OMG! Skull-N-Bones was HOT!

Today was the 4th annual Skull-n-bones gravel challenge, Chris Locke's beautiful gravel ride along some of the most challenging roads of Northern Wisconsin. I ran into these two crazy characters and they kept me company for the first 23 miles before peeling off in pursuit of a century. I haven't been on a bike enough so I was content with "only" doing 50. 

We started off on a humid but relatively cool morning. Everything was great until the sun came out and melted our collective faces off.

Actually it wasn't the sun so much as everywhere. Everywhere was hot. Heat radiated from the road. The water in your bottles scalded your throat when you drank. The air on every descent was like a furnace. Had the heat been coming from the sun you could have potentially escaped by crawling into a shadow or a culvert or finding a swampy pond of water to soak in for a while. But there was no escaping today's heat. It was stifling. You didn't feel it on your arms or forehead so much as deep in your subconscious mind. The heat came in the form of a headache that radiated and throbbed until you felt it pounding in your fingers and toes.

In other words, it was a totally awesome day for a bike ride!

I pedaled along, every now and then getting passed by a pickup truck of bear hunters. You could tell they were bear hunters because they had kennels in the back with exhausted, overheated dogs hanging their heads out the window. The bear hunters always waved. The dogs waved their tongues.

At about 30 miles I still felt good and I ran into Chris. Even though this is an "unsupported" event, Chris takes good care of us. He filled up my water bottles (I had three) and it was a good thing too since I drained the last one just as I pulled into Bruce. I met Chris again at the Fire Hall just as he was on his way out to make sure everyone was OK.

But the enduring memory of this ride is the beauty of it. The roads are absolutely fantastic and it's always a joy to ride your bike through early fall colors. Everywhere you look seems like a postcard as sunlight bounces off vibrant leaves and sparkles in hidden forest ponds and streams. 

This ride is hilly though! Man... I was alone for a bit over half and it took me 5 hrs. I checked my time from 2015 when I rode with Micah and saw we only managed 4:30 on that day (obviously Micah was kind enough to ride at my pace). That's with another 30 to 45 minutes of stops, so this thing becomes a long day. I'd like to see a bigger crew of Cyclova folk out there next year. I think some people are scared off at the idea of a 50 miler as not being "Epic" enough...but this is a tough 50. I've ridden the 100 before too, I was too tired to lift a beer afterward. 

I hope all the riders make it in safe and sound! I'll be looking forward to whatever tales Steve and Greg will share. My guess is they'll both be in the market for lighter gravel bikes after today. Fortunately I know where they can get some.


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