The horsemen of the north (Jason Buffington, Rich Hendricks, Eki), save one (Farrow) met in the murky shadows of the Billy Irvin. The 'Billy', once a stalwart among vessels sailing the great lakes, now dying a slow death as a permanently anchored tourist trap in Duluth's canal. As my eyes paid homage to the great 'boat' I felt her smile at me as I/we honor her with designation as life time DBD starting point.
I made it clear as this ride entered the planning stages that this was not to be the usual muscle flex that often presents itself when fresh faced DBD'er Buffington shows up or when mountain goat climbing Hendricks makes his presence known. No, this was to be an easy 5 hour spin void of any pain and suffering. Yeah right!
My recruits held true to the spirit of the easy spin, with Big Buff occasionally pushing the pace only to be slowed by the fact that we couldn't hear what he was saying so he'd have to slow up to wait for us. I liked that and took note as it was a good strategy to keep him under control. Everything was going to plan and I liked how it felt until the challenges began to face us.
The first came in the form of sheer humiliation as I attempted to relieve myself against my better judgement on the side of the road. Now, with a gore wind stopper balaclava strapped on my head by a helmet it gets a little tough to hear any thing other than one's own breathing. With that being said, there I was, half disrobed trying to take a pee when I looked up to see a large Buick about 5 feet away from me with a woman in her mid 50's staring at my "No, No" place. At this point in time I did all that I could do in order to save some form of dignity. I looked her in the eyes and kept doing what I was doing.
The ride rolled on in good form until Hendricks in his undying quest for gravel directed us off the dry tar to a frontage road of sorts. All was fine until he mentioned that we had about a mile and a half of gravel coming up. While some roads may be paved with gold, this one was paved with ICE. Buffington did his best Farrow impression nearly taking out Hendricks with a sudden 2 wheel drift. I held to the rear gripping the bars as tightly as possible with my heart rate maxed on sheer nervousness. We completed this leg without incident, it was the return trip on this section that brought the drama. After we were assured that this was not the ice section by the human map (Hendricks) we embarked on it anyway. It wasn't but a few minutes until the 'map' admitted he was wrong. Again, staying back hoping for the best on the hockey rink of roads I heard Rich joke, "Who's stupid idea was it to take us on this Ic.....UHHHH" as he hit the deck in full force. He shouted to me as I flew past, "I'm o.k., keep going"... I did.
Dehydration began to get the best of me as my hose froze up only allowing me a couple of sips throughout the entire 5 hours. Rich was kind enough to allow me to suckle from his teet, 'eh I mean hose from time to time, but pride forced me to constantly say, "No really, I'm fine" and deny that I needed water. I felt the all too familiar feeling of muscles shriveling up like raisins as we pushed on all the while noticing a squall forming to our left over the big Gitche Gumme.
It was about the time we were commenting that it looked like we had weather coming in that I noticed my rear tire getting a bit soft. Of course, I was getting a flat, it's what I do, I get flats, ALL THE TIME!! I wanted to make a quick change for the boys as I knew Big Buff had a date with his wife for Valentines Day, but of course there were complications with the tube and my pump started to go belly up. Hence the emergence of 'Shorty'. Jason offered up 'Shorty' with a smile on his face. 'Shorty' is Jason's two inch long carbon fiber pump. This pump is good for inflating volleyballs and lawn mower tires, not cyclo cross tires. I was desperate, I accepted. So, after 4,000 pumps my tire had about 15 pounds in it and I was good to go. After I burned thousands of calories pumping up the tire I looked up to see that we were in the midst of a full on blizzard.
We limped home and I felt that somehow I was cheated on this ride. I contemplated extending the effort, but with no working pump and a blizzard going on, this was foolhardy thinking. I made my bid for home with Hendricks on my wheel. We said our good byes at the Irvin and went our separate ways after a few more near misses on ice. We knew it was time to cut our losses.
So goes winter riding. When will spring come? Will there ever be a ride that goes smoothly again?