I gotta tell you, this may have been one of the toughest Tour de BBQ rides for me yet! I did the full 62 miler, but it wasn’t the distance (I do a 62-mile route every year – a few years ago I rode the 15 miles from my house to the start line and the 15 back for a 90+ day). Nor was it the temperature (a few years ago it didn’t crack 50 and rained). Nope, this time it was….a spider. 2 weeks before the ride, I got a spider bite. On my right, um, cheek. It got infected. (Side note: DO NOT Google infected spider bite! Some things can’t be unseen!)So I was off the bike for a while leading up to the ride. And as you likely know, I was travelling for work this summer. A lot. So travel =weight gain + lack of riding = poor fitness. Travel + spider bite = worse fitness. Worse fitness + 85 degree temps = cramps. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
This year’s ride was a new route, with a new start/stop at PrairieFire instead of the downtown Power & Light District. It was also a good 45-minute to an hour drive from my house. The long-route riders left the Start at 7:15. I made it to the venue at 7:20. By the time I got my registration packet, got the bike set up, and got my gear on and made it to the start, it was 7:45 am. I literally was the last person to leave for the 62 mile route.But that’s OK – it’s not a race, it’s a ride. So in that spirit, I had fun. I skipped the first pit stop at Dickey’s because A) it was Dickey’s BBQ, which is OK, but it’s not my thing, and B)it was closed already.
Before I got to the second stop (Zarda’s) I would have 2 more unscheduled stops. The first was to help a guy who had a flat on his rear tire. He thought the sidewall was bad, so we spent some time checking it over and suggesting if it was a bad sidewall, a dollar bill folded over makes a great emergency sidewall casing. But it turns out it was just a puncture. But throughout the rest of the day, he was gingerly riding that tire. He thought about keeping it low on air pressure, but I warned him that might do more harm than good – low pressure leads to sidewall flex, and if he’s already concerned about a weak sidewall, that’s the last thing he wants.Unscheduled stop #2 was for a poor guy named Patrick that had gotten his derailleur DESTROYED by a stick. It was bent in about 6 different ways that I had never seen before. He said he was going to wait for his wife to get him; I suggested we remove the derailleur (which was tough to do on something so mangled) and turn his bike into a single-speed. It would mean he couldn’t change gears, but at least he’d be rolling. He agreed, and we got him back up and going. Of course, we met his wife a few minutes after we started back up again (and I think she shot him the evil eye since he never did swap out bikes), but at least he had an option.
After Zarda’s, it was Johnny’s and RJ’s, but not before what I considered the longest, toughest climb of the day. Patrick was taking this 7-12% grade (at least ¾-mile long, if not longer) in one gear, so out of sympathy, I did too (although I think mine was a gear easier). Then you look at the elevation map below and say things like “wait a second, it’s not rated as a climb?” and “that next climb was rated a Cat 5?” and “the Tour De France is nothing by Cat 2 and 1’s” and “I don’t think I EVER want to ride a HC climb!”
After RJ’s, I picked up yet another group; this time, one of them was having problems with her rear wheel coming out of alignment when she took a fast corner. She had a triathlon bike with horizontal dropouts, so aligning the wheel with the frame is a pain. (The horizontal dropouts let you tuck the wheel in closer to the seatpost for better aerodynamics). Once we got her up and going, her group and mine started getting a little bigger. It was fun to meet new folks, some of whom were there on a whim (Though why they chose the 62-miler is beyond me; I think they were trying to do the 30 miler and got on the wrong course? Who knows.)By the time we got to Rosedale BBQ on Southwest Boulevard, and then climbed another long hill to get to the Plaza and Jack Stack, I was a good hour + behind schedule. So I bid adieu to my collection (they were now past the halfway point and we had caught up with plenty of other riders), and got going faster than the 12-14 mph I was averaging, up to my usual 17-20 mph. But by this time, the sun was starting to come out, the temps were warming up, and I had forgotten to keep drinking water. By the time I got to BB’s Lawnside, I was starting to feel the heat. (p.s. what was up with BB’s not offering BBQ, only coleslaw and rolls?) When we got to Murray’s, I was starting to cramp up to the point I didn’t want to straighten my leg fully or it would seize up. And the spider bite? Man, it was itching.
When I got back to PrairieFire at about 1:30 PM, I was ready to give my post-ride drink tickets away and head home. Which is what I did. All in all, though, it was a perfect day for a long bike ride. And at the end of it, even though I was a little cramped up, it was worth it. Even the spider bite was insignificant, compared to the reason I was riding. On March 31, Lisa’s uncle Jim Berry lost his fight with cancer after 11 years. 6 weeks later, on May 25, we lost Lisa’s mom Karen Mall, after her 4 year fight with cancer and other illness. And while the Tour de BBQ supports juvenile cancer care, to me, it’s about giving hope to the friends and families of those fighting their own battles. Thank you again for your support over these last few years…I just want you to know how deeply I appreciate it. THANK YOU.