Sunday, April 29. 2018
For the past several days, I’d been lugging around a cold. Airline travel, long hours and not enough sleep will do that to you. And, this was supposed to have been a vacation! A working vacation that is, namely a rushed trip to Monterey, California, about 100 or so miles south of San Francisco, California for my trip to the 2018 Sea Otter Classic as working media. Among all of that madness, I did manage a super sweet dirt and gravel ride near Mariposa, California… there is a video coming later from that ride!
Saturday, April 28, I was supposed to spend part of it with the Dogg duo of Mr and Mrs K-Dogg, out for 140 or so miles of mega Dirty Kanza 200 training. Rather, I stayed at home to focus on recovery, articles for the website and a bit of yardwork.
It should be noted I get bored easily. I hate riding the same route, day in, day out, and the thought of riding one of my well-proven 150-mile gravel routes wasn’t floating my boat for Sunday’s solo training ride. Instead, I was in the mood for discovering some new areas of my Florida locale, but well beyond the comfort zone of your average road bike ride.
Dixie County, Florida, measures 705 square miles with an approximate population of 16,203 as at 2015. The county seat of Cross City would play as the major stopping point of my chosen route. Prior to that would come about 130km / 80 miles of wandering about the place, on dirt and gravel roads that seldom see traffic.
Google Maps is a wonderful invention. Its Street View technology (thanks Google car!) is especially helpful for route planning, provided you don’t stray too far off the beaten track. In my Aussie homeland, drivers of the Google car aren’t afraid to get them crusty on dirt and gravel roads. In my experience, the USA-based Google car drivers generally eschew dirt roads… and getting their cars all mucked up. Satellite maps are helpful, one can zoom in and look for the transition of pavement to dirt and gravel, and generally determine if a road is passable. Should you see a road narrow down to a driveway, that’s a hint of private property.
The one thing Google Maps in Satellite view cannot do, or any other mapping website for that matter, is the ability to identify “no trespassing” signs, fences, private property or hunting compounds. This problem sets the tone for things to come…
I had the option of stopping in the town of Branford, Florida at 75kms / 47 miles along the route for a refill. Because my first planned stop was just 25kms / 16 miles later, I decided to bypass Branford and keep rolling. My two by one litre Zefal water bottles were only half empty, so all indications were I had plenty of fluid on board for the short jaunt ahead.
Above is a photo of the hunting compound I chanced upon some 16kms / 10 miles later. The road that once went through was now closed. Thankfully, I had to backtrack only four’ish miles before I had routed around the compound and back onto my course. Unfortunately, this detour placed me too far away from my planned stop at 100km / 63 miles into the route, meaning my first stop would in reality come in Cross City, some 130km / 81 miles into the route.
I am the first to admit I hate Camelbaks. But about this time, I was wishing I’d brought along my aeons old Camelbak Razor, currently languishing away at home, collecting dust. It’s during these erroneous moments of exploring that you wish for these things! Considering there were no store options anywhere nearby, I continued following my route towards Cross City.
At 111kms / 69 miles into my journey, I began down a road that would ultimately lead to another hunting compound, but this time, with much higher fences and absolutely no chance of re-routing around. Adding to my problems, my water bottles were almost empty and the maximum daytime temperature of about 28C / 83F had been reached. It wasn’t looking pretty and I was feeling a bit suspect.
My wandering on the outskirts of this gargantuan hunting compound was limited to just eight miles / 11 kilometres, but I would need to completely backtrack some and take paved roads into Cross City.
Nineteen kilometres / 12ish miles doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re out of water, tired and rolling into a headwind, the sensations aren’t pleasant. I thought about stopping at one of the few houses dotted along my revised route for water, but I have concerns with entering private land with a house sitting atop it in most parts of the world these days. A solo lycra clad dude in desolate Florida may not be welcome?!
So I plodded on, all the way into Cross City on pavement, some 142kms / 88 miles on two litres of water, and several Gu gels and blocks for nutrition. Saying I was completely knackered is an understatement. But, I’d still managed 25km/hr / 15.8mph average speed over the course of this insane route, so that was a positive, but there was absolutely no way I could recover to ride another 60 or so miles / 90ish kilometres back to Gainesville.
What to do?
I could call my good mate Nature Boy, aka #1 Prong aka Rob and ask for a ride, but that slacker never answers the phone… and owes me about three rides. So, it was over to good old reliable Dr. Pain. He’s always around and his trusty pickup truck has saved many a cyclist!
The final leg of my journey wasn’t fast, but it was along a pleasant and mostly shaded rail trail, from Cross City to Trenton, Florida. By day’s end, about 190kms / 118 miles had rolled beneath my wheels.
Dr. Pain took video of my arrival into Trenton, albeit it in Portrait mode (most people seem to do this). The one and only frame capture from that video, pictured above, tells the story well. So cracked.
What was the lesson learned during this training ride?
- Don’t trust Google Maps.
- Carry a Camelbak or other hydration when solo scouting (I will be featuring a new hydration pack option soon from Sea Otter 2018).
- Have a Plan B (all good there).
- If in doubt, turn about. Glad I followed my own advice!
- Don’t be afraid to call a friend!
- Have a good sleep that night.
Soon, the training saga for Dirty Kanza 200 continues, with my final long ride coming in a few week’s time… just 175-miles… but it should go better than this sorry tale… whee!
Thanks for reading!