100 miles to Nowhere.

Typically at this time of the year, the thought of riding  100 miles does not incite any type of concerns for me. Having had the summer months to ride, race and train, I normally would be coming off a fitness peak, hence in as good a biking shape as any avid cyclist. Alas, that was far from the case, the thought of riding 100 miles in a circle caused me a fair bit of anxiety and trepidation. 100 miles to raise money for the local cancer center, 100 miles to cause people to stop for a second and think of their friends are relatives who are fighting this disease, 100 miles to raise a few hundred dollars for a local cyclist who has been an inspiration and fighter to all those aware of his story, that was the plan, and this is how it went.

One of the 4 right hand turns on the route

Its hard to write any sort of ride report, or blog about the 7 hours it took to ride around a 3.2mile loop 33 times. Oh the drama – I turned right, then right, then right again and wait for it … I turned right again.

I would rather take you through the emotional paces of my ride and take some liberty to juxtapose it against what I assume could be the struggle of someone struggling with cancer.

You Never Know.

It always starts that way doesn’t it? I had an inclination I was not in the greatest shape to do this ride, however, I wasn’t sure, maybe I would have a great tailwind, maybe a bunch of people will come out, pace me all day and I would just sit on wheels, maybe I have residual fitness that magically surfaces, maybe from training for the gran fondo, and this ride would be a breeze. I assume that’s how it is till you are sitting across from a grim looking person in a lab jacket delivers the news to you that your life as you know it is about to change and in some cases, be over. We have ideas what our reactions, thoughts, next steps would be, but you never know, but all the same you go.

A Village at the Start.

When we set out at 9am, there were a good number of people, I was full of optimism, I knew it was going to be hard, but it was going to be fun. I was going to coast through the first 60 miles for sure and then slowly suffer. The energy was positive, we were out riding our bikes on a beautiful day what more could you ask for. It felt like something with a purpose behind it, everyone had a personal motivation for doing it. Slowly people hit their individual goals, some rode for an hour, some 2, and others 4, but slowly the field widdled.

Increasingly, the responsibility of completing this ride was becoming apparent “you told people, if you donate your money I will ride 100miles, not we”. The work was left to me to put one pedal in front of the other. Is this not how it is in most cases? We hear of this someone newly diagnosed and we are heart broken for them. In some cases we loose sleep, we immediately cook meals, send cards, say prayers, like fb post, but ultimately, and slowly something else wrestles away our attention, slowly another fire needs putout, another project take presidency and slowly the battle falls to the person and his close family/friends to carry on fighting. It is the reality of life for bystanders, the spirit is willing but the bandwidth is limited. Slowly, I saw less and less people as I kept making right turns.

 

Photo: Martin Heavner

True Suffering Begins

At about mile 45, I start seeing signs that this is going to be a longer day than I thought. For reference, I gif this same ride last year “75 miles to nowhere” which I completed in a little over 4.5hrs, average speed 16.4mph. On this ride, at mile 45, I start seeing cracks in my mind and body, I start hearing the voice of doubt yelling “dude, you are only at 45miles”! My out of shape triceps were starting to strain from holding my formerly furloughed gut. Every once in a while though a glimmer of hope and encouragement would appear, a friend and co worker parks at the side of the road and cheers me for a few laps, another friend shows up and rides in the wind letting me sit on his wheel for a while.

Wifey and daughter joining for a lap

Tom did 50miles with me. Believe it or not I caught a little draft from riding his wheel

I remember seeing chemo patients in a similar state, the same routine, treatment 4 days a week, 2 days off, go home, get sick lay in bed, loose weight, diarrhea, pain. Intermittently, they are buoyed by the visit of a grandchild, a pastor, a surprise card, a song on the radio or an encouraging scripture or video from coworkers. These things happen give you the will to keep going I imagine. I had to, I had 55miles to go.

The Dark Dark Days

Photo: Martin Heavner

For the last 30 miles of this ride, the appropriate word for my state is “pathetic”. I was barely pedaling. Thought like calling it quits, faking a crash, actually intentionally crashing, and believe it or not even giving my ride to someone to ride a few laps for me crossed my mind. The obvious answer is real cancer patients don’t get that choice, do they?

