You have a pretty long ride ahead of you," one of them said. Yeah, thanks for that reminder, lady. I'd already gone at least 25 miles or so at that point.
I snapped into my pedals and started making my way back -- worried that I'd now be battling daylight. I just wanted to make it home before dark. And I didn't know exactly where I was going and I was worried that I might take another wrong turn that would put me even further out of my way.
I started feeling uneasy and anxious -- a hard feeling to explain. But I pedaled on, knowing that eventually I'd get back to something that looked somewhat familiar. I approached the two-hour mark on my watch and knew that I probably didn't have much more light to figure out just how to get there.
I knew TC was probably getting worried and was probably feeling terrible after seeing the "High" part of the High Range Road sign. I tried to figure out what he would do. Would he ride back and try to find me? Would he finish out the ride and go get his car?
I thought about what I would do if I couldn't find my way or just exhausted myself -- stop at someone's house and call TC? Walk my bike home? (This scenario is not good for a worrier-by-nature that constantly plays out the "what ifs" in her head.)
Somehow, I figured it out -- after stumbling upon signs that I knew would bring me back to familiar territory.
A little more than 2 hours and 15 minutes and 36.46 miles later, I pulled into my driveway.
To be honest, I felt pretty good at the end -- after the mental weight of trying to find my way was lifted.
It's a route, I might even add to my repertoire (minus the stop at the ice cream shop for directions, of course).
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