Friday, April 27, 2007

is THIS an epic tale?

dusting off the cyber in-box,
i selected this letter from the many who ask for my blessings
and for permission to refer to their little ride as epic.
i think this one qualifies.
read it, and see if you can see the three reasons why . . .

"Dear the mostly reverend,
"After long searching, I found an epic ride. I think I've only had maybe 2 lifetime. I didn't exactly find this one as much as it found me.
"As a sometimes-subscriber to the go-fast mentality on a bicycle I haven't checked out the 'other' side very much. The go long/slow side. After a small check on April 14th, I'm not convinced the grass is greener over there. It takes a special type of person to sit in one place for a very long time whilst replenishing dwindling energy sources and packing an extra 20 pounds of gear and lights up and down hills in northwestern MO. Possibly very special.
"Forrest Ridgway and crew over at Bike World are set to do Paris-Brest-Paris this fall. This quadrennial event is one of a kind: 1200k with an outside time limit of 90 hours. Qualifying for it involves a 200k, 300k, 400k and 600k in the calendar year. I opted to join them down in K.C. for a 300k. We started on the north side of K.C. at the Perkins in Liberty at 6am. The weather was bad enough Bob, the organizer, had decided to do it Sat and Sun (weather supposed to be in the 60s on Sun). The 10 of us from DSM were set to go on Saturday and did. Forrest/Laura Ridgeway, Lee Wilcox, Ben Gonnerman, Ted Peelen, Justin Rumbly (sp?), Steve Givens, Bill McGee, Brian Duffy and I set off in 33 degree weather in a bit of snow and reduced visibility. (4 locals joined us. The other 14 waited for Sunday.)
"After a bit the snow changed to rain. Comforting. Around 8:30 the rain stopped. Getting better. (We actually hit 47 for the high in the afternoon.) 9:05 the first of the flats. Many to follow. Getting away from town we found the wind. Out of the north at 15mph or so. Into a headwind whilst wet and cold. Joy.
"Our route had us northbound and down to Albany (up by the Iowa border), then returning on the same roads to Perkins. There were 5 towns on the 186-mile route. The biggest was about 2,300. And nothing in between. Except hills. Did I mention them? A week of Ragbrai will give you 10-12,000 feet of climbing. This year's ride only offers 9,000. That little 300k down in MO? 14,162 feet according to the gps. In one day. Aaarrrgghh, matey. Looking at downloaded data later shows a lot of little hills, rollers if you will. About 344 of them. The first 250 were loads of fun. Then they weren't. Especially the ones into the wind with an extra 18 pounds of stuff looking down at speedomoters that said 4.6 mph. (The wind? Yeah, it quit before we got back to K.C.) It was common to crest one hill and see 3 or 4 more ahead like some kind of Loch Ness Monster. The roads weren't too whippy. They were better than gravel, I guess. Low traffic counts, lack of population, lack of money to fix the potholes all helped. Did I mention the lack of cars? We rode 3 abreast for up to an hour without seeing a car. It was beautiful. Kind of a Roubaix bike trail.
"High points? Oh, about halfway out we're exiting town when a dually-diesel pickum-up truck came around us and laid out this very chubby poodle-mix thing. A yelp and he lay there by the side of the road, nearly on his back, all 4 5-inch legs sticking straight out. His girth kind of turned him over and he resembled a bloated piece of roadkill. Didn't move at all. Proving the spirit of Dr. Bob lives on, 5 DSM cyclists dismount and stand helplessly around the dog. No brevet was more important than this dog. They stood there waiting for each other to administer mouth-to-mouth. (Kind of like the triple I saw on Ragbrai on the gravel by Marshalltown a few years back. It had a rear flat and all three riders were standing there solemnly, trying to out-patient the other. "You go, no you...".) Finally Justin went to the double-wide to alert the owner, he stumbled out sans shirt and most of his teeth. About this time the shock wore off and the dog got up and ran around in about 34 very speedy circles. And so we rode on.
"Coming back, we had stopped for a natural break when a 3-tone pickup stopped and asked us how we were doing. Appears he lived about 5 miles away. Seeing no cars he turns off the truck and sits there on the road. Forrest offers to swap, a bike for a car. This rural type just grins and says, "Naw, I've already done that. Did P-B-P back in '03." Say what? Yeah, I guess some of the locals do this too.
Did we reach our limits? Obviously not, but I'm quite sure I could see the other side from where I ended up. With 7 miles to go, I'd have sold my bike for about $25. Ok, maybe $20.
"After about 15 hours of fun we all ended back up at Perkins gathered around very large glasses of chocolate milk. Wondering how so many rational adults can go so wrong. Except for the tandem. It got lost in the dark and ended up with a bit over 200 miles. They were westbound on highway 92 to Kansas around 10:30 that night when the Highway Patrol pulled them over to ask what was going on. Lee turned on his usual charm and somehow ended up back at Perkins uncuffed. At least that was his story. Rumor has it the second tasar turned him around.
"There are some people I'm still trying to figure out. One of them was a local that did the ride on a fixie. No single with coaster, a fixie. He's done Boston-Montreal-Boston on the fixed. I guess ordinarily he rides home 60 miles to St. Joseph after this 300k. They also speak in awed tones of a Dr. Bob. Seems as though he showed up awhile back and did the 400k in springtime daylight hours, no lights. And he didn't draft on Ryan. "Amazing, all of them.
"By the way, the 400k and 600k lie ahead. Feel free to join up. Your LBS [local bike shop?--the rev asks] will be glad to outfit you."
well, there you have it.
i have considered and pondered, and HAVE determined that this ride qualifies, that it shall be granted "epic" status, and the riders listed herein may refer to their participation in it as "epic." [this is why i have not changed names, in case you were curious.]
this grant, rare as it is, does not mean that these folks aren't nuts, too.
so as i said, there are three factors which tipped this tale into the epic column.
do you see them?
post in the comments section; you might win!!

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