At mile 80, there were only 2 of us riding, me and Ryan. Ryan is also a cancer survivor and obviously tough as nails. I think he was suffering, but holding up better than I was. Somewhere around mile 60c my friend Ron shows up. I believe God usually gives us one or two champions who stick with us through the thick and thin. I see them walking down the hallways of the cancer centers: spouses on extended FMLA, children who quit their jobs, leave the city and move back home to be with dad, friends who never miss a single day of chemo and come sit in the room and watch terrible daytime television while treatment is given.

Ron & Brian making sure I finish

Things got pretty dark for me, if it were any other day it any other ride, I definitely would have been calling my wife to. One rescue me. But my friends Brian and Ron cajoled, guided and literarily pushes me around the loop.

The Last Mile

Ryan finished the 100miles 2 laps a head of me. I can not honestly say I was absolutely confident I would finish the ride, I fully expected the rapture somewhere between mile 86 and 100. I have heard of some people recently who have battled cancer and made it to the other side. They are an encouragement and a light to many. I can only imagine the anxiety that comes with the nearing of one’s final chemo or radiation, or the wait for the PET scab at 12months. There is so much to empathize with. When one is. It certain that the finish is the end.

Broken

Salt-Caked

Destroyed

The Bounty.

At the end of the day, we were able to raise $3160 after this ride. A solid $500 above the $2500 goal. This money will go the the Schwab Cancer center, for things the staff come up with to help patients, especially those without families and $500 goes to local cyclist and friend of all Sam.

Received $500 in cash donations

I would like to extend this platform to anyone who would like to fundraiser for a cause they believe in. Next year could be 50/75/100 miles to nowhere for the animal shelter, MS, human trafficking, domestic violence, you name it. I’m just tired to asking my friends for money and want to donate to what you care about. Let me know your plans.

Thank you to all those tho gave, Cameroon out, and encouraged. Big shout out to those who have battled or are battling, more grace and strength.

 

Technique

“Technique”, such a beautiful word isn’t it? One of those words with its phoneme actually matching its definition. I put it in the same class as svelte, cajole, succinct, all words that are unpretentious and in a sense very “English”.  Technique is in fact quite a heavy and far reaching consideration – the way a task is executed- its comprises knowledge, individuality, propensities and personalities. In some cases, a lifetime is required to develop proper technique, in others, almost no time, technique is expedited by natural abilities or hindered by a scarcity of motivation.
In my host of extracurricular activities like cycling, hiking, photography etc, none has demanded the servitude to technique as much as skiing. There are few things that rival the beauty of a great skier carving a turn with skis on edge, the level control highlights commitment, intuition and an understanding of dynamic balance. Beautiful skiing is an ability that cannot be faked, you either know how to, or you’re not quite there yet. In sports like biking, you could get an aerodynamic advantage by sitting on a wheel or gain a boost in speed when you descend a mountain pass, in photography, you can click the setting to Auto and get lucky or if you shoot enough, there is a high possibility you will get a salvageable shot. Skiing however requires control under surrender, put succinctly, skiing with great technique is falling beautifully.
This bring to mind the concept of surrender, when we ski we surrender to the insurmountable, and omnipresent force – Gravity. This is reminiscent of life, we are constantly falling through the crests and trough of the mountain of life, in somethings we choose to  take the time to learn proper technique, in others, we opt to play the odds. The great bump skiers use the bumps to their advantage, both to check their speed and make turns, much easier said than done when one is not balanced on his skis. Romans 8:28 “All things work for good for them who love God, who are called according to his purpose” this is believe is the balance required in the mountain of life.
like anything, learning technique is daunting, but when mastered, produces beauty so enviable. like i said i love that word technique, now I just need to get me some.
Thanks for stopping by…

Food for Thought

Can the world accommodate everyone living in their purpose, with every step and decision intentionally propelling them towards their pre-designed destiny? Many people I know are like trains locked into tracks made of responsibilities, obligations and social expectations, unforgiving and unrelenting. We are governed by mantras like – “man must chop” and “I have a family to think of”, the system needs everyone to play their role to exist, we must go to work to earn and pay the mortgage, the bank must give loans to kids to go to college, who must in turn find a job to pay back those loans and on and on. The system needs us just like we need it.

