Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Riverwest24 That Almost Wasn't--for me at least

Team Garage 707 Crashers at the finish line

It's the morning of Friday, July 25th--essentially Christmas eve morning for us heathens.  I hop in the car to pick up some last minute provisions (ie beer, salt, fat, sugar) for this year's Riverwest24.  I get about a mile down the road and start to smell gasoline.  When I pull into the parking lot another block down, I realize the smell is coming from my car.  After inspection, I discover the resident chipmunks in my yard--which are cooking in a large pot as I write this--had eaten holes in the fuel hose and gas had been sputtering all over the engine.  Well shit.  In three hours I was supposed to have the car loaded with bikes, one of my five teammates, gear, and be on my way to Milwaukee.  The auto shops of course can't fit me in, and the auto rentals are booked on my side of town.  I start making emergency calls and thankfully, an angel loans me her Mountaineer.  I haul ass across town by bike and comically find myself in a hulking V8 SUV--mind you I drive once a week, and it's a Toyota Echo--but it's big enough to carry everything and the kitchen sink and it will get us to Milwaukee.

Once we make it through the cluster construction around the zoo interchange, and we find ourselves in Riverwest, I begin to relax, as well as get excited.  Those who have seen me at events, know I start doing this funny little "hop thing" when I'm excited.  I actually start bouncing like a bunny...and bounce I did.  I had no idea what to expect from the event this year, I never do, but I was excited to be hanging with two teams of friends for over twenty-four hours while riding, eating, drinking and NOT sleeping.

Lining up for the start

Waiting at Locust with a friend on the first lap

As in years past, half our team were RW24 veterans, half were newbies.  Our cycling experiences ranged from triathlons to gravel to trials riding.  We were bonded together by our love of cycling and our love for acting like kids.  I got to lead out the first few laps since I was the only one present with RW24 experience (our other two veterans were on their way from Madison after work).  Nothing unexpected, which was such a nice surprise after last years downpour and multiple crashes due to the rain, just hurry up and wait and while waiting, chat with friends at stop signs.

Midnight manifest hand off.  The purple bike is the one that was stolen--if you see it, let me know.

Part of team Riverwestfalia doing their first Beers for Volunteers laps

The laps, bonus checkpoints and riding shifts clicked by.  Evening turned into night, the course became a wave blinking red lights, different music could be heard from every corner along with the stream of "thank yous" to the selfless volunteers for helping keep the major crossings safe and all was good until...

Somehow, in the middle of the night, around 1:30am, my husbands brand spanking new bike was stolen.  It had been leaning against the garage we were all stationed out of, lit up by garage lights and in plain sight, but just in the shadows enough to be snuck away by someone coming through the alley.  I was out on course when it happened.  I came back to hand off the manifest, did the quick switch, and noticed my husband sitting on the curb with a queasy look on his face.  He told me what happened, and I didn't believe him.  How the hell could this happen?  I knew each year at least one bike is stolen during RW24, but we were so safe.  Also, for some stupid reason, I thought my love for Milwaukee (I openly gush about it on a regular basis) and my love for RW24, would shield us from something like this happening.  Besides, I had already paid my dues with the car trouble earlier, we didn't need this--it's supposed to be a happy weekend!

As the thoughts about this incident began to fade, either due to lack of sleep, busting out more laps, being around really cool people who wanted to help or just needing to enjoy an event we look forward to all year, I began to have fun again.  Yes, we were still down a bike, and that sucked the big one, but we were in it with an extended family who fed us, kept us liquored up and got us to smile again.

Getting my first Riverwest24 tattoo

Me after hitting three foul balls while playing soft ball
As part of my bonus checkpoints I got to play softball, fish garbage out of the river, play poker, dance the hand jive and get tattooed.  Yep, for the first time in three years, I chose to get inked.  It wasn't that big of a deal since I've got plenty of body art, but for me, getting inked by an unknown artist is a bit sketchy.  I picked the artist because he co-owned a shop in New Orleans.  Stupid, I know.  But for me, during a crazy weekend, I saw this as a sign because of my infatuation with New Orleans.  So around 10am, my teammate Dan Hobson and I went down to Truly Spoken and I met Terry Brown, my tattoo artist.  I will jokingly say the universe aligned.  First, getting inked in a bike shop is fantastic, second, Terry knew who Dan was since he saw him play with Killdozer at concerts and loved his music, third, another friend who I didn't know if I would see, Tristan, came in and it turned out to be a little party while Terry stuck a needle into me for fifteen minutes, fourth, getting the tattoo pushed our team over to beat our last years lap count (not that I was counting, and not that this is a "race").

