posted a brief account of Ken's LC 1200 which he wrote in an
e mail message. Ride Organizer/Director John Lee Ellis asked
riders to submit ride stories for the event's own story page.
Ken wrote out this fuller account of his adventure for that page
and sent along a copy to us as well. [Eric F.]
Colorado Last Chance 1200
by Ken Bonner
Wh-u-u-m-p! Wh-u-u-m-p! The sudden gusts
of wind toss me across U.S. Highway 36 and knock me out of my
fascination with the dramatic strikes of gigantic bolts and sheets
of lightning all around me. A light drizzle of rain begins. The
electric wires are buzzing and the heavens are a constant roar
of thunder. I stop at the end of a driveway which leads to the
lights of an isolated farm house. I need to think about things!
Prior to leaving Boulder on our eastward excursion onto the plains
of Kansas (formerly known as the Great American Desert), John
Lee Ellis, brevet director, advises us that the predicted high
temperatures will be in the mid-eighties F.; and, there was a
likelihood of evening showers. Yesterday and today have been
in the mid-nineties F. For some time, since dusk, I have been
wondering about where John has been getting his weather forecasts
.... maybe "That Old Black Magic.com" website? However,
I have not been wondering too much since I've been making great
time with the help of a very strong tail wind. Now, I start to
think about the very dark and forbidding clouds which were on
the south and north of me ... what happened to that channel of
clear sky directly west towards the foothills of the Rockies?
I lean against my bike with my butt to the wind. I've put on
my rain-jacket and am munching a p.b & jam sandwich I carried
with me. A pick-up truck passes by and I see he applies his brakes,
then turns around and drives up to me. "You O.K.",
he asks. I reply in the affirmative. "Well", he says,
"you are going to get hammered! There's heavy rain and hail
just up ahead, sure you don't want to jump in?" "No",
I say in my naivety "I've got my rain jacket, I'll be fine!
He looks at me as if I am out of my mind and I watch his blurred
tail-lights (rain on my glasses) disappear into the darkness
and lightning. Hey, after experiencing 20 solid hours of torrential
downpour, thunder and lightning at B-M-B just a couple of weeks
ago, I can handle anything! Besides, the weather forecast was
for night-time showers .... this little event should blow away
in a few minutes.
Ten minutes later. Still propped against my bike trying to keep
from being blown across the highway. The light rain has now become
a heavy horizontal "downpour" mixed with hail. My body
temperature is dropping rapidly and the storm seems to have settled
in. Where is that pick-up truck driver now? Should I fill my
cleats with sand by walking into the isolated farm house and
likely get bitten by the owner's farm dog? Where is the culvert
I am supposed to crawl into (along with rattle-snakes and other
unknown dangerous creatures!) if I encounter a tornado? Finally,
I decide to risk the dog, pick up my bike to turn it around,
and ..... wh-o-o-o-sh, it is suddenly plucked up from the ground
and I am hanging onto it by the cross-bar as it assumes the horizontal
position. I desperately cling to it so it doesn't head off on
its own into the Land of Oz!
The kind farmer provides shelter, the use of his telephone and
stores my bike on his front porch. My wife, Margot, who has been
waiting at the next control 25 miles away, wondering when she
was going to get hit by a bolt of lightning, bravely drives back
to the farm house and then I drive nearly 90 miles to the motel
in Byers, Colorado, where I had planned to cycle to during the
night. The next morning, clear and cold, I drive back to the
farm-house and start riding west once again. Off the bike for
12 1/2 hours. The farmer has informed me that we were probably
on the edge of a tornado, as all during the day, there had been
reports of tornadoes just north of his farm. So much for the
prediction of "night showers"! Also, "Adios"
to my hopes of finishing around 60 hours so I could drive to
the San Francisco 1000k brevet.
The day passes, clear and sometimes with a tail-wind, sometimes
with a head-wind. We have a new wrinkle this year. Instead of
heading directly into Boulder on the way back, we take a little
detour up to a place called Kersey. Like the end of so many 1200
k brevets, this is probably a very scenic route, but on the dark,
rural backroads, one feels trapped in a bad dream .... it's getting
colder (I should have brought more warm clothing!) my hands,
feet and body suffer everytime we drop down a hill. Please, please,
no more downhills! Did I miss a turn? The back wheel feels funny
... it has acquired a nice bounce it did not have a few minutes
ago. A slow leak? No, probably just a loose spoke? Bump, oops,
that was the rim hitting the pavement. Maybe I can finish the
last 50 miles on a flat tire? A porch light shines on the road,
so I come to the conclusion that I might as well fix the flat
where there is light.
A pick-up truck goes past, brake lights go on and it turns around
(is this the same pick-up I experienced earlier in the ride?!!)
It stops a few yards behind me and its bright lights help me
see while changing the tire and tube. Just as I wave "thanks"
into the lights the driver's door opens and a woman gets out.
I probably don't look too well -- tired, cold and unshaven for
several days and it's close to midnight. Once again I am offered
help (a ride). I decline, saying I have ridden 700 miles and
only have 50 to go. The lady is impressed! She wants to congratulate
me by shaking my greasy hand! I show her my blackened hand and
express my appreciation, but she insists on shaking my hand anyway!
Colorado folks are just plain friendly!
I finish the ride frozen to the core. The next day, John Ellis
organizes a post-Last Chance dinner and we trade stories.
If you go, be prepared for:
friendly people -- not only the riders and organizers,
but the folks that live along the way. U.S. Highway 36 should
be known as the "friendliest highway in America", even
the trailer trucks provide lots of room for cyclists. This includes
the trucks coming from the opposite direction, as they seem to
understand that they kick up a tremendous side wind when they
extremes in the weather. Although this is a relatively benign time of
year (September), temperatures can range from the high 100's
to the high 30's Fahrenheit. Strong head, side and tail-winds.
No shade, no bicycle repair shops and no place to hide when nature
--- eventually one gets to the flat plains, but the foothills
seem to last forever (and you can see them for miles and miles
and miles and .....)
October 18, 2004