But really, I was just along for the ride and didn't even intend to climb up Cadillac.
We started at about 8:30 and it was such a beautiful, sparkling day. The Park Loop Road (in yellow) goes around the eastern side of the island.
You can see that there is a significant stretch of this loop that is along the coast, overlooking a rocky dropoff, crashing surf, and pine trees that grow right up to the edge. You have to see it to believe it. No really, you have to come here if you haven't seen it. I kept shouting outloud: "I can't believe we live here!"
I didn't ride with my camera, but I borrowed this photo that shows the view:
The route is quite hilly, and what I still don't understand is how it is a loop and yet it still felt like we were always climbing. Hmmm. Everyone stopped to regroup at about 4 points along the route, which was very kind. Most of these folks are serious cyclists in top shape and were quite fast. I held my own, but I can't keep up with those guys.
What I thought about a lot is how compared to running, biking offers more rewards for your work. You climb for a while, but then you get an incredible view and then some sweet, exhilerating down hill that cools you right off.
Also, even though it only happened a few times on the ride, it is really fun to ride in a pack. It was so powerful to feel the collective leg work moving us all forward. Everyone kept talking about the climb up Cadillac, and I had only planned to do the big loop but not climb up. I was intimidated by the 3.2 mile climb up the switchbacks. When we got to the base of the mountain, I felt good and everyone said: "are you going up?" It was the best kind of peer pressure. They knew I could do it, so I said: "Yes I am."
I got myself into my lowest gear and just churned away. I think it took me about 25 minutes of non-stop climbing. Drivers of cars and cyclists that were flying down cheered for me. I knew that if I stopped for a rest that I would lose my momentum, so I just kept rolling. It was never that bad, actually, but a serious leg workout and I felt the burn. I was the last one up, but I made it! The group was waiting for me, and I gave them a little fist pump. I was super proud of myself. (by the way, it was a steep climb the whole way until it flattened out here at the top)
We enjoyed the gorgeous views in all directions, cooled down quickly in the wind, refueled, and got some group shots.
(Fun fact: Because Cadillac is the highest AND most eastern point in the US, it is the first point to see the sun each day. I've been up there for sunrise before at 4 something in the morning. Magical).
That's my friend Grace with whom I rode a good deal of the loop.
And then.... the best part, we cruised back down the mountain. I rode as fast as felt safe to me, about 30 mph, and enjoyed the ocean view all the way down. Totally invigorating. I felt on top of the world.
The last few miles to the parking lot were also mostly down hill, and I tried to stay with the guys. I did keep them within sight and it was really fun to try to chase them down. We logged 31.1 miles, which believe it or not, is the longest single ride I've ever done. My legs are not sore today, but my shoulders and neck and one other particular region are pretty sore.
But I have the bug now. I want more.
Riding the Park Loop Road was on my summer bucket list. And I'd love to do it again soon.