With thunderstorms and lighting filling the night sky, I was a little trepidatious about riding at all, but I knew I was well equipped. After the mental and physical failures of late spring’s 400K attempt I had a few demons to put to sleep, and today was an opportunity to ENJOY a rainy ride. I hitched up the saddlebag, attached the long mud-flap to the rear fender to make it more enjoyable for my riding partners, and headed out into a rain-less morning of fog and cool temps.
Yes, the rain indeed was lulled a bit, and it was nice to start out a little dry, knowing what lay in store. I made my way to Oregon Trail Park to the west, getting lucky with my timing as a few trains passed behind me only a few minutes after I’d crossed the tracks. I arrived at the park to cloudy skies and the smell of rain still in the air from the previous night. It was a nice morning, as I sat down on the curb and waited for other riders to show up.
First to arrive on the scene was Victor, and almost immediately after were John and Rosemary. A little while later D3 showed, followed by Martha. At this point, the rain began – but it was simply sprinkles, nothing more. Discussions about who saw what on which forecast began, as is typical in Kansas on any late summer, or early spring morning. The weather here is hard to pin down, and even I whipped out the PCS phone and dialed up the Weather Channel’s radar for a quick peek at what was in store. It didn’t look good, but I wasn’t really able to tell. All I knew was I was going to ride, no matter what the group consensus was.
The votes were cast, and the “official” ride was cancelled – some others – Bill and CCRider – hadn’t even shown up, anticipating the conditions wouldn’t be favorable. It wasn’t the rain, it was the threat of lightning that was the real risk, so it was probably a smart thing to do. But I was going to have none of this “smart” talk. No sir. I’m an idiot, and I announced my intentions.
Partly banking on the fact that I needed to get SOME sort of workout in this weekend, and Sunday’s Tour De Shawnee being a ride I’d decided to pass on for the first time in three years, I was GOING to ride somewhere, solo or otherwise. The big goal was to be Lawrence, for breakfast. We’ll see… the weather might have other plans!
Sadly, D3 elected to depart (at least I got to see his gorgeous old Fuji touring bike!), but one-by-one the other riders decided to “give it a go”. The sprinkles began to slow, and there was even a hint of blue in the distant horizon as we rolled out of the parking lot towards the west on the familiar Lone Star Century route. I love this route! We flew down the many hills towards Lake Olathe and the morning weekend fishermen trying their luck.
Looking around, this was an excellent bunch, and the 2nd time in a month I’ve had the opportunity to ride with some really nice people on some really nice and interesting bicycles. Martha was looking comfortable and perfectly at home on her Acme Bicycle Company sport tourer, with S&S couplers, custom Acme racks front and rear – COLOR MATCHED! – and Nigel Smythe handlebar bag laced up to wide moustache bars. John and Rosemary had magnificent matching Fuji touring bikes, only a year or so old, it seemed, but very smartly built. Racks and full fenders, they were purposeful, and attractive with their light brown color with beige panels. Very good looking bikes! Victor seemed to be the only one that wasn’t completely “rivved-out” today, on his handsome Giant TCR-2 road bike. Still, it didn’t matter – it was turning out to be a great day to ride ANY bicycle, as we chatted it up and exchanged places in the pack.
It’s strange how forecasts work out – numbers like 100% chance of rain were tossed about only hours before, yet the roads were only wet, and the skies were looking increasingly inviting as we grouped up and rode together along 151st Street, past the New Century Air Center and points west. We passed the Sunflower Army Ammunition plants’ fence-line, and continually contemplated what the morning would bring. There was little to no wind, and the day was simply calm and inviting with a decidedly spring smell about it.
We turned north towards Eudora, and I enjoyed a chance to stretch the legs a little bit as our next stop was set at the convenience store on the north side of K-10. Victor and I paired up, him in the draft, and we spun out the long uphill taking us over the highway, enjoying a little aerobic recharge. It was just HUMID now, and as the skies continued to look more inviting the sun was making it downright steamy, even though the temps were only in the middle 70’s.
I gulped down a chocolate milk and snarfed a banana, plus got a quick water refill and I was then ready to take on the rest of the journey to Lawrence. Eudora was to be the middle-ground, the decision point for my day based on the weather – and at that point there was no reason to question the weather’s intentions. We mounted up again for the final leg into Larrytown. Unfortunately, I was turning into a clock-watcher, as the noon-deadline was beginning to loom.
“Naw.. I’ll be fine…” I thought.
