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(Belated) Ride report: KC 600K Brevet(8 posts)

(Belated) Ride report: KC 600K BrevetDale Brigham
May 30, 2003 1:20 PM
Gentle Reader:

Sorry to be so tardy in getting this report on the board. Who knew that even state employees have to work hard sometimes? (Not me!) I hope you enjoy this inadequate account of our hardy band's travails and triumphs on the Kansas City 600 km brevet last weekend.

Saturday morning, the 3 a.m. alarm ends my short sleep, having only gotten to bed a bit before midnight. My wife and I are staying in my sister and her husbands house in KC, having overnighted there. My parents were up from Lubbock (TX) to visit, so we had a great dinner and many glasses of wine. Not the ideal prep for a 600K brevet, but as Frank Sinatra said, "I feel sorry for people who don't drink. They get up in the morning, and that's the best they feel all day."

I shave, dress, and hastily gulp down a couple of muffins, coffee, and juice. Then, we (wifey and me) pile into the Hyundai wagon, and I drive us down south to Grandview, a south-KC suburb and our starting point. After a bit of confusion about the start location (I had started a 400K brevet there 3 years ago, but several things have changed since then), we pull into a now-closed K-Mart parking lot, where the regional brevet administrator, Bob, is parked. It's about 4:15 a.m., and Bob reports that a group has just left. (We were likewise given the option of starting at 4 a.m., but decided to stick with the 5 a.m. starting time.)

Along with Bob, we see our friend "K", whose husband "J" has started with the recently-departed 4 a.m. group. J and I rode the '99 PBP together, with his wife K and my-now wife (then, girlfriend) keeping us alive at the controles. It's hugs all around, and then I get busy with putting my Steelman together (I travel with it in the back of the wagon without wheels on) and getting the rest of my clothes on.

A brief note about clothing and stuff that goes in my jersey pockets. Unlike many randos, I pack light. On the bike, I have a small Jandd seatbag stuffed with 3 spare tubes, minitool, spoke wrench, tube patches, duct-tape, chain links, and tire levers. Strapped under that with a toestrap, I have a folded spare tire. Everything else goes in my 3 jersey pockets. Therein, I carry a cell phone, glasses in a case (start with clear; change to tinted after dawn), a few granola bars (Quaker, chewy), MO and KS road maps in a zip-lock bag, brevet card and cue sheet in a bag, and my zip-lock bag "wallet" containing, money, I.D., insurance card, credit card, bandana and handkerchief, and a couple of small jewelry pieces (a dove and a bike) as momentos of my late sister. As you might expect, that pretty much fills the pockets. If I bring much more clothing and need to remove it, like arm and knee warmers, it has to fit in there somehow.

Because of the space limitations noted above, I decided to go with only armwarmers and a reflective Sugoi wind vest to go to start out with, along with my jersey, undershirt, and bib shorts (brand new pair of Santini Twist-Gel bibs). This is a tough call, since it's chilly and might rain (prediction is about 50/50 for rain). (Foreshadowing: I come to regret my clothing decisions.)

As I am dressing and stuffing my pockets, the van with my comrades Arj, Jen, and Dan arrives and parks next to my wagon. They pile out and hurridly dress and assemble bikes. We consult about the weather and clothing choices, with Arj and me opting for no rain jackets, and Jen and Dan bringing them along.

Bob gets our brevet cards and route cue sheets distributed and gives us route hints and updates (detours, problem areas, etc.). Bob is a several-time (3, I think) veteran ("ancien") of PBP, a BMB vet, and a Randonneur 5000 (a special award, which fewer than 100 U.S. randos have earned), so he knows of what he speaks (not like me!). He did the brevet course the previous weekend, so he has the latest info. We listen attentively, but it's hard to connect to roads and places I have not seen or ridden yet.
KC 600K Brevet report, continued...Dale Brigham
May 30, 2003 1:23 PM
Well, it's almost 5 a.m., and time to start. As Jen and I are making a little pre-ride bike check in the dark parking lot, I hear the resounding crack-pop that only a blown tire can make. I frantically check my tires, fearing a repeat of my 300K brevet fiasco (3 blown tires), but I am not the victim. Jen's rear tire has blown, so it's back to the van while Arj does his husbandly duties of changing the tube and checking the rim. All checks out OK, and, after several good-luck kisses from my wife, we roll out, a bit late (5:15) into the darkness.

