The Ride - 09.21.98

If you happen to be a regular reader of this section of the site (which is unlikely in itself), chances are that you've stumbled across a piece of writing that has involved me and my bicycle. While I don't have a Pee-Wee love affair with my bike, I do have a fairly nice bike and I get out and ride it fairly often. In the past year, I've also managed to dislocate my shoulder from an accident, as well as get hit by a car (neither by choice).

This piece of writing, unfortunately is a little bit more tame. It's just a story of me and my bike and a fairly decent distance traveled.

Last Thursday afternoon at work, while working away on my computer, I suddenly had the notion that I should take a long bike ride at some point during the weekend. I'd been biking quite a bit recently, and I was feeling like I was in pretty good shape and should do something challenging for once.

As luck would have it, I talked to a friend that evening who had recently moved into his first house in another town that was connected to mine with a decent little bike trail. The trail itself used to be a railroad line, but had laid abandoned for almost 15 years before it was smoothed-out and finely crushed rock was laid down over it.

After figuring up the totals in my head, I figured that the total ride out to his house and back would be somewhere in the neighborhood of between 45 and 60 miles. I wasn't completely sure. All I knew was that my previous one-day ride total had been 45 and I had ended up completely burnt out (it could have been something to do with the fact that the temperature was 101 that day).

On Saturday morning, I woke up and told myself that I would make the trip the next morning only if it would rain over the next 24 hours. It had been almost two weeks since it had rained at all, and the ground was parched. Last time I had rode on the trail, it was very dry and it took me over an hour to clean all the dust and grime off my gears and bike when I had gotten home.

That day, I took a 20 mile spin around the trails in town as sort of a precursor for the trip. It was hot and humid and I hoped that the weather trend wouldn't continue to the next day.

That night, it rained. A lot. The thunder started at 10pm, the rain started coming down about 15 minutes later, and I could still hear a steady trickle when I went to bed at about 2am.

Knowing it would still probably be wet out, I slept in for awhile, then got up and ate a huge breakfast. I then went outside and walked around for a couple minutes to try and gauge the day.

The temperature had dropped during the night and it seemed to be fairly cool out. I figured it was about 70 degrees, with partially cloudy skies, almost perfect for the trip.

I got my water-bottles filled, went to the bathroom, grabbed my visor and sunglasses and hopped on my bike to head out. I paced myself on the way to the trail, and dodged the crowd of people making their way home from church services. I had my doubts as to whether I could make the entire ride, but figured I could turn around and come back if I didn't feel very well.

Almost as soon as I had made it out of the city limits, dark gray clouds filled the sky and I could feel the sprinkles begin. At this point, I was about 10 miles from my apartment, so it wasn't a matter of me making it home without getting rained on. I decided to keep up the pedaling and the sprinkle turned into a light shower, then a full-fledged rain before stopping in about 15 minutes.

I was almost an hour into the ride and I was now fairly soaked. Water was dripping off the front of my visor and a slight wind actually made it kind of cold.

Just as discouragement was starting to creep its way into my head, the clouds parted for awhile and the sun shone bright and warm on me. As if I were running on solar batteries, everything became easier. I was chugging right along, and my average speed started to come up a little bit.

At about the 20-mile point of the ride, the trail got noticibly less maintained. I had just passed through a small town and there was less rock laid down on the trail from that point on. Coupled with the previous nights rains, it made for a lot slower pedaling.

It was also during this point that I realized I hadn't seen another person on the trail for almost 12 miles. I hadn't even seen anyone in the small town that I passed through, and the realization was at first scary (if I wrecked and got hurt, how long would it be before someone found me?), then peaceful.

The sun had come back out, and I was riding down a part of the trail that was elevated above the fields around me. For the first time since I had been riding, I lifted my head up and actually looked at my surroundings. I could see for miles on my left and miles on my right. There were tall sunflowers on each side of the trail and butterflies zipped around me as I rode. With the sun casting rays through the edges of thin clouds, the scene was almost completely out of a movie.

My legs got a little less wobbley and I cranked down hard again seeing that my destination was in sight. I rolled off the path and pedaled up to my friends house, which was only about half a mile away. When I pulled up to the house, my trip odometer read 26 miles exactly.

I hung out with my friend for about 45 minutes. We ate some watermelon and I drank a couple glasses of water and filled up my water bottles again. My legs didn't feel too bad, and I tried to stretch them a little bit even though I was mainly just sitting around.

Finally, I decided to head out again and stopped at the local quick shop to grab some carbohydrate beverage and a granola bar. I drank up and mowed down a couple snacks, then headed back out for the trail.

Like always, the first couple miles after the break were fairly easy. Soon, though, I found that I was starting to drag. This continued for about the next 8 miles, and I wasn't able to relax and enjoy the scenery as much, due to grinding down on the pedals to try to keep my average speed up. I had already had my enlightening moment for the trip, and now I was trying to pound out a good time as well.

Once I hit the small town on the way back through, I started to get my second (or third, or fourth) wind and got to clicking along fairly well again. I still had some sports drink in one of my water bottles and I swigged down the last of it and washed it down with some water. I had a slight tailwind and I knew that every mile I rode, I was that much closer to home.

When I was about 5 miles from home, hunger reared it's head for the first time on the trip and I started rifling through the contents of my refridgerator in my mind. I had my entire meal layed out by the time I was 2 miles from home, and I was salivating like Pavlovs dog once I hit the front steps to my apartment building.

Once I got off my bike and started walking on two feet again, everything around me seemed to slow down like it does in the movies when a character has a moment of revelation (ie Kurt Russell walking and shooting his way through the river in Tombstone). My leg muscles started stiffening up as I carried my bike up the stairs and I could feel myself coming down out of my "bikers high. (like a "runner's high, 'cept different)."

I looked at the trip odometer and it read 51.9 miles, with a riding time of just over 3.5 hours and an average speed of 15.4 miles per hour. Just before opening the door to my apartment, I picked up my front tire and spun it around 1, 2, 3, 4 times until the speedometer read 52 miles. I'm anal like that.