Thirty years ago, almost to the day. A letter to Jay
June 12th, 2006
I remember the feeling of being back on my bike. It had only been one day off but already I felt like I missed it some how. The chamois in my cycling shorts quickly molded itself to the saddle. The climb was most likely easier today than it was with all that gear packed on our bikes, in our panniers. But,we were younger then. And we had the elastic lungs and legs of youth.
I rarely ride this route now. More often I would ride down lower along the Mississippi river to a point north of here. Climb the ridge, and return, descending Apple Blossom drive back to LaCresent and then LaCrosse. A wind out of the north would usually dictate that route. It's common practice to ride into the wind to begin a ride. Then finish the ride with a tailwind. It was my friend Bill who suggested this mornings' route. Without a thought of the history. I agreed. Bill is just getting his form back after a nasty mountain bike crash. His thigh bruises look like bad tattoos of New Jersey. A week of riding only on the flats. And large quantities of anti-inflammatory drugs made this a reasonable first climbing attempt.
We rode out of LaCrosse, west on the highway, across the river to LaCresent. The same country rode out of town that began our climb back then, now courses its way up through a housing development, instead of the apple orchards. It's still awfully pretty, once you get up a ways. The view looking out over the mighty Mississippi, LaCrosse and Wisconsin is still inspiring.
The pace up the climb was quite reasonable. We rode together most of the way up. The incline to the top hasn't changed. It's long and steady. There aren't any super steep sections, so it favors Bills' climbing style. It was a good choice for today. We powered across the ridge top. Winding our way north and west into the wind for several miles. Bill had little residual discomfort from his lost battle with gravity, and set the tempo.
After a while, we turned around to reverse our route, the wind now fueling our pace as we headed for home. Forty miles per hour on the descent is not unreasonable. A little faster than the six or seven mph on the way up. We worked our way back across the river, into town, and on to the warm showers of home.
Jay, back in 1976, you and I had continued our day riding along the Minnesota interstate frontage road all morning. I distinctly remember a huge dog leaping out of a hiding place along a fence line. And when we had to make a route choice (we ran out of pavement), that dog factored into our decision. We rode a few miles of gravel that day. You know. It was just one day of riding thirty years ago. But, in some ways it feels so much closer. I'm glad to have shared it with you. And to have happened upon the memory of it today. Hope to hear back from you soon.
Your old friend, Scott