Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Over the top

No thermometer on the bike. Rick Blacker's got one, though. It's reading 103 degrees F.

My relief at knowing is quickly followed by panic. That dwelling on the reality of the situation for more than a millisecond will lead inevitably to a 'why am I doing this' moment. Which would be counterproductive.

Anyway, the three guys yielding their spot under the tree and crawling in slow motion up the hill, that's a clue. Aussies under trees? Must be hot.

We won't catch them on the climb. The road to Beechworth is mostly exposed so whenever there is some shade, we take advantage. Making steady progress, but not fast. Sort of a hiking pace.

The heat hasn't sunk its claws into me yet. Though the ice from Bonegilla is gone, melted and evaporated, it did buy some time. An hour or two where my core temperature wasn't rising, ready to boil over on a hill like this one. 400 meters, in the heat of the day.

With heat exhaustion waiting in the wings, it's about avoidance and delay. At least until the climb is over or you reach cooler terrain or the sun goes down. It gets hot at home and I suck in the heat, so I've had plenty of practice.

Normally you look for some kind of convenience store or mini-mart, a gas station. Doesn't have to be fancy. Hopefully you brought a Camelbak, which goes under the ice hopper in the soda machine until full. Topped off with water.

Followed by something cold and sweet, like a Coke or Gatorade or Red Bull. Maybe a stick of beef jerky, for protein and salt. Or an ice cream. Maybe both.

When the electrolyte caps run low, grab a bottle of spicy hot V-8. Works fast, like an IV full of sodium and potassium.

As you might have guessed by now, the formula is more about chemistry and less about Zagat ratings. The jerky can be washed down with Gatorade, or the ice cream bar chased with a V-8! You can have some absurd fun with it. The point is, cold drinks, ice lasting more than a few minutes, calories, salt and potassium. Nothing too heavy.

There's not a town or minimart in sight. It's us and the road and the sun, making things even simpler. All that can be done is turn over the pedals, hoping there's some buffer left somewhere, hoping my body is not too out of whack at this point. Surviving moment to moment. Talking to myself about what to do in Beechworth when we get there. Dig out of this hole.

At the top, I turn around to take a photo. Mark's already heading down. The road goes up again before we reach town. At which point, I'm a mass of immediate needs.

Beechworth is a tourist destination, a preserved historic town that some might call precious. It was a center of Victoria's gold rush, famous not only for the riches it produced but also the outlaws who terrorized the locals. Similar to our Wild West. Today it's full of preserved buildings, nostalgic businesses, chic and expensive restaurants. Only one problem: I need a minimart.

The control is at the Beechworth Bakery, which suits most randonneurs just fine. It happens to be full of things that make me sick. So after signing in, I croak out "water, ice, ice cream". Strangely, a volunteer insists on directing me back to the bakery. She seems flustered and unsure when I keep asking for something else. It does not compute.

Finally there are pointers to a couple of cutesy ice cream parlors down the block, which happen to be closed. I walk back to the control, only to be asked by the same worker whether I've left my ice coffee outside.

There's a welt in my tongue where I had to bite it.

Starting over, I ask if there's a supermarket in town. Silence. They go find another worker who might know. Ah, there's an IGA! Where might it be? (you guys are killing me here). Finally I decide to follow my own nose. It takes a couple of tries, which is damn good for someone in an altered state. Beechworth has hidden its IGA market behind a block of historic facades!

They have water. They have Gatorade and ice cream bars. And OMG, they have V-8. All self-serve. Who cares if the locals are looking at me funny?

1 comment :

  1. V8 is amazing stuff, I hear you. It's my go-to in July and August. (And once in June at Sequoia, where I saw another guy at the top of Tunitas Creek looking like the gentleman in your second photo.)