Grandview is a bit of a puzzle to ride through, and as soon as we make our second turn, a car pulls up along side. It's Bob, and he informs us we are off-course. Sheesh! Off-course within the first mile. This does not bode well for the rest of the ride. We get back on track, and head through lovely downtown Grandview, and then are halted for a passing train at the first of what seemed to be at least one hundred railroad track crossings.

It seems to take ages to get out of Grandview. By the time we have made our way to the last of the residential developments, it's almost 6 a.m. Again, not a good sign. The sky is getting light by then, but the thick overcast precludes a visible sunrise.

Lots of diagonal railroad crossings (the most scary kind) are on the route. Each one takes careful attention, both for the lumps and bumps and to prevent the wheels from getting caught in the space between the rails and the pavement.

A few deer cross our path and bound across a field into the mist. Dan-O declares this a good luck omen. I hope he is right.

After heading south for 15 miles or so, we turn west, farther into Kansas. A few mile lateer, a convenience store beckons. We stop for restrooms and a quick top-off of bottles and stomachs (I buy a little pecan pie and Gatorade). The store clerk is friendly, but the other patrons are not, not even acknowledging our good-morning greetings. Welcome to Kansas, indeed!

More west, then south riding, through Springhill, and on to Paola, KS, our first control (checkpoint), at 41 miles. A few miles before we make Paola, a shirtless cyclist (hard to figure- it's about 60 degrees F and cloudy) blows through a 4-way stop, going in our opposite direction. We hope that this is not a bad omen.

Paola has a fine convenience store control, and the natives seem friendlier here. This will be the first of many stops at which Danny will regale anyone within earshot (and he has a striking, Gomer Pyle-from-Alabam' sort of voice) that "we are riding 275 miles today and 100 miles tomorrow." This usually elicits comments from the listeners about our sanity (lack thereof) and common sense (lack thereof). Regardless, Danny is our ambassador to the locals, and his good nature and cheerfulness constantly lift our spirits (or nearly drive me nuts).

The two female clerks at the convenience store counter initial our brevet cards, and, like a chorus in a Greek play, warn us that we are "gonna' get rained on, fer shur." Just what we needed -- more foreboding. After a bit of a snack (I had a microwave sausage/egg/cheese biscuit and a couple of little brownies), we are way and heading out.

Bob informed us of a bit of a detour not shown on the cue sheets coming out of the Paola control, so we try to follow the way he described. Soon, we are stumped. After head-scratching and backtracking a bit, Dan-O has the good sense to ask a guy working in his yard about the route, and having obtained local info, we get back on the route.

The route is hillier now, but the headwind is very light, so all-in-all, things are good. It's still heavily overcast and cool, but no raindrops (yet).

I've had the good fortune of humming a little song or two in my head for these first few hours. In heavy rotation are The Jayhawks' single, "Save it For a Rainy Day," and Catherine Edwards' "Six O'Clock News." A good tune can really h
KC 600K Brevet report, continued...Dale Brigham
May 30, 2003 1:25 PM
I've had the good fortune of humming a little song or two in my head for these first few hours. In heavy rotation are The Jayhawks' single, "Save it For a Rainy Day," and Catherine Edwards' "Six O'Clock News." A good tune can really help on a long ride; a bad song that you can't get out of your head can kill you.

We dodge sevearl road closure barriers and approach a bridge under construction that Bob has warned us about. The concrete work is done, but there are foot-long gaps in the road surface at both ends. The surface is littered with nails and hardware, so Jen and I choose to hoof it across, while Arj and Dan ride. On the other side of the bridge, we see a guy in an orange jacket standing next to some big construction equipment. Are we in trouble for ignoring the road clusure? No, it turns out to be Glenn, another KC rando and PBP ancien, who is there with his wife running a "secret control," a checkpoint that is not listed on the route sheet. We greet, exchange weather predictions, he signs our brevet cards, and we are off again.

