Hola to all!

I did it.  100.  And let me tell you – a cold beer at the end of 100 miles has never tasted soooooooo good.

The night before our big ride, everyone was so exhausted from the New Years Eve festivities that we were a fair bunch of zombies at dinner.  The hotel owner (Mark) and his wife made us dinner – we hung out in the living room and on the terrace wandering back to the table for various courses and conversations.  Everyone went to their rooms early to pack and get a good night sleep.

I woke up the morning of our last ride feeling really good.

A Beautiful Morning

A Beautiful Morning

Bags were out the door at 8am as this ride was taking us on a very famous and challenging route – that I believe is called Lake Circle Road. The route would lead us up over the mountains past Lakes Espejo, Correntoso, Hermoso and Falkner down to Lake Lacar and the beautiful town of San Martin de los Andes nestled on the shores of the lake between two mountains.

Not everyone was up for the full challenge.  The ride was broken into two parts:  the first 50 is serious mountain biking over terrain that is rocky, sandy, full of dirt ruts, puddles and holes.  Oh yeah – and it’s almost all up hill.  The second 50 is pavement that takes you through the most spectacular and naturally dramatic scenery anyone can imagine.  And –  oh, yeah –  it’s almost ALL up hill.  By the end of the day we will have gained an elevation of 4,000 feet.

Eight of us took off to do the whole thing.  Others in the group planned to shuttle over the rough roads and begin their ride on the paved part and a few just said “no way” to riding at all.  Just to drive the van over this “rough road” would take 3 hours – biking around 5 or 6 hours.

The Fab Four

The Fab Four

The brave eight broke into two teams – there was no solo riding today.  The first 4 were the strongest and they left about 20 minutes before we did.  I rode with Tom (Lobbyist from D.C. and a Democrat – thank God), his 27 year old daughter Emily and Liz of Wall Street.  Emmanuel would ride back and forth between the two groups and make sure everyone was OK and there was an extra pick-up truck with  water and snacks or if someone decided to quit.  Or worse, had an accident and needed to be rushed to the hospital.  It’s happened before!!!!!

I loved the mountain biking which was the first half of the ride.  It’s one very, very bumpy ride and you end up moving back and forth across the terrain navigating the best route so that you look like a drunken sailor.  The road was really dusty as they

Masked Riders

Masked Riders

have not had much rain so we all wore neck scarves that made us look like bank robbing bike riders.  Our road cut through a really dense part of the forest so the tree coverage provided nice protection from the increasing blare of the sun.  Occasionally there were cars/SUV’s that took this route – due to the terrain and the uphill climb it often seemed the bikers were doing better than the drivers.

Emmanuel was a great support reminding us to drink water and pace ourselves.  Going up hill the terrain is so steep and rough that if you stop it’s extremely difficult to get balance and energy to pedal.  So the big rule was – keep going.  When a hill would level off we would stop for a 60 second breather and then “keep going.”

They are in the process of widening a section of this road so that 20 or 30 kilometers

Can I Bring Him Home?

Can I Bring Him Home?

of it can be paved next year (bummer).  We went by some large trucks working on the road and there were three puppies.  Of course we had to stop.  We played with the adorable puppies and drank water.  Emmanuel talked to the construction group.  When he came back he was laughing and of course we wanted to know what they discussed.  It was something about “not understanding the craziness of people who want to do what we were doing – you can get up the hill faster in a car and have a sandwich.”  Trust me!!!  I had many of those thoughts throughout the trip:  Car/Sandwich vs. Bike/sore butt/numb hands/achy back/dried fruit.

We plowed on.  Sometime later (it really was just one blur of a day), Emmanuel pulled us off the trail and down a small dirt road that wound its way past a clear running stream to a little farm along the bank.  Three dogs and a cat were all sleeping in the hot sun curled into the green grass and wild flowers.  The sheep and cows had better real estate than any mansion in California.  The farmer had nice bathrooms (bless you

MMMMM - Donuts!

MMMMM - Donuts!

Emmanuel) and the wife was making Tortas Fritas – hot fried doughnuts!  It’s probably not the best thing to eat on a bike ride – but as my British friends love to say “it would be rude not to” – so we did!  Yummy!!!!  I was able to hold myself to one Tortas Fritas (as I didn’t want to see them again later) and took a moment to breathe in this spectacular place.  I don’t have enough words to describe the beauty – lush green fields and trees of all hues, yellow, red, purple wild flowers everywhere, a babbling stream that you can drink from, mountains that reach the clouds and a quiet that I need a little more of in my life.  I will be coming back here.

