Monday, June 22, 2015

Preservation Pedal: A Very Wet Half-Century

This past Saturday, the leftovers from tropical storm "Bill" found their way up the Ohio River valley and got northern Kentucky more than a little wet.  This had some effect on me, as Saturday was the day of the Preservation Pedal, heading out from Frankfort, Kentucky.

Friday night at the packet pickup, the ride organizers from the Bluegrass Cycling Club told us that the 102-mile century route would be closed by the weather, with its attendant possibility of local road flooding.  So how do you "close" a hundred miles of small public roads?  They don't, of course; what they did was simply to not support that route with rest/food stops and SAG.  The club elected to shift their volunteer force over to the 30-mile and 51-mile routes and support them.  Century riders could get 102 miles in by the simple expedient of making two laps of the 51-mile loop.  The Kentucky Century Challenge folks also announced that people participating in the Challenge, who has already registered and paid for the Preservation Pedal, could elect to ride another century of their choice at any time before July 26 for KCC credit, and also that those already-registered and paid riders could ride the Preservation Pedal in whatever conditions occurred Saturday morning, and that a good-faith effort would also receive KCC credit, regardless of the distance covered.  Fair enough, thought I, and went to the luxurious Baymont Inn to put my head down and sleep.

So, Saturday morning.  It was raining steadily, and the forecast wasn't good, calling for afternoon thunderstorms.  At 8 o'clock, however, we (and it was a very small group, on the order of a hundred riders) set out from the Plaza Hotel in downtown Frankfort and began the process of stringing ourselves out over 51 miles of wet roads.  It didn't take long to get lonely, either; after the first rest stop, in Millville, I was usually not within sight of any other cyclists.  This meant that I was totally responsible for my own navigation, which consisted of following the red pavement arrows (since my cue sheet had very quickly been reduced to wet pulp in my jersey pocket).  With no one to follow in lemming-like fashion, I paid very close attention to those markers and succeeded in never getting off-route, although I did cast about in some confusion after leaving the stop in the town of Stamping Ground, where the markers were scarce and hard to see on the water-covered pavement, leaving me without much confidence for a while.

You've probably already noticed a lack of photos in this report.  In view of the downpour conditions, I left the camera that I carried around last month's Horsey Hundred locked in my truck back in Frankfort.  I was carrying my mobile phone, of course, in case of emergency, but I wasn't pulling it out of the zippered pocket of my hydration backpack in that much of a rain.  I did pull it out after I got back to Frankfort, and that's coming up.

Riding in a hard rain was a new experience for me.  We had rain at this year's Redbud Ride, and it was a pretty chilly rain at that.  But this was serious rain, hard and fast.  By the time I'd completed my first mile, I was as wet as I was going to get, so I figured it wouldn't get any worse.  I was mistaken.  My bike shorts are the kind that have a loose, baggy outer shell, making them suitable attire for an over-aged and over-nourished cyclist like me.  When those shorts got and stayed soaked, that outer shell plastered itself to my legs and I got some chafing just above the knees.  No big deal, but uncomfortable.  Also, there's the rain in your face.  Grinding slowly up the long climbs, at seven or eight miles per hour, the rain on my face troubled me not at all, and was even welcome as it helped me stay cool; but on the downhills, sometimes at or above 30 miles per hour, those raindrops felt more like small pebbles, and they also made it very hard to see.

I have battery-powered lamps on my bike: a red taillight, which can be set to blink obnoxiously, and a white LED headlight which can also blink stroboscopically.  The headlight worked fine in the rain.  But the taillight ... after a while, it got partly filled with rainwater and worked only intermittently.  In the gray, low-visibility surroundings, I wasn't liking that; it seemed like a substantial safety issue.  I also didn't feel good about how few riders were participating.  In a large, organized ride with one or two thousand riders, you always have more than a few in sight, and there's a "critical mass" of you on the road that makes you safer, as the drivers pretty much have to be aware that there's a cycle event underway.  But on Saturday, there were so few of us that each rider was like an eccentric individual.  For each car that passed me, I had the feeling that there was a good chance I was the first cyclist the driver had seen that day; and if I was hard to see, well, that's potentially not good.

So, a little before noon I re-entered downtown Frankfort.  The major food for the whole ride was located there, at the Church of the Ascension, the home of a Greek Orthodox congregation founded, according to a banner I was admiring, in 1836.  I ate my lunch standing up (the chairs in the fellowship hall were upholstered, and I didn't feel like sitting my dripping-wet butt down on one), and listened to the talk around me, and it seemed nearly unanimous: no one was electing to ride a second lap.  Someone had seen a radar map that showed an intense thunderstorm cell in Louisville that was heading our way.  I thought about how the course would be if, instead of a hundred riders stretched out along it, there were only ten or twenty.  I thought about my now non-working taillight.  I thought about the possibility of upcoming thunder and lightning.  And, yes, I must admit that I thought about the cyclist who was killed last month in the Horsey Hundred, not so far from here.  Then I joined the discretion-is-the-better-part-of-valor crowd, checked in my 51 miles at the KCC table, and started to leave.  Then I thought: wait a minute, I should dig out my cell phone and take a picture of that gorgeous stained-glass window.  And I did that thing.

Somebody did some awfully nice work.  Sorry I kind of cut the top off.  I should've backed up another few steps.
You know, most days, it doesn't rain.  I'm going to appreciate those days more, going forward.

1 comment:

Mimi said...

Beautiful stained glass window. Sorry about the bike thing, but once a race errs on the side of danger, I think it's time to use the kickstand. From what you wrote, it was harrowing enough.