When I went to bed in Larned, the stage was set for a stormy evening. I set my alarm to leave in the night, but when I woke, the storm was still getting after it pretty good. I rolled over and went back to sleep. This happened a few times through the early morning hours until things started to clear up about 5:30AM. I got up, packed up, went across the street to a convenience store for some breakfast and then hit the road. I saw Enrico at the store as well. He left before me, but I caught up and passed him in just a couple miles.
The overnight storms had pushed through and left me with fantastic weather! Cool temps, gentle winds and blue skys were the order of the day. A cyclist’s delight! I rolled along eating up miles. I had my sights set on Newton, for several reasons, but mostly to replace my severely worn tires, particularly the rear. It was so thin that threads were showing on the tread and the tube was almost visible in a few spots. I should have swapped it out with the front in order to even out the wear some, but I felt it was too late for that. Being so worn, I was concerned about it not being safe on the front. I would much rather have it blow on me on the rear.
I was rolling and feeling good. The big meal I had the night before and the extra sleep I got trying to stay out of the overnight thunderstorms were paying dividends. A few miles before Nickerson, I caught up with Andrew Stevens-Cox. We made pleasantries and I rode on. I was on a mission!
A little before noon and about 72 miles into my day, as I passed under the Hwy 61 overpass just outside Medora, my rear tire gave up the ghost. I was a little more than concerned. I was still between 35 and 40 miles from Newton, where my tires I had shipped ahead were waiting on me. When I took the wheel and tire off and saw the gaping holes in the tread I wasn’t encouraged. The tube had poked through the holes and burst. I did the only thing I could think to do. I had about 3 feet of duct tape folded over on itself in my repair kit. I used it to boot the inside of the tire casing in the spots where it was missing worst. I didn’t have enough tape to go all the way around, but made due with it the best I could. I then remounted the tire with a spare tube and pumped it up. It held, so I took off down the road again thinking, “it just has to make it 35 miles”.
Immediately I recognized a difference in performance. The duct tape boots made the tire out of balance. A lot! It produced a thump-thump sort of bump with every revolution as I rode. It was super uncomfortable, but I just kept telling myself that it was better than walking!
I rode on, just praying my fix would hold. It made me quite nervous as I thought about it. After awhile I came to the determination that I had no choice and there wasn’t a point in getting worked up about it. I would just have to ride it out. If the tire went down on me, I would try to figure out another solution or walk to Newton.
I rolled straight through Heston and on to Newton, feeling every revolution of my wheel. Thump-thump. Thump-thump. Thump-thump. A little bit of calculation tells me that my tire and wheel size rolls out at 762.7 revolutions per mile. That means it thump-thumped approximately 26,695 times in 35 miles and I felt each and every bone-jarring one.
As I came down the street toward Newton Bike Shop, James and Heather were outside waiting on me to get there. Knowing my thread-bare tires were done and I would be throwing them away, I came sliding in, locking up the brakes for fun. The rear tire just shredded! I didn’t care. I had made it to Newton!
Newton Bike Shop(NBS) was fantastic. Jay P and Mark had arrived just a bit before me. I didn’t bother with introductions right away though. First things first, James took my bike inside and Heather showed me the direction to the showers at the civic center just down the street. Once I was clean (and wearing their loaner clothes), my bike clothes were washed for me while I ate. After eating, I found the box of parts I had shipped ahead and was given the go ahead to use the shop tools to go to work. I replaced both tires, my chain and replaced the repair items I had used in my kit. I then gathered up anything I didn’t need, including some of the things I was carrying, like my cold weather gear, and boxed it all up for shipment home. For just $20 plus the cost of shipping my box, I was given quite a royal treatment. Something that doesn’t happen anywhere else on the route.
I am not sure how all the racers that were there came in, but the list of riders at NBS while I was there was significant. Jay P & Mark were already there when I got there at 2:15PM. While I was at the shop, the following came in: Enrico, Jason, George, Andrew, Michela and Stefano. That is a whole bunch of crazy, exhausted, stinky, tired and wild-eyed endurance racers in one place at one time! We all got some pretty spectacular service.
Quite a few guys planned to stay and sleep a bit at Newton. I knew if I stayed I would quite possibly end up getting sucked into the cush that was there. It was nice, but I needed to be moving. I tried to be as nonchalant as I could as I packed up. I didn’t want a mass exodus going with me. I would rather let them all stay to eat and sleep awhile. 🙂
While I was gathering my things, Enrico started doing the same. Mark was having some terrible issues with Shermer’s Neck, a nerve problem for endurance racers where you can’t physically hold your head up. He was in pain and wouldn’t be able to carry on. Jay decided to carry on solo and was gathering his stuff as well. I thanked the Barringers, got the obligatory photos and took off right about 6:00PM. I was the first of the group out and planned to make tracks.
I grabbed some supplies at a gas station on my way out of Newton and put the hammer down, as much as a guy who has ridden 2500 miles over 15 days can. I knew Jay would be coming and I wanted to make as much ground as I could before he caught me. I had no elusions of staying in front of him, but I didn’t want to just roll over either.
It was about 40 miles to Cassoday from Newton and James had said that the little store there closed at 9:00. I kept the pedals turning and made it to the Cassoday store just north off the route a block or two at about 8:35. I grabbed a sandwich and some other supplies. I fully expected Jay and Enrico to pull up at any moment, but I never saw them. About 8:55 I hit the road again, excited that I was still out in front of them.
As I got back to the route, I noticed a couple tail lights of cyclists out in front of me. I assumed Enrico and Jay had caught up, but chose not to stop at the store! I stayed at it and eventually caught them a few miles out of town. Much to my surprise, they hadn’t skipped the store on purpose, but rather didn’t know where it was. My previous experience touring the route in 2011 had paid off for me this time and I had supplies when they didn’t.
The three of us rode on into the night staying somewhat near each other. I took the opportunity to ride near Jay some and chat with him. It was really cool to get to pick the brain of someone with such a rich endurance racing pedigree. We carried on and the miles ticked away.
The three of us rolled into Eureka about 11:30 and stopped at a gas station for food and drinks. We all ate and packed things on our bikes knowing full well we wouldn’t have any services for the rest of the night.
I was a bit amped up. There had been plenty of times over the previous two weeks where I felt the pull of the race, but being near Enrico and Jay took it up a few notches. We had all talked about plans for the night. Jay let on like he wouldn’t stop and just ride through. I liked the idea, but was a bit concerned about the ramifications on my body over the next couple days after that, knowing there was still 1800 miles left in the race. I grabbed enough food to last if I decided to ride through. The three of us hit the road again and rode out of town into the dark Kansas night.
As we rode on, I was starting to get tired. It was late, I had ridden nearly 200 miles and the more I thought about it, the last thing I needed to do was get in a pissing contest with Jay Petervary in the middle of a race. About 25 miles down the road, we came into the little burg of Toronto. It was about 1AM and the sidewalks were rolled up. There wasn’t even a dog out moving around. Everything was still. I had made my decision not to chase Jay, so I figured Toronto was as good a place as any to hole up for the night. I said my goodbyes and good lucks to the Jay and Enrico, then shut off my lights and started coasting, letting them go on ahead. It was a bit defeating watching them ride off into the night, but I had made my choice.
I rode around a couple streets until I found a church. I went around the back of the building, leaned my bike up and laid my bivy down right in front of it. It was pretty humid and warm in my bivy, but the mosquitos were out and I didn’t want to wake up a corpse having lost all my blood to the pests. The bivy would be a good barrier. I fell asleep quickly, having completed 204 miles on the day.