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Inside RAAM – The Most Fun!

by on July 20, 2015

In some previous posts, I wrote about sleep deprivation, overcoming fear, and the uncomfortable aftermath of this epic ride.  Those posts made this ride seem daunting.  I’ve written about the beauty of this country when viewed from the saddle of a bicycle, bringing a little balance back into the experience.

But there were times when this ride was simply a lot of fun!

Yes, I come back to the “Glass Elevator”, and the descent off Wolf Creek Pass as two of the most fun downhill stretches.  A close third were the descents toward Durango, CO.  Flying down those hills with the wind flying and the scenery changing moment to moment and watching the speed sensor drift above 45 mph for minutes at a time are simply sublime thrills.  Non-cycling friends have a hard time imagining what that speed feels like.  They think it is terrifying.  Simple fun!

Picking up a nice tailwind and watching the speed climb to 25-30 mph on flat land is also quite a thrill.  It generates a feeling of power and strength.  Most of Kansas had a “quartering” tailwind (maybe from the 4:00 position) and there were times to take that opportunity to fly down the road.

I had a lot of fun in the larger towns.  Most people I know really don’t like riding in traffic, especially 4 lane roads or wide 2 lane roads in town.  I loved it.  Going through busy streets and through intersections has the possibility of interrupting the rhythm that develops.  A light will turn red at just the wrong time.  One has to keep an eye on traffic.  Because there are more items close to the rider, the sense of speed is heightened such that a cyclist will normally slow down in these congested areas.  Noting all this, I stepped up my game in town and attempted (1) to increase my pace so I didn’t lose much time, (2) tried to flow with traffic as much as possible, and (3) time the lights so that I was stopped infrequently.  I did great with the first two.  I probably hit about half the lights red in town.  For me though, riding through the larger towns was a lot of fun.  I accelerated hard and fast.  I tried to keep the speed high and flow with the traffic.  All my senses were on high alert.  Durango, CO was a town that I took by storm.  I also had a lot of fun in Prescott, AZ, Flagstaff, AZ, St. Louis and Athens, OH.  Where all of this didn’t work very well was Clarksburg, WV.  There were other great places, but again, sometimes the location of these is just a blur.

Related to this … it was always a lot of fun whenever I could go faster than traffic.  It didn’t happen often, but when it did, it was fun.

So you are seeing a theme here.  Those places where there was some speed going were a lot of fun.

But the longer stretches were fun too.  For most of RAAM we rode in 15 minute shifts.  This is hardly fun.  But I had a lot of fun with the longer sections.  In western Colorado (or was it Arizona?) I was on the bike for an extended period of time and was interviewed while on the bike by RAAM Media.  I was tucked into the aero bars and riding at a comfortable threshold covering some good ground early in the morning.  One night, two of the riders were sleeping and John and I shared longer turns.  The world was dark and quiet and the bike was spinning perfectly.  Riding through northern Arizona between Tuba City and Kayenta in the dark was another fun place.  Come to think of it, most nights were a lot of fun.  There is something quite peaceful about riding in the dark.

It was a lot of fun meeting some people along the way.  We didn’t have many groups of people cheering us on along the route.  We were the only racers sometimes for 100 miles.  The fast teams were well ahead of us.  The slow teams were well behind us.  We were in the sparsely populated middle.  I had a conversation with a construction flagger for about 10 minutes west of Durango.  She and I chatted in the 95 degree heat while the cars piled up behind us and drivers sat in air-conditioned comfort.  I also spent some time talking with a police officer who was holding back traffic because of a restaurant fire.  The fire department was going to have to stretch a hose across the road to battle the fire.  Traffic was stopped in both directions.  After a little conversation about the race, he went and made something happen so that I could get through the area.  Sometimes drivers would slow down to talk to me, especially in town.  There were often displays of encouragement with horns, thumbs, and even a whistle or two.  For the most part we were pretty isolated from the world, so any encounter with non-racers was fun.

The last day was also a lot of fun.  Those who followed the race know that on Saturday rain was heavy and constant for most of the day.  The fun time started for me in Cumberland just before dawn.  It was pouring rain.  The streets were awash in water.  One truck rumbled by from the opposite direction, hitting a pothole full of standing water and splashed gallons of water in my lap and on my chest.  There was no staying dry and I was having a blast.  You see, when there is little chance of me keeping any part of my body dry, I embrace the rain and simply enjoy it.  Granted, it was a little chillier than I would have liked, and at 35 mph down some hills the rain stung my face, but it was a lot of fun.  I notice that drivers of cars tend to be much more gracious in passing when the rain is pouring down and the “poor cyclist” is stuck in it.  If they knew how much fun I have in the rain I doubt they would give me as wide a berth.

But the absolute most fun on the entire ride was as we got close to the finish.  We had friends out scattered over the last 130 miles.  They held signs of encouragement (in the rain).  They rang cowbells (in the rain).  They cheered (in the rain).  Sometimes it was hard to catch my breath as I passed by.  We had several people show up at Rouzersville.  We had 10-15 people cheering us on at Mt. Airy.  And at the finish line, 50 people had gathered to congratulate us on a job well-done.  They swarmed the finish line so that it was hard to even cross it.  The show of support along those last 130 miles was the most fun of all.

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From → Cycling

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