Staring out this window at my regular 15 minutes work breakfast, I watch people file into worker, I ponder their faces. Some look like they are still trying to fully awaken while others look laden by what awaits them as they walk in the door. I see some people who look like drones, compelled to put in their 8 hours by some unseen force, living for the 48hrs between Friday and Monday. I can’t help but wonder – are all these people doing what they want to do or better yet, are they doing what they are meant to do? Is it possible for us all to do what we are meant to do?

Can the world support a mass awakening, the systems: education, financial, political, social even spiritual are all built on people sucking it up and accepting the hand dealt, what would happen if half the people in our jobs decide to quit tomorrow and follow their heart, downsize and live for contentment. I am not quite sure. Would that be a good or a bad thing? What if the farmer, accountant, doctor decides to quit and become a musician, or load up a backpack and through hike the Appalachian trail? As much as I want this for everyone, I wonder how this would play out. In the Garden of Eden, God gave Adam work to do, I assume he liked doing it, it was what he was meant to do. The woes of living in a fallen world.

As usual I have more questions than answers. I just am moved by our collective level of compromise, overwhelmed by the courage and vulnerability required to unshackle oneself and take the leap, intimately aware of the possibility of failure which if the other face of the coin on which courage lies. The saddest part is that the effort required to dream for a better tomorrow or contemplate decisions in the past that has lead us to our today, actually ends up robbing us of today. I guess all we can and should do is keep fighting, keep dreaming but all the while not forgetting to keep leaving because as of today, TODAY is all we have.

I do need to get some pictures, I know posts without pictures to lighten up the melancholy sometimes end up sounding depressing

 

God loves cyclocross 

Every couple months I get to talk to my good friend AD, we go way back to a rainy day on a basketball court, sometimes I make the call and other times he does, the instigator never really has any bearings on the tone, level or strength of our connection. We are brother be it at home or abroad, we pick up right where we left up the last time we spoke. I dare say that is the sign of good friendship one formed through years bonding and numerous days lounging in campus dormitories gnawing on 2 day old pizza. I have had other friends, more sophisticated, more ambitious, ones who make me feel like if I keeping nurturing the relationship I will be on the front page of the NY Times before I know it. The latter group however is short on long-suffering (pun intended), a couple weeks of being incommunicado and you are dropped from the speed dial setting. 

  
What does this all have to do with cyclocross or God you say? Well hear, hear: The trustee cyclocross bike is in my opinion the most loyal of the never ending genres under which bikes are classified these days, they go as fast as your legs will propel them, keep up with any roadbike, all the while looking as good as the parts you hang on them.  Cross bikes are willing to be the winter bike and venture into any terrain your heart desires. The cyclocross mirrors how we feel inside; the dirtbag who would rather have panniers, fat tires, a flask and a destination with no plans on how to get there or the wannabe racer with 60mm deep wheels, you can dress a cross bike to be the embodiment of your current or desired mental state. 

  
 I just reactivated my Giant TCX. I put on some 28cc tires, new bottle cages and bar tape. The first ride was akin to a conversation with your high school sweetheart at the class reunion, awkward and forced, trying to find a conversational angle that skirts the elephant in the room. The sensation of speed was subpar, I searched for that feeling of riding a wild horse, the lurking aggression apparent in a race bike, the twitchiness of a steep head angle apt to respond to input from your pinky. I put in more effort try to coax that same feeling out of the aluminum frame to no avail, stood up and mashed the pedal, hoping to rouse the slumbering Cheeta within… No dice. Then something happened… I gave up. 

   

  
 I relaxed into a slow cadence, sat up and looked around, I soaked in every bump usually absorbed by the compliance of carbon strands, felt the tingling in my hands from my fingers up to my neck, the 28cc tires took the edge off but the frame stayed live.  On the decents, the relaxed geometry seemed to curve around the contours of the road and I thought … Hey this reminds me of God! We constantly chase speed, upgrading to the latest and greatest all the while relegating our first love to hang in the basement, with only the occasional call up when the fast bike is in the shop or the weather is bad. The cross bike never complains, always reliable, always willing. Romans 8:35 says what shall separate us from the love of God, not trouble or hardship or persecution or famine… 

As always it is hard for me to juxtapose the premise of a need for speed and one to look up and smell the roses on the bike just as in life. God can help me see through the fog and one of the ways he does it is through a 5 year old aluminum  cyclocross bike. 

Thanks for stopping by…

Finally some quality miles. 

