Turn off, tune out & drop in
Saturday morning dawned wet and getting wetter. The radio forecast was for rain off an on all day long and colder temps. When I first look out, the rain is pouring down. About mid-morning I get a call from Josh (there can be only one) Johnson, and he’s all manic talking about how we’ll push the noon ride back to 2:00 p.m. and show up rain or shine. He qualifies it by saying Ethan and Nolan will be there. He says we can at least get in a big tree loop. As I listen to this I’m looking out my front window at the falling rain and the thermometer on my front porch that is straining to feel 40 degrees, and I’m repeating, “No way, dude.”
I tell him about a vow I made to myself a few years back after getting caught in the rain at about the top of Easley Hill (about 15 miles) when it was just about 40 degrees, and how it was more painful than the worst ass-whippin’ I ever received. This, of course, does not dissuade Josh for an instant, like as not owing to the fact that he obviously has never had his ass whipped good and proper—but, as they say, that is another story.
So he’s going on and on, getting ever more manic, about how people will hear that we’re riding in the rain and they’ll be totally psyched out ‘cause they’ll think we really are crazy, and on and on like only his alter ego butthead can do. So right away I can see there is no point in trying to reason with him and tell him okay we’ll see you down there. I’m guessing he will make about two blocks in the cold rain and come to his senses.
When two o’clock hits, I pull to the curb in front of CycleX in my car with Pam’s new bike on top as she needs them to dial it in. The rain has momentarily slowed to a drizzle, and standing there wearing a rain jacket and a grin with a bike between his legs is none other than Butthead. And of course every word out of his mouth is flipping me shit about asking myself the question. I let it all roll off like water on a duck. Then two more people (Luke M and Aaron Bolton, aka Commander Klink) roll up and Butthead gets even louder. I put my hand on his shoulder and tell him not to go, that riding in cold rain could make him sick and this one day could cost him two weeks of training.
They all roll away laughing. I think they’re crazy. They weren’t crazy, they are just more high-tech than I am. They had all checked out the radar on the Weather Channel and had a pretty good idea that the rain was over, or at least there was a big enough window to get in a ride. Also, they had cell phones so that they could call someone in case of an emergency. I have neither cable nor a cell phone. So I rely on old-fashioned methods such as looking at the sky, putting a finger to the wind and being circumspect and not letting my ass hang out so much that an emergency is likely. So I guess being an anachronism cost me a training ride—really, though, it’s a small price to pay.
For Sunday’s ride we did a Mokane loop, which ended up being 100 miles and change. There was big wind, big gears, big hills, wailing and gnashing of teeth. As Phil Ligget once described a big tour leader’s jersey wearer who was bonking hard off the back of the pack, it was a day people learned a few things about themselves. And I’ll repeat myself here by saying that if Luke M keeps up his mileage through the rest of the winter and spring, he will have a breakout season. He will give some people fits, and not in small measure ‘cause Butthead will be hauling a one-two punch of Luke and Joe Hill up to quite a few finish lines.
So, you might be asking yourself, what makes just a 100-miler an epic ride? First, this is still January and we’re still in Missouri, and second because Aaro Froese hauled a good deal more than 200 lbs across the entire loop—using big legs with not many recent miles in them. Epic. Later.