Yesterday I rode the 62-mile 50 States Ride for the eighth time. If you asked me at the finish if I’d ride it again I’d say, “Hell no!” After a day of recovery (I rode 32 miles round trip to the Nats game and they won) I am already thinking about next year. I guess my fusiform gyrus isn’t the only broken part of my brain.
At the sign in, Chris M. helped check me in. I normally don’t recognize him, when he’s in bike clothing. But this day, he wasn’t. It was a good omen.
I needed one. It was 7:15 am and it was already oppressively humid. The heat was rising by the minute.
I said hello to Reba, Robert and Ed. I told Ed I was starting early. I knew how hard this day was going to be. 2007 was just like this. I was 9 years younger and it took everything I had to finish that ride. Part of what made 2007 so hard was trying to keep up with Flogini (erstwhile spiritual adviser to the Rootchopper Institute) whom I had met at the Anacostia rest stop about 15 miles into the ride. She is 21 years younger than me (remarkably still is) and in excellent shape then (and now, for that matter). Ultimately, she dropped me and two others in Rock Creek Park around mile 50. We simply couldn’t keep up.
I wanted to beat the heat and ride, to the extent possible, at my own pace. So Deets and I left at around 7:30 just before the WABA safety speech that I have heard many times before. I quickly met a couple who were going my pace. Wyoming, California. We made our way through downtown, missing one turn but not missing a state, just a piece of the 15th Street cycletrack. New Hampshire. Rhode Island, Vermont.
I led them through some tricky turns. As we turned onto Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House, and on coming cyclist nearly took me out. He had swung wide at high speed directly into my path. I yelled and her veered off.
New York, Indiana, New Jersey, Louisiana, unmarked but always important Delaware, Maryland, Washington.
We picked up a third rider in Southwest who yelled at me when I nearly rode past Virginia Avenue. Nice save, third rider.In East Potomac Park, the nonstop turns of the first 9 miles gave way to 3 miles of smooth sailing on Ohio Drive. Rather than push myself to keep pace with the three, I lagged behind.
At least there was a breeze off the river. Did I mention it was hot?
On Maine Avenue in Southwest as I rode by the massive waterfront construction site, a tractor pulling a gooseneck trailer blocked the entire road. It was trying to turn but there was not enough space. I turned around and improvised a route around the mess. (It’s part of the route I use to ride to baseball games.) Once again, no states missed.
I caught all but 1 traffic light on M Street but missed a turn onto unmarked K Street Southeast. I had made this same mistake in the past. The intersection is near some road construction and looks different every time I ride through there.
I turned around, got on K, and was soon across the Anacostia. At the rest stop I caught up to the couple I met in the first mile. I said hi to WABA Jeff and his associate whose name escapes me, of course.
After the rest stops the hills begin. Up MLK Jr. Boulevard for about a mile. I passed a second couple who were struggling. At the second rest stop, they complemented me on my climbing skills. I almost choked on my burrito. I suck at climbing. I proved this very point about ten minutes later. We descended the back side of the hill and after a brief flats stretch on Mississippi Avenue we climbed right back up on Stanton Road. The fun continued on Alabama Avenue. Lordy. I made it to the top without a major coronary event.
The rest of the ride in Anacostia involves a short downhill to Texas (which isn’t big at all) and the climb back up to Fort Davis. From there the route goes about 1/2 mile down hill on Massachusetts Avenue. Weeee! It ended at a red light. Boooo! This is what makes the ride so hard. You rarely benefit from all that climbing because the downhill fun stops abruptly.
After a few more turns and Minnesota Avenue I crossed back over the Anacostia. The instructions are very specific so I didn’t follow them of course. But I corrected my sins (I said two Hail Marys like a good retired altar boy) and made my way into Capitol Hill on Kentucky Avenue. After South Carolina, I was ready for lunch.
Did I mention it was hot? Well, now it was waaaay hotter.
I think I made it in decent shape to the second rest stop at Eastern Market where lunch awaited. I ate a District Taco veggie burrito. It was delicious. It was also way too much to eat in one go when you are about to ride 32 miles of the 3 Hs – heat, humidity, and hills.
After brief hellos to WABA’s Greg and Michelle, I jumped back on the bike and rode with my belly distended by a Mexican gut bomb. North Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma.
Did I mention it was hot?
We buzzed around Northeast. I missed a turn and found myself backtracking on H Street, which has trolley tracks. I managed rather tensely not to get my wheel caught in them and got back on course.
