Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Hotter'n Hell 100 Road Trip -- Day 2 Sat (The Ride!)

I woke at 4:40 a.m. not really knowing what time it was. You know those hotels always have lights shining at the windows. The inside of the Remington Hotel is like an indoor courtyard. It's really nice but it's also lit 24-7. I laid there before I looked at the clock on my cell phone wondering if it really "time". I felt like an expectant mother... "Harold, It's time!!" As I started t get up I noticed that I could see a shadow going by the window then others. There already people in the courtyard? Yep, in fact there were lots of folks eating already. We still had plenty of time. I have coffee and Diane's awesome oatmeal cookies and we talk while scurrying around.
I pushed the start button for the coffee since John had set it up the night before and began to check things yet again. Everything was fine. We all got kitted out in our Arkansas Bike Club finery and started for the door. John turned and said, "Geo, you might want to take your bike." No man, I ain't nervous! HA!

We head across the indoor court yard past the masses of final stage carbo loading cyclist. We looked really good too! Serious! We all had on our matching duds and they thought we were a pro racing team. You know they did! We proceeded to the backdoor and out into the hot morning air. It's pitch black out here but it's also like a colony of fire ants. People everywhere! Cars coming and going. We met over by Yale's car and wait a few more moments for those guys like Keith Hill and Christopher Irons that had to "do hair". Everyone smile for the group photo. Flashes of light then you hear the "Oh, hang on! One more!" Jenn wouldn't let anyone lve until she has your number and makes sure you have the sheet with everyone elses. I didn't get one yesterday when she gave them out because I thought she was just giving them to the drivers. No biggie, I've got several folks numbers in my phone. If I crash in the west Texas desert, the buzzards don't care about the phone anyway.

So we all head down the street a couple of blocks to the starting area. We look about 75-100 yards from the start but then I'm bad with guessing lengths. I can tell you this. When you turn around there are already blocks of others behind you now. Man, this is a crowd! We all prop up on our bikes and talk. Some just stare wondering what their life will be like 4 hours from now. Some are an A.M. life of the party. Christopher and Rebecca Irons were next to me and the boy is usually a quite person whenever we start rides early but he was a grabbering manaic this morning. Laughing and carrying on. He told Rebecca he had to go to the rest room and asked if she would hold his bike? She was laughing and said she got to touch his Madone (the model of his bike). I just this is something she isn't allowed to do much or purhaps a form of foreplay between them. Who knows? They just got married remember?! HA!

You could see flashes of light going off everywhere as everyone was really begining to pack it in. There was a large bank building a few blocks away and it gave the time and the temp. It was like a hot version of Times Square at New Years Eve. Closer and closer to 7 a.m. we got. Exciting. Nerve wrecking. Gotta go whiz sort of scary. You name it and all the emotions are on fire! It's getting a to be a little lighter now and the giant inflatable guard of the hell is visible. It's evil looking hulk thing. Everyone has been talking about the start.

It's 7 a.m. and time for the gate to open... tick tick tick... The national anthem is played and everyone turns around as two fighter jets fly over. I got chills. Not from nerves but from knowign the we have freedom to ride. We can ride without road side bombs. That so many people have given up so much for this country.

B-O-O-M-!!!!!!!!!! The famous cannon fired and the ride is on! Lots of hoots and yells. Then we wait. It takes several minutes before we even start to move. Do I clip one foot and push along with the other? Do I just walk my bike? Yes, I'll just straddle my bike and walk it. The pace picks up a notch then faster as we get to the starting point then stop. Everyone is trying to move and clip in. I didn't see anyone fall but there were some wobbles going on. We get to the gate and off we go. Yesss! We are riding slow and there are hundreds of folks in front of us. Over the bridge and I see a couple folks from Bike Journal go by. I see various Texas club jerseys coming by. Oh and yes, I actually do pass some folks. As we make it over the bridge the pace picks up and riders are working to get their clubs together and paceline it. Chris Irons had told me the secrect which was to get in a paceline and then as a faster one comes by get it in and keep doing that until you're comfortable. So I work on that. Man, some of the pace lines that came by were blistering fast. As they passed I wondered to myself if they kept that pace throughout the day.
I hook up with Tim V for a little while and he was keeping a great 20mph pace. He pulled and I pulled. We talked a little bit and I told him I felt bad about all the crap that had happened with bike boards and emails this week. We both agreed to let it be over with and have a great time riding and that's exactly what we did. We turned and train tracks?! No not train tracks! I slowed down but the tracks were much less threatening than our local tracks. Yale and Becca and Wayne come by and I began to speed up and ride with them. Folks were doing the speed up and slow down gig and it was making several nervous. I have a new hearing aid remember? I can hear folks dissing each other now. HA!

