Friday, May 25, 2012


So let's see here...the Canadian Pacific is on strike so there's no trains for me to run (they're the ones who bring it to me from Montreal)...I'm using vacation days so I don't have to bump someone just yet...sounds like a riding opportunity.  Here we go again...

I intended to saddle up real early and get going.  I even prepped the bike the night before and sorta packed up my bar-bag so I could leave with time enough to get in a hundred.  I've been eyeballing a Century for weeks and it seemed as though I might have a window.  So much for good intentions, I didn't hit the road until about 10 am but still, figured I didn't have to worry about a midnight phone call so I'll just keep going till dark or 100, whichever comes first.

All's well for the first 30 miles or so.  It's warm and muggy but the worn-out cogs on the back aren't skipping and the shifts are only hanging a little between 9 and 10.  I'll take that until I can scrape up enough loot to finally get a new cassette.  I guess with five grand on them, the old ones really don't owe me much anymore but they'll have to soldier on a while longer anyway.

I took a little detour to my old buddy Donnie's place to check in on my ex-conductor and catch up on the news.  I always enjoy spending time with Cardie and Sandy and this time was no different.  He's retired now but it's still a lot like the old days on the "Lakeshore Express" when we worked together.  He can always make me laugh.  We sat around the kitchen shooting the breeze over a bottle of water and everything was fine in the world for a minute.  He was set to go mow grass somewhere though and I needed to head out too so off we went our separate ways.  I backtracked out of his driveway and slid down into the drops to buck the wind picking up from the south.

As usual, I don't really know where I'm headed in anything but the vaguest way.  My ultimate goal for the trip was to make Watkins Glen and do some scouting for the Tour but how I got there was subject to modification as the day progressed.  This always leads to interesting travels and normally I get to see some great country that I've never seen before travelling that way.  Usually.  My first mistake this time was to ignore my own advice and cross the border into Pennsylvania.  PA as you may have heard, is in the midst of a gas-drilling boom and there's places where it's like the wild, wild west during the gold rush.  Such was the road I picked.

I've been on it in a vehicle before and it intrigued me because of it's smooth surface and long climb with an equally long zoom back down to reward the determined.  That part is good but the bad news soon became apparent as I started up the hogback...there is a complete lack of shoulder and the drillers are out in full force.  It turned into a nightmare of close-calls and dives for driveways to get out of the way of dump truck after dump truck grinding up the hill in the same creeper-low as me only filling the whole lane to do it.  The parade ran in both directions so over the crest of every pitch, I had to try to ride on a two inch slice of blacktop between screaming, loaded triple-axles and a ditch lined with gooney-rocks to let the trucks meet without colliding.  Most places, the road dropped off a minimum of 6 inches into loose dirt and fist-sized stones so to slide off the edge was to go down instantly with no hope of recovery.  I got pushed off once but lucked out that I was near enough to a driveway to hang on and unclip before disaster.  Why do I do this to myself?

Eventually, the hill broke over into the downgrade and I at least had the fun of out-running the last big rig as he geared down for the descent and I geared up, put my chin on the stem and left him Jake-Braking his way through the curves.  Somewhere near the bottom, it started raining.  I'm sorry if I offend anyone but to put it bluntly, Pennsylvania just plain sucks for bikers.

Onward to the northwest.  The wind turned around to port astern and I got a little boost in the sails but the rain got heavier and I began to think this whole thing was getting just a little out of hand.  Think good thoughts.
After a few more wet miles, the showers rattled off to the north and left the road black and steamy.  The sun came back out and the humidity zoomed.  By now, it's about 50 miles into this and I'm thinking hard about that next 50 to make that one-zero-zero.  I realized about then too that unlike my normal self...I'm not thirsty, haven't been thirsty and I'm kinda feeling...well...not so pretty good.  I decided to put in for a few minutes on the stoop of a little country church to wring out my gloves, make sure I drank some liquid and get down a Clif to refuel.  It was probably too late by then already.

The road away from the church is pretty familiar territory so I knew it was mostly flat and with the wind now firmly behind me, I expected an easy leg to the next turn.  So why am I in the small ring on my triple going up these little rollers wonders me to myself?  Why does my neck hurt like it's on fire when I usually do this stuff all day and don't even feel it?  And why do I suddenly have an overwhelming desire to get off this thing and just lay down?  What the hell is this now?  Whatever it is, it can't be good.  Surrendering for the moment, I pulled into a little park and stretched out on a picnic table bench.  Maybe I just need a rest stop.  Uh-huh.

