""Summer dropping so easily a delicious
everything upon your skin and lips. Like
a never-ending kiss - taunting, deep, and
luscious. The sun. The heat. The thousand
echoes of a timelessness before time, when every
day seems longer than the next, and no day
seems likely to truly end. Summer."
This weeks century is the Dupont Century. I am not sure who put this route together. Paul says he does not know. I suspect it is Tim Chilton, but I don't know for sure. I try to pass these things on knowing full well that most won't remember and fewer still will care, but that there will be the one or two who understand the importance. Certainly putting a century together now is much easier than it was in the old, pre GPS days. But even now roads have to be woven together to reach stores to refresh supplies and to meet other needs. Regardless, the route has, to the best of my knowledge, remained the same. The change is going to be the store stop. The old store is closed whether due to retirement or lack of business I can't say. I have fond memories of the old store, but its closure can't take those away. It can only mean there will be no new memories there. Like the store at Medora, the old store was, literally, an old store, the kind that takes you back fifty years to a different way of life. As the Rascal Flatts song says, "I miss Mayberry, sitting on the porch drinking ice cold cherry coke." Change, change, always change.
I am the first to arrive at the ride start but it is not long before cars begin to straggle in. John calls to tell me he is running late due to a road closure. I assure him I will wait. I wonder how the day will go, for it is summer and it is supposed to be hot and humid. I hope everyone rides wisely. I hope everyone is starting the ride fully hydrated.
As I have said before, the sun is so masculine to me, searing hot and demanding. The sun is wonderful and I will miss him when winter knocks with her gray days and pallid, heatless sunlight, no longer a kiss or caress. There has been too little of his presence thus far this summer, this bright, bold sun. He can make demands on the body that leave you praying for cloud cover, some wind, or a blessed ice cube and watering hole. Thirst...a powerful need. But there is a comfort to his presence, a reminder of other summer days with no school, no responsibilities, an eternity. I feel sorry for children today that they have been robbed of that experience. But it is what it is. They will have other things to remember and treasure as have the generations that preceded them.
It is pretty much what is becoming the regular crowd that show: Larry "Gizmo" Preble, Tom Hurst, Tom "Ambassador" Askew, Thomas Nance, Bob Grable, and John Pelligrino. I hoped Gayle would begin showing back up. She is so funny and makes everyone laugh. I miss Mike "Diesel" Kammenish and Dave "Bam Bam" King and others that I don't see very often. But it is what it is and I enjoy the people who have showed. At the start of the ride there are jokes about the numerous Toms that are riding and I tell them Steve was the popular name when I first started riding centuries: Steve Rice, Steve Montgomery, Steve Sexton. But those are names from the past that don't ride centuries often or at all anymore.
We start off and almost immediately break into two groups. The Toms and Larry race ahead. There is no way I am going out at that pace knowing what is in store later in the day. Bob and John hang back with me. I am fine with that. I am fine with riding the course alone, but I am also fine with having company. I want everyone to ride the pace they are comfortable with and to be safe and enjoy the day, the weather, the scenery. I also know there will be one more that intends to join us at the first store stop: Jon Wineland who is running a 10K this morning before the ride. Jon seems to ride between paces most times often by himself even on the group ride.
The first climb is as challenging as I remember and I think how much harder a hill is very early in a ride when your legs and lungs have not warmed up yet. Still, I know this is the easier direction to climb on this road. Climbing the other direction is longer and more difficult. Earlier this year I walked it with a rider who was cramping and did not have any regrets not having to push my legs until they ached. So who am I trying to kid? That climb is hard in either direction and at the beginning, middle, or end of a ride.
We pass an Amish Store shortly after the climb on the left that either is new or that I have not noticed in the past. I make a mental note that it could be a store stop on a shorter course if I design one that goes in that direction. Had I been alone, I would have stopped and explored, but I am not alone today. From the outside, the store reminds me of the closed Mennonite Store in Lavonia other than it is closer to a city. I mourn whenever a smaller store away from any city goes out of business. One less oasis for the distance bicyclist that needs to refuel. Roads become less accessible if there is nowhere to stop within thirty miles. And so many of them are now gone. I have so many century routes that are no longer viable due to closed stores or restaurants.
This morning it is not so hot, but it is humid and I know what is coming in the afternoon. I know the pace separation is unusually big between the two groups when we come to the first store stop and the first group is gone. We are averaging 15.1 ourselves so I figure they are burning up the road. I know they are all strong riders. I don't see Jon at first and wonder if he was held up, but then he appears. He will continue with us until Otisco when he will ride back to where he started from in Madison.
When we reach the lunch stop, the front group is still there. But they have eaten and are ready to leave though they stick around to chat for a bit. They opted to eat inside under the air conditioning, probably a smart move. Our group buys our lunch and sits outside under a tree. All except Jon who eats outside but who brought his lunch and complains that it is still mostly frozen. I like this, the sharing of a meal outside while we temporarily loll. Winter rides are like that. No lolling allowed. Ride and get in before you get cold or the wind gets stronger or darkness imprisons you.
The sandwich tastes divine though perhaps a bit too much mayo for my liking. Bob said he likes all the heavy mayo. I remember it was the same at the other store. Some complained about too much mayo and some liked it. The words to a favorite song by Mary Chapin Carpenter, "Don't Need Much to be Happy" come to mind, "Sometimes it's hard to remember how tough we are to please."
The first group take off with Gizmo complaining of stiff "lunch legs." There are grins on faces still and so far everyone appears to be dealing with the heat okay. Despite the fact that they are stronger than me, as ride captain I feel responsible for their well being. Not too long afterward, we finish and head toward LeRoy's and Lexington. The miles pass quickly. For some reason, I remember this course being hillier than what it is. I keep dreading the climbs, but they never happen. There are a few rollers along the way, but no significant climbs yet. Odd. I remember this was my first century after returning from PBP 2007 and I remember feeling that I just might not be able to complete it causing me to realize how hard PBP was on me physically and mentally. For a bit, the bike became a chore rather than a love.
By the time we reach Lexington, the first group has gone. Jon is waiting outside on the stage behind the building. Bob and John opt to remain indoors under the air. After buying a drink and getting ice for my water bottles, I join Jon behind the building until it is time to leave mentally dreading the climb I know is to come. As we climb, however, I find it really is not a bad climb so either I am in better shape, going more slowly and not pressing the pace, or delusional. Either way, I am happy not to hurt. My legs happily are meeting the demands I am placing upon them. Maybe it is because I have company. Maybe it is because of the sun. Maybe it is because we are not pushing the pace. For whatever reason, I am glad.
Between the store and the finish, we stop to rest due to the heat. Right before the end, about five miles out, Bob has a flat on his new wheels, something that has been plaguing him since he got the bike and that he was really hoping would not happen again as he wants to get clinchers but feels this needs to be resolved first. He sighs as he changes the tire saying that it will mean yet another visit to Bob at Clarksville to try to figure it out. I tell him about the wheels I got a few years ago that were not supposed to need rim tape and ask if his have rim tape. I had about 13 flats that year until rim tape was installed whether or not they needed it. Since it cured the problem, it was needed. I have no idea what the issue is with his wheels, but there is definitely an issue when you have flat after flat.
And we finish. The first group is long gone. Jon peeled off for home at Otisco. It was a good day. I drive home tired but sated. Hot and thirsty, but so glad for the heat and the sun's embrace in what, thus far, has been a rather cloudy and dismal summer. And yeah, as always, really glad for bicycles and friends.