Archives for September 1994

Bridge to Bridge Bicycle Ride

Hickory, NC

September 18, 1994

Early this morning, I woke up knowing I had to eat a large breakfast, but was really not that hungry. It’s hard to eat at 6:00am. So I just had a plate of spaghetti, a banana, a bowl of ice cream and a lot of peanut butter, then washed it all down with some orange juice and a bowl of Cheerio’s before leaving for Hickory.

There was very little traffic on the road at that hour, and I kept looking at what few cars there were to see if they were carrying bicycles. Close to Morganton, none of them were, but as I got closer to Hickory, one and then another car would enter the highway from the various tributaries with bicycles clearly visible. Instantly, there was an identification that we were both headed to the same place. Soon, almost all of the cars on the road had bicycles… like we were all descending on a cosmic bicycle Mecca or something.

And as we got closer to the registration area, there were people RIDING there — why, I’ll never know. I can’t imagine riding a bike to the beginning of what is going to be over a hundred mile course.

There were just under 900 cyclist for this years riding of the Bridge to Bridge challenge. The staging area was about a mile and a half from the official start, and served as a rolling start for the ride that gave the cyclist a little time to spread out so that we were not so dangerously clumped together.

For me, the first 40 miles went by in just over two hours. Groups of cyclist would ride in packs from 4 to 12, all riding within inches of the wheel in front of them. As the terrain changed, the ordering of the group shifted as people vied for position in a friendly manner. I would usually start in the back of a group, then work my way forward, always trying to remain on the outside or front of the group when we came to the crest of any of the MANY hills. As soon as the terrain sloped downwards, I would break away from the pack and try to catch the next group to repeat the process.

Riding in a group, there was a simultaneous feeling of both togetherness and isolation. My group-mates were all strangers, and I knew I would ride with them for only a short while. Yet while traveling, I felt very much like a wolf among a larger pack, traveling at considerable speed on a trek that would only get harder and harder as we entered the mountains.

After mile 41, things slowed down greatly. We had all just been rained on, and were now soaking wet. We could not ride as close to each other because the tires in front of us spewed rain-water straight up like a rooster-tail at whoever was behind it. It was also after mile 41 that the hills started getting steeper. From an average clip of 19 miles/hour, the pace dropped to around 12. By mile 50, my right knee was starting to flare up, and made pedaling more difficult. The rest areas were spaced closer together now, ranging from 3 to 8 miles apart depending on the grade.

At all of the rest areas were people handing out water and either apples or banana halves. The physical exertion was quite extraordinary. With a banana in my hand, the urge was to just swallow it whole, except that I needed to keep my mouth open to breath. The moment the food hit my tongue, physiology took over. My body was DESPERATE for more calories. Rather than just engulfing the banana, I felt the need to let it SIT in my mouth as I rode, turning it into baby-food before swallowing so that it could be absorbed more readily. This was not something I consciously thought of doing, nor did I think about WHY I was doing it, but it just seemed the thing to do, and I listened to my body.

The latter rest-areas had cookies too. Sugar and carbohydrates – cookies from heaven. By the time I reached the 50 mile mark, I think I had more than eaten my registration fee in just bananas and cookies alone. WOOF!! Where did it all go?

Between mile 50 and 64, my pace had slowed to around 6 miles/hour. I was simply plodding from one rest-stop to the next. As far as energy and endurance goes, I was definitely beginning to fade, but the real limiting factor had become my knee. I was pedaling up hill with about 85% of my power coming from my left down-stroke, and letting the momentum take my right foot through the revolution. So when I stopped around mile 64, I decided I would only further injure myself if I went on, especially since there was still another 3,000 vertical feet to climb.

Another rider had severe mechanical trouble, and the two of us were driven to the "reception" area beyond the end of the course. Shortly after getting off my bike, I could feel my temperature dropping rapidly. After all, I’d just expended several thousand calories, gone through 6 miles of rain, ridden 64 miles, and climbed several thousand vertical feet, and now I was actually STATIONARY. I asked if the other rider and I could have a garbage bag to wrap ourselves in, since we would be riding in the back of a pickup, and were at great risk of hypothermia. The other guy thought it was silly, but once we were moving he was glad to have that bag around him!

After hanging out at the end of the course for a while, I met up with the other folks from the OB office, then I caught one of the shuttle busses back down to the start in Hickory. It was about an hour bus ride, and when all the riders got their bikes out of the bottom of the bus in the parking lot, not a single one of them RODE from the bus to their cars, even though the cars were still quite a ways away.

When I got in my car, one of the first things to cross my mind was what an incredible man Henry Ford was. The idea of being able to just push a pedal on the floor with one foot and GO was simply astounding. And to actually go UPHILL by just pushing the pedal a little further? Simply a modern miracle if ever there was one.

By the time I got home and disrobed, I saw that my legs were completely covered in road-slime, and my arms and face looked like I had been playing in the sand. It wasn’t sand, of course — it was crystallized salt. A nice long shower, and I’m almost back to normal, though I suppose the real test will be to see what condition I am in when I wake up in the morning… (or afternoon).

In any event, since my office has two floors and I usually have to go up and down quite a bit, I’m giving serious thought to re-arranging my schedule: until 1:00p, the people up-stairs are shit-out-of-luck, and after 1:00 it’s the other way around. If the problem can not be brought to ME, then too bad.

I’m also going to bring in an extra pillow to sit on, and I don’t think I’ll be getting on my bicycle for at least another week or two. My ass hurts just thinking about it.

2002 Seattle to Portland Bike Ride (STP) 
2004 Seattle to Portland Bike Ride (STP)

Copyright (C), 1998, by Ashley Guberman