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.
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!