Friday, April 14, 2006

A Springtime Bicycle Ride, East Aurora, NY

The day was sunny, a northeasterly wind and 52 degrees. As I headed down Girard Ave, a very flat, smooth residential street out of the village, I wondered why it felt so easy today. Girard passes the Fisher Price corporate headquarters, I thought about the people laboring at their desks on this beautiful day as I pedaled by. Hi, George! The 10 mph wind was behind me.
After about a mile observing three four way stop signs and quaint village homes I turn south on Seneca Street cowering to the shoulder as inbound village traffic speeds by faster than the 30 mph limit. After half a mile I turn right and retreat to Knox Road. Named after the wealthy Knox family (previous owners of the Buffalo Sabres hockey team), Knox Road runs through, what has recently become, a State Park. On the south side of the road are polo fields that when not hosting polo matches are used by the town recreation for soccer. The old horse farm and stone wall protected Knox Estate stretches the whole distance on the north side. Traveling out of the village in this westerly direction the route is gradually upgrade except for a little depression just before the soccer fields. It seems easy and comfortable, there is little traffic, the shoulder is wide enough and the wind is to my back.

After about three quarters of a mile Knox Road crests and it is generally downhill for another one half mile then a sharp turn to the north and a slight upgrade past Christ The King Seminary on the left side and the open fields of Knox Park on the right. After the decent I gear down to 2:4 and continue my cadence up an incline by the seminary. It's a harder pedal than I expected and am beginning to burn and huff. I am sure a conditioned recreational cyclist would hardly slow down on this slope. In about 200 yards the grade levels off, the seminary disappears behind my left shoulder as the road cuts through a treed landscape in a shallow down slope to the end of Knox and the intercept of Willardshire Road. I continue pedaling down the slope in 2:8 gear.

Heading west on Willardshire the grade is downhill, the road is smooth and a paved shoulder continues. I keep it in 2:8. I could go to 2:9 and keep my cadence, but decide I would rather not. I pass a large wooded and gated estate on the south side of the road. There are large homes, old farm houses on well landscaped lots on both sides of the road. This is easy riding, and really enjoyable. It smells like spring, the ditches alongside the road are full with rapidly moving melted snow. The sun feels so good. The old grass and pressed weeds are still brown but appear to be bulging at the chance to recover from the backbreaking load exerted on them by the winter snows.

An elderly man crosses the road to access his mailbox. He used a cane, a car coming from the other direction made him hurry; he smiled at me as he turned to return across to the security of his driveway. Recumbents bring a smile to everyone. I thought of stopping to photograph him but was enjoying the pedaling so much I remained seated on my EZSport and glided by him with a wave.

Willardshire takes a steep dive down to the Cazanovia Creek gully. The steep descent ends in a very sharp right hand turn toward the newly repaired bridge over the Cazanovia. Before you reach the bridge a returning left turn begins and the up slope gets steep. I am cautious on the descent and restrain the bent to a maximum of 25 mph. Melted snow has washed gravel and small stones over the road surface. The automobile traffic has pushed most of the spring washout off to the side but I concentrate on avoiding the remaining debris. The slope seems long. About half way over the bridge I am slowing significantly. I am down to a 2:3 gear setting then 2:2 finally 2:1. This hurts and I'm discouraged over my need to lose about 70 pounds, but I don't stop, if you call 4 mph not stopping. Stoney Brook Road intersects Willardshire sharper than perpendicularly and is in the middle of the Willardshire slope. I turn left onto Stoney Brook. The topography levels a tad, but my legs are tired and I notice that the road follows the creek back up a long slope. I continue pedaling, I'm not noticing the scenery, I want to get to the top of the slope. Lisa's Greenhouse is on the left side of the road, a steep wooded bank is on the right side, but I'm back down to 2:1 and burning and puffing. I get to the crest of this portion of Stoney Brook. I stop with the excuse of taking a picture.

