Trans Am Bike Race Day 21 Report
Friday June 23, 2017: The retelling of Day 21 will rely more heavily on memory than my previous and remaining Trans Am reports. I’ve been leaning quite heavily on the Strava data from each days riding, namely time, distance and topography to provide a basic outline for each ‘days play’ but alas no data exists for Day 21. I blame Garmin Edge 820 user error. The non-existent data is probably due to as simple a reason as me not pressing play at the start of the day or not saving the data at the end of the day. Although ironically Day 21 was also a day where my Garmin was at the very epicentre of numerous navigational cockups that had me fuming with frustration by the end of the day.
The day started calmly enough with the standard hotel breakfast and brief chats with the other early rising hotel guests. One bloke, a Vietnam Vet had plenty to say about the time he spent in Sydney on R & R in the late 1960’s. I love hearing and talking about my hometown but on this occasion I had to politely keep the exchange to a minimum so that I could kick off my day on the road.
My guess is that I was on the bike by around 7:30 am. On my mind, was to get to a bike shop in Carbondale, 150 kilometres up route as quickly as possible to get my bike looked over. As I have mentioned before I was definitely erring on the side of caution in regards preventive bike maintenance on the Trans Am but my chain was approaching 6,500 kilometres of wear and was skipping all over the place, so there was an increasing sense of urgency on this occasion. The route was heading into some rather remote parts of Kentucky and then into the Appalachians of Western Kentucky and Eastern Virginia, and I didn’t particularly fancy the idea of my bike breaking down in areas where bike shops and cell phone reception were likely to be non-existent. The only real fear that I had had on the whole Trans Am was breaking down in the middle of “nowhere.”
Later that morning I would call ahead to The Bike Surgeon in Carbondale which was not too far off route to let them know that I would be arriving early to mid afternoon. It was not just a courtesy call. I was anxious to minimise any downtime so that I could crack on and possibly get to Cave-In-Rock before the last ferry across the Ohio River into Kentucky and thus wanted them to be ready for me when I arrived.
A few kilometres out of town I was joined by Wayne Linnenbringer (aka Dotwatcher 6) who had come out the previous evening to welcome me into Farmington but I had been unable to stop and chat on that occasion. He had had dinner with Mike Benigni, Russell Jones and Brian McEntire, a Farmington local and veteran of the 2015 and 2016 Trans Am races. I couldn’t help but feel that I had missed out on a pleasant evening. I had read Brian’s 2015 and 2016 race reports avidly and it would have been nice to have thanked him for his insights and picked his brains on the remaining part of the race over a beer, with Mike, Russell and Wayne. I had no regrets though however, I had really needed the early night.
Anyway it was nice chatting and riding with Wayne for a while and then all of a sudden he uttered a quick farewell and I was back cycling by myself again, something I was long accustomed to and on balance actually probably preferred.
Frustration and Loathing in Eastern Missouri
Yep, the solitude could be nice but it could also work against you.
Apart from a few rollers out of Farmington the route headed down into a valley of sorts of dead flat agricultural land. It was easy riding that I could have done quite easily the previous night. No real big deal in hindsight and a decent nights rest had really hit the spot but at the time it really pissed me off. I became really frustrated with myself that I hadn’t dug deeper the previous night and ridden the 75 relatively easy kilometres to Chester.
“Why didn’t you just get a meal in Farmington last night and crack on to Chester?”
“I was tired and thought there were going to be more big hills.”
“Well, you should have researched the route better. Regardless, you should have got up and going a lot earlier this morning to make up for it. Why didn’t you?!”
“I don’t know”
“You lazy bastard!”
Being stuck in your head for hours on end can have its drawbacks.
Trackleaders Fixation Disorder (TFD)
The only way I was able to snap myself out of this pleasant little period of self-loathing was by fixating on the progress of my fellow racers. Also perhaps an unhealthy past time but I suppose it was better than beating myself up mentally. I hadn’t really used Trackleaders all that much thus far in the race but on that morning I fired it up and had it open on my phone. I even changed the screen sleep setting so I had an uninterrupted view.
Mike and Russell were about 30 kilometres behind me and Martin Cox, John Richardson and Clay Stark were about 50 kilometres in front of me. My sole focus for the remainder of the days riding became keeping ahead of Mike and Russell, and catching up to Martin et al.
I put my foot down.
And then all of a sudden I was crossing the mighty Mississippi into Illinois and the town of Chester. Although it was overcast the conditions were quite sultry and I was very thirsty. I made a beeline to a gas station where I yet again acquired a huge selection of beverages and ice cream. I consumed most of the sugary loot outside while having a good old chat with a touring cyclist who had plenty of “war stories” from his numerous run-ins with wild dogs in Kentucky. I made a mental note right then and there to get my hands on some pepper spray toute suit.
A Series of Unfortunate Events
My progress over the next 50 odd kilometres from Chester were pretty uneventful, back roads through rolling farmland and a continuation of my earlier TFD. My Garmin was playing up a little bit in as far as the purple route line was quite a ways off the actual road that I was meant to be riding on, but it was no real cause for concern. The fix was to scroll out a bit on the screen and the 2 lines would thereabouts match and I would still have a very good idea of the direction I was meant to be travelling.
However the next 25 kilometres (what should have been 25 kilometres anyway) to Carbondale was rudely interrupted by a series of unfortunate events, or as I would like to refer to them as, “A tale of 5 cockups”. A brief description of each cockup, mostly navigational in nature follows:
I was pedalling away north of Harrison, Illinois through rather pleasant farmland and beginning to calm down a bit from my earlier mind games. I was making good time and my plan of getting in and out of the bike shop in Carbondale and then onwards to the ferry crossing at Cave-In-Rock was on track. My wife rang and we were chatting away about our respective days when all of a sudden, out of the blue she said “Do you realise that you’re way off route?”.
