"Beauty confronts us with the requirement that we place ourselves among...the redeemers, the leaders in the protection of life. Once you have seen the bush on fire, you are not going to get out of the assignment unless you close your eyes to the beauty.... [You] either have to close your eyes or go back to Egypt and set the people free." - Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, "Rising to the Challenge of Our Times"

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Hot and cold

Made it!

Ten-year record high temperatures (or something like that) for the last three days. I don't think of myself as highly heat-tolerant. In fact, it turns out that I am physically pretty heat tolerant, but mentally, maybe not so much. The riding in heat (and wind, on Day #1) was really tough but I didn't feel like I was having a 'meltdown' until after we stopped for the day and the initial bliss of finishing and having a shower had subsided. The first evening we stayed at fairgrounds in Gridley (home of Continental Athletic Supply, by the way). The main building was relatively cool and well-ventilated and there was plenty of good shade and grass for our tents. In consideration of the record-high temperatures, our director Joaquin announced we'd be rolling out at 6:00 a.m. instead of 7:00 a.m. Which meant a 4:30 a.m. wakeup call. It had been so hot that day that people cheered when they heard this. I don't think I cheered, but I agreed it was a good idea.

On Day 2, we looped to the north through Oroville and Durham (within 10 miles of my home, and my pool) and then through blazing hot, shadeless rice and wheatfields to Colusa where a bank sign in the shade said 101ºF. We stayed at the high school that night. I think I summarized my impression of it in a previous post. The legal aid lawyer in me wondered about the demographics of the high school. Not only were the facilities in sorry shape (except for the kitchen, which was air-conditioned and made our caterers very happy, so much so that I think they slept in there) but the only shady places to pitch tents were so overwatered that the ground was like walking on a sponge. I hit kind of a low point but didn't stay there too long (I say 'kind of' because I think I felt worse for awhile on the third day).

One adaptive technique was to fill ziploc bags with ice and place them on different places. Reportedly, our 55 riders and crew went through about 150 pounds of ice and 150 gallons of water per day for the 3 full days of the event.

I tried to feel grateful for the hospitality of Colusa and the high school. I don't know if I quite succeeded. The idea of having to go to school there every day was too depressing. I'm about to go off on another build school vs. build prison tirade, but I think I've done that before, and I'm too tired to do that and keep discussing the ride.

I started coming down with a cold on Day 3, but the riding before lunch (lunch happened between 10:30 and 11:00 or so) was stunning through the Capay Valley -- and mostly downhill after a long climb up Highway 20. Not only that, but the organization that provided our lunch that day cooked up some Cajun hot links in addition to the standard lunch meat and cheese. I can't help but get excited about something like that. Even though it seemed likely that I'd regret it later.

Though we didn't have wind to struggle with on Day 3, it sure did heat up in the afternoon. But sometimes heat is helpful -- in the last ten or fifteen miles I had yet another pedal - clip related spill. My second such incident during the ride and bringing my grand total to 4 times in the last 3 weeks. My bruises are getting bruises -- it's almost as good as football! But I digress. I was approaching a stop sign where it appeared that I would in fact need to make a full stop, but my right shoe cleat jammed because it had a rock and some mud stuck in it from the last rest stop and I couldn't get my foot out in time. Here we go again, I thought, as I went over. The heat was helpful in that the asphalt / gravel was so hot when I landed that I bounced right back up, whereas I might otherwise have lain there in the dust for a few seconds for the full dramatic effect.

The Yolo County fairgrounds in Woodland were an improvement over Colusa High School (except for the lack of A/C in the main building) but I was pretty much cooked. The fairgrounds had booked a dance party in the building next to where we were camping and trying to get to sleep around 8:00 p.m. "Achy Breaky Heart" in Spanish is more danceable than it is sleep-able. Too bad I wasn't there for dancing.

I think more than anything else, the people made the ride. One of my fellow riders, Travis, was featured in the Sacramento Bee last week. And singing songs with Heather made some of the hot miles pass pretty quickly. I thought of the Pioneer Children Singing as They Walked and Walked and Walked and Walked. It's an adaptive trait. I also thought of ill-fated parties who attempted their journeys at the wrong time of year. Good thing there were plenty of snacks at rest stops. I thought, at least we're not running the Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley where it's so hot the runners have to run on the white line so their shoes won't melt. I probably mentioned that out loud a couple more times than was necessary. Whatever it took to get through.

We're getting a CD of photos from the ride, for which I'm grateful because I was too lazy to carry my camera around. I'll post some when they arrive.

I need to go slather on more Vicks and drink my juice. I originally planned to go back to work today but I was too sick this morning. And a bit tired.


M.A said...

Victory! I want to see photos!

George said...

Wow, what a grueling ordeal! Cannot say I am envious. I look to enjoy riding, might get 15 in today on the recumbent while I am sitting in my AC'ed office writing this note. I admire your tenacity and accomplishment, great job Em!