Tuesday, August 6, 2013

out and back versus the loop

I can't speak for other cyclists, but as one who rides regularly, the route is always something to contemplate, evaluate, discuss, plan, tweak, moan about, and/or change along the way.
I ride a lot of "out and back" routes which are pretty much what the title says:  you ride to a certain point where you turn around and head the same way home.
I ride fewer "loops," where you start out and basically make a big oval, rectangle, or squiggly circle and end up back where you started.
when I ride more than one canyon in a day, it's still usually an out-and-back, just one with a side-step.

I spent this past weekend in wyoming, in the teton wilderness, staying with a friend who's a rancher.
of course I brought my bike.
his spread is up the gros ventre valley, about half an hour from the closest thing to a town, and the last five miles to his place is a dirt and gravel road, about as dusty as anything you've ever imagined as being the driest, dustiest thing around.
deciding that one long-ish ride on saturday would be enough--seeing as the point was to visit the ranch--I drove from the cabin to the beginning of the dirt and gravel road, parked, and pedaled away.
I'd calculated that if I rode into jackson hole and around the hill to wilson, then turned around and came back the same way, I'd be somewhere around 45-48 miles.  I had to hurry back home to go for a horse ride, so I settled on that out-and-back.
but then that thing happened that sometimes happens to cyclists when they're out riding:  I considered a different route.  well, I thought, since I'm over here in wilson, what if I cycled up the road past teton village and the ski resort, and stayed on moose-wilson road all the way to moose?
then I could hop on 89 and take my turnoff, head back to the car, making a big loop instead of the boring old out-and-back.
so I rode up to the grand teton national park entrance, paid my fee, and rode to moose.
this 8-mile stretch of road is beautiful, windy, twisting, shaded, up and down, and not always in the best of shape.  riding this road a few years back gave me my first experience with a sign warning of "frost heaves," which has become one of my favorite descriptive terms for unsettled road.
as I was nearing moose, I ran a few calculations in my head, having realized that I'd overshot my distance goal, and would be ending with closer to 65 miles than my anticipated just-under-fifty.
here's the thing:  once you make a decision like I had made, there's no better way home than forward.  I was further away than I wanted to be, with no available shortcut.  it was too late to shorten my route by turning back, and I was just plain-and-simple, committed.

it was windy, and getting hotter by the quarter hour.  heading back along 89 the road is exposed and, mmm, not terribly exciting, kind of like a false flat where you think you should be traveling much faster than you are, and the hills in the distance seem to pull closer so so slowly you think you're underwater.
anyway, by the time I reached my car I was spent and out of water.
it was an hour later than I'd planned.
I pulled into the campground around the corner from where I'd parked and filled up my water bottle, turned up the air conditioning, and settled in for my bumpy gravelly ride back to the ranch.

ah, the temptation of a loop.  oh, the freedom to change your mind when you're riding.  beautiful things, but not always in my best interest, as I learned last saturday in the beautiful jackson hole.

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