Standing at the starting line of this year’s Tour de Cure, I thought to myself, “Is it really starting to rain???”
An hour earlier, I’d wolfed down a stack of blueberry pancakes chased by a protein shake and listened to the weather weenies blather on and on about how great the day was shaping up to be. Throwing my gear in the back seat of the car, it seemed to me that Mother Nature was giving us a great day to ride – light winds from the north, sunny and cool in the mid 60’s… not at all like Missouri tends to be in June.
But of course they go it pretty much all wrong. Other than a momentary flash of sunlight, the only thing I saw today was cloud cover; the winds were a little stiffer than forecast – and the rain went from sprinkles to a steady soaking for the first twenty miles or so of this morning’s route.
Don’t get me wrong – other than the fact that I had to actually ride in it today, I really do love the dramatic look of the skies that this sort of weather brings. And quite frankly, I really don’t mind riding in the rain all that much either.
One poor fellow’s day ended even before it began… I’ve never seen a rim self destruct the way this one did. Upon looking closer, he had at least two other places where stress fractures were apparent. With a huge bang, his tire blew off the rim as he rode to the staging area from the parking lot. His rim split, as illustrated here.
The rest of us began our ride at English Landing in Parkville, Missouri. I don’t have an idea how many riders were in attendance, but it couldn’t have been many – perhaps a hundred, and certainly no more than 150. The route headed north, directly into the prevailing wind, which was great: I could take on the headwinds while I was feeling fresh and enjoy a fast return ride with winds at my back.
Thinking I knew this area somewhat, I was a little surprised at how lonely some of the route seemed to be – not a “bad” lonely, by the way…the occasional sensation of feeling a million miles away from the world holds a lot of appeal for me.
And then encountering a break in the trees flanking the hills to our east brought an unexpected sight when I saw this stone house and stream. I wondered if it had originally been a mill of some sort – the architecture sure looks to be appropriate, as well as period-correct for such use. I may have to venture out that way again to find out more about this location.
As the road began to curve away from the hills, I lost the barest protection from the wind that they had provided. I settled into a pace I could hold and shifted into a higher gear, enjoying the feel of rain slapping against my face. I was beginning to feel a little wet as water dribbled down my legs, soaking my socks. The winds brought a little chill to my arms at first, the temperature never reaching the anticipated 60 degree mark. But as the rain began to fade, those same winds dried me quickly. I dodged puddles on the road as best I could, but didn’t worry much because my fenders kept the majority of the rain off me and my frame, and let me tend to the business of pedaling and admiring the fields through which I was now passing.
A few miles before Weston, Missouri, the roads began to get a bit more rugged, with large patches of pavement simply missing. Earlier, I’d been surprised when the tarmac gave way to a mile long stretch of bone-rattling and incredibly loose gravel. I was very thankful for the wider tires on my Boulder and wondered how those with skinny tires fared on this particular passage.
The route into Weston, which had taken us along both paved and unpaved sections, now merged onto a gravel trail for a few miles. Nearly the entire length of the trail passed through woods and provided a wonderful vantage point to view the river aside which it ran parallel.
Weston is a small, historic river town that boasts taverns and wineries and a block or two of boutiques and stores and handcrafted items. Adjacent streets have charming homes, many of which are bed and breakfasts. I find the town to have a character all it’s own, with many businesses flourishing while some buildings have been allowed to gracefully fade into the past.
The route was “out and back,” and as I mentioned earlier I looked forward to the boost the tail wind would provide. In fact, my average speed on the return was nearly double that of the first leg. Although there were rest stops, I passed all of them on the return: I had a full head of steam and didn’t want to lose the momentum.
Coming back into Parkville and then to English Landing I headed for the finish line. “Red Riders” – cyclists like myself who have Diabetes – were cheered as they passed through an archway of balloons. Stopping and no longer in the wind, I quickly grew hot and peeled out of a layer. Stowing my bike and jersey and helmet, I slid my cycling cap on my head and enjoyed a couple of cups of free Boulevard Beer and a veggie sandwich.
Thirty minutes later as I loaded my bike onto the car rack, I realized I was famished. A few mushrooms and peppers on bread aren’t sufficient nutrition after one has burned off three or four thousand calories in a morning!