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Old 11-03-09, 10:05 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: SoCal
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Bikes: 2008 Scott CR1 Pro; 2006 Schwinn Fastback Pro and 1996 Colnago Decor Super C96; 2003 Univega Alpina 700; 2000 Schwinn Super Sport

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Stage VII - Kelso to Almost Amboy

There isn’t much in Kelso … some railroad tracks and a restored train station. It was dusk when we arrived, but here is a look at the train station during daylight hours.

I pulled over out of the way, and waited for my crew to park. At once, I noticed they did a little modification of my token signage.

It seemed appropriate after my little baptism in Badwater.

I had to eat. By now, I was tired of eating seasoned potatoes. The pizza was gone. I got tired of the PBJ after the first one I had back in California City. So what do I eat?

I knew I would lose my appetite on the 508. But I was prepared.

People eat all kind of strange things on the 508. I even heard that several years ago, a rider brought nothing but Snickers bars and Coca-Cola. That’s probably not a good strategy, but it emphasizes one important point:

It doesn’t matter how nutritious the food is if you don’t eat it.

I knew that near the end of the ride, nothing would sound appetizing. I had planned for that too. How? By stocking up on the tastiest calories I could think of, nutrition be damned.

Think about it. When is the last time you had a Hostess Fruit Pie? It was the last time you looked at the label and saw the calorie and saturated fat content, right? Well, at this point in the race, I needed calories, and didn’t give a rip about the saturated fat. I reasoned that if I had any appetite at all, I could surely snarf down a fruit pie.

I was right. From your childhood, you might remember that they came in those little funny wax paper bags. They still do. Saralie handed me the pie. Ripping open the package, I discovered that the pie was smashed to pieces.

Irrelevant, of course. I pressed the paper to my maw and literally sucked that puppy down. Yum.

I knew I had managed to eat a boatload of calories. Rick's fruit pie suggestion was genius.

To wrap things up, Rick handed me a 5 hour energy bottle. I dunno what they put in those puppies, but they do work. I experimented with them on that 300+100 mile training ride, and I concluded that they were effective. I washed it down with a Mountain Dew. Mountain Dew … looks and tastes like antifreeze. But it’s caffeinated, and the bubbly effervescence was just what I needed.

I took the opportunity to slather a bit more of the anti-incontinence formula on my arse. The stuff was odd … it had the consistency of bathroom caulking. At least it wasn’t painful to apply.

Oh, and something else. Music.

Some of the riders had equipped their support vans with external speakers, so they could communicate with the rider and play music to encourage them along. I had no time for this, so I decided to use my MP3 player instead.

I think it dangerous to ride with headphones in your ears. It’s important, from a safety perspective, to hear approaching traffic and other riders, so I don’t usually ride with them. But I don’t ordinarily have a van following me, shielding me from traffic either.

I wound the headphones around my ears, plugged the puppy in, and took off.

The crew had to pee, and we didn’t want to hoof it all the way over to the train station at Kelso. So, we opted for a break by the side of the road a few miles away from the time station.

That accomplished, I hopped back on the bike and started riding up the hill to Granite Pass. This stage was a short one … only 34 miles. But the climb was significant.

I had done this climb before in 2006. It’s not a difficult or steep climb, but it is long. As I pushed off, I began to follow another rider … again, pacing myself. Then it occurred to me … why am I pacing myself? I was about 420 miles into a 500 mile ride. I felt fine. All I had to do was two more stages, and the ride would be over.

The guy in front of me was going slower than I wanted. I had music in my ears. I wasn’t tired. I wasn’t sore. The sun was setting on the horizon. It was a beautiful day. And most of all, it wasn’t windy.

Screw the pacing.

I stood up on the pedals and passed the rider in front of me. It felt great! Soon enough, I approached another rider, and I passed him as well. And I did this again and again until there was no one in sight in front of me.

In cyclist parlance, I was smelling the barn. All I had to do was finish this stage, then another. And I’d be at the finish line. There was no point in saving energy at this point … I had more than enough to make it to the finish line. This was a world away from the depths of despair in Death Valley.

And I had paid for it ... the payments made in the form of weekend after weekend, riding 200 miles or more. This was the payoff … nearing the end of a 500 mile race, and I still felt energized.

Or maybe it was Alice Cooper’s “Raped and Freezing” on my headphones, I dunno. I had the MP3 player to pick songs randomly, but here in the now chilly desert, the choice seemed appropos.

The summit of Granite Pass turns to the right and flattens out. I took the opportunity to stop and ask the crew for my bright headlight.

The descent is a hoot … fourteen miles long, and straight as an arrow. But I’ve already alluded to my naturalized citizenship in the kingdom of cowards … I checked my speed accordingly.

There … in the dark, I could see the distant headlights of I-40. In minutes, I passed below them and into the dark desert below.

The descent from Granite Pass is so long, I tired of it, even at 40 MPH. I recalled that this is where Rick fell asleep on the 2007 Furnace Creek 508. Falling asleep on a bicycle going 40 MPH … I cannot imagine it. But then again, before this weekend, I could not imagine riding into a gusting gale, or getting baptized by a pit toilet at more than 200 feet below sea level. Yet, that’s what happened.

I wondered if Rick, inside the van, was recalling his brush with disaster.

I rolled into the “Almost Amboy” time station, still feeling energized. The timekeeper asked me for my totem.


Here was the place I envisioned less than 24 hours ago … the place with the tombstones marking the DNFs of previous years. Even in the dark, I could tell there were no tombstones here tonight. But there would be plenty more tombstones in the future. The year 2009 was not kind.

My support crew pulled in behind me as I came to a stop.

“How am I doing on time?”

“You’re doing great.”

“Do I have enough time to finish?”

“You’re kidding, right? It’s 9 o’clock.”

It took a while for that to sink in. Let’s see … 9 o’clock. That means that I have about 10 hours to go only about 50 miles. Holy crap! Unless something went seriously wrong, I would certainly finish. Sheephole Pass was a nasty little climb, and from the bottom of Sheephole, I had a long, gradual uphill to the finish line, but I could certainly average 5MPH. Could it be that I’d actually finish this thing?
Proud parent of a happy inner child ...

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