Saturday, January 19, 2008

Retro Ride Report: BRR '04

Editor's Note: Just finished shoveling my sidewalks in -5F temps with -25F wind chills... which means no real ride report today. However, the frozen claws that now pass for my hands can still cut and paste. So, I'm digging back into the archives of the Internet-BOB mailing list (a.k.a. iBOB) for a climate-appropriate ride report I wrote many moons ago. I'm exceptionally proud of the uber-nerdy Taun-taun reference in paragraph six -- which, had I written one more draft, would have featured the punchline, "And I thought Jason smelled bad on the outside!" For non-locals, BRR is the Bike Ride to Rippey, an annual 23-miler from Perry, IA to (logically enough) Rippey, IA and back. The catch? It's in Februrary. So, set the wayback machine to February 2004 and enjoy!

Saturday was the much anticipated (and more than a
little dreaded) BRR ride here in the frozen tundra of
central Iowa.  Having survived with all extremities
still attached, I feel the need to post a ride report.

Had dinner Friday night with pal Ross, who was also
preregistered for the ride.  He spent the entire
evening trying to talk me out of going, so he could
stay home too without losing face.  No such luck.

Saturday morning, 7 am, Ross calls: "It's five degrees
out there, 15mph wind, and there's blowing and
drifting snow on rural roads.  I'm not going."  Of
course, Ross has the car with the bike rack, so I have
to strip the bike down enough to jam it into my Civic
and drive the 40 miserable miles to Perry, IA.  All
the streets in town are snowpacked and spooky -- in
the two blocks from my parking place to the ride
headquarters, I narrowly escape eating snow twice.
And, when I get there, the only "facilities" are
portable and outdoors -- note to self, less coffee
before the ride next year.

Ride starts with a cannon blast, and we're off.

I took some chances early on to get ahead of people
and ride alone, learning quickly that a pack of riders
with questionable handling skills and no fenders is no
place to be on packed snow.  But, even my "breakaway"
was limited to about 10mph, thanks to a brutal
headwind and the lousy roads.  Within 15 minutes, my
water bottle was a block of ice, as were my hands,
feet, lips and nose.  By the time I reached the hot
chocolate stop at 6 miles, the hands had warmed up
(the rest I wrote off as a loss), so I didn't want to
stop and lose what little rhythm I had.  Caught up to
a guy on an ATB, sat on his wheel for a while.
Offered to take a pull, but we hit a bad patch of snow
and he of the 2.1" knobbies left me and my 700x35
Paselas far behind.

The route then took a turn, which -- I hoped -- meant
the end of the headwind.  It did, but the diagonal
crosswind was worse: blowing snow made it impossible
to see or hold a good line, and I had to break through
little drifts every 50 yards or so.  The tall drifts
along the side of the road meant that blowing snow hit
me broadside at about head-height, collecting inside
the right lens of my glasses and freezing up,
rendering me blind in one eye.  Started to wonder if I
would die like a Taun-taun in The Empire Strikes Back:
a plaintive, bleating cry before toppling over, then
the next rider to encounter my carcass would gut me
and wear my pelt for warmth.  Or, perhaps they would
find me the next day like Nicholson's character at the
end of The Shining, sitting in the snow, face frozen
in a maniacal stare, still clutching my bike.

After an eternity, I made it to Rippey, the longest 12
miles and 80 minutes of my life.  I literally hadn't
coasted the entire time.  Sun came out, took shelter
from the wind, downed my Thermos of coffee, tightened
up a derailleur cable for a tandeming pair, and turned
for the return trip feeling almost human.  The wind
became my friend as I found the big ring at last.
Hammered along at 18mph, throwing my butt back and
carving the snowy downhills like an insane skier,
pitying the riders going the other way.  Almost cut my
outbound time in half on the return trip.

Back in Perry, I ate my ration of chili and hot dogs,
gave an interview to the local paper, tore into Ross's
ride packet, ate his ration of chili and hot dogs,
tore down the bike with frozen fingers and made my way
back home to a hot shower.  The bike fared well,
thanks to fenders -- my chain was a mess, but
everything else stayed remarkably clean.  As to my
gear, the torso was fine (Sportwool LS jersey,
Polarfleece LS jersey, GoreTex jacket), legs were
tolerable (two pairs of tights - one windfront), hands
were eventually okay (polypro liner gloves, wool
mittens), head survived (mask plus hat) and feet
suffered (thick wool socks, plastic grocery bags,
regular riding shoes).

Will I do it again?  Not if it's this cold.  Am I glad
to have tested my limits a bit?  Sure.  Will I wear
that ride t-shirt with pride?  You better believe it.

1 comment:

scott clark said...

You maniac.

That sounds like a lot of fun while reading about it indoors, but must have been dang cold.