I woke up this morning just before 7:00. I rolled out of bed and stumbled to the computer. The question I had on my mind: "When was the Bike MS bunch leaving Liberty Middle school?" I found the answer: 7:30. I left the computer and dressed to ride as quickly as I could, donning my tights and arm warmers for the first time in months to ward off the 50 degree chill in the air.
I left the house around 7:20 and rode over to the school. I arrived just as the announcer was giving final instructions. I tried to avoid eye contact with anyone since I was going to be riding bandit and everyone else had raised at least $200 for the MS Society to be there. I was just a local going for a ride who happened to run into this massive group of cyclists. I looked up as they were about to roll out and saw a camera pointed at me. It was a newspaper reporter. Hope that doesn't make the front page!
The ride started immediately after a ribbon cutting by the top fundraiser, a lawyer from Pratt. That was pretty cool! Go, Pratt!
I waited till a few bikes rolled past, then clipped in and slipped my bike casually into the parade of two-wheelers following the town's brand new Taurus police cruiser.
I talked with a few riders as we left town on the bricks of Main Street. They were not 100% excited about the bumpy surface, so I assured them it wouldn't last long. I chatted with riders from Wichita, El Dorado and Hutchinson as I headed south.
Climbing the hill out of town, I paused briefly next to each rider or group of riders to encourage them, then rode on, seeking to catch the front of the pack. I bridged up to cyclists five or six times, then soloed for a couple of miles in no man's land between the last group and the single rider up the road. He was riding a a bright yellow Traans recumbant.
As I was tiring of my pursuit, a six or seven rider paceline caught me and I latched on the tail end of the train. I spent the next few miles drafting this group. When we were within a half mile or so of the elusive Traans rider, I struck out on a fruitless solo attempt to catch him again. I sprinted ahead, then settled in to a hard effort, but it was all to no avail. I dropped back and latched onto the train again. There in the pack, I passed the "rabbit" less than a mile before we rode into Coats, home of the group's second rest stop.
Turning south and riding down into town, I passed an Elvis impersonator, the Pink Ladies in poodle skirts and a bike mechanic from Wichita awaiting the arrival of the first wave of cyclists. I rode slowly around for a bit, then turned my bike around and headed back toward town.
For mile after mile I rode past the strung out field of cyclists. They were riding solo or in groups of two or three or ten. Once I had to ride over to the wrong side of the road when I encountered a large paceline on my smooth side. I just smiled and waved.
When I turned north, I didn't think I'd meet another rider. I did. Several riders actually! People of all kinds of abilities ride for a good cause, I guess. These stragglers were all smiles even as they struggled up the small hills in their path. I shouted encouragement and rolled on.
I hit the highway around 8:30 and rode on north, fighting the strengthening headwind. About four or five miles out of town I met one last cyclist heading south. He waved. I waved and wondered how he could be so far behind. I'd ridden almost 25 miles by that time. He must've gotten a late start, I thought, giving him the benefit of the doubt.
I rolled back into town, took the turn at Santa Fe and zigzagged my way back home by the shortest route. My Garmin ticked past 30 miles just as I was about to my driveway. I'd covered the Bike MS short route in just under two hours. Wish I could have done more. I'm sure riding with the Traans man for 100 miles would've been a lot of fun! Maybe they'll come back next year and I'll have time to raise funds ahead of time! (garmin data)