It had been an easy ride for the first 4 miles until the bridge before Stoney Brook.

After taking a couple shots with my relatively new Canon PowerShot S200 digital camera I thought, good, flat ahead. Then, what's that up ahead? It looms before me, a good drop and a steep climb up to the crest of Stoney Brook and intersecting Quaker Road (Route 20A) to head east, back to East Aurora and into the wind. The ride up to Quaker Road really got to me, I was sucking air. I thought, man do I have a long way to go to make this hill climbing feel easier to me. And most guys wouldn't call these hills. Today was the first time I had ever been in gear 1:1.
Quaker Road is the main ground artery connecting East Aurora with Orchard Park. On this road is all sorts of traffic, a 50 mph speed limit, and no one paying attention to the speed limit. The sides of the road are wide and smooth and the "18 wheelers" seem to respect the white demarcation line separating the shoulder from the main road.

As I turn east on Quaker Road the wind is noticeable. So, I realize that's why Girard, Knox and the majority of Willardshire seemed so comfortable. The slope of Quaker is down for about a quarter mile then it starts up for about 300 yards then down a mile to Cazanovia Creek where it climbs steeply up to the approach into the village of East Aurora. The trucks and autos ignore me as long as I am on my side of the demarcation line, as if I would dare cross the line. I am heading down hill but the wind pushes against me so I never go higher than gear 2:6. I look down and see 15 mph on my Cateye Astrale computer. No matter which way I attack it, if I want to get home, I'm going to have to climb up the other side of the Cazanovia Creek gully.

Rather than going straight ahead on Quaker I select to make a right turn south on Grover Road and proceed to Jewett-Holmwood Road. I am like flowing liquid seeking the path of least resistance. The Cateye computer is reporting not much more than 10 -12 mph on this level portion of Grover. The tree lined road slopes slightly down toward Jewett-Holmwood and I notice the coolness resulting from the tree branch canopy blocking the precious new Spring sun. Now I see 16.5 mph but my cadence is slow and I feel my legs. As the canopy opens up and the sunshine reaches the road I come to the intersection of Grover and Jewett-Holmwood and make the left turn east. It is gradually up hill for about three quarters of a mile then across another Cazanovia Creek bridge. At the bridge Jewett-Holmwood starts a steep quarter mile climbing left hand turn to a plateau. I feel the wind against me as I cross the bridge. My legs are tired before I start the climb. This has been a hard ride for me and I feel discouragement seeping through me with each down twist of the Shimano Grip Shifter. Way too soon I'm at 1:1 and there is no more mechanical relief insight as my legs burn and I huff and puff. I stop.

It was actually a good thing; the fact that I discontinued my pedaling in the middle of this steep climb. Now I will know you really should not do that if you desire to start off again and continue the climb anytime within the next day or so. Starting up again was terrible. I could not engage my shoe cleats into the Shimano PD-M324 pedals, I almost wobbled my way over the white demarcation line as traffic was passing and the stop hadn't relieved the burning in my legs at all. I happened to glance at it and the Cateye recorded a blazing speed of 3 mph as I continued the climb. I reached the top and intercepted Quaker Road again. It was down hill into East Aurora past the Post Office around the traffic circle. The traffic circle spit me out onto Seneca Street right where Knox Road intersects. Remember that enjoyable ride down Knox Road? I continued out Seneca Street to Girard Avenue and made the right turn east. The wind was worse and I managed about 11 to 12 mph in gear 2:5.

Just before I reached home, an elderly couple walking on the sidewalk facing me motioned for me to stop. They were cyclists and enjoyed my recumbent. The gentleman told me of a relative in Arizona that rode bents. We chatted for a moment and he revealed they don't ride outside the village too much anymore. It is a little too hilly for them.

I went on and made the left turn into my driveway on East Fillmore Ave.

Trip total 12.9 miles Average speed 10.9 mph 1hour 10 minutes.