Jake showing his love 
As so many people I know who have done RW24 say, the hours between breakfast and four or five pm are odd.  Everyone is a bit tired, the heat usually starts to build, people get a bit edgy, it always feels like you have a headwind and traffic starts to build again.  Things "could" get ugly during these hours--but you know what, they don't.  Folks may choose to take some quiet time by rolling off course for an hour or two or they may choose to walk around the course to get a different angle, but somehow people stay sane.  From five to seven pm, people begin to "smell the barn" or "see the light at the end of the tunnel".  Times are calculated to see if folks can get another shift in or if it's worth hitting another bonus checkpoint.  Similar to how I feel during the last couple days on a bike tour, I get a little emotional.  Although I'm more than happy to end the event so I can shower and eat real food, I'm also a little weepy and I dread having to say goodbye for another year.  I build up this event in my head so much every year that when it's over or almost over, I don't really know what to do with myself.  This year, at the last minute, right after our two teams did our "victory lap", I chose to bust out one final lap with sandals and a skirt on.  I had less than twenty minutes to do it and I knew I had it in me as long as the traffic lights and marsupial bridge congestion cooperated.  Seventeen minutes later, still on my single speed, I showed up one hell of a hot mess.  I don't want to know what I looked or smelled like, I was just happy to do one final spin.

Finishing a previous haircut from bonus checkpoint "snip snip"

Twizzler hand ups

Our "family" just kept growing

I do love surfing

So now, I sit here in my kitchen, and instead of licking my wounds from the shitty things that happened during and before the event, I get to baby my tattoo and graze over all the pictures people posted.  I am so happy to have once again been a part of this magical event.  Thank you Steve, Wendy, Jeremy and all the other organizers who gave up so much time and energy over the last year to make this happen.  Thank you to the 400 volunteers who made the event a possibility.  And thank you to my team, as well as the team who housed us yet again.  As Dan would say, through a construction cone of course, "You are winning!"

Most of team Riverwestfalia--their other member is in the formal finish line picture

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A very thought provoking blog post from a friend who works at the Global Health Institute

If you live in Madison, or like to bike here, you've gotta read this post by Jason Vargo!

I was lucky enough to attend the mobile bike workshop with Jason yesterday--he raises some good questions.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Great minds don't always think alike...and that's a good thing!

Getting ready to roll out
I have to say, I feel pretty damn lucky today.  This afternoon, I got to ride around Madison with about 24 other people and discuss how to make the city better for cyclists.  This was all an initiative made possible by the Madison city engineers, Tony Fernandez especially, Arthur Ross and Toole Design Group, who does nationwide infrastructure work that specialized in bike/ped friendly plans.

About 20 of us broke up into three groups, led by the caring folks mentioned above, and rode around the city discussing troublesome intersections, city plans in the works, and how to improve what we have without breaking the bank.  I found myself surrounded by so many important people in the cycling community I could barely contain myself.  People from the DOT, the Pedestrian, Bicycle, Motor Vehicle Commission, the sustainability program at Edgewood College, the Wisconsin Bicycle Federation, Downtown Madison Incorporated, the Global Health Institute, the owner of a bike company, and B Cycle as well.

At each intersection or planned project in the works, we were asked questions by both Toole and the city. The kicker is that we were listened to--100%.  Rarely were their opinions shared, instead they gave us some background knowledge (things like dealing with the railroad commission) the project parameters and then asked us our opinions.

West Washington/Bike Path crossing
I don't know how often this sort of thing goes on in other cities, I hope it happens all the time, but for me, it was a first.  I'm used to bouncing ideas off a group of bike fed staff and board members, I'm used to preaching to the choir, or being a choir member, with my riding friends, and I'm used to going to project meetings on a specific project.  What I'm not used to is having so many great minds evaluate so many issues at one time in a very calm, and kind way.

Talking about what works--intersection of Monroe/Regent/Crazy Legs/Breeze

Although this mobile workshop filled quite quickly, it was only a small part of a four day workshop where anyone could come in and share their ideas.  By allowing anyone and everyone to come in and chat, our great city of Madison got so much stronger in just four days.  Well done!

