A Week in Review

So the week passed without much news from me. That’s partly due to limited internet access this week but also due to the fact that my mind was rather preoccupied iwith things other than sitting down to write. I’ll accept your forgiveness in advance.

Monday morning we set out from Denver and for the first hour we followed a public bike path north along the Platte river which winds through downtown. We passed within viewing distance all four of the landmarks I knew of in Denver. The Pepsi Center (Colorado Avalanche), the Coors Brewery and the stadiums of the Broncos and the Rockies. After that first hour we definitely left the city and left any signs of being only a city away from the mountains, we were on bald prairie by 10 am and that was that.

I started out Monday with a group of about 6 but it quickly grew to ten and was a mix of different riding groups similar to the situation the previous Saturday that resulted in Tyler’s crash. I opted to leave that pace line and went off ahead by myself for about 2 hours. I caught up with Hans Doef and Gresham Veldhuisen just as Ryan Bruxvoort and myself had teamed up. The four of us agreed to finish off the ride into Fort Morgan together. A portion of this ride was along the side of an interstate and just as our quartet crested a hill we could see emergency lights and a half dozen vehicles pulled over at the side of the road. As we passed we realized that amongst the vehicles were SeatoSea support vehicles and an ambulance, someone was on a stretcher and there were about 10 people standing in the ditch. Doing much of anything while riding on an interstate is tough so by the time we could safely slow down and pull off the road we were a hundred yards further down the hill. The situation obviously didn’t require more people getting involved so we paused at the side of the road in prayer. The joy of a new week was dampened and we agreed to continue in prayer for the final hour into town.

As we arrived in Ft Morgan Ryan suggested that we head 10 miles further down the road to check in at a pizza shop he had visited three years prior. If we were to wait for the next morning we’d need to have pizza at 8 am so decided to go later in the afternoon. Besides another 20 miles seemed to fit with the theme of the summer thus far. Well, the pizza shop had gone out of business but the extra mileage was fun nonetheless.

Upon arrival at camp we learned that the rider who was injured at the side of the road was Cynthia Aukema of Chatham Ontario. There had been debris on the road that was blowing in the wind that caused her to crash and she had broken her pelvis. I had ridden with her on Day 1 for a few hours and again on Tuesday of week 2 for a few hours and then again on Wednesday of Week 4 for a stretch. She was a cyclist who was one of the early leavers from camp, eager to get out there and be on the road. Myself and others who liked to start more than an hour later than her group always loved to heckle them when we finally caught them (if we ever did, that wasn’t guaranteed) and Cynthia always had a good smile for us and often returned our comments about the joys of sleeping in with some quip in return. While I didn’t know her terribly well the fact that she’s now missing from the tour does change the community, we miss her.

Later Monday night I also got news that Grandma had died. I spent a good chunk of time on the phone and then hit the sack and tried to get some sleep, which was only mildly successful. Tuesday came soon enough though and I headed out alone figuring that I’d like to process some thoughts and remember memories. Well, getting me distracted from cycling actually tends to speed me up and the day really started to fly by. The first 20 miles took 57 minutes. The first 40 took 1:53, the first 100 kms were done in 2:58 and the first 80 miles were done in 3:51. I was on track to finish a century ride (100 miles) in less than 5 hours which is a rather significant milestone. The headwind for the day had started around the 30 mile mark and by this time it was really howling. I was now pretty much alone miles and miles ahead of the nearest cyclist and could hardly hear anything due to the wind. I think it was exactly what I needed as I felt like I had all the space in the world to think and pray. Well the final 20 miles and that headwind nearly threw a wrench in the 5 hour plan but I did roll into camp with 160.9 kms under my belt having departed camp only 4:56 minutes earlier.

The town of Wray (Tuesday’s stop) had a massive swimming pool with waterslides that our group had access to and we made use of them for a good portion of the afternoon before calling it quits for the evening. Camp shut down early with news of a headwind again the next day and forecast temperatures around 100 degrees.

