"Hill of Death"
January 22, 2000
San Jose, Costa Rica
We have left Baja, California and are now in Costa Rica. For the first time, I feel as if I'm traveling the world. The cactus, sand and scrub of Baja have given to the green of Costa Rica.
We are in San Jose and ready to make the longest climb up a mountain I ever have on a bike. We've been told it's called Cerro de los Muertos--the hill of death-- so named because ox cart drivers would be found frozen to death trying to cross the mountain.
Our goal is to ride seven thousand feet to the top...then ride down the mountain to the town below and camp for the night--all in one day.
From the moment we left San Jose, the ride was relentless. I can barely get my bike to go faster than five kilometers an hour (roughly three miles an hour). At times, the crosswinds make it seem as if my front wheel will fly out from under me. There are crosswinds...there is fog and rain--the kind of rain that doesn't drench you...but slowly soaks you.
Many in our group stop at a restaurant 16 kilometers from the top. Inside this small Costa Rican cafeteria are riders dripping wet, heads bowed. The strongest riders seemed spent from the climb. I could barely move. No amount of the Costa Rican version of hot chocolate could get me warmed up. A decision had to be made. Do I and the friend I'm riding with keep going..our find another way down the mountain?
We decide to press on.
Every kilometer is getting harder...the weather colder. At times, I have to get off my bike and walk it up the mountain. What I find is that when I'm riding I'm going five kilometers an hour...when I walk my bike...I'm going four kilometers an hour. You can't help but laugh...but I started doing the math. Daylight is running out.
Finally, at four o'clock--after nine hours on the bike--we reach the top. I don't know whether to cry or laugh. Pictures are taken by a sign showing the elevation. I've run marathons and have never felt so physically spent. The "hill of death" didn't claim me...but it got a few licks in.
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