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A Day (That Shouldn’t Have Been) In the Dirt

You know those days where most sane people wake up ready to ride, only to look outside and find rain blew in from out of nowhere to confound the plans and say, “Self, it’s a day off, then. Let’s fire up the NetFlix.”

The first half was me. I was not sane. Nor was Chuck, Winston or Mike K. After all, it was the annual apple cider (and cinnamon sugar donut) ride. I’d rather wax my own @$$ than miss that ride! It was only lightly raining, anyway, and it was due to stop just as the ride was scheduled to start, anyway.

My wife was sane. So was my riding buddy, Mike A. And a bunch of other people who’d planned on showing up.

Ah, the lure of a donut or two during a diet… the only way I can justify that is to ride to get them…

I only knew Chuck and I were showing up. We’d texted back and forth and I forwarded those texts to the group without response, then packed the car and headed to our meet-up spot, about a 16 minute drive from the house. It rained the whole way. As I approached the city parking lot, though, just as the future radar had shown, the rain lightened to a drizzle and stopped. We started getting ready. Ten minutes later, on damp roads, we rolled out.

The dirt was damp, even a little wet at times, but not horrible. We decided to ride it out, knowing the farther south we got, the more conditions would improve. Sadly, something like four miles in, we turned north and it started spitting on us, then picked up just enough for me to check my computer to see how far it was to get back… I remember thinking, at 8 miles, “Oh, crap, we’ve got more than four times this [mileage] left!” Then we headed south, about ten miles in… the rain stopped and things cleared up considerably. Eventually, the dirt dried and the sun even tried to break through the cloud cover. Unfortunately, the temperature was the one thing that didn’t improve. It was cold. I regretted not having shoe covers and a second layer on the bottom half. Thankfully, I was a little over-dressed up top, having opted for a light long-sleeve jersey under my heavy long-sleeve and vest. If not for being a bit overdressed at my core the ride would have sucked bad.

And Chuck had managed to find every big hill there was out there. We climbed the dirt version of “The Wall” (it’s actually called The Wall in Strava – PRed it), Maybley Hill (PRed it), Ratalee Hill (PRed it)… look, I could go on for a minute. When it was all done, hit eight PRs and four second fastest times yesterday. There was only one segment the whole ride that I didn’t best a previous time on. It didn’t show it on the average speed on my Garmin, but we were flying compared to previous rides (and thankfully, I didn’t ever feel like I was working that hard – I was out of breath a lot, but I recovered quickly).

23-miles in and we were as far south as we were going to get. Conditions had improved massively and I knew we were getting close to donuts. My mood improved immensely. Two miles later we were pulling up to the orchard… and our sweet reward for having braved some pretty crappy conditions.

We went through the indoor maze to get to the donut line (or where the donut line normally is), to find a sign that directed us outdoors for our mid-ride snack. We made a bee-line. The line was mercifully short and after about a minute’s wait, I was ordering my two donuts and hot apple cider. As we walked over to the outdoor picnic tables, the line quintupled in length. We’d gotten there exactly at the right time.

We sat and talked and laughed… and ate and drank our spoils.

Our break wasn’t too short but was long enough and we headed to our bikes to roll out. I hadn’t noticed it while we were eating but the clouds had broken and I was squinting against the sun… and it was awesome. We donned our helmets and gloves and rolled out. We only had a little less than twelve miles left and the dirt had dried up nicely. The pace really picked up in quite a few places and just about the time my tongue was going to get rubbed raw from dangling down on my tire, Chuck sat up and said, “That’s enough of this.” I can’t put into words my gratitude.

The remaining five or six miles was controlled but fast in places and definitely fun… though I noticed going from the little to big ring up front was a lot more work than it should have been. That was going to need some attention later on.

We rolled into the parking lot with smiles on faces and the sun shining down on us – a much better situation than what we’d rolled out in. I looked at my bike and knew I was in for a long cleanup on aisle five. The bike was covered in mud. Still, I couldn’t help but feel grateful on the way home. I’d had a great time with a few friends for the better part of three hours, and without them, I’d have sat it out on the couch.

It was worth all the work I’d put into the Diverge later on – new shifter cable, new (matching) bottle cages… finally… and about an hour’s worth of cleaning and drivetrain maintenance. She runs like new, now.

