Archive for April, 2011
The email I sent out early in the week was short and to the point, “We should plan on a ride this week. It’s supposed to be 73 and sunny on Friday. We’d be stupid not to. I could be there by 1:30.” Weeds and Yoder were in. As Friday drew near, I was increasingly more apprehensive of the weather. It’s been cold, rainy and windy around here and I wasn’t excited about yet another ride like that. On the drive up to Des Moines, I talked to Johnny Rocket who was 76 miles into a century somewhere in Virginia on Day 3 of his Trans American ride. His century was made up of a hilly terrain and a headwind. It was exactly where I wanted to be. Filled with a special feeling, jealousy, I tried to focus on the 30-40 miles I get to ride with some of my favorite people. Yoder, RG, the bass player and New Zealand were waiting for me at the trail head. We rode west to connect to the Raccoon River Valley Trail leading west. It was about 70 degrees…beautiful. Weeds rode to meet us on the trail with a tip. The wind would be challenging on the ride back east. The wind was noticeable and coming from the SE. We continued west to Waukee and onto Adel. Weeds warned me not to blow my wad early. He kindly offered me a wheel to suck. When I refused the generous offer, he promptly dropped me. I pushed hard to Adel wondering if maybe he’s part machine.
While regrouping at Rendezvous, we made unconcerned jokes about the wind we would be facing eastbound. The portion of the trail from Adel to Waukee is a combination of tree-lined stretches and wide open stretches with a low-grade, barely perceivable incline eastbound. I’ve been pushed up this “hill” twice. Ancient history, I reminded myself. I committed myself to finding more strength this year through conditioning and my usual stubborn approach to obstacles. I saddled up without any fear. Once on the trail, I knew I was looking at winds similar to those on the ride I did a couple of weeks ago on the road when Naked tried to poison me with an old, rank smoothie. This would be shorter and not hilly, but that incline would certainly add some challenge to the windy ride.
It was tough in the trees. It was tougher in the open. I fought. My legs were burning and my speeds were between 11 mph and 13 mph before arriving in Waukee. The winds were between 23-26 mph. There were gusts upping the ante. I tried to get as small as I could. I rode in the drops. I fought the urge to get into a low gear. I was at a 45 degree angle leaning into the wind blasting at me from the SE. I focused on my quads. I pushed and pulled. I felt like I was using a huge amount of force to keep my glutes planted firmly on my seat. Why didn’t I use Chamois Cream?? Aaarrrgh. With about 3 miles to Waukee, my angle became even tighter. My mouth felt like it was filled with sand. A drink of water seemed too risky. Both hands on the drops felt necessary to keep the bike on the road. Surely with only one hand on the bars I’d go airborne. I kept pushing, sorry for the smiling leisure riders coming toward me now that I know what they will be facing. I said nothing to them. I saved my energy for myself. I saw Legacy up ahead. There was less than a mile before I could stop to regroup. I gave it all I had in that last couple of minutes.
I fueled up with a chicken breast and spinach on rye. I washed it down with a beer and looked forward to the remaining 6 miles to the trail head. The wind was still bucking, but the rest and food gave me new strength. We were pushing around 16 mph for the stretch before we parted ways. I continued solo on the last few miles, with some tree cover and several trail-goers, slowing my pace. I wasn’t complaining. Despite my complete lack of directional abilities, I managed to get to the trail head without incident.
The hour-ride home gave me time to reflect on my first Friday Ride with the boys of the season. We were a couple of Friday Riders short, but it was a great first Friday. A little sunburned and a little battered from the wind, I am reminded of how much I love to ride and how much fun it is to ride with my friends.
I headed out for a
50 40 mile ride. It was about 70 degrees and sunny. The roads weren’t too busy with cars and I was riding fast toward Newton despite the hills that make up the landscape. Out of habit, I turned toward Sully at mile 15 and was kissed hello by a headwind that almost blew me backward up the hill. I locked into my biggest gear and pedaled down the hill trying to build the momentum to keep me headed east up the hills to Sully. My lungs were screaming for mercy as I crawled up and down the rollers to Sully. I kept going, hopeful the wind would die down a bit. The cafe in Sully was closed until dinner time, so I hit up the Casey’s for some nourishment. I bought a smoothie made by Naked. I sat in the sun outside the store on a curb and guzzled it. It had some whey protein added, giving it that gritty and chalky quality. Before throwing the bottle away, I thought I’d just take a peek at the ingredients I’d just consumed at record speed. My eyes were fixed on the stamp on the neck of the bottle. “Enjoy by Mar 11 11.” Freekin’ fabulous.
20 miles from home, I have only one choice that I can see. I pointed Ira back the way we came and hoped for the best with that expired beverage thing. A couple of miles out of Sully, I stopped in a ditch to enjoy the not-expired, very drinkable beer that I purchased at Casey’s for just such a ditch. The people who lived at the end of the dirt road saw me, my bike laid down and walked up the road to see if I needed air or a patch. I drank my beer and they filled me in on some area roads that make for some good riding. Once again, I was reminded of how thoughtful and friendly my fellow Iowans are.
This good feeling was gone quickly when the 20-23 mph winds were trumped by 27-29 mph gusts that bucked me on the flats and the hills. There was no escape. I dug in. My lungs, earlier screaming for mercy, were in a constant state of duress. I just kept going. I was out of the saddle, in an attack position against this oppressive wind. I hardly even laughed when I saw a car in the driveway of a farmhouse with the words “For Sale $10 OBO” painted in the rear window. Even the half-laugh hurt. I turned my attention back to the task at hand. Ride these hills. Fight this wind. Better, Faster, Stronger. I stopped again after only 10 miles of battling the nefarious gusts.
