Monday, October 10, 2011

Tour De BBQ Ride Report

Mile 0: I left my house at 5:30 AM. It was 45° out – chilly, but luckily not damp. I packed sparingly, knowing I would regret not having more cold-weather gear, but then I’d have to lug it around later. I would be riding up a lot of hills, so unneeded cargo was unnecessary weight.
As I left my house and rode along Barry Road and North Oak Trafficway, I noticed how different it was without all the traffic. Some of the steeper downhill sections were a little scary in the blackness of night – especially with missing streetlights. Even with a front flasher, it was so dark, I prayed I wouldn’t hit a pothole or something worse. Luckily, I only had to dodge a broken water main – no need for early morning cold showers.
Heading into downtown, it seemed like the Heart of Americas Bridge would never end – it just kept going uphill. It’s also an on/off ramp for the I-35/I-70 freeways, so I had to be extra cautious with the traffic. Just as I crossed into downtown I got to see my first wildlife of the day – a possum, just shambling along in the middle of the street. I tried to shoo him along, but he clearly had his own pace and was going to stick to it. After a few more exercises in patience waiting on yet more streetlights, I arrived at the BCS offices at 6:15 to meet up with my group.

Mile 14: After being greeted with a ridiculously strong Bloody Mary by Curt, I met the rest of our team: Leigh Ann, Big Jeff, Little Jeff, Courtney and Brandon, and our last-minute addition, our SAG driver Jeremy. We all only met Jeremy just that day, so big kudos to him for agreeing to do this crazy early event with us! (of course, had I known we’d have a SAG, I would have brought that extra gear after all!) After some last-minute prep, we headed over to the start area about a quarter-mile away.

Mile 15: We were riding the 62+ mile route, and eager to get going. There was a very chilly breeze by this time, and even with my 15-mile warmup ride, I was starting to get cold, too. They released us in waves of ~100, starting at 7:00. Our team got split in half by the organizers, so Curt sweet-talked one of them into letting us jump around the barrier when the main guy wasn’t looking. We all left in the second wave, right around 7:10 AM. It was very cool going through downtown, mid-town, and along the plaza with about 150-200 other riders at the same time. (There were about 3,000 total riding 15-, 30- and 62-mile courses!)
Mile 25: Ten miles into the course, we got to our first stop. Smokestack BBQ had wings and beans. The wings were great, especially because they were hot from the cooker. Didn’t have the beans. Some of us considered going into Goodwill store next door for extra clothes, but it wasn’t open yet. And the sun was starting to come out and warm us up. Most of our group were seasoned RAGBRAI riders, so Coors Light was passed out. It was like drinking barley pop – no taste, and the alcohol burned off in the first 5 minutes of pedaling.

Mile 33: Eight miles and a couple of very fast (and cold) downhills and a couple of long, hard uphills, with a healthy dose of stoplights and traffic, we got to the next stop. Now, technically, SPIN! Pizza isn’t a BBQ joint, but they are a major sponsor, so they got a pass. They had a variety of gelato, and I had the last white chocolate raspberry gelato – delicious.

Mile 42: About 9 miles, and one really long climb later, we got to the original location of one of my favorite BBQ places – Fiorella’s Jack Stack, or just Jack’s Stack. There are widely known for their brisket, so I was a little disappointed to see that they offered sausage as their sample. But the first bite banished that thought. It was terrific and I could have eaten about 4 more plates. But I didn’t want to overdo it, considering there was a lot more riding to do. There’s nothing good that can come from an upset stomach on this ride.

Mile 42.5: Jeremy was waiting for us at the parking lot of Jack’s Stack, but most of the group stopped about a ¼ mile short at RJ’s Lounge. In fact, just about all the riders stopped there. I told Jeremy to meet us here, where I had a particularly strong lager from one of the local breweries. Tasted like a Sam Adams, but better. Wish I could remember what it was. Curt took a wrong turn and missed both Jack’s Stack and here. We made sure to let him know what he missed.

