Saturday, November 28, 2015

Famous First Words of a Reluctant Cyclist

I run a lot. Would like to ride more. Want to meet?

The famous first words of what would lead to a relationship with a Velo Junkie, a collection of bicycles, and enough material to write a blog about cycling. But it can't end there. Now the concept of a business has arisen out of our many hours spent together on two wheels.
Since that fateful internet dating message we have travelled many miles by bike, crossed Lake Superior and the Atlantic Ocean, rode across Iowa and in Sheffield, UK, and tried everything from a tandem bike to a folding bike. We have also completed one marathon in San Francisco, CA and half a dozen half marathons all over the US including New Orleans, the Smoky Mountains, Pittsburg, and the Purdue Boilermaker.
During these past eight years there have been many other "famous first words", albeit maybe not as life changing as that very first correspondence.

I know a flat ride!

Being new to cycling I wanted to contribute to our adventures. Velo was planning all of our routes so, come fall of our first year I had a great idea. My family had traditionally traveled to Indiana for church festivals and chicken dinners. There was one in Batesville on Labor Day so I suggested we drive to Brookville and ride to the festival via SR46. "It's flat" I said, not bothering to check the elevation before we took off. Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit! There are hills in Southeastern Indiana.
It was nearly 100 degrees in the shade. When I got to the top of the longest grade, which was about 3 miles long, my face was scarlet and my scalp felt like it was shrinking. Velo, not knowing how far behind I had fallen, was a speck in the distance. I finally cried uncle, stopped and dialed him up on my cell phone. "Are you going to wait for me?"
At least we had a good meal and a three -mile downhill on the way back.

I want to do L’Eroica for my 50th birthday.

I meant the ride in Italy, but lo and behold, the inaugural L’Eroica Britannia was being held that year and we can speak the language. Yeah, like that stopped us from getting lost in Sheffield, and Bakewell, and Beauchief, and the Peak District. We rode around the area, sometimes on the wrong side of the road, on our vintage Mercians for several days leading up to the festival and the big event. The festival was amazing and the ride, glorious. We enjoyed ourselves immensely. Just writing this makes me want a Bakewell tart.

Of course a junkie has to feed his addiction. We had to find the Bob Jackson factory in Leeds, which proved to be a little tricky, and the Mercian store in Derbyshire. Sometime between then and now Velo acquired one of each brand new and custom made.

If you ever want me to ride RAGBRAI this is the year.

I didn't have to say that twice. Before I knew it we were in the lottery and
contracted with a charter. Of course we were selected, and so began the planning.

I won't bother with the details of the obvious aspects of RAGBRAI, such as the 20,000 riders, the endless cornfields (it is IOWA), the vendors in every small town whose populations quadrupled when we rode in, or the beer gardens. I will mention how good the ice cream was every day. 
Beekman's Ice Cream

I want to share a few of the memorable moments of Velo’s and mine. Like the day we woke up to 30 mph winds, driving rain, and temperatures in the 40s. This was July in Iowa. Considering the temps are usually in the 90s, I did not complain. I hate heat. I did feel bad for the folks on tandems, though. Unfortunately, you must trudge on because you have to make it to the next town.

Next on the list was my first Century. I rode a total of 109 miles that day, but my GPS died at 99 miles. I know; I know; if it isn’t on Strava, it didn't happen. 8-(, I cursed. I wanted to exact my revenge on the GPS gods. Beekmans world famous ice cream and Velo throwing a toilet made it all worthwhile even if Strava was clueless. 
  Last, but not least, poor Velo ended our ride early on the last day. As I was just buzzing along I heard behind me “Rider Down”. It never even crossed my mind that it was Velo. That stuff only happens to me. Ah-ha. This time is wasn’t me! Secretly I was ecstatic for me when I saw him carrying his bike up the road but devastated for him. His front wheel got caught up in a seam in the road and threw him off. The wheel looked like a wobble plate and he looked like somebody who just lost their best friend. I was so saddle sore I was glad to stop 30 miles short of the finish, especially since no one was hurt except Velo's ego, (and the aforementioned wobbly wheel of shame). The SAG ride back, now that was another experience all together. After waiting in the sun for the van for over two hours, we climbed into a hot, stuffy van full of other casualties, most just exhausted. Once the van was full the driver had the chore of snaking through those 20,000 remaining cyclists. During a stretch of traffic caused by hordes of motorists arriving to pick up riders one girl jumped out of the van, made a bee-line to the woods, and came back much more content. Hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go.

There are more famous first lines but they all seem to have similar results for a reluctant cyclist and a Velo Junkie. I’m exhausted, overheated, frozen stiff, soaking wet, cut, bruised, you name it. Velo, on the other hand, achieved a PR, or just missed it because he slowed down to wait for me. In other words, we have a blast.

 I would be amiss if I didn’t mention that in between 
all the riding we have rescued and rehomed dozens of pound puppies. 
That was my pre-existing hobby and my Famous First Words – Just one more….