Saturday, March 7, 2015

The way in

Bob, riding on my left, asks about the route. Does it just go straight along this road into Davis? I say "yup" without even thinking. Signed up for this event a few days ago. Skipped the part about looking at the route sheet. Technically I don't know, but this is the usual way.

While brevet routes tend to resist change they're not immune. When you're not looking (and I have not been), they can mutate. This 200K has at least two forms: in 1999 it started in central Davis, threading through the university and leaving town on Old Davis Road. This led to at least one strange ending to a 300K, weary cyclists in reflective gear passing in front of the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, dodging VIPs in fancy dress on their way into the hall. The cyclists laughed...

From 2004 on, the start point has been in East Davis at the Park 'n Ride, using Mace Boulevard to exit town quickly and avoid such encounters. This route is simpler, too. The original was shorter and thus involved riding about a mile and a half past Pope Valley to an orange cone by the side of the road, which served as the turnaround point. You had to be careful to keep your head up for that part; the cone was easy to miss. Every year someone did.

The road is Putah Creek Road, the classic route west into the hills from the Great Valley. It meets State Route 128 near Lake Berryessa, near Monticello Dam. If you ride a bike in Davis, you know this road well. This morning on the way out, Eric Norris said it feels like he's worn a groove in the pavement. So it's a good bet.

It's ~2:30 on a hot afternoon that feels more like early May than early March. It's even caught the boaters by surprise, the weather; they're not out yet with their trucks and boat trailers and jet skis. It's almost relaxing!

We're spinning through an agricultural plain that looks spare and flat. It has some interesting stories to tell, both natural and human. Good farming country. All it takes is a nice strong headwind to see it differently, though. Today it's a real struggle. A fight.

This rational thought does not stay long. Over a few short minutes, Bob is sucked ahead into the distance, my brain waves go flat and with each passing moment my legs are feeling heavier, more reluctant. As if they're barely capable of walking, much less riding back to Davis. The next thing is a dizzy spell that's so intense it seems like I might pass out.

Or perhaps throw up. My stomach doesn't like heat. It never has, and yet after brain injury and its stomach havoc and the sneaky way it has of sending the balancing systems of the body (electrolytes for one) haywire, the new pattern is for these moments to arrive without warning. Of course, I haven't been eating enough - tough to do in the land of little stores selling Hostess Donettes. Especially tough when you're feeling sick from the heat.

Good reasons, and yet... when you get out here on a brevet, on some level you pledge to deal with all the messy, unwelcome complications that visit you on the road. Figure out how to ride on in. Headwind or no. Cooperation from the body, or rebellion on multiple fronts. During the Randonneur Social Hour in the morning and the solo despair that visits you in the glaring afternoon.

Somehow I get my right hand back and down into the jersey pocket. Pull out a bar, tear it open, and  eat half. To my surprise it goes down. Better.

Enabling me to reach for a gel flask and take a pull from it without gagging. Yuck. Again, a little bit better.

Then Paul, whom I passed about thirty minutes ago, passes me with Sandra in tow. going impossibly fast. I latch on for dear life. Stop paying attention to what it feels like to keep riding, and focus on staying with them.

Almost out of water. The mini-mart at the corner of Sievers Road and 505. Paul and Sandra aren't stopping. There's water in Davis, too. It's not going to kill me, nine dehydrating miles.

But it's a hell of a way to end a ride.

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