|No, not Knight Rider. Source|
Sorry, running friends…it’s another bike post, pretty much what you can expect at least through June 1.
One of the downsides of being on a team is when your teammates all live somewhere else. That situation has left me spending a lot of time on the raod since I found Team Virtus, and while it’s been totally worth it every time, all that driving gets old. This weekend was a bit of a reprieve from all that, though, because Casey was in St. Louis for his son Austin’s participation in the St. Louis FIRST robotics competition. Since teams from all over the world participate, it’s kind of a big deal, enough so that the whole extended family was coming to watch. With Luke and Casey already in town, it was the perfect opportunity for a ride, and with Chuck, Lori, Patrick, and Dave joining us, we had the makings of a fantastic group ride.
The robotics competition went on all day, so the guys couldn’t start until 8:30. That meant we’d be riding in the dark, but that’s no big deal since we’ll all spend plenty of nighttime hours in the saddle in just over a month. In fact, for me it was doubly helpful because a) I need the practice to get more comfortable with riding in the dark and b) I found out before Dirty Kanza that the clamp on my bike light doesn’t fit my cross handlebars. Good to know.
|Riding into Busch Wildlife while the sky looked like that 70% chance of rain was a good bet.|
The group had 30-40 miles planned, and Patrick and I were supposed to meet Chuck, Lori, and Dave at 6:30 so we could get in some extra miles. Thanks to me waiting til the last minute to find another set of straps for my bike rack, Patrick and I were 40 minutes late to meet the others and we only ended up with 7 extra miles before getting back to meet Luke and Casey at 8:30. Once everybody was ready, we headed off down the Hamburg Trail.
Luke had to miss our March graveyard gravel grinder, so we took the guys past a couple of the cemeteries that were just off the trail. It was just a hair spookier at night than it was during our rainy day ride. We cruised down Hamburg and onto the Katy Trail towards Defiance, taking a little detour onto the Femme Osage loop and stopping for a snack up on top of the levee. Then it was back onto the Katy until we got to Matson.
Casey had wanted hills, so Chuck took us up Matson Hill Rd, a mile long climb that starts out gentle and turns into something steep enough that it made me nervous driving up in Chuck’s jeep this summer (granted, I’m a proven chicken, so take that with a grain of salt). I rode until it started to get steep and then put a foot down. I doubt I’d made it the whole way up, but I wasn’t interested in trying to when it meant I’d have to ride back down. Chuck, Luke, and Casey ground their way to the top while the rest of us stood around at the trailhead and snacked.
Once the guys cruised back down, we hung out for a while, talking, snacking on Casey’s delicious homemade trail mix, and taking some pictures.
|Team Virtus missing man formation. It kinda looks like Casey’s holding the invisible man’s junk. Awkward.|
Hanging out was fun, but it got chilly standing around, so we hopped back onto our bikes and headed towards Weldon Spring again. The group split up before Lost Valley, with Lori, Patrick, and Dave riding up the Hamburg Trail and Chuck, Luke, Casey, and I riding the Lost Valley doubletrack. Just getting to Lost Valley was a bit of a challenge for me. We had to cross under a waist-level bar gating the road. The guys got off their bikes and rolled them below the bar. For whatever reason I decided to cross while straddling my bike and sort of limbo-ing underneath.
I’m not particularly flexible or coordinated, so this plan was moderately doomed from the start. Scooting my bike below the gate and leaning way over to the side, I decided to grab onto the bar and kind of swing myself under and through. As I put my weight on the bar, it moved slightly, pulling me off balance. Now my feet were all tangled up in my toppled bike and all of my weight was on my arms as I clung to the bar to keep from falling. My wonderful friends stood there laughing at me and looking for a camera before realizing I was the one holding it, but they did as if I needed help (affirmative) and rescue me from my predicament. My face and stomach hurt afterwards from laughing so hard.
We rode into Lost Valley and then up the first climb, which was surprisingly not bad except for getting crop dusted by Luke the whole way up. For whatever reason, I think that climb is easier on my cross bike than my mountain bike. Of course we had to stop at the gate to play.
|Getting ready for takeoff|
|Man in motion…it looks like it’s going slow, but it feels fast as you come around.|
|Bashing the stopper tree.|
We all rode away with new bruises from slamming into the gate as it hit the tree on the other side of the trail. Luke’s was the most impressive; he managed to shave all of the hair (and some skin) off of a strip of his shin. The doubletrack led back to a big descent, which the boys cruised down and I crept down. Being a huge chicken isn’t just a blow to my ego; it also steals me of the momentum I’d have climbing right back up the hill at the bottom. Even so, while in March I only was able to ride my cross bike about halfway up that final climb, on this ride I made it within about 15 feet of the top and just kind of gave up. Lame, and yet encouraging.
We met back up with the others in the parking lot, and our good intentions of riding an 18-mile loop at Busch Wildlife were derailed by a case of beer and good company. We spent enough time hanging out and visiting that we could’ve ridden the extra miles, and eventually the clock hit 2:30 and we decided maybe it was time to head home. I was really glad to have Patrick’s company and conversation to help massive amounts of caffiene keep me awake for the drive, and I was even more glad to wheel my bike into the house and climb into my warm bed.
30 miles of gravel and fun friends. What a great night.