I had it all planned out: a loop from my house out through the Hanging Rock Valley, through the lower trails of Carvins Cove, around the entire reservoir and back. According to my calculations about 35 miles total of pavement, trail and fire road. I'd never done it before, but it's not too imposing - mostly flat, very little technically challenging on the singletrack sections - so I wasn't at all worried. The plan was to leave the house at about 8am Saturday (Feb 3rd) so we could be back by noon. I had been planning this ride since last Saturday's three hour MTB stint ended.
All week I looked forward to it. Then, Friday evening I watched the weather forecast. Oh crap. Highs in the lower to mid thirties with 20-30 mph gusty winds. This would be interesting.
Pookie and I rolled out at 8am. We were greeted by a teperature of 27 degrees, and a steady 15 mph wind. The wind chill was somewhere in the area of the "you're an idiot" range. But the rides must be ridden. The base must be built...
The first hour was a constant stuggle to stay upright. Not only did we have severe crosswinds, but they would frequently swirl into headwinds that chilled us to the bone, and would drop our forward progress by 5 to 7 mph in a matter of seconds. This is the first time I ever remember the need to downshift into an easier gear going downhill! The energy was being sapped at an alarming rate. We had a long haul in front of us. This was not starting well.
Picture this: It's cold. It's VERY windy. You're getting tired. You're getting cranky. No one is forcing you to do this, and you're nowhere near being finished. That was our first hour!
Thank God for secondary roads that buffer the wind a bit because they are more tree-lined. This took some of the sting out of what our legs and faces had been feeling. An hour and a half into our journey, we reached the gate that leads into Carvins Cove.
The Comet was to be our first trail of the day: rolling and fast, usually. Today it was a nothing but frost heave. Crunchy, frozen, and laden with wind-fall timber. No flow, none whatsoever. We made it through to Enchanted Forest, which is currently in the worst shape I've ever seen. It looks like a giant walked through knocking trees over. We made it through the maze back to the fire road and decided to skip what would be our last section of trail for the day: Schoolhouse. It's a notoriously wet trail, and at 30 degrees, we were not very interested in getting wet.
The Happy Valley fireroad that carried us through to the far end of the Cove was the best part of our ride. It was dry and sheltered from the winds that we could still hear howling through the trees further up the side of the mountain. We reached the boat dock and the gusts began again.
Once onto Peters Creek Road, the winds became stronger than they had been at any point on the ride. Keep in mind, we had already fought them for two and a half hours. We were cooked and just wanted to get home. I knew it would be at least another hour. I also knew not to say that to Pookie. "Just keep your head down and pedal", I thought. I led the road segments the entire day, with a 15 to 20 mph head wind, and gusts to 30 mph. I was cooked, but I managed to keep it in Zone 2 (base, remember) almost the entire three and a half hours. I would assume that without the wind, we could knock this loop out in three hours flat.
Now I'm planning a variation of this ride that could bring the total milage up to about 50. It would also involve alot more single track and some climbing; the perfect combination for later in February.
Now if we can just get a break from these gale-force winds...