Life has been stressful lately. Between work, family, taking care of the house, and my wife getting ready to go back to school for her masters, it’s just all been wearing me down over the last few weeks. I needed to decompresses, hit the ‘reset’ button if you will. Everyone has their own way of doing this. Some people curl up on the couch and read a book, others get drunk and start a bar fight. I go for a bike ride. The longer the ride, the better. This weekend I was finally able to dedicate a big chunk of the day to doing just that – and it was glorious.
Four of us met up at the West Dam Recreation Area just after 7am. I was planning on doing a 51-mile ride known as the Bartram/Keg Lollipop. Of that, half a mile is paved, two miles is double track, and the rest is singletrack. No one else seemed to be sure of just how far they were going to ride. The Bartram trail is a fast and fairly flat 21-mile long out and back trail that rolls and winds through the woods along the shore of Lake Thurmond. Keg Creek is a 9-mile loop full of roots bigger than your thighs and several challenging creek crossings, though sadly most were dry.
I had stashed two gallons of water at the end of the Bartram trail - I would pass that spot twice during the ride. Since I would have access to water every 1-2.5hrs I decided to ride without my Camelbak and just used a pair of 24oz water bottles instead – something I’ve never done on a big ride. This turned out to be a great decision. I never ran out of water and didn’t have a hot and heavy pack on my back all day.
There had been a light rain earlier in the morning, so everything was wet. Everything. It was ridiculously humid, at least 85%, so the water had nowhere to go. Less than a mile into the ride all four of us were soaked head to toe from a combination of sweat and water on the leaves we’d brush against while winding through the woods. But ride on we did.
We picked up two more people, including fellow singletracks member BrianW, and worked our way west toward the Keg Creek loop. We set a decent pace; quick, but sustainable and not quite race pace. We stopped occasionally to eat a bite, chat, and let everyone in the group catch up. When we got to the end of Bartram most of the guys turned around and headed back, but BrianW and I continued on. BrianW decided he was done after we finished Keg, and I set off solo for the last 21 miles. At this point the temperature had climbed pretty high but at least everything was finally starting to dry out.
Shells and Scales
It’s turtle season here in the South. Not to hunt them, but they’re out laying eggs. We saw a few on Bartram and then a bunch more on Keg. Not sure how many we saw, I lost count, but I know it was more than a dozen. There were probably a bunch more we didn’t see since they blend in pretty well. About half of the ones we saw were in the process of laying eggs. Apparently they like laying their eggs in the trail, I suppose because it’s easy for them to dig the hole the eggs are laid in. The problem with that is it’s easy for predators to find them – we passed several holes that looked like nests that had been discovered and ransacked. BrianW and I also ran up on a big 4ft long king snake. He was pretty cool.
While I was happily spinning my way back to the car there was a thunderstorm sneaking up on me. I couldn’t really see the sky through all the trees, so I couldn’t see it coming, and it didn’t start thundering till it was right on top of me. Just all of a sudden it started thundering constantly right over my head. Not the low rumble kind of thunder, but the booming and cracking kind that sounds like the sky is splitting open - the kind that comes with lightening.
I decided to shorten my ride a little by skipping an alternate loop on Bartram – I did NOT want to get caught out there in lightning and high winds. I had 45 miles of riding behind me and only 3.5 ahead of me. I dropped the hammer and went all out in an attempt to outrun the storm. Of course I was pretty tired at this point so all-out wasn’t really all that fast. I made it about two miles and then the bottom dropped out. No point in killing myself now, so I slowed up the pace a little and rode the last mile and a half in a downpour.
About six hours after I left it I finally got back to my car. I was completely drenched, and the rain was still coming down hard. Did I have a towel, or somewhere to get in out of the rain to change? Nope. It was going to be a wet ride home. But it wasn’t all bad, I had a great ride. I covered a lot of ground on fun trails with good company and felt great the whole time. I loaded the bike onto the rack, took of my helmet, gloves, and jersey and stood there in the parking lot for a minute. The rain felt good, really good in fact. It was nice and cool. I closed my eyes and turned my face up to the sky to let the rain rinse off all the sweat, salt, and mud that had built up throughout the day. That’s not a bad way to end a ride at all.
Final stats for the ride:
Distance: 48.44 miles
Ride Time: 4 hours and 54 minutes
Total Time: 6 hours and 12 minutes
Gatorade Consumed: about 125oz
Climbing: Not much
Fun: A bunch
Have you had a good stress-relieving ride recently? Tell us about it in the comments section below!