Every once in a blue moon I see something come across that just feels like it should hit a larger audience, and this is one of those times. The below comes from last year's Cole Camp 410km brevet out of Grain Valley, MO., from Gary DelNero. I've had the pleasure of sharing a lot of miles with Gary, and he always has a smile on his face. I think it's that positive attitude that - at some point or another, on a hard day like he describes here - pushes the pedals farther than mere muscle. So, with Gary's permission, here's his tale from last year's edition. Enjoy!
"Try Something New, Every Day"
Gary DelNero - RUSA #7468
Forecast: 100% chance of rain from start to finish... flood watch... highs in the mid-to-upper 50’s (F).
Did I mention 400km - 255 miles? , which I usually do in 18-20 hrs.
This was a new route. From Grain Valley into central Missouri.
Heaviest rains are in central and SE MO, so we’re safe, right?
Saturday AM - text from Paul - he’s bailing. Karen and Greg have also bailed out. Gary Felkner has volunteered to come get us if needed. And he has a boat.
I see Dave Matthews at the start. He’s not sure he wants to get out of the car and it’s barely drizzling.
Spencer, Rod and Joe are there - they need this ride to qualify for a 1200km ride in California in July.
Three guys I don’t know - two from Westport, one from Springfield.
We start about 6 am.
The three new guys and Dave Mathews have abandoned by the time we reach 20 mile point. One had a flat. One was in shorts…
We roll south, then east to Sedalia, then south west on a loop heading back to Sedalia with plans to stop at Cole Camp for BBQ.
I’m not sure I want to stop for BBQ, so I roll a bit ahead of the group. I’m at the halfway point about 10 ½ hrs into the ride.
My Gore-Tex might be leaking. My new rain pants have a semi-functional drawstring waist. Semi- means they fall halfway down whenever I stand on the pedals. I have to sit a lot. Even on climbs…My over-mitts fill with water and feel like water balloons. I’m thankful for every piece of functioning clothing I’m wearing. We’re all shivering a bit at every stop. Quite unpleasant, but not approaching crisis…When pedaling, we generate enough heat to stay somewhat comfortable.
We reach a control café at 140 miles in, at about 4 pm.
Chatting with locals we learn that our route to Cole Camp is flooded and impassible.
Fortunately, this store has a map for sale showing nearby routes.
Some debate about options- one way adds only about 6 miles, but the guys seem to lean towards something adding about 16 miles. We really have no idea how many additional miles are involved, and guesses and opinions are varied.
The cashier gets a call from a customer who had just left, asking if we would take a ride around the flood in his pickup.
We take the offer, then eat while we wait for him. The other guys choose the pulled pork sandwich, so I went with that instead of a hot dog, which I really wanted. I would regret that choice. We start to wonder just when he’ll come back, and whether he really has room for us.
He arrives, we load up, and he takes the long route to Cole Camp.
I ask why he didn’t go the other way - he says he’s never gone that way before…another customer had said the same thing. (Why is that?)
So, taking a ride from a saint in shiny steel - that’s a first for me. (I’m no longer amazed by how many very generous people you meet riding bikes out in the country)
We get out of the truck at Cole Camp and head on to Sedalia. This is 85 miles from the finish, and the last likely motel opportunity. We decide to press on, with our next stop in Holden, 50 miles away.
I get ahead of the group on a climb, but get very tired/sleepy. Can’t take advantage of the gusty tailwind as we head west. This is why I like to reach a motel by 2 am. Fortunately, no more flooding. On north stretches, I see tree limbs in the road. That was some gusty tailwind!
We regroup in Holden, MO. The guys want to take a break and sleep next door at the post office. It’s like 3:00 AM - we leave our bikes at the convenience store, spread out in the post office lobby.
Two guys have claimed the rubber floor mat and Rod is already snoring away by the time I get there. Spencer is leaning against the wall with eyes closed.
I claim a wall spot and close my eyes. Feels good to rest, but I doubt I’ll get any sleep.
Jolted awake by a loud, new sound - I think I was snoring!
Maybe I shouldn’t sleep sitting up.
We’ve had maybe a 30 minute break, but get up, refreshed and ready to roll. The rain has let up a bit.
Spencer reminds us, “these miles won’t ride themselves”, and “we’re not getting any closer standing here.” More wisdom than one can imagine.
Sleeping in a post office - another first.
We head out for the final 30+ miles. The roads start to dry out, but we do encounter some flooding. Water about 6” to 8” deep for several hundred feet. We ride through…it’s not moving very quickly.
Then, we began to encounter some fog, but it never got too heavy.
We ride on as the sky begins to brighten.
We finish at about 6:30am, just before sunrise.
We never saw sun or sky, just clouds and rain...
The whole day has been cold and wet. Temps never rose above the low 50’s.
That little amount of sleep in the post office kept me going to Grain Valley and for the drive all the way home. The other guys will get a few hours of sleep at their motel room nearby before heading home.
So 24 ½ hrs, a new longest time for this distance for me.
Wettest ride ever. The other guys agree - pretty tough ride.
First all-nighter since the ‘80’s. Pretty cool, really. Not something I want to repeat anytime soon, but 600km in two weeks.