Author Topic: Toughest Touring Days?  (Read 4000 times)

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Offline zzzz

Toughest Touring Days?
« on: May 18, 2021, 03:56:14 pm »
I made a post earlier today assuring someone that Rainy/Washington Pass is no big deal. And after I hit "send" I thought how individual that sort of thing is. Were the temps low or high? What was the wind doing? How does a person react to elevation?

Rather than hijack that thread I decided to start a new one. What were your toughest days on the bike? It could be climbs, wind, weather, constant elevation change (ie The Ozarks) or other.

I'll go first:

1) Hanksville to Blanding UT: It was long in miles and from mid morning to early afternoon the wind and the temperature were up, and it was very isolated. I lucked out in that the temps went down as I gained altitude around Natural Bridges and I made it to Blanding right at dusk. I was so wiped out that after I showered and was walking to dinner in Blanding I thought I might get stopped and questioned for public intoxication because I could not walk straight. The most worn out I've ever been

2) Monitor Pass Ca: I don't think this should have been that hard but it was the second big climb of the day and I had a very greasy (but delicious!) lunch at a diner at the bottom of the pass and a really hot afternoon made for a truly miserable climb up the pass. Probably the worst I've ever felt on the bike.

3) There's probably a multi place tie for third but I'll commit to Little America Wy to Dutch John (Flaming Gorge) UT. Going up to the top of Flaming Gorge from the north side is 3 significant climbs right in a row, each bigger than the last. The final one being really tough. The gorge is quite the site though.

That said, 20 years ago I was on a hiking vacation in southern Patagonia, we were driving in our rented pick up truck down to Ushuaia, stuffed to the gills w the 4 of us and our 4 packs and the wind (according to the next days newspaper) was 120 kph. And there was a couple we passed on the road w fully loaded touring bikes going into the teeth of that wind. I have never been in a situation that tough!


Offline John Nettles

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Re: Toughest Touring Days?
« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2021, 08:22:56 pm »
For me, it was after a 50 mile day in 100+ temps on the "devil road" in Texas (TX-666) in deep south Texas.  The ride was fine and the temps were manageable.  The problem was for me, I had had a transplant a couple years earlier and this was my first major tour (Brownsville, TX to Winnipeg).  My wife, a physician, told me to "drink, drink, drink, and drink some more water" due to the temps and the harsh effect my transplant drugs have on my kidneys.  I dutifully obeyed. 

Unfortunately, I basically washed all my electrolytes out of my system around mile 40.  Toward the end, I was stopping every 1/4 to 1/2 mile (this is very flat country) and resting for 10 minutes as I was just totally totally spent.  Finally made it in, called her and she told me to eat a bunch of fries or potato chips.  That really helped as I basically needed a bunch of salt then.  While I could ride the next day, it was a good week before my body had recovered.  I now eat a bag of chips at every other rest break as I still have to drink, drink, drink.

Other than that, nothing that really stands out over the 45 years I have been touring.  Sure there have been memorable days but nothing like that one day riding the devil's road.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Toughest Touring Days?
« Reply #2 on: May 19, 2021, 12:49:13 am »
For me, there’s only one thing that separates great days from grueling days: wind.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Toughest Touring Days?
« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2021, 07:18:23 am »
I won't list specific days.  I tend to mentally block those.  I will say that one thing is likely to be consistent across most of them for me... heat, most often combined with long climbs.

Offline BikePacker

Re: Toughest Touring Days?
« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2021, 07:31:54 am »
In general, my toughest are typically the first 3 days out there whereby my mind and body are re-calibrating.
In a specific sense, with your mentioning of Washington Pass while commenting that many factors, such as temperature/heat, can impact degree of toughness ....
you bring to mind a recollection of while climbing said Pass west to east the heat I experienced.... 
It was so hot, I could not touch the metal part of my handle bar and
due to the temperature at one point I pulled off the road to try to reassemble my senses where I found the wonderful & simple shade of a telephone pole ....
I was happy to have to turn sideways as assurance of full shade. 

