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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Green River Century

“Whether the weather be fine, Whether the weather be not, Whether the weather be cold, Whether the weather be hot, We'll weather the weather, Whatever the weather, Whether we like it or not.” Unknown author (probably referring to a Mad Dog;-)

June has been a hot month, more like August with temperatures in the nineties that make the outdoors feel like an oven, with temperatures that make thick syrup of the air that flows so freely in cooler temperatures. The wet, cold, windy spring suddenly leapfrogged to sizzling temperatures. The bees have had trouble finding nectar this year and I have had trouble getting enough riding in. Thus it is pleasant to hear the weather prediction for the Green River Century: lows in the sixties and highs only in the eighties......sounds a treat. The only problem is the drive. It is about two hours from Scottsburg to Campbellsville, Kentucky. I justify the trip by telling myself that I need the training and while I could do another century from my home and be a good bit through by the time I make the drive to and from, I won't ride as quickly. Riding alone hurts my speed because I am too lazy to push myself, and this year has not been conducive to training. More importantly, it will be nice to travel lesser known roads and to enjoy the companionship of friends.

When I went to bed last night I was exhausted from the Campbellsburg Century, a century that I always find to be deceptively hard. Sleep came easily, but it was fragmented, did not last, and I found getting up was no problem. My free wheel on my Trek was making strange and frightening noises on descents yesterday, so I decide to take the Lynskey. The Cannondale has a flat tire that needs fixing and while I have seen Jim Whaley ride this route fixed, I would never attempt it if I were not riding on my own or with others on fixed gears.

When I near Elizabethtown, I realize that I am unsure of the directions Grizzly has given. Do I exit at Elizabethtown and then find a Hodgenville Exit, or is there a Hodgenville Exit following the Elizabethtown exit? I pull off at Elizabethtown and phone just to be sure. I am not renowned for my spectacular sense of direction and I don't want to drive all this way and not find the ride start in time.
Grizzly gets me back on track and I soon arrive.

Arriving early, I see Jim “Grizzly” Moore's smiling face and his “Mad Dog flag,” an orange jacket waving high above his van. I sign in and then decide to get my extra miles needed to make this ride a true century prior to the ride start. It seems that every time I pass the parking lot there are new faces. Despite the fact he is now in college, I still struggle with Nate Dog driving and not being with Scott “Jammer” K. I suppose I grow old, and his growing up is just another recognition of that fact. So many Mad Dogs: I think how Eddie “Paco” would feel if he realized how the pack has grown. Some of them I know and some I do not. Despite the years that have passed without seeing Eddie, I am still thankful for knowing him and for his advice. Yes, Eddie, I remember to “weight my pedal” around turns, something that will be useful on this ride during one long, lovely, technical descent. I love those descents where it takes every last bit of concentration to find your line and hold it knowing that the least little misjudgment or distraction could result in your spilling onto the ground. You would think I would love roller coasters, but I don't. There is just something about a good descent and the way the wind caresses your face, a lover's touch tempting you toward fulfillment or disaster.

The dogs spill out onto the road, a collage of color and sounds. There is the sound of shoes clipping into pedals, gears shifting, wheels turning: the sounds I have come to adore. There is the sound of morning and the sound of conversation, jokes, and laughter between friends. There are the colors of the jerseys and the bicycles and the helmets. There are the smells that waft through the air. Every sense is engaged.

Unlike some rides, with the Green River Century I seem to be almost immediately away from any traffic and in the country. It is still a lush, fecund green. Orange day lilies line the road, straining toward light and the sun, almost obscene against their green background as they cry, “Notice me.” Other wild flowers, less flamboyant, line the roads and they make me think of Steve “Gnarly” Royse who often was able to tell me their names when we rode together more often. After the first store stop, I find myself riding off the front of the group I am with not only because I am feeling spry, but also because I want to sing. I am happy here. I am content. Sometimes being on my bicycle seems to calm my restlessness and convey contentment in a way that nothing else can. The song, “Friends,” by Elton John floats to my mind and as I sing I wonder what thought process brings certain songs to mind:

I hope the day will be a lighter highway
For friends are found on every road
Can you ever think of any better way
For the lost and weary travelers to go

Making friends for the world to see
Let the people know you got what you need
With a friend at hand you will see the light
If your friends are there then everything's all right

It seems to me a crime that we should age
These fragile times should never slip us by
A time you never can or shall erase
As friends together watch their childhood fly

Making friends for the world to see
Let the people know you got what you need
With a friend at hand you will see the light
If your friends are there then everything's all right

Making friends for the world to see
Let the people know you got what you need
With a friend at hand you will see the light
If your friends are there then everything's all right
Music by Elton John
Lyrics by Bernie Taupin

During the ride I watch Steve “Mule” Rice rescue a little, tan dog that followed me onto the highway, scooping it up in his arms and returning it to its home and somehow making it stay there. I watch Carla “Stormy” Dearing conquer hills with determination flashing in her eyes and I think how strong she has become. I enjoy the easy companionship of Dick “Minner” Rauh and Mark Rougeux, as yet Mad Dog nameless. I laugh at Dave “Bam Bam” King and Mike “Deisel” Kamenish's jokes. I take food orders for people like John “the Vaccinator” Larson as the lunch stop is overwhelmed by the number of dogs rolling in. I could go on and on. For those dogs already my friends with whom I spent all or part of the day, I thank you. For those yet to be my friends, while I tend to be a bit reserved due to excessive shyness, I look forward to meeting you and hope we become friends as we share the road and our love of cycling.