Monday, May 28

Out and Back: Prairie and Sprawl

Out along 104th Avenue, beyond I-76, out near the airport, where there should be nothing but godforsaken prairie and maybe a farmhouse or two, there is another godforsaken land use expanding like a grassfire: sprawl.

There is a development called Reunion. The numerous signs along 104th tout it as "Our Hometown," though if there is anything that distinguishes Reunion from other outposts of stupid development (i.e. Sprawl) I couldn't see it from the road. It just looked like some misplaced suburgatory in the midst of Kansas.

I did a mileage boosting training ride out beyond the edge of the city, into the prairie, and saw this travesty of development along the way.

I wasn't really feeling up to a ride this afternoon, but my lovely wife encouraged me to get out, so I decided I'd do some more family bike tour scouting. I chose Barr Lake State Park as my destination, a cool 30 miles east and slightly north from home.

I left home at 1:55, feeling strong, but sun-sensitive under a blazing orb. I went with a single water bottle and three Honey Stinger gel packs. The first leg of the ride was old hat: Clear Creek Trail to South Platte Trail to it's northern terminus.

Then I was on new ground. I waited for a break in the seemingly heavy traffic and then struck out east. Within a mile or so gritty shoulders appeared providing an opportunity to get out of the sporadic traffic. Then I cruised over light rolling hills through intermittent development, past said Reunion and then at Tower Road I turned north into the prairie proper.

Tower has nice shoulders for most of the way up to 128th. You have to jog east a bit on 128thand then turn north on Picadilly Road. Its a short pedal up Picadilly to the entrance to Barr Lake.

I was ecstatic to have reached the park with little problem. I felt the miles, but I was still pedaling strong. It took me an hour and fifty minutes to cover 30 miles with a slight headwind. I inquired at the gate about camping. No camping. Bummer!

I refilled my water bottle, meandered around the nature center for a few minutes and then headed toward home. I still felt pretty strong, but the wind had shifted and was in my face again. The view of the mountains off to the west was amazing. I was in a nice state of Flow, reveling the movement that carried me back toward home.

Pedaling west on 128th between Picadilly and Tower Rd.

It seemed as if I covered the miles back quickly despite the headwind. Back on the Splatte I caught a beneficial crosswind and picked up the pace even more. Down, down, down toward the confluence with Clear Creek I rolled. There was far less pedestian traffic later in the day and I was able to just cruise.

When I turned onto the CCT I felt the miles. In fact, I felt the impending bonk. I'd skipped lunch and since breakfast only had the three gel packets. I started thining ahead, hoping the bike shop along the bike path was still open.

My progress was steady, but slowed. I made a point to drink all of my water, but I was out of fuel and long past needing to reapply sunscreen. The sinking sun was trying to peek under the brim of my hat, so I kept my head down, partially to keep the sun off my nose and partially to relieve the pain in my aching neck.

Once back on the Clear Creek Trail time seemed to slow down. All that strong effort, all of my fluid passage over the landscape seemed to fade. My legs began to feel hollow. I focused on getting to the bike shop. The Bike Shack, and as I approached the gap in the fence where their small sign was located I was certain they would be closed. It was after 5:00pm on Memorial Day.

But then as I rounded the corner of the first building I saw bikes propped up in front of one of the industrial bays in the complex. Maybe they would have food and I could stave off a bottom of the barrel bonk and make it home without having to call Mandy to come rescue me.

They gave me some water and I bought a couple of Honey Stinger waffles and a tube for Boone's bike. The waffles, I'm sorry to say, did little to push back the bonk, but they gave me a little mental boost, and some cold water helped as well.

I labored the last five miles home, picking up the Ralston Creek and then riding along Grandview through Olde Town and on out the ridge home. In Olde Town I finally felt a flicker of energy returning, but it was too little too late. I just gave in to the new normal: a slow pace.

Excluding the time I spent at the bike shop I was out for 3 hours and 50 minutes for a 16 mph average for my 61.26 mile ride. I'm pretty happy about the effort. Still got a ways to go.

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