Hot Rocks has a reputation (like the Byron Nelson used to have) of bringing a rain shower to the metroplex on the day of the ride. No such luck this year. As a number of us are readying for the pilgrimage to Wichita Falls to worship at the shrines of heat and chip seal, we thought we needed a good dose of Texas heat in August. Michael Vangeli had already struck any meaningful riding off of his August calendar and he might have the right idea.
For some odd reason this rally becomes our first organized attempt to meet and ride together at an event. The Lancaster ride, at a more humane time of year and over better terrain was blighted by the cycling club's early season ennui. A few e-mails, a suggestion of this rally over the oft maligned airport ride and five possible commitments later brings us to the start line in Rockwall.
Caryn and I arrive with fifteen minutes to spare. My bike choice was determined by which one had the fewest issues. I was getting concerned that my commuter bike's front tire was getting more gnawed on than I would trust, I chose the bike that had the mostly unused aero bars on it, but the headset was solid, unlike my Trek y-foil. The aero bespotted bike's front tire appeared more ready for battle with the chip seal. My commuter bike (Campy Chorus, Athena and a Specialized Allez with one of their early carbon frames) is also the only one of my bikes with two bottle cages, and I gave it a serious reckoning before the multitudes of little cuts on that front tire (which had started its life in a bike store that burned down and I bought the front wheel with tire, tube and good coating of smoke residue) caused me to turn to the other available bike, but it has only one bottle cage. The camelback covers the Mustang on the back of the jersey and for that it is often left behind (and that the cat 1-2 crowd snickers at their use.) So much for informed decisions, since both decisions turned out poorly!
We are at the start looking for SMU jerseys and up rides Greg Pulte. He has lost his companions (Jackie and Rob) near the port o pots (aka sauna with a smell.) All of a sudden the starter gun blast goes off and we ride away, casually, hoping our other two companions find us. At bike rallies you see a number of people warming up on the roads around the start, usually some of the most serious and fittest around. Why? So that at the gun, they hammer away in a select group of familiar faces and get rid of those with delusions of hanging with them. Usually some one with an aero bar attached to their bike and who might, or might not last ten to fifteen miles. Caryn was relieved we were not entertaining those ambitions. See, she likes a good long warm up before dropping the hammer, and our front group ambitions are usually tempered by the fear of having someone with more ambition than skill take us out. Besides, those people are usually not as entertaining as Rob or Greg.
We ride and I can already see that Greg (who had never done a bike rally before) was filled with start line machismo and was frustrated at being reigned in, but also wanting to have Rob and Jackie join us. We let what seemed like a hundred people ride around us and still no sign of Jackie or Rob. As the road clears out a bit we hit what I thought was some gnarly chip seal. My unused aero bars (bought for another attempt at the Texas Time Trials in September) were doing what most aero bars do, rattle like a Benz diesel with 400K on the clock! They were so noisy, Caryn turns around and says, "Do you have a flat?" My response, "No, just rough road, no....yes"
A very convenient way to stop and find Rob and Jackie. It seems after they lost Greg at the start, they decided to start at the very back. Rob was doing about 24 mph to get through all of the back of pack fodder (yes we call those at the back that have to be passed various names!) and I saw him and wildly gestured for him to stop. No Jackie though. She came by a few minutes later and was obligated to stop, ending her rolling e-harmony interview (heck, he was only doing the 40 miler, so we already dismiss him as husband material despite his SMU Dedman Law school cred.)
Oddly, I notice that during Wednesday night rides whenever someone flats, I'm always jumping in to help, yet here on the side of the road, I was trying to repair it with everyone watching and I was choking! Greg did offer his pump to get the process started, so thank you! I should be happy that everyone stopped.
Off we go, pretty much at the back with only the grandparents and sneaker sod first timers behind. Once together, we try to establish a decent tempo. Jackie is starting to have breathing issues and Caryn's constant NPR listening has her relaying a story she heard, warning that ibuprofen can lead to asthma like symptoms.
We came upon a harrowing sight, the lead group all stopped on the road with evidence of some trauma. It must have been a bad crash, because none of them ever got on the road again, probably all done for the day.
Rob's brief account in his blog above left out some salient points. This ride is flat, those were not hills! HHH even has one climb that is steeper (but very short!) The compliance officer needs to lay off the Advil!
We would stop at the rest stops to regroup if we were detached from each other, so the training for HHH became not a question of speed, but of exposure! We were out there a long time. At one stop were were giving the appearance of having a symposium, chatting convivial to each other and a cyclist walked by and asked, "Are you a group of intellectuals?" If only he knew we were having a rather ribald discussion that lapsed into scatological humor thanks to Rob. Cyclists and their issues, out on the road!
Despite threatening to do only the forty, Jackie hung tough and finished, doing her longest distance to date. Same for Greg, who at one point earned the nickname, "The Fairing" for his impressive pulls that allowed Rob and Caryn the time and comfort to have read Dostoevsky. I would have read some Foucault, myself, but Jackie and I were not in the slipstream of "The Fairing" and were making do on our own, out in the wind.
Just about the end we come across John Sadowsky, the author of www.bicycle-stuff.com.
He took the ignominious pictures of us now splattered at the back of his picture section. What a sight!
At the finish I heard a "I hate those jerseys!" Turns out he is a Frog. Nice to know that we can still cause some animosity! I responded to him that the TCU cycling club is moribund, so that is what makes the Frogs lame. He actually shut up, but retorted to my "Pony Up" later that "Hey, we beat you last year." Rather than discuss Princeton's College Rankings, I just rode on.
Caryn and I commented afterwards that riding together as a group was very enjoyable, and after dozens of bike rallies, this one will be remembered. Most of what Rob had to say is unprintable, but funny! Greg is too often his foil, but he is very funny in a deadpan way. Jackie was riding a leisure bike this time last year and look at her now! For the rest of you, let's all ride together soon.