Lately I have been making an effort to reserve Saturdays for the family, given my upcoming trip which would take me away for a significant amount of time. However, when I was invited to ride with the senior citizens power rangers ( a group of older guys who are properly quick) I brokered a deal with the misses and was on my way double quick to the meeting spot. 

The route is mostly “flattish” with a couple lumps here and there. The difficult part is usually hanging on to a wheel on the flat/false flat drags that comprise most of the route when the pace picks up… Which is usually from the start.  

 

Rich’s new steed…

 
The first thing that got my HR spiking was the sight of Sir Rich’s (SR) new Bianchi machine with deep November wheels (though it was just May – bad joke I know).  Rick on the other hand brought his B bike… I had mixed feeling about that, on the one hand it was comforting to see he was not planning on participating in the self-mutilation that was sure to ensue but on the hand, it seemed like he came with a cupout reason as to why he couldn’t hang…idk. We struck out, and in the first mile we had dropped 2 guys already, which make sense since Sir Richs was setting a pace akin to the run in to the finish line on the first day of a grand tour. 
   
  
We slowed down only after he murdered an indecisive squirrel in his path…maybe that’s too harsh but after the encounter only SR was upright with any sort kinetic energy that were not reflexive convulsions.  We slowed up, regrouped and headed up Highway 96. This stretch, a false flat of about 6 miles, usually windy and requiring an organized group to stay smooth, inform of road debris, cars from the rear and more importantly safely getting off the front and tagging back in. 

   
    We turned off the highway and unto a quiet 2 lane country road where Rich Mike (RM) the resident snow bird who just returned from Florida with crisp cyclist tan lines and serious bike fitness to boot bedazzled us with tales of fast group rides In the Florida planes. We took a brake and ogled SR new bikes some more, then headed up the only significant climb once the group was back together. 

   

  

Atop Evitts

    
     

At the top, we stopped and collectively admired the beauty of the valley we were headed towards. Standing next to 3 men over twice my age I couldn’t help but admire the agelessness of standing over your top tube, looking into the paradise we all call home, brain still euphoric from the effort that earns such a view. I look at these great gentlemen and see decisions being lived out, mistakes accepted and triumphs embraced. I wonder what their legacies would be, what demons they fight when they pedal around these steep green hills, I wonder what they wish they did more of and the things they wish they had never done, the words they wish they say more of and those they pray they never utter. I wonder what such a ride would be like for me in 40years. 

   
 

Whatever the answer to those questions would be, I embrace the truth that right now, right here they are happy doing what they love to do, teaching unspoken lessons and inspiring the next generation. I’m sure it would be great if the scales favor a lot more victories than failures when that time comes for me but I sure do hope I’m still on my bike at that age. 

We take a second break at BuffaloMills where I fix a flat and put the hammer down all the way back to the cars. All in all, a good ride, great day but the best possible company. 

Point of no return…

Too late to turn back now….


when skiing with friends much better than me, we always come to the point where the blue and black diamond trails no longer satisfy them, the logical next step in a double black or glade skiing. I am forced to decide to take the plunge and thread the needle; though the trees or ride in between and over the mine field of knee high moguls. Many times 15 yards down the steep I can abort, hike back up, ski across to a tamer trail, or gracelessly exit the glades (there have been cases where I took off my skis and hiked to the button to the amusement of onlookers. However, there is always the point of no return, that point where it is impossible to hike back to the top or pizza it to the bottom.Where you must muster all your courage and go for it.  It is at times like these that we come face to face with our inner strength. In these times we realize that no one else matters but us and what we think aboutourselves and our effort. At such times, due to the inability to guarantee success the most important thing is effort; doing the best we can to achieve our set goal. 

wipeout and we will laugh.


Many times, a difficult trails runs right under the lift line, so if you wipe out you end up being entertainment for everyone. This stops many people from attempting runs they would like to try, businesses they would like to open, vocations they would like to answer. You would be surprised by how many adults who do not know how to ride a bicycle but are afraid of what people would say or think when they see them practice. When you reach that point of no return, survival sits higher on your scale of preference as compared to avoiding embarrassment. 

Your Turn !!


Sitting on the ski lift at White Tail ski resort for some winderful springish skiing, I realize I am slowly inching towards that point of no return in my personal life. It feels exciting and scary, I can’t stay where I am but making the move somewhere else is daunting and scary. Soon it will be too late to turn back. I would love to nail this run but there’s also a good chance of a wipeout. 