Gravel, Baby! Let the Dirt Season Commence in Earnest with the Best Ride of the Season!

We’re off on the dirt for our annual cider ride this morning which means fresh, warm cinnamon sugar donuts and hot apple cider. There’s only one issue this year; I’m on a diet.

That’s right, friends. A real, legit diet. Oh, sure, some of my weight is extra muscle, as the donut shop lie goes but there’s more BBQ and roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy than muscle and it doesn’t take a degree in medicine to see it in the mirror. I’ve forsaken my normal lunches for a salad for the last week… with some kind of meat for protein, of course. Let’s not be silly, here. The best part is I’ve found something I like, so next week I’m making my own. This will mean even fewer calories and slightly better portion sizes than the Wendy’s versions I’ve been buying – there’s no arguing grilled chicken is vastly superior to fried (though fried is… well, fried). I’ve got about the weight of my 5200 to lose before spring (and thankfully, no winter or spring vacations to derail me this year!).

Thursday and yesterday were days off… rain and my daughter’s swim meet Thursday and bowling last night (203, 176, 201 – my normal strike ball was hooking up too much from the middle of the second to the first two frames in the third… switched to my 16lb ball and hammered them). An interesting development with bowling this year is that my plant leg is reacting considerably more than it has in the past to the extra load. Normally, I simply transition from cycling to bowling in the fall without so much as a hiccup. I can really feel it this year. I’m assuming this has to do with taking last year off.

Anyway, I just saw I may have to alter my plans for the day. I just checked the forecast and somehow they’re going to try sneaking in some rain in the next few minutes. All week long the weekend looked fantastic – right up through yesterday afternoon. Now we’re looking at rain till 10-ish this morning. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say the UK sent us some of their weather.

Crap!

Recovery Vs Normal Life; Why People In Recovery Are Happier Than Average…

People not in the know tend to paint we recovering types with a broad brush. They often claim we “talk weird, like [we’re] in a cult or something”. They often, incorrectly claim we are too “religious”, there’s too much talk of God and Jesus.

Like many stigma-related stereotypes, those two are based on a sliver of truth, wildly exaggerated. I can’t say they’re untrue, but they’re not true, at the same time.

We do speak… um, with an authentic eccentricity that some can find odd. Some of us are very religious, not unlike normal society. We have our atheists and agnostics as well. Unlike many parts of society, we don’t discriminate. We take everyone who wants to live a life free of the bondage of alcoholism, addiction and abuse.

I happen to be a little more pragmatic about God. I capitalize the G (if you’re writing about Bob, do you write bob? No you don’t). On the other hand, I believe in attraction, not promotion. I’d rather show you God’s grace by being an example of it than trying to convince you of it.

I’d rather a person come up to me and ask me how I could possibly be so content (or happy, as the case usually is), to ask what my trick is, than to try to convince everyone that God is the answer by shouting it from the rooftops.

A cat on the fence howling at the moon tends to get a shoe thrown at it. Know what I’m saying?

That out of the way, let’s get down to what’s real (and what really puts people off about “program people”). Those in recovery, meaning those who actually practice the principles of recovery, not everyone who show’s up to get a paper signed for the judge so they can get out of trouble, have a cheat. We literally cheat our way out of a sad, unhappy, discontented life. Well, that depends, I suppose, on how you want to define “cheat”:

We are taught the true nature of happiness as an inside job from the day we walk in the door and sit down at a table. We learn how to be happy and peaceful in our own goodness and to reject resentment because resentment, even against those who have wronged us, is the root of our later stages of addiction. We put the focus solely on ourselves. In fact, if done correctly, we learn how to look at our own part in someone else’s mistreatment of us. We learn the only thing we can “fix” in the world is in the gray matter betwixt our ears. Period, end of story.

Once we learn how to be good and to be okay with that goodness, we cease looking outside ourselves for “things” that artificially make us feel happy. Happiness becomes an inside job.

Once this is mastered, we learn to protect our happiness from outside influences that typically despise easy-going happiness.

After that, we learn how to take those influences and show them grace, peace and forgiveness. (This is where I normally reside, so I don’t know what’s next – but this is pretty freaking good! I like it a lot).

