On Saturday June 12th, Sue and I packed up our bikes and headed off to Hugo, OK to begin our adventure of the 32nd running of the Oklahoma Free Wheel bike ride event from the south Oklahoma border to north Oklahoma border. I posted updates on each day on facebook, and I am going to copy and paste them here and then add the information about the last 2 days of riding.
Free Wheel is an absolute adventure. Sue Marlof and I arrived in Hugo Ok on Saturday morning around 10:30 am. It took us both a litle while to acclimate, process and adjust to the while concept of Free Wheel. After about an hour and half we figured out our tent wasn't going to be ready for several hours. We knew we wanted to make the extra ride to make it into the Texas border. So we put on our bike clothes and headed out for the first ride. It was listed as only an 11 mile out and 11 miles back. It had a few hills but the worst part was a couple mile stretch that we were on a well traveled highway. It was a little tricky, but we managed. Once we made it back into Hugo we were both famished. We decided to eat at a local cafe place that was just across from where we would be camping. We walked in and the food looked absolutely delicious. We were so excited. The food was Great, but it took about 45 minutes from when we ordered to when we got our food. Oh well it was dinner. We then found out that our tent was set up around 5 so we set up our home. Then we set up chairs from the Shuttle Guy and found a semi shady spot. We met two nice guys, Steve and Brok who are a father and son riding Free Wheel together. Steve has ridden it before but this will be Brok's first ride. "Tent city" really does become a quick little family. We went to the nightly meeting and learned some of the ins and outs of how free wheel works and that "start time" is typically around 6:30 am and there is typically breakfast served starting at 4:30 am. This kinda changed our plan of action. We set the alarm for 5 am and decided to try to leave with the mass exodus. When they say mass exodus they mean like the 50 people out of the 900 that wanted to be part of the "mass exodus". So funny.
Neither Sue nor I slept very well. There were many people who snored in tent city but Sue and I were fortunate enough to have one in front of us and one next to us. The good news is that only one would snore at a time. Therefore we had persisent snoring. We quickly understood why they recommended bringing ear plugs. We ate breakfast. It was not great but it was calories and food. Our first ride was scheduled to be 55 miles. We made the mass exodus and were on our way at about 6:35am. We quickly realized why they start so early. It was almost cool and pleasant until aroun 8:15 am. The first 10 miles went by so quickly and we were cruising around 15 mph. We enjoyed the fruit stop and ventured on our way. During the 2nd 10 miles. We saw the biggest road kill beaver ever. That then prompted our let's count how many different road kill animals we see on our journey. Throughout the ride we saw: beaver, deer, racoon, and snakes. The ride went pretty well. We made it to camp at 11:55. We made sure to stop at all water and rest stops and stopped to have lunch. It was a good ride. It was very hit. We heard at camp that the tempertature was 95 with a heat index in the 100's. It was hard to get cool and comfortable, but we tried to make the best of it. We took showers in the shower truck, which would be awesome to have at the mud run, grabbed our chairs and found a shady place to hang out under. We talked with Dale and sine lady from Houston. Tried to take a nap in the chairs bit I could not get comfortable. We hopped on our bikes and headed into town to get to the cafeteria for dinner. They served Indian tacos. It was pretty good. We then biked back to camp, went to the nightly meeting and called it a night early. I slept great. Of course I took some mesa to help and put my iPod in. Was out like a light until about 4:50 am.
Sue and I got up this morning again at 5. We were on Our bikes by 6:15. Stopped at a convience store for some beeakfast and headed out for the 65 mile ride. The first 25-30 miles of the ride today weren't bad at all. It consisted of mostly rolling hills. However I don't know what mile it was but we started our trek through the Ouchita forest/mountain range. There were 3 awful awful uphills, but we were rewarded with 3 awesome downhill. Lunch was at about mile 45. I was so grateful for 40 minutes off the bike. Then we ventured on to Heavener where we are now. As I type this we are getting good rain storms with thunder and lightning. We were told there would be 50-60 mile per hour winds. Sue and I are in our tent hanging out and just keying whatever happens happen. We are scheduled to do another 65 mile ride tomorrow to Muldrow. We hear it's supposed to rain during the day. That may not be fun. We have the alarm set for 5 and we will see what happens.
