It is the night before the brevet and I am unsure if I will ride tomorrow. The world around me has turned into a nightmare, a dark hell of destruction and loss. I am unsure of many things in the face of this disaster. As with all loss, I am left with a feeling of waiting, of something left to be done, when there is nothing that can be done. My own helplessness plagues me. Earlier today the skies darkened, clouds roiled and became menacing, and the wind howled angrily shoving everyone and everything out of its path. Like a drunken man on a rampage, unpredictable, impetuous, it indiscriminately punished all who dared to stand in its path, unheeding of cowering pleas for mercy .
Earlier I was trapped at work being the only one in management who had not left, and I have sent those workers home who wanted to leave. The few who chose to remain I shepherd into bathrooms as I listen on the radio and hear of the tornadoes touching down on roads where I frequently ride my bicycle and listen to the sirens blaring out a warning of impending destruction. If I did not ride these roads so often, I would not be able to so closely track the path the storm seems to be following, but I know these roads, their curves and pot holes and uphills and downhills. I worry about my husband and the family that went to my home because of the protection of our basement, but I am powerless in the face of this fury. Yet again it makes me realize how illusionary our belief in control really is, however comforting that belief may be. It is easy to see why so many poets felt that the fates were laughing at us in our puniness.
In the light of this afternoon, my car accident earlier in the day recedes to being a minor event. While my car was pretty messed up and it is a major financial blow, I walked away essentially unscathed suffering only a minor blow to the head. Any accident that allows you to walk away afterward, whether involving bicycles or cars or a combination of the two, is a good accident despite the contradiction in terms. There is much to be said of the ability to move appendages.
When the storm has passed and we are safe, I hear that several small neighboring towns were destroyed. I am unable to get through to home on the phone, but when I arrive my husband is safe. One brother, however, who lives in Henryville is unaccounted for, and we have no television or internet to try to find out if he and his family are okay. I do hear on the radio that most of the town is gone, including the school, and he lives next to the school. My husband ages visibly before my eyes, concern taking its toll. We debate driving there, but we hear on the radio that nobody is being allowed in. I also hear that we have lost our gas station store stop that we frequent on the Maple Syrup ride and the Salem Century. Indeed, we were sitting there just last Saturday, blithely unaware that it would soon cease to exist except as a pile of rubble. It makes the head spin how quickly things can change, and it fills you with sadness. As Freud said, "Illusions commend themselves to us because they save us pain and allow us to enjoy pleasure instead. We must therefore accept it without complaint when they sometimes collide with a bit of reality against which they are dashed to pieces." Well, I have no choice to accept, but I reserve my right to complain.
Finally, at around 11:00 p.m. that evening, we receive a call from Danny in Florida who has seen that Ernest and his family are okay. I think how ironic it is that he, living all those miles away, knows more about what happened just down the road than we do. Ernest just happened to be one of the people interviewed, and Danny happened to have on the right news station.
Do I ride in the face of all this? My husband tells me I should take his truck and go to the ride, and so reluctantly I go. While I feel incredibly selfish, I also realize my impotence. Still tears streak my face upon occasion as I drive to the ride start, particularly as I pass the Henryville exit, still blocked off by police, and along the sides of the expressway I see uprooted trees and debris. I think of the child found ten miles from her home, tossed about by the wind like a feather, now hospitalized but soon to leave this world to meet her family which was also taken.
When I arrive in Shelbyville, I am surprised at the large number of people at the start as it is not a PBP year. 32 riders from five states are represented. There are two tandems, one recumbant, and many single bikes. Jody and Steve have completed a 200K before, but it is the first for Larry and Nita. Bill Pustow, the one who marked the course this year, is registered but does not show. All will be successful today except for one gentleman unknown to me who will suffer three flats within the first nine miles of the ride. Despite the wind, even the last person had a tad over fifty minutes to spare prior to the course closure. (In brevets, every stop has a generous time limit to allow for success.)
Because of the later start time and the distance, I have lights but I hope not to use them. I ride much of the early part of the ride with Scott Howes. We are not completely synchronized: Scott is a bit faster on the pedals than I am, but I am faster in and out of the controls. Also, I keep getting interrupted by telephone calls that I have to take since I am on call. After some interesting conversation that helped the miles to pass, we eventually part ways for good. I will not see Scott again until the end, but I am thankful that I had his interesting conversation for awhile to pass the miles and to keep my mind off of more unpleasant topics.
This course is easier on the way out than it is on the way in, particularly so with the wind. When I do the turn around, I know I have the choice of trying to find someone to share the wind with or facing it on my own. The power of a head wind when cycling never fails to astonish me, and I find myself growing weary as the wind throws up a wall to forward movement. Eventually I see who I believe to be Steve Royse up ahead, but as I increase my speed, his speed seems to increase as well. Alas, I am not up to a game of cat and mouse today. He remains in my vision, but we never share the road or the wind today.
Finally it is the last control, and I quickly grab a drink and a snack. My pace is slow, but it is steady. The wind direction has changed or the wind has calmed. I really am not sure. I pass Steve Royse who has a flat. I ask if he has what he needs to get back rolling, and he assures me he does. A short while afterward I am joined by Mike "Diesel Dog" Kamenish. He had ridden out with some of the faster riders, but then faded. I worry when I hear his back is hurting because I remember his surgery for this same problem. Grasshopper and I rode to the hospital to see him afterward when he was as high as a Georgia pine. He tells me he also faced the wind alone today. We finish the ride together reaching my goal which was to finish before dark. I enjoy our time together and think of the many miles I have ridden with Diesel, my friend. My bicycling has introduced me to so many special people and I am blessed. I am extremely shy and meeting new people is a source of great anxiety to me turning me into a blithering idiot or mute slob, depending upon the occasion.
At the end there are smiles, congratulations, teasing, and pizza: it doesn't get much better than this. Thanks for the great course, Steve, the great markings, Bill, and the companionship many of you provided this day. As brevets go, it was not a particularly difficult one, but I am exhausted, my legs are sore, and I will sleep better for it.
(This will probably be the last post on the Kentucky 2012 brevet series. I missed the 300K and it is unlikely that I will ride the 400 or 600 this year).