I get back on the 10-ton bike and keep riding up Kelbaker Road, away from my Aiken Mine Road rest stop. After 19 miles of slow uphill riding so far, I still have another 6.5 more miles to go before I will reach the summit of the road.
Looking back toward the cinder cones, which appear larger now
There are a few curves in the road ahead of me, so I can't see the summit yet. I know it's up there somewhere by the powerlines in the distance, which have just started to come into view.
This is one of the paradoxes of bicycling. I enjoy the challenge of uphill climbs, but I eventually reach a point where there's more challenge involved than enjoyment. But then, a different kind of enjoyment and self-satisfaction from the effort required, resulting from tackling the challenge, sets in.
In short, endorphins start propelling me onward rather than sheer physical pleasure. It's a strange sort of masochism whose rich rewards aren't immediately obvious to the uninitiated.
As I slowly rise, more joshua trees start appearing, which makes me happy. I would try growing a couple of these in my San José backyard if I thought they would grow there.
Getting a little closer to the coveted power lines at the summit!
I pedal slowly upward and I think I'm getting hotter. It must be quite warm here because my drinking water is now lukewarm. Not so refreshing, but I keep drinking it anyway, knowing that I must.
However, I'm not yet in the desirable habit of nibbling on Clif bars, dried fruit or granola from time to time. I'm getting a little tired and haven't eaten anything since breakfast, which was a couple of hours ago. I should probably eat something for an energy boost, but food doesn't appeal to me yet. However, I'm quite sure that it will soon!
I haven't done many hilly rides during the past few months, partly due to all the rain we had, so I could be in better shape. Fortunately, I still don't own a car, and my 20-mile-round-trip bicycle commute to work has kept me in fairly decent condition nonetheless.
Of course, I know that my strength will improve greatly during the coming days as the bike tour goes on—no need to worry! This is just how bike trips work. If you've ever considered a bike trip but feared that you aren't in good-enough shape, just start the trip and plan for short distances each day; you'll be fine and riding beyond your expectations after a few days.
Almost there at the summit where the power lines cross the road
I keep pedalling, and the powerlines at the summit slowly become clearer. But I still can't remember exactly where the road will cross them, due to curves in the road between here and there that I can't see beyond.
Finally, I have reached a point where I do see the summit of the road. After a little more and a little more and a little more pedalling, I find that I'm actually there!
There's a pull-out up here at 3800 feet, so I stop and do some adjustments to my front saddlebags in the hope that they won't bounce around quite so much.