Well camp shutting down early was only a sign of something yet to come as camp woke up the earliest ever the next morning. I left my tent around 6:30 and breakfast was nearly cleaned right out. By 7 am there were only 35 people left at camp, about 12 of whom were on sweep duty and another 20 who were support staff kind of people. By 7:30 when I was finally getting on the road (Which mid-range of what I’d consider ‘sane’ departure times) I was leaving with the second last group of cyclists. Within half an hour we had entered Nebraska from Colorado. Brad Geerlinks went way too early for the state-line sprint and I just caught his draft all the way up to the 50 foot mark and pulled around him for an easy win. Within another half hour we were beginning our detour into Kansas, this time the state-line sprint was a massive waiting game, no-one wanted to go first. Eventually it was just too painful to wait and it was all out craziness on an uphill towards the state line. John Vanderveen timed things a bit incorrectly as there was both a county line and state line within 30 feet and we won the county-line sprint but I snagged the biggie and was first into Kansas.

After the detour to Kansas things started to heat up, all the clouds were gone and it began to get really blazing hot. When stopped to refill water we noticed that some bits of rubber were starting to split on my tyres and peel back from the casing. They had been in OK condition when checked at the Nebraska border. From there on in to camp I was in a race against getting flats and gave up on my riding group in favor of trying to cover as much ground as possible. Well that concept worked for a bit but I did eventually go flat. A quick tube swap and I regrouped with my riding group just as we entered a new town, John Vanderveen won the sprint from the front with both Brad and myself in the draft. That’s the best way to do it, and both Brad and I were rather humbled. We then realized that the sprint had been on display for a group of cyclists sitting in the shade at a town park and the humbleness turned rather quickly to sheepishness as we filled water while John got to recount his victory a couple times.

From there in to camp I got another slow leaking flat which I opted to try and pump up and ride and then re-pump. I was getting about 4 miles covered with each pumping and did that about 5 times before giving up and changing the tube again. That was that fortunately for the flats for the day and I arrived in to McCook 20 minutes in advance of suppertime. All of those stops to pump had really drained a ton of time. I got an earful about leaving earlier… don’t worry it wasn’t about to change my mind.

Thursday’s ride started out on rolling hills and I was pretty much alone for the day. I had a borrowed tyre on (Thanks Jon Elzinga!) and my only goals for the day were to get a new tyre and ride 100 miles. From the point where the hills quit a tailwind started to pick up and I decided that I should have stayed in bed even longer as I would have had a tailwind even earlier in my ride. I cruised along easily at speeds in excess of 40 kph for long stretches and when rolling through one of the towns I caught wind of a “sporting goods” store. I stopped in and asked if they had any 700 series tyres. The lady led me down into the basement of a brick building that dated back probably 80 years and showed me her selection. One tyre. It was a folding armadillo (a racing style, flat resistant tyre), 23mm wide, red sidewalls to match the bike… and pretty much exactly what I was looking for. Well with that kind of luck I felt pretty blessed and after we had crawled out of the basement she asked me if it had a price tag on it. Well, it had been hanging there for a few years and there was definitely no price tag. “Well if it’s got no price tag I guess that means you can have it for free, you’re a good guy to give it to” was her response. After a huge thanks I headed out of the door with a 60 dollar tyre in my back pocket.

After another half hour of cruising at 40 kph I caught up with one of the new riders who joined us in Denver. I slowed to his pace and rode in the last 20 kms with Terry Barnes, of Grand Rapids Michigan. After a little bit of exploring to top off the quota of 100 miles and locate the local pool I headed to camp set up my tent, gathered some others to visit the pool and set off to go for a swim.