After going through the neighborhood we head to the open road. I'm riding with Will now. Man, lots of flats already! There's been a crash up ahead and they are off to the left. Looks like several bikes. We all slow and someone is blowing a whistle. Just as we pass I feel the dreaded movement of my back end. No!!! I'm flat. I work it over to the side and lucky that I have a driveway to change it in. Several of my guys ask if I need help and I wave them on. Diane rides by and she stops until I get moving again which was fairly quick. Thanks Diane! It stills feels off but I'm riding and I know there is RS #2 just ahead. While I'm riding along David Kincannon, Talima (sp?) Tammy and HiGuy from Canada ride by. They are folks. David is swinging hes camera bag around like a rock star with his guitar. I start speeding up because I wanted to say howdy but man my bike is sluggish. Just about that time a paceline begins to pass me and then another on the outside begins to pass them. It was pretty cool to watch then suddenly the outside paceline starts moving in to the right. The other paceline is trying to hold their line but it's getting tight. There are slower riders on the right and two pacelines coming through. This is insane. Even more insane when one of the guys in the middle paceline gets a backwheel shrew caught in the slow riders wheel then bang the middle pace line guys bike bounces on the back and the rider is unclipped and catches the bike and was able to remain upright. The slower rider looks stunned but he did nothing wrong. The outside line was riding too agressive in my book. How one one went down is amazing to me. The all stopped except for the fast paceline and they barreled on through.

I finally get to the rest stop but no longer see the anyone I know.

I spot a bike mechanic tent (Plano Texas cycles) and roll over and get in line. 3 folks ahead. One was the guy that just caught the shrew. Maybe this won't take too long. The Asian guy who just got nabbed was not looking too happy at all. He had a nice Colonago (sp?) bike with a special paint job that included sponsors. He really looked like a racer that was just out for a ride today. The mechanic looked at the busted spoke and told him they didn't have any like that?! Man, what kind of gear was he riding because the mechanics had a truck loaded with stuff. The rider then told the mechanic about what had happened and showed the mechanic the crack. Oh man, this guys frame was cracked from the accident. Not a cheap frame at all. Asian dude is P.O.'d big time There is nothing that can be done and it's not ridable. It is but it will soon break. He has to leave the bike there and tols to go over to the radio tent and call in so they can take him back to the start.

The two mechanics are working hard and moving the crowd. It's my turn and I tell him whats wrong as he puts it on the stand. The over to the side comes one of their regualr store customers. They stand and talk about the ride and I smile and be nice. Then the guy works on the line cutters bike. Hell-o! He finishes quickly and back to my bike. He made and adjustment then another regular customer comes through the side and cuts the line. They talk and then make adjusts on his bike. I would like to be at Hell's Gate by the noon cut off and time is slipping fast! He starts to put real air on my tire and another guy comes up but this time I tell him that I'd really like to get riding again. I think he catch the tone of my voice. At least I hope so. I got the bike and knew I would have to hump it now. I quickly spotted the restrooms and walked over and the line was all women?! The I spot the guys section and laugh out loud! The guys section is between two 4x4 pickup trcks that has a blue plastic tarp half way half way up for privacy. There was a line of guys all the way down the fence line just a whizzing away and I joined the whizzers. As you walked past the truck the was a handmade sign that said "Guys only! No Women! Please don't pee on my wheels!!!" I love the hmor these folks have. As I was walking my bike back to the course a guy at a water table said "let me fill your bottles right quick before you go." Gee thanks minister! You made my day!

