Pacific City, Oregon

A very different bike ride this year. My case that the apocalypse is nigh. Tell me I’m wrong.

Mile zero: Dennis, Mike, Joe, and I leave Amity at 9:45 AM. I’m on a rental bike this year, hoping that the slick tires will make up for my John Goodman-like exercise routine over the winter. Last year I had a bike with treaded tires which rolled with all the efficiency of stone age square wheels. This year will be different! Nonetheless, I could have sworn I heard cries of “dead man walking!” as I headed up to the registration table.

I ask Mike, an ancient history buff, for an inspiring motto like the Romans might have used before charging into battle. He offers up Carpe Diem, or “seize the day.” A good phrase, that, but I think to myself, “If I try to seize the day today, the day will grab me by the lapels, turn me upside down, and shake all the loose change out of my pockets.” I decide that I might just tap the day on the shoulder, and say “excuse me” instead.

Mile one: Quick pitstop for a seat adjustment. The bike seat, not mine. Though if tradition holds my seat is going to be sore before mile 35. A quick survey of my body reveals aches starting in my calves, quads, butt, feet, lower back, upper back, neck, shoulders, arms, forearms, hands, and fingers. No problem, only 54 miles to go.

Mile five: The nifty rolling tires are proving insufficient compensation for my lack of conditioning. It is painfully clear that I’m ill-prepared to spend 55 miles on a bike. If my calculations are correct, we’re going to be in danger of being DQ’d by missing the 5:30 PM finish line cutoff. Poor Dennis (and to a lesser extent Mike) is courteously hanging back and making sure that I’ve not bailed on the race entirely. Dennis could probably ride this race twice before I’d finish it once. It dawns on me that if we were a herd of gazelle, lions would already be feasting on my carcass. Oh happy thought.

Mile 14.7: Rest stop #1 at Sheridan. We passed the federal penitentiary on the way into town. I muse about who has life better at the moment, me or the prisoners. Six one, half dozen the other. Joe asks how the ride is going for me. I tell him Dennis is really slowing me down, a particularly funny joke since if Dennis had wanted to he’d have Reached the Beach, packed up, and been home by now.

Mile 17: A light rain starts to fall. For reasons that remain unclear, Joe challenges Mother Nature to put up or shut up. Mother Nature instantly responds with heavy rain, stinging hail, thunder, and, I’m pretty sure, a plague of locusts. With Joe leading the charge, we cycle onward through the hailstorm as other riders pull off and seek shelter from the downpour. I tell Joe that with all the cyclists temporarily out of action, we have a chance to win if the hail holds up long enough. Pain from the hail helps distract from the burning sensations elsewhere throughout my body. Perhaps because I’m so goaded on, this ends up being my best leg of the ride.

Mile 26: Joe pulls a Starsky and Hutch and wipes out crossing some railroad tracks. Amazingly, he is totally uninjured and the bike completely undamaged. This astounds all who witness the accident. Joe may have a future as a stuntman.

Mile 28: The cold, wind, and rain have sapped Joe’s energy and mine as well. Joe stops for a coffee at a Food Mart. I join him in the heated building and grab a hot chocolate. Dennis thinks this may be an ill-advised stop.

Mile 28.1: Both my quads cramp, proving Dennis almost instantly right. Luckily(?) the cramps work themselves out, and I’m able to continue the race. This ends up my biggest moment of worry in the ride. Dual quad leg cramps would probably be a show-stopper for me.

Mile 30: Rest stop #2 at Grand Ronde. Lunch is half-cooked noodles from Pizza Schmitza, a name I’m probably spelling wrong but who certainly did not earn a correction with the quality of their fare. Bad Pizza Schmitza! We riders expect better! Or at least we should expect better, even if we don’t really and are far too tired and sore to complain to whosoever is in charge.

Only Mike and Dennis had the foresight to bring gloves, so Joe and I have been contending with frozen hands up until now. Claiming he knows a trick to take the edge off the cold, Dennis gets the EMT staff at the rest stop to give us latex surgical gloves. An number of proctologist jokes follow.

Mile 30.1: Dunno about Joe, but for me at least Dennis is right about the gloves.

Mile 31: Joe stops momentarily at St. Michaels Catholic Church. I resist the temptation to ask if my prayers to St. Jude have been answered. Given the strong headwind we’ve been riding in since about Mile 2, I doubt it. Five miles or so now after his wipe out, Joe’s showing no ill after effects, which is good because Joe’s also the person in our group most qualified to treat any medical problems.

Mile 35: My deoderant fails. If I open my riding jacket now, people will die.

Mile 40: Rest stop #3 by the Little Nestucca River. Much of the last leg has thankfully been downhill, but somewhere I’ve blown a spoke. The back tire is no longer rolling true, and the wobble is enough to contact the brake pad slightly on each revolution. I wonder if this would be an adequate excuse for my poor showing. (Alas, no.) We’re about an hour off last year’s pace.

Mile 55: Like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (I’ve got dibs on Pestilence), we cross the finish line aboard our trusty steeds and terrify the assembled populous with our mud-splattered clothing, intense body odor, and horrifying helmet hair. Every horseman is met shortly thereafter by their respective significant other who, through some massive summons of will (and likely repression of good sense), celebrate the completion of our journey with kisses and hugs. With each of the respective riders, not amongst themselves, in case that wasn’t clear.

My heartfelt thanks to my fellow cyclists Joe, Mike, and Dennis for their camaraderie, patience, and goodwill. Additional props to Mother Nature for calling off the hailstorm despite Joe’s challenges to “bring it on,” and, finally, to St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, for being an attentive listener. This year I had a 55-mile tale to tell.