Thursday, July 7, 2011

Day 25: riding in the rain

Day #25) July 7, 2011. Boonville, MO to Sedalia, MO: 45 miles in 4:04 hrs.

Another one of those “waiting the rain out” days. And I had just about given up, ready to accept with much consternation and difficulty my first off-day.

To recap, woke up at 5am to get on the road at 6, but upon looking at the weather channel, which is now as much a part of my morning as a cup of coffee, I was bummed to see that a massive front was moving through Kansas City and headed my way. So this front was supposed to have moved in last night, butt it just kind of stalled out and was taking it’s time. The morning in Boonville was cloudy, but dry. According to the local forecast the rain was supposed to move into the Boonville area around 7:30am. I fired up my computer and examined countless Doppler radar storm casts. Felt like Dick Goddard for God’s sake looking for every angle I could on the storm approach and track. But there was no denying that it was coming straight ahead, dead forward right into my area, and there was the potential for heavy thunderstorms.

So I decided to wait it out in the motel and see if I might be able to salvage a day once it came through. Damn, those were a LONG 5 hours let me tell you! I would flick back and forth between local news, Weather Channel and HBO. I was also multitasking with the computer, moving from Doppler radar to actually working. Six O’clock moved on to 7, and then the rain started in Boonville about 7:30am, and it was just a steady rain with zero thunder and lightning. That’s when I went to HBO to veg a bit with Blood Diamonds on. But during every commercial I’d switch back to the local weather to check out the storm track. By 9am the track had passed by the town of Sedalia, 40-some miles west of Boonville, and which was kind of where I though I might be able to reach with a half day’s ride if I could time it right. But it was still raining pretty steady at 9 in Boonville. So finally at 10am I was just about thinking that I was going to have to take my first off-day, what with the rain continuing outside. Checked the Doppler one more time and saw that Sedalia was clear, and then upon going outside it looked like Boonville had seen the last of that front.

BUT another little darling was moving through Kansas City and headed right into Sedalia and then further to the east in Boonville. So it looked like I had about a 2.5 hr window to ride in before the next front moved in. Went on direct autopilot again, and just ripped through packing my gear so I could get out before the 11am check out. I just couldn’t handle sitting around all day and watching TV and working on the computer. I just wanted to be on the bike, if for at least 3-4 hours today: To keep the train rolling with no stops. Made it out the door and on the road at 10:45am, and within 20 min of riding back to the Katy, I was headed west again. Now I wasn’t by any means out of the woods, cuz it was still looking pretty grey and foreboding to the west. But honestly, I’d rather take on in the rain than just sit on my arse for a whole day and make no progress whatsoever. Obviously, if it’s threatening, sever weather or just a total gully washing sock-in, I’d hang.

So from at Boonville the Katy moves away from the Missouri River and heads southwest onto the plains. And I kind of figured that since it was moving onto the plains that I would be rolling flat and fast. NOT! As soon as I hit the trail I was on this false flat climb for like 3 miles. “Ok,” I figured, “this is just a gradual climb out of the Missouri River valley.” And it was. But after an flat section the trail did the super long false flat climbs, some up to five miles in length. I mean with the wet lime trail and the slight uphill, the riding was just amazingly tough. My big, heavy rig was just ever so slightly sinking in the trail bed as if I was riding in wet beach sand. Now I would get these false flat descents that enabled my to cruise at like 14-15 mph, but by and large I was doing way more up than down. And on my up, I was really working to maintain 9-10 mph. After about a solid hour of this I pretty much figured that I had long gone past what would have been the Missouri River valley, and that this kind of riding, mostly up, would be my lot for the day.

Made me happy that I’d at least gotten on the bike today to knock off 40+ miles, because had I taken today off, I would have definitely wanted to push long and hard tomorrow to the end of the trail in Clinton, MO – about 84 miles from Boonville. And to go 80+ miles with wet, uphill trail, in the 88-degree temps that are forecast for tomorrow, that could be very, very miserable. Yup, worse case would be to do half of that ride today, and the other half tomorrow to Clinton.

