The strange spring weather in Wisconsin has allowed an early start to the 2012 cycling season. As of April 8th, I am already up to 880 miles for the season and have ridden two 75 mile rides, two 125 mile rides and one 180 mile ride. The 180 mile ride was Saturday's debut ride of a route I created called "Old Abe's Parade". The route is certified as a RUSA permanent which allows riders to gain RUSA credit towards various distance awards. The ride starts in BRF and travels to Pepin by way of Independence, Mondovi and Durand and returns through Alma, Arcadia and Ettrick.
I left at 6:00 am under clear skies and with a beautiful, setting full moon. The temperature at the start was 28 degrees. The ride to Durand was awesome across terrain that became increasingly hilly. The section between Durand and Pepin is one of my favorite roads to ride anywhere in the state. County Highway N travels parallels the Chippewa River and the Tiffany Bottoms Wilderness area. I saw multiple bald eagles and was lucky enough to watch one eagle scoop an unlucky fish out of the water as I rode past.
Just as I was leaving Pepin, the predicted 30 percent chance of rain turned into a steady drizzle that would last over the next 5 hours. I rode southeast along the Great River Road trying to enjoy the regular views of the Mississippi River and adjacent bluffs. The climb over the bluff out of Alma was a long, steep and soggy grind. By the time I got to Arcadia, I was soaked, freezing, and in full bonk mode. A meal and some hot chocolate gave me enough energy to limp over the two climbs which highlight the section to Ettrick. Things finally dried out shortly after leaving Ettrick and I was treated to glorious light as the sun set halfway between Ettrick and home.
I finished the 181 mile ride in 14 hours and 39 minutes. Not an elite time by any means but I was pretty satisfied with being able to complete a ride of that difficulty in bad conditions so early in the season.