We awoke to a morning filled with showers. It rained all through the night. They had told us in camp that it was anticipated that we would experience 50-60 mph winds, so everyone in tent city was freaking out. Not Sue and I though. We were almost giddy. Seriously laughing way too hard about the comments we heard from people in tents around us. I quickly fell asleep to the sound of the pouring rain and slept the best I have since I've been a camper. However when the alarm went off at 5 I could still hear rain drops on the tent. Sue and I had no real plan in this situatio. So we looked at the radar on my handy dandy iPhone and decided to wait an extra half an hour before we got moving. Well that lasted. Whole 5 minutes and we were both just like okay let's get dressed and see what happens. Well we were almost on schedule when we got in the line for breakfast. When it was our turn to eat they were almost out of everything. We each got 1 pancake and a few scrambled eggs. Not really a whole lot to go 65 miles on but we made do. We hit the road at about 7 rather than our usual 6:30. It was almost chilly when we got started. The first bank thermometer we rode past said 73. It was a beautiful morning when the rain stopped and there was a slight breeze. It stayed nice until about 10.30 or so this morning. The ride today was relativley flat and easy. The only rough part was the roads. I know everyone will be shocked but they were full of potholes or semi-trucks. We made really decent time considering it was our 4th consecutive day of riding. We made it to camp around 1:45. It was rather warm and toasty at camp. The thermometer on the bank in Muldrow read 94.
After being in camp for a very short time we decided to be adventurous and crazy and do the optional 20 mile out and back to cross into Arkansas. This was probably not our wisest of decisions. During this 1:45 period, I decided to cry out all my emotional stress from the past 6 years. I really needed to cry like my works was ending because I am at a new stage, a new road. This trip on free wheel has allowed me to disconnect from so many things and really put a lot of perspective on other things. All you do on the rides is think. You can chose to think about the hills, the sounds on your bike, the things you see in the environment, the people in your life, the goals in your life, etc. Speaking of things in your environment. I'm not sure i've mentioned all the road kill we've seen. So here's our complete list including today:
Skunk Opposum Baby black bear Worms Dragonfly Beaver Deer Cat Raccoon Squirrel Hawk Some big black bird Armadillo Armadillo with a beer can
I think that covers everything we have encountered thus far. This is disgusting but I can almost tell you what kind of roadkikl it is by the smell alone. I digress. So I have been thinking about my whole life my relationships with people, my friendships with people, the type of friend I want to be. I have thought about my relationships with my family, I have thought about my abitlity as a teacher, I have thought about my abilities as a speech language pathologist. I have thought about my marriage and divorce. I have thought about my life in Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma. I have thought lots and lots. Today between the heat, the 200 some odd miles on a bike in the past 4 days, my leg fatigue, and the many thoughts I was due for an emotional breakdown.
Tomorrow we ride to Talequah. Word in tent city is that it's the hardest ride ever in Free Wheel history. Sue and I are choosing to ignore the rumors and tackle the ride the same we have every other day 1 mike at a time. I anticipate I will be walking some hills tomorrow because my quads are shot, but who knows what tomorrow will bring. It's a scheduled 62 mike ride. 3 mikes shorter than these last two days. Oh boy. Wish us luck and send good vibes our way!!
Oh where to begin. I really wish I would have had the energy to write about day 4 yesterday, be ause even after 1 day the badness of it has already lessened. But I will do my best to recap.
Day 4 ( which for Sue and I was actually day 5 of consecutively being on the bike) had been hyped up by the Free Wheel officials and those in camp as the possible most difficult Free Wheel ride day ever. We left the Mukdrow camp at about 6:00 with the intention of stopping at a convienence store for breakfast. We have gone to a couple of the planned breakfasts but it has not been worth the money. So, anyway, we ate our breakfast at the store and were on our merry way. Well the legacy of the day and all the hype came to fruition at mile 1.6. We had a relatively steep and forever climbing hill out of Muldrow. Seriously I think it was about .6 miles long. It was torture and we were literally dripping in sweat at 6:45 in the morning 2.3 mikes into the day. The course did not get any better from there. If anyone remembers the zingo from bells then they can somewhat picture the 65 mike route. There were some good downhills but to get down them you have to go up them. So we went down and up and down and up all day. We climbed 5400 ft over the course of the day. I have honestly never had so much pain and shaking in my quad muscles in my life. To compound my issues. I was told I have Riders Palsy in my left palm. I have just tingling in my left middle finger. I have been told by many out here that it's because I'm putting so much pressure on my ulnar nerve and that I needed different bike gloves that had better support at the base of your fingers before your palm. I had also been told there was a bike store in talequah close to where Speedwheel was taking place. So imagine riding the Zingo path about 50 times on a bike trying to hold on to your handlebars to get yourself up a hill and having pain all in your arms and fingers. That was me. When Sue and I arrived to camp at around 3:15 we were just spent. Sue's parents came into town and they went out to dinner. I went and had all you can eat spagettin in the high school cafeteria and then decided to catch the shuttle to head down to watch Speedwheel and find the bike shop. I found some gloves with extra ulnar nerve support and thought well I will get these and try them. Then I went and sat on the curb and watched the bike races. Then much to my surprise I see Kristin Bunch walking along the sidewalk so I text her and when the course was clear I went over and gave her a big hug. It was so great to see a friendly face!! We sat on the bleachers and watched the masters race and during the race out of nowhere appears Ken Childress, Bobby Michaels. Deborah Gulley, and Susan Michaels. They had alll coordinated to come into Talequah to surprise me. It was so touching and so awesome. It was just one day before I was feeling very low and alone in the world. I owe those 5 people a lot. It was such a morale booster after such a hard days ride. Such great people. I did feel bad they wanted to go eat dinner and I just wanted to go to be. 9:00 is pretty much get in the tent wind down and be asleep by 10 time. So they drove me to camp. Saw tent city visited our #92 tent and I sent them on their way and was asleep in probably 20 minutes.