Let’s go…

Accepting he is stronger

I remember the very first time I rode a fellow rider off my wheel. It was the first time I experienced my progression in strength and endurance. suddenly the speed the speed we were clipping at was unsatisfactory, my legs begged to be unleashed, internally I was smacking the rev limiter and needed to move up a gear. The organized pace line, shedding a set of wheels every 10 miles thanks to a vicious head/side wind, the average speed was beginning to suffer. I surged from the back of the pack embracing the gust and pitted my slow-twitch muscle fibers against Mother Nature, the group all too happy to oblige me clamped onto my wheel like eels to a wet body. For a whole mile, I buried my head in the bar, graveled low and mashed my pedals – only to look back and see a gap had been opened and the group torn asunder. The prodigy has finally found his wings. Elated by the slaps on the shoulder I received from fellow riders post ride and recognition of a my fine display, I remember buoyed to do more work, to get better.

IMG_0033-1

Professionally, I realize I happen to be one floundering in the wind, opening up a gap. I find myself struggling to hold the wheel of the new young gun in the office. I try to reconcile the various variables that birth the disconcerting feeling, like the local stay getting dropped on a climb by an unknown; he is really better than me, he is younger and more in touch with technology, maybe he is smarter with a higher IQ. Alas, the truth is he is better because he cares more.
I don’t not care, but sadly Father Time drags with if the sag of drudgery with monotony. I am not weaker just bored, not slow or sore just need a recovery day.

Having said that, I have resolved to try to keep up, to accept he is better and eschew pride and embrace humility. I must sojourn for a higher calling, a higher peak, a bigger climb where experience is more weighted than youth and strength. Not price… Temperance.

Sweeping with a Shovel.

I contend that there are few things more satisfying than using the right tool for the right job. The perfect fit of the torque bit as it mates with the perfect bolt head, no wiggle, no loss of energy. The “Quiver-killer” is the accolade most trail bikes aim for, a jack-of-all-trades and master of most. A bike that eliminates the need for another, many a cyclist have attempted to shoehorn the cyclocross bike into this role.

We welcomed 2015 with the traditional mountain bike ride around the Gap. All the regulars were there, including Brian on his Cyclocross bike which sees dirt only on this ride and a couple cross races in the fall.

Cross bikes are lighter than most mountain bikes, capable of accommodating significantly larger tires and made all the more attractive by their availability in disc brake option, improving power and modulation. As great as the hype is around the versatility of a cross bike, there is some inflation of reality going on. If you ride on embed or loose rock single track like most on the East coast, I dare say the lack of compliance and potential flats would make your jaunt less than pleasurable. Riding behind Bryan, he did not look like he was having the time of his life. Grip was at a premium even with the 34” tires he was running. He muscled the bike around turns and obstacles, leverage of a flat bar and forgiveness of suspension could have made obscure. He risked sitting too long and have his sit bones knocked out of alignment.

Using a shovel to sweep the floor generates a similar sensation. The job will get done, albeit slowly, painstakingly and inefficiently. God created us for a purpose, but very often, we compromise our gifts and callings to be a cyclocross bike. We attempt to be amphibious in our philosophy of life, appease society’s expectation of us, and follow our dreams…at some point. Cruising behind Brian, he was going to get around the 5-mile loop that was for sure, he just was not having fun doing it.

Nigeria Ride Report Day 3

This is my third day of riding on my trip to Nigeria. catch up on Day 1 & Day 2.