After having gone south for almost 50 miles, we now turn east, back towards Missouri. First, we must pass through La Cygne, KS, the town with the lovely name of "The Swan." The highway through La Cygne leads us over a ridge and past a lake on the Marais des Cygnes River (no swans visible).

I think it was as we were riding past the lake that I noticed that it was truly raining. It had been so damp and misty that it was not so much a defining point of "starting to rain," as it was ceasing to be dry. A smattering of rain drops here and there gradually became more persistent, and a light drizzle became a gentle rain.

Still, all was well. Only a light wind from the south, and a temperature that was warm enough to blunt the wetness. Although Arj and I were without jackets (my wind vest has enough of a cape in back to help, though), our jacketed comrades reported being hot and sweaty inside theirs, so it was pretty much a wash whether one bundled up or not.

One negative factor in riding on rural roads is the amount of soil (soon to be mud) left on the pavement by agricultural vehicles. It was not long until we all sported Paris-Roubaix masks, gray and grimy. Clean jerseys and socks turned splotchy and soaked, and rooster tails sprouted from our rear tires. Being on a wheel was something to avoid, not seek.

As we plugged along eastward into Missouri, the task became a bit grimmer. Our group was quiet; the chit-chat was silenced by the hiss of out tires on the wet pavement. Should I have taken along a rain jacket? Maybe so, but I was not going to suffer too much without one, if the rain did not worsen.

Through a rough detour in Amsterdam (where's that red-light district?), MO, and then south and east, I knew we were sneaking up on our next control, Butler, MO. Finally, after a long patch of broken pavement, we crossed made it to U.S. 71 (Business), where we turned south for a short run into Butler. The headwind had picked up a bit, and the traffic was thick along the way into Butler. The spray from the trucks and cars and our tires was making us soaked and filthy as we hit town. We nearly sprinted down the main drag, turned the corner to get to the control, and slid wetly into the busy convenience store parking lot, where some of our early-departed (4 a.m.) fellow randos had already arrived.

I spotted my PBP buddy J right off the bat, huddled under the overhang outside the store with another cyclist. We shook hands and warmly greeted each other. J was his usual jolly self. We showed off our new bikes to each other (his Colnago; my Steelman), discussed PBP plans, and commiserated about the effects of rain on eyewear (we are both prescription eyeglass wearers).

I made my way into the swarm of bodies in the store, bought a sandwich (in plastic, of course), chips, and more Gatorade, and got my brevet card signed. I ate outside with my co
KC 600K Brevet report, continued...Dale Brigham
May 30, 2003 1:27 PM
I made my way into the swarm of bodies in the store, bought a sandwich (in plastic, of course), chips, and more Gatorade, and got my brevet card signed. I ate outside with my comrades, as J and his riding partner departed the control.

We were about 100 miles into the ride now, with about 175 more to go that day until we returned to overnight there in Butler (I had reserved rooms in a motel there for our gang). Our turnaround (the 300 km point) was a bit closer than 90 miles away, which somehow seemed comforting. The next control, Appleton City, was only about 25 miles away, which also was comforting.

As we left the Butler control, the rain was letting up a bit, and by the time we had made it out of town, it had almost stopped completely, a most welcome development. We were now headed east on a good road, up and down a bit, but nothing too bad.

It was early afternoon now, and the fatigue of riding since 5 a.m. was setting in. It's hard for me to remember more than a few highlights of the route to Appleton City. I had ridden to there as part of a 400 km brevet I did three years previous, so I had an idea of the lay of the land and a few flashes of recognition, but nothing very distinct. The major feature on the nearly 20 mile eastbound stretch is a stairstep climb up a series of hills to the turn leading to Appleton City. Once we made that, it was only a few miles to that control town.