What the fuckity f@#k!!
Not according to my Garmin I wasn’t, but when I checked Trackleaders which was still open on my phone, sure enough, I had missed a sharp right hand turn about 10-15 kilometres back.
But why didn’t my Garmin indicate that right turn?
I scrolled out on my Garmin and the prescribed route was completely different to that on Trackleaders.
I informed my wife in a way that I would later apologise for that I needed to cease our conversation so that I could work out what to do.
My back up for navigation was an app on my phone upon which I had also downloaded the route. The same problem persisted, however. I had broken the route down into 300 kilometre chunks, each chunk being a file that I had downloaded onto each device, so this particular file chunk must have been corrupted in some way.
My second navigational backup, the Adventure Cycling Association maps were en route back to Philly. I hadn’t been using them and I was sick of packing them up every day, so I had arranged to post them back from Newton Bike Shop in Kansas.
There was one option left but it took me a while to calm down and think clearly enough to come up with it. It was far from ideal but I could navigate via Trackleaders. The detail of the route was quite hard to make out on the screen and my position on it would not update immediately, sometimes taking upwards of 10 minutes but I could get a decent idea of where I was meant to go.
A decent idea of where I was meant to go that is until my way was blocked by roadworks on a bridge in Murphysboro. I was tempted to try and convince the workmen to let me scramble across with my bike on my shoulders but it was pretty obvious that the bridge was impassable.
At that point, I literally had no idea what to do so I just rode around in circles for about an hour trying to stumble over the red Trackleaders route line. An excruciatingly frustrating task considering my position on the map was only updating every 5 minutes.
I was running out of patience and came very close to simply giving up and following the road signs on State Highway 13 (lucky for some) to Carbondale. A move that I knew was off route and would no doubt have resulted in my disqualification from the race.
I finally found the red line which was a welcome relief but by that time my frustration had boiled over into anger. I was angry at my predicament, angry at myself and angry at the world.
I took my anger out on the pedals and carelessly careened off down a massive hill without having a closer look at the Trackleaders map. It was as if I was daring myself to get lost again. Which of course I did. I had also run out of water and it was only the fact that I began to dry out a bit that finally jolted some presence of mind into me.
All I had to do was to forget about my position on the map and just use it like a paper map, albeit a very hard to read paper map. I had to stop a lot to check and double check that I was going the right way but I eventually managed to make it to the outskirts of Carbondale.
The route only passes through the outskirts of Carbondale and so I needed to use Google Maps on my phone to find The Bike Surgeon. I was so frazzled by this point that this seemingly basic task was fraught with wrong turns and I ended up circumnavigating Southern Illinois Univesity at least 3 times…….nice looking campus.
The Bike Surgeon, Carbondale, Illinois
By the time I finally made it to The Bike Surgeon, it was late afternoon and I was ready for a good cry.
The lovely people there took me under their wing and sorted me and my bike out. I can’t thank them enough.
It would have been about 5:30 pm by the time I left the bike shop. My plan for the day was in tatters and quite frankly I really didn’t know what to do.
I pulled to the side of the road to check my phone for some information on a storm that was due to hit later that evening. As I was doing so I saw a message from Mike Benigni who had passed me during my Cockups 1 through 5. He had seen on Trackleaders that I was at a bike shop and asked whether I would mind getting him a new pair of cleats whilst I was there. As the message was about an hour old and I had left the shop I thought about ignoring the message but my conscience got the better of me and I headed back to do the right thing. After a day like this I needed Karma back on my side.
As I made to roll back to the shop I heard a crunching sound in my spokes……..my earphones that were wound around the stumps of my aero bars had unravelled and got caught in the front wheel. My audio window to the world and my sanity, my phone and my tunes was shredded into a useless mess of wires.
Operation Replace Headphones
The bike shop was still open and I picked up a pair of cleats for Mike and a container of pepper spray which I had forgotten to get before (silver linings), and then went off to find some headphones. I simply couldn’t do without them.
I rode to a gas station and then a supermarket but no luck.
I then set course to a Best Buy on the other side of town. I had wasted so much time so far that day that another 10 kilometres further off route really wasn’t going to matter.
By some divine miracle, I got there without getting lost and was able to get a like for like replacement set of headphones. But not before I almost got into a physical altercation with a Best Buy security guard who had taken it upon himself to move my bike from just inside the sliding doors where it was semi-secure to leaning against the wall outside where its security was at the whim of the passing masses. I am not a violent man, far from it but I seriously could of headbutted the big brute when I found out. The fact that I was still wearing my helmet was definitely in my favour as was the volcano of anger that was just about to erupt from within me.
That’ll Do For The Day
What an absolute c word of a day!
I cut my losses, found a hotel, ordered too much Chinese food at a restaurant next door and had 2 beers at the bar while I waited. I took it back to my hotel room, ate and slept.
I hoped for a better day the next day BUT would my navigational problems persist?
Day 21 Territory Covered and Stats
3D overview from Relive:
2D overview from Trackleaders:
- Distance = approx 150 km + ‘Cockup’ km
- Cycling (ie moving) Time = ?
- Stopped Time = ?
- Elevation = ?
- Money Spent = $300 ($74 on food/drink, $57 on accommodation, $169 on bike maintenance/stuff)
Keep reading…..Day 22.