Monday, April 14, 2014

A Redbud Tale

After the winter we've had any color themed spring-oriented bike ride is welcomed.  Just a plain old Time to Mow Your Grass Ride would have been a whole lot of fun.  

I wouldn't have eagerly anticipated it as much as I did the Redbud Ride.  I didn't get to participate in the Redbud last year.  My new employer sent me to Chicago that weekend for a conference and I had to be satisfied with tales of an amazing organized bike ride from my lovely wife and her dad.  I wasn't.  I wanted to do the ride myself.  And based on their reports I knew simply driving down and riding the route on my own wouldn't be enough.  

On Friday I got to town a little early and an hour or so ahead of Mandy and her dad.  So I rode from the hotel over to downtown to "Proof the Scene."  After a while I made my way back to the Baymont.

I met Mandy and Tom, and then we drove back over to town to pick up our packets and make the scene.  We visited Mike's Hike & Bike and bought some minor accoutrements (non-triathletic, see below) and then had dinner at the Abbey.  It was fantastic.

It was hard not to have an affinity for Mike’s outdoor shop when I pulled up outside and saw a Big Dummy locked up.  Turns out it belonged to "The" Mike.

Mike and I got into a deep discussion on cargo bikes while triathletes—ramping up for the big day the next morning—dutifully filed in one after the other looking for Hammer Gel, time trial helmets, and chamois cream.
Mike's Hike and Bike, London

We didn't linger too long after dinner, but went back to the hotel, leisurely readied our things for the morning's expedition, finalized our travel itinerary, and passed the freak out.

Except, try as I might, I could not pass out.  I've been plagued with insomnia lately and the hum of the interstate traffic combined with the unfamiliar place kept me awake for an hour after Mandy and Tom.

I woke at 5:22am in the midst of a weird dream about helping some old friends move from one home to another involving their thousands of books.  Tommy was still sound asleep.  I prudently checked his pulse before calling 9-1-1, and it was a good thing because he wasn’t dead, just sleeping soundly.

As we were rolling out the door I cautioned the rest of my expedition team:

“If you make friends along the way and they want me to haul stuff there will be a fee.  Free shipping for you two only!”

They were agreeable.

We rode over to town, had our obligatory pancake breakfast and hit the road for a day of fun in the sun.  IN THE SUN!  The Redbud was my first really warm long ride of the year.  And while we rode under a cool dawn sky out of town and down Slate Lick Road we knew it was going to be warm and sunny as the day progressed.


Dezarn Road was reminiscent of an asphalt bike path through a rural paradise.  It was amazing.  We marveled and pedaled on.  The first rest stop came at mile 18 after a nice climb up Roy Black Road and another up Greenmount–Victory Road.  It was 18 miles of the prettiest country. 

Despite the extreme beauty I learned something profound along Slate Lick Road: if you want to keep your couch from being set afire after a UK game then you should probably throw it over a bank by the road.  That couch was untouched by flame. (As a caveat, there was very little litter or garbage along the entire route.  There was definitely not enough to detract from the beauty of the ride.  Having grown up a couple counties over and traveled the region my entire life I can say the locals truly do take care of their roads) 

When we were all still fresh Tom shared a revelation he’d recently had.  He realized for the upcoming Mohican that his especial cycling pace would afford him a unique distinction, that of being both an effective proofer and a sweeper for the same race.  He’d start before the race as a proofer, the race would overtake him, and then he’d in turn become a sweeper.  Preeper or swoofer?

Then he excused himself to go “look at some timber.”  Mandy and I rode on.

The theme at the Crossroads Rest Stop was Pajama Party.  We got there just before the mass-start peloton wave broke over the fire station.  Troy Hearn surfed in a few seconds ahead of them, jammed cookies in his gullet, and cranked out ahead of the mob with crumbs trailing behind him.

The best splash of Redbuds was along Hazel Patch Road

'Ware the cyclists chasing zombies!
US 25 headed into Livingston

The Livingston Rest Stop

We moved on around Wildcat Mountain and north on into Rockcastle County.  Livingston was a festive place.  Mandy and I chatted with the Assistant Mayor.  She didn’t realize I was a participant in the ride because of my civilian clothes.  I made the point that I could fit in with “normal” people by stepping next to her and away from the other cyclist. 

“See, I blend right in.” Of course the theme in Livingston was “hippies” or something like that so I wasn’t exactly camouflaged in my Leadville t-shirt and cargo shorts.

Livingston was great and it was hard to leave, but we were rewarded in our geographic moderation with a long stretch of beautiful road along the Rockcastle River.  The Upper River Road section before Tussey Hill was reminiscent of the Red River Gorge without the silly out-of-state traffic.  Well, there was a lot of two-wheeled out-of-state traffic.  There was, however, little vehicular traffic along the green water under spring-ripe trees. 

Tussey Hill eventually came into view.  As I pedaled confidently across the bridge at the nadir I overheard a few frantic conversations:

“Oh...Sheila, this is!”



“You can do this!  You can do this!”

