Sunday, August 18, 2013

Zombie breakfast in Uddevalla

The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places...
 -Haldir, in The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
We land in the lobby of the Hotel Gyldenl√∂we in Uddevalla around 12:45am. Finally here. And now I can even pronounce "Uddevalla". It's sung more than spoken, with long vowel sounds. Not too many big towns in this part of Sweden. Whatever its name when you're in one, you know it.

No room at the inn for the Waterford. It goes to spend the night around the corner somewhere. Lasse takes it away while Lene, also supporting the red group, assigns me to a single room. The two of them must be exhausted yet they are endlessly patient and kind. I head upstairs to the lap of luxury.

After showering, where is the iPhone with the dead battery? Still in the handlebar bag on the bike! Exhaustion is setting in. Unfortunately the phone is my ticket to waking up at 5:15. A dead phone is inconvenient, a dead-to-the-world randonneur is a doorstop. After 357 kilometers we don't wake up on our own.

The lobby is now empty. Unlikely in the morning chaos someone will notice a missing rider and pound on the right door.

Back in the room I fumble with the Swedish interface on the TV, hoping for the best. Next to the phone, instructions (English) on how to configure a wakeup call; I follow the steps. Who knows how reliable these methods will be...

I lie in bed, too warm, waiting for sleep to come. Waiting. Four hours of tossing and turning, heart thumping, thoughts racing. Nothing seems solid or reliable. Our little group got quite lost. No one took responsibility. Might happen again. They're fixing to ride the next leg together. I can't just drop out... The cue sheet is sometimes off. Tomorrow (today) is hillier, harder. My legs feel heavy, not strong or fast. What they need, what would make everything better, is a nice long sleep. DON'T fall too far into that hole...

So far in life, I've managed to avoid ingesting cocaine. Not in a car on the edge of town, not anywhere in fact. So it's hard to say with any authority what the experience feels like. This brush with adrenaline must be pretty close, as close as I ever want to come. Finally I wear myself down and doze off for 20 minutes. The TV says 5:10am.

Downstairs the breakfast room is a small room, designed for a handful of guests. The air is warm and stuffy, like a sauna from all the heat radiating off bodies. Thirty exhausted riders are working the buffet at the same time, a traffic jam. Even if I could move fast it would be impossible. My head feels fuzzy and huge. My stomach feels sick; it does not want muesli and yogurt. It does not want coffee.

If riding without sleep seems inhumane, try riding without sleep AND coffee.

Oh, it's all coming back to me now, the ugly memories from PBP! The obstacle course at controls. On the way back to Paris many riders are so impaired they can't walk a straight line. Bumped into, stepped on, cut in front of, elbowed, all by guys with a goodly size advantage. No one apologizes but you can't really hold it against them, either. They're zombies.

On SBS we seem to be approaching that point.

No comments:

Post a Comment