This always happens when I bother to spend hours preparing for a destination ride. The weather never seems to be ideal, and once I am out there I begin to regret my decision. All the preparation seemed like a waste of time. This was one of those days.
Of course, Thanksgiving day was in the 60's and perfect for riding, but there was a family gathering and glorious turkey, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy to be consumed. Black Friday was to be half the temperatures with some quite strong winds. I woke to check the forecast. Good, looked like the worst of the winds were to take place later in the afternoon. I began to plan a basic route...from Sturgis, through Burr Oak to just outside Coldwater. All of this heading north to northeast (going with the wind). Then heading north to north west to Union City, then west to a place I've never heard of Sherwood, MI. From there back south to Colon, back through Burr Oak then west to Sturgis. I figured it was 25 miles or so to Coldwater, so I'd be looking at maybe a 60 mile or so day. Not bad, since I was planning on just cruising around.
With a route now planned, I headed out asap to try and beat the worst of the wind. I was dressed in all my standard full-winter gear. I could tell even riding with the wind, the gusts were up to 14-15mph. Was kind of tired, but felt pretty good. Happy to be out on (likely) my last road ride until spring.
Until this Darryl parked just before I snapped this pic, BurrOak was absolutely vacant.
I saw plenty of deer and hunters (while I presume) their wives were out shopping, gathering up deals at Walmart and such. From a distance, I saw an old man walking back to his truck with rifle in both hands. He had not seen me travelling on the adjacent road. He never got in his truck, but was instead hiding on the back side of the truck, where I couldn't tell what he was doing. As I neared, still riding, I could see the last 8" or so of his rifle poking out from behind the truck pointing across the road in my direction. He still can't see me. My heart began to race, adrenalin pumping. Thinking for a split second, "OMG, he's going to shoot me." So I slowed, and as I got up next to the truck, he started clearing the chamber of shells from the chamber. KA-CHA, KA-CHA, KA-CHA!! It scared the crap out of me. All this happening in 10 seconds or less, I thought my joy ride was going to end with me with a hole in my head splayed out on the center line like fresh road kill. It took me nearly 5 minutes to calm back down.
Hmmm....note to self. Branch County. Bad.
About 10 minutes from reaching Coldwater, I could tell the wind was getting worse. When I previously traveling with the wind at 15mph, now it was pushing me doing 20mph. So the gusts had to be up to 25mph or so now. I turned to go north-northwest and couldn't believe how hard it was to pedal. I had to lean far into the wind left, then when the gusts would disappear, I would end up swerving into the road, still leaning just not against anything now. Not safe.
As I had to gear down due to the wind, I realized that my gears were all messed up, as I only had access to gear number one (granny gear) and anything on the big chain ring. This was frustrating. I either had to pedal at very high rpm's to make it to 10mph fighting the wind, or else pedal very hard in a higher gear to gain any sort of speed. Still, I made the best of it that I could and kept on pushing.
I was starting to feel the effects of dehydration (dizzy spells, confused about simple things, loss of short term memory in forgetting names of roads I was looking for, and mood swings). I stopped once to eat a few ShotBloks and nearly fell over I was so dizzy. The wind was piercing my winter riding clothing to where I was getting very cold fast. It seems every time I "free-style" a route, I have to bail on it because it ends up being too long and ridiculous. Today was no different. If I had finished out the ride as planned, it likely would have been near an 80 mile day. A long day in perfectly nice weather, not good for a 35 degree and blowy, gray day. I thought if I had any chance of getting back alive, I had better turn around now. So, disappointed, I did just that. Bailed.
As I was riding along (talking to myself now), I looked ahead and spotted a State Trooper in his car parked in the middle of nowhere. I stopped to chat, he rolls his window down, suspiciously...
Trooper: "How you doin' today?"
Me: "I'm okay. Just wanted to say, if you're out here looking for speeders, I'm not one of them."
Trooper: (now realizing I'm just there to chat, gets friendlier) "Ha ha, nope, I can get you right here though. (holding up his radar gun)
Me: "So, what are you doing out here?"
Trooper: "We have a young man causing some trouble, so I'm waiting for him to come past."
Me: "Oh, fun."
Trooper: "Where you headed?"
Me: (explaining my route) "...so I decided I would try to go to this place called Sherwood today. I grew up in Sturgis, live about 20 miles from there and never heard of it."
Trooper: (looks back straight ahead out from his car, nodding his head - like Terminator or something) "Yup. Nice little Meth community they got there."
Me: "ha ha! Awesome!"
We exchanged a few other little conversations, then I was back on the road, secretly hoping that I would see him come blasting by me chasing down the "young man" he was looking for.
On the way back, already feeling defeated, at three different points, I got chased by a total of 5 dogs. The first ones I out ran, but they hung with me for quite awhile - nipping at my heels. Of course, they ran out at me on a slight uphill into the wind and used almost all I had left to outrun them. I was still fighting my gears and had to swerve at them as they were trailing me in order to gain time to find a working gear to outrun them in. The next time dogs ran out at me, I was completely out of energy and I could not even attempt to outrun them, so my last resort was to yell in my deepest, angriest voice "GO!" This worked surprisingly well, stopping the dogs dead in their tracks as I rode away.
I was wishing the ride was over now, but had probably 15-20 more miles to go. At 10mph, this was going to take too long and I wasn't sure I could make it. And then it started to sleet. My hands were numb, I could feel my core temp coming down. Shivering when I should have still been warm. I found a wooded area to shelter myself from the wind and took a seat on a guard rail, and had to do the unthinkable. Call for a ride home. My wife met me in Burr Oak, my arrival and hers was timed almost perfectly. I could barely speak when I got in the truck, dizzy and rather confused how I could have gotten in this rough of shape.
I never saw this skull until I was ready to leave.
It had been resting on this post next to me the entire time.
For some reason, it's always easier to remember the miserable times you have on a bike, rather than the glorious ones. I don't know why that is. Just because you don't want it to happen again? I saw a sign while riding that day that said "You add to your legacy each day. Good or bad." I guess that's all this was, creating a good memory of a bad day.
I ended up with 50.4 miles on the day. Probably about 45 more than I needed.