Today the jetlag has full on caught up to me and is reeking havos on my mind and body. In order to again experience the safety of a chase car, the assurance of a third eye looking out for your back, I did the right thing and set my alarm clock for 5:05 and another for 5:15 so I could be at the meetup point when the Italian confab came through. The first alarm being the warning alarm got the mandatory snooze response and the second one to actually rouse my disgruntal self got the shut up response. As a result of both alarms getting the snooze salute and when I finally came to it was a mad dash to get to the meeting place.
Arriving about 10mins late, I was thinking/hoping for whatever reason (ran over and empty rickshaw (keke napap), had to take care of number 1 or 2 on the side of the interstate (trust me it happens… regularly))  Luca and Fedrico and the chase car would be late, but alas it was not to be. So solo I struck out my destiny in my land, my life and bike on a platter, flesh and metal for the taking. There was trepidation but adventure. I crawled up Ivan Ikoku road and right onto Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) road (by the way for more interesting commentary on Nigeria I would highly recommend googling the people these roads are named after, Its amazing how some people destroy the country and still get monuments put up in their names, I leave it at that). About 150yards to the end of the road there the British style (blues circle with white arrow) sign denoting Expressway (Interstate for the Yanks), here we go I think to myself.
I pull a wide right hander into the road taking care to stake my claim to some portion or tarmac but being careful not to go so wide as to encourage oncoming traffic to overtake this “craze man wai think say hin be oyibo” (crazyperson who thinks he is a foreigner) on the right side of the road. Let me try to explain my observations about the transportation system in Abuja:

 

KeKe Napep (Rickshaw)

KeKe Napep (Rickshaw)

cattle on the side of the road again

cattle on the side of the road again

Yellow Fever texting while controlling traffic

Yellow Fever texting while controlling traffic

On the left is a herd of cattle and their Fulani shepard

On the left is a herd of cattle and their Fulani shepard

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Speed limit of the road I was riding a bicycle on

Speed limit of the road I was riding a bicycle on

Pedestrian on Expressway

Pedestrian on Expressway

• Everyone is entitled to the road: I saw regular cars, trucks, cranes, pedestrians, garbage pushers, Fulani cattle men (with herd of cattle grazing on the median while cars zoom by at 100kmph), motorcycles and rickshaws (awesome for motor pacing… I actually outsprinted one)… any form of transportation capable of generating forward…or backward motion is on the express way.
• The only time speed does not win is when there are Sirens and a convoy of some political bigshot coming by, in which case speed actually wins because those convoys do not hit the brakes for anyone. I saw 1996 VW Golfs (seemingly nations preffered car for taxi) bully and jostle for position with brand new Toyota Camrys, If I am going faster than you, you either get out of the way while I am still 100 feet away or I’m getting around you via any means possible (your left, right, over you…don’t care). So many times I heard cars screech to a full stop when the come upon a car 50kmph faster only to find there was no way to get aroung and had to impale the brakes… some other muscle besides those in my legs got a serious workout from “puckering intervals”.
• Cutting people off…. Whats that? I was not sure if drivers due to the fact that cyclist are not common place, underestimate the speed we are capable of generating or can’t quite judge the speed a bicycle is travelling at. I am coming up to an exit (because I am riding on the interstate you know), my head is constantly on the swivel as I want to clear the off ramp before one of the cars attempts to get off, I am moving at a respectable clip 25/27mph, I will clear it in 3 seconds if the car behind needs only back off 2-3mph, I can cross safely and he can be on his way but without fail he guns it and tries to go around me and unto the off ramp, being that I am aware that this is the most common car/bike accident (“The Right Hander”) I inevitably  grab a hand full of breaks coming to an almost stop in the middle of an off ramp and the car comes around as well as the other cars behind him all the while giving me the stink eye…craze man they must think. Guess what happens a few yards ahead with the other cars getting on that direction of the express way come in, Yup… The saving grace in riding the highways of Abuja is that there are not that many exits so I had to deal with 5 or 6 of these on most rides.
The Best Part
So I take the off ramp heading towards the Central District; a fast growing section of the city, a mismatch of office building, monuments, hotels, corner shops and such, my intended route was towards the Transcorp Hilton (Favorite for the Oyibos looking to pick up local girls and a classier pad to lodge while in the capital city). To get there I had to traverse a stretch of road closedto one lane, this was part of the route te rode on Day 2, this section was slightly uphill and I could see the dome of the building sticking out in the horizon, a picturesque view which I thought was the National Mosque (Probably the most beautiful building in the whole city, the dome covered with real gold). Riding no handed I reach in my jersey and pull out my camera to capture the scene unfolding beyond the hill ahead.. a wonderful composition I thought. Stop! Stop There I say! Came the shouts from across the street, I look to see a smallish guy in navy blue camoflague, automatic riffle pointed at me, to his right 2 other guys pointing MP4s cumbersome in their arms with extra magazines ducked taped together earn my full attention. While I hurriedly guide the bike to a halt I can see in the eyes of his colleague, a trigger happiness, tension in his body, the surge of adrenaline evident in his carriage. I’m thinking to myself; be it a misunderstanding or not Dead is Dead… there is no coming back from Dead to right a misunderstanding… I stop the bike thankful the canterlever brakes have not chosen this moment to betray me and welcome a high caliber slug through one of the vents of my helmet. I shoot both hands high in the air, camera dangling from my right hang, my Jersey front rises no gut allowed to escape (at least I would die looking good without a beer gut sticking out I reckon).
A quick exchange occurs between my captors in Hausa (a language familiar to me since I went to high school in a state that primarily spoke Hausa) its been a while but I was already beginning to remember some of what I knew. He told them I was taking a picture and I think I saw them relax a bit, immediately I start racking my brain; what building is this? Why is taking a picture a problem, I knew this was not the presidential Villa AKA Aso Rock, there were no embassies close by either so where could this place be? I definitely did not miss any signs discouraging taking pictures. The soldier was asking me to identify myself as he confisticates my Camera, I look at his ID but the stream of sweat lubricating my eyes made it impossible to read anything , I look to the uniform and see the acronym DSS… means nothing to me.
The Irony of this whole crazyness is that when I hit the button to take the picture, my camera grumbled that there was no memory card so I actually did not take a picture. Mr Commando one took my camera and had a hard time even turning it on, my attempts to guide him towards the general direction of the power button were met with contradicting scolds and stern looks (Step back, don’t move, who are you, shut up, how do you turn this on, don’t move)  like I was about to detnate this explosive device I had. I guess Boko Haram now wears spandex and carries explosives in their camera. Lets just say I was detained for about 20mins meaninglessly, my information was collected on a piece of paper which I am sure will be condemned to the abiss of meaningless nick nacks left on the window seal when pockets are emptied pre laudry. I was warned that this was a restricted area and any Nigerian would know that pictures are not allowed here (My inquiry into why there was not a sign posted saying that was ignored) I guess its actually in our genetic code rendering that unnecessary. The only reason I was let go was I figured at this point I had no rights to these people and my best chance of being sent on my way was cooperating and playing a fool.