But for now – more riding.  Earlier Liz had made the comment:  “I could do this all day.  Oh yeah, I am doing this all day!”  And we were only 1/2 way through the rough road we had to get cooking.  I really loved this kind of riding although my team mates didn’t share my enthusiasm.  It takes a lot of focus to ride this terrain.  I learned to give the bike a lot of play over the gravel as the bike tires would slip and shift and the front would bump wildly.  A couple of hours later we hit the big climb of –  3.6 kilometers straight up hill.  Because I had made this “little hill” out to be so much worse in my head, when I made it to the top I was surprised at how well I did.  (Of course Emmanuel was there to remind me that at the very end of the 100 there was a 9 kilometer ride to the top – kill joy!)

I jumped over the top of the hill on my bike and sprinted the last 100 yards to pavement.  I waited a few minutes for the others to join me.  High fives all around.  Emmanuel was very pleased with us.  We did it in under 6 hours.  It was already 3pm!  We had consumed a lot of water and some snacks – not much else.  I like to keep my stomach light when I exercise but Emmanuel begged us to take 15 minutes and eat a small sandwich and drink more water.  He took off to catch the other group.

We were now out of the woods and by the side of a lake where you could see the coins img_1330at the bottom of the water.  Tom estimated it was about 15 feet deep.  We were now in the sun and thankful for the fluffy wide clouds that provided some relief.  The wind was picking up.

Our second 50 felt so strange at the beginning.  We were able to power through it so much more quickly after the craziness of the first 50.  We all felt really good.  The climb was constant rolling hills but, all moving up.  Our goal was the Continental Divide.  For miles and miles it was gorgeous lake scene and vista after another.  We stopped occasionally to drink, make sure everyone was OK and get back on the road.

Emmanuel came back after a couple of hours and told us the other group had two injuries.  Gloria and Alisa had both gone down in separate accidents on the rough terrain.  A little bloody and some serious bruises would be a part of it but after being bandaged up they had hit the road again.  Emmanuel was thankful that was all it was.  “I don’t like it when bones stick out after an accident”, he said squeamishly.  I’ll keep that in mind.

We rode on.  Up ahead we saw Florent in the white van pulled over by the side of the road.  We stopped and he congratulated all of us.  We were starting the last two sections of the ride.  The first a 9 kilometer ride at a steep elevation and then 17 kilometers down to the village of San Martin.  Like Everest (OK, I’m not comparing apples to apples) most accidents happen on the descent.  We watered up and began.

We spaced out about 100 meters between each rider.  I wanted to go last as I did not want to feel pressure from anyone behind me.  These roads are still narrow and cars zoom by at very fast speeds so passing is not the safest move.  I knew I could do this.  I knew that from the moment I woke up.  Most people start this ride and give up long before this point.  No one in our 8 had bailed.

Slow and focused.  I realized how quickly I had conditioned and adapted.  I did not “train” for this like so many others had (3 hour spin classes, marathons, etc.) but I work out pretty regularly and hit The Strand on the beach with my bike.  The first couple days were tough but now I felt that “I got it”.  We rode in a straight line up the mountain – Liz in red, Tom in Orange, Emily in Yellow and me in Turquoise.  Cars passing us slowed to take a better look.  I think about all the time I have seen bikers on the road doing this same thing in Colorado, Italy, etc. and have also wondered how/why do they do this.  I get it.

We saw other bikers for the first time.  There were many.  Some passing us on the ascent (mini Lance Armstrongs) and some coming down on the other side of the road.  Doing this is part of a specific class – like riding a Harley.  You always acknowledge the other riders you see along the way.  We all nodded, smiled, yelled Hola’s and some of the serious bikers applauded (yes, they can ride down hill with no hands – amazing).

Emmanuel pulled up along side me and asked how I was doing.  The fact that I could actually HOLD a conversation while riding up a 9 kilometer stretch of a mountain was an incredible revelation.  I was cooking along in 2:3.  Not even 1:1.  I said I was doing great.  Emmanuel told me that he and Florent were just talking about the riders and Florent said that I was the one that had the biggest smile all day.  Yes I did!

“Emmanuel – what did you say?”
“I said that you had the best helmet hair of anyone on the trip!”

Now that’s what a woman wants to hear on her ascent!  What a laugh.

“How much longer Emmanuel?”
“Are you tired?”
“No – just curious.”
“OK then – just 700 meters.”

