The Bitter Taste of Defeat

I have had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.
– Groucho Marx

RTYD II was one of the last long trips I have taken with other people.  Before I began to ride long distance exclusively solo, I had another lesson to learn: do not take any trip lightly. Just because you have had success before does not guarantee success later.

Going back, D’s and my adolescent and teen years were defined, revolved around, and were lived for music. We had our garage/living room/basement/attic/street/lawn/float band exploring the depths of 50’s and 60’s music and testing our abilities with old-school early 70’s progressive music and when we weren’t doing that, we were playing in our high school marching band, which was amazing from 2000 to 2003, winning two state championships.

Given the epicness of those years, nostalgia is strongest when listening to and watching marching band performances.  For that reason, D and I try to make it to Syracuse, NY, every year to watch the NYS Marching Band State Championships at the end of October. Years of this tradition have gleaned stories upon stories, including a predicted fight with my wife two weeks before the fight occurred and car troubles for D, resulting in him driving more than 100 miles out of his way to get home, just so he could guarantee staying on thruways the entire way home.

Coming off the success of the 185-mile RTYD II in the Summer of 2013, D and I figured any trip 100 miles under that distance was a done deal. So why not just bike to Syracuse from his apartment in Rochester, get a hotel, and then kick it to the competition the next day?

What is interesting about this trip is the amount of planning that went into it without any actual planning of the biking part.  For example, D got Steeltoe Jones–a participant on RTYD I–to drive with us to the Syracuse hotel we would stay at post-ride so we could drop D’s car off at the end point and Steeltoe could drive us back to Rochester.  But when it came to the biking, we did not have a set time to leave, we did not have a true idea of how far the trip was or what path we would wind up taking to get there.


D and I finally heading out after noon.

If memory serves, we did not wind up leaving Rochester until well after noon.  We started on the Erie Canal Trail, but as I mentioned in RTYD I, that crushed gravel path is not conducive to road bikes so we wound up leaving the path for Route 31.

I don’t really remember how far we were along when I crested a hill and looked back to find that I had lost D.  The hill had a wide curve so I waited for him to appear.  Instead, he called me to report a flat tire.

For those of you who have not changed a road bike tire, it can either pop off super easy or it can be a giant pain in the goiter.  Or you wish you had a goiter instead of changing the tire. Something like that.  I don’t remember how long it took, but it felt like an hour to change one freaking tire.  That was a huge demoralization because now the clock that hadn’t really be ticking in our heads the entire trip, was banging loud and clear.

In late fall, the days are short and by the time we changed out the tire, sunset was nearly upon us.  We continued biking and the dismal, dismaying, oppressive feeling that enveloped us on the Silver Creek to Fredonia leg of RTYD I fell in and lasted so much longer.  The entire landscape felt desolate.  I remember one section of road where it was already pitch dark out, guard rails on either side, and all I could imagine was biking over a massive swamp.

We finally hit a patch of civilization and realized it felt like an Arby’s night.  I just wanted to stop and rest.  Here is where we learned our next lesson of cold-ish weather biking. Although we were properly dressed for the weather, and indeed I never felt all that cold whilst biking, when you take off your protective layers and stop moving, your sweat cools and dries, turning you into an uncontrollably shivering human popsicle.

At one point, D turned to two cops sitting in the booth next to us and asked how many miles we had left to get to our destination, telling them that we figured we had about 20 more to go.  The cops laughed and said not even close.

A flat tire, a suffocating darkness too early in the day, and our general lazy attitude did us in and we had to be picked up.  Steeltoe was kind enough to drive out, pick us up, and drop us off at the hotel, where we were utterly defeated by what we thought would be a simple and easy trip.



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