Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Last Ride?

My last check of the weather before the ride showed a mild-for-December 57° with 7 mph SE winds. I was probably a little over-dressed with leg warmers and a long-sleeve base layer, a fact Rich was more than happy to point out shortly after I met him on Lowerline. Most of the chatter of late has been speculation about when the levee as we have known it will be no more. It is imminent. Climbing up the levee I could see new fencing had been installed to prevent levee access once the impending construction begins.
Brian, Max, Seattle Mike, the top of Vega's helmet, Ray, Rich, CA Rick, Woody, and Daniel

  There were 10 of us at the start, with the notable absence of Randy. We picked up HL, Lenny, and Keith N. at the playground. The first four or five miles of the ride were very steady with a seasonally appropriate pace. It was very pleasant. Then, having had more than enough of all the pleasantness, up the left side came HL for a twenty-second surge, which immediately altered the previously mellow moods of Daniel and Woody. I was still in the rotation but rapidly becoming uncomfortable as the pace rose. Next time through, when I was third or fourth person from the front, I was about fully cooked and having an increasingly difficult time maintaining contact with the wheel I was on, as Woody or Daniel, I can't remember which, amped it up still more. I moved left and waved the rider behind me through. About two riders passed, then HL, who gave me a double stink eye. It was stink eye, turn away, turn back, another stink eye.

I guess HL thought I was disrupting the paceline by voluntarily avoiding the front. What HL didn't know was that I got out with no intention of disrupting the line but only to prevent the interruption which surely would have followed my spewing a belly full of blueberries and Heritage flakes all over the eight or nine riders behind me. He couldn't have known I had enjoyed last evening a double ration of grog at the holiday gathering of the Nu Wave Masters Swimming Club and was feeling a wee bit bilious. What I didn't know was that eight or nine riders were not behind me, only three, then nothing but empty levee. Brian, CA Rick, Keith, Vega: gone, gone, gone, gone.

So now I feel like the man overboard watching the ship slowing pulling away with no hope of seeing it again. Then I see the guy I would later learn to be Mike from Seattle, who's on an ancient, fluorescent-pink Klein with downtube shifters, also get surprised by the empty space where the rest of the line should have been, and he's off the back, too. So I settle in on his wheel and figure it's him and me for the long haul, but he's got other ideas and stands up on this old aluminum frame and starts pedaling like hell. Well, he pulls me up to the group, almost killing me and I'm sure himself in the process.

Amazingly, the group hadn't slowed but was actually going faster and as soon as we were on again things started to unravel. A couple of people started losing contact, then Max is next to me, talking to me, but I'm not really listening, I'm trying to breathe. Finally I understand he's asking me where Vega went, but I just stare at him trying to breathe. Max curses and sits up. Now I'm thinking if Max is going back for Vega, he better hurry because Vega is probably putting his bike in his truck by now.

So it's Seattle Mike and me once more. But only 50 meters up the road is Lenny, who we join and the three of us start to work a little bit. I say a little bit because Seattle Mike pulled for a while then I went around him and got on the front, then, all of a sudden, Seattle Mike and Lenny are both out of their saddles sprinting away from me. So I say, "Really?" But nobody's there to hear me.

Brian and Seattle Mike
 Pretty soon Brain came by, and I got on his wheel. He pulled me up to Seattle Mike and Lenny. Lenny turned at the Little Dip. Just on the other side of the Luling bridge, the three of us came upon Woody changing a flat.

Could that be the stink eye?

Apparently Vega didn't get the bike in the truck because he and Max rode up after a short while. To be fair, Vega probably deserves a pass since lately he has been suffering a physical infirmity 1 of a delicate nature which I have much difficulty thinking about much less describing here. With Woody's flat fixed, we stood around jawboning until the rest of the group, which had been half a mile west waiting for HL to change a flat, appeared.

Just as the whole group started back east, Randy, who I had figured for an early PT session, pulled up. Coming back was largely uneventful. Once we got started Woody took about a five-mile pull into a quartering headwind at a rock-steady 24 mph. Around Williams Blvd. I picked up a huge shard of metal in my rear tire and had to change the flat, a task I accomplished rather expeditiously in spite of Rich's standing around making snarky comments, pickpocketing my iPhone, snapping images of me, and constantly apprising me of elapsed satellite time.

Removing 20-penny nail from rear tire
Sadly, as we were getting off the levee there were workers standing at the bottom of the two asphalt ramps holding large rolls of wire mesh, preparing to close the levee for many months. This was probably our last Tuesday/Thursday ride from the pump towers for a long time to come.

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