Barnstorming: Separating the Freds from the Boys

Happy Columbus Day!  On this very day in history, four score and 1492 years ago, Christopher Columbus launched a successful "Kicking Starter" campaign to find the Pacific Northwest Passage to Portland, OR.  Along the way he met various indigenous peoples, took their land and resources from them at blunderbusspoint, and infected them with smallpox by way of compensation.  Some people still get the day off from work or school on Columbus Day, even though the holiday is increasingly considered to be "politically incorrect."  I, however, am "working"--not because I think the holiday is politically incorrect, but rather because I totally forgot about it until midway through my fourth cup of coffee this morning, by which point I was far too jittery to go back to bed.

In any case, while I'm up, UP, UP!!!, I might as well share with you my experiences at yesterday's Bicycling Fall Classic, which was front page sporting news in this morning's The Morning Call, the Lehigh Valley's newspaper of record:

On a Sunday morning that portended (but, happily, never really delivered) rain, I rolled out with Ted King of Liquigas-Cannondale and a diverse assortment of jovial Freds for the 90-mile "Gran Fondo" route.  On my wrist was a timing chip that would measure my ascents on various uphill sections of the course, and I would have discreetly fastened it to Ted King's bike if I hadn't arrived at the starting line about four seconds before the start of the ride.  I certainly had little interest in learning my own time, as I'm an abysmal climber and all-around poor cyclist, and the Power Meter In My Mind tells me everything I need to know:

Apart from the above image, which pulses meditatively in my inner eye at all times, I ride with an uncluttered cockpit and completely data-free.  This is because I feel about numbers the same way Frank Costanza does about tinsel.  I also generally don't take photographs while engaged in the act of purely recreational bicycle cycling, because unlike many of my fellow Freds I actually ride bikes for fun, and I find that taking pictures takes me "out of the moment."  (Plus, I'm not very good at the biking, so there's a better-than-average chance that I'll fall down and take a bunch of my Fellow freds with me, causing them to like me even less than they already do.) 

Having partooken in one of those Rapha Gentlemen's Thingies in this very hilly region two years ago I knew the day would be difficult for me.  Sure, that ride was like 30% longer, but there's at least 30% more of me now then there was two years ago, plus underneath all that extra me I'm a good 20% weaker and have done 99% less racing.  There are also a lot of hills, and I don't go up hills very well in any condition, though I do go down them a lot faster now due to my enhanced corpulence.  I suppose this makes up for the decreased fitness somewhat, but I'd need someone like Allen Lim to tell me exactly how much, and unfortunately there's no way I could listen to someone like Allen Lim talk for more than 20 seconds without falling asleep.

Still, I'm pleased to report that I did stay with the Ted King group though the first timed climb, though I'm not sure my time was recorded since you're supposed to roll over some timing trigger thingy which is marked by DayGlo cones.  However, as an urban cyclist I just assumed the cones indicated some kind of road hazard and so I steered well clear of them.  Afterwards, things settled down for a bit, and I was doing okay, but then the pace went from "conversational" to "chatty" and I began to find myself in distress.  Then the Ted King group attacked me by failing to match my vicious deceleration, and I was all alone by the midpoint of the ride, where I stopped briefly to take on fuel (actual gasoline, it's an old Eastern Bloc trick, I hear Vino still drinks it), and also took this picture:

I'm sure the pagoda standing nobly in the etherial mist has some kind of story, but I was more interested in the porta-potty:

I'm something of a porta-potty business name enthusiast, and my favorite are the ones that are puns ("Johnny-On-The-Spot" and "Call-A-Head" are local enterprises that spring immediately to mind).  This one was pretty good too though, and it was at that moment I resolved to start a porta-potty rental business that offers porta-potties shaped like pagodas for a more contemplative voiding experience:

I'm still working on the name, but it would probably be something like "Pa-GO-da" or "Bootydharma."  

Oh, also, there was a view from where the pagoda was:

I viewed it, I photographed it, and I continued on--mostly alone.  Then I started to sense a softness in my rear tire, though I did not stop to inspect it, for I have often stopped to inspect a softening tire only to find that it is in fact fully inflated and I feel like I'm riding on pudding because I'm getting tired and I suck.  So I kept going, and then another group caught me, and I rode with them for awhile, but the tire kept getting undeniably softer, and then the rim started to bottom out occasionally.  Eventually it reached the point where descending on it was getting hazardous, and as determined as I was to wheelsuck off this group for as long as possible, I finally faced the fact that I would have to stop and fix it:

Naturally the object that had penetrated my tire was a tiny little piece of wire that barely protruded through the casing and must have been worrying at the tube for many miles.  It was also nearly impossible to remove without tweezers.  As I struggled with it I could hear the sound of gunshots from what turned out to be a nearby rifle range, and when I looked around all I saw was this:

And this:

At one point a man in a pickup truck stopped to ask me if I needed any help.  I briefly considered asking him if he had any tweezers, but then it occurred to me that asking a guy in a hunting hat for tweezers while dressed in form-fitting Lycra might not be a good idea in rural Pennsylvania.  Finally, I succeeded in extracting the stupid shitty little piece of metal from the tire with the tip of my roof rack key, and on I went:

After that I spent the last hour and a half of the ride riding in a leisurely fashion (my "leisurely" is most people's "lethargic") and enjoying the scenery, which really is beautiful, though by the end of the ride I was pretty tired and decided that if I saw another quaint farm or lovely stone house I was going to puke.  There were also lots of horses and buggies being driven by Amish or Mennonites or whatever they are. (I like to think of them as Hassidim with better equestrian skills.)  Finally, I reached the velodrome, turned in my timing chip, and helped myself to food and beer.  I also barely managed to restrain myself from pilfering from the garbage, which contained at least $150 in tires:

An enterprising cyclist could probably keep a bicycle rolling for free indefinitely just picking through the trash at Gran Fondos.  (Fredganism is the new Freeganism, and so forth.)

Penultimately, it's been a little over a year since I took delivery of my Ritte Von Finkelstein drop bar-style bicycle, and I only grow more pleased with it as time goes on:

Though I totally would have won the ride if I had been on an all-crabon bicycle with electronical shifting.

Lastly, I have a strict policy about not including photos of myself on this blog, though policies were meant to be disregarded occasionally, and this inspirational message as rendered by "BKJimmy" happens one of those occasions:

I may suck at life, and at riding bicycles, but I very much enjoyed the ride, and I thank the good people at Bicycling for inviting me.  It's a great route and it's very well organized, and I recommend it highly, especially if you're way into climbing and barns.  Best of all, you'll get to use all those elementary skills you've read about in Bicycling over the years, including: how to prepare for that big ride; how to fix a flat; and, most importantly, how to overtake a horse and buggy.

Happy Columbus Day,

--Wildcat Rock Machine

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