Brace yourself! This is my long story of a really long ride, from Laramie, WY, from my apt to be more precise to Bear Tavern Restaurant, Centennial, WY. The plan was simple, get there for lunch and be home for high tea!
But the plan dint start out like that. Like last year, I am riding the Wyoming Bike MS, a fundraiser for Multiple Sclerosis, organized by the Wyoming chapter of MS Society. The target this year is 500$ and century lap, i.e., 100miles on Day 1. Last year, I had the target of 300$ and see the finish line on Day 1; Day 2 was just a dream, I dint think I would get hat far. See my earlier blog on that, it's listed somewhere in the navigation panel.
Anyway, earlier last week, I got this reminder email from MS Society that, I have not done any fundraising so far and I need to get on it to reach my goal. And I set about thinking, how I would ask you, my friends, to help me reach that monetary goal. So, I decided on this plan, I will make a long practice ride, will write this blog and ask you to help me reach the next step.
So, Friday night I thought, I will start very early on Saturday and get back home for lunch; two things bothered me - 1. I had a dept trek on Thursday, without shoes, in my sandals, for the heck of it; 2. Played an epic badminton rally of badminton games, at the end of which, I had bruised my toes. As I hit the sack, I decided that I dint feel upto the task and should cancel my plans. As it turned out, I did get up early, was bored to death, until I found my best mates on a G+ hangout. That's right, I use G+ - just for the hangouts!! (BTW, Googlebot if you are indexing this, I wanna tell you that Google plus sucks! So does GMail these days. And the new blogger interface is pathetic and buggy. Associate all those words with Google and its trade-names/products.)
Back to the ride, Sunday was a different day. I got up late, I was totally relaxed. I wished good night to my parents and just thought, let's go. Saw the weather, 5-10mph wind in Laramie or in Centennial, temperature in the 70-80s. Charged the phone to a 100%, did my usual 3 point inspection of tires, breaks and gears, grabbed my water bottles and energy bottles. Just then I realized that the seat adjustment I had done last week was giving away and my seat had a tilt. That's fixed and I am on my way. Here is my route, thanks to mapmyride.com.
As I started, I switched on the two apps I use, Cycle Tracker Pro and iMapMyRide. I had to cross the interstate 80 somewhere and also, ride parallel to it for a couple of miles, why not ride on the shoulder! May be not. Thoughts came and disappeared; so did buildings, half an hour and I was near the Laramie Airport. A few miles more and a familiar looking car whizzed past me at 65mph, and it slowed down at a distance - it was KM, JJ and BSM. What a pleasant surprise. I told them that I plan to be in Centennial for lunch at about 2pm. Off they went their way and I started again.
Then came the Overland trail. My first stop wasn't to be before 20miles, but I was gonna stop for a instagram moment. A couple of minutes for the pic, a sip of water and I was away again. The road wasn't as smooth as it should be, I thought, for one there were a lot of pebbles on the shoulder, the road itself was very rough (may be for the snowy winters!) and there were a hell a lot of cracks on the shoulder. A friend asked me last week about how much it hurts and where it hurts, I told her that for me it was the calf muscles and as I would push through the pain, they got stiffer and stiffer and even more painful. She thought, I was rubbishing, and its the thigh muscles that should pain and not cough. May be I don't know enough about the physiology of human body but I do know where it hurts me! Anyway, I thought I should change my answer to that question entirely. It's not the calf or thigh muscles, but its my bottom that hurts the most; thanks to the large cracks; no pun intended!
Nonetheless, I had a 14miles stop, much before my regular fatigue-point. Which meant, I would do more stops than I needed. Come on, its a recreational ride, not a race. The vibration from the road, the pebbles, and cracks was showing up, not just on me, but on my machine too. The saddle was loose again, not a lot, but I would feel the change in the angle. And the was a noise, the front ball-bearings were broken, or the wheel hub, something was terribly wrong. This is the perfect day for a perfect ride and it's being ruined by a stupid bolt and cheap bearing. I stopped by the side of the road and inspected my tires, nothing was wrong. HMMM - strange but true stories - Let's try this again, with keen senses, I was observing my machine for any signs. Oh, I got it. Its the bottle cage, rattling, the screw has come out due to the vibration.
As the rattle continued, I biked along the steady slope to my destination. Soon, (in 2 hours) I was there. Cursing myself for not having got the Alan-keys to fix the seat or the bottle cage. Hell, I should carry that 300g tool-set! Before I got there, I had stopped two more times! Had eaten my energy bars and pretty much drank all water in the 2 bottles, did ~33miles in 2hour 40 minutes including the breaks, not bad, I was hoping to do 2hour 30 minutes.
Lunch was fine, had a nice pizza and black coffee, grouped with KM and family. And was ready to leave. KM told me that it was raining, I was determined to do my 100km Centennial ride, so, I just asked for a plastic bag from the restaurant guy for safe-keeping my phone. I resumed my GPS tracking apps. I had 42% battery remaining; I switched off the phone mode, reduced brightness to minimum, decided not to open it anywhere, good enough to get me home.