I am hoping we continue to have meetings like this yearly.  I am hoping that other cities follow suit if they haven't started yet.  I am hoping to get invited back if this flies.  Thank you Toole, Tony Fernandez and Arthur Ross for holding this.  Thanks even more to Robbie and Mary for inviting me!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Crushing Gravel part 7--Getting Down and Dirty

Somehow, someone--ahem Dan and Mike--talked me into doing a gravel event in July.  Mike first told me about Ten Thousand this spring.  Ten thousand feet of elevation gain in 125 driftless Northern Illinois miles (yes, Illinois does have hills).  Dan somehow saw it and twisted my arm into doing it.  The whole idea of riding that far, with that much climbing, unsupported, didn't sound like a whole lotta fun to me in hot humid weather.  I love hills, I love riding driftless, I love riding unsupported, I don't like having to worry about water--and when I have to worry about having enough water, I go into a bit of a tizzy.

Meeting up in Krape park in Freeport, IL for the Ten Thousand

A few weeks back, my husband and I did a bike tour west of Madison during the hottest few days yet this summer.  He picked the hilliest route he could find, and we ended up following both the Horribly Hilly course and the Dairyland Dare course.  I had two water bottles on my bike and one in a bag, and although we had convenience store stops, I rarely felt I had enough water to get me through.  It was at that moment I dropped my idea of completing the full ten thousand and instead opted for the abridged 73 mile version.  I knew my body could do the miles but I just didn't want to carry 160 ounces of water to get me to the only convenience store on the route at mile 86.  Dan, thankfully, was nice enough to fold to the shorter miles with me.

I have to say I was quite excited to see a new part of the driftless area, and ride with Dan on his second gravel event since he'll be doing Almanzo with me next year.  He rolled into my driveway at 4:30am to make the trek down to Freeport and questions started flying about how big I thought the hills would be.  You see Dan and I have tackled just about every 16-20% grade hill together within riding distance of Madison.  I honestly had no clue how big the hills would be down in Illinois, but I had heard rumors about a 25% grader.

Getting ready to roll out
The ride was full of scenes like this one

As we, along with about 100 others, rolled out of Krape Park in Freeport, the skies began to piss.  A drizzle helping to cool us turned into a steady light rain within a few miles.  No worries.  We expected this.  Sometimes, I have found, riding gravel in light rain is better than dry conditions since it keeps the dust down.  The only issue was I didn't have fenders--my bike doesn't have clearance for them with 33mm tires.  What was a clean and dry ride for Dan turned into a complete shit show for me.  Within minutes I had gravel grime where one doesn't want it--covering my water bottles, covering my face, in between my saddle and shorts and I'll never know how some made its way down my shorts.

When I had moments to wipe my glasses clean, I was treated to some of the most beautiful scenery.  Hills, valleys and farms, all in technicolor green.  The gravel was in great condition which made it easy to take in my surroundings.  Why yes, I think I love riding in Northern Illinois!  And then, we hit the B road.  Now as many of you know, my mountain biking skills, or lack thereof, are very very sad.  The only thing I dread on gravel rides are B roads.  This one took us a ridiculous amount of time to find since we kept going down farm roads instead.  When we finally got back on course, I got to experience mud oozing through my shoes while my limbs were covered in mosquitoes.  You know what though, we could only laugh at the situation.  We felt so silly walking our bikes on this "road" and it was made even better when a farmer in a truck stopped us at the end and asked us "Whose GPS broke for you to ride down that?"

The section of B road we didn't ride

And this was about where we started riding once again

Both of us at this point were feeling great.  We knew we only had about 20 more miles and we both felt strong.  And that's when it happened.  For some unknown reason, my knee started hurting and my quad and IT band froze.  I had to stop and stretch, but I couldn't get the right angle and couldn't figure out why I felt fine standing, pulling my leg back, but couldn't put any pressure down on my pedal.  The last 13 miles consisted of me pedaling with my right leg while my left leg rode along unclipped.  Every time I tried to push with my left leg, my quad, hip flexor and IT band rejected me.  I wondered if I would make it since I brought our pace down to 10mph and the situation was worsening.  Happily, we did make it, and the moment I got off the bike I felt fine, a bit stiff in that thigh, but full of energy.

First place 125 mile finisher coming in strong

After a brief parking lot shower, we joined the others at the amphitheater to eat and watch the first 125 mile finishers roll in.  The guys who can pull a steady 20mph pace on gravel amaze me.  I will never be that fast, but damn if I won't have a blast trying.

