“If the English language made any sense, lackadaisical would have something to do with a shortage of flowers.”
– Doug Larson
This weekend’s adventures were poignant for really only one reason and that is the juxtaposition the weather served in comparison to the dismal, dismaying, dreary, dreadful, demonstrably dire weather of my first century ride last Saturday. Both days this weekend were gorgeous May Days (You might imagine Joe’s wife’s humongous eye roll while checking links and finding this wonderful little nugget. You might also imagine Joe’s grinning mug as he hears the roar of the video finally being discovered by his less-than-amused wife. However, being the gracious angel that she is, she allows it to stay. Joe is eternally grateful.). Vibrant sunshine, 70-degree weather, and only mildly annoying Iowa wind on Saturday that I was able to keep as a tailwind for the majority of the ride meant that this weekend rounded out as a big, feel good success.
For Saturday’s ride, I headed Southwest, hitting a lot of the route that I traversed the week previously. What a difference it is to actually see where you are going and be aware of your surroundings. That is one major issue with the crazy rain that marred last weekend’s ride: you are so focused on the road, on trying to remember how it felt when your feet weren’t numb, that you do not have time to pay attention to your surroundings. This Saturday, I had ample opportunity to take in the scenery.
One unfortunate aspect of Iowa cycling is that most of the surroundings are identical, long stretches of not-yet-farmed land. Nevertheless, it felt good to pedal through some sunshine and greenery.
I spent a large majority of the ride on Route 92, which is a fine road except that long stretches have no shoulder and instead feature a major swath of gravel to each side. By major swath, I mean that the gravel section is almost as wide as the lane. The road would be so much more enjoyable if instead of all gravel, they extend the road, creating a shoulder, covering up half of that gravel with pavement.
Considering how many dirt roads there are in Iowa, it seems unlikely that gravel shoulders would take precedent if ever there was a surplus of asphalt available.
After Route 92, I got Google Map’d onto a 4-lane highway headed Northwest. The road did have a shoulder and it’s not like I haven’t biked on a 4-lane road before or been on a road with a 55 mph speed limit, but something about it did not feel all that comfortable. I was more nervous than the situation called for and was very much looking forward to finishing the 11 or so miles on that stretch of road. I asked a police officer I saw later about the legality of cycling on such a highway and he said that as long as the road has no minimum speed limit–generally posted due to perpendicular gravel road turn offs–cycling on the road is legal.
This trip was designed to carry me into Pella, IA, home of a random Tulip Time festival where they let their Dutchness all hang out.
My wife and I made the trek mostly to hang out with a pair of friends, the wife of the pair my wife had initially met while on a study abroad internship in Urbino, Italy, in 2011. At the festival, we found ourselves surrounded by numerous dutch people click clacking in their wooden shoes and carnival style food booths and trucks lining the streets. I spent far too much time in front of a line of outhouses waiting for my wife and saw no fewer than three people try to open doors that were clearly locked, as indicated by the red color near the door handle. As one older woman yanked hard on a locked door, I heard her say to her companion, “I think someone is in there. I thought red meant…” and she trailed off. I am not sure how she was possibly planning on ending that sentence with anything other than ‘stop,’ which would have suggested that maybe she shouldn’t have tried to clamber her way into the stall.
But I digest.
We waited in line for food for several minutes, ordered food, went to pay, realized they only took cash, took a quick tally and realized no one in the foursome had cash, and promptly left the line with our food waiting on the counter to enter yet another line for access to an ATM. Upon entering that line, my wife leaned in to whisper conspiratorially something that quintessentially defines our entire existence: she had 37 dollars in cash in her wallet. Sadly, that information is really only useful when attempting to pay for the food. Like we were trying to do…like 27 seconds ago.
The girls got back in line and the boys used the ATM.
I ordered a Big Lion, which was a pork loin and beef brisket sandwich and a funnel cake because I am pretty sure you have to get some sort of fried food when at a any festival and they were all out of fried Snickers. We then watched a ridiculously long parade for such a small town.
A few things to note about the parade:
- In order to fill out the parade to what amounted to over an hour long processional, they included every child from the town. The “Baby Parade” consisted of babies looking uncomfortably hot in mini Dutch costumes being pushed in what are probably mindbogglingly unsafe antique carriages (one was just a teal aluminum trike with a thin metal bar to hold the child in), the “Twin Parade” was a collection of local multiples (painfully sparse), and lastly the “School Parade” was literally every school aged child marching behind their respective building banners of “Pella Elementary School,” “Pella Middle School,” or “Pella High School.” I kid you not.
- The floats were legit works, some with moving parts and all sorts of glitter. These Dutchers take their parades seriously.
- We were witnessing only one of the six parades that took place during Tulip Time. Yes, six parades. For those keeping score at home, that is six parades too many.
We entered a tractor ride tour that puttered through the town at a blistering 8 mph as two women stammered through the history of their town, fumbling through a bullet list of information that boiled down to the following:
- The town was founded by Dutch settlers.
- They have a lot of tulips.
- They have a bunch of old houses they want to restore.
- They have a college that has a student center with a small food court open to the public (not sure why that was an important note).
- The town has seven windmills, including the tallest windmill in the United States (although it falls woefully short of the Empire State Building’s height, it turns out).
- One of the windmills is on top of the bank and when it is running, indicates that the bank is open for business.
- They have streets and the streets have names. Seems like U2 was wrong about that, at least for this town.