I started out of Centennial, a jeep guy wished me good luck - by splashing color water from the road on me; "thanks dude, appreciate it". I cannot say he did that on purpose, I will say that he did nothing to avoid it. Anyway, I had a nice tail-wind, I was doing 25+mph for the next half hour; that was nice feeling, a slight down-hill, a tail wind, a cool rainy breeze on your face and stomach full of polar bear pizza! Soon, the energy wore off and I was doing 15-17mph, still more than good enough! I made a stop somewhere and met with KM again. Good going Guru.
My good part of the day was soon coming to a slow. The tail-wind had turned into a more of side wind for a while and a N-of-NE wind soon. There were dark clouds to the horizon in all directions and the mountains were constantly lit with lightening. I was up-close with nature, closer than I needed to be. I still had a lot of ground to cover,20+ miles. To pass my time, I started playing games, missing cracks on the road, going up-down on the gears, pedaling with a single foot, mostly right foot, playing anthakshari - a game in which you sing a song with the letter previous song ends, etc., etc. I was still enjoying it, I knew my phone and valet were safe in the plastic bag, I knew time was about 4PM and that I had enough juice in me to get back home in time.
My next stop came and my games continued. I stopped until I saw a Subaru! For my bad-luck it came just as I was drinking my first sip of water after stopping. Okay - "back on the saddle, Mr. Pai" I ordered myself. 8 miles out, I could see the Laramie Airport, I had to stop again, I was tired and my last stop wasn't long enough. I leaned my bike to a reflector post on the dirt, off the shoulder and I walked around. I needed to loosen up my legs, just relax. This time, I chose wisely, I said, I am gonna wait until an convertible car shows up. A few minutes and a car did went zooming, in the rain and all.
"Let's get going. I need a nice cup of tea now. That'll be good." That wasn't to be. A single step on the bike and I realized I had a flat, the rear tire was deflated. What the be**eep. You see, when I curse, I mean it! This was really a bee**ep moment for me. "What do I do. There is nothing repair here. Let me call somebody." I open the plastic bag only to realize that my phone was off, and it wouldn't come back ON again - not this one, my "I-am-Mr.-Smarty-Pants-iPhone". My old stupid phone would have come ON for a minute and allowed me to call somebody and ask for help, not this one. The airport is not far, I could walk to the airport and call from a public phone. Who do I call, I cannot remember anybody's number of the top of my head, except my-own and my immediate family in India! I have to walk, while I am at it, let's try getting a ride.
Soon, this guy pulled over, even before I waved! "Thank you, I really appreciate you stopping. I have a flat! Can you help me?"
"I have a spare tube, I can give that to you."
"No, I haven't got any tools or a air-pump, honestly, I haven't done it before in my life!"
He looked at me as if he thought of me for a big looser. I told him, I will leave my bike at the airport and call my friend for a ride and sent him away. As he drove away, I realized, I could have just asked him for the phone! What a looser am I!
A half an hour walk and I was at the turn-off for the airport. "It cannot be more than 5miles from here to home. It will take me an hour or so. That way I can complete my 100km ride and not have to take a ride from anybody." I decided against going to the airport and started walking. It's then that I noticed that I was doing 3mph and not 5mph, that I would have to walk for nearly 2 hours. And I walked, walked, singing - "I walk a lonely road,... it's only me and I walk alone"
I waved for rides, people waved back at 65+mph, thank you. For the next 1hour 30minutes, I walked. I couldn't help thinking, if I was being foolish, stupid, immature, inexperienced, determined or a confused college-going-lad. I couldn't help thinking that I am really paying for my decision, I had no way but to walk along. That, what I thought at the moment did not help my case nor did it help my psychology, nor the burning sensation in the feet. It dint matter that it felt like there was a stone in the shoe. It felt absolutely hopeless when I still couldn't remember a single local phone number - not even one. I had done more than 4miles of walking by this time and I wasn't even in the 50mph just-outside-town speed limit. Now, I knew my situation. I have another 4-5miles to walk, easily. It will take me another couple of hours to do that. There is a fire station on this road, there is a fuel station close to that. There are also a few houses, I will walk into on of these.
But then, as if to reinforce my faith (in what?!), a fellow cyclist showed up. He offered to help change the tires, I just asked for his phone in return. I called my friend , PC, gave an absolutely pathetic description of my situation or whereabouts. I couldn't even give landmark. "Just drive to the airport, and watch out for a cyclist to wave!" - That's what I said.
My friend came, I removed the wheels and threw my bike in the back seat. Sat in the car and realized .....
With that my friends, I call upon you to help me reach my 500$ mark on Wyoming MS bike ride Fundraiser. Please visit my profile page on WY MS Society website and donate http://bit.ly/WY_BIKE_MS Thank you. Your contribution does count and your trust in me will come through, with a firm determination bordering foolishness.