Thanks to the entire Axletree crew from North Central Cyclery for putting this on, but an extra thanks goes out to Chad for designing the route.  Thanks also to my partner in crime, Dan.  We WILL do the entire Ten Thousand next year!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

5 Counties, Two Days

Zac Barnes, WI Bike Fed staff, riding with me to Spring Green
What happens when you hit five driftless counties in a matter of two days?  Some damn fine riding, that's what!  Although my rides went through these counties again and again over four days on the bike, I was lucky enough to hit them all the first time in just two days.  Dane, Sauk, Iowa, Columbia and Juneau--all beautiful, all spared by the glaciers (at least the portions I rode through) and all so different in their own way.

Zac, Peter Mulvey and Nathan Kilen talking bikes
The "warm up" was the gift of riding to the Shitty Barn concert with my friend Zac.  We had planned to ride out to see Josh Harty and Peter Mulvey play for some time, and when the weather radar started showing pop up red storm cells, my heart sank and we had to make a Russian roulette decision.  Do we risk it, roll over high hills and pray we don't get hail and lightning, or do we take the easy way out and drive?  A thirty second confused conversation went like this, Zac: "Have you heard they are calling for hail...should we postpone it?", Me: "Well, we have to be out there by 5:30 so we won't have much time to sit under shelter if a storm comes.", Zac is confused on the other end and meant "postpone" as to drive, not sit out the storm, Me: "How do you feel about riding through the rain?", Zac:  "Fine, I've got rain gear."--less than five minutes after this we were on our way to meet up and ride to Spring Green.  The bike gods smiled down on us, and after a brief sprinkle--we never did see a storm--we were blessed with sun and a light tailwind the entire ride.  The beer stop--we were searching for strawberries...honest--at the General Store and the jaw dropping performance by both Josh and Peter (along with his drummer and guitarist), made the evening one to go down in the books.  In about a month, you can read more about this in Silent Sports magazine since I was able to interview Peter Mulvey for the article.

Going driftless

Day two meant waking on just over three hours of sleep, working 'til lunch and then pointing the bike in a Northerly direction, over the Baraboo hills, to Lyndon Station for a Wisconsin Bike Federation staff/board member retreat.  I think I made it to the Merrimac ferry with ease, although I can't really remember anything about it except stopping for mulberries every chance I could get.  Post ferry I remember.  Climbing, lots of climbing, as well as magnificent views, new bike territory for me, seeing the GRABAAWR crew roll by, riding through the Aldo Leopold nature preserve, having my face slapped when I went from farm roads into the Wisconsin Dells (think Gatlinburg or Las Vegas) and couldn't understand WHY anyone would want to spend time there, having someone ask me in the dells if I wore a helmet for aerodynamics,  riding further North into more new territory and bypassing my turnoff not once or twice but three times--sleep deprivation was not to blame--the road wasn't marked, and then seeing friends...better yet, with beer and food.

Bike Federation staff and board meeting

Retreat compound for the bike fed gathering in Northern Lyndon Station

Day two was capped off by wading in the river along the sandstone bluffs, more eating, drinking and socializing with a bunch of folks who feel the same way about bikes as I do.  I don't remember falling to sleep--although I remember going to bed before most--all I remember is how good it felt.

Aldo Leopold nature center

Lichen, sandstone and riverwater
Day three meant riding back to Madison, after our bike fed meetings, into a 15-20mph headwind for 65 miles.  What the hell was I thinking?  What I was thinking is sometimes a good bike flogging is fun--at least parts of it anyway.  Although my mind was on keeping one pedal moving over the other, and getting back at a reasonable time, I couldn't help but think about how much I love the smell of pine needles baking in the sun, the scent of minerals where rock and water collide, how big bumble bees can get when they are feasting on clover near the side of the road (I noticed this one while climbing big hills...slowly), how many shades of green there are and how lucky I am to be alive.  Tired legs and chaffing aside, it was a fine day!

Tomorrow will see another attempt at my favorite Devil's Lake loop with friends.  Bluff road, here I come...again, but this time, for the first time in ten days, on my plastic bike vs. my heavy steel touring bike.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Having my keister handed to me on summer solstice

Happy Summer Solstice!
If memory serves me correctly, it was Christopher Robin, from the Winnie the Pooh books, who said, "I think that we ought to eat all of our provisions now, so we shan't have so much to carry."  Well, Christopher Robin, in my book, was a goddamn genius!  This was one of the few thoughts my oxygen starved brain could handle while climbing hill after hill after hill on my summer solstice bike tour.  The other thought was, "this is the last time I'll let my husband plan a route without checking it first."

