Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Chain Gang to the Rescue

When I showed up in North Plains to ride the North Plains Banks Vernonia 100k, Ray said it would be me, Ken, Steve, and Jeff.  We were also joined by Bill and Adam.

Filling in my card, I realized the date was 12/13/14.  How cool is that?

Some riders started right on time.  Some were a few minutes after that :-)  We could see the first three up ahead, as we were headed for the sawmill on Vadis Rd, but then my rear tire decided to go flat.

Well, foo.  I elected to swap out the tube AND tire, for reasons of expediency.  One, so we wouldn't be so far back, and two, it wasn't warm.  Fastest tire change ever, no parts left behind.

We never did catch the first three, and, after the trailhead in Banks, Ray and Alan went on ahead.  Jeff and I rode together the whole way.

There had been an impressive windstorm earlier this week, and I was wondering what the trail would look like.  All the way from Banks to Tophill, it was immaculate.  Then we started down after Tophill, and, well, not so much.  Jeff and I stopped fairly often to pitch big branches off the trail, and, in my case, to extract the packed pine needles from my fenders.  I was hoping we'd make up some time on the descent, but we didn't, even once we got out from the trees into the flats.

As we headed to the info control at Vernonia Lake (there are no timed on-route controls on this perm pop), we could see a cyclist leaving the lake, but couldn't tell who it was.  Jeff and I had decided to make Vernonia a very expedient stop, because we were right at time.  Heading into the Shell Station convenience store, we saw a couple of cyclists headed back out, and waved.  I think one was Ray, but didn't recognize the other.

I had finished my thermal jug on the way in (Hot tea/Orange Gatorade/Carbo-Pro), and filled it with coffee and hot cocoa.  99 cents.  I also finished off a Payday bar and sucked down a gel, as we were going to be climbing back out.

It never got above 45 all day, and except for Vernonia, was foggy/misty, condensing on my jersey.  I was wearing a light wool baselayer, and long sleeved jersey, with the hi-vis reflective vest over, wool knickers, knee socks and a light wool cap.  For most of the day, I managed with just shortfinger gloves, but I did pull on the wool overgloves from time to time.  I'd cool down when we stopped, but would be perfectly fine in a couple of miles.

Jeff had sat down to eat a couple of corndogs, so I tapped on the window to move him along.  I finally left, knowing he'd catch me.

The ride back is always faster than the ride out, but I didn't want to lose any more time.  Seemed faster climbing back up than it did descending in.  We weren't stopping to move any branches this time.

But wait...  Another flat!  I did have another tube, but had to track down the source of the flat, since I was out of spare tires.  It was easy to find; a piece of glass.  Another quick change, but my tire pump quit pumping.  Jeff produced his.  When he learned that my pump was 11 years old, and the only frame pump I had, he was pretty surprised.  And it is fixable, but I am asking for another one, just so I don't have to remember to swap the pump every time I want to ride a different bike.

We reached the summit, and started flying down.  The light had gone to late-afternoon gloomy, and the mist was very thick.  The trail doesn't have any edge lines painted, but the moss was glowing green as a suitable stand-in.  Pretty cool.  We did find several other cyclists (not ours), some horseback riders, families with small children and people walking dogs.  I'd slow down and chat until it was safe to pass, then take off again.

We arrived in Banks with 1:10 still on the clock, and only 9 miles to go.  I relaxed.  There must have been a tailwind, because I was moving east on Wilkesboro Rd at unexpected speed.

We spotted a walking cyclist as we approached the new railroad crossing on Wilkesboro.  It turned out to be Ken, and his chain had broken.  He'd been riding with Bill, who had gone ahead and was going to drive back and get him.  Bill had also told him that Jeff and I were still behind, and "Jeff is very handy".  (for the record, Lynne isn't too bad, either.)  I asked what size chain he was running, and when he said "9 speed", we told him he was in luck.

I pulled out my slightly-used (on Ray's chain) quick link, and Jeff pulled on his latex gloves.  It was determined that the chain didn't need any bits removed, and the quick link was on and the bike was rideable, all within two minutes.  I texted Bill that Ken's bike was fixed; no worries.  Ken had already given up on this 100k, and was planning another one, but now he didn't have to.

We finished with 19 minutes to spare, and sat around Hits the Spot Cafe in North Plains for a good 40 minutes past that :-)

Sorry, no pictures; we were too busy riding, fixing things, or tidying up the trail.

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