The Logging Road Cyclist was clawing his way back to fitness. This was a more complicated procedure than it sounds. Of course, there was the usual goal of cardiovascular tuning, which at present was pretty miserable, and the strengthening of the legs, which were weak. Rides often done in the past without much thought elicited a more-or-less continuous stream of “Did this used to be this steep?”, coupled with gasping, aching legs and the sudden impulse to just quit climbing and take a short rest.
The phenomenon of the rests might be the result of poor physical condition resulting from the months of no cycling that The Injury caused. It was also, TLRC thought a lack of mental toughness. Whereas before, he felt that he could pretty much power up anything that provided enough traction for his 35mm Schwalbes, and continue beyond indefinitely, he now doubted that, and took appropriate measures: the rests. He was no longer willing to do a long climb on a short, wet day and drop off the other side for fear of running out of gas. Getting lost and thus forcing a longer-than-planned ride was not something he was comfortable with. This colored his choice of rides.
As noted, he did the Chandler Pass ride out by Valsetz, and then the Rickreall-Falls City loop, both moderate, both reasonably well remembered. He got a might confused on the latter, and did some unintended climbing. The grade down to Black Rock had been heavily logged and looked much different, but he persevered, and gained back some confidence.
A harder ride, and one TLRC knew like the back of his hand was Grass Mountain. He had given it a try a few weeks earlier, but the Panzer Saddle on the DeSalvo had some issues and created a hot spot so quickly that he only got up the first four miles before having to retreat. He had fixed that and last weekend returned.
It was a nice day, foggy at home, sunny out in Alsea. He ground away, thinking how much steeper it seemed presently than in memory, but didn’t have to stop. Near the top, the road splits. Years ago, on his first successful ride up Grass, he had taken the left hand road, which in his memory was pleasant, woody, and not too steep. Since then, he had always taken the right branch, which besides being hella steep, had much better views. In his diminished state, he opted for the left.
A smattering of snow had appeared at this elevation. In the years since TLRC had been here last, the road had been covered by deadfalls and growth through the roadbed. The ridgeline TLRC thought he had to obtain seemed a lot higher that he recalled, and he was wondering how well he actually remembered this route.
Slinking under a large downed tree, TLRC looked forward along the snow patch into the heavy growth beyond and spied a line of cat tracks disappearing in the distance. Suddenly alert, he assessed them. A bit on the small size for cougar, but on the other hand, pretty big for a bobcat. He pondered. TLRC was not as a rule worried by cats, certainly not bobcats. His own (11!) encounters with cougars and ancillary reading had left him with the feeling that cougars pretty much wanted to be left alone. Still, lil’ cat or big cat, this one might well be retreating from TLRC himself and it struck him (given that whatever it was was certainly possessed of claws and teeth) as the height of folly to follow it into densely wooded terrain. Since TLRC was on the fence about dragging his bike through more of this mess anyway, back he went.
As it turned out, the hella steep, view-dripping way shortly became snow-bound. Another choice: slog through deepening snow into the afternoon, or call it good?
He called it and went back the way he came, once again marveling at how steep the climb up is.
For some reason, this buoyed TLRC’s spirits. Standing alone in the forest, in the snow, all alone and deciding what to do about the tracks left him feeling like his old self, an adventurous self he feared losing. He felt ready for some serious abuse: a visit to California and the Machine People.