Now at this point I was in nothing but farm country, with miles and miles of corn and soybean on both sides. It was desolate and lonely, way the heck out in the middle of nowhere. Saw no one for the first 2 hrs of riding. I had a canopy of tree cover along almost all the trail, and what with several sessions of drizzle and spritzing rain, I was sheltered to a moderate extent from that. A little more than two hours in I saw the only people on the trail that I’d see all day, three people doing what looked to be a “through” ride across MO west to east. Either that or they were going cross country, but they didn’t have the ton of gear the cross country folks usually have. You could see their tire track molded down into the trail, which tells you that the going is slow and methodical! About a half hour after I passed them it started raining, at first slowly, then steady, and then torrentially.

I’d made my bed, and I had to lay in it. So I just rode on in the rain. No lightning and thunder, no cold rain, no high winds, just a really heavy rain. And I was still going uphill, and up and up and up, ever so gradually up. I was beginning to wonder if I was going to end up in Denver by the end of the bloody day! With the hard rain the trail went from soft to gushy to mucky. And that’s when the fun started. My wheels were sending up these rooster tails of lime gook and lime muck. My socks went from grey (they used to be white) to brown. My shoes were just clods of lime gu. And my yak’s pack cover was just awash in a thick lime milkshake. I even had gravel and cinder coating my fanny pack where I carry my wallet, cell, and gps – which are all encased in waterproof sacks. But the fanny pack was just crusted with gook. And the rain just continued and the false flat just continued.

Went through this for about an hour. Finally had to try to ride on the crown of the trail so I wouldn’t be throwing up the lime mud rooster tails. And unfortunately the crown was the least ridden on of the trail’s surfaces, so it was super soft. That’s when I couldn’t pedal any faster than like 8 mph. Yup, busting my tail going uphill in a torrential downpour riding on super saturated beach sand. My tires were leaving like half to one inch tracks on the trail! And it got worse….the trail crown went to like 3-4 feet thick, and just soft and mushy. Then I was plodding along at like 7 mph – out of the saddle and struggling. Ah yes, riding across the country on sections of dirt and gravel, what a novel idea? Pure misery!

The rain eventually did the very reverse of it’s start, going from torrential, to just steady, to moderate to light and then no rain. And with that I had about 7 miles to go to make it to Sedalia. Once the rain stopped the deer flies got to sucking blood, and nailed me like 4 times in the small of my back. I’d slap backwards so hard I’d damn near dislocate my shoulder. But they got me, and they got me good. And let me tell you I was counting down those mile markers like my life depended on it. Went to 6, to 5, to 4, and then suddenly the trail ended and I was directed onto asphalt roadway with arrows and signs. I could have gotten down and kissed the pavement! And this pretty much took me right into the center of Sedalia, to a railroad station and one of the main TH’s of the Katy.

Got on a couple state routes and rode northwest to where the motels were located and got a room. That was enough fun for the day. I’d accomplished my goal of keeping the train moving and making progress for the 25th straight day. An though I only covered a bit over 40 miles, it had felt as though I’d gone twice that distance. From Sedalia I just have 35 more miles of trail to go and then I’m done with the Katy.

At the motel I asked the receptionist for an old towel to wiped down my bike and gear, which was just totally coated with lime mud and a shovel’s full of granular limestone. I must have spent 30 min outside the motel just wiping the whole train down. Tomorrow I’ve got to clean the drivetrain and lube it up.

And I’m hoping in a big way that the trail firms up for tomorrow. Right now the sun is out and the rain front is long gone. Forecast is for 4 straight days of sun, most all of those days are projected to be in the high 80’s and low 90’s with a heat index in the 100’s! I just may go easy tomorrow to Clinton for a sub-40-mile ride and then cross into Kansas on Saturday.


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