Monday, April 6, 2009
This is not a photo of the PA200K. This was taken yesterday, riding along the beach with my son in San Francisco. I didn’t take too many photos on the PA200K on Saturday, because I was hanging onto my bike with both hands trying not to get blown off the road.
The day began before dawn, a gaggle of riders in reflective gear heading off into the darkness. It was cold and drizzling and the winds were just starting to send leaves skittering across the road. The forecast called for steady 25mph winds, with gusts up to 60mph. Victor and I set out with the first group. He had a new Garmin with the route downloaded so we would not get lost. The only problem was, it wasn’t working. The route was too long and it couldn’t process all the information. Maybe it was all 11,000 of feet of elevation that did not compute.
In any case, we had been so mistakenly confident in technology that we had not taken a cue sheet. On the first big hill, he urged me to drop back. If we could not keep up with the front group, we would be lost. It would be safer to stick with the second group. He recognized Steve from last year’s brevets and knew he was an experienced rider, so we stuck with him.
During the first half of the ride there were heavy crosswinds that gusted across the flats, so that I had to lean into them, trying to stay upright, all the while trying to move forward. Steve and Victor are big guys, and they tried to block the wind, but it was almost impossible to find a sweet spot. The landscape is quite beautiful in this part of Eastern Pennsylvania, but riding required so much concentration it was hard to look around much. At the 2nd control, I snapped a few photos, but those were the last.
Now, you will understand how bad the wind was if I tell you I looked forward to the hills, because at least there was some calm in the mountain passes. Steve distracted us with amusing stories and told us about all the worse hills we didn’t have to climb. When the sun broke out, he led us in a resounding rendition of “I Can See Clearly Now” By this time, the Garmin was working, and so I trusted the two of them to keep us on track.
By the end of the ride, the winds were head on. The white noise was loud and constant. On the flats, down in the aero bars, in a pace line, working full steam, we should have been going 25 but we were lucky to manage half of that. The stream of stories and songs had stopped and we had all gone to that place in your head that you go at times like this. Every once in a while I would look up and see a beautiful vista, or a bank of spring flowers and smile. Steve assured us that the end control was just up and down and around the bend, and finally, it was.
Tom was at the door with warm greetings. I got signed and stamped and he asked me if I wanted a medal. Hell yeah, I wish I could get a medal after every hard effort in life. After a hot shower and some good food we were on our way. I had a plane to catch. But, that’s another story.