Friday, September 19, 2008

Randonneuse Visited

00.00 hrs, 09/11/08 I woke up in the "its not a hilton but it'll do motel" in Atwood, Kansas to make a second effort in my first attempt at a 1200k randonee through Last Chance from Colorado to Kansas and back. The first effort the day before had been about as big as any single continuos effort I had ever made on a bike but it was faster.

I had made Atwood, Kansas in good enough time for the likes of me but had suffered in the afternoon heat being a big salt loser. Plagued again by the ghost of the 08 SIR spring 600k I was too wired to sleep, so I spent 5hrs in control and slept 2hrs. The day to come was going to claim the dubious honor of eclipsing the previous efforts, very close to 24hrs and 290miles much of it in darkness. The bike was Nwa-chi-nemelu (the child-gods-favor) an 06 Specialized Roubaix S Works, no aero-bars, but equipped with Leonardo (because he makes maps and diagrams) a Garmin Edge 705. Nwachinemelu was favored for the randonee because of her long wheel base and her light weight (an inexperienced clydesdale, I am heavy enough for the both of us). The translation of her name above is direct and misleading, as among the Igbo people of West Africa the concept of the word "Chi" as I understand it, hovers somewhere between "God" "Spirit" "Essence".

Day one I had interacted with many riders at times staying too long with riders too strong, day two was going to be pure "Allure Libre" I would find my own natural rythm.

"Randonneuse", "is about the bike" and not the other translation of the French word; a female randonneur. I am rambling about the interaction between the essence of Nwachinemelu and my essence on that long day.

I had run into Sam Huffman riding with Peter Morrissey at the turn-around point in Kensington, Kansas and we pretty much leap-frogged each other on the way back to Atwood with Sam and Peter riding faster, but I skipped a watering hole and was able to meet with them at Atwood the second overnite venue. I had learned as we crossed each other that they intended to push on that night possibly to Byers, Colorado, the third overnite venue. This was already a familiar idea since it was cooler and the wind was more favorable. The terrain was now rolling upwards and having had most of my schooling with SIR, the feeling was "born and bred in the briar patch".

"All the way to Byers"! that was a novel concept. At Atwood Sam and Peter made sure they had their emergency blankets but I never found out if they had any snake anti-venom kit. They reapplied chamois creme and were off. I took a shower, changed into fresh Ibex wool three quarter lenght pants, checked Nwachinemelu and re-charged Leonardo and gave chase.

Unknown to me Roberto Trevisan from Brazil also riding his first randonee (he tells me that they have a 600k in Brazil) took note of the departures and was now the only member of the second chase group.

The parts of Kansas that I saw on this ride was mostly vast stretches of nothing with what I may call little quaint villages at decent intervals. Riding at night alone the sensory deprivation is surprising and everybody has gone to bed. I even had nostalgia on the road to Idalia for the earlier electrical activity in the atmosphere that was now absent in the black nothingness of that night. It was similar I suppose to instrument flying, I depended mostly on Leonardo to tell if I was climbing or descending. Just before Idalia, Colorado there are road works with fresh asphalt, carelessly my front wheel touched a step-off on the asphalt and we went down. By reflex I cupped and protected the bike, she was all I had in that darkness. I angrily got up and moved more to the center of the road as I have major reptilophobia and checked her out. She seemed sound, only question was if the Mavic Ksyrium front wheel was slightly out of true. We spun to Idalia and I called it a night. As I rolled into Idalia I ran into Sam and Peter leaving and told them about my little crash, I suggested they descend very carefully, I remember Peter saying as they were leaving "we shall descend like old ladies". I remember thinking " you never stop learning when you are around the rando's".

I slept outside the motel at Idalia and was woken by the sound of rando's saddling up and leaving, I tried the door to a room they had vacated and it was open. I cleaned up and headed up to Byers still in the darkness. I have no Idea how long I slept. The first watering hole that would sell the next morning was Anton, Colorado 55miles from Idalia. I ran into Roberto at the food store there, he had not crashed that night but had suffered similar sensory deprivation, we vowed to stay with each other, which we did all the way to Louisville, Colorado and recieved our first randonee medals from John Lee Ellis. I have invited Roberto to ride the Cascades 1200 "The Godess".

Nwachinemelu she did OK by me. Probably she is not the perfect Randonneuse but clearly she proved to be both a son who one would be glad to spend a day of play with and slave-girl that carried me and gear without complaint for 753 miles.

What is not so clear is; who is the puppet and who is the puppeteer.


matt m said...

great story vincent!!

Robert H said...

I love the write up. It has been a pleasure crossing paths with you Vincent.