Posts Tagged ‘Blue Ridge Parkway’

In the spring of 1980, a bunch of my buddies were making plans to do a bicycle tour from my home town of Manhattan, Kansas to Bay Lake Minnesota.  The whole exercise of planning and preparation was quite intriguing.  Not a cyclist, and only 19, I was feeling left out.

That summer I started making some real cash and invested in a Raleigh Super Grand Prix, with panniers, fenders and such.  Owning the cool stuff was way more fun than trying to get in shape.  However, over a few months I was beginning to venture a little further from home and the rides got longer.

These same buddies returned from their adventure in very good shape (I actually joined them for a couple of weeks at my friend’s family lake house).  But, I was still working up to 35 mile rides.

One of the local cycling clubs organized an October cycling event called “Octoginta”.   This included a swap meet and dinner and culminated in an 80 mile ride through the Flint Hills of Kansas.  Again, bowing to peer pressure, I was compelled to sign up.

By this time, I had already upgraded my Raleigh with Campagnolo Nuovo Record derailleurs, shifters and brakes.  Not enjoying my new Concor saddle, I took it to the swap meet to trade and quickly found a guy wanting one of the worst saddles in history and traded me for his Campagnolo Record 32 hole HIgh Flange Hubs.  What a steal I made.  I still have all of these parts 30 years later.

We camped in tents the night before the big ride. (something I have not done and will not do again)  If you are unfamiliar with Kansas weather it really consists of two seasons, summer and winter.  Well, winter had already arrived.  It was cold overnight in the tent – something like 35 degrees and the wind was howling at 30 mph or so.  A local veteran actually started the ride in a down parka.

So here is this young rookie, foolishly agreeing to do this ride, freezing overnight in a tent, without the proper clothes to keep warm and with a long ride of maybe 40 miles under his belt.  But, we took off.

I truly had no idea what to expect, having no concept of hydration or nutrition planning.  Along the route they had water stops and granola bars.  Octoginta always provides a great soup lunch at the halfway point.  I managed to make it there in fairly good shape.

The loop back was a very different story.  All of my buddies had long-since left me.  I was on the death march home.  Most of the return route was into a block head wind.  It may be hard to believe, but Eastern Kansas is very hilly.  The course is much like the Blue Ridge Parkway from an undulation perspective.  The last big hill before the finish is actually a ski slope (operating occasionally).  And, we rode straight up and over the top of this baby.  Oh my goodness, this hurt.  I was very deep, cold, exhausted and barely able to keep the pedals turning.

With about 10 miles to go back to Lawrence, and the finish, I truly began to lose my senses.  This is the first and only time that I have hallucinated while riding.  I distinctly remember seeing a brick wall from the side of the road extending into and across the road in front of me and I had to stop to avoid running into it.  Soon after, I saw cows standing in the road right in front of me.

By this time I had run into an even younger buddy, Kenny, who was also in trouble.  We hobbled the last few miles into town and managed to miss a turn and get lost, winding up about 4 miles from the proper finish and our rides back to Manhattan.

Stopping at a 7-Eleven, I saw a local with a pick up truck and said, “we have just ridden 80 miles and i will give you $5 to give us a ride over to the park.”  To which he replied, “well, if you have just ridden that far, I suspect you would be willing to pay more like $20.”  I agreed and he threw our stuff, and us, in the back.  Guilt must have prevailed, because he smiled and wouldn’t take any money when he dropped us off.

A much older and wiser member of my cycling club, Richard, finished the ride long before me.  He was a writer for the Manhattan Mercury and eagerly recorded my story for the Sunday paper next day.  We had several pictures of us during and after the ride, along with Richard’s take on the events of the day.

This day was absolutely one of the most important of my life.  I had completed what was a huge feat for me at the time, had it documented in the local paper, and lived to tell about it.  I made amazing progress as a human on that day.  Perhaps I became an athlete that day.

Enjoy your progress!