On busy Florida Avenue a school bus passed within inches of my left arm. At the next stop light I motioned to the driver to give me three feet. He opened his door and said, “Did I hit you?” I said “No” and he shrugged as if to say “What’s your problem?” I only wish my heat fried brain had retorted “If I shot at you with gun and missed you by three or four inches, would you think that was okay too?” I shudder to think that someone is entrusting their loved one to this jerk.
A few miles later I passed Klarence’s house as I made my way up West Virginia Avenue I didn’t drop by. Klarence probably has air conditioning and I doubt I’d ever leave if I went inside. Also, I wouldn’t want Klarence to see me cry.
The climb up Mt. Olivet Street was hard, but I knew it was coming. At the top I turned onto 9th Street to head into Brentwood. A MetroBus beeped at me twice as I began my turn so that he could right hook me without killing me. Don’t you just love polite drivers?
The climb through Brentwood is deceptively hard. I wasn’t deceived though because…
Did you know it was HOT!!!???
Montana led to South Dakota which is normally a cycling hell hole but had no car traffic today. Drivers were probably home because..
It was HOT!!!!
After Michigan I was cruising by Catholic University. Hawaii and its long bumpy hill came next. Normally I stop at the 7-11 at the start of Hawaii but I had plenty of water and didn’t want to fall asleep in its air conditioned splendor. I did not factor in ice. My water bottles were hot. Drinking from them was no fun. I drank anyway.
At the top of Hawaii a stag appeared from the woods on my right. It had an impressive rack. I made some noises so that he wouldn’t jump into me. Death by deer is nothing to joke about.
Back into Northwest we went. I started pouring water over my head. Illinois gave way to Kansas which we took the opposite way than 2007. This was good because Flogini climbed the sucker effortlessly leaving us in severe pain trying to keep up. (The sight of her floating up the hill still pisses me off. How dare she be young and fit. Try it when you are old and fat, honey.)
Northeast is hilly but manageable. I rationed my water as Arkansas, Georgia, Colorado, Missouri and North Dakota went by. The route is so meandering that after 8 times I still have no clue how to get around this section of the city.
My head was pounding. I was out of water. Thankfully I was only a mile or so from Mike and Lisa’s house, the Tacoma rest stop. Normally they have a sign or something welcoming me. This year they had something better. They had ice. YES! They had water. YES! They had WABA’s Adventure Katie. WOW! They had healthy foods. MEH! They had a sprinkler. AWESOME!!!! I picked it up and inverted it over my head. BLISS!!! After discussing Lisa’s serious baseball addiction (the woman need professional help – takes one to know one), I rode off for the last 15 miles.
Alaska led to a fun ride in the shade into Rock Creek Park.On Beach Driver, two riders were stopped trying to figure out whether to turn at an intersection. Follow me! I knew it well. Here, with riding partner Shane lying on the ground in pain, Flogini abandoned us in 2007. Also near here, a 2007 rider later told us she jumped in Rock Creek to cool off. It was that hot.
After Oregon took us northward we headed back south through Chevy Chase DC. Utah and Nevada led us to an abrupt, bumpy painful climb on 36th Street. This was added in 2014 just to piss me off. It succeeded. It’s a gift that keeps on giving too.
Did I mention it was HOT!!!!
Time for some coffee, no? The last rest stop was at a coffee shop. Okay, they had water and healthy food and salt. WABA’s Ursula thinks of everything! And she gives high fives like a maniac. And sometimes looks like she’s coming down a ski jump for no apparent reason.
I did mention that it was HOT, didn’t I?
After topping off my water bottles, I did away with Wisconsin and rode on Nebraska past American University.Then down the long hill on Arizona so that at 58 miles we could climb all the way back up.
Did I mention it was really, really HOT!!!
The climb back up was brutal. Deets does not have super low granny gears so it was just a battle of wills with my lungs and knees on one side and topography on the other. Lungs and knees won but it was a close contest. After New Mexico, the hills continued until we crested Cathedral Heights, so named because it’s up high. How clever!
The last bit was a downhill roll past The Maret School – Go Frogs! – and onto Connecticut Avenue. Once again the traffic was light perhaps because it was HOT!
I was gifted a green turn arrow and blasted left across the Calvert Street Bridge back to the finish and after party at Mellow Mushroom in Adams Morgan.
When I walked in Bicycle Space‘s Phil Koopman greeted me and handed me a big glass of ice water. I nearly cried. The perfect gift!
So that’s it. 50 States number 8 is in the record books. 400 States. (There is some doubt in my mind. It could be 399 because I think I accidentally missed Vermont one year. Then again, I may have ridden it and gotten confused. 50 states in a day can do that to anybody. Especially when it’s HOT.)
I can’t believe I signed up for another long, event ride next weekend. They don’t have any states either. What a gyp that’s going to be.