Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bicycle time-travel

Don't the physicists tell us that time is not constant were you to exceed the speed of light? Well, you don't need to go that fast to turn back the clock. You just need to hop on a bike and ride up a mountain!

Yesterday, my bikeclub left Montreal around 9:15am and drove to Sutton, Quebec. We parked our carpool of vehicles, hopped on our bikes, and rode into Vermont, then up Jay Peak Road. The highlight of the ride was one big climb (and big descent) on Jay Peak. The altitude dipped as low as 440 feet and up to 2,218 feet on Jay Peak.

Anyway, the bit about time-travel was that as I pedalled up Jay Peak, the microclimate changed, so you could kind of see spring going backwards. The apple trees that were in full bloom in the valleys were partially in bloom on the way up, and not in bloom at all (or even absent from the flora) higher up. Ferns that are fully fronded-out in Montreal gardens were fairly advanced at the base of Jay Peak, and just fiddle-heading out of the earth higher up. Erythronium (trout lilies, I think) that would be long finished if they grew here in town, looked about to reach their pinnacle on the mountain. The wildcherries in town finished blooming about two weeks ago but were still in blossom there. And so forth. So as I climbed the mountain, time rolled back, and then as I rolled down hill---a delightful WHEEEEEEEEE of a descent---, time leapt back to where I expected it to be.

We stopped in North Troy, Vermont, at the grocery store for lunch. My fellow riders were astonished when I bought a coke and a huge bag of chips to complement my store-bought sandwich, but they weren't above tucking into the chips, which I'd bought for sharing in any case. Fortunately I have pretty solid digestion. I don't like spending a whole day eating energy bars and energy goo, and for the record, I kept the M&Ms for later.

After we returned to Quebec, the rain started. It wasn't at all nice, but at least it wasn't as intense or as cold as the rain on last year's Jay Peak ride. It always rains for our club's Jay Peak ride.

There was still one smaller climb near the end of the ride, over a flank of Mount Sutton. It may have been shorter (1/3 the altitude gain?) but I think it was steeper, and being toward the end of the ride it came when my legs were not at their freshest. I let 10 of the 12 riders in my group pull ahead, all stronger than me, and hang back with a friend I hadn't seen in months and whose company is always a joy. (Merci Steve de ta présence!). In any case, there were still 2 other groups of riders from my club behind me.

What's nice about climbs are at least two things: first, you can go as slow (or fast) as you like and take as many (or few) breaks as you want, and the mountain will still wait for you; and second, what goes up must come down. Thank you, physics, for these affirming realities. Unfortunately the second half of the descent had a road-surface that was pretty bad, so I couldn't go as fast as I'd like.

On the outskirts of the village of Sutton, I saw the president of the other club I used to ride with, Le Club vélo randonneurs de Montréal/. They were doing their 300km bicycle ride today, which departs from the south shore of Montreal, cycles out to Sutton and environs, and then returns. They take an indirect, scenic route so that it makes 300km. I've done that ride before and it almost makes me feel wimpy to have driven out to Suttong in gas-powered vehicles rather than leaving from Montreal under pedal-power. I did say almost, because while I'm fine for 150km and 200km rides, 250km is tough, and 300km is very tough.

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