This isn’t to say this choice of lifestyle is perfect. I run into challenges that take a run at my peace and happiness on a regular basis. Sometimes I fail for a while. Sometimes I can’t see my part in things. Sometimes I just want to be pissed off for a minute… but in the end, I always fall back to the tried and true cheat of looking at myself when I’m tired of being miserable. It’s the only thing that really works. Every time. Without fail.

Recover hard, my friends. The alternative sucks.

The Last Shorts and Short-Sleeves Day of the Year? Likely.

We rode in shorts and short-sleeves last night, likely the last evening of the year that’ll be comfortable. I wore my DALMAC 50-year jersey, which has quickly become my favorite in my drawer full of jerseys.

I got a couple of extra miles in, early on the way to pick Chuck up. Unfortunately, I went the back way to get to his house and he left a little early the front way, so we ended up missing each other. He called while I was standing in his driveway to ask where I was… we both laughed and I took off to catch him.

Last evening was glorious. Lower 70s and falling, so it was never too warm and never too cold. I paid a lot more attention than I normally would to our surroundings. It’s going to get cold here, today. The leaves are going to “blaze of glory” it and fall off the trees soon… and did I mention the cold?

The season is almost over. We’re in the last few weeks before it gets too cold and gnarly to enjoy riding outdoors… and dark. Daylight Saving Time is about to end and we’re going to be plunged into the night at just past 6:00. Trainer time will start up soon and the gravel bike will become the primary go-to.

Yesterday’s ride was awesome, but bittersweet. It’s raining today, thunderstorms and heavy downpours… and the temperature will fall off a shelf this afternoon. And so will my mileage, as fall and winter set in.

I’ve begun my yearly diet. Started it Monday. As one would expect, I’m hungry pretty much all of the time but I’ll get used to that in a week or two. I hate to do it, but I’d like to lose at least one bike before the spring hits. Let the long slog to spring begin.

TNIL: Fast, Furious & Grateful Edition

After last night’s Tuesday Night In Lennon, I was struck by the same thought I’ve been hit with after most Tuesday night club rides – and I just figured out how to organize the emotions so I could put the whole box of rocks into words… simply.

I’m going to deviate from the norm in which I burn up too many words on the first half so I can save all the goods for the fastest part of the ride. This should keep the post from growing into a two-cup minimum monster of a post.

Imagine, if you will, the start of any Tuesday night this year with a wind out of the west. It’s headwind for the first half of the ride and the second half is fast and loose. We had wind last night, but it wasn’t terrible, just barely into the double digits and we fought through it really well – and it was just cut up enough between the crosswind (north) and the headwind (west) that we had a 23.5-mph average at Shipman Road. Unfortunately, Shipman sucks worst with a west wind. It’s a cross-headwind that just smashes us into an echelon that’s always too big for our lane. I chose the left lane of the double pace-line, fighting crosswind for the first six miles, so I’d be on the protected side on Shipman, and it paid dividends. As they say, you can pay me now, or pay me later, but you’ll pay. With some help from a couple of the Elite Group, we kept the whole pace-line together through the hills till we split off into two groups. Nobody was dropped in the hills so we managed a rolling regroup. That’s where the fun starts.

With the headwind behind us and the group split in two, we chose to single it up so we could get longer breaks before taking a turn at the front. We’ve got a fairly long, not too steep hill to climb after we drop into a valley that, if we’re not careful, can hammer the tandems into the ground, so Chuck usually calls for calm till we crest the hill – and that’s exactly how it went last night, and it worked perfectly. We climbed the hill at around 21-mph – and before you ask, I know, that’s fast for going up. I can’t explain it, the hill is an easy climb. Over the crest, it was all hands in the drops, maximum warp over the half-mile descent. The tandems were up front for most of the mile to the City Limits sign. Through town was a little quicker than normal but we were stopped at a busy intersection, waiting for traffic to clear. Once through the intersection, I was expecting the pace to ease as we worked our way up a couple of shallow hills, but it was intense. We were running out of daylight and we were driving the pace to get home before dark.

Two miles later, we were at the homestretch: full tailwind, only three molehills to crest, and a lot of downhill to the finish. Coming around the righthand corner at full speed, we took the pace up to the mid-20s (mph – or 40 km/h) over the course of a mile and kept it pegged, except at those molehills. Down a quick descent to a busy intersection and we had to time a car going by but for the most part, blew right through the intersection. Mike took the lead up the hill and kept pace “reasonable” to “perfect” for the tandems to make it without too much trouble. Over the crest, it’s basically a 0.5 to 1% descent all the way to the finish and it’s always hot for those last two miles.

