Hot Thing (Day Thirty-Seven)
When I woke up on the morning of Day Thirty-Seven, I knew something was a little wrong. Why was I all stiff and sore? My neck felt like I’d had a headbutting contest with Ray Lewis, and the entire left side of my body ached, especially my thigh and shoulder. Then I remembered the wipeout as I started to move and the sheets tore my new scab on my knee. It was a moment of realizing maturity. When you’re a young ‘un, no such worries exist; when you’re a grown-up, though, it’s best not to expect a zero-consequence effect if you go flying over the handlebars. It will surely lead to disappointment.
When I made my way to grab breakfast, Kevin was having a similar realization. He could barely move his arm, and it was clear that he was pretty jacked up from the day before as well. But, we didn’t really spend any time talking about these things, as we had the final ride of a five-day turn. Today was going to be another 100+ temperature day, with the heat index reaching 111 degrees. Also, it was another century, with a 101 mile course. Only thing is, there must have been a typo on our ride preparation sheet; it was claiming that we had around 2,000 feet to climb. And, that can’t be right because Missouri is flat. Right?
No matter how you slice it, there was no way that either of us was going to do anything other than finish the week strong; in fact, due to the more important events of the previous day (honoring the Fallen, which in turn was a new introduction to purpose, a realization of opportunity), we were more fired up than ever to prove ourselves worthy of the task. So, off we rode…
Within 28 miles of that day’s course, we crossed the border into Missouri. It was our sixth state, and it was really sinking in that we’re actually crossing the country. Of all crossings, this was the first that brought with it immediate change of scenery; while other states sort of blended together, the Kansas/Missouri border could be noticed without the ‘Welcome to Missouri’ sign. It was suddenly lush and rich with color and texture. Thickly leaved trees emerged with trunks not seen and drenched in green. They hugged the humidity and thrived on it being there. You could see the thick air, and the dragonflies paddled through it abundantly. Wildflowers specked open fields that hadn’t been cut in years, and on the other side of the trail, corn stalks loomed tall in straight rows, but curved with the suddenly hilly landscape. Those parts that were tended seemed very healthy; the soy bean fields looked manicured and groomed. The fields that were au natural rolled into hidden pastures owned by lakes. Lots of lakes and creeks, though many of the ones we saw at first were behind fences, some for the purpose of livestock, some for ascetic values.
Kevin suddenly came up with a new ‘Mincio-ism’ This one would have to go into the ‘rule’ category. First, though, try and imagine this in the thick Long Island-ese that he speaks. Ready? “Matty, it is a NO-GO to crawl through any barbed-wire fences to go swimming. If we get seen down in somebody’s lake, all dancin’ around in our speedos, there’s a good chance one of these people picks us off”. I laughed so hard I almost wrecked the bike (again). “Dancin’ around”? He had a good point, though, and when we passed another lake property lot that had confederate flag hanging up, he said, “See there? That’s a NO-GO”. The further East we pedaled, the hotter it got. The humidity was full-figured, but somehow comforting. I’d swear that it thickened the air and slowed us down a touch. It was going to keep getting hotter as well, as we were only at mile 50 at 1PM (or 1300 hours, if Kevin were to say it). We knew we had to keep moving and outsmart the course like we’d done on Tuesday’s century ride. Problem was, we were waaaay behind schedule compared with that day’s results. Well, at least we could draft of each other and count on nice, flat (albeit winding) roads. Right? Wrong. Turns out that our ride preparation sheet didn’t have a typo; we entered a stretch of rolling hills that was magnificent. If it hadn’t been for the heat and the fact that we were hitting this piece 75 miles into the course, it would be one of the top five stretches of the entire 37 days so far. Seriously, they should film Audi commercials on this road. It rose and fell, zigged and zagged, curved and straightened and had a life of its own. I have to say that it was beautiful. Even with the heat and timing, we both found it enjoyable to be out there. I think the road we were on is called Road B. I never thought I’d wear panty hose. Maybe it was the heat. I’m glad I did though! Following a tip from Max Durtschi, one of our advisors and a USA Cycling Team member, I wrapped a panty hose leg around my neck after filling it with ice. I used this trick during the hottest part of the day, and while the ice lasts less than 10 minutes after being completely full, it worked like a charm. I just hope Kevin doesn’t notice that I stole a pair of his panty-hose!
Very glad to have completed this week; we fought a week-long heat advisory warning, and all five ride days had triple-digit temperatures. We rode over 375 miles in this heat; 55 of it on a crushed limestone surface that equates to running in sand. (Yes, Kevin didn’t mention that, I know, but that was the toughest part. To stop pedaling is to stop moving.) Two century rides, two bikes wrecks, 2 close calls with Canines and three flat tires. More importantly, our media coverage continued to grow consistently, and we met city officials from Mayor to Chief of Police and Fire. Most importantly, we got to engage our cause in a meaningful way. I’ll never forget the visit to L CPL Wasser’s resting place. I’m honored to be supporting Kevin though this and will not be out worked in keeping myself valuable to the cause.
Someone I admire recently reminded me to ‘be alert to opportunities’. It’s a good point, as sometimes we all get so ‘heads down’ that we don’t see that which is right in front of us. I appreciate the reminder and also recognize that alertness in our camp: Our media/documentary crew is doing a great job, and it’s been cool to see them come together. What I’m most proud of them for is their choice of activity on their day off: they’re going to hop back in the video van (AKA ‘The Minnow’) and go first to a Soldier’s Memorial that’s around an hour away, then drive another two hours to the recently devastated town of Joplin. They felt that it was something that they had to do.
Kevin and I are going to try and rest our weary bones, as the next leg of the trip is on the Katy Trail, which is a 250-mile stretch of (yes, you guessed it) crushed limestone. Looks like we’ll have the opportunity to get better at riding in loose sand and we’ll certainly be stronger by week’s end. The good news is that it’s still hot.
For the Families of the Fallen…To the Limit!
Care Creates Community,