Great Bend, KS to Abilene, KS
Mileage: 129.22 miles
Riding Time: 7:43 Riding Speed 16.7 mph
Total Time: 9:15
Climbing: 1256 ft.
Greetings from Dwight Eisenhower’s boyhood home (hard to miss, as you enter town).
Every day is different. Today, faced with another horrendous cross/head wind, I picked up a five person pace line almost from the start. We were working really well together, and I was taking every one of my turns at the front. Note: my average pulse today was the highest since Day 4. This is a good sign.
At about mile 20, we came upon a group that had left earlier. I don’t know why they had stopped, but we were soon a 13 person pace line. Unfortunately, with the cross wind and narrow shoulder, this did not allow for a proper echelon, so Manny had us pull off on the sheltered (wrong) side. It was good that there was someone who took charge; he is a drill sergeant, but knows very well what he is doing.
But not everyone did. With this highly charged paceline, the inexperience in group riding of some of the riders became apparent. One guy was very strong, but he stood on the pedals and accelerated for five strokes every time he took the front. That’s bad enough, but then he sat up; so that the poor guy who was trying to stay on his wheel had to brake. Another guy, when he was done with his turn at the front, stopped pedaling and then pulled off (think about it: that’s backwards). There were constant shouts of “keep it smooth” and “don’t overlap your wheels”. Then Ed went down (clipped his front wheel). He was two people in front of me and how Jay and I don’t know how Jay and I avoided it. Fortunately, my experience kicked in and everything that happened in that one or two seconds happened in slow motion for me.
Mike had his van parked on a hill and was watching us and saw it happen. He drove up and said “OK guys, this is too big a paceline, break it up.” He had given a speech two days ago about complacency. His experience is that this is the point in the ride where accidents are most likely and, as I have noted before, he is all about safety.
I rode the rest of the ride to mile 75, where the road turned N and we got a good tailwind, with the original group of five riders, and then a sixth. At about mile 90, there was a sign “Road closed – except for local traffic”. We found a huge ditch, where the road simply disappeared, but used our cyclocross skills to navigate. I’m reasonably graceful on a bike (no snickers, please) but pretty ungainly off, so Manny climbed down the hill and hauled my bike up while I scaled the cliff on all fours. By this time it was nearly 100 degrees out and we all dragged ourselves in to Abiline. Some of us did stop for the post race milk shake (a wonderful recovery drink) at a Sonic drive in. I had two large shakes. A lot of people along the way ask why we are doing this and I now have two possible answers, depending on my mood:
1. Because too many people die climbing Mt. Everest.
2. Because I can have all the milkshakes I want at the end of the day.
A few notes on our riders:
There are 21 riders in all, ranging from 40 to 64 (me) years old. All but one are male. All but one are white. The American riders come from California, Nevada, Idaho, Texas, Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Virginia and Massachusetts (I don’t think that I left anyone out on that list). All of the American riders say that they have been dreaming about riding across the country for years. But we also have riders from New Zealand (two brothers, Jason and Patrick; we can’t tell them apart on their bikes, so we know them as “the Kiwis”), Norway (Lasse, the giant), and three from the UK (Simon is originally from Northern Ireland). The foreign riders haven’t necessarily been dreaming about riding across the U.S., they all were looking for a cycling vacation and found the ride on the Internet.
Except for Manny, a hard core 48 year old, who hopes to win the age group Road National Championships this year, and myself, there is only a smattering of racing experience; everyone has a lot of centuries under their belts. Craig dabbles in Mountain Bike racing (although I would say that someone who has done the Leadville 100 does more than “dabble”).
Most, like myself, have a relationship with a charity for the ride but that is certainly not why they chose to do the ride in the first place.
The staff, all serious riders themselves, are from Alabama, Massachusetts, Oregon and Vermont.
We’re from all walks of life, we are all different in many ways, but we’re getting along just fine, and we all love to ride.
At fifteen days into the ride, we have still not had a serious brush with traffic (although we did meet a guy on a Harley today, with a serious attitude problem – and we all noted that Kansas motorcyclists don’t wear helmets).
Flats: you will notice that I haven’t had one since we left the Interstates. But a log is being kept, and I am in the lead with 11. Someone else has 10, and two people have 9. No one has zero. If I keep my lead, I am told that I will win a prize worth nothing.
Tomorrow: more wind (mostly a cross wind) heat and possibly thunderstorms (it is supposed to rain in Abilene overnight, but be clear in the morning).