Mile 51: The rest stops were spaced out pretty well. Our next was Gates BBQ (home of “HI! MAY I HELP YOU!?!”). It isn’t on the top of my list of BBQ faves, but they are a KC institution. I had 2 sandwiches – one beef (with a lot of sauce) and one turkey (with just the right amount of Gates sauce – next to none). It was 11:15 or so, so we stopped a little longer here and enjoyed another Coors. Jeremy was certainly earning his keep. I called home to tell Lisa how we were progressing and have her record the MSU/OSU game – it was clear I wouldn’t be home by the 2:30 kickoff. Mile 59: I had been holding off on the BBQ sampling because I was most excited for our next stop - Oklahoma Joes. This is by far my favorite BBQ in all of Kansas City. I’m still unclear as to why it’s “Oklahoma” Joes since it has its origins here in KC. Anyway, we stopped at the original location – a gas station. Yes, the best BBQ in the world is served in what looks like one of the last places you’d go. Unfortunately, the riders doing the 15- and the 30-mile routes also stopped here. The lines were ridiculously long, and my hopes of having multiple chopped beef brisket sandwiches were dashed. I could have only one. I will avenge my loss!
Mile 67: After Oklahoma Joes, us 62-milers split off again from the other routes. This whole area was probably the toughest section of the day – and one of the hardest routes I’ve ever ridden. Long, hard, steep climbs. Chewed up pavement. Glass. Something that appeared to be a shanty town. Crazy fast dangerous descents – I saw 1-2 riders that went off the road. I hit a water main cover at 30+ mph and had my handlebars move down by an inch. When we got to RJ’s Bob-Be-Que, most of us were questioning the sanity of pressing on. RJ’s had a pulled pork sandwich with a sweet sauce with an apple-like tanginess. It was one of the most unique sauces I’ve had. They also had a patio, where we sat with Jeremy and said “job well done” to Courtney – she was abandoning after 50+plus miles on very little training on one of the tougher rides any of us had done. I knew there would be hills, but not like this. You were either coasting or climbing, and definitely more of the latter.

Mile 70: Luckily, the next rest stop, Johnny’s BBQ, was only another 3 miles. We didn’t stay for long, since we were clearly one of the slower groups (those long “rest” stops). I’m not sure what I had, either shredded beef or pork, but it was tasty. The sauce was a little sweet again, but didn’t have that apple flavor RJ’s had.
Mile 73: After the only halfway decent long, fast descent, I came up to a set of railroad tracks…and promptly waited for two long trains to pull through. Surprisingly, none of the group was with me, even after waiting, so I rode up to the next stop - Woodyard BBQ. I think they had been serving chicken (the quarters they were pulling out of their wood-fired brick smokers looked and smelled awesome), but all I got was a beef hot dog with some very hot BBQ sauce. It was a unique place – basically a house and a shed that were converted into a restaurant. I definitely want to go back there, just not during the summer, since it’s all outdoor seating. Oh, and it turned out that someone in our group got a flat, so we didn’t start for the last stretch until close to 2:30.

Mile 78: The home stretch was a long, slight uphill, winding up to Southwest Boulevard, where we passed door-to-door Mexican restaurants and shops. I was feeling the burn from all the climbs and just wanted to finish. We got to the Finish area in the KC Power & Light District just in time to hear the post-ride entertainment’s last song. I signed a banner and we stood around for a few minutes talking about the ride. I wanted to stay longer, but there was another 15 miles to go. I was going to be pushing 100 miles, and considered doing an extra lap or two around the flats of the downtown airport to get there, but it was too late in the day – and I was in no shape. I got my dropped stuff from Jeremy (if you have a SAG, use it!) and started home.
Mile 81: I crossed back over the Heart of Americas Bridge (luckily, it sloped downhill this time!), rode through Northtown, and began the longest climb of the day – 10 miles with 1400+ feet of climbing. It was brutal, with 6-10% slopes. My legs ached. My knees hurt. But this is also where I got to ride with my thoughts the most, since I didn’t have other riders or stoplights to interrupt me. I thought about why I was riding: For my grandmother Dorothy, and the pain she went through a year ago, first with lung cancer in the fall, then with brain cancer in the winter, passing away in January. For my wife’s grandmother Gertrude, who had breast cancer and a mastectomy. For Lisa’s Aunt Shirley, whom we watched succumb to cancer 2 years ago. And for our uncles, who are still with us and whom we respect very much. The whole day, I didn’t want to compare any pain I might feel with what they went through. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to go through chemo and radiation treatments. And when I hit that last wall of a hill at a measly 4-5 mph, I figured I’d better not stop or complain.

Mile 91.7: I was very happy to see my house after almost 92 miles and nearly 11 hours. But I was even happier about the generosity of my co-workers, friends, and family, who helped me raise more than $1250 – a thousand dollars more than my $250 goal! To all that supported me on this ride, your response means a lot to me.

Ride Total: 91.7 Miles, 6800+ Feet Climbing, 6:30 Hours Bike Time, 14.1 mph Average Speed