Last night I left work in good spirits, excited about my first LBC club ride, and ready to roll. I unlocked Quicksilver, headed out through the alley across the way ... and immediately realized that I'd forgotten my water bottle.
I was already running late because I'd clocked out exactly at five and had to change and fiddle with my bike stuff, so I was kind of ticked at myself — not that it takes all that long to get to the yellow lot in Waterfront Park, but I'm one of those anxious overachiever types who show up 20 minutes early for almost everything.
I thought for a moment about heading out bottle-less and trying to snag some water en route, but finally decided against it, returned to my building, locked my bike, rode the elevator (I am apparently too lazy to climb four flights of stairs, but not to ride my bike for hours on end), snagged my water bottle, ran down the stairs and out the door and was on my way by 5:20.
It took about 10 minutes to get to the Yellow Lot — there was a bunch of crazy traffic because of a free waterfront concert. My speed for that leg of the trip was about 12 MPH, though, so still decent. Once in the lot, I visited the water fountain, then did laps and bike-handling drills in the parking area. There's a white circle maybe two and a half meters across painted at the far end of the lot, and I spent a fair amount of time riding around it and just inside it at speed, exploring Quicksilver's handling through turns. I was pleased (though I did have to dab a foot just once, after I hit a pile of loose sand).
A group from Louisville Rowing Club (I think) was preparing for a canoe excursion at the far end of the lot, and I'm sure they thought I was nuts. I'm sure they asked each-other things like, "Why is that guy riding in tiny circles?", "Is he having some kind of inner-ear problem?", and "What the heck is he wearing? Wow, what a Fred." ;D
After a while, a couple more cyclists showed up. I am still terribly shy, so I had to 'man up' in order to go ask one of them if they were with the LBC Yellow Lot ride. That took a little while, too. Much to my relief, the cyclists in question were friendly and were, in fact, there for the ride — so I settled down and stopped rolling around like I was riding a one-man criterium.
Soon after, more cyclists began to arrive — some in cars, some by bike. I got a text from PT Guy informing me that he had forgotten his cycling clothes -- naively, I thought he meant he had left his bike skivvies at home and was going to have to ride in normal undies (he's not yet lycrafied). I said, "You'll probably be okay; this is a slow and easy ride." He cheerfully agreed to come anyway. Shortly thereafter, he sent another text saying he was stuck in traffic and wasn't sure he'd make it — this proved true for a lot of the riders, and meant that we got a late start. Even our ride captain was late!
Just as we were getting ready to roll, PT Guy drove up. He jumped out of the truck, and I realized, with a measure of horror, that I'd misunderstood: he was wearing jeans! I immediately apologized for misunderstanding — but, gamely, he said he would come along anyway. We unloaded his folder (which weighs about 50 lbs) from the truck, got him signed in, and rolled up to the back of the ride as everyone prepared to head out. Our RC, Laura Trachtenburg, was right beside us, which was pretty cool. PT Guy asked about the distance, and she said it was about 18 miles — 3 miles more than the distance I reported to PT Guy, but he still didn't so much as flinch.
The ride included a mixed bag of bikes and cyclists — a number of road bikes, one recumbent, a few hybrids, and, of course, the 50-lb folding mountain bike. Some of us were dressed in lycra, some in non-lycra, and some (like me) in layers of lycra and non-lycra (I don't own proper cycling shorts, and my compression shorts are a bit ... erm ... translucent). Only one of us was wearing jeans :)
We managed to stay together through the first light, but the general disorganization that resulted from the late start and traffic-related chaos meant we weren't really all on the same page. We rolled up Preston and turned onto Main, and soon an errant traffic light split us into two sub-groups. The front group rolled on ahead, while we stragglers regrouped.
A guy on a fixie conversion rolled up behind me and said, "Hey, what's this?"
I replied, "We're the Louisville Bicycle Club Slow & Easy ride. You should join us!" (I am much more sociable when actually mounted on a bicycle. This is really kind of weird.)
He said, "Oh, cool," and filtered into the group as we turned onto Third Street.
Little did we realize that the other half of the ride had already continued up Main Street.
Our now-smaller group rolled on. Traffic lights continued to subdivide us, though we would regularly regroup on longer stretches. The pace was leisurely and the weather fine — hotter than I really like it, but nowhere near as humid as it's been lately, with that lovely golden light that sets in as the sun begins to sink in the West.
As we passed the five-mile mark, riders began to mention that they were impressed with PT Guy's ability to hang in there in jeans on his heavy bike. I must admit, I was pretty impressed — PT Guy kept rolling without so much as a whimper. At some point, I decided to award him a million Hard Man Points for doing an 18-mile ride in hot weather, in jeans, on a heavy bike.
Oddly enough, it turned out that the route we were riding was the route I ride to PT Guy's house from work (though my departure destination is 2 miles closer to home). We traveled on, a merry rag-tag band of cyclists, occasionally cheered on by folks waiting for the bus at the side of the road.
After a while, we began to wonder when, if ever, we would catch our compatriots. We picked up our first few somewhere around the U of L Campus (they tried to explain what had happened to the front group, but I didn't quite catch the explanation), and a couple more at Central Ave. Those guys had taken a really creative (not to mention much hillier) route. Now a band of fifteen or so, we strung out and rolled up Southern Parkway, intermittently split by traffic lights.
