Saturday, March 22, 2014

Wind and a Hillclimb


If January was cold (it was) and February was worse (it was), March has been brutal. I rode few miles outside on the bike because weekly there seemed to be a new snow storm.

Today I drove to see my nephew, Parker Sherry, play in the Pennsylvania High School hockey championship at Penn State. It was a 70 degree day at home but only near 50 degrees (10C) in Altoona. Plus there was a strong wind.

Parker Sherry

On the way back I stopped at Altoona. I stopped at the Sheetz on 58th Street and asked if I could leave the car. The manager graciously said yes and thanked me for asking permission.

Sheetz on 58th Street

My plan was to ride to the Curve and, if it wasn't too windy, to the top of the mountain. Most of us say that given the choice between riding up a steep hill or into heavy winds we will choose the hill. Today I had no choice. I got both.

Strong headwinds from the start made climbing harder. I reasoned the winds would get easier once I reached the tunnel as I would be sheltered by trees and the mountain itself. And if it was unsafe I could turn back.

I climbed, both upward and into a strong wind, and past the three lakes that are part of the reservoir system for Altoona. All still had ice on them.

Ice on the Lake

Although one must climb to reach Horseshoe Curve the climb is 1-2% then 2-3% and then 3-4%. The real climb begins only after going under Horseshoe Curve through the tunnel. Then the grade starts at 4-5% then goes 6-7% and increases until it kicks up to 12, 14, and then 18%. 

Tunnel under Horseshoe Curve
One viaduct for the road and
the second is for mine drainage water

Virginia's winter road dirt is sand. Pennsylvania's, or western Pennsylvania's, is gravel. Maybe not real gravel but something worse than sand. The sides of Glenwhite Road were covered with it. Climbing, it made getting out of the saddle a little sketchy for fear the wheel would slip. Thankfully there was very little traffic on this road.

Still lots of snow. And gravel.

I struggled. Maybe my memory is short but I thought today was the most difficult climb I've had here.

My goal had been to reach the top of the climb. I had already decided against the loop route going across the summit ridge at Gallitzin and down Sugar Run Road because of the high winds. Those are both exposed and I have almost lost control on windy days descending Sugar Run Road.

Some of the snow runoff on Glenwhite Road

Once at the top I turned around. What is normally an all out tuck and roll became a little scary. There still is a lot of gravel on the road. To apply the brakes too much risks causing the wheel to slide and I didn't want that. So I took the descent with a little more speed than I wanted, given the conditions, but 10 mph less than I do in good conditions. And it was cold.

I was glad I grabbed the knee warmers and long finger gloves. I almost wished for the descent I had my balaclava too.

Once back through the tunnel and back to the Curve it was smooth sailing. The road was better and speed was no issue. And it was great to have ridden another day up the Wall.

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