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Shorter Southern Rambles - Bob's View
by Bob Goodison

Doug’s organizers report hit the high spots, but a long long ride deserves a long long report. Here it is.

I guess it was partly my own fault. OK, mostly my own fault. Having equaled or bettered personal bests on the 200, 300 and 400, I had unrealistic expectations of what I was capable of, despite Doug’s warning that this was not a route for getting a fast time. Doug generously offered to put up the entire Fleche Test Dummies team the night before, so, after a brief session discussing how to lose next year, it was off to sleep.

Ten riders- the Dummies, plus five imports from the Coast and Island, started in cool temperatures and beautiful sunshine, although we knew it would not stay cool long. It’s always a good idea to get your first problem out of the way early. As we rolled out, I noticed my computer wasn’t working. It started up a while later, at what Ryan said was about 6 km, so all I had to do was add 6 to figure out turns. We rolled along Okanagan Lake, and I wondered who was right behind Ryan (no mud flap), who was right behind me, and being sprayed with blood from two freshly flattened beavers. We stayed more or less together until the Summerland hill, when Ryan pulled ahead, and Peter and Randy dropped back.

Just before the Peachland hill I saw a road sign that said Buchanan Road. Wait, wasn’t that name on the route sheet? Oh, #%&*#, I was supposed to turn on Buchanan from Beach Avenue, not Hwy 97! After turning around, I backtracked four km to Beach. At least now my mileage was closer, now I had to subtract 2 km. At the first information control I caught a group of four riders, who were a little surprised that I was behind them. Further on, I spotted Randy and Peter stopped halfway up a hill. Peter had broken a front spoke, which was a problem because his wheels only have so few of them. On top of that, his shifter was giving him only a very limited range of gears. We put in a Kevlar spoke that I have been packing for a couple of years and never had to use, but due to the shifter issue he wisely decided to pack it in. Doug had routed us away from the horrible Westbank traffic on a scenic road down by the lake. The penalty for this was a couple of steep climbs. A small price to pay, I thought.

Westside Road went by pretty quickly for me, as did highway 97 through Falkland and Barnhartvale, thanks to a light tailwind. All good things must end, and as I turned onto Campbell Creek road I was slammed in the face with a major headwind. Fortunately the gravel section was in good shape, and it was a pleasure to ride it in daylight for a change. It had gotten quite hot, and the wind slowed my progress to a crawl. I kept occupied wondering which of the houses had had the big drug bust where they found a rocket launcher among the weapons seized. The wind worsened as I turned onto Hwy 5A, and there were browncaps on Shumway Lake. I almost ran over a pencil-thin rattlesnake that slithered sideways beneath me, just like on TV. My computer quit again for another 2 km, but came back on, now almost identical to the route sheet mileage. By now I was running out of water and my legs were cramping. There was someone kite surfing on Stump Lake, having way more fun than I was. Finally I saw an accessible beach area and used my filter to fill one bottle before it plugged solid with all the debris in the water. That was enough to get me to the next convenience store, where I drank a V8 and a Java Monster and ate a bag of chips while phoning home and saying I had given up all hope of a fast ride and was just going to do whatever it took to finish. I filled bottles and left feeling like a new (almost) person.

A stop for soup in Merritt seemed to be a good idea, but the line in Timmy’s was to the door. I went instead to McDonalds next door for a burger and a vanilla shake. I tried to sit outside, but the mosquitoes were too hungry, so I retreated back inside. I saw Randy ride past, so I hurried up and got to the control at the 7/11 while he was still there. We decided it would be best to continue together. We climbed the everlasting hill toward Princeton at a snails pace, slow enough that mosquitoes had a real feast. Lycra was no hindrance to them at all. We stopped at the 5A/97C junction to put on more clothes, and I had some fun watching bats catching bugs in the streetlights. I didn’t know it at the time, but Ryan had DNF’d here. After calling home and deciding he would rather be with his family, he hitched a ride to Penticton.

We had an uneventful but chilly ride to Princeton, with a slight tailwind. The only 24 hour service in Princeton is the Chevron. You can’t go in, and have to ask for everything through the window, but we were able to get drinks and sandwiches. The tailwind continued, but as daylight approached I found myself nodding off. I told Randy to ride on ahead, and I would have a Harold nap and catch up. I don’t know which helped more- the nap or the sprint, but I suddenly felt strong and awake. I had to repeat the process one more time before sunrise. Randy told me not to have any more naps because he couldn’t keep up after. Highway 3B to Osoyoos was beautiful in the morning sunshine, with vineyards and orchards everywhere. After the Richter Pass we turned onto Hwy 97 at Osoyoos and it felt like we were all but finished. Yeah, Right.

A few kms north of Osoyoos we turned onto side roads and stopped at an information control (one of many, many wineries). I called home again, saying we had eighty km to go and should be done by 11:00 or 11:30. Little did I know. As we rolled away, my computer died again, this time for good. I loved Black Sage road. I had ridden it once before on a 200 set up by Tina Hoeben. At the time it had rough, broken pavement, but Tina had set up a live control with fresh-baked cookies. Doug had not provided cookies, but had arranged for fresh new pavement. Randy and I were fading badly as we climbed past Oliver toward Twin Lakes. I had only ever cycled this in the other direction and could not believe the climbing involved. It went up and up, steeper and steeper, while we cursed Doug for subjecting us to this so late in the ride. The early morning coolness was long gone and we were sweating buckets. Then Randy’s computer died, and we were reduced to guessing distances and carefully checking every road sign. In its favour, the birdlife and wildflowers were spectacular. “Looks like about a 12:00 finish” I said. Wrong again. We finally reached the top, had an ice cream, and descended to the Okanagan Falls control and more ice cream. Here we found the only mistake on the otherwise perfect route sheet- it said turn left (east) onto 10th which made no sense because left was west and the wrong way. Somehow in my sleep-deprived brain I figured out that turning right (east) would take us the right direction, and confirmed with some local cyclists that it would take us to Maple Street, our next turn. Then, it was just a short ride up Eastside Road, a fun section we were too knackered to enjoy, and the finish at Timmy’s at 12:55. Our time, 30:55, was the slowest 600 I have ever done without a sleep break. It was without a doubt, the toughest 600 I have ever ridden, at least partly because it coincided with the first hot weekend of the year. Thanks for putting the route together Doug. It was scenic and challenging, as advertised.

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June 15, 2010