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Friday, September 18, 2015

Bike MS Ozarks

I first did the Ozarks Bike MS ride last year after missing three years due, mainly, to a calendar shift on the KC ride.

Prior to 2009, I didn't even own a bike. I know this because I log my miles in an Excel spreadsheet and have since buying a $50 bike off a friend I was in a garage band with after another friend put me up to doing Bike MS. That first ride, 3.1 miles and I was whining about how my ass felt after it. Yeah, I was really in shape. Just checked, and the total miles on that spreadsheet now reads over 20,000 miles.

These days most of my cycling is transportational. Functional. I ride to and from work as much as possible, run errands by bike whenever I can, though I love riding enough that I don't always take the most direct route. I dabble in touring, and by touring I mean self-supported, carry your own campsite touring. But I know people who've gone coast to coast that way and my longest self-supported tour is three days and that was a few years ago.

But coming back to Bike MS, let alone that it's a great cause (I've had personal friends with this terrible disease), I love a good social ride and getting several hundred folks together for an epic ride is super awesome fun in my book. It's mostly roadies, the semi-derogatory term urban cyclists apply to people who never ride for transportation, who ride uncomfortable yet expensive bikes they refer to as 'road bikes.' A Trek Madone is a 'road bike' the way a Ferrari Testarosa is a 'street car.' But the man said, any bike you like to ride is awesome, no matter what bike it is, so bring me your carbon fiber, your drop bars, your huddled masses yearning to feel their fingers again.

The Ozarks ride is hilly, as you'd expect given the name 'Ozarks.' I think east of Springfield would be even more so, we go from Republic to Joplin and back, those Ozarks are hills, not mountains. But they have a way of going from a maybe 20% grade for a quarter to half a mile to all of a sudden, near the top, more like a 25% grade. I'm not a scientist with these figures, it's what it feels like from the saddle. When I saw people walking their bikes, I went ahead and downshifted to my small chainring, but I still felt the burn.

But on the return trip in particular, we went on some pretty rough roads. All were paved, at least technically. They were county roads, several of them one lane wide, often with multi-level pavement, potholes, accumulated gravel, etc. The roadies had given me plenty of grief about my heavy-ass bike but I wasn't fretting about pinch flats as we rode these roads. I was like, 'THIS is a road bike,' (my Long Haul Trucker), 'and it doesn't give two shits abut whether that road is paved, gravel, in bad repair, or whatever. If it's a road, we're on it.'

This cop car, I stopped to take a picture of it, and a woman was unloading feed from a pickup in the driveway by it. She told me the guy who lives there had been a rodeo clown. I said, those guys are almost as crazy as the bull riders. She said, he rode bulls before he clowned. What's he do now? He deals in Brahmas. They're what the feed was for.

There was also this oasis on the edge of what was once Route 66. We weren't on Old 66 for long, but it was an interesting stretch. You can't probably see from the picture, but the gazebo over the pond contains a hammock, and I honestly wanted to forsake the Joplin and just chill out in that hammock, it was obviously a place of peace. I'm guessing from the huge veterans memorial adjacent to the pond that it's a well earned peace. And no, I wouldn't normally think a place looked peaceful twenty feet from a bomb and a couple of artillery shells, but it did.

As it is, I slept in the gym at the East Middle School Joplin rebuilt after that devastating tornado. Which means I was able to plug in my CPAP as well as have a hot shower and take a dump on a proper toilet rather than in a kybo. I guess I also learned a lesson in just how old I've gotten to be.

I have a friend from Critical Mass in Kansas City, and by friend I mean someone I've met once, then 'friended' on a certain social media site you've probably heard of. Anyway, she's super cute and in the hour or two I spent with her in my whole life was really fun. She wanted to show me Joplin with her friend who'd also been a Critical Mass rider. And it was my birthday, so there'd probably be some bars that'd front me a shot just for showing up with a valid ID saying I was turning 46.

This is a very appealing combination for me. Beautiful women, free liquor, a night on the town, imagine my surprise when I begged off because I honestly just wanted to go to bed. On a gym floor in a sleeping bag.

When I woke up in the morning, I had a text message from my friend saying 'we just got to Turtle Heads.' I assume this is a fun bar in Joplin, but I got this message almost a half hour after I was asleep, and it came before ten o'clock. That's how old I am, given the chance to party with beautiful twenty-somethings who ride bikes, I'm in the sack with my CPAP humming before the nightly news comes on.

Oh, and the cute Chris Cakes girl (speaking of lovely twenty-somethings). She pranked me pretty good by saying she'd started Chris Cakes when she was in high school, which worked until I grokked that I'd first had Chris Cakes almost 20 years ago, flipped at me by a guy who probably wasn't Chris either..

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