But I am just a pilgrim on this road, boys
Until I see you fare thee well
-Steve Earle, Pilgrim

Monday, April 28, 2008

300K in Edwardsville, IL (St. Louis)

I drove up to Edwardsville on Friday evening. Actually, I stopped at Granite City, IL, where I camped at the KOA. The radio said a front would be moving through soon, so I located a tent site and went to dinner at Ravanelli's. The front had still not come through when I finished dinner, but it looked like it would start pouring any minute and there was some lightning. I stopped at K-Mart for a gallon of water and sat inside the store for about 15 minutes until the front finally passed. By the time I got back to the KOA, the rain had stopped and I set up my tent. It rained some more during the night, but when the alarm went off at 5:00AM the sky was clear, the tent was dry and it was definitely cooler.

I was at the start in Edwardsville about 6:05AM. John Jost, the RBA, and one other rider were there. There were about 14 riders at the 7:00AM start. Five or six were riding a 200K. I left with the first riders that were all riding the 300k. I hung with them as we headed east through town and along the Quercus Grove Bicycle Trail, but as soon as we hit the first farm road (Fruit Road), they stepped it up and pulled away. With a 10 mph wind out of the west and the flat terrain, I was able to speed along at 20+ mph, but the lead group kept increasing the gap.

I stopped in Pocahontas (16 miles) for a bottle of water to mix more chocolate Spiz and to remove some clothing. On this ride, I rotated through bottles of Spiz, HEED and Perpetuem. On future rides, I am going to drop the Perpetuem. I have a hard time getting it down late in the ride. When I made the turn south at 8:43AM in Stubblefield (30 miles), I was averaging 19.3 mph! Too bad I could not maintain it. At the first control in Breese (51 miles) after riding generally south, my average was down to 18 mph.

There are not many picture opportunities because most of the route passes through farm fields. There has been a lot of rain in the area, and the route had to be revised because one of the roads had been under water for several weeks. At Queen's Lake, there were a number of houses on stilts that were surrounded by water. The last two years I rode that segment, the houses were high and dry. I am not sure how the septic systems work in the wet conditions. I hit one of the expansion joints on a bridge at about 15 mph and my camera popped out of the Bento Box. It hit the deck and a car almost ran over it, but the camera continued to worked.

At the 3rd control in Okawville, after riding mostly west and south, my average was down to 17 mph. The next 15 miles out of Okawville were due east, so I had a good push from the wind that was up to 13-15 mph. That was the last segment to the east, but about the time I turned south, the west wind slowly began to decrease.

The 4th control was in Oakdale (121 miles), home of the Easter Eggstravaganza. As I was heading into town, one of the other riders was coming back towards me. I was passing a small c-store and I stopped in the parking lot.The rider told me it was the control. I used the restroom and bought some water and a V-8. When I asked the clerk to sign my card, she said we had the wrong place. So we rode up the road to the actual control.

The other rider pulled away a few miles outside of Oakdale. He was in a hurry to get back because he did not have any reflective gear. I stopped again in New Baden (151 miles) for water and V-8. I finished off a bag of potato chips I bought in Okawville. I was feeling sleepy, so I also popped a caffeine pill. My final stop was in St. Jacob (166 miles) for water and to put on reflective gear. I pulled into the final control at 9:22PM. The fast group was back 2.5 hours earlier. I spent the night again in Granite City; this time in a motel.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

200K Brevet in Liberty MO

John and I went up to Liberty for the 200K brevet on Saturday, April 5. We left at 1:00PM on Friday to scout out a new permanent route from Strafford to Humansville. The original route I mapped out had some gravel roads west of Buffalo, but after driving around the area, we found a paved route.

We were at the Perkins Restaurant, the start of the brevet, at 6:00AM. John ordered a big breakfast, but did not finish it because he was feeling queasy. I gave him a couple of antacids to try to calm it down.

There were 28 cyclists when Bob Burns, the RBA, sent us off at 7:00AM. There were more cyclists than I expected to see following a PBP year, but the weather was predicted to be nice (high around 65 degrees and sunny) except for a stiff south wind later in the day.

The route is hilly with 8,580 feet of climb (profile) and meanders around generally north and west of Liberty (map). Shortly after the start, John dropped behind the group and I slowed so he could catch me. He had dropped his chain and said he was doing okay and not to wait for him. That was the last I saw him until after the ride.

As we climbed to the northeast towards Prathersville, I connected with three other riders: Jack, Eric and Brian, who I rode with off and on most of the day. The ride was generally uneventful until I turned south on B Highway just outside Ridgely rather than heading straight west on E Highway. Eric was with me, and we ended up riding an extra 5 miles, about half on gravel roads. Jack and Brian were behind us when we left the route and were surprised when we later pulled into the halfway control at Platte City.

The first part of the return ride went well because we were generally heading north and east. We turned into the wind for the last 25 miles from Plattsburg back to Liberty. It took almost 2.5 hours to complete that last leg. I am not sure how strong the wind was blowing, but the Perkins' flag was straight out when I returned. The ride took about 10 hours and 20 minutes, 40 minutes less than last year even though I rode 5 more miles.

Meanwhile, John's stomach had gotten worse, and he heaved his breakfast on the front of his bike. He had to abandon the ride about 9:30AM and checked into a motel in Kearney, the hometown of Jesse James. He was only about 10 miles from the start as the crow flies, but since I had the truck keys, he did not have anyplace to go. He tried to call my cellphone to let me know his situation, but my phone was off. I called my wife after I returned, and she called back about an hour later after John called her. For some reason, John's voice mail message was not registering. I drove up to Kearney to get him, and we dropped his brevet card back at the Perkins before heading back to Springfield.