The tandems had worked their way to the front and were sitting one, two with a half-mile left and they took it to “11”. It’s funny, how at 23-25-mph, the pack can get a little squirrely, but when the pace goes to, say, 30-mph (48-kmh), everyone straightens out in a hurry. That was the case last night. The first tandem pulled off to the back and the second took over. Chucker was behind them and I was behind Chucker. Mike was behind me. And it was on.

I’m pretty sure I was in the drops, but can’t be sure. Chucker rides in the drops at all times, and Mike was behind me. The tandem pulled off just as we got to the sprint point and Chuck dropped the hammer, adding at least another 2-mph to the 30.5, catching me by surprise. I couldn’t quite answer his surge and Mike didn’t have it to come around me. I started to close the gap on Chucker, but he gained too much gap on his jump. We shot across the line at 55 feet per second, 31.5-mph, or 51-km/h… And just like that, we sat up, shifted to easier gearing and reset the computers for the cooldown mile back to the parking lot. We patted each other on the back and had a few laughs on the way back. We’d crossed the City Limits finish line at 22.9-mph for our average. Fantastic for October. The mood was effusive – “You’re riding great, man”… “No, you’re the one putting out massive wattage, you’re riding mid-season form!”, etc., etc. I love being a part of that, after we’ve laid it all out.

It was hotdogs and tailwind, baby.

The mosquitos were horrible when we got back, so we packed up quick and headed for home. Once I caught my breath, about a mile up the road, my thoughts settled and I tried to pay attention…

My thoughts were all centered on gratitude.

It occurred to me the refrain is almost always the same. When the bike is packed in the car and I’m heading home after a Tuesday night, all I can think is, “How did I get so lucky to be able to be a part of such a great group?”

Once the bike is put in its prominent resting place in the living room and I’m showered and not stinky anymore, after I’ve eaten and I’m sitting quietly with my thoughts, I’m simply grateful to be a part of that wonderful group.

I also realized last night, it’s not so important the why, as much as it is just enjoying this gift as it is.

And so I shall.

Why I Can Ride the Same Route Four Days A Week Without Growing Bored

If you follow me on Strava, you’ve likely seen my weekday route doesn’t change. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday it’s the same 22.75 miles every time. We go over the same chopped up roads (one mile each of two stretches of road so unconscionably bad, most normal people would be shocked we haven’t done something different).

It has occurred to me we could change it up, but people expect to see us on the road by now (we’ve been riding the route for four years, now) and it’s the least traveled roads we have in the area just after rush hour. And it’s comfortable.

The reality is, it’s not really about the roads we ride on as much as it about being outside, pedaling away the day’s troubles – usually with a good friend.

I was thinking about this very thing last night as Chuck and I were cruising down the road, 21-mph into the wind, hellbent for nowhere… just because.

My Specialized Venge is still in the shop, so I’m riding my Trek 5200. It’s a little more work than the Venge but fits like a glove. I thought to myself as I was pushing the pace up front, down in the drops with my chin hovering over the stem cap, “If this was the only bike I had to ride, I’d be okay with it”. Oh, I’d mess around with a few things – a new fork for starters, maybe one of those cool conversion kits to change it from a threaded to a threadless headset.. but if that was it, if that was the last bike for me, I could be good with it.

With the corn fields coming down, I had a straight line of sight for a half-mile at the intersection and I could see we were clear a tenth of a mile before I ever got to the intersection, so I hit the hard right turn at 20-mph, leaning the bike into it, feeling the tires grip the asphalt enough the bike felt like it was on a rail. I was back on the pedals as soon as I was sure I wouldn’t scrape the inside one on the asphalt… and the warning bars at the train track dropped, lights flashing. So I stopped. Maybe the third time all year we were stopped at that track.

The train was moving so fast it brought the debris being kicked up by a harvester tending to his soybean field on the other side of the track a quarter-mile away. Little chunks of soybean plant hit my face as the train pushed by. I liked the smell of it. And just like that, the train was gone. I crossed the track before the residual breeze blew by and the warning bars lifted… and I realized halfway across how stupid that choice was because I was at an acute angle to the track. I was lucky I didn’t drop a tire between the track and ties. I’d have gone down in a heap. Instantly.

