If The Creek Don’t Rise Century
Mike, Chad and I left Elwood bright and early Saturday headed for points south and west. Our goal was a measly 100 miles. Actually, Mike was shooting for 130, while Chad and I were happy to settle for the century. Most of the ride was planned to be on familiar roads, but there was about 20 miles of uncharted territory for us. And in usual fashion, that uncharted stretch afforded the most excitement (if you can call gravel excitement).
It didn’t take long before Chad discovered he had a mechanical issue…his front derailleur was locked up as tight as a prison cell. He had ridden on some gravel rails the past weekend and was paying the price. As we pedaled toward Republic, we were somewhat hopeful that we could find some oil somewhere along the way. Heck, Mike was even looking for a tractor sitting out in the field where we could swipe some grease from the power takeoff!
We didn’t need to do that, however, as while passing through Republic we spotted a familiar face. Dave was unloading his bike at the fitness center to meet some friends. We stopped to chat a few minutes and sure enough, he had some lube in his car!
It didn’t take long before we had the derailleur working acceptably well, ensuring that Chad wouldn’t have to suffer up the hills we knew were coming in his big chain-ring!
After stumbling around lost while trying to get out of Republic, we finally found ourselves pointed south toward Clever where we planned our first stop of the day. We walked into the c-store and invited ourselves to sit down with the local liars club, which seemed to be deep into it’s weekly meeting. They asked the usual questions: Where are you going? How far you riding? Why do you want to do something like that? With our answers, we got the usual looks of amazement that anybody could be so stupid, but we’re pretty used to that.
From Clever, our planned route took us south to within just a couple of miles of Crane, and that’s where my route planning abilities came into question.
Yep, that’s a gravel road. I had the route all figured out once, then made some quick changes and I guess I should have paid a little more attention. This little road jumped up to bite us just after passing through the little community of Brown Springs. But then, it just got better and better…
That creek is spring fed, and IT WAS COLD! On top of that, my 53 year old bare feet are no longer cut out for walking through creek gravel! Mike crossed in his shoes, then stood there laughing at us while Chad and I tip-toed across. I think later on, we were feeling a little better when our feet were nice and dry while his were still creek-like. Oh…but that wasn’t the end of our gravel woes….
Notice that hill behind Mike while he’s standing so patiently with his wet shoes and socks while Chad and I put our dry ones back on? It was kind of steep. And gravel. And our skinny tires weren’t meant for that stuff. We had to pedal in granny low and stay seated to get up it without spinning out. Then as soon as we got to the top we went back down something that was just as steep.
Luckily, we hit pavement soon afterward, but we still had to climb out of the Brown Springs valley. It was kind of pretty, but steep!
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only gravel section of the day. We hit two more before we got back on familiar roads at Marionville. The good news was that there was really only place that was kind of sketchy for us. We were coming down a hill and needed to make a sharp right turn onto pavement from some rough and loose gravel. There was no way any of the three of us were going to try that – we all three opted to keep going straight until we could get our speed scrubbed off then turn back.
At Marionville, Chad and I stopped at the c-store while Mike went off in search of something more substantial. It took us a few minutes to find him again, then we departed for what would be a long 23 miles to Halltown. The heat and humidity were rising, we were riding into a bit of a head-wind, and Chad passed his longest distance ever on a bike during this section.
He was dragging pretty badly when we got to Halltown, so my goal was to get enough quick absorbing calories into his system to keep him going. The problem was that he couldn’t force anything down. I knew we had a bail-out option that would get us back to the cars in half the distance, but he was insistent that he wanted to finish what we started. Mike was the hero of the day when he suggested that Chad lean back in the booth and put his feet up to help his circulation. We’re not sure what was so magic about that, but he immediately started feeling better and was able to eat a little more. From that point, I could tell he was getting tired, but not in danger of having serious problems finishing.
But….I was watching the Garmin and decided we were going to end up with around 106 miles after we had missed a couple of turns and ridden around Marionville looking for Mike. At the time, we were pace lining into the wind, so I made the executive decision to shave off a few miles by staying on familiar roads instead of looping closer to Everton. That ended up being exactly 1 mile too much, but I think it was the best decision even though Chad handled the final 30 miles with relative ease.
We stopped for the final time in Fair Grove, then headed for the car. By this time, some serious looking clouds were forming to the south, and at one point I looked down to see my Garmin registering a –15% grade on a flat as a pancake road. We inferred that the barometric pressure was dropping as we neared a storm, then very quickly noticed the temperature dropping very fast. Pulling out of Fair Grove, the thermometer on the Garmin was registering 104 degrees with the reflection off the pavement, but by the time we had ridden the final 15 miles, it was cool and pleasant.
I had to loop past the car for 1/2 mile to get the full century, and we waved goodbye to Mike as he headed for his house and the completion of his first double metric. Chad also had a milestone, as this was his first century.
We finished loading the cars just as the clouds unleashed a downpour on us, so our timing was perfect!
Our riding time was 6:24, which is not the fastest century I’ve ever done, but certainly not the slowest either. I felt great the entire day, and didn’t have any issues at all with bonking or cramping. I was really watching my calorie and electrolyte intake, and there is no doubt that makes a huge difference.
Mike was as strong as usual, I was really impressed with Chad. He bounced back from a near bonk and finished strong!
You can click the map for the full Strava details.
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