What?????  It seemed like this stretch happened in a flash.  Where was the pain?  Where was the agony of wondering if I could make it?  I looked up and there was the bridge with red, orange and yellow almost there.  Emmanuel and I sprinted the rest of the way.

We were all at the Continental Divide where the river splits into two – one to the

Continental Divide

Continental Divide

Make A Wish

Make A Wish

Atlantic and one to the Pacific.  We all high-fived, hugged and took pictures.  I found a coin and threw it into the water right before the rivers split making a wish.  I’m not sure which direction the coin went but that seemed appropriate as I’m not sure which direction my life will be going.

It was now 6pm.  The sun was still out – shining and baking us nice and hot.  The wind was beginning to howl.  Emmanuel had hoped the wind would be a tail wind for us but it was not our luck.  A really strong head wind would be working against us the whole way down.

The next 17 were the downhill portion and the idea of “downhill” is that you can coast.

It's All Downhill From Here

It's All Downhill From Here

It’s still really hard on your hands (which are already numb), your back and shoulders due to the position on the bike.  But the “pedaling” should be minimal.  Well, that was not the case.  The wind was so strong we actually had to “pedal” down the mountain.  There were still a few more hills along the way but they seemed like baby bumps compared to what we just did.  It was work getting to the village.

We pedaled hard and non-stop.  The wind would gust so hard that it almost toppled me a couple of times.  I saw Emily and Tom struggle and wobble a few times.  Small rocks were being dislodged from the cliffs around us so we needed to be careful of mini rock slides.  The cars were good to us and the other riders as they could see what the wind was doing to us.

We came around one of the twisty bends and below us was the village.   It looks like a

Success and Cold Beers

Success and Cold Beers

movie set.  Wooden lodges built among the green trees right on the edge of the lake (which now had white caps).  We pedaled harder to get down the hill.  We entered the village and cruised to the hotel.  We turned left into the hotel driveway and Florent and Julio were waiting with cold beers.  It was 7:15pm.  We did it.

An amazing day.  An amazing experience. An amazing personal achievement for me.  Hugs, kisses, our fellow travelers cheering and applauding.  Emmanuel and Florent were impressed that 100% who started, finished.  “It just doesn’t happen.” said, Florent.   I think they saw this as a personal best, as well.

Our celebration was short lived as we had dinner reservations.  The Back Roads team took our bikes and helmets to pack them away.  It was kind of sad.

img_1381

Emmanuel & Florent - Congrats to all!

I went to my room to take a shower.  My body was so hot (radiating from the inside out) that I took a cold shower.  We scrambled to get ready and ran to meet everyone for dinner.  I think we all thought this would be the rowdiest evening yet, but the exhaustion of the day was settling in on most of us.  Stephen (the 16 year old) was almost asleep at the table.  He rode hard doing the ride in 8.5 hours.

My hands were still so numb I could not feel the glass in my hand or hold a fork very well.  Which was OK as my appetite wasn’t all that strong.  We shared last stories, jokes and a lot of toasts.  The exhaustion finally won and everyone went to bed.

The next day Florent and Emmanuel hugged us all and put us on the shuttle to the airport.  Everyone kept saying that the boys looked sad to see us go.  I think we just exhausted them.  Most groups are in the 50 plus category and lots of couples.  The couples often do their own thing and Florent and Emmanuel are there to assist if they need anything.  Most of the people have quiet dinners and go to bed so they have the energy to ride the next day.  This time Emmanuel and Florent were a part of the group – from dawn to late night.  They aren’t use to the 20 – 40 age range that kept them going on the rides and at the bar.  They had a great time but needed some rest.

We waved good-bye and started the 3 hour ride to the airport.

One additional small story:  the border guard stopped our van and was not pleased with our drivers paper work.  They hauled us all to the police station for an hour.   At least they had bathrooms.

We said our good-byes at the airport as everyone scattered to different flights.   I will keep in touch with many and would like to do another trip with some of these new friends.

I am now back in Buenos Aires in one piece and only a little sore around the edges.  I had a lovely dinner with Stephen and Ricardo in the Palermo District.  Great fun!

But, now I am off to power shop my last couple days in BA.

Once again, thank you to all of you for sharing in my adventure.  I made the decision along time ago that I would rather travel solo than not all.  But when I have good friends and family sharing the adventure I don’t feel alone.  I will see you all soon (with a new leather bag on my arm).

Leave a Reply

You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>