Once through the backed up traffic and through a left turn, it was another mile of crap road before a double loop in a subdivision. I said “good evening” to two ladies who walk the subdivision the same time we pass through. I caught the elder lady off guard and startled her a bit so I apologized and made sure to announce us, well in advance, the second time around.

The final noteworthy turn on the ride is a left, coming down off a small hill so the pace tends to be hot, in the mid-20s (40-kmh), so you really have to lean into the turn if you’re going to make it without smashing face-first into a mailbox. I’ve almost gone off the road three times.

After all that, it was tailwind most of the way home for us but we were an odd mix of putting the watts down and taking it easy. I didn’t care either way, we were really just keeping the legs loose for the last full Tuesday Night In Lennon of the season.

While I love a great, scenic route for a bike ride, when it comes to my daily ride, it’s not about where I’m going so much as why. Riding a bike, especially with a friend, puts a smile on my face and helps me to remeber why I’m such a grateful guy.

Hotdogs and Tailwind: Meat, Bikes, Good Friends, Good Times and Happiness

I’ve said, for years, “good times and noodle salad”, from the movie As Good As It Gets, when someone asks how fun an event was. It became my way of saying, “it was as good as it gets”. I was just five years sober when that movie came out (29 is only a month away). I loved that saying and have used it regularly for at least the last decade.

Chuck and I were out riding Friday, our usual weekday loop, casually, and he comes up with hotdogs and tailwind. Now that’s going to stick. It’s got everything I love! Meat, bikes, good friends, good times and happiness.

Sunday’s ride was an excellent example. It was a cold start – 47 F or 8 C – but it felt even colder than that. I was a touch underdressed, but that usually works out after the shock of the first couple of miles, and the sun was supposed to come out, so I imagined it would warm up quickly.

“Imagined” is the operative word in that sentence.

It was cold and gloomy until we pulled into our first stop at 14-miles. I went into the gas station just to warm up. We had just shy of 30 miles left and I was a little disheartened that it was still so cloudy. The weather report had the clouds clearing just after we left.

After a snack and use of the facilities, we mounted up and rolled out. As we crested the first hill of the day, the clouds had an end and we were riding right for it. The headwind was starting to pick up but we were maintaining a healthy, but not too intense, 17-mph pace into it. We’d go three miles into it, get a break for a mile, then another three.. and before we knew it, we hit the edge of the clouds… and just like that, the sun beat down on us and warmed things up to “enjoyable”. Sadly, however, not to temperatures warm enough to remove my gloves, so photos from here out will be Slim Pickens.

We hit our first crossing tailwind of the day at 21.3 miles. Our first tailwind at 23, and it was all fun after that. We had some speedy sections, but for the most part kept it fun and enjoyable, though with a tailwind that kept increasing in intensity, “fun and enjoyable” became 25-mph at about 125 watts… and here comes Chuck, along side the group, “Hotdogs and tailwind”, he shouted. I added a Rick Flair, “WOOOOOO!” and we all cracked up.

The rest of the ride, just shy of 42 miles in total, was a blast. We simply took it to the barn.

I spent the rest of the day on the couch, catching up on sleep I didn’t know I needed. About 3:00 I was feeling a bit stupid for sitting on the couch all day… almost dirty. So I got up off my duff and went outside to cut the grass. I hit every blade I could get to around the flooded, low-lying spots in my yard. It only took about 50 minutes.

It was a fantastic weekend. Normally, I’d end it by saying it was good times and noodle salad. At least for a while, I think I’ll stick with the more apropos, “hotdogs and tailwind”. That fits me just a little better, anyway.

I Love Riding Tandem: Part 461

Saturday morning, my wife and I, pressed for time and trying to fit a ride in between rain and a family fun-filled day at my daughter’s university for college football, opted to take the tandem out. The only bike I have with fenders, there’s nothing better on wet roads. I barely have to clean the bike after a ride on rain-soaked roads – it’s truly wonderful.

My wife and I are in a great place right now and even though it had been several weeks since our last tandem ride, we were clicking within a half-mile from the driveway. We talked with friends, had a couple of laughs and generally a wonderful time pedaling together. We had no speed goals and thankfully didn’t have anyone wanting to hammer the pace. Chucker and his wife were on their tandem and Chuck & Mike (K) rounded our group.