A couple months ago, my husband surprised me with a two day bike tour in the driftless area.  We'd done many tours, some long, some short, in what I consider to be one of the best places on earth to ride, so I was more than willing to set aside my dreams of riding in the Madison naked ride again this year.  We saw this as a quick chance to get away, explore some roads we hadn't been on and for me, do a bit more training for the Ten Thousand, which is quickly approaching.

Oh oh.  We're following all the Horribly Hilly markers.  This can't be good.

Pinnacle Road got it's name for a reason.  I briefly thought this gun could take my pain away.
Almost every road in the driftless area is this pretty.

Of course, the problem with my thinking was not about being able to handle the hills--I've done many of 'em and have survived, the distance--it was a measly 65 miles each day, or carrying weight on my touring bike--we'd done 8-10 day tours in the hills before.  The "problem" came in with climbing the biggest hills we could find for over 50 miles each day while carrying extra weight, being attacked by gnats and horse flies, not carrying enough water (we each carried 3 20 ouncers), and getting soaked the first day.  When we hit Blue Mound Trail early in the first day, after climbing Moen and JJ, I knew something was up.  After checking his cue sheet, I quickly realized he had put us on the Horribly Hilly route!  18% grade hills aren't big enough for you?  Let's throw one or two 20% graders in there too.

A luna moth in Governor Dodge park.
After making our way into Governor Dodge state park, to fill our water bottles and eat lunch, we were rewarded with one of my favorite roads, Norwegian Hollow.  Flying down through a mixed forest, I couldn't help but sing a very off key version of Norwegian Wood.  This abruptly came to a stop when we hit the incline on the other side.  One more thrilling descent down M and then a five mile climb up Q dropped us into Dodgville looking like wet rats from the rain.  What was on my mind?  Checking into the hotel for a shower?  Nope.  Beer stop!  Yes, I have fallen into the dark depths of needing a cold beer, while I shower, after a long ride--don't laugh, it's a "thing".  Better yet, we got to see our cycling friend, Chris, drive by in the fire truck!

This motel fridge must look familiar to any Wisconsin cyclist
*Warning, any woman who has delivered a child, will hate me for my next comparison.  Post shower, beer, food and nap, I felt like a new woman.  I consider these types of rides, ones I'm on the brink of falling to pieces on, kind of like childbirth.  Once it's over, and I've taken care of a few necessities, I completely forget the pain and suffering I just experienced and am ready to ride again.  And that we did...down to Bob's Bitchin' BBQ for a feast that could bring any meat eating cyclist to their knees.  The only issue arose when we had to climb another big hill, on a full stomach, to get back to the hotel.

My look of confusion as I crested another farm roller
Day two, we were told by our friend Chris, wouldn't have quite the hill punishment we had on day one since we were riding South of 18.  A few miles into it, and I thought "Huh?  Really?"  Big ass farm roller after big ass farm roller greeted us.  From the top of each climb, we could see what waited for us at the bottom of each descent.  At 8am, I found myself covered in a slurry of sunblock, sweat and gnats.  By 9am, the sweat started dripping off my arms, legs and nose.  By 10am, I was thinking that taking the limestone trail back wouldn't have been such a bad idea.  And by 11am, it was all business.  Head down, into the headwind, up another huge farm roller, no talking--just saving any energy I could to take swigs of water.  Yes, the views were amazing and I have now added three or four more "favorite" roads to my list, but I'm just not sure I was ready for the fatigue and pain--I never use chamois butter, but oh god what I would have done to get my hands on some!

This whole experience was wonderful but also an eye opener.  I consider myself a pretty strong climber, but have now realized why we didn't see any other tourers on this route.  The biggest eye opener is how much fluid I needed.  Never on my other driftless tours did I go through this much.  It makes me very nervous about the upcoming Ten Thousand which will have very similar conditions.  No, I won't be carrying the same amount of weight, but the climbing will match what we did, will be on gravel and will be very exposed to the sun.  Time to start asking myself a bunch of questions!

Want to know some of my favorite roads from the ride--even the painful ones?  Here they are!

Day 1:  Of course I love Zwettler, Blue Mounds Trail, Pinnacle, and Knutsen, but I had never experienced the joy of Erdman or Dyerson.  Norwegian Hollow near Gov. Dodge will also be one of my favorite roads--one not to miss.

