Biketober Williams Hill – Group Ride

I made a new riding friend last year named Adam, this year Adam connected me with another guy named Craig; this year Craig invitied me on an epic group ride.  Well, its really not all that epic for me and Super-T, but it was epic for them.  Not to say that a 70 mile ride with around 5000 feet of climbing isn’t tough, it’s just something we do many times a year and they do once.  I would call the temperature change epic.  It was 46 when we left this morning, it was 86 when we got home.  I wore a compression shirt, arm and leg warmers, my regualr shorts/jersey, a windwest, and my Walz wool cap with ear flaps.  I was by far the most prepared rider for the cold, which meant that in about 2 hours I had everyone of my jersey pockets stuffed with clothes.  I highly recommend getting a set of arm and leg warmers for fall/winter/spring riding.  For a very small investment all your regular riding clothes become cool weather riding clothes. 

Those of us from Harrisburg left at 7AM to meet up with the riders from Eldorado. It was a in the upper 40s when we left and upper 80s when we got home

The combined Harrisburg and Eldorado riders head out to Glenn-O-Jones lake to meet the remaining riders and the hills in the distance.

The group was Craig, his Dad, a friend and a 2 young men, who I think were around 14.  This was the first time in a very long time that I’ve ridden with younger people, and I don’t mean to say anything bad about my usual riding companions who are almost all older then me, but it was real nice to be around some young blood.  These guys all had good bikes and knew what they were doing, but they don’t ride a whole lot, despite that they were all in good shape.  One of the boys was a very good cross country runner and was by far the fittest rider in the group. 

The shadow rides alone.

I’ve been slacking off lately when it comes to riding, not really volume, but quality.  That’s not really correct either, because most of my rides have been with my wife and more laid back, but very high quality.  I guess I’ve been lacking intensity, the last time I did a hard ride like yesterday’s was mid August.  At the the end of this ride I could really feel it.  It may have been the cooler weather made me drink to little, it might have been poor nutrition, it might have just been I rode too hard keeping up with those kids.  Whatever it was I was nearly in coma for several hours after the ride.

The whole group heads towards Karber's Ridge Road.

If you’ve been looking at my pictures you may be wondering how it’s possible to do 5000 feet of climbing where I live. Surrounding Harrisburg to the east is the flatest possible country you could imagine, but about 6 miles out are some fairly large hills that extend out nearly to the Ohio River.  These hills make up the Eastern half of the Shawnee National Forrest and fill up two almost completely empty counties, Pope and Hardin.  So we can take off and do about 7 miles of pure flat, and then many miles of rolling hills, and in a few places we can rider over hills that go over a mile or more in distance.  Today we were doing the largest hill out there, Williams Hill, which is about a 3 mile climb and almost 700 feet.  But first we had to get through Garden of the God’s country. 

A mechanical stop at the most scenic place on the ride.

This is one of those pictures that looks nice but it’s so much more impressive in person.  That’s Honeycomb church, and behind it lies the Garden of God’s wilderness area.  A very unique place that i wouldn’t hesitate to call Southern Illinois’ best feature. 

It was kind of funny, I stopped here to take a picture of the riders as they apporached.  When the last group of riders where in position there was a deafening BOOM.  One of the rider’s tires exploded off his rim.  He had scolded me earlier, in jest, for talking about flats.  His notion was if we didn’t mention them they wouldn’t happen.  If life was only that easy.

Super-T heads down route 34 towards our destination, Williams Hill. You can barely make out the towers in this photo which sit upon the highest spot, where we'll be riding over soon.

Even though these guy’s haven’t rode nearly as much as we have, they kept an excellent pace.  Much faster then what me and Terry did when we rode this almost identical ride for the first time in the Spring.  This was probably the 6th time I’ve climbed over Williams Hill this year and now I don’t even think about using my granny gear and now I stand to climb over the steeper parts.  Despite my fitness and experience I could barely keep up with one of the boys on this ride and couldn’t keep up with him on one of the hills that followed. 

When we broke off to head back to Harrisburg somone said we should do this again next October.  Super-T said we should do it again next week.  I hope we can get these guys riding more regularaly, it was an awesome time and will go down as one of my favorite rides of the year.


About Matt Gholson

Cycling, school teaching, husband.
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One Response to Biketober Williams Hill – Group Ride

  1. martinsj2 says:

    Excellent story and thanks for sharing the pics! You may be aware that there is another Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. The terrain is very different from Southern Illinois, but quite fetching in its own way.

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