Much later that evening I switched that tyre on to my bike but must have included some dirt or grass or something because when I woke up at 6:30 to start riding it was no longer at 125 psi. Oh well, breakfast and a bonus tyre change. I was out of camp at 8 am, the very last rider not on clean-up duty that day. I needed to ride 50 kms in the first 2 hours to the next town so I’d have cell phone reception to call in to the funeral for 10 am central time zone. Well I needed almost the whole 2 hours because I was alone and dealing with a killer headwind. I did find a little restaurant though with a few minutes to spare and got some coffee cake and a cup of coffee (one of the best cups this summer). After about an hour on the phone I headed off with another 2 hours before the public memorial service and another 50 kms to cover. This one I managed with not a ton of trouble and had time to pick up subway before sitting down in the shade to get on the phone again. While standing in line I talked about the seatosea trip for about 10 minutes with an older gentleman who had seen us on TV the previous night and wound up not paying anything for my sub.

After another 45 minutes on the phone I set off north the wind now mostly from the side and caught David Teitsma who had taken a nap in town and was setting off to finish the day’s ride well behind schedule similar to myself. We’re not exactly the same speed but as soon as we turned east into the headwind and he was able to draft we made a good pair for the trip though the corn-fields on the way in to York.

York is an interesting town, it’s got a Christian college with beautiful old buildings and huge parks up on the top of a hill and cobbled streets and huge trees lining the roads… and it’s smack dab in the middle of a bajillion acres of corn. Well, I certainly enjoyed riding some cobbled streets as I added to my total for the day to rack up my 100 mile quota. From there on it was a serious amount of eating, a bit of bike tuning and a little bit of fiddling around on the slackline and then it was bedtime.

Saturday was oddly enough the earliest morning of the week, up at six because the temperature just never went down. Efficiently packed up and on the road by 7. Eritia and myself headed out of camp together and rather quickly tacked on to the back of a double-pace-line. These beasts are efficient for cross-headwinds which we were experiencing but aren’t something you just decide to pass, it would require you going three wide in the shoulder which just doesn’t work. Instead we joined up and spent probably 5 kms working our way towards the front of. When we were both finally up front I asked her, “shall we stay with these guys or go?”, the response was a hilarious smile and we both shifted up two gears and made history of the group. We heard about it later though.

At one of the water stops we gained Josh Nyenhuis one of the riders going Denver-Grand-Rapids and our trio worked well into the wind. We jogged north a couple times from our predominately eastward route and the cross headwind turned into a cross tailwind. The average speed jumped from high twenties to low forties (kph) and made excellent progress on fantastic roads. The rolling hills were great and broke up the corn-fields which are managing to border on tedious after a whole week.

While rocketing north with the tailwind for the final time I quit the trio and stopped off in the tiny town of Colon and paid a visit to the Catholic church for a while. The steeple was visible for about 5 kms in advance and I figured it was a good reason for a stop. I needed to rack up an extra 25 kms of riding today and didn’t want to arrive at camp in town right away, preferring to do my extra miles out in the countryside. From Colon I headed back south into a headwind for 12 kms to the previous town and hit up the DQ. After recharging and making use of their air conditioning I set off to blast back north along the road to camp. One more stretch of headwind and I was in Fremont. The week was done!

The totals for this week are something I could hardly have imagined doing a few years ago, 6 century rides in a row (100 miles each day this week) and enough extra kilometers thrown in the mix to make a grand total of 1006 kilometers in six days riding. I haven’t added up the hours yet but it’s sure to be more than 35 which is certainly a record again. Thank you for your prayers over the past week. The last few days have been difficult I’ll be honest. I wished at times that I could have been in Brampton for the funeral. It was abundantly obvious why families gather together to mourn the deaths of other family members. Remembering is something that’s much better done with a group of people, grieving alone at a distance has been tough. When we’re sitting around on the grass recounting the stories of the day over supper it’s something that works so much better when you’ve got people with the common experience. I laughed pretty hard when some people were trying to communicate a few SeatoSea phenomenon to family members who are visiting this weekend in Fremont.

  • P.S. – Sorry River Park Church for no update this week. I had no successful internet connections between Tuesday and Sunday morning… normally I don’t think that far in advance.
  • P.P.S. – Grand totals for the summer: 4056.5 kms covered in 143:50 average speed 282. kph. This week: 1006 kms in 34:40 average speed 29 kph.


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