The best laid plans…

At about mile 12 of yesterday’s bike ride, I was slogging up what I thought was a 4-mile-long hill when I saw something that was not unwelcome, but certainly not expected – the crest of the hill. My first thought was “Wow, that elevation profile was way off,” but then I saw that instead of a gently rolling hill that would eventually lead back up, it continued going down. It went down until it reached a stop sign, and I understood that I had taken a wrong turn that took me almost back to my starting point and cut my planned loop by more than half.

[Insert frustrated sigh here.]

Of all of my bike rides over the past month, this was going to be the most fun because of the gorgeous scenery I would be riding by in the Walpack Valley in Northwestern NJ.  It would also be more challenging than my usual route is, so it would be a good training ride for a bike tour I’ll be doing in two weeks.

I planned my route to be one half this gorgeousness, the other half along the Delaware River.

I planned my route to be one half this gorgeousness, the other half along the Delaware River.

Because this wasn’t a normal out-the-door ride, I prepped a lot for it. I’m talking cue sheet, backpack to hold an air pump in case I got a flat (need to get one that can be carried on the frame…), post-ride lunch packed. I even checked out as much of the route as I could on Google Maps. I was ready.

My proposed route was 26 miles long and had some challenging climbs in the middle.

My proposed route was 26 miles long and had some challenging climbs in the middle.

I started off feeling pretty good, but a little bummed that it took so long to stow my phone away in my pack and then get the pack clipped and situated after starting the tracking app. That was going to kill my recorded speed, especially if I wanted to take any pictures along the way. (Maybe I need to write a post about my unhealthy love of data and the evils of Strava…) I got going though and soon found myself enjoying the scenery that I came for. I took it very easy on all of the rolling hills, knowing that I had a 4-mile climb later that was followed by a killer steep climb. It was still chilly, and I whooshed down the road feeling good.

Stopping to take in the mountain, valley, and view beyond.

Stopping after the first climb to rest and to take in the mountain, valley, and view beyond.

When I turned away from the valley onto Old Mine Rd, I climbed through a gap in one of the ridges, and started to parallel the Delaware River. This road was supposedly built by the Dutch in the 1600s to transport copper mined in this area to what is now Kingston, NY.

I rode with the river on my left and a steep ridge on the right, which was forested with cool groves of hemlocks and blanked with bright green ferns.

As I approached the 4-mile hill climb, I came up to a fork in the road. My cue sheet said to continue on Old Mine Rd. The only sign pointed left, which was a gravel path, to Van Campen’s Inn. It seemed pretty obvious that I needed to take the broad paved road to the right – until I realized that it wasn’t.

Sooooo….epic fail. I routed my course on a loose gravel road.

I returned to where I started and decided to head north and try to loop back around and see how far up the gravel section went. I hooked back up to Old Mine Rd several miles up and found that it was still very much gravel at this point.

I was pretty disappointed that my route didn’t work out and that I stopped so many times, which slowed my speed. But in the end I just had to go with the flow.

Easy training workouts should not be stressful or centered on speed. It turns out that the route I accidentally took was the bike route of a duathlon held there in the fall. Now that I know the course, I’d like to put that race on my “when my knee is better” bucket list.

In the end, things didn’t go quite as planned, but it was a beautiful day in a beautiful place, I got in 22 miles and 1,450′ of elevation gain, and I’m that much closer to having a great ride on the bike tour in two weeks.

Ever on!


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