Tuesday, August 2, 2011
The Fruit Loop 250
We gathered at Ari's house and were on the road by 4 a.m. sharp. We had: Ari, Franny (Ari's daughter), Alex (Ari's son), Tom, Llama, BB, Mike B, Josh, and myself. We had the lights on and rolled down 64 out towards Oregon, IL.
The sun was coming up just as we passed the overpass on 39. We stopped to take the sunrise in and then kept rolling. I had the Gunnar set up as usual....Conti speed tires, brooks saddle, revelate frame bag with 2L bladder inside, 2 polar insulated bottles for the hot day ahead
Immediately after leaving Sycamore (ari's house) we started to hit some rollers towards Oregon. The morning was a nice and cool day at about 70 degrees it was gorgeous but soon began to heat up. Everyone was feeling good and we chatted about life and I got to meet a couple cool new people.
At about 40 miles in we stopped in Polo to pick up Paul Anderson. He is a new customer of NCC and has a mountain bike background. He bought a Surly Pacer and has had it for a little over a month and already has nearly 700 miles on it...I liked him from the start. Mike B and Josh took a different road into Polo to hit a gas station and then flip to head home. We were left with 8 people at this point and pushed on West.
The day really began to heat up and some people in the group began "getting into jams". We hit more and more hills of beautiful country side and started to drink a lot more liquids. At this point it was about 70 miles in and Tom realized he needed to head back. It was great riding with him and talking to him. We later found out that he put in a monsterous 143 miles for the day...Great ride Tom!
Pushing on to Savanna we stopped at a gas station and refueled. We dropped off Franny and Alex and left them with their longest rides ever...both with 90 miles. Just like their father they are hardcore! Great job to those guys for getting past the hills and the heat and making it that far! We rode along the bluffs up to Savanna and now were into the real hills from Savanna to Galena...this is where we had the longest and hardest (and hottest) part of the day. The hills began as we climbed a mile long hill up onto the huge bluff with amazing views. It was so hot that we would stop and sit down and regroup and drink water at the top of each massive hill.
Paul was flying up the hills on his steel road bike and riding like he had done this route a thousand times. I was impressed. I would catch him on the climbs and we would climb together and muster a few words while gasping for breaths of 100 degree air.
As we left from a stop in Hanover an older black man looked at us and said "cyclists huh? ya'll need to head over to that Blackjack road by the mountain"...we replied "thats where we're headed. The only thing I can compare this to was Hannibal, MO. Extremely steep hills that literally take your breath away. Most of blackjack was closed because of the 17" of rain that elizabeth county had just gotten so we were forced onto a gravel road. This turned into a very steep downhill section of loose dirt and gravel, I slid out, Eric crashed and we cautiously made our way to a large section of road missing. We found our way around with a cow bridge and laughed at the hills in the horizon. On one of these hills Paul caught his seatbag between the frame and rear tire and it took a large chunk out of the tire so he was riding on the casing.
We then road what was a disaster area. We saw the results of the 17" of rain that this area had just gotten. Bridges laying on the road, mobile homes flipped, cars flipped, random pieces of wood and trees everywhere, bluffs completely washed out of the side of the hill. You could tell exactly where the water had been from the mud that it left on the plants and everything else on the side of the road. And it smelled like dead fish everywhere it had been. Those poor people that lost their lives as well as their houses and belongings in that area.
We rode through some very rural sections of hills seeing more debris and also signs of rednecks (the bullet holes in the road sign below).
Huge chunk of the road missing (pictured below). We saw some folks stop and take pictures of the damage and they told us we were only 5 or so miles outside of galena.
We finally pulled into Galena, IL. The half way point to the trip. At this point we all needed a solid meal and stopped at a nice pub for some cokes and burgers....what a delicious meal. The staff was very friendly and helped us fill up our water bottles for the next leg. We were sitting in a bar filled with motorcyclists....cyclists none the less I suppose. We laughed at the differences. Another great thing about Galena was that we found a bike shop...OPEN on a Sunday at 5 pm...how strange is that?! And we got Paul a new continental tire and the man was back in action. Ari had been battling some cramps at this point so it was good to sit for a few minutes and get some salt back in our bodies.
