Yup. I got cocky. I assumed that since I had a lot of backpacking experience in below-zero temperatures (including one night of -30°F in a tent) that a 100 mile overnight trip in -5° weather would be easy. Oh I was so wrong.
On day one I left the small town of Hartford SD on a snow covered gravel road. Sounds innocent enough right? My gameplan was to just keep pedaling my Rawland xSogn north-west on whatever gravel road that I stumbled upon. No map, just trying to get a little lost. By 5pm the sun was down and the gravel roads were getting hilly. It was so cold that most of the batteries on my electronics were dead except for my phone which I snuggled* close to my chest to keep it warm. I chose to bike via moonlight because I did not want to waste any light battery that I may have needed in an emergency. As darkness took over I hit a steep low maintenance road that led down into a valley. I don't know how I didn't crash because it was covered in ice and snow drifts.
It was at this point when the loneliness started to sink in. I couldn't see any light other than a glimmer of the moon through the clouds. Each pedal stroke that took me further away from my warm house just made me feel like quitting. After an hour of biking in pitch black darkness I was definitely at a low point. But then I stumbled upon a pasture of cows who all turned their heads to stare at me. That is when I realized that those cows are out here every damn night weathering the elements and here I am with my warm clothes whining about being lonely. It gave me a spike of motivation, I thanked the cows, and continued pedaling for another hour.
I made camp in the middle of an open field next to a dead tree. I was mentally destroyed from all the darkness and exposure and I became very stressed that I did not bring enough insulation to keep me warm through the night. When my stove gave nothing more than a faint sputter I decided two make a real fire. I HATE making real fires because the sparks destroy expensive outdoor jackets and the smoke makes everything stink. I also didn't want to draw a lot of attention to myself considering I was supposed to be "stealth" camping in an open field.
I slept warm for most of the night although my feet were chilly by morning. Getting out of my sleeping bag was one of the hardest things I've had to do all year. The wind chill felt like it was tearing off my face and I could not pack anything because removing my gloves for even a few seconds made my hands hurt and go numb. When I finally had camp packed up I threw a leg over my bike and started peddling.
Headwinds, headwinds, and more headwinds. I stumbled upon an old abandoned farm house and decided to go on a micro adventure to check it out. Lots of kick-ass antiques and dilapidated walls filled the house. After forcing myself back outside into the wind I realized I would not be able to meet my 100 mile goal and make it home in time for family obligations so I* hammered towards home. Those last 20 miles easily make the top 3 hardest rides I have ever pushed through. At one point I just got off my bike and started walking because I was so spent. But then I realized I was only prolonging the pain and hopped back on. When I finally reached home I plopped into a chair and just stared outside like a zombie.
The next day the skin on my nose was severely discolored at the point where my face mask ended. During the ride my nose hurt quite a lot but I thought it was because my helmet was pushing my glasses downward. I was wrong because the skin is now all wrinkly and starting to peel at one of the edges. I really hope it doesn't leave a permanent scare because it is literally in the middle of my face!
47mm WTB Byway tires
Zepto Monster Bar Bag
Zepto custom frame/saddle bag
Blackburn anything cage
Mountain Hardwear UL 20°F sleeping bag
Slumber jack 30°F sleeping bag
Thermarest Neoair Allseason
Exped air pillow
Microgrid fleece top/bottom
Giro wind shirt
Rab green jacket
Goretex mittens w/ fleece liners
Columbia belay jacket
Rocky 1000g insulated boots
Snowpeak Ti canister stove
Backcountry Ti pot
Misc vegan power bars
Amy's instant soup
drybags for organization