Mid-way through our ride, I thought back on how much we’d struggle just trying to get a canoe down a river. Let’s just say we didn’t work well together back then, and leave it at that. We found kayaks much more agreeable.

We rounded out a nice 20-mile ride and got ready to head down to the game with my wife’s parents, our younger daughter and her boyfriend. We could only have had a finer evening if the home team had won. Unfortunately, they were outplayed from the first drive and though they gave it a great effort, with an opportunity to tie the game on the final drive, they came up a little short.

We had a sparkling dinner at a restaurant downtown, recommended by a few locals sitting near us in the stands. The food was fantastic and having the family together was as good as it gets. We arrived home late into the evening, exhausted. After a couple of quick games of cards, we headed to bed. I don’t remember how long it took me to fall asleep, but if it was more than 60 seconds, I’d be shocked.

Buying our tandem was an exercise in faith for us. We’d hoped our daughters would take to riding it with me but that never happened.

As my friend, Mike likes to say, “A tandem is a marriage maker or a marriage breaker”. I’m glad it’s the former for us.

A Good Attitude in Bad Times Goes A Long Way… This Is America

My daughter’s boyfriend, whilst driving the two to the movies in the rain (that’s right, folks Down Under, the movies), crashed. Well, not really crashed. He says he hydroplaned, went off the road, and ended up buried in the mud on the wrong edge of a 30’ drop into the woods… behind a guardrail.

Getting his car out was unbelievably hard.

Thankfully, the young kid really showed superior skill behind the wheel. He did a lot right under really difficult circumstances.

Nobody was hurt, not a scratch, no property damage, no… trouble.

And a police officer who was about as nice and graceful as you could hope, blocked traffic till the proper tow service got there. it took three trucks (two wrong flatbeds and a boom).

My wife and I, and my wife’s mom and stepdad all stayed till the car was out… somewhere around 10:30. I drove his car home and my wife drove his mom and the kids right to their driveway.

My wife’s mom followed us their Ford Excursion, a V8 piece of American awesomeness we call “The Beast” and picked us up and drove us back to our house.

There were no politics, no parties, no bullshit political football values that nobody really believes in when the rubber meets the mud. Just people helping people and being good to each other.

The tow drivers (there were more than one – that $#!+ was expensive) didn’t have a grievance about doing their job, the police officer was gracious and forgiving, not some trigger-happy maniac as portrayed in the press, and we weren’t belligerent to those who were helping us by earning their living. There was no ignorant critique of service. We were all grateful for their superior skill, decency and helpfulness and treated them as kindly and tactfully as was humanly possible … not as those “betters” who constantly find reason to be difficult and to complain, who find it impossible to keep their idiot (and often entirely wrong) opinions to themselves and their divisive, ignorant yap shut.

Last night wasn’t the America in the press. It was the Land of The Free, Home of the Brave ‘Merica you stop and put your hand on your heart for when the National Anthem plays.

America was as it should be in our corner of the country. It was, and so shall it ever be, good.

TNIL: More Fun than Should Be Legal With Your Clothes On! Edition

I’ve come up with a new writing project for the remainder of the year – something I’ve come close to touching on but haven’t quite hit the right tone. I’m going to put into words how good it feels, the doubt, exhilaration and the sense of accomplishment that goes with slogging it out with a group of good friends in the headwind, wanting to quit but taking your lumps at the front anyway, to make it to the tailwind and the homestretch as you struggle to keep your breathing calm… then glance at your computer to see it tick by 34-mph as you’re bridging a gap to get back to the lead group that dropped the tandem as they rocket for the City Limits sign… and make it.

It’s freakin’ awesome. Anyway…

Last night’s edition was a perfect example of exactly how gnarly it can get in the wind – and it’s been a while for us. Basically, we’re windy from March through June, then we get a break from July through much of September… but in October the wind, she blows again. Even the warm-up was a bit of a mess with the days dropping time faster than seems fair. We had a southwest wind – my favorite, if we have to have wind. One road in particular, sucks, but the back 40% of the ride is stellar (we chew up 10% with a crossing tailwind at the beginning of the ride).

