Sunday, April 1, 2012

Flat and Out on the BitterSweet Road

Skidmore Finds....mutant clovers at the intersection of Bittersweet and Wendover Rds

The last time Craig and I made this journey was the last day of the last month of 2011.  Today we repeated the journey on the last day of March.  I was also the last ride of my rear tire. 

The rampage of baggers were to meet at Colby Park at 9 am.  I woke up after 8 am.  Behind already.  Strange, I did not go out the night before nor did I drink at home.  I went to bed early after a long day of driving my mother to Ottumwa and back to close out on my grandmother's apartmentAn omen appeared in the form of a flat tire on the 520 after returning to my sister's house.  Grab the keys to van and go to Bike World and purchase 2 tubes and a set of levers.  patty has a floor pump.  Load up the stolen art work and roll home with mary, who happened to be off by the time I was fixing the tire.

Late.  Grab what was necessary for a 70+ mile ride.  Spare tube, Powerbars, jacket, two water bottles, cash, camera and mobile phone.  Oh yes, cooler bag.  Needing breakfast but lacking time I stopped at Grazianos for a bag of rolls and a box of raspberry filled cookies.  Eat while riding.  Ever try braking with bread in both hands?  Fun.

I headed to Gray's Lake and Water Works trails to get to Colby Park.  Somewhere on the missing link I spy Rikki King riding the opposite way.  Craig later commented that Rikki wanted to ride with us.  Craig texted once stating that they were about to roll.  I was just north of Mc Donalds, a few minutes away.  Apply more steam.  If I missed them I thought I'd double back and take the NST and intercept the HTT via Polk City and the Oasis.  Fortunately, I made it on time and got to enjoy the first beer of the day. 

My partners for the day, Craig Lien and Bob Skidmore at Colby Park

Bob seemed a bit nervous when he said "Please be gentle."  He never realized until that day just how slow Craig and I ride.  Sure, we can rocket when we need to but our off the bike time makes for some long days.  After today I thought he'd never want to ride with us again.

After a beer and a few photos we snaked our way to Grimes through the bicycle trails in Urbandale.  Going though Walker Johnson Park we headed west along Douglas where flat number 1 occurred.  During a discussion of troublesome tires and flats I looked down and noticed that the my rear tire was flat.  Again.  I thought I should just say "sorry fellas but you are on your own."  We were by the Pepsi warehouse.  I could walk the bike to the QT and air up the tire and limp it to Bike World and purchase a new set had I a presta adapter.  Left mine at home.

After wasting 2 CO2 cartridges and then pumping with Craig's pump we were off and rolling again.  Crossed I35/80 and took a right at the Kum&Go.  North to Grimes then a left to the first paved road then north again until we hit the cows.  Craig's cows.  Don't know why he has an affinity for them but they sure came a running when Craig parked his bike.  They love him.  Bob later commented that cows are dogs and horses are cats.  The horses we saw did not give a rat's ass about us.
Craig and his cows

After a beer we rolled north and went through Granger.  A quick stop at Casey's for provisions and restrooms was next.  Here we encountered a group of roadies who questioned us and our choice of bikes.  "You all going away for a month.  I do declare that's alot of stuff you all have.  Cletus could not carry that much.  Hell he'd fall over and cry like he did when they hung his pa for stealin' a pig."  Craig produced a bottle of sand that he carries for extra weight.  They almost wet their Lycra shorts.  We should have given them more shit.

North again on gravel and we finally hit the intersection of Bittersweet and Wendover Roads.  Possibly a 3 beer each stop.  Some "Skid Finds" of 4 and 5 leaf clovers before rolling to the HTT.  We intercepted the trail east of the Woodward and west of the bridge.  30 something miles from the southside of Des Moines.  First stop was on the outlook.

Things have been tense here lately.  Apparently, Boone County has received several complaints about drinking on the bridge and that county will enforce a drinking ban.  Never mind the fact that people have been stabbed and shot in that county in recent months.  Police standoffs ect.  The real criminals are the one that ride bicycles to the trestle and drink adult beverages..  Strange FB postings and texts about the sheriff kicking people out the night before.  You can camp under neath the trestle but will receive the full wrath of Boone County if you have a campfire.  Once the novelty of this bridge and trail wears off a bit things will undoubtedly calm down.  Until then, keep your wits about you and be careful not to stare.

After a football pop, and despite some of us needing a restroom, we moved onto the trestle proper and enjoyed another football pop and Bob's discussion of a  base jumper.

All good things must come to an end so we had to leave the bridge.  I prefer to be here at night but today that was not possible.  With a heavy heart I left this windy spot 13 stories above the Des Moines River and headed to the Flat Tire Longe for some of Sam's sublime tacos.  Yes, Tacoapocalyspe on a Saturday in Madrid.  We also hit a new bar called Baldy's which has not officially opened.  It was open for the Pony Express Ride that day.  Then Who's Lounge, a dive which seemed to be the place to be, crowded and loud, we split a bucket of beer.  Time to head to Slater.

Quick beer break at the bench and horse racks built by the Boy Scouts was our first stop.  Too nice to avoid taking a break.  I often consider this place for a campsite.  Just bring mosquito repellent as they get thick here in the summer. 

We were almost to the elevator outside of Slater when the unwelcome sound of a tire blowing was heard.  Rear tire again with a whoosh whoosh whoosh with every rotation.  FUCK.  My head began to ache either caffeine withdrawal (I had none so far that day) or sobering up hangover.  I think the former.  Bob loaned me a tube.  Hope I can make it home.

