Monday, September 13, 2010
Retiring An Old Soldier
The staff seamstress here at The Cycle tells me that the holes in my beloved Smicksburg (PA) Century t-shirt are in fact signs of terminal illness, fabric worn and washed to death over the last 11 years. I'm going to immortalize it here before it goes to its final resting place of honor as a shop rag.
Smicksburg '99 still holds top honors as the hardest ride I've ever done. I was surprisingly lean in those days, 25 pounds under my current fat-Midwesterner weight, commuting 20 miles a day over the hills of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. Call me sick, but I actually learned to love climbing in western PA, at least compared to the headwinds we get here in the center of the country. Hills have a defined end. Wind, not so much.
I was a mechanic at the now-defunct Laurel Highlands Schwinn in '99, so I rode in shop colors with the informal, unsponsored "friends of the shop" team: Chad, Tinky, Hutch, maybe Jernigan? I can't remember. I know Bill (the shop owner) couldn't make it, which was a bummer as I was hoping for some company at the back of the pack (Bill and I were the "descending specialists" on the team). I remember the morning was cool, with a nice mist in the air on the first long climb. Things heated up in the afternoon, though, and the organizers thoughtfully put a much-worse climb at about mile 80. The macaroni salad I'd eaten at the lunch stop didn't help -- nothing like a little mayonnaise in the gut when you're soloing (having long since been dropped by the faster contingent of Team LHS) up a long grinder in the blazing sun.
I made it to the end, though it was one of those "leftover salt crusties from sweat on the outside of the shorts" kind of days. Ick. I'm not entirely sure how I mustered the leg strength to work the clutch on my old truck during the drive home. Despite all that, Smicksburg '99 is one of my favorite riding memories, and a fitting century to end the last century.