July 16, 2004

Meltdown in Columbus

Well David H-D made it to Columbus after all as he describes in his well written report below. But not only was he late, but so was our ride leader, and RAAM veteran, Jeff Stephens, who was careful to gently shepherd David into town after his night of riding. And the 196 miles that David rode is some pretty tough stuff having made that connection myself 18 years ago in full daylight. While David's bad luck compromised our reception, it does show how many more hurdles we as cyclists have to overcome to get any where.

When for example was the last time you heard a car driver talk about the fact that the wind or wall like hills had slowed them down? Or that they had to slow their pace because they were hungry (they drive faster to get to food)? Or that their tire kept going flat on them? I mean those of us out for the long haul face these concerns along with oftentimes the poor infrastructure we are trying to improve on a regular basis. Indeed we are a vulnerable lot as David's ride shows.

Now we've got to see if our Rowbikers, Marshall & Victor, were able to make anything of the question mark Columbus NBG Day had become......

THX for your gallant effort David. THX fir your great attitude Jeff. Thank you Columbus city officials for your understanding. And to Marshall, Victor and Steve, indeed let's make lemonade out of this lemon of an unfortunate ride!!

At 10:13 AM -0400 7/15/04, David Huggins-Daines wrote:

Having returned from vacation merely two days before the Columbus reception, I was planning to save time and get in some extra endurance training for Boston-Montreal-Boston by riding it in one shot and then riding back. This is actually a much easier ride than the Ohio 600km brevet I rode last month, but as it turns out, doing it all by yourself without the motivation of bagels and juice at the controls, a motel room in the middle, and a shiny medal at the end is somewhat harder. More so even if you do it in the middle of the night without any sleep.

In keeping with the "saving time" theme, I figured the best time to leave would be exactly 16 hours before the reception, since I knew I was capable of riding 190 miles in 16 hours. At 9:15PM I rolled out of my house and took to the road. At 9:45PM I met up with Troy Bogdan to pick up the proclamations from DC and Pittsburgh, and then set out along the Panhandle trail heading west out of town. The nice thing about riding west out of Pittsburgh is that one leaves the city almost immediately, and it soon got very dark. Riding on the trail at night was very peaceful, but the humidity caused the trail grit kicked up by my wheels (and somehow not caught by my fenders) to stick to everything. I was glad to get back on the road.

I made very good time all the way to Weirton, WV, enjoying the total lack of traffic and sunshine. Strangely enough it was still very hot (75 degrees) and I sweated quite a bit. At Weirton, I got my first flat tire, and calmly patched it under the Route 22 underpass. A friendly local driver stopped to offer help. In Steubenville, the climbing begins in earnest with a 600 foot vertical from the river up to the top of Sunset Boulevard. My newly conceived route from Steuvenville to Cadiz went very well - After getting "over the top" of the city, the rest of the riding was on a totally empty Route 22 freeway shoulder which bulldozed its way through the hills. Along the way, I noticed that my rear tire still seemed to be leaking a bit of air but pumped it up and kept riding.

I was scared about riding on the two-lane section of 22 between Cadiz and Winterset in the darkness, but despite its "major highway" status there was nearly zero traffic. I was passed by a grand total of three cars, all of them at the end, near daybreak. For some reason I did see a few large trucks, all coming the opposite direction. At 3:45AM (still right on schedule) I stopped at the rest area at Piedmont Lake and watched bats fluttering around in the orange lights. This would have been a good time to stop and sleep, but I decided that I didn't have enough time, with 9 hours left to do the 100 miles into Columbus, some of which I wanted to spend eating a full breakfast in Cambridge, if possible.

At Winterset (5AM) I noticed that my tire was leaking air too quickly to continue to ignore, and stopped to change the tube. The sun was starting to rise at this point and I was starting to get desparate for food that wasn't bar-shaped or in a cellophane package. I made the mistake of taking the "Ohio Randonneurs" route into Cambridge (SR287 to US40) instead of staying on Route 22 (which usually has terrible traffic, but it was 5AM, so really...) and was confronted with the steepest hills I'd seen yet! On the way into Cambridge, I saw one diner that was open but figured there would be more downtown. Usually there's a diner on Main Street in every town, right??? Needless to say, no. I tried riding a little way south, found nothing, and eventually settled for some terrible microwaved bagels. On the way out of town I discovered my tire was going flat again. Somewhere past New Concord the left lanes of the highway were blocked, squeezing me onto the gravel shoulder. This was one of those moments on a trip where everything goes wrong at once, and in my sleep-deprived state I wasn't taking it very well.

I tried to patch my tube to no avail - it kept slowly leaking air, so I kept pumping it up. I finally got to Zanesville around 9:30. Well, I thought, it's still 54 miles to Columbus, but sure, I can do that in 4 hours and not be too late, especially if I'm riding with Bubba Jeff Stephens (who I met up with about 2 miles past Zanesville). There's only the small matter of this leaking tire, and, oh, is that a headwind? And I'm soooo hungry...

To his great credit, Jeff lent me a tube and patiently helped me patch it when it, too, sprung a leak. For the rest of the ride, the tire held air, thankfully. As we crested the Last Hill In Ohio (at Amsterdam), the wind blasted us in the face. I couldn't take it anymore and had to stop in Hebron to eat a lot of food, around 12:30PM. We'd given up on the idea of just being a little late, but nevertheless we covered the gruelling final 25 miles into Columbus at a quite reasonable pace given the relentless headwinds, arriving at a barren, windswept City Hall plaza at 2:30PM.

I had totally failed to plan what I was going to do when I arrived in Columbus, thinking that there might be someone at the reception who could lend me a place to take a nap and have a shower before heading back to Pittsburgh, or that I could just hang out in Columbus somewhere until my friends in town got home from work. Jeff suggested a sensible course of action, which would be to ride back to Hebron or Zanesville and stay in a motel, then ride back from there the next day. But, tailwind or no tailwind, I couldn't conceive of riding another 20 miles, let alone 190, at this point, so I made my way through the blasting wind (seriously, I almost fell off my bike) to the bus station, boxed it up, and sat around for 3 hours before taking the next bus back to Pittsburgh.

Posted by mkrieg at 12:04 PM | Comments (2)