Iowa, North Carolina and the Ride of the Year

The 200k - The Iowa Leaves and Lights Ride

So come October 3, Vincent, Lara, and I packed up her bike and a tandem to do the Leaves and Lights 200k in Iowa.  I'd had this ride on my scope for a long time since it features the High Trestle Trail which at night is stunning to ride on. The wind forecast was equally stunning.  From the south moving to the west at about 20-30 mph.  Of course, for the first 50 miles, that was great.  We started out at Madrid, IA at noon.  Gear Bob was also making an appearance on his brand new frame.  Always nice to see Greg C, the local RBA as well. So we were off.  The four of us were together until the first control at Ames.  Then Gear Bob took off needing to get home early.  On the tandem, Vincent and I were a pretty effective wind shield and by the time we got to the second control the wind was in full force.  The Kum and Go also featured pumpkin pie, a serious treat for hungry people.  But we didn't really get much since the next control at Lehigh was to feature homemade pie! The 30 miles into Lehigh were really tough, straight into the wind and not  agree in sight.  We made slow but steady progress and unfortunately realized that it is NOT a good idea to break in a Brooks saddle on a fall ride on a brevet.  Poor Vincent, it's a good thing I ride captain on the tandem.  It would have been hard to stare at a backside in such need. In Lehigh, we discovered the town was very small.  There were also cats and dogs everywhere.  As we pulled down the 200 yard main street, I must have been bonking because I found us running out of road with a stray cat in front of us.  Not wanting to hurt the poor thing, instead I unceremoniously crashed into a building.  At this point, even though maybe 50 people lived in the town, we found out that all of them had been staring at us as we crashed since they all ran into the street to ask if we were okay.  Yes, crashing into a building at 4 mph is major news.  Pecos Lara was on the ground laughing. So we dusted ourselves off and walked across the street to the cafe with the pie.  Alas, the waitress was just not interested in serving us.  After a couple of others showed up after us and got service, we politely apologized and left.  One of the patrons followed us out an apologized for the bad service.  That was quite nice.  So we hit the gas station instead.  A bag of chips, salsa and a can of soup later we were fighting for our food with the aforementioned cats and dogs.  But it was still really fun. The last 50 miles were in the dark and very fun if not just a little chilly.  But we arrived in due time to the trestle trail.  Of course, a psychedelic bridge is even better when it is also being manned by stoned teenagers with fireworks. High Trestle Lights: The Movie Leaves and Lights Pictures So the 200k was finished and only one 300k to go....