We made it into Appleton City, onto the main drag, and into the convenience store parking lot that served as the control. As before, we were greeted by several randos from the 4 a.m. group, who were ahead of us on the route. J and his wife K were there, having a picnic out the back of their Saab.

I had more time to chat with them, show off my Brooks Swift saddle (which, BTW, seemed to be treating me well), and do a bit of clean up in the men's room. Yet another plastic-encased sandwich and some chips, washed down by yet more Gatorade, was my second lunch. The sun was not yet out, but the rain was gone for now, so arm warmers and windvest went into the pockets, the sunglasses replaced my clear-lensed ones, and we hit the road.

This next segment was the longest of the ride, about 100 km to the next control, and 55 miles to the next town of any size on that route. Bob had warned us that water and provisions were scarce on that route segment, and his words rang true. Still, it was not too warm outside, so I eschewed taking along a third bottle (nowhere to put it anyway).

A few miles out of town, we turned south for a long (15 miles) stint on a hilly road that crossed several streams and rivers. Here, the terrain was more Ozark-like, with substantial hills the norm, rather than the exception. We flew down descents that we knew with dread that we were going to have to ascend later that day.

It was the "dark afternoon of my soul," the toughest part of the rides for me: too far from the start of the ride to feel good; too far from the end to feel good. Actually, I was not feeling too bad (although my back had been bothering me all day), considering we were well beyond the 200 km mark. I had been eating and drinking on a good schedule, and my legs were tired, but okay.

Around this time, I think I said something to my comrades about this situation, which was to the effect that at this point of the ride, you have to stop thinking about how long you have been riding and how far you have to go. You simply try to have the mindset that you have been riding forever, and you will continue to ride forever. No beginning, no end. As you can tell, I really know how to cheer up the crew!

We spot a tavern beside the road, the only establishment of any kind on the route since our last control. The gang of four stops, we walk across the gravel parking lot, and two of the braver souls, Danny and Arj, go inside. All is fine inside, and the natives are friendly.

My three comrades use the facilitie
KC 600K Brevet report, continued...Dale Brigham
May 30, 2003 1:29 PM
My three comrades use the facilities and get water, but I remain outside (I had one bottle of Gatorade still on my bike) and pull out the MO roadmap I had brought along as backup for our route cue sheets. Man, it looks like a long way to the next control. South, then east, then north a bit, like an fishhook. I estimate about 40 miles to the next town, and almost 10 miles after that to the turnaround control. Ouch!

After we left the bar, it's a long blurry sequence of endless hills, chasing dogs, and weariness. Arj and Dan-O climb out of the saddle in what look to me to be outrageously big gears, while Jen and I churn along seated in back in our little chainring/cog combos. I use the small ring on my Steelman more that afternoon than I think I used the entire rest of the time I have owned the bike. (I have a 46/38 in fromt and a 11-28 in back, so calling the 46 the "big ring" is a bit of a misnomer.)

It's the Missouri rollercoaster -- climb in the smallest gear, hit the crest of the hill, and shift to the big ring and small cogs; reverse the process as the descent flattens out, then climbs again. Repeat endlessly.

My bottles are close to empty and my legs are heavy as we get closer to the next town, Humansville. Of course, all I think about are snappy high school sports' team names: The Humansville "Beings," the Humansville "Homo Sapiens," the Humansville "Lil' Lady Fightin' Home Sapiens" (junior high girls team), etc. Yep, there's not much to do on the way to Humansville other than pedal and think.

We finally hit Humansville, where a solitary convenience store is our refuge. Danny argues for a stop at the Methodist church fish fry, but we overrule him. Our plan is to rest and eat a bit here, sprint the 8 miles or so to the turnaround contol, then stop again at Humansville for another quick snack before we hit the 55 mile "desert" between there and Appleton City.

This plan works swimmingly. We eat and chat with the native Humans(villians), hit the road for Weaubleau (pronounced "We-Blow" by the natives), the 300 km control. On the way, the sun reveals itself for the first time all day. We actually cast shadows! We climb out of Humansville, then have a nice flat stretch, the first in hours, the rest of the way to Weaubleau.