Tom (lower center left) coming up the last pitch of Tussey Hill

I smiled to myself, geared down, and pedaled into the sky.  Of course those without the superior mechanical advantage of mountain bike gearing passed me one after another, but they were expending far more force on their pedals than I.  Never was the mantra “keep calm and pedal on” more apt than during my cargo bike ascent of Tussey Hill.  I was calm.  I was resolute and stout as I subdued Tussey.

There wasn’t a shred of doubt.  With my ascents of Furnace Mountain and Cobhill in the weeks leading up to the Redbud the capabilities of the Cannonball were proven.  It was just a matter of pedaling up the hill.  22%?  Pah! 

We commiserated at the top like most others.  A few sporty-sport groups flew on past the summit and didn’t pause by the sign for a photo.  But it was great to be at the top and have finished the major topographical obstacle of the ride.  What I didn’t realize at the halfway mark of the century was that the remainder of the day would grow into a mental obstacle that I wasn’t exactly prepared to deal with.

At the top with Jeffro (extreme left), Tom and ride organizer extraordinaire Rodney Hendrickson
Jeff and Casey came along after Tussey had collected me and Tom and Mandy at it’s summit.  I celebrated in the knowledge that I beat Jeff to the top of the climb even though we all knew I started a full hour or better ahead of him.  I was on a cargo bike…

Down the road a piece was the next rest stop, so we ambled on, ate a bit, and left off mostly together as a group of five from Powell County.  Jeff had redlined and was lagging after Tussey.  He kept trying to skank a draft by grabbing on to my deck.  I tried to outpace him while yelling: “It’s not a RACE Jeff!” until I finally conceded that friends will give friends a tow when necessary, so I offered:

“Why don’t you just pop a wheelie, land your front wheel on the deck, and lock your front brake?  I could haul you like a trail-a-bike.”

That’s when I hatched the brilliant idea I will unveil in tomorrow’s post.

The section between the Letterbox rest stop and the lunch rest stop at McWhorter Christian Church is 24 long miles.  The lunch stop lands at mile 76 and long after Tussey has depleted your stores. 

From mile 70 I felt the sun baking my will to dust.  I slowed.  I lost my taste for riding.  At McWhorter I pushed and shoved to the front of the line, claimed a chili dog, a piece of pizza, some carrots and a Pepsi for my own.  I went back and got a red solo cup full of sweet tea as well.  It might not have been the best dietary strategy for finishing a century ride, but I was so hungry by that point that it didn’t matter.

To that point I hadn’t ridden much more than 70 miles during a single ride in 2014.  I’d taken this Century Challenge thing lightly.  I’d not prepared.  And I’ve still not truly started to prepare for the 100k Mohican.  Ugh.

Again we left out in a group with Jeff and Casey.  But then we all spread out until the next (and last) rest stop.  I paused near some blooming redbuds in hopes of getting a good photo of some passing cyclists, but after a few minutes none appeared.  I got tired of falling so far off the back and finally took off weakly after my companions.  I was cargo bike and belly-full-of-chili-dog slow.

The last 24 miles seemed to equal the first 76.  It was still beautiful, the ride was still amazing, I was still thoroughly enjoying the company and the experience, but my mind had quit for the day.  I had no mental energy left to continue.  I’ll delve a bit deeper into the mental endurance exercise that began at mile 70 and continued for another 24 hours in a near future post.

Again we all collected like flotsam at the last rest stop.  Jeff and Casey were lounging in the shade on some cool grass.  We fell in nearby and it was quickly evident that no one wanted to ride the last 13 miles to town.  We were so close.  No one wanted to give up.  And it couldn’t be too bad…13 miles!

There was a stack of pizzas on the table.  The volunteers insisted—after I jokingly stated that I should take one—that I should take one.  I acquiesced.  As I labored back toward London I would frequently forget I had a pizza on the back of the bike and then someone along the road would give me a weird look and I’d remember. 

Finally, Mandy and I rolled into town just a few minutes ahead of Tom and just behind the Mozhicans.  As Mandy signed us in at the Century Challenge table I called out:

“D’jall order a pizza?  Folks at the last rest stop said you’d tip good!”  I got a chuckle or two.


The ride was over.  It had been a good one.  The Redbud Ride lives up to its reputation.  It far exceeds in quality any other organized (non-race) ride I’ve participated in.  The route is above compare.  The volunteers are incredible and really get into the culture of these types of rides and are so hospitable.  The Redbud is a unique Kentucky phenomenon.
On one hand I want to swear off organized recreational rides altogether, but I would go back and do the Redbud Ride any time.

Thanks to the organizers, the volunteers, the other participants, my PoCo crew, and the communities along the way that supported the ride!  

This just in:

A GREAT ending!



  1. Looks like it was a n awesome ride on an awesome day. Love the pictures and the cameo at the end of the video!

    1. It actually felt overly hot to me. But that's just not being used to the warmer weather. It was beautiful! Of course we went from 80F yesterday to snow on the ground today. Redbud Winter!