300k/400k  The North Carolina Rides
Anyone who knows me knows that I love the 400k, it is hands down my favorite distance.  Vincent wanted to do his first Super Randonneur since PBP 2007.  Lara needed the 300k.  This ride had multiple advantages for all. First, in mid October the plane ticket to Raleigh was dirt cheap.  So Lara flew both ways and I flew one way.  Vincent drove there from Minnesota in my car with all the bikes and picked us up at the airport.  We then got to Lumberton, put everything together and were ready to go the next am. Second, the 300k and 400k rides overlapped so Vincent and I would be with Lara for the first 200k, then Lara would return and we would continue on to the 400k turnaround so everyone could do the distance they would need.  I did the whole thing solely to help my friends - I encourage everyone to do a brevet sometime for no other reason than helping others.  I did lots of pulling on this ride which isn't as great as it sounds, the ride was pancake flat. Third, the Bicycle for Life Club runs a 200k, 300k, 400k, 600k, 1000k and 1200k all at the same time.  This made for a ton of people at the start with the first 200k being the same for everyone.  Even though there were only 3 400k riders and 4 300k riders all of us had plenty of company early in the ride.  All kinds of people that I never get to see were there including Patrick from the GoldRush, Paul from PBP and others.  Awesome to see so many people.  Paul was traveling with the other 400k rider, named Cindy who was on her very first 400k. On the downside, I'd been in a colitis flare up for 11 months and a 400k is never exactly easy.  This ride was to be a big turning point... At the start, it seemed like 50 people rolled out and amazingly we all stayed together until the first control.  Vincent and I had to drop off about 5 miles from the control due to my fender rubbing but still the pace was fast, the road flat and smooth.  Lara was riding great too. At the first control, a group of 6 of us left together most of us on different rides: Susan, Dan, Lara, Erica, Vincent and myself.  Susan and Lara were on the 300, Vincent and I on the 400 and Dan and Erica on the 600.  We all stuck together as long as we could and it was just a great group. The stop in Wallace at the Piggly Wiggly was a highpoint.  First, Lara got to menace the Piggly Wiggly sign (she now has a hate only relationship with pigs).  Then, the deli had all kinds of nice food like mashed potatoes, collard green and mac and cheese.  I had a panic moment where anemia threatened and started searching for an iron supplement.  Darn, none to be found.   I guess they don't go for serious vitamins at Piggly Wiggly in Wallace.  They did, however, have a 4 oz bottle of Geritol with iron.  Lara bought it for me; what a friend!  On the way out, we spotted Paul and Cindy and waved hello. So we rolled out and headed for the turnaround for the 300k (which is at 200k).  The wind was a gentle tail and after a brief slowdown, we cranked it up and sped along.  Lara was awesome in the saddle and led us to the place we would part at 200k.  We got a great group shot and she and Susan headed back while the other 4 continued to Surf City. At Surf City, we took pictures of the Ocean and I had some potato chips and a candy bar.  It was only about 5 pm and here we were more than halfway through!  We made it a brief stop, I had lots of fun chatting with Erica (amazingly, it turns out that my co-worker Joe is a good friend of hers - small world).  As we rolled out of Surf City, Paul and Cindy were rolling in.  I thought about it and pulled off to tell them we would wait for Cindy at the next control.   One's first 400k is a big enough challenge without doing the last 70 miles by yourself.  I'm just not the type to stand by and put someone in that position - camaraderie rules in my book. Vincent was tired anyway and needed a nap while we ate up and waited.  I had noodles, potato chips and a good rest.  We said our goodbyes to Erica and Dan as they went on to the 600k overnight.  Then  Paul and Cindy arrived and Paul departed leaving the 3 of us to finish the ride.  It was just getting dark and a little mist of rain was starting, but not enough to put rain gear on. We slowed a bit now that it was dark.  We wound up stopping at Wallace, this time at Subway for food.  Then finally along to the last town between us and the finish - 40 miles to go.  Here things got interesting. We figured getting extra fluids was a good idea and pulled into the very nice BP station.  While we were there, a police car drove up and asked where we were going.  I truthfully had no idea other than the final destination but gave him the cue sheet.  "That road is full of drunk drivers," he said, "there is a bar here and a bar in the next county, each keeps getting shut down so everyone is always going back and forth".  This didn't really make me happy.  He advised getting off the road completely if any cars approached.  "It just makes me so mad!" he said.  He then proceeded to get in his car, turn the lights on and sped out of the parking lot. We dutifully departed and paid close attention.  One car passed us on the way out of town.  Then, amazingly even though it was bar close, not one car passed us until the county line.  I was amazed, looking back, I am sure our police friend had something to do with the lack of traffic on the road that night.  How about that for southern hospitality? Cindy did really well for a first time 400k - though at one point, her leg warmer got sucked into her drive train and destroyed.  It didn't phase her in the least.  We pulled into the finish just past 21 hours. Cindy had her first 400k, Vincent had his first SR in 7 years, Lara had an SR despite a broken hip and spine.  I had the pleasure of riding with some really awesome people. North Carolina Pictures Epilogue So Vincent and I drove back to Minneapolis together.  We realized later than even though she had completed all 4 distances, the Leaves and Lights 200k hadn't been certified by the ACP so she couldn't get an SR medal.  Horrors and unfair!  This could not be let pass.  So I pulled out my series of medals and Vincent and I resolved to make a special SR award just for Lara that would be better than anything RUSA or the ACP could dish out.  It helps that we had access to infinite welding and woodworking tools because here it is:
Sure, we had to shop quite a long time to find a bronze statue with 4 dancing pigs and sure we had to weld on loops and create a base, but frankly hers is the most inspirational riding story I am ever likely to hear and I can't even begin to say how nice it is to call someone like that a friend. Lara gets Rider of the Year in my book!
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