As we left, Ari instantly began to fight off cramps again as we hit huge hills outside of Galena. We waited and he told us to push on....not going to happen buddy, remember Trans Iowa?? He reassured us that once the sun went down he would be ok and it was the heat that was doing him in.
Our next stop was Apple River, very close to the highest point in Illinois. We made it to the gas station at 7:50 pm and the place closed at 8....just our luck. We saw some trashy/attractive females in the area and upon spying 2 more we were ready to take off with some more fuel. Onwards to the Apple River Canyon. The sun was setting....the Slender Fungus were just getting comfortable....
Ari's cramps started to fade away and the sun began to set, we started with the flashers in the back and eventually had to turn the headlights on as we were now headed back south to 64 via 78.
Route 78 was shut down with signs not to enter....well we did anyhow, we were on bicycles....you can do anything on a bicycle. The air was still and began to cool down and we were on a smooth asphalt blacktop with the stars above our heads. A few times Eric and I stopped to turn off our lights and look up at the millions of stars about our heads, it was truly beautiful and peaceful.
The route on 78 was slightly hilly and the closer we got towards our destination of Mt. Carroll the hillier it got. Paul was starting to bonk and the dark was getting to him as he was not used to riding in it. What seemed like hours later we rolled into Mt. Carroll, Chad was falling apart at this time and walking his bike, he needed to sleep, and Paul decided to get picked up. He ended up with 130 miles and put in a great effort!
Chad decided to sleep in Mt. Carroll to the morning. Ari, Eric, and I decided to take a little breather and refueled before heading out. Again, we hit a gas station 5 minutes before they closed....very fortunate. We were at mile 180 and the legs were still feeling good. We headed out on 64 to ride 40 miles back to Oregon, then another 30 back to Sycamore. The night time riding was by far the most challenging part of the ride. I stayed on the front and set the pace and tried to keep it steady. This ended up playing tricks with my mind as I looked at a small circle of light provided by my lights and a steady white line on the shoulder of rt 64. I stared at this white line for hours....I was starting to lose it.
We stopped in Mt. Morris for coffee as we were all getting tired and going a little nuts. We saw one of the best mullets ever at the gas station and had some laughs over a cup of coffee. Once we got rolling we were level headed again and cruised to Oregon and plowed through with minimal food left. The stretch from Oregon to Sycamore was hillier than I remembered and they seemed to never end. The riding felt like it took forever and there were very few words spoken between the 3 of us...I tried thinking of songs I liked and wished I had an mp3 player or something to satisfy my exhausted brain. Finally, the sun began to come up...the traffic increased on 64 and we were close to home.
I couldnt stand it anymore and just let loose, I wanted to be done with the ride. Eric and I dropped Ari a little ways behind and cruised between 16-20 mph and made it home. I never felt more relieved to be at the final destination. We congratulated each other and then stretched out and waited for Ari who was only 5 minutes behind us. He came in and we all looked at each other with gratitude and admiration for helping each other out and making this crazy journey together. We ended the day with about 256 miles (my computer was a few shy since I started it late). I was very very proud of BB for riding this route with us and making it the entire way. Ari and I had some solid experience riding through the night and as usual it was a great pleasure to ride with my training partner and share another great experience with him. Chad made it back the next morning and put a solid effort in while he rode with us. I then had to hop in the car and drive 3 hours back down to Springfield to work at 10. I was late and got there at 11. I did some tune ups and my gracious boss let me go home early to sleep....thanks Matt! It was a fantastic 26 hours of riding (including stops), 13.9 mph average, and the bikes were set up flawlessly. I wouldn't make a single change to the bike except the salsa bottle cages which both broke during the ride. Thanks to all who came out and rode and a big thanks to Ari and Eric. Check out some more pics on Eric's Blog. Until the next long one.....cheers.