I kept my pace slow and even and stayed in the back with PT Guy. He chatted with a couple of the ladies who were interested in his profession (being a PT is very much like being a doctor — you're always 'on call,' even when you're not) as we rolled. Now and then I would drop back beside him and check on him; except for being a bit thirsty (I offered him my water bottle), he was doing well. I told him I'd buy him the biggest Icee ever when we were done (I haven't made good on that yet!).
The whole group (or, well, the whole half-group) gathered at the light where Southern Parkway ends at Taylor Boulevard across from the entrance to Iroquois Park. There was some debate about whether or not to do the hill loop in the park. PT Guy was in favor of at least riding over there, since they have water fountains.
A small group went ahead, and then I got antsy (the light was green!) and jumped. A significant portion of the group followed, and several of them passed me on the hill as I slowed to wait for PT Guy. Apparently, a few of our riders turned back at the light, but I didn't realize that until later.
In Iroquois Park, PT Guy and I decided to skip the hill this time in favor of grabbing some water. That was certainly a good decision for him, what with the whole jeans-and-heavy-bike thing, and it was definitely the right decision for me — the climb in Iroquois park is a doozy, and I'm trying not to overtax my leg. Thus, we took a break at the water fountains, where I refilled my bottle, while the rest of the group did the climb. When they came back down the other side, we were waiting for them. We latched on to the tail of the group (I was having issues with my seatpost bag)and headed back out.
On our return trip, we separated into two smaller groups again. PT Guy and I ended up with two guys and three girls who were, I think, from U of L. They al knew each-other, and it made for a relaxed and cheerful return trip. They were all pretty good cyclists. If I run into them on next week's ride, maybe I'll spread the gospel of Rogue Racing Project to them :D
We spotted a trickle of fellow cyclists coming up Southern Parkway — some, I think, were stragglers from our ride who had taken the really, really scenic route on the way out. Others were in a big pack followed by a couple of smaller groups — I think they might've been another ride entirely. There was much waving back and forth and general merriment. At one point, we rode past some lawn sprinklers near U of L's baseball stadium, and a convenient breeze sprinkled us delightfully, to everyone's pleasure.
PT Guy continued to handle himself with aplomb (including the couple of times I misjudged the length of a light and made him sprint — sorry, PT Guy!). The drivers around us mostly behaved. We had only one honker, who apparently burst into tears when one of the guys from our group rolled up to her window to explain that we had a right to use a whole lane (especially since there was another lane where she could pass).
He handled it pretty gracefully, and I hope she was left with a better impression of cyclists than she had before. A couple of members of our group jokingly threw some comments back and forth that I didn't think were really appropriate, given the fact that we're trying to improve drivers' opinions of cyclists, not degrade them. Yes, they were joking — but the driver might not have known that. Our Fearless Defacto Leader (whose name I failed to remember ... d'oh) admonished them gently, and they looked suitably mollified and apologized.
At Second Street and Oak Street, we were re-routed by a cavalcade of emergency vehicles. We tried to get closer to figure out what was up (and whether we could proceed safely), but the sudden appearance of a throng of firemen in full fire suits made us rethink our plan. We rolled up a couple of blocks and turned down Fourth. Roughly a block later, one of our riders suddenly pulled off and dropped his bike — since I generally ride with about half a bike shop strapped to my machine, I turned back to offer tools and/or assistance.
Turns out he had a bee up his shorts! I guess this is another good reason to wear lycra (that and the fact that long baggies can catch on your downtube shifters — eek! — guess how I figured that out...).
After the bee-shorts crisis, the rest of the ride was pretty uneventful: there were introductions at the intersection of Fourth and Main (sadly, I think I'm only remembering one rider's name correctly — that would be Bee Shorts Guy). A bit of unexpected cyclocrossage occurred when we took the wrong path along the river, near the weir where the steam boats tie up, and found ourselves portaging upstairs (yes, PT Guy PORTAGED HIS 50-LB BIKE IN JEANS!!! At the END of an 18-mile ride!). We also rolled down some stairs at one point — I was pleased with myself for being able to unweight my road bike well enough to ride (slowly, carefully) down a couple of stairs without mucking up my wheels at all. Yes, I am very easily amused.
We then played dodge-the-pedestrian and dodge-the-recreational-bike until we got back to the road: the Wednesday Night concert was in full swing, and the parth paths were full of kids in four-seater surreys and one- and two-seater tadpoles. Suffice it to say, this did little for our average MPH rating :)
At last, after avoiding many pedestrians, funny bikes, and dogs, we found our way back to the road and our eventual destination — the Yellow Lot from which our epic journey began. We had apparently made it back ahead of some riders and behind others. As PT Guy packed up his bike, I rolled over and thanked the group we'd ridden back with for a great ride. They thanked us for riding with them, too :D Then I refilled my water bottle one last time, loaded Quicksilver into the truck, and ... um, actually, sat around until PT Guy got done talking to his brother, Xtreme Sports Guy ;)
Since we were both famished, we decided to hit the Tumbleweed (two driveways up, on the right). It was a nice way to cap off a really great ride.
On the way home, PT Guy said, "I should really start doing a ride like this every week. Actually, I should really be riding every day." Then we spent a while discussing plans for a regular riding program. Yeay! I did promise not to haul him out of bed at 6 AM to ride this morning, though ;)
I guess it's time to buy him some cycling shorts.
Looks like we've won another convert for the cause!
Also, this morning's ride was beautiful, fast, and exceedingly pleasant.