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Abuja National Assembly… Same road I was on when stopped

 

National Mosque

National Mosque

I later on found out that the building I was trying to take a picture of was the Abuja National Assembly building, and the building right next to it where I got stopped is the Department of Secret Services (DSS), they used to be know as the Secret Security Services but just recently changed their name, that was why I did not recognize them.
I chucked this all to “Part of the Nigerian experience” and kept on rolling, I pushed hard on the Transcorp Hilton road section knowing there is a Strava segment there (I know…every ride has to be part-race). On the Lifecamp to Gwarinpa express way I saw a man on the side of the expressway taking a shower as in full on naked taking a shower with a bucket, turned off at the zone 4 exit where the yellow fever (police officer who control traffic… Their standard uniform in a yellow shirt and black plants and more times than not they are chilling under a tree while traffic backs up) waved me on, I coast done zone 5 to zone to and back to my parents home all the while ushered and buoyed by eyes experiencing a night not too often or more likely not before seen.*

All things considered, it was actually a pleasant ride, pictures were limited due to technical issues but I was also not face deep in my handlebars trying to keep up with speedy skinny Italians trying to ride the rubber of their wheels.

Final Installation coming up…

Deep Creek Lake Group Ride

There is something comforting in the familiar hum of a paceline, the click and clanking sound of shifts as it gets copied down the line, the ticking hum of freewheels as passangers coast buffeted by the rider in front, wheather you are the driver eating the wind highly motivated by the fact that your work is literally pulling a string of fellow riders in your wake or the guy sitting in the back barely hanging on and dreading his turn in the wind there still exist that assurance that comes with being in the line. Today I was reminded of how much I love group riding better yet in the group amongst whom I experienced my very first paceline.

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Usually I am the late guy or should I say one of the late guys to the group ride. I either show up late or go to the wrong meeting point so my plan was to break that streak, a greater motivator however was that this group of late has been going wheels up right at the posted time and I sure did not want to have to try and find them if I got left behind so I got there early – a little too early. I got there an hour early and watched the group trickle in, after minor fat chewing we were off.