I think I actually fell asleep for a bit which should say something to a normal person about their condition but did I listen?  Nope.  I've still got that magic Century in mind so I figure I'll just keep going and things'll get better.  They always do right?  I've been giddy and nauseous on the Trek before.  It just goes with the territory sometimes, especially when it's hot and sticky.  I always make it even when the going gets tough.  About then I noticed my hands had started shaking.

I finally came to the conclusion about 10 miles later that enough was probably enough and I'd better start thinking about sending up a flare for rescue.  I was still at least 25 miles from home and no matter which way I went, there was climbing to do.  Every vehicle that passed stank of exhaust or cigarette smoke, the air felt like it was a solid mass of pollen and every single smell, good or bad made me sicker.  Some idiot on a crotch-rocket went by with open headers shrieking and I wished he'd die right in front of me.  My hands kept trying to vibrate off the hoods.

It really didn't look good for the home team so I swallowed my pride and called Chris to come haul me in.  I seriously doubt I could have gotten home anyway, even if I tried.  I was going slower and slower on flat ground and wondered vaguely if somebody would have me posted on YouTube or FailBlog for falling off the bike and throwing up on the sidewalk.  I was pretty close to my LBS so I told Chris to meet me there and staggered along the last couple of miles, pausing one more time on a park bench to scrounge up enough energy to get over the river bridge and down the street to the shop.  Things are a little fuzzy, likely from dehydration but I wallowed my way into Kingsbury's front door walking my bike and announced that I'd come there for the sole purpose of collapse.  I made it as far as the chair at the end of the counter and somehow got my helmet, gloves and sunglasses off.  The guys had the decency to laugh at me, which helped immensely.

Paul offered a couple of shot-blocks to try to get some electrolyte back in me but by now, things internally were in outright revolt.  The room kept trying to spin and the damn lights were too bright.  I managed to get down a couple sips of water before there was an absolutely, irresistible imperative to make one last desperate sprint...for the rest room.  I found out why I was dehydrated...I hadn't absorbed anything.  I got Clif bar and Gatorade out my nose and wondered if I'd ever get out of that bathroom alive.  I thought my cleats were coming up.  This my friends, is the spades.

I've only done this once before and like the first time, there's absolutely, positively nothing to recommend it.  I managed to douse myself with enough cool water to keep my knees from buckling and staggered back out into the showroom to await rescue.   I probably scared off the customers.  I'm pretty sure I was delirious and I'll have to apologize to the shop guys when I get my wits collected.  I only hope it was good for a chuckle.

In due time, my chariot arrived and I loaded up the bike before dropping into the seat like a bag of cement.  Just moving was horrible and I was fighting not to be car-sick on top of everything else.  I actually made it most of the way home before losing that little battle.  Chris managed to panic-stop in time and rolled her eyes at her idiot husband as he fell back in the van even more dehydrated than before.  How much fun can one guy have in a single day?

The driveway was salvation and I sort of remember stripping off my kit and falling on the bedspread gasping like a fresh-caught salmon.  At some point later on, I got through the shower and passed out for well and all with the A/C blasting.  The world finally stopped spinning and the flashing lights went out behind my eyelids but I didn't get my hands to stop shaking until this morning.

So once again, riding the Trek was an adventure.  I guess I never saw this one coming but it's all part of the game and I'll know better next time.  Or not...

But it'll make a great story and Paul will laugh at me over it for weeks.  Chalk up another one for the old guy.  I'll make that first 100 of the year sometime...I'm just not sure if I'll ever be able to eat that flavor of Clif Bar again.


TJC said...

I have been having similar experiences this year. I am good for about sixty miles before, bonk or no bonk, I am done. But I have never been kicked as hard as you described.

Glad to hear ya got out alive.


RoadieRyan said...

Oh Wayward I feel your pain. You never forget a bonk. Glad you got home safely and had the wits to call the Calvary. I had the bad luck to be riding with my father-in-law when I had an epic bonk on what was supposed to be a 100 mile charity ride that ended up being 60 miles I could barely finish. He looked at me like he couldn't understand why I was pedaling through oatmeal, then a few years later he had his own meeting with "the man with the hammer", as the French say, and it became very clear to him. Hope you get in a nice bonk free century soon.

Brian in VA said...

Thanks Wayward! I'm getting ready to do my first century ever next weekend. Spent last week pounding out miles and beginning to get cocky about it. You brought me back where I need to be in order to do this!

Glad you came out the other side!

You'll get that 100 soon!

Brian in VA

Wayward Son said...

Ride on my friends! I'm gonna try it again this week. Dodging that "man with the hammer" all the way. Never heard that name before but boy, does it ever fit. More to follow...