This morning, the start of day 5 or 6 depending how you are counting, we were up and out of the tent by 5:45. We decided to head down the road to the first convenient store which was said ti be 9 miles down the road. I had a rough morning in that I could t find things and forgot things and was like just forget let's go. Today was Sues day to have a rough day. She felt rather nauseous and out of it until about mile 28 when we hit a fun rest stop. Today's course was so easy compared to yesterdays. We cruised all day at about a 12 mph pace which given our mileage I thought it was pretty good. I stayed in food spirits most of the day and we cruised into camp around 12:15 ish. We stayed At the lunch stop in Salina for quite a while because it was cool and we had fun visiting with people. Sues husband came to Pryor today and I am so grateful he did. My Garmin died at 2.5 miles out. I had tried to charge I the previous day and it didn't. It would say it was charging then be blank. I took the charger with me on the ride thinking I'd the lunch stop had an outlet I would charge it. Well the lunch stop did have an outlet but my garmin would not charge. When we got to camp j was asking around If anyone would let me use their charger. People thought I was nuts I'm sure, but finally this man named Marion said he would let me use his. Another techy kinda guy looked mine all over and said he thought it was my USB cable and not the cradle. So Mario. Let me use his USB and guess what?!!?! It worked. So John took me to 3 different places to find. USB 2.0 cable and I am happy to report my garmin is fully charged and ready to go tomorrow. We hear tommorrow's 65 mile day is a lot like today. Maybe a hill or two here and there a lot of flat or gradual and some rough road. I will be so glad when tomorrows ride is done. They have a special dinner and concert for us tomorrow in Miami. Bring it on.
Roadkill update: We saw the following before yesterday I just forgot them: Frog Turtle Snake
Since yesterday we can add: Butterfly Wild pig(boar). No I'm not kidding!!
Good night all and thanks for the support and encouragement!!!
The last 2 days of riding Free Wheel are somewhat a blur. The ride on Friday on was a great ride. It was the last 65 mile ride. We were told Thursday night that we would have a 10-15 mph wind out of the south. The crowd cheered loudly. It really turned out to be true. Even on the hills it felt like the south wind was pushing us up the hills. Sue and I averaged 13.5 mph over the course of the day on this ride. It was mainly flat. There were a few decent climbs during the day, but overall it was an excellent day of riding for me. I didn't even have much pain from the saddle or in my legs. My biggest issue during this ride was chafing. I have never experienced such horrible chaffing. I have heard runners talk about it, but never really experienced it to the point that you thought you might bleed to death because areas were chafed so badly. I think the pain and discomfort from the chafing helped to keep me distracted from everything else. I was in really good spirits for most of the day during this ride. We arrived to the camp in Miami, which was on the campus of NEO. We again got to camp on a football field. Thank goodness that wind was around, if you could find some shade, it didn't feel too awful hot. At one point, I really thought Sue and I were going to get to go to Braum's (everyone had been talking about it all during the day), but when we learned the shower truck was really about 1/4 mile away from our tent, and we thought about when dinner was going to be served, we opted out of Braum's. The dinner that was provided free (only free meal on Free Wheel) was excellent. There were several choices of meat and sides and desserts. Unfortunately, my body was so hot and the entire system wasn't sure how it was working, I didn't really eat much. We then