We rolled out into the wind with, if the count was correct, eleven riders on ten bikes. I was up front with Dave for the first three-quarters of a mile and that was enough for both of us. We retreated to the back for a break. After the next three-quarters, we turned northward for a little help and the pace picked up in a hurry, from 21-mph to 27. With the Venge in the shop for a major problem that needs fixing (and is entirely above my paygrade), I was on the Trek, which is quite a bit more work at those speeds (though it is a shade better in a crosswind). That was followed by another mile-long slog into the wind, and Dave and I were back up front for that one. One last mile north before the pain started and, as we got to the back of the group Dave said, “Hey, why don’t we ever get one of these?” (referring to a pull with a tailwind). I was too gassed to respond. I just nodded till I caught my breath.

And right on cue, Shipman Road. Dead. Into. The. Wind. Our pace slipped from 26-mph to 20-21. Turns up front were mercifully short, but the rapid turnover meant only a 2-1/2 mile break before we were back up front again. My heart rate would jump from the 140s to the mid-170s in a matter of a minute trying to hammer through the wind. More than once I thought about throwing in the towel and heading back early. I didn’t, though. I put my head down, gritted my teeth, and gripped the drops just a little tighter, and hammered that $#!+ out. And I stayed with the group. A couple of miles south and we were back into a cross-headwind and the beginning of the hills. Those first three hills suck with no wind, but we were close now. I was only a mile from a crossing tailwind.

I was at the front up the last hill, just a molehill of a thing, and down into the final stretch before tailwind… and even downhill into that wind sucked. Knowing another hill was coming as soon as we turned, I flicked off a little early so I could recover my breathing for a minute before we headed up. And it worked.

We crested the first hill with the group intact. The pace, with the crosswind, stayed around 22-mph. In a bit of a dick move, I switched lines in the double pace-line so I could hide a little from the southerly part of the wind. The first half of the ride took a lot out of me and I was struggling hard.

19 miles in, we hit the real tailwind. Most of us went short, four chose the long route, and Chuck had us slow up the main hill till we crested and the pace went from 20-ish to 30.

Rolling into Vernon, we were lined up single-file and I had no intentions of challenging for the sign – besides, we were at almost 30-mph on flat ground… why? And here comes Chuck, right off the front and he says as he goes by, “New bike!” We busted up laughing as he pipped us for the sign by about three meters.

The next few miles heading north were fairly easy, if fast, but the homestretch was where it was at. We made the right turn and the pace stuck from 23 to 28-mph depending on whether or not we had a slight grade up or down. After an intersection we were able to cruise through, we had one last hill and the tandem was up (which was perfect so they could lead the pack at their pace) and I was second with the whole pack behind, single file. The tandem flicked off as they crested the hill and I went by, giving them 20-ish seconds to get on the back… and then I slowly ramped up the speed from 21 to 26, and I flicked off for a rest.

This is the magical part of the ride – everything we’ve worked for through the headwind, our hearts beating against our rib cage… our lungs burning half the time… sweat dripping all over the bike… and it comes down to that last two miles. I was in awesome shape after my turn up front. I flicked off the front with just enough juice left to latch on at the back, behind the tandem. The pace, at this point, was my fault. The group held together and the pace was fantastic. Diane, Mike’s wife on the back of the tandem, is a wonderful, but little woman… they’re a great draft, though, but when the pace picks up, the drops are necessary to stay in the groove. I was in the drops as we hurtled down the road for the finish line, the Lennon City Limits sign. With just under three-quarters of a mile to go, we were at 27-mph, but someone up front put the hammer down. The tandem had made a move to lead out, but Diane smacked Mike square in the ass and he dropped the pace a little bit, creating a gap. Two others behind me recognized the problem and came around me. The lead four were pulling away and I got on Clark and Dale’s wheels to catch them. The pace went from a decent 28 to crazy, and was still climbing when I glanced down and saw 34-mph (55-km/h). Folks, that kind of sustained speed on flat ground is simply awesome… it’s like all of your senses are woken up… we caught the lead group with about 50′ (maybe 15 meters) left, and literally less than a second later, at just shy of 35-mph, we shot across the line.

35-mph is 51 feet per second. It doesn’t seem like much in a car, but on 18 pounds of carbon fiber and aluminum alloy, it’s 50 feet per second of pure awesome.

Ride hard, my friends. If it doesn’t put you in the hospital, it’ll put a massive smile on your face.