After a little canine adventure and a few railroad crossings and hills, we were closer to our goal as we followed old K-10 into the eastern portions of Lawrence. I remembered a drive I took with Shorty a few years back, and how much fun of a ride this road would make, and I was right – as I crossed the final set of tracks on the outskirts of town and climbed a nasty little pair of hills, I was in Lawrence by bicycle!
Unfortunately, the clock was not going to allow me much in the way of respite, so I stopped at the first “state street”, which was Maryland, and waited for the rest of the group to catch up so I could bid them farewell. I was going to have to time-trial my way back if I was going to make it. It was ten-fifteen. Lawrence to Olathe in under two-hours?? Uh-oh.
Thankfully, the two dogs that slowed our progress on the way out were somewhere else, so I didn’t have to deal with that activity. I rode in a reasonable gear, and started feeling my way along the edge of aerobic capacity, taking in a little hammer gel and water here and there. Before long, I was back on old K-10 headed straight towards the Wakarusa River and the edge of Eudora once more. Up the big climb, I was feeling pretty good, and the road was sliding by fairly quickly. Unfortunately, the only training tool I had at my disposal was a wrist-watch, so things like speed and distance remaining were only guesses. I flew thru Eudora southbound, back to DG-458 and the leg eastbound towards Edgerton Road on the way to Gardner. At this point, I was enjoying a fantastic rhythm, and despite the slight headwind that was developing, I was maintaining pace quite well. I was especially pleased, considering this was on the “big bike”. I had the big saddlebag and the large mud-flaps slowing me down, not to mention the additional weight. It wasn’t making any difference, however. I was all smiles… this kind of versatility AND speed?
I checked off the streets as I passed them – Evening Star Road, Edgerton Road, Dillie Road – I don’t remember THIS climb! – and finally back to 151st St. Still a ways to go… and it was approaching 11:15 – I’d been riding solid for over an hour now, and the hammer gel and water input was keeping things on the level. I was feeling great… and things started flowing through my head: the upcoming MS-150 personal-record attempt for day-one… Tejas… I was beaming confidence into my own psyche… if I was able to turn out this performance today on THIS bike, there was no reason not to feel prepared for my next two goals. The whole “less-is-more” training philosophy was beginning to show it’s fruit. With some rest and careful planning, I was no longer nervous about the big rides ahead, or my ability to complete them.
Finally clear of Gardner near the northern horn of the lake, I proceeded to take on the last portion of 151st Street, and the final run back to New Century. No sense trying to get back to the parking lot, only to have to pass it and head home from there… again it was time to use the shortcut to home that I’d used for the Lone Star Century, via 159th Street. Of course, this is one of those moments where I was glad I hadn’t brought the lighter, skinnier-tires of the race bike… 159th between Lone Elm and US-56 is not exactly in prime shape, but it takes less time to ride it than it would take for a two-mile detour around it.
I pointed the bike east and hammered down the choppy pavement, dove over the railroad tracks and onto the nasty, rutted excuse for pavement on the other side. Yikes… especially when trying to keep the speed up, and with already rubbery legs, this road was a nightmare! Not even realizing it, one of my waterbottles was ejected into the ditch during an especially herky section of chuck-holes and ridges, but I wouldn’t even notice it until I reached for it later on!
It was 11:45! ACK! Still five miles or so to go, and a typically long traffic light at 169 highway yet to cross through! I pushed the tempo up another notch, past the hurt, and got to the light – thankfully there was a multitude of cars already there to trip the sensors, and after a couple minutes we were through. Just one more big obstacle that might have stood in my way was then checked off, as I crossed over the RR tracks near where Woodland Road would be, if it came this far north or south.
Enjoying what seemed like a slight tailwind, I hammer the big ring all the way back east to Murlen, smiled as the light turned green just in time for me to not even have to lift pace, and I turned fast north onto Locust. 11:55pm! PUSH IT!!!
Tossing another log on the fire, I ignored the fact that I was already feeling whipped and stood on the pedals on the last couple streets leading home, and pulled off some wicked criterium-quality turns as I huffed and puffed my way finally into my driveway… 12:01pm! I’ll take it!!! Yeesh!
And all the while, under varying skies, not a drop of rain.
Whew…an excellent two-part ride… one part gentle cruise with good riding partners and new friends, and one part 32-mile time trial. I’m all smiles, and ready to tackle my 2nd-to-last goal in two weeks time!
MS-150 number seven, here I come!