One new aspect to the Saturday ride was a ticking clock. I needed to be to the final destination by a certain time to meet up with my wife and the other couple. Therefore, I had to get up at 4:30am and try to be out by 6 am for a 12:30 arrival time (I left at 6:20).
I got up and immediately headed downstairs for some cereal and a pint of blackberries. I worried about the quick turnaround from eating to saddling up–I tend to laze around a bit in the morning before leaving to allow enough time for digestion–but I did not notice any discomfort or indigestion during the ride. This is a good thing because I will not have much time for lazing about waiting for my stomach to work at it’s obnoxiously laborious pace on the July ride.
For Saturday’s ride, I attempted to complete my second century of the year. I would fall 5 miles short of 100 because of timing. Nevertheless, when the distance gets near triple digits, the idea of eating food becomes more about options than about consistency. For this ride, I brought a GU energy gel, chocolate chip cookies, Special K Coconut bars, a Nature Valley Coconut Almond bar, some Slim Jim mini sticks, and some fig cookies. The fig cookies were a new addition. I have read many an article on the internet and several people have cited these as a great snack for biking. I am not a huge fan of fig cookies but the ones I found weren’t terrible. They were a bit dry but still went down smoothly.
Sunday was an interesting ride for me. First, it solidified in my mind that all of this training seems to be paying off. First, I am not sure that I would have been able to get back on the bike following a 95-mile ride and put up 55 miles with such a decent overall average speed. It gives me hope that maybe this whole July ride idea is plausible and feasible.
Second, the ride consisted almost entirely of traversing routes or parts of routes I often take during longer commute rides to work. I would say that 46 of the 55 miles were on roads that I have biked before, some numerous times. That is not all that interesting except that it got me thinking of something D and I have often speculated about in the past, which is that psychologically, if you were to bike 100 miles, doing a stretch of road that you were familiar with would be easier than setting out on novel, unknown terrain. Seeing familiar turns, sights, and climbs would ease your mind about the feasibility of the ride. I am not sure if this is true and there’s no way to find out really because it would be nearly impossible to control for climb and wind if you just kept biking the same 5-mile stretch instead of heading 100 miles in one direction. But it remains an interesting thought. I do not think that biking the same stretch over and over again would get rid of some of the other symptoms of long distance biking such as bum soreness, hand soreness, back soreness, leg soreness, all the sorenesses, really (sorenessi?).
Not much more needs to be said about Sunday’s ride except that it was another beautiful day, I felt really good during the ride and would probably have been OK finishing off another hundred mile day, which is very encouraging as those days are fast approaching where I will need to start completing back to back century rides (P-diggity style).
Biking is a whole lot of time spent doing the same exact thing. My mind is constantly wandering during even mentally challenging tasks. Put me into a non-mentally challenging environment for 6+ hours and the wandering puts even the most itinerant traveler to shame. This ride was no different. My thoughts ranged from wondering how many acres of land we ‘waste’ on cemeteries (I understand that some people feel a certain desire to have a physical space to visit when paying respect to the dead, I just do not adhere to the same feelings) to how many schools–high school or otherwise–have their team name as “The Eagles,” as is the case for the town of Pella. Google could not provide an adequate answer for the first thought. Most of the articles focused instead on the shortage of land for more burials in the coming years as the baby boomer generation dies off. For the second thought, Google provided no answer at all.
My thoughts on this particular trip were apparently too random even for Google.
Perhaps the biggest highlight slash concern for this particular trip was the use of my new clipless pedals for a full 95 miles. When it comes to cycling, I have taken my sweet time transforming into a “true cyclist” with all the bells and whistles.
My first commutes were done in standard gym shorts and t-shirts and my commutes during the first two years at Kent State were done in jeans for the cold months. My collection of bike clothing has grown over the years, mostly due to my mother and wife, leading up to my current shelving unit in the basement that was purchased just to hold it all. It took me years before I got a road bike, even doing my first legit long distance ride on a hybrid bike.
The moral of the story is that I take forever to catch up with the times, as it were. I am the opposite of the person who makes a New Year’s resolution to workout more and goes and spends crazy money on supplements and workout clothes and gym memberships and a home gym only to workout four times before realizing that if they just press snooze, they can stay in bed instead.
Now, I am the proud owner of a new clipless pedal set complete with clicking shoes. The reason this was a worry heading into Saturday is because I am not used to this system at all and that was realized by the protesting my legs did most of the ride. Normally, I do not notice much soreness in my legs during a ride except during a particularly difficult climb or later after the ride when my muscles have had a chance to tighten up. However, on this ride, I felt some aches and pains in my legs at different times during the ride. I assume this is because the motion of pedaling is now slightly different, with the upstroke actually involving some muscle as opposed to platform pedals.
Overall, though, it was not a terrible experience. I do not think I am “reaping the benefits” of the new pedal system just yet because I am not used to them so I doubt I have experienced all that much increase in efficiency.
The next weekend will be ride-less due to a blitz visit back to New York with my wife to visit family and friends. As a result, I am turning my focus on adding more miles to my daily commutes this week to try to mitigate the lost miles during the weekend. Normally, I aim to get 100 miles of commuting across four days with one rest day (usually Monday) on which I walk the three miles to work instead of pedaling. This week, I will aim to get 150 miles of commuting in across four days, as we are leaving Friday. Monday through Wednesday will be 15-mile rides in and 30-mile rides out and Thursday will be a short ride in and a 30-mile ride out. This won’t make up totally for the lost 150 miles over the weekend but it will be twelve straight days of riding with most of those days consisting of at least 30 miles of riding a day.