Ah... the Dark Side Ride... Words don't do it... you HAVE to come out with us sometime.
First off, BIG thanks to Noah for starting the ball rolling on this one and throwing together a GREAT route. Thank the Maker for flippin' PER-fect weather conditions. Thanks to Our Lady of the Devine Mechanical for shielding us from any roadside dilemmas. A great turnout for what was only the 2nd DSR of the year.... maybe the ONLY? Ugh... working on that. Life has been interesting, and even scheduling the longer daytime rides has been tough --- we'll do better. As they say, with absence.... so was the case. I don't think I stopped smiling the entire ride.
Thanks to all that came out -- a great crowd: "Crowbar", Noah Hack-Master D, "Double-R", new-rider Steve, "Wildcat-Al", "Raleigh-Richard", and yours truly.
Did I say the weather was perfect? :)
We meandered around Lake Lenexa, which caught me off-guard in the dark... it was one of those moments where I knew the route, roughly, but wasn't really paying attention. That's a good way to get lost, I suppose... but it also makes for little surprises here and there. The stunning visual of clear, still water extending to eerie lights on the dam in the distance, the bright dot of Jupiter and the nearly-full moon in the sky above... sporadic clouds... and some late-night partiers down inside the park hootin' at us as we passed. I called back with enthusiasm...
Roundabouts and hills came next ... good conversation... and then came 83rd Street.
The theme this time out was punching through the old "barrier" on 83rd Street, a section of road that I (and may of us) had never ridden before because of a non-motorized vehicle ban that had been put in place back in 1999. I remember when the ban was posted - I'd only had a road bike for a couple months, so I'd never ridden on 83rd street. Back in "they day" it was THE way to get to Lawrence on the usual weekend club rides. I even have a book called "Cycling in Kansas City", a joint publication by leaders of the KCBC and JCBC, that heralded that route as one of the best rides in the area. It's always interesting looking up once-popular routes in that book and realizing that a few of them were (until recently) actually illegal ... of course, that wasn't the case when it was published (1996?). I actually had the old Lawrence route bookmarked with a post-it note that read, in black ink, "banned".
I won't get into the details of the ban here, but it was curious, finally riding on 83rd. I'm not sure what I expected - I had initial reactions about it, perhaps a little mental pretension that I'd built up about it... but afterwards, talking about it miles later at the scheduled rest-stop on the western edge of De Soto with Randy, he was right: there's nothing unusual about that road. I could see how a lot of poorly timed traffic and inattentive drivers could cause a problem, but then I did a quick mental inventory: There's nothing that makes 83rd any different than any of the myriad Missouri or Kansas rural highways I've ridden over the past decade. I'm happy the ban was lifted - make no mistake - and again, I won't labor over why it shouldn't have been banned, or what really caused it in the first place. It's history now. But there was this distinct feeling of "uh....okay....?" I will say this: even with the moon barely lighting the scene I was amazed how pretty the outlay is... descending off of a ridge into a wide valley with farm fields on either side, the road gently curving a bit and then straightening out to a nice climb. Not bad. Now that I know I have a choice, I will probably opt for the same old lower-traffic routes I've taken all along, a bit farther south... but, it IS nice to have the choice now, instead of wondering why we "can't".
I'd never ridden on "old" 83rd street through downtown De Soto, either... nice Main street... vintage Ford service garage, a barber shop, firehouse... not bad at all...
Wildcat-Al and I took turns shaking things up on the many climbs here and there, with Steve and Richard joining in the mix as well. I forgot on more than one occasion about the "social" aspect of the ride, guilty of running up the pace on the slightest incline when I'd catch Al or Steve in my peripheral vision. I suppose that competitive fire is still lit, somewhere down in my gut. Not all bad... but, I tell ya: if nothing else, even though I was experiencing some calf tightness that had come on recently, it felt really good to stretch the legs a bit and spike the heart-rate. I'd forgotten how much of a goat Wildcat is! Makin' me work and stuff... whew!
On that note, in previous, recent posts I have made excuses/complained that there aren't any hills in southern Johnson County... and that may be true, save for one or two, when compared to the continuous rollers of the northland - but, WESTERN Johnson County has some hills. I think from a "training" perspective, I've simply been pointing my bicycle the wrong direction. 95th Street, 127th Street... I'll be visiting you again, soon.
Chatted up randonneuring with Steve on Kill Creek Road, heading south -- he's a slender, bearded gent riding a stately black machine, a daily commuter - fresh from finishing the local MS-Ride with the Cutter's team... which is not an easy team to hang with: strong riders, all, as I recall from years past. Just coming off his longest-ever ride from that weekend, it was interesting hearing the beginnings of "what's the next frontier?".... it sounded familiar, from back in the day... that's how it starts! It was fun talking up the long-distance stuff -- helps keep me motivated, and you never know who you might "talk into it". RUSA needs riders...
Later in the evening, after more and more hills, the "short" 30-miler started to feel long... Looking back at the course, it certainly wasn't flat... not even close... but it was a lot of fun! We spun out the last half-dozen miles at a much more relaxed pace, enjoying the scenery, the stars, the lights in the distance, late-night downtempo chill from Noah's streaming audio panniers... and were soon back at the start line. More good convo in the parking lot afterwards, and then I continued the theme with KRBZ FM's usual Saturday late-night programming of electronica as my soundtrack for the drive home. Windows down, cruise control... check.
Whooooof.... I slept well, once I got home.
I love these things - and while absence may indeed have led my heart down a wistful path of "why don't we do these more often??", I have good feelings about the 2012 season. Stay tuned ... this is certainly not the last DSR. There's always November... which, if it happens, might be a "first".
Thanks to everyone that came out, and thanks again to Noah for making it happen!