I'm not very good at climbing, but at least I recognize this. So when we had choices to make, I'm glad to say that we never chose to avoid a hill. (After today, I'm willing to believe that will change...) We were about 21 miles into our ride when we crested a hill and saw what was before us. I was a bit ahead of Andrew, so he just heard "Holy S..t!" before he saw it. Andrew climbs better than I do, but he looked at that hill and suggested that we go another way. "Nah.. Let's go for it."
The hill turned out to be about 80 feet of elevation in a tenth of a mile. The highest I saw my Garmin quote was an 18% grade. And I even made it up the steepest parts. Early on, I found that if I sat back, my front wheel would slip. So I had to pull myself up with the handle bars for more aggressive climbing. And I made it 3/4s of the way up before I just couldn't go any further. It's possible that I would have tried a bit longer if my feet weren't clipped into the pedals, but it's also likely I wouldn't have gotten as far as I did without them being clipped in, so I won't blame that. And I was tired enough even after resting for a couple minutes that I didn't think I'd be able to start on that slope. So, with Andrew at my side (he made it up to the top of the hill, parked his bike, and walked back down to make sure I was o.k.), I walked it up the last quarter of the biggest hill I ever saw.
(The picture really doesn't do this hill justice, but look how small the car is on top of the hill compared to the cars at the bottom. When I went back to take this picture and was trying to drive up the hill in my car, it wouldn't go up in third gear and I had to downshift to second.)
I'm sure I've probably seen bigger slopes for longer distances at some point in my life, but I can't actually remember any and I've certainly never tried to get up them under human power before.
It did take me a few hours to recover from this ride. I did drink (almost) enough although we probably didn't consume enough calories. After a couple glasses of orange juice, a glass of milk, and a few ibuprofen, I'm feeling pretty good (although I think I'm driving to work tomorrow). The climbs (more than 1500 feet) were hard, but except for the big hill, quite manageable. And there were some very nice descents - one road had a 35 mph speed limit and I maxed out at 35.1(so I was technically speeding!) and the route had much less traffic than the last route we tried. It was a good ride and assuming my recovery keeps going, I'll be ready for more next week!