Monday, September 15, 2014

Promotion in the Roman Army

So, readers, what say you: got one more century in you?  A vicarious one, at least?  I hope so, because I'm here to report on the final one of my season: the Hub City Tour.

The Tour was this past Saturday, September 13.  It begins and ends in Elizabethtown, which is down the road a little way from Louisville, and, more immediately, Fort Knox.  I had assumed that "Hub City" would turn out to be a nickname for Elizabethtown, but I should have asked; a little cursory after-the-fact internet research does not reveal any such connection, and I have no idea how this ride got its name.

I arrived the afternoon before.  The host club is Central Kentucky Wheelmen (an unfortunately non-inclusive name; I saw numerous Central Kentucky Wheelwomen  there also), and their headquarters is a local bike shop, Bullmoose Brothers, where the early packet pickup took place.

Wow, those guys are almost as bald as I am!  Well, not really.  I'm quite a bit balder, I think.
Next morning, the weather was chilly (59°F at the 8 am start time), windy, overcast, and threatening rain.  And, indeed, some rain came during the ride, but not to any troublesome degree.  Many of my fellow riders were better prepared, in terms of clothing layers, than I was.  In my experience, though, moderately chilly temperatures aren't a problem shortly after you get started, as you work yourself warm.

Awaiting the word to go.  Check out the jersey on the guy to my left.  "Are you now, or have you ever been, a Communist?"
The pre-ride bullhorn briefing was given by the president of the Central Kentucky Wheelmen, Jim Lever.  He said the usual things (explaining the Dan Henry system of pavement route markings, reminding us to be safe and observe traffic laws, and so forth).  And, since there was the customary assortment of optional tour distances, ranging from a 15-miler to the century, he referred to those of us riding the century as "centurions."  Cool, I thought.  All this time, I would have thought myself a mere foot soldier in the cycling world, the equivalent of a legionary in the Roman army.  Now I had been promoted to a commander of a hundred!  I tried not to let the glory of it all go to my head, as I wrapped my goose-pimply arms around myself to try to stay warm.  As it turned out, there were several hills in my future that would soon humble me appropriately.

Almost right away, I noticed the contrast between the Kentucky I saw on this ride and the horse country version I'd seen in the two previous centuries.  In and around Hardin County, I didn't see the sprawling, lush bluegrass pastures.  Instead, there was more mixed agriculture, particularly the corn and soybeans so familiar to my Hoosier eyes.  It seemed like a somewhat-hillier version of southern Indiana to me, except for the prevalence of red clay, which lent a Georgia-ish flavor to the scenery.

Central Kentucky presented more of a hardscrabble look than the territory to the east.
 The first SAG stop was about 17 miles in, at the First Baptist Church of Hodgenville.  Hodgenville did not seem like a city of sufficient size to require a church to designate itself as "first."  On the other hand, we're talking about a part of the country that is rather well-provided with Baptist churches, so Hodgenville may well have had several.  The provisions were ample, and I fortified myself accordingly.

My home church has a pavilion, too.  But ours is, well, smaller.

On we went.  The scenery, as mentioned, looked a little different.  But in case I started to forget I was in Kentucky, I was reminded almost constantly by the fact that relatively little of the way was level.

Ah, Kentucky!  Thy name is "hills."  Or should've been, anyway.

At the second stop, 35 miles in, the provisions were the same as at the first.  In fact, they never varied throughout the ride, which was a little disappointing; there were salty snacks, bananas, cookies, pickles, vile blue gatorade, tangerines, and water.  That's okay, though.  They had plenty.  And while I was kind of jonesing for a peanut-butter sandwich, let's face it: as long as there's bananas, I can keep cranking.  And the volunteers who manned the stops were outstandingly friendly.  At three stops, there was a technician from Bullmoose Brothers Bicycles with repair stand and tools, for those who had mechanical issues.  I was highly impressed with the support organized by the CKW club.

I chatted briefly at the second stop with this lady, who's a local radio amateur.  Seeing her reminded me of my Fort Wayne friend Joseph, who has spent many of his weekend days organizing similar safety support at events there.  "Just sharpening our skills," she said.

The route crossed a wooden-decked bridge about 40 miles in, where a painted pavement sign asked us to walk across.  It seemed ride-able to me, but it would have been churlish (and unworthy of centurions) to refuse, so we all walked it.