I'm getting back on the road and it has been a flipping h-o-u-r!!! I see all these people star and then stop and get off their bikes and stomp. It was funny. As I clipped in I then knew what they were doing. I couldn't clip in either. Red clay mud caked the bottom of my shoes. I stopped and got off joined my follow riders in the ancient Texas Cowboy Red Clay dance. You stomp 2 times then stomp the other foot 2 times then you look and the bottoms of your shoes then repeat. This is also the cow pile dance step as well.

So off we go pedaling like there is no tomorrow. There is no one I know but hundreds of riders. The pace is quick and everyone had just taken a break so good to go. I jumped in and rode with several guys from Tusla. They were taking about the pace and we needed to pick up more but the gate should still be open. Suddenly it was like some of our Fast Girl sprints. They were moving! I hung on for a bit then thought best not to blow it all because stil a long day ahead. I drop back to a comfort 20 and the wind was nice and pushing us along. I got in a group that was moving the same as me and we were enjoying the ride and everyone seemed comfortable and took turns pulling. This was great! We came to an intersection and blasted right through. A few moments later I began to really began to have a feeling that I missed something along the way. All the signs only said 100K. Where are the 100m signs??? I realized at that moment that I was now on the 100K route. I missed the turn at the insection. No one turned there. I sort of felt bummed and then told myself, you know it doesn't matter what distance you ride, you are here to have fun and enjoy the day so enjoy! I stayed with my group which is getting smaller and down to about 6 of us. Everyone seemed to be away from their groups but we all seemed to comfortable riding together. No one was running with scissors or eating playdoh.

As we rode along there were more and more folks on the side of the rode fixing flats or having mechanicals. Almost all had another person near or stopping and we continued on. A few moments later I pulled off to the left as I took a break from the pull zone and as I dropped back there was another guy that had joined our group. I small gray headed guy. Gray headed as in old. He told me I pulled great and that alot of the lines in he been in were doing the speed up /down down. I have always liked it with someone more senior than me tells me I did something good.

We get to the next rest stop which is blasting out becah boy tunes and giving everyone lays (however you spell that). I'm doing good and had just sucked down a gel and wtaer was in good shape and I can hear ice still inside. I continue on my way. I'm alone and see no pcelines to jump in. I look around and enjoy the scenery. It's really pretty country. Different but pretty to visit. I see a couple of riders that look like they are coming well but watching them much longer and I can tell one was struggling. We do have a little wind but feels more crosswind. I ride by and notice the front guy speeds up and gets behind me. No problem. I'll pull since I was ridng this pace anyway. A few minutes later I look back and they are nowhere to be found.

I'm solo again until I ride up on a big guy in a yellow jersey with one of those hook up bikes that allows a kid to ride along and pedal as well. Yale and Braxton ride those sometimes. I wished we would have had those when Ty was little. I did ride him in a bike bucket seat when he was little. Anyway, I said to the kid, "Tell you daddy to pedal faster." Wrong thing to say because big daddy did exactly that. The next thing I knew we are riding a pacleine with daddy pulling. 20mph. This little group came up to 2 more dads with sons riding the same type set up. Now how cool is that? We all ride for a long time.

I see the next rest stop and pull in for a piece of pickle, chunk of banana and some ice. The stop my have been 10 minutes. I'm back on the road. Ridng, just riding. No one is pacelining much and the party feeling seems to be wearing off.