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Ride starts with a fast descent down Chestnut Ridge road for about half a mile then veers right unto Meadow Lake Dr a short steep climb that hit about 12% at one point… great way to warm up I might add…Not! I was at the tail of the group and quite impressed with the speed with which the group went up that climb even without any significant warmup. We made a couple turns going through quiet country roads typical of Garrett county, most of the houses built to provide the best views of the valley or hillside they face. We rode through fields just cultivated, farms with the cows ignoring us while performing morning libations and ablutions, we rode by hay fields with the rolled up bales AKA golden circles so close you can touch them. The smell of life lived at a slower pace was in the air with a hint of cow manure on some sections of the road.

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Otto Lane was the first regrouping spot, here also Rich Bartlette another perpetual group ride late-comer (actually the sets the standard in tardiness) and also happens to be the resident group route diverter. I am not sure if all groups have a Rick who always seems to want to change the route and pick one that goes just a “little” further and climbs just a “little” higher? His knowledge of local routes though is amazing so if you have the legs it is always a much more rewarding ride to jump on the Rick option – If you have the legs or extra gears… Rick catches us here and the first break away of the day is established.

At the head of the ride now is Rick, Richard, myself and Brian (neo transplant from Ocean City Maryland – flatlander). We layout a steady pace swooping through the wide turns and maintaining a high cadence through the shallow rolling hills, all of us but Brian have a 11-28 cassette or higher, Brian had a 11-25…around here you are either really strong and showing off to ride that, suicidal or unfortunate but Brian was able to hang on to the group till the last climb Maynardier Hill before the regroup point where gravity greatly exceeded available cadence and VAM for him. He clawed his way back to second regroup spot.

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The rest of the group trickled in and we listened to Richard and Rick compare which of their posts was longer, enlighten us on the things women look for in a man (apparently that he rides a bike is number one) and some other life lessons all in all it was the most educationally stimulating rest stop I think I have ever had on a bike ride anyways. We head out and Brian elects the stay with the group but I look back to see Tom and Scott sit in for a little bit then back off. I figure this is going to be the A group today only to see the resident mountain goat John who also just bought a new bike silently infiltrates the group. We turn onto Maynardier Rd and enjoy the shaded empty road then take a Ricktor (Rick’s Detor) onto Foy road a small beautifully shaded climb. The weather today was just perfect mid 70’s, slightly overcast with the occasional solar spurt and light breeze. At the top Rick gives the signal for pace line (rotating index finger pointing downward) calling for 30second pulls, it was one of the better paclines I have been on this year though I had to lobby to sit behind the 6.3″ Rick as opposed to the significantly “smaller” other guys John and Richard.

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We rode this to Subway in Deepcreek where the group had lunch

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After lunch we headed to US 219 N towards Bear Hill Rd and as expected there would be some ricktors on the return leg of this ride. I put in a plea to Rick that I was looking for an increase in distance and not necessarily elevation he said ok and I prayed he meant it. I  was already experiencing some “lunch legs” which was quickly shaken off once we were on Rock Lodge road, (the best part of the Gran Fondo as you are about 95 miles into a 102 mile ride and it’s relatively flat). About a mile into this stretch Rick had to adjust his breaks, any other good person would wait but I put down the hammer a little just so we tire him out a little and he doesn’t decide to guide us up Bowmans or some other ridiculous climb like Killer Miller or something…I don’t think he had too much trouble latching back on. We rolled all the way to Springs Md where I was ready to head back in.

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The final stretch from Springs to Chestnut Ridge road was beautifully rural. John showed us the farmers marker and site of the fall Springs festival, there were beautiful banked switchback turns and a dirt road section. I was beginning to suffer but the climbs did not exceed 5% and the group was moving at a accommodating pace, we were moving at a high enough clip that a very nice draft was still available, we crossed a closed bridge where I found $10 on the floor, I turned it into the nearest police station…I mean gas station. We turned onto Rt 40 which was the final climb up… This climb was exposed  and one too many for me. I got dropped when Rick whose wheel I was sitting on put in an unexpected might I add unnecessary surge (I think he intentionally tried to drop me). I lost contact, shifted into my easiest gear and limped back in.

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I met with the rest of the group for ice cream before we disbanded. This was an incredibly unbelievable ride. Before we started the day Silvester the fearless leader of our ride today told me “This is a  “Heads-up” ride, if you sit in the drops and power through it you have missed the point. It was a beautiful ride that I felt it was fast enough and I truly experienced and shared it with friends.

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