Saturday dawned a beautiful morning that would fail to foretell how quickly and badly the weather around here can change for the worse. Depending on which reports you listen to, Springfield experienced 9-10 inches of rain in just a couple of hours, but more about that later.
We were planning to ride a pretty long route, so I had e-mailed Mike the map of our route and told him that if he missed a turn this week (he has a history of that, you know) he would be on his own. His response to that was to bring his own old-school GPS! I guess it worked, because he managed to stay with us the entire time!
We departed Battlefield promptly at 6:30 AM, and picked up two additional riders just outside Republic for part of the trip.
David, wearing the blue jersey in the picture above, is a friend of Mike’s from church. He rode with us through Billings and part way to Halltown before he peeled off to his house near the intersection of Highways PP and TT northwest of Republic.
Alan is a colleague of mine at work. He just recently scored a really good deal on his first road bike, and is training for a sprint triathlon. He rode with us through Billings and out toward Halltown before heading for home when we hit Highway 174.
Both rode well given the number of miles under their wheels, and I hope they enjoyed themselves. We enjoyed having them and are hoping they can join us again.
The turkeys were out in abundance in the early hours. We had three separate sightings, with the best one being a big-ole bearded tom that ambled across the road right in front of us. He was a huge sucker – probably the biggest we’ve seen this summer.
We made our first stop at 20ish miles (for us) in Billings, where we instructed the new riders on the finer points of cycling nutrition, the art of devouring Snickers bars, and our golden rule of “Eat Early, Eat Often”.
We then turned our sights on Halltown, enjoying the tiny bit of push from the wind at our backs. As we headed that direction, we could see clouds building to the northeast. They were bothersome enough that Pam asked me to look at the radar while we were stopped. It showed a storm north of Springfield, but nothing near us. I was a little concerned that it was tracking south and we were going to be headed east and it looked like our paths might cross before we got turned back.
Halltown was the sight of our only “OOPS” moment of the day. I took our water bottle in to fill it, then left it on the counter after buying a Gatorade. We didn’t miss it until we stopped again, so at that point I was just glad it was an older one that was ready to be retired and we were carrying a second one.
After meandering east to the intersection of NN and I-44, we encountered the rain I was concerned about, but we only brushed the outer edge of it and were actually stopped at the c-store there for the entire duration of the brief d0wnpour! Talk about good timing!
At that point, we were about 46 miles into the day, but we also had to ride directly toward the storm for a couple of miles before turning back to the south. Pam was eyeing the sky constantly and started hearing thunder to our east. As we turned back to the south, we could tell the that it was raining seriously to our southeast, and knowing that we would be turning west in just a few miles made me hopeful that it would clear out before we made our final loop around Republic and headed for the truck.
We stayed dry through Republic, but as we kept glancing back over our shoulders, the skies kept looking more and more ominous. I wasn’t particularly concerned about getting wet, and Pam wasn’t either, but the thunder had Pam worried. From our location, we felt like the worst of the weather was going to be to our east, but that’s where the truck was, and we had planned our day pretty tightly, so simply sitting somewhere to wait it out was not an option. We had to keep riding!
In spite of all the concerns over the sky, both Pam and I were feeling pretty good on the bike and were enjoying the day. We’re signed up for a century next weekend and the ease with we covered these 73 miles gives us a lot of confidence that we shouldn’t have any issues with the 100 miles over a lot flatter terrain next week.
Of course our day wouldn’t be complete without having to stop for at least one train, and this one west of Republic seemed to take forever to clear out of our path. Once we cleared it, we were on our final leg back to the truck, and that’s when Pam really started getting concerned!
We were now riding straight toward the worst looking clouds, and we started seeing some pretty serious cloud to ground lightning on a regular basis. I mean most of those lightning bolts were straight in front of us, to the point that if you followed the road to the horizon, that’s where they seemed to be making their strikes. Once we started heading that direction, however, I started getting more and more confident that the worst of it was actually further east than our truck! I could see the water tower at Battlefield, and as we counted down the remaining miles, I kept trying to reassure Pam that we had it made! She, however, remained dubious.
We climbed the hill on ZZ faster than we’ve ever ridden it on the tandem, then did the same with the climb out of Wilson’s Creek. Pam tells me she was getting motivation from the lightning, and not to expect that type of effort every ride! From that point, it was easy and dry traveling back to the truck. We found it’s bed about half-full of standing water. You can’t see it very well in the picture above, but I had to stand in about an inch of water to get the bike secured for the trip home!
Our daughter had been sending Pam text updates for the last 10 miles indicating how hard it was raining in town so Pam sent her a “we’re safe and dry” message while I loaded the bike in the truck. We hadn’t driven more than a mile before the skies opened up on us!
Here’s the map of our ride. You can click it for the full GPS track.
Update: When we got back to the truck, Mike decided he was close enough to a century for the day that he was going to go for it rather than accept our offer of a ride home. He thought if he headed north he could avoid the worst of the rain. It didn’t happen. It sounded like he nearly got swept off his bike a couple of times before he made it home, but he did manage to get his century.