About that time the road curves and we hit the service road. Folks were driving down the interestate honking. I was a nice boost. The wind. Oh man, the wind was getting tough and the heat seemed to go up several degrees in minutes. Everyone break apart and it becomes everyone for themselves. No shade, no shield from the wind, no rest stop. Onward we go. I see folks on the side of the road and notice that we are going up. It's mentally messing with my head so I stop looking ahead and look only in front of me. When I do finally look up I see what appears to be a rest area but it 's only a highway rest area with a coule of trees and picnic tables but there are tons of people there. As I ride by I notice a lady and sone that was maybe 13-14 sitting on the curb. The kid was bright red and you could tell she wa trying to give him a break but also knew they needed to move on to the real rest area. I'm drinking when I notice I've gotten very low now. Please be a rest stop ahead or this is going to get ugly.

Like an oasis in the I see these 3 tents appear on the horizon. Oh thank you Lord! I ride up and really am starting to feel bad. I see the toilets and walk right up. No one is whizzing anymore. If it wouldn't have been so hot I would have just stood ther all day. Just the stop suddenly brought the real feelings out. I walk over to the tent and get in line with the rest of the zombies. What am I in line for? Who knows. I'm just doing what looks like I'm supposed to do. I see small cups on the table and wonder if they are checking for doping. Oh no, those are little cups of pickle juice for cramping. A lady comes up behind me and puts a ice cold wet towel on the back of my neck. It felt so good. I walked over to the rest area and sat on the end of one of the Mash like cots. They were working on an older guy and wouldn't let him go back to ride. He gave in to their suggest really fast. I sat there talking to a couple really nice guys from Dallas. They told me the words I wanted to hear. "You've done the hardest part." I got up and walked toward my bike and a guy gave me and orange slice which was cold and juicey. It was good! I finally pulled out my MP3 player and plugged it into my hearing aid and clicked it on. Screaming heavy mental... no!! I kept changing songs until i hit Rascal Flatts. I settled in and hummed along to Melt. I was in the slow lane and wasn't passing anyone so it was safe to listen to the tunes. Then a funny thing happened. The song Fast cars and Freedom came on and I was singing along, just making it through the ride when a group rode by. I guess I was singing loud enough because one of the girls slowed down beside me and was singing what Rascal Flatts was singing. It was funny and hen I made sure I was singing very quite from then on.

We got up by the bridge to turn and go ver the interstate and noticed more and more people on the side of the road. It was really looking bleak. I got in with the Bike City club and rode a little bit untl I dropped. Where are these folks getting this energy at? I'm riding along at 14mph now. I look up and realize we are going through the air force base. I say "Thank you sir" to each soldier that is holding cars for us to pass through. We get to ride down between several aircraft and these is really awesome but I feel really crappy. We ride a little further and I see another rest stop. I ride almost passes then stop and a girl gives me a cold towel. Those things are heaven! She also gives me a Sonic cup with cold water. I pour half on my head and try to drink half but pour the remaining on my back. Back on the road I just ride. There are more riders off to the sides. Under trees. One guys is barfing. We are now leaving the air force base. Man, please tell me this thing is about over. It's not fun anymore.

I'm riding along and I look down to see myself going 10mph. I don't care that others are passing. Go on, beat me you young 20 something snot ball. I just don't care! Then a magical thing happens. I see the skyline of Wichita Falls. I want to laugh. I want to cry. I want to dance on the pedals. I want to do anything but I've only got it in me to just keep pedaling. Not faster, not slower, just pedal.

I finally round the corner and head for the finish. Ahh sweet finish! I roll through and hear jenn scream, "GEO!!! Go Fast Girls!" I hope I smiled. Then I spot Diane and Wayne 's wife waving. I slow down and someone gives me something small and I tuck it in my jersey. Later I find out it's a finishers pen. I roll over to get some water and see a tent with bales of hay. My shoulders were killing me and I thought it was a massage tent and I needed it bad! It was just a resting place.
I saw my friend Vince Cucco, yep, the Joe Martin Stage race guy, and spoke with him a little bit. He said that he had gotten here about 30 minutes ago. I finally got up and rolled over to an opening and slowly rode the block to the hotel.

I stood in the cold shower for about 3 hours or at least it felt like it then crashed on the sofa.

Back later for the conclusion of ride day.... Keith's big adventure coming up so stay tuned!!!

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