Monday, July 26, 2010

Oh Solo Me - O

Today will be the "worker's ride" for the Marion 300 kilometer Brevet that will be held next Saturday July 31st. It's not even 4:00 a.m. yet, and it' already 80 degrees. This might be a difficult day.

The official start time for the ride today will be 4:00. I think I'll make it in time. My goal is to be finished by 7:00 tonight. I'd really like to be done by 6:30, but that may be a little optimistic. There's quite a bit of climbing on this route today and it is 187 miles.

As you can see, there is only one worker - me. This will be a solo ride. Riding with others can ease the miles,especially if there is good conversation. But there will be no one to talk to today. I won't even be talking to myself, I fear. I'm a truck driver, and I never have anyone to talk to but myself. A couple of days ago, I got into an argument with myself, and I'm not finished being mad, so I'm still not speaking to me. This could be a very long day indeed.

That bright spot above the city lights is a celestial light. There will be a full moon this morning. You can't ask for anything better than that for a bicycle ride.

Out on Wing Hill road near Giant City State Park the day is finally beginning to dawn. When planning how long this would take, I forgot to take into account the descents, some steep, that I'd be riding down. Climbing in the dark isn't bad, I'm pretty slow. But flying down the other side in the dark is terrifying. So I did my best to wear out my brake pads this morning, and I'm sure I cost myself some time. We'll see...

This is the home of Pitts Brothers Polled Herefords. 7 out of 10 Herefords polled say that people should eat more chicken.

The highest peak you can see, where the sun is beginning to shine, is Bald Knob. On the top is the Cross of Peace. That's our destination. I always like riding up Skyline Drive; the view is great. In the fall it's even more spectacular.

It turns out that on a Sunday, there's no one around at the visitor's center. No one except this Great Pyrenees dog. She was here the last time I rode up and I shared a Power Bar with her. She apparently remembered. As I was getting off of my bike, I felt a tap on my leg. I turned to see her sitting prettily and using a front paw to get my attention. It worked. I shared with her again.

I decided to sign my own Brevet card, I was afraid that if I asked her to put a paw print on it for me, it might be unreadable at the next Control.

This is the payoff for riding up here. It may not be Lookout Mountain in Tennessee, but it's pretty cool for Southern Illinois.

Next Control is Brunzeez Cafe in Ava, Illinois. And wouldn't you know it? They don't open until 11:00 on a Sunday. What's up with rolling up the sidewalks in Southern Illinois? Fortunately, unlike Bald Knob, there is a nearby grocery store. I'll buy some water there and get my card signed. I'm hoping to find someone open today.

Union School gives this road it's name: Union School Road. Pretty creative, don't you think? I don't believe it's a working school anymore. I found myself wondering, though, if the toilets on the west side of the school yard were far enough from the pump located at the east side of the building. I suppose that back then it didn't matter.

Kimmel road which becomes Peach Orchard road in the next county, is 12 miles of farm land. Corn on the right, soybeans on the left. But don't confuse this with food production. There are no tortillas; there is no tofu in those fields. That's fuel. Farmer Brown no longer produces food for our families, he produces fuel for our SUV's and pickups. And when those 3 billion Chinese people all get cars, we'll have to eat each other. Monsanto will not allow any food production then. Only fuel. And all of it genetically modified to be high octane.

As I was riding down Kimmel Road, I saw a little green car up ahead. It stopped on the side of the road and the driver let two small children out. I figured they needed to pee and couldn't wait. Then I saw them set up a table and two pitchers of water. I wondered what they were doing. As I rode past, they were taping a sign to the front which said, "FREE WATER". While trying to figure it out, I suddenly realized that the man with them was my riding friend, Mike. I hardly recognized him without his helmet and his riding kit.

I turned around to ask what was up. He replied that he was providing "neutral support" for the worker's ride today. The water would be available to any rider who rode past. Mike is crazy.

Our rules don't allow for personal support of any kind outside of official checkpoints. Neutral support or "found" support is allowed however. Because I had just purchased water at a gas station, I really didn't need any, but he and the kids had gone to a lot of trouble.

Besides, this man continues to find creative ways to teach his kids that a life well lived can't be measured in dollars; it can only be measured by friendships. And the currency of friendship is service. I wanted to be a part of the lesson today, so I topped off the bottle I'd been drinking out of with their water. After thanking the kids for their "FREE WATER", I rolled off.

Thanks to my slow descending in the dark, I was behind my self-imposed schedule. I had time to make up.

After 135 miles of HEED, plain water, and Perpetuem, I wanted something different. I don't drink soda; I think soda causes tooth decay and obesity. However, I decided to break my own "no soda" rule (as well as the rule about not using anything on a ride that you haven't trained with) and buy a Coke.

I expected at least heartburn, or maybe a sudden bonk, or even projectile diarrhea. Turns out that none of that happened. It was actually tasty! I think on the next ride, I'll get the Coke AND the chocolate donuts. Maybe I'll develop a new training regimen.

It seems that the surveyors who surveyed this road have discovered the geographic location of hell. I can't believe there would be any other spot labeled 666. Marion Illinois has a motto: The Hub of the Universe. Maybe Carrier Mills would like to adopt a new motto: The Gates of Hell. Just a thought.

Either someone has illegally brought a horse onto the Tunnel Hill Bike Trail or we need to hold a class on proper trail etiquette for cyclists. I'm hoping it was a horse.

Just as I feared, I'm not going to make 6:30 or even 7:00. If I hurry a little, I might make 8:00. It's been a long day in the saddle. I haven't been able to eat for the last couple of hours because of nausea brought on by the heat (unless it was the Coke in Thompsonville). I decided to sit inside at the previous Control in Creal Springs for a little while. I sat at a booth sipping cold water until I felt nearly human again, and lost some time. Good thing this isn't a race.

The final picture of the "worker" on today's worker's ride. Typically for me, I also needed this ride as my July R-12 ride. If I'd failed today, I would have to start over and I already have 7 consecutive months. I work best under pressure.

The route has been checked and I'm ready to work the event on Saturday. Quite honestly, I don't think anyone will come. I only had two for the 200K event, and they drove down from St. Louis out of friendship and sympathy. It wasn't as hot or hilly then. All the riding friends I have in Southern Illinois have made it clear that randonneuring is not for them so I won't be expecting them either.

But I rode it. And if you remember, this was the route that I DNF'd earlier this year because I broke 4 spokes on a rear wheel and nearly had wheel failure. Crista Borras told me that completing the route later would be sweeter because of that. She was right. How sweet it is!