Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Flat As A Pancake. Almost.

I'm registered to bike the "Flat As A Pancake" century ride on Saturday. It begins in New Baden, Illinois, about 35 or so miles east of St. Louis, and moves in roughly a square to the west, north, east and south. As far as long bike rides go, it's fairly easy, but it's not quite flat as a pancake. I'm supposed to be riding with a group from the Kirkwood-Webster Groves YMCA (we even have snazzy red, black and white jerseys), but they may leave a little later than I do. If a ride starts at 6: 30 a.m., then by golly I'm going to start when I'm supposed to.

I biked most of it three years ago. That is, I made it until lunch, which took me about 72 miles. I decided to call it a day at that point, or actually, my legs decided to call it a day. My wet legs.

You might think that biking on the back roads of farmland would be rather dull, but it was anything but. The first hour of the ride was in the rain -- a cold rain (and this was early June). Century rides go forward regardless of the weather. Biking is not for wimps. Then the sun came out, I put my glasses back on, and kept cycling. The countryside was beautiful, and not exactly flat.

I expected to see the beginnings of corn and soybeans in the fields, but all I found was wheat, of all things. I learned later that this part of Illinois is the biggest wheat growing section in the state.

There was a rest and snack stop at 25 miles, and again at about 50 miles, and the people at the Gateway chapter of Hostelling International were well organized. At the 50-miles stop, they warned us about a little water on the road about two miles ahead. Two miles came and went, and no water. Four miles, and no water. I happily assumed it had drained off.

I went up an overpass over a highway, and coming down I could see it: definitely water in the road. A lot of water in the road. Stretching across the road from fields on either side. It wasn't a couple of miles from the rest stop, but more like six. And it was more like six to eight inches deep. Well, there was nothing for it except to plow right on through, for almost a quarter of a mile (I kept on the center yellow line in the road, which was the shallowest part).

I was drenched. I was still drenched when I wheeled into the New Baden Lions Club for lunch about 30 minutes later. I think it was part of the reason I called it a day at that point.

The weather forecast for this Saturday is isolated thunderstorms, high of 85 and low of 68. The temperatures will work fine. But I'd like to avoid the water this time.

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