The new bar in Slater was the next stop.  Business seemed good.  Food was served.  We stayed for one beer and then fought the wind on our homeward journey.  My head was really killing me and I knew the misery of the stretch from Slater to the Polk City turn off would be hell in this wind.  Fought it before.  Will fight it again.  But I was close to migraine.  Keep head down.  Just five miles.  Don't dwell on it.  It has been worse before.  Once we turn to Polk City I can get caffeine at Kum&Go.  Craig and Bob wanted to push on to Casey's.  But I would not make it that far.  Get some 'feine and slip into the comfort and seclusion of the NST and a mere 24 miles to my house.

Bob went on ahead.  I never saw him again.  We kept him out late and now I was going to be slow for awhile.  I did the Dew, regular, and some M&Ms.  Craig supplied a slice of pizza.  Then we were off again.  Head still killing me but I knew what I had to do.  Craig wanted to stop at the marina but my head said no.  Just keep rolling.  Get the most out of the daylight and creep closer to home.  Mary texted my and asked for a ETA.  22 miles was my reply.

The trail was empty.  How many times have been the only soul on the trail I wondered?  Fine with me.  I did not need to see anyone.  Pedal and wait for the caffeine to kick in.  Should have purchased or carried a pain reliever but given my intake of beer that was not a good idea.

When I reached the prairie I noticed the thunderhead to the east.  I could see the lightning but did not hear the thunder.  Far away but not coming this way.  But keep rolling in case it has a friend.  Head feeling a bit better but now it was getting dark. 

I turned on full lights at the Visitors Center.  It was dark and light is a necessity for the descent down the dam wall.  I thought about filming this but need both brakes.  The descent was uneventful, no deer nor other trail users.  Not many miles now.

Once on the bottom and near the river I could see many campfires along the river.  people were fishing and camping out there.  I'd spook up a few deer every now and then, jumping and running through the woods as if I was the grim reaper with my bright lights.  And I noticed that my headache was almost gone.  Craig texted and said that he was behind me.  It was going to be alright.

Then flat #3.  WHOOSH WHOOSH WHOOSH!!!.. I was almost at the end of the I-80 stretch and should have known better.  This section needed to be repaved 10 years ago.  Rough and bumpy and often littered with sticks and branches this is among the worst segments of trail anywhere.

What to do now?  The tire is obviously history.  Miles from civilization.  One option: walk.  So I walked about a mile and a half.  I considered who to make the 911 call to.  But such a call would not be easy.  The last time I looked at my phone the battery bar was red and it beeped at me "please connect to charger now."   Get to Euclid and have someone meet me at the Polk County building at the area formerly known as Targhetto.  Less than 2 miles.  Just call someone with a truck or a bike rack or van.  Explain the situation and give the location quickly before the battery died.  It must have been 830 pm.  I'd have one chance at a phone call.  But what if the phone died during the distress call?  Who ever I called would most likely have questions.  Before their queries could be answered the battery would quit leaving me off track and alone wondering if they'd ever show.  I needed to get home and shower and get to bed.  It has been a long day and I am about 70 miles into a ride that turned into a walk.

There was another option.  Not one that I recommend but one I have used before.  I call it the "Franz."  Franz used to race for Europa back in the early 90s.  he was known for riding on a flat.  And on a few occasions on my way to work I'd do this myself as well.  As long as there is rubber between the rim and the pavement the wheel will be ok.  But I was about 7 miles out.  Never ever rode a flat this far.  But riding on a flat is faster than walking and Mary is probably worried about me.  I texted later "near Birdland limping a bad tire home."

The secret is to be slow and careful.  Avoid bumps if possible.  Walk it up or down hills.  Pay attention to the noise.  If you hear metal on asphalt STOP.  The wheel makes a noise when the stem is on the bottom.  The tire is ruined anyway, time to squeeze the last bit out of it.

The only section of my route that worried me was along Robert Ray Drive.  The trail here is bad and the road just as bad if not worse.  Plus there are people here.  I saw a group of people walking up the bridge to Lutheran Hospital.  One of them had on a safety vest.  No lights.  Just walking.  I turned off the Turbocats as not to fry out their retinas.  Another group was at the B-Cycle kiosk at the skate plaza.  Instead of renting bikes they walked the same direction as I was traveling.  I ditched them at the police station.  The red bridge had a group of bikers enjoying football pops on the overlook.  I did not recognize them.  I still had 4 of these sodas but was not interested in them.  A young family was walking across the bridge at the same time.  Some of their children were underneath making screaming ghost noises.  Enjoy your youth, I thought, you only have it once.

Piece of cake from here to the end.  Just one mile to go.  Mullets was still open so i was not that late.  Jersey Shore and Dress Like a Rapper Night at Fat Tony's.  That bar was best as a gay bar despite playing that Cher song too much.  I like FT before the sun goes down and the 2nd shift clientele come in. 

Finally, I turn onto my street.  The scent of flowering trees is in the air.  Good to be home.  Then an attack from a little white dog.  Go ahead you rat bastard, make my day so I can leave a SPD mark on your head.  It backed off, sensing that I was not fucking around.

Home at last!!  SNL rerun was on.  Actually funny although I only recall the Digital Short and Robyn as musical guest.  Shower and then the last of the rolls I bought over 12 hours ago.  I missed dinner but I was home.  Plug the phone in and let Craig know that I was safe.  77 miles.  7+ miles limping.  200 for the week.  First 200 mile week since October.

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