Arriving in Weaubleau, I do a faux sprint for the city limit sign, raise my arms in triumph, and glory in our having made it halfway. We locate the control at the Pit Stop, yet another convenience store. After getting our brevet cards signed and stocking up on fluids, we head back for a quick, seemingly downhill, ride to Humansville. The mood is light, the sun is shining, and the wind is at our backs.

As planned, we have a brief stop at Humansville for one more little sandwich, more Gatorade, and a quick vist with J, who has still on his way to the turnaround. We are heading back now -- every pedal stroke takes us closer to our destination, not farther away. We have about 55 miles to Appleton City, and another 25 miles to Butler, our overnight stop. It all looks good.

The hills now somehow seem less formidable, the pickup truck drivers less intimidating, the chasing dogs less toothy. It's a nice cool temperature, the wind is very light, and we are prepared for night riding, with our reflective vests and ankle reflective strpas donned.

As the miles melt away and the sun sets, the lights go on, and the road dims down to our little circles of illumination. I actually like this time of day; it's like starting a new ride. We make much faster time than we did this afternoon, leaving the worst of the hilly sections of the route behind in a couple of hours riding.

Now heading back north, we cross the Clear Creek and the Osage River, both of which are followed by big climbs out of the river valleys. Those were the climbs we dreaded on the way out; now they are behind us. We are making good progress.

In good spirits, we stop again at the
KC 600K Brevet report, continued...Dale Brigham
May 30, 2003 1:32 PM
In good spirits, we stop again at the roadside tavern about 15 miles awy from our next control, Appleton City. This time, the parking lot is packed with Ford and Chevy pickups, but that does not stop Dan-O, who beckons us in. I'm thinking about what kind of butt-kicking I'm about to receive from the inebriated natives. Fortunately, all is friendly inside. I'm tempted to get a beer, but think better of it, knowing that I'm on a metabolic knife-edge. One little goofy thing, and I'm a quivering mass in the fetal position on the floor.

I check in with my wife on the cell phone (I had spoken with her in Humansville, a few hours earlier) while my pals are inside. She is glad to hear we are doing well, but she has bad news: a storm is coming our way, and it is raining hard in Appleton City. Just what I did not want to hear. I break the news to my comrades, and we put on whatever rain gear we have.

As we leave the bar and continue north, the wind starts to pick up, and the breeze smells like rain. The wind freshens steadily, and the first rain drops fall, big ones that sting where they hit bare skin.

Riding in the rain in the dark is not my idea of fun, but we have no choice. If we hurry, we will make it to Appleton City before the convenience store closes at 11 p.m. We press on into the storm.

We are really getting clobbered now by the wind and rain. It's blowing us around quite a bit, and I'm soaked and cold. I take comfort in the fact that we'll be in Appleton City within an hour, where my wife awaits with food, warm clothes, and a real rain jacket.

As we plunge into the rain, I think, this would be a bad time to have a flat tire. Punctures happen more frequently in the rain, when water brings sharp little objects out of the cracks in the pavement and up into tires. As soon as i have this thought, a feel by rear tire bottom out against the rim. I can't believe it -- I have a flat rear tire. In the dark, in the rain. Man, am I hacked off!

I mournfully announce my predicament, then roll along, putting my wight on the front wheel a nd relieving pressure on the back. I'm looking for a good place to change the tire, like a side road or somewhere else to make the repair. There is absolutely nothing except dark, wet road, with uncut, knee-high weeds coming right up to the verge.

I finally stop, and think about what to do. I'd guess we are between 5 and 10 miles away from Appleton City. Could I pump the tire up enough to get me there, where a spare tire and tube await in my car with my wife? Can I make it there without holding up the whole group? Will the store still be open when we get there?

I'll let you know in a bit. Thanks for reading.

correction...Dale Brigham
May 30, 2003 1:35 PM
"As soon as I have this thought, I feel my rear tire bottom out against the rim."
Dale - I know you made it but ... can you finish the story?!(NM)KeeponTrekkin
May 30, 2003 7:48 PM