Tuesday, August 8, 2017

BBB 2017

I wasn't prepared and neither was my son Forrest, so we decided to ride together. Misery loves company. To get miserable, we signed up for the 46-mile route of the 2017 edition of Greenwood's Bikes, Blues & Bayous.

Last year, I was also not prepared either but I did the 62-mile tour. One big difference, however, was that in 2016 and I was 20 pounds lighter, one year younger, and had a 25 mile per week running base on my legs. That makes a difference. With running, you can at least turn the pedals. Not fast, maybe, but you can turn them. This time I had nothing to recommend to my mind or body that I could actually do this other than audacity which is the best part of adventure anyway. True, I had swum for 16 hours straight as recently as June 3. But since then I had injured a shoulder, was still nursing a gimpy knee, and had been out of the water for weeks. Furthermore, I had  and gotten seriously fat. Besides all that, swimming conditions the body to swim, not to ride a bicycle.

For early August in the Mississippi Delta, the weather was about as good as it gets. Usually brutally hot, the first Saturday in August this year had a low-for-here dew point of 68 and a temperature of about 70 at start time. That might not sound radically lower-- dew points are usually 76 and temps 74 at 7:20 am-- it was enough of a difference to make the morning noticeably cooler than normal, pleasant feeling, and a light breeze made it as if God himself was smiling upon us and being merciful to the foolish among us of which I was chief.

With 1,094 riders, we felt like we were in another state rather than our humble home town on the Yazoo River. We heard the horn blow and began a slow motion lurch towards the starting arch. It took minutes for all the riders to mount and move enough for the road to open up to anything close to cycling speed. Rolling down Grand Blvd with all those riders is a glorious event. There are 400 pound women, Tour de France looking teams, ragged bikes and bikers, ancient hippies, soccer moms, little kids, old men, people wearing flip flops and riders dressed up like little Lord Fauntleroy. You see it all and you see a lot of it. I liked seeing it and being a part of the rolling party. Training be darned, I'm here and I am at the dance. But there was one thing missing, one thing I did not see. Try to figure it out. I will do another post on that and once I mention it, you will smite your palm to your forehead and cry "Duh!"

Money Road, which so often has seemed like an adversary to me on rides of bygone days, had a welcoming spirit as if God's own person hovered over giving us a tail wind amid the cotton, corn, and soybeans. Forrest and I made it to Money where the first rest stop has the atmosphere of Bourbon Street debauchery. Under the overhang of the old Ben Roy Service Station, within feet of the Emmett Till historical marker and the slowly crumbling Bryant's Grocery, were rows and rows of tables covered with the most sinful of foods a body could lust for. I found an abominable bowl of Oatmeal Creme Pie Cookies. I sinned without shame. We drank as if dying. We talked to strangers from far away: Colorado, Georgia, Alabama, even far off places in Mississippi. I saw old Money Road Cycling Club members Davo Pittman and Tom Flanagan. Then we were off again.

We rode and we noticed people. I saw a little boy of about eight years old. I watched him for a long time amazed that there was no helicopter parent around. He was alone on a small bike and he had come over twenty miles by the time we crossed over Highway 8 on our journey to Minter City. I took note of him from time to time. Both he and his parents showed great courage or maybe it was great awareness they showed. He is with cyclists. He is OK. Cyclists will help you and not harm you which has always made me wonder why car drivers hate us so much. Don't they see we are just nice guys and gals who like to play outside? His fitness was obviously as good as mine. I admired him. I saw a roller bladder pushing a wheel. What the heck? We passed the old Opera House in Minter City and then pulled up at the United Methodist Church. 

There must have been 300 people there. Someone was giving tours of the Lord's house while people chatted in the shade, refilled water bottles, and feasted on some great sandwiches and cookies from a spread that looked more at home at a fancy wedding reception. A blues musician picked a guitar and sang. Bikes and bright jerseys covered an acre and a half like a strange crop of flowers growing from desert soil after a rare rain.

And then we started back again, back towards home back towards normalcy. Immediately we were hit with a head wind and Forrest's lack of training became apparent. He was riding a mountain bike probably requiring 15 or 20% more energy than me. I was OK at an easy pace, but if I tried to speed up from creeping slow to normal slow, my legs protested like liberals at a cop convention. Oddly, when we made it back to Money Road, we had our head wind turn into a crosswind and eventually a tailwind. That, my friend, is supernatural. You simply don't get a break from the wind on that road. Usually, you face a head wind both ways. No joke. God indeed was smiling upon us. 

But Forrest was suffering, and we called one of the SAG vehicles. They were hauling some broken down cyclists back to town and it would be a while they tole us before they got back to us. "If we make it south of Money," Forrest told me, I will not get in the truck if I have to crawl back to town."

Our second stop at downtown Money was every bit as good as the first one. I ate cookies like a little boy left all alone in a cookie store. I drank like a sailor on shore leave after six months at sea. I saw fat people and like a Pharisee of old said to myself, "At least I'm not as fat as him."

Then Forrest wanted to go so we left. And slowly but surely we inched our way closer and closer to town. When the SAG vehicle drove past us, Forrest not only didn't wave them down, but commented that we were too close to quit. About the time it felt like my butt had been bitten off by tooth-challenged dogs, we crossed over the Tallahatchie Bridge, rolled gently the 1.1 miles to the Yazoo River Bridge, and then crossed over our Jordan into the promised land of the post-ride party. Music, tired riders, faithful volunteers, and food greeted us. It was the food I wanted although I didn't eat much. It had finally turned hot, and I was hungry and not hungry all together. If you have ever been really hungry and really hot at the same time, you know what I mean.

We rode home on hurting butts and aching legs. Forrest visited with his mother while I took a bath. Then he went home and I took a nap with CC. I can't wait till next year so I can suffer it all over again.