Wednesday, July 6, 2011

It's a sickness

"Hey, we should ride to Mineral Wells and camp out!"
"That sounds like a terrible idea."
"I know, let's do it!"

I lugged this banana almost 100 miles through heat and hell.
It started off as a perfectly ripe, yummy looking banana.
Now it's all brown, beaten, abused, mushy, and destroyed by the heat.
It's a metaphor for this ride.

You know how some things seem like a good idea at the time?  This didn't even sound like a good idea when it was proposed.  And yet, somehow I found myself sitting under a tree, somewhere in the middle of nowhere god-forsaken small town Texas in the 102*F heat with Dan laying down on his back, sunglasses on, trying to get his heart rate and body temperature back within normal human limits.  I kept an eye on him to make sure he was still breathing. The other eye watched the sweat roll down my arms, the ants wandering in the grass, and the incomplete shade of the tree slowly crawling away and the death rays of the sun edging nearer my skin.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, en media res as it were.  The day actually started off well.  We left a little later than planned, but got on the road when it was still a balmy 85*F outside.

Dan all fresh and ready to ride, blissfully unaware of the torture this day will hold
The first 16 miles were great.  We were on familiar roads and trails and the miles just clicked by.  We even stopped in a historical park and got a quick history lesson before setting out again.

This will be a great MUT once it's finished.

End of the MUT, on to narrow sidewalks. We diverted to the road shortly after this.
We passed by the Tarantula Train, which is a vintage train that goes between downtown Grapevine and the Fort Worth Stockyards.  It's a great way to get from one place to another really slowly.  One day I want to race the train on my bike - it will be a close call.

The Tarantula Train.  Just like a bicycle, it doesn't have air conditioning either.  Ask me how I know.
A roundabout!  This was the last fun thing we did.
As we cruised down the road, riding side by side, a gray corvette gunned his engine and buzzed Dan so close that I was seriously concerned about a wreck.  Any closer and he would have taken Dan out with his mirror.  Normally, I blow off rude drivers and go on about my ride, but Dan and I simultaneously shot him a one finger salute.  I'm not saying it's the right thing to do, but it was my immediate reaction.  Then, the guy pulled in front of us and literally stopped in the lane.  This is not a good position to be in.  I doubt he'd scratch his fancy paint job, but any car can easily back over a cyclist and be gone in a flash.  The driver yelled that we were breaking the law and had to ride single file.  I've learned that you can't reason with stupid, so I started memorizing his license plate.  Dan was more optimistic about this jerk's mental capacity and tried to explain the law.  (I'm using "explain" loosely here).  I pulled out my phone and yelled that I'm calling the cops, at which point he drove off.  I reported the whole incident to the local police.  I know that nothing will come of it and that this guy will keep harassing cyclists until someone gets hurt, but I want to make sure there's a record of his misdeeds.  There really, really, really needs to be more cycling advocacy and education in the USA in general and in this area in particular.

That incident really took a chunk of time that would have been better spent riding.  By this point, the mercury had climbed from "stay inside and enjoy a nice glass of iced tea", past "hell's antechamber" and straight in to "immediate concern for health and well being because you physically can't consume enough liquid to stay hydrated".  Of course, we then got stuck at a train crossing waiting for the world's longest train to move at about 1 mph.  We blame this on that jerk in the corvette.  If not for him, we probably would have made this crossing.  It took so long we actually cut out of traffic and took shade next to a building.

This took awhile.
We eventually got through, and then it was on to chip seal, rolling hills, and more heat.  Thankfully the wind wasn't too bad.

It's even hotter than it looks!

We should have stopped for a swim to cool off.  Or possibly boil ourselves.
Not much to report for awhile other than fairly frequent stops to cool down as much as possible, check the map, suck down a bottle of water, and then keep on trekking.  We eventually reached a gas station and stopped to resupply.  We bought 2 gallons of water and a bag of ice.  The water all but disappeared in to our camelbaks and water bottles and what little remained was chugged and dumped on our heads.  We took the ice and dumped it down our jerseys and shorts and held it on our heads and necks.

He looks happy because he has ice in his shorts

Salty carbs!

Here's a word problem:  a cyclist takes off from a gas station headed west toward Mineral Wells at an average velocity of 15 mph.  He has ice in his jersey and stuffed in to the vents of his helmet.  The ambient temperature is "bake a potato on the sidewalk", the terrain is rolling, and the surface is chip seal.  How long does it take for all the ice to melt?

The answer is about 5 miles.

As soon as we hit something resembling civilization we took refuge under a tree.  There was serious consideration about calling in the SAG wagon.  25 miles remained between us and our campsite.  We both had some degree of heat exhaustion and Dan looked ready to call it quits.  We stayed in the relative cool of that tree for a good 20 minutes before summoning up the willpower (or stupidity) to press on.

He's alive.  I checked.
Somehow, somehow, we made it to the Mineral Wells Trailway.  It's a really fun rail-trail that's hard pack dirt with a light layer of pea gravel on top.  Our road bikes handled surprisingly well, though I had at least one scary moment when my front tire hit some deeper gravel.  I've done this trail several times as part of a loaded-touring overnight camping trip.  But, I had the good sense to do it in the fall.  The trees provided some shade but it was still ridiculously hot.  Surprisingly, we didn't see anyone else on the trail.

Mineral Wells Trailway

Salt stains like this are a good indication that you are sweating too much

90 miles in to a hell ride this seems like an excellent way to park a bike

We finally made it to camp.  Dad was already there, and after sitting for a few minutes we hit the park showers and went to dinner.  We devoured the majority of an enormous ribeye steak, a double helping of chicken fried steak, fries, a whole sample platter of appetizers, and salads.  I had previously sworn off fried food after a ride, but this hit the spot pretty well.

Made it!

Dad wondering at what point in our upbringing did we decide that things like this were worthwhile activities

We slept under the stars that night beneath a moonless sky.  This was part of the bad idea from the beginning - sleeping outside in the 80*F heat after riding all day!  I woke up frequently, sweating on my ground pad, gulping more sports drink to stay hydrated in the dark.  It wasn't comfortable, but it was a fitting end to the day.

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