Today is the real test day. Consciencely or not, I knew today was as important as any day of the trip. Earlier in the year Lon indicated that Mule Pass would most resemble the climbs I would encounter during the transcon. So, today was my personal test to see if I could do it. I was so afraid of failing that this was the first day I awoke with trepidation. Once again the day started out very beautiful with very light winds. Every morning I attempted to get down to the trailers early as the earlier I started the more time I could bank on the faster cyclists. The more time I can make up for starting early the less my slow climbing would affect me. Today everyone and his brother was starting early! This put even more mental pressure on me. I was taking this ride too serious and I had a nervous stomach for the first time in a long time.
The ride started with two really nice downhills that if not for the traffic I could have bombed. We then started a slow accent toward mule pass. I was riding slower than I wanted but I did not want to blow myself up at any point of the day. Getting to the first rest stop At 15 miles I had already climbed 710 ft. And now the real test started. I am scared. I have no idea what mule pass even looks like. I just try to stay focused and go. There is more traffic than I would like while climbing - there is some shoulder but it has a lot of skree on it. I just try to hug the white line as much as possible. So far so good. The climb waivers between 2 -6% and although I am slow I am doing it! Thanks to God, I am doing it! At one point an additional slow vehicle lane opens up and I become more comfortable with the slow climbing. Grace, dan, and Susan all pass me on the climb so I am pretty sure I am the last person on the road. Finally I reach the summit. Lon is there taking pictures but the incline is still so steep I can't take my hands off the bike to wave. We make a left turn and still have a few hundred yards to climb! I reach the top to find Grace, Dan and Susan taking pictures. Yeah I have just climbed 1300 ft in 5 miles!
The desent would be tricky and I wasn't looking forward to it. This part of mule pass had eroded and had suffered a landslide. Fortunately this meant the pass was closed to cars but was full of dirt mounds every so many hundred feet. Little did I know that it was a built in speed hump! The 4 of us defended slowly taking caution with the areas covered in skree. Once we got back to the open road the desent went much faster. I felt like I could control the bike pretty well on the fast downhill even with the traffic.
I get to lunch hungry but too nervous to eat. I had not had much sustained energy duringvthe climb as I needed both hands on the bars at the steeper inclines. I choked down my favorite combination of tapioca pudding and mixed fruit. I sat with the young canadians and Lon. I meantioned something to Lon about the climb back out of Bisbee and he said I better get used to it as there would be at least 20 more just like it. Now I really feel the pressure. I could not enjoy the shopping in town with the climb back up looming over me. So I sucked it up and started up the back side of the pass. Immediately I was rocking up the climb. Even with the traffic I could tell the climb was way easier than I thought it would be! Another reason for my nervousness is this is one of the only climbs I did in 2007. Could I climb better on my bent or on my upright? I stop at the road blocks and heavy skree areas. Even on the steep grades I can easily mount my bike and continue the climb. I summit much more quickly than I thought I would! I did it! I did it. This climb was more like 750 ft over 2 miles or so.
The desent was also nerve wraking and I kept it below 40 mph. Susan N was behind me part of the way and commented later that she thought I handled the bike well. So, yes, I did it! I had just proven to myself that I can do the transcon! Yes, it will be a difficult but an amazing journey! Yes!
So, had I passed Susans test? I got lucky to be one of the first in and Susan was out working at the trailers. I asked her if I could talk to her about the transcon and she indicated that now was a good time. We talked for at least 20 minutes. We discussed the pros and cons of the week and the pros and cons of the transcon but through the entire conversation she appeared to have confidence in my abilities! Omg! I am doing the transcon!!!