Thursday, July 25, 2013

Traveling at the Speed of Joe

Cate takes a photo of the "grumpy tents" in Knoxville.

Note: Today CR Biker presents a guest post.

This is Joe's sister Cate.  Or Sister Joe, as one of my team shirts says.  My other shirt says “Joe is back there somewhere ...”  Well. That's what this blog post is (mostly) about.

Today I'm the camptown lady (doo-dah, doo-dah), in charge of tearing down the tents and setting them up again.  After 5 days on the road, I think I'm finally getting to understand my tent.  Oh tent, I long to know you better.  That one night we spent together on the back porch was not enough!

Ahem.  I am not a regular camper.  My sleeping bag I've had since high school (almost 40 years) but all of my other equipment was bought on a trip to Denver in March, when I knew for sure we were going to do RAGBRAI.  I just barely learned how to assemble my tent before we were off.

Despite its unfamiliarity, my tent is not the most difficult one to set up: that dubious honor falls to Brigid and Eldon, whose tent is the land of a thousand stakes.  Mine is a bit tricky, but gets easier after getting used to it.  Joe's tent is easy.  Easy like Council Bluffs.

But I digress.  Back to the main topic.

I rode a lot of training miles with Joe.  Hundreds of them.  And I was able to observe a consistent phenomenon: although I am a rather large middle-aged woman and I ride a rather heavy bike, I am faster than Joe.  Joe ambles.  He trudges.  He plods.  Like the low rider, Joe goes slow.

When I was training for RAGBRAI, I challenged myself. I rode in unnecessarily high gears and rode faster than I needed to.  The RAGBRAI web site recommends that a rider get in 1,000 training miles before the event, but between a wet spring and early summer, plus two weeks of work-related travel, I knew I would barely get in 700.  I was worried, so I pushed myself.  I think it's paid off; after 4 days of riding I am happy to be taking a rest day, but it's not because I couldn't have ridden.  Somebody has to drive the support vehicle, and today it's my turn.

Cate feeds a horse. But it didn't pull her bike for her.
But here's the thing: challenging yourself is fine when you're training for RAGBRAI, but the event itself is no time for an extra challenge.  I learned that the hard way on the first day of the ride; I charged my way up several hills in the hot sun, after too little sleep, in a middle-aged woman's fog of hormonal soup, and by early afternoon I had created the perfect storm: a migraine headache.  I told Joe I needed to stop and rest for a minute.  That minute turned into over an hour of intermittent dozing, vomiting, and being bitten by flies.  Joe stuck with me until the sag wagon came and helped me load my bike on the trailer.  I had a short ride into the overnight town, while Joe had a long slog on his bike that got him into camp a couple of hours later.  He's a good brother, that Joe.

And I am on a really good team.  There is steadfast Joe, always good to ride (or hide) behind.  There is irrepressible Brigid, who makes me laugh so hard.  And there is ingenious Eldon, our gadget guy, who always comes up with new and clever ways to do things.  We take care of each other.  When I talked to my wife at the end of that first day, she expressed concern for my well-being.  I told her not to worry, as I have three mommies on this ride.  At the campground, it was Eldon who found me and managed to guide me and my bike to my tent so I could rest and recuperate.  It was Brigid who fetched me cold water and checked on me to make sure I was still breathing.  I was, and am, in good hands.

So I have learned my lesson.  On RAGBRAI, anyway, I'm traveling at the speed of Joe.  Whenever there's a steep hill, or a long hill, or a long, steep hill (there are plenty of all of the above!) I shift into granny gear and make my slow, ambling, plodding, trudging way up.  It ain't fast, but it gets me to the top, and I arrive in camp on my bike instead of the sag wagon.  It's the only way to ride.

Random RAGBRAI thoughts:

  • My bicycle's name is Miss Grenadine, for reasons only Brigid can truly understand.
  • I am not safe around sharp objects.  I think this is going to be a three-scar summer.
  • Brigid and I invented a new drinking game.  If you see a hill, you take a drink.  Our drink of choice is water.
  • Eldon gives the best Hickeys.  Maybe Joe will show you the ones on his feet.
  • One of the great pleasures in life is riding down the middle of the street in Des Moines beside my sister, as we harmonize to the Beatles tune playing on my iPod.

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