Sunday, April 12, 2009

It's a Bad(lands) Situation

It's almost 3 o'clock and we've just blown $100 on a convenience store binge. Chocolate milk. Chocolate bars. Microwave burritos. Gatorade. Creamed corn. We got the works, and I'm going to feel this tomorrow.

This was not the plan. The plan was to go out just for a little while (isn't that always how it starts ?). We've been out for four hours already, and it's clear that we'll be out for a few more before this party is over.

It's been fun, but I think I'd be better off going home right now. That's not going to be easy. I'm a long way from home and I'm with a bunch of guys that have a reputation for this sort of trouble. My cell phone doesn't work and cabs aren't really an option from here. I know that if I want to get home in one piece, I'm going to have to stick with this motley crew.

***

It started with an email from Keith on Thursday. I was merely a spectator, watching with amusement as another sinister plot developed. This time, an epic 180km gravel bike ride through Alberta's Badlands. Most of the route was entirely unknown to the group, but that didn't stop Erik, Craig or Gary from reporting for duty.

I had no illusions of participating in this unholy mission, but I was intrigued by the prospect of a change of scenery and by the opportunity to ride with these gravel legends - even if only for a few kilometres. I'm still finding my way out of hibernation, while these guys have some 5,000km of winter riding under their belts. I'm not just in a different league than these guys, I'm practically in a different sport.

My goal was to hang on for 40km, if I could. Then, I would go my own way. To my delight (and bewilderment), I was still in the draft when we reached the 40km pit stop. Just as I begun liberating the remnants of my clif bar from my teeth, I found myself furiously chasing the pack, which was now moving again.

Pedaling fast enough to stay with the group took such focus that I didn't pause to consider the logic of my decision. I was holding nothing back. Saving nothing for the ride home. And, with each passing minute, I was getting farther from home.

***

Now, after 107km, we're in Rosebud and responsible for an off-season boom in the local convenience store sector. Erik has negotiated with the owner of the local Inn that we can go there next for some 'whole pies'. I can think of no better finale to our caloric conquest.

We review our map for a possible 'short cut' home. Keith's map spans two pages (that's how much area we have covered). Our starting place, near Morrin, is too far north to show up on the first map. Rosebud, where we are now feasting on pie, is at the bottom edge of the second map. Gary remarks 'Even if I were a bird, I'd be a long way from home'.

At this point there is officially no bail out option for me. The 'easy way home' is to hang on to these guys for dear life, which is what I do for the next three hours. And, when my best isn't enough, they take turns pushing me up hills and along the flats toward home. There was a lot of pushing going on.

At the end of the day, I might feel like a puddle of jello, but I'm a happy pile of jello. Once my blood sugar level returns to normal, I'm able to reflect on what a beautiful day it was, what spectacular scenery I saw and what wonderful friends I have.

Erik, Craig, Keith and Gary. Thank you for an incredible ride.

2 Comments:

Blogger BikingBakke said...

Gary's line about being far from home was the line of the day.

April 13, 2009 at 8:35:00 PM MDT  
Blogger Hoop said...

epic...

April 15, 2009 at 3:43:00 PM MDT  

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