I managed to pull off the last 10 miles of rollers and wind. Thankful for the 10 mile mistake by going to Sully, I arrived in town out of water and covered in a layer of salt rivaling the finest salt lick. If the expired Smoothie had any ill effects on me, I didn’t notice. My preoccupation was with the other elements contributing to the ride.
A quick nod to spring, these are the things I did notice:
- Fields of frogs croaking loudly
- Soybean seedlings
- The smell of burning leaves
- The smell of charcoal
- Buds on the trees
- Crocus flowers
- Dog walking
- My new sunburn
- Ditch drinking (Point of clarification~ I was the only one doing it)
It’s even windier today. I better get out there and show that wind who’s boss.
70-80 degree weather in Iowa during the first weekend in April sounds like a hallucination. It really happened. Of course, I wouldn’t know that from experience because I put my Viking britches on, strapped Ira to the Honda and headed north for the ArtCrank Minneapolis show and some good riding on the Minneapolis trail system. While extensive and amazing, my first shock was that while the weather was in the 50s and I was wearing riding shorts, there were piles of snow still accessorizing the route. I got over it pretty quickly and settled into my first Minneapolis ride. I grew up going to Minneapolis for this reason or that, yet it was all new from the view from the bike trails.
On Saturday, we did some riding on the trail as well as on the road. The Minneapolis trails were filled with the expected mixture of leisure riders that range from a man who looks like Santa Clause on vacation to weekend road warriors in pace lines and everyone in between. We kept a respectable pace for most of the ride, probably motivated knowing the first stop would bring all kinds of brunchy happiness. Our first destination on Saturday was Triple Rock Social Club. This is a punk bar with a stellar weekend breakfast menu. Upon arrival, I was shaking and a little faint from hunger. By this point, of course, it was dangerously close to early-bird dinner time. I ordered the Mother Trucker and possibly the hottest Bloody Mary I have ever had. I am the girl who eats raw jalepenos. I found this Bloody Mary marginally tolerable in terms of heat. I continue to feel weepy with respect. It took me well over an hour to drink the pint-sized Bloody Mary.
We rode on toward the ArtCrank show on Broadway. I understand this is in the Noreast part of the city. Directionally challenged and without points of reference, I happily went into follow mode. As was true on the trails, the streets of Minneapolis were full of people out enjoying the sunny 55 degree day, most notable to me, on bikes. It was getting darker, and consistent with past sins, I was sure that I wouldn’t need my lights Saturday night and left them behind. Right when we thought we needed to check our directions, we ran into a hipster on a fixie wearing rolled up jeans (I now see this as the standard protocol for city riding) who led us straight to Chris Sheehan’s Shelter Studios for the opening night party. The level of support for the show and the work was inspiring. The turnout would be difficult for me to estimate accurately. At the risk of losing credibility, I would say there were a few hundred people milling about in shifts. I like seeing this many people focused on bikes and art. It was a very cool scene. Although it was an unnecessary convenience, we utilized the bike racking provided in a quasi-valet fashion. I’ve included some of my favorite posters from the show taken from my phone, but you can see them all here.
We took in the experience and spent some time hanging around outside. Giving freely our contribution, raising the bar on the cool/badass contingency at the scene. We also took this opportunity to consider the severity of the decision to leave the lights behind on the day’s ride. We came to the conclusion that the bikes could overnight nearby at Booda’s place while we could catch a ride back to Eden Prairie with Joe, a Connecticut transplant to Minneapolis.
Morning brought with it a gut-twisting hunger. My last meal was the Mother Trucker and I was so weak I questioned my ability to stand upright in the shower without toppling over. I took a chance. I was successful. Disaster averted. We came up with a plan to eat, retrieve the bikes and get a ride in, all before the drive back to Iowa. We headed to Mother Earth in Edina for brunch. There was a 20-30 minute wait, so we wandered over to the bookstore to drool on pictures of fancy bikes in the bike magazines. After one of the best brunch experiences I’ve ever had, I thought I’d be smart and stop into the restroom before the ride. I find my way to the back and followed a woman through the door. I stood there, slow to pick up on the situation. Finally, the woman asked me if I wanted to go first. I had followed her, awkwardly close on her heels, into a one-person bathroom. “I’ll just wait outside,” was the best I could come up with. Yeah, my dignity was non-existent at this point.
Despite the fact that I was consumed with shame because of the bathroom incident, we were able to name Jon’s Surly Long Haul Trucker. Xerxes. Two xes in one name. It sounds like a Norse warrior’s name and is befitting the Surly now merely days from the Trans American trip from Virginia to Oregon.
The Sunday ride was a treat because we rode through some interesting parts of the city before picking up the trail. I saw the statue of Mary Tyler Moore tossing her hat up in the air. I see now that on my next visit, photographic documentation including me will be in order. I think Jon suggested I toss my bike helmet in the air next to the statue. Assuming I can manage the toss and catch, this sounds like an excellent way to pay tribute to Minneapolis for hosting me. We went by the sculpture park and I saw the branding icon for Minneapolis, a giant cherry in a giant spoon. The paths by the lakes were packed with people and we pressed on, heading south to Eden Prairie.
A few miles before the end of the ride, we stepped it up for the final stretch and dropped a dude swanked out in a race kit. It’s funny because Jon got to see the look on his face when he realized he was being dropped by a girl with braids and a guy on a racked and fendered touring bike. I felt great when we reached the car. Per usual, I was immediately ready to go again.