It’s a windy, drizzly morning in Ashcroft. I emerge from my nylon home with tired eyes and go through the motions of packing up my things and preparing for the day’s ride. I can’t say I’m looking forward to it though, mainly because I’ve seen the route map.
Right off the bat, we hit an 18 km climb full of switchbacks, covered in rough pavement, and steep enough that my speed is only single digits. The locals don’t like it because it’s too hard on their cars, and they think we’re nuts for doing it. I can relate.
I catch up with Mike and Anna near the bottom, and then Elaine farther along. We’re all hoping that the 88 km that follow will somehow make up for this torturous climb.
As I approach the top, my patience wears thin and I charge ahead, pedaling as hard as I can until the road flattens out. I started this hill almost two hours ago and now I’m facing an awful headwind and cannot stop shivering. It doesn’t take long before I lose feeling in my fingers and toes.
I take a break on the side of the road at the 23 km mark, just long enough to inhale a banana and a Larabar. I plod along for another 20 km and finally find somewhere to sit – a cement guardrail – and fuel up with two oranges and a Vega bar.
The headwind doesn’t let up – in fact, it gets worse. After Logan Lake, Route 97C heads directly south, straight into the wind for 40 km. Nothing but trees, rolling hills and a few horses.
I fight the wind a little longer and get a much needed surge of energy with two more bananas. I catch up with Bernice resting at the top of a hill and stop to chat. Our driver gave her a lift up the first hill of the day.
Travis pulls up a few minutes later and looks equally as tired as we are. Then he says, “I’m gonna get a t-shirt made that says ‘I survived Ashcroft to Merritt’.”
Travis and I reach the campground at 2:40 p.m. after 6 hours and 40 minutes on the road. Not until after the ride do I learn that it’s supposed to be the hardest day of the trip. The distance we covered isn’t that far – I’ve done dozens of 100 km rides – but I’ll never forget this one.
Tomorrow we head to Kamloops.