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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Too Much of a Good Thing?

It's been a goal of mine for awhile to do a Century, 100 miles on my bike. I chickened out on the century loop at last year's Bike MS for fear that I wouldn't be able to finish Day Two if I took that extra twenty miles.

Then I didn't finish Day Two anyway, threw it in after 55 miles of headwinds, saddle-soreness (I was riding on a brand new, much harder saddle), etc. All I felt at the time was relief and air-conditioning, and I had fun flirt-arguing with the death-by-sexy ultra-liberal lawyer who SAGged not long after I did.

Later that same day, I signed up for 2010 and knew I had to do the Day One century no matter what. And what better way to prepare for a 100 mile ride followed by an 80 mile ride than to at least log that three-digit entry in the cycling log.

My life being what it is (busy, and I'm not complaining), I don't often have whole days to devote to hobbies. Again, no complaints: last year I had a day of unpaid leave every week to do whatever I wanted and it sucked hard enough to suck the stupid out of professional wrestling.

Making a batch of beer requires a full day, pretty much, and about a hundred dollars by the time you buy propane, ingredients, etc. It's money well spent, and a day well spent come to that, but whole days and disposable Franklins aren't common in my world. I spent a couple of whole days putting in the Tomatosaurus Rex, though I mainly did that in hour-or-two bursts when I could fit it in the way I do everything else.

Riding a hundred miles, well, I'm about as fast as a line at the DMV. That's an all day task for me, since I usually average around 12 miles per hour. Sometimes 11, sometimes 14, once at the airport 16 (though I hurt myself doing it). And you figure, there's gotta be breaks in that routine, right? So if you figure eight or nine hours in the saddle, you'll need ten to eleven hours total, right?

So I've been looking forward to this for awhile, and my original plan was to take a couple Benadryl at 7:00 p.m. Saturday evening so I could go to sleep super early, sleep a lot, and be on the road at first light, 6:30 a.m. at the latest.

And George and Lenny are going to live off the fat of the land. The artist formerly known as Frau Lobster got sick and I ended up at the Fair with the girls until 11:00 on Saturday evening, and originally, I thought I was going to reschedule the century attempt for next weekend. But then, I thought, no guarantees it doesn't rain next weekend, right?

And the ex seemed to think it was something she ate at the family fest in Olathe, and I know from first-hand experience that food-born illnesses tend to be intense but brief, so maybe...

So I texted the ex and she said, sure, bring them over in the morning so I did. When I finally woke up. I got the girls up, despite their resistance, got them dressed and delivered to their Mom, and returned home where preparations seemed to take longer than possible. I really felt like just going back to bed, like I could fall asleep right there, and I said, No, damnit, you're riding a century today, and you're going to like it!

So I sallied forth at ten in the morning, with the temperature already a few degrees above Sweaty Clown Hug and pedaled for DeSoto.

The passage to DeSoto is a relatively new discovery for me, and it's a pleasant enough ride provided you have pepper spray to deter farm dogs and don't mind getting chased by a Chihuahua so cute nobody could mace him. That little booger is fast, too, he kept a good 20 mph clip going for probably 20 yards in the ditch by me screaming his head off to stay out of his yard.

The descent into DeSoto is glorious, about a mile of downhill on brand-spanking-new pavement. Which you pay for as you head east on 83rd Street. I might have avoided this road if I'd had my plan-A opportunity to pre-drive the route before taking that 7:00 p.m. Benadryl on Saturday night, but I didn't so I learned that the climb by Shawnee Jim's has grown steeper in the decades since I drove out there to buy cigarettes.*

83rd eventually becomes 87th, I think, around the time I made my first pit stop for two bananas, a slice of greasy gas station pizza, and a not-diet Coke. This was breakfast on the road, and I filled my Camelbak (which had been full of half-strength Gatorade when I left home) with Powerade from the fountain at the Shell.

From there I continued on past Powder Creek, where I heard the report of small arms fire. I'm constantly trying to reinvent the triathlon in my head because I know some triathletes and I want to join them but I'm allergic to running (bad feet and come to think of it ankles and knees), and not a real strong swimmer.

So I want to do a triathlon I can enjoy, say Cycling, Skeet, Cross Country Skydiving. And we could ride to Powder Creek before we try jumping to our deaths...

Cycling, Paintball and Bowling could work for me, too.

I stopped to check out a folk art mailbox I've ridden past once before, and the rest of the stuff in this guy's yard. A guy rode up on a Honda scooter, into the driveway and started pointing out the other oddities of the yard.