This bridge didn't have the tire-width gaps that the one on the Redbud Ride had.
The ride unfolded in routine fashion.  There were rest stops at 45 miles and 65 miles; that 20-mile stretch between stops was the longest, and seemed the most challenging in terms of hills.  The route was chosen using some very lightly-traveled back roads, which was nice for not worrying about getting hit.  But there's a downside to that: such roads also tend to have the poorest pavement, and some of it wasn't good at all.  I notice that you often encounter blacktop in which the petroleum-tar component seems to have worn away or sunk, leaving the small-stone aggregate part exposed.  This puts a high-frequency vibration into your bicycle, especially if you're like me and have an aluminum frame that doesn't damp vibration very much at all.  It's the kind of thing that loosens fasteners and causes adjustments to "creep" out of adjustment.  On one steep descent, the pavement was smooth and I could see all the way down, so I "let it rip" a bit and hit at least 39 MPH (at least, that's the number I saw on my bike GPS at one point when I sneaked a quick glance).  It felt good, but there was a minor bridge at the bottom that had an unexpected bit of pavement discontinuity as I crossed from road to bridge deck, and that little bump felt as if it should have relieved me of a few dental fillings.  I was surprised and gratified to see that it didn't cost me a spoke, or a pinch puncture -- not sure why it didn't.  All's well that ends well, I guess.

It wouldn't have been Kentucky without some Horsican-Americans.  The one in the center in the photo below was wearing a cover that, as far as I could tell, wholly obscured his eyes.  I suppose that might have been a veterinary measure of some kind.

The one on the right ... no, I'm sure he or she wasn't mooning me.  Pretty sure, anyway.

Another wooden-decked bridge turned out to be a railroad overpass (or underpass, I guess, depending on whether you're the train).  In any case, it afforded a look down into a substantial sort of trench cut or blasted out of the rock, through which the tracks were laid.  A cool thing to see.

Another cyclist and I were enjoying this view.  "Somebody used a little dynamite here," I conjectured.  "Either that," he replied, "or John Henry was pretty busy."

The weather kept teasing us.  The sky would look broken, then close back in and spit a little bit more chilly rain.

What's that?  A bit of blue?  Yeah, but it's just funning with us again.
By the time I reached the final SAG stop, 94 miles in, the weather finally broke.  This stop was at the St. John Baptist Church.

The young lady volunteer in blue was quite a NASCAR fan.  To be more specific, she was quite a Jeff Gordon fan.  Her camp chair bears the livery of the 24 car.  She explained to me that this year's version of "the Chase" is very unfair, unless it leads to Mr. Gordon winning the Sprint Cup -- in which case, it will be fully tolerable.
Back into Elizabethtown we rode ... those last saddlesore miles.  Arriving once again at Bullmoose Brothers, I stopped by the Kentucky Century Challenge table to show my Garmin and sign in.  I also got fitted for my Century Challenge jersey.

I admit that it's a cliche.  But I can't seem to write one of these without the obligatory mileage shot.  Note: there are actual shadows on the ground!  The Yellow Face, it burns us, Precioussss!

After I got home, I dumped my bike computer into Garmin Connect.  Now I see where I was.

Looking at the plot on the bottom reminds me that there was quite the steep climb -- and descent -- in the mile 75 and 76 region.  Big fun!  Sort of.
The report isn't over yet, though.  Elizabethtown was holding its Via Colori Street Art Fair, and I took a little time to walk around it before leaving.  Here, a young artist applies some extra touches to her pavement chalk work.

I translate "Via Colori" as "Color Street."  Seems appropriate.
So ends my Century Challenge season.  Not all successful, but pretty satisfactory overall.  Will I go back next season and try to do it all clean?  I don't know.  My tailbone's still a little ouchy today, so it's not a time to decide such things.  I might decide to aim myself at RAIN next season (Ride Across Indiana, Terre Haute to Richmond, "160 Miles, One Way, One Day").  Or maybe I'll join Three Rivers Velosport, the local club here in Fort Wayne, and try to get into group riding in a disciplined way.  But that's next year, and I still have the Individual Time Trials at Tour de Gruene for this year.  One thing at a time.


Mimi said...

Jim, I'm so impressed! A hundred and three miles--how is that possible? If I went 103 miles on a bike (fat chance), I would get all the way to New York City. Seems a incredibly long way even in a car--congratulations!

Jim Wetzel said...

Thank you, ma'am. It sounds like more than it is. I rode 7 hours and 10 minutes (actual riding time) at an average speed of 14.4 MPH, and that gets it done. I took slightly over 8 hours of real clock time to do this; I spent nearly an hour, total, at various rest stops. So it's really just a matter of being patient and somewhat dogged. Also: a lightweight road bike with skinny little 125 lb/in^2 tires doesn't hurt. All you have to do is climb aboard that bike, and you can feel that it really wants to GO.