Day 2:  Jacobson off of Y South of Dogeville was beautiful!  After that, I don't think any of the farm rollers disappointed in beauty or pain.  McGraw, Sunny Ridge, Twin Bridge, Birch Lake (this was amazing), Sylvan, Star Valley, Sandy Rock and Perry Center are all worth a visit.

Markhm rolling up and over hills covered in oak trees

Birch Lake Road

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A friend's post from Tour of the Mississippi River Valley

This was written by a cycling friend, past WI bike fed board member and just a wonderful guy, Brian Anderson.  Enjoy his story!

Packing was complete three days before TOMRV.  It involved a comprehensive checklist of 65 items, from gloves to knee warmers to arm warmers to first aid kit and even ear plugs (necessary to thwart the sonorous snoring of my teammates).  Yes, the list included a bike and 2 wheels--wheels safely and sensibly stowed in a lovely HED wheelbag.

My buddy, Mike Kosobucki, arrives to pick me up in Madison on Friday before TOMRV.  He throws my things in the car.  I snug my precious Madone a/k/a “Pearl” onto his bike rack.  

My checklist shows 65 checkmarks.   Basking in my D-Day-like strategic planning and execution, I smugly ask Mike whether he has remembered earplugs, shower flip-flops and an extra towel.  He hasn’t, so I get some from the house.

Five hours later, we arrive at the sprawling Scott College campus.  It’s 8:30pm.  The campus is bathed in sunset pink and orange.  We ride at 6am the next morning. 

For a few preciously brief moments, I take in the sunset, greet friends on our “Spoketacular” green polka dot squad.  And for those precious few moments, I do not suffer from an aching pit in the stomach, a panicked realization that I am a great fool, and an awareness that all of the city’s bike shops are closed.

Then, with a jolt, I realize I am a great fool, feel a god-awful stone in my stomach and have the panicked realization that all of the city’s bike shops are closed.  My lovely wheelbag was simply left at the curb in front of my house.  I have 63/65 items.  I curse the blood stained heavens over the blighted Scott campus. 

My friend Ray looks on calmly, recognizing the palpable sadness, shame and humiliation rising in my face.  But he doesn’t say “You idiot; you’re going to camp all weekend at Scott College; you’re going to spend the next 48 hours alternately sleeping in Mike’s Honda and trying to avoid being picked up by campus security for public urination.” 

Instead, Ray says, “Ok, let’s get you some wheels.  You call bike shops and I’ll ask around.”  He turns around.  The closest person, standing some five feet away working on a TOMRV banner, is Mr. Joe Jamison.  A faint circular glow surrounds his face in the near darkness.

“My buddy forgot his wheels.  We’d appreciate any suggestions or ideas,” says Ray.  Mr. Jamison pauses, seems to think a second or two.  And he doesn’t say, “You’re kidding me; that grown man and father of two forgot the two round things that make his bicycle roll?!”  Instead, he says, “Well sure. . .  I have some wheels.  It’ll take me a couple hours, but I’ll drop them at your tent.”  I hug Mr. Jamison. 

We go to dinner.  My shame and humiliation and sadness have been rolled back.  I’m now feeling a sense of overwhelming gratitude and awe.   But I can’t help wonder about the wheels.  Will they be wooden?  Will they be round?  Will they be so expensive that I’ll be terrified to ride them?   And who do you know who would loan their road wheels to a stranger?!  Will he demand my first-born?

We come back from dinner.  It’s dark, but I can make out the characteristic silver sheen of wheels set outside of our tent.  We all run over.  I break out my iPhone light.  The tiny light illuminates not an Amish buggy wheel but a gorgeous Mavic Kysirium wheelset.  A simple note is attached: “Joe Jamison” with a phone number.   

We put the wheels on the Pearl.  Pearl likes the wheels.  The shifting is flawless.  The bearings are smooth; I’ll spend the next two days outrolling my teammates and winning our sprint competition.

On arrival after our ride, I dismount the bike, pull my phone from my pocket and immediately call Mr. Jamison.  I thank him profusely and ask what kind of scotch, craft beer or precious metals he desires.  He balks.  “Just pass it forward,” he says.  “I’m so glad you had a good ride.” 

I tell Joe that I’m astonished at and grateful for his kindness and generosity.  As far as I’m concerned, he’s worked miracles.  And now, as I write this a couple weeks post-TOMRV, I think I know how we ended up with a miraculous tailwind both days.   It was Joe.  Thanks so much, Joe Jamison.  I love you, man.