Friday, August 3, 2012

RAGBRAI: The Choclate Milk Shite Storm

Don't know who this leg belongs to but I bet they needed some Oxy for it.

Chocolate milk.  All for a chocolate milk.  Could have been anything.  A gatorade, a Powerbar, an apple, an orange, one of those coins "Bummsfookville welcomes Ragbrai XL 2012" or even a pencil.  Or a banana.  I've been known to pull off to the side of a banana.  Whatever the bikehag hands out, Ragbraiers will go to the right and grab.  Swag.  On Wednesday she was handing out chocolate milk.

I have nothing against chocolate milk.  Tasty.  One of the best recovery drinks available.  Inexpensive.  AE makes the best IMHO.  But I may be a bit lactose intolerant these days.  A pint of milk is really a shitebomb an hour or so after guzzling.  My chef and I sell Kemp's milk and we joke that they are really chocolate bombs.  Chug one and wait.  Hope we are near home when it goes off.  But I did not follow the Siren's call to get a free chocolate milk.  Sam Hildreth did.  My dear friend, mentor and calm figure that I should emulate more except in terms of bicycling.  He needs to ride more with me.  Bicycling is the only realm I can offer him anything.  Well, the finer points of New Order and Busch Light.

Sam was one of the 23000+ riders on Wednesday as Ragbrai rolled its ugly ass to Marshalltown.  I think Sam has participated in 3 or 4 of these bike circuses.  He paid for his wristband and the fees to have the Tall Dogs schelp him and his gear to Sioux Center.  His brothers Joe and Donnie rode to the start of Ragbrai, supported, instead of the long bus journey.  I missed them by a day.  Joe got 700 miles this year for Ragbrai.  That's more than I got all July.  But Sam took the bus. 

Sam rides a black Trek 1200.  Because of an old football injury, Valley HS, West Des Moines, he removed the drop bars and replaced them with flat bars.  His neck pain made riding intolerable.  This was done this year.  His bike may have sat in the garage for two years collecting dust until he swapped bars.  I have ridden quite a few miles with him and his brothers.  But Sam's one true passion is Philmont.

Philmont is a 250 square mile BSA preserve in the Sangre Cristo region of the Rookie Mountains in northern New Mexico.  If memory serves me right, he has visited that place 5 or 7 times.  I had the distinct privilege of going there with him in 2009.  At Philmont one puts on a backpack and a pair of hiking boots and disappears in the Rookies for 10 days.  Everything one needs is carried in backpacks.  Clothing, tents, cooking gear, food, bear ropes ect.  Every few days these people pick up food at a designated station and then back into the wilderness they return.  Self contained at its finest.  We have stood on the top of Mt Baldy, 12,441', and stared into Colorado.  We also stared down a mountain lion at night at 25 yards.  Serious business.  No Casey's every 10 miles.  No SAG.  Cellphone reception void.  Bicycling became a way to train for Philmont.

On Tuesday July 31st I text Joe Hildreth.  "How was your Ragbrai?"  Having rode Tour de Kota with Joe and Donnie I was curious.  This had to be the hottest Ragbrai ever.  During my 'Brai I got a text from Joe but he was a day ahead of me on the ride out to the start.  And this year, despite riding for 6 days and 362 miles, I never got close to the Official Ragbrai Route.  TdK was my structured tour.  Brai was my week of fun on a touring bike without people telling me to move along.  I think I was with at most 40 bikers versus the 23000 the Hildreth brothers were with. 

His reply, "Great trip. Seven hundred miles.  Sam wasn't so lucky..."  Damn, 700 miles??!!!???  I must find friends that actually ride bikes.  Sam!!!!  WTF??!!  He never made it to Story City.

So the bikehag is standing at the side of the road luring unsuspecting bikers to her with the promise of chocolate milk.  When I asked him if it was AE he said he did not recall.  What he recalls is moving to her and receiving the chocolate milk.  The bomb exploded immediately.

As he was returning to the route another bicyclist cut him off.  There was contact.  Then Sam says he must have passed out.  His next memory is one of him falling down a steep ditch unable to get one foot out of the toe clips.

"Once again I protected the bike with my body," he told me.  His brother said that his bike was ok and did not appear damaged.  Sam has not seen it since the chocolate bomb.  It would be very difficult for him to go out to his garage and look at it.

On Monday the foot that could not get out of the pedal  was operated on.  Four screws are now part of his skeletal structure.  His tibia or fibula was broken at the ankle and many of the bones in the foot were moved about.  One month without putting weight on it.  Surgery.  He would have been better off with a broken collar bone instead.

"I never again did I see the person that forever changed the course of my life," he said.  "He rode on as I fell into the ditch."

"Were you alone?"  Joe and Donnie are fast riders.  Sam has been unable to train as much as they do and I bet they left him in the dust early on like they did me on TdK.

"Yes, alone.  Ragbrai picked up my bike.  I rode in the meatwagon.  I got an email from Ragbrai stating that found a bag with my stuff in it.  That's the first sign that somebody stripped the bike but it could have fallen off.  I had my Ragbrai info in it."

"What about Philmont?  You got 11 months to recover before you lead the Crew in 2013."

"Philmont is out.  I have not told the Crew.  The doctor said that it would be 3 years before I could carry that much weight (50lb) and hike in the mountains again."

3 years.  Train tickets for 2013 have been paid.  Training began last year.  My son is going.  No Sam this time.  Damn, I almost cried.  The one great adventure left has been DENIED by an asshole on a bicycle.

"Shit, I'll be 60 by the time this foot is healed.  Everything is good at 50.  Then at 55 you start falling apart."

I resisted the urge about asking about the bike.  True bikers when talking to true bikers, once the health issues are discussed and the possibility of death is not in the realm, will ask how the bike fared.

'So I am going to get a resistance trainer and put the bike on that.  The bike now is my only outlet for adventure.  The bicycle is my only training instrument."

What a relief.  I still have a biking friend.  A normal person would say "Fuck it.  Fuck that shit.  That shit nearly killed me.  My body is forever fucked up and I aint never risking it again."

"You got to get the shoes for those SPD pedals that have been in your garage for 3 years.  Put the tension on the lowest setting.  Clipping out is most important and your foot and ankle will be weak at that."

"Yep.  I promise."

I concluded the phone call with an offer.  "Join me on the Darkside.  Ride Brai not Ragbrai.  Avoid 23000 extra people.  I will show you the Russian blond in Gliddon.  You will like her.  It is the best adventure you can have in Iowa."

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