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Toughest Touring Days?
« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2021, 08:21:47 am »
I find time heals and you forget the bad days. One indication for me is the number of pictures that I took on a particular day. Zero pictures and the day basically sucked.
Surly Disc Trucker, Lightspeed Classic, Scott Scale, Klein Mantra Comp. First touring bike Peugeot U08 - 1966

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Toughest Touring Days?
« Reply #6 on: May 20, 2021, 09:55:01 am »
We'd crossed Kansas without getting a century in a day ride (I couldn't handle the heat, which cut short a couple likely days).  So when we got to Rawlins, WY and had a day off, we thought we could make Lander in one day.

Up and riding out of Rawlins as the sun rose, it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day.  Stopped at Muddy Gap for more water and snacks, and noticed we'd be going into a moderate headwind.  No big deal, right?  By the time we passed Split Rock, neither of us wanted to get off the road for a mile because of the time we'd lose as the wind was picking up.  Stopping for lunch in Jeffrey City, we smiled at the bird feeders duck taped to the parking stanchions; but 45 minutes later when we came out of the diner, we weren't smiling any more because of the howling wind.  Still, we decided to push on.

We had food, and water, but pushing into the headwind was tough.  Really tough.  At one point I got curious: I was about 20 yards in front of my daughter, hopped off the bike and started walking.  15 minutes later she was 100 yards in front of me.  OK, walking wasn't really faster. 

It took us five hours to make 20 miles, including hitting 6 mph going down the last hill (probably 6% downhill) to the Sweetwater River.  We were exhausted.  No camping signs at the state rest area, so in desperation we went across the road and begged to be allowed to camp at the LDS facility.  The staff offered us a place to camp, warned us to clean up after ourselves, and let us into the bathhouse.  Bless them!  After our supper, I went to talk to one of the hosts, and asked him what he thought the wind had been.  He'd been pulling a trailer of pushcarts back from South Pass for a summer program, and said it was miserable -- there was no wind cooling him off in his pickup at 50-55 mph.  I've claimed that 50 mph as the headwind we fought for five hours based on his observation.

Offline BikePacker

Re: Toughest Touring Days?
« Reply #7 on: May 21, 2021, 07:06:50 am »
pushing into the headwind was tough.  Really tough. 
Wowzers Pat ... If I think I have a steady all day long 15 or better mph headwind in my future my policy is simply not to ride that day.

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Toughest Touring Days?
« Reply #8 on: May 21, 2021, 09:47:19 am »
Toughest in terms of left me he most wiped was 130+ miles from outside of Port Jervis, NY to the New Hope, PA area the day after a hurricane.

Toughest is terms of "This is crazy!" was the North Cascades Highway from Colonial Creek Campground to Winthrop in late May after a record snowfall that winter.  Very cold morning. It started raining somewhere before Rainy Pass. The rain turned to snow before the first summit and continued until the descent of Washington Pass.  I had only been west of Chicago once in my life, during a non-biking trip to Seattle in August, so big mountains and weather like that were new to me. It was also around the 6th day I had ever camped and ridden a fully-loaded bicycle.

Toughest in terms of "I don't think I am going to be able to do this" was a day in Andalucia that included a long stretch of false flat climbing to a pass directly into a very strong wind. I tried to flag down a couple of farm fans for a lift forward. Didn't work. When I finally reached my destination town I sat on a park bench to regain my full faculties. A teenager rides up on a Cannondale MTB. I was riding a Cannondale touring bike. I asked him if he knew where a certain restaurant/hostel was. He gave me a puzzled look and then pointed directly across the narrow street from the bench. Boy did I feel dumb. Turned out his parents owned the place.

Offline hikerjer

Re: Toughest Touring Days?
« Reply #9 on: May 21, 2021, 12:34:00 pm »
Undoubtedly, crossing Nevada in August. 100+ degree heat, absolutely no shade, having to carry tons of water (at least it seemed like it), 40--50 miles between any towns, constant up and down over passes.  I did not enjoy it.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2021, 10:28:52 pm by hikerjer »