I took it he lived there, so I wandered around shooting pics as he explained about tomatoes on the honor system and I asked (too distracted to realize he was explaining to me that he was there to buy a single tomato off the porch) if Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations had ever paid him a visit.

He said he didn't know, and at that point I wondered what was up. He seemed like the kind of kook that show turns its lens on, but you don't know if you've been on their show? I asked if he knew what I was talking about and he said, yes, that show on nineteen.

We continued to talk at each other without comprehension until a woman emerged from the home we were in front of and inquired what the hell was going on. Okay, that's not what she asked, she asked if she could help.

He was there to buy a tomato, I was taking a picture of her mailbox, and we got to talking without communicating. Sorry, we'll bugger off now.

I stopped at my Dad's house for another refill, water this time, and ate a couple tamales and some veggies before continuing on. He pointed out that if I planned by route right, I could cut it short if I came to my senses. I don't know who he thought he was talking to, but at the time I thought I'd planned such a route, imagining that south Leawood leg turning into a back road, blue highway trip through South JoCo to my house.

Not sure who I thought I was kidding, either.

I continued on down Merriam Lane to Roe Lane and up into Roeland Park. Refilled the Camelbak with Rooster Booster Lite (no calories, but I'd been consuming calories the whole way) and picked up a pint of NesQuik's banana milk. The milk was logical, sugars, calcium, water, etc., but for the next thirty minutes as I tried not to puke, I knew it was a mistake.

Down Lamar, the heat got intense. No wind, my cycling computer's thermometer read 108ºF to 111ºF, ten plus degrees hotter than the official temperature, which I think was the heat radiating off the asphalt in a zero-wind environment.

I stopped at a Subway to cool off and hopefully buy a shot of pickle juice. It was a kosher Subway, but not really a cycling friendly one. A charming Jewish guy was kibitzing with a charming Jewish counter girl when another asked me what I wanted. Pickle juice, I said, I'll pay for a drink or whatever if you'll fill it with pickle brine.

She explained that they drain their pickles, so no can do. I accepted this and stood under a ceiling fan directing air conditioning that felt like a walk-in cooler, went to the bathroom, stood under the fan some more to steel myself to go back out when the same chick asked me if I wanted something.

Just to get cool. And pickle juice, I thought a Subway would be a slam dunk for that. Yeah, well, we drain our pickles. So you said. Which I took to mean, you can't just stand here in that Hawaiian shirt, not buying anything that's on the menu, smelling like that and not even be Jewish.

Yes, I felt a tinge of discrimination in her words and tone, and I found it kind of amusing. I'm not accustomed to being the brunt of such human instincts, being Caucasian/Goy in the American Mid-West, so despite the brutal heat I thought it was kind of cute.

Contrast this with the not so veiled discrimination I felt at the Price Chopper at 133rd and Mission Road, as I looked for more Gatorade to put in my Camelbak and basked in the air conditioning. I bought a PayDay as a snack, figuring the salt would do me good, and don't peanuts have protein or something?

The products of south Johnson County wealth eugenics gave me looks that said, 'That shirt, really?' and 'You can't come in here smelling like that.'

These hyper-privileged women did this without the benefit of any claim to their own oppression or even a sign that might have told me only plastic surgery addicted trophy wives are allowed. The 'kosher' Subway at least could claim I knew going in as a sweaty Gentile was asking for it. Yes, it's south Leawood, but no, there are no gates where guards check the papers of penniless cyclists who are just trying to achieve a long-held goal today without actually dying in the process.

Then around the golf course that many of the aforementioned women's husbands excape from them on, I got cramps in my left hamstring. I was only about 60 miles in, and leaning against a tree when a cyclist came up asking if I needed help.

Pickle juice, if you've got it, which of course she didn't. But she was in her own neighborhood and didn't make me feel unwelcome.

She was very thoughtful, offered me everything she had in her cycling bag, and we had fun talking about the heat, her recently finished RAGBRAI where she didn't notice my friend Roj, the freak who did it on a Mongoose BMX, her torn meniscus (why she was riding a flat loop that didn't veer far from her home), expensive bicycles and I don't know what all.

She told me to try Dean and DeLuca for pickle juice, and I thought, 'Where the hell is that?'

Before finding a Mickie-D's at 95th and Mission road, where I bought a small, nasty cheeseburger, a small, salty order of fries and was comped a coffee cup full of pickle brine when they couldn't figure out how to charge me for it.

You won't find many times where I'll say good things about McDonald's and bad things about Subway, but here it is: the golden arches doesn't drain their pickles, and even if they did I bet they'd open the next jar to keep me from getting cramps right there in their store.

I felt like I was home free with that boost of food and electrolytes, so I sallied north to Merriam Lane again to begin the final assault.

And as I approached South Park Elementary (now a church) where I went to K-6, I felt woozy and lightheaded. Short of breath. My toes were cramping, so I stopped at the hamburger stand (which was closed) and took my shoe off to mess with my foot. I felt so hot I wondered if I should go put a couple dollars in the car wash across the street to hose myself down.

To give you some idea: when I looked down at my Pear Izumi shorts, my favorite riding shorts (best padding), I thought I was seeing signs they were finally threadbare. It turned out to be salt that had dried from my sweating through them.

I refilled my Camelbak, I think, seven times. Roughly three gallons of liquids.

The official temperature never reached triple digits, but with the lack of wind and the heat radiating off the pavement, my cycling computer registered 108ºF to 111ºF most of the afternoon. It took its toll on me.

I also thought about how my Mom lives about two miles from there. My Dad, too. My brother, come to think of it. And the chick who suckered me into cycling in the first place. and a few other people I know, and I thought of calling them until I found someone who would feel sorry for me sitting there at Antioch and Merriam Lane with my ass kicked after only 75 miles.

And then I thought, there's a gas station if I make it to Johnson Drive, a better place to wait if I call for help than a closed hamburger stand.

So I went on, painfully, reluctantly, and when I got to the gas station I went straight in the bathroom and soaked my head. I washed everything practical to wash at the sink.

I then bought a fountain drink without worrying about filling the Camelbak. I started talking to the guy who I think owns the joint, an Indian from Punjab (red dot, not feather) who I think was a professional cyclist when he was young and still in India. Or a cycling maniac, there were accent issues, I can't be sure, but riding 2,000 miles over the mountains sounds like more job than hobby to me.

After about a half hour, I felt a ton better, and most of the way home was frontage roads, which are pretty easy, so I figured I should try and finish.

It got dark fast. Real fast.

Somewhere around 119th, I realized I was going to end up riding where there are no street lights in full darkness with my crappy little Wal-Mart lights.

I thought, maybe call my bro. I'm not quite in the neighborhood anymore, but he rides, he might take mercy on me.

I stopped and unslung my Camelbak, which has a zipper pouch that I put my cell phone in except....

You got it, I let my cell at home, totally spaced it.

Remember when there were pay phones? They went the way of the Linotype, and it was a dark hour when I realized that my only 'out' was to try to ride somewhere where I could beg someone to borrow the cell to start calling people. Most of the people I'd call, too, I don't know their numbers. Their numbers are saved in my cell, which, as I say, was at home where I wanted to be about three hours before then.

So I ground it out. On Ridgeview, I was conflicted: I love riding on fresh pavement; but riding on pavement that's been shaved to cobble in preparation for new pavement, I can happily ride the rest of my life without ever getting on that shit again.

I made a wrong turn in Olathe and ended up going by the Adequate Mall instead of all the way to Parker; going down Lone Elm I didn't turn on 159th because by the quarry the road gets rough and I thought 167th was paved all teh way through.

Not to self: don't 'think' a road is paved when you're desperate to get home and it's fucking dark. If you haven't ridden it or driven it, the road doesn't even exist.

167th turns to gravel a bit past the factories you can see from Lone Elm. I could have back-tracked but that would mean even longer before home. Riding gravel roads through farms (never knowing if there's a farm dog with an attitude lurking in the gloom) with no street lights and a wimpy little birthday candle of a headlight, I thought, If the Foolkiller doesn't get you tonight, he ain't coming.

I bit off more than I could chew, it's true. Too many hills early on, too hot, too late a day to start a ride like this. But when I couldn't chew it or spit it out I had to suck it up and swallow it whole.

Shawnee Jim's was a cigarette store that didn't charge any excise taxes, or any federal ones anyway, when I was young and foolish and smoking like a chimney. I bought many cartons of non-filtered cigarettes from that Indian before he went to Leavenworth for selling heap big smokes to white man. The sign says they sell smokes for $24 a carton, which doesn't sound like a bargain to me since I quite smoking when I could get Bronson non-filters at QuikTrip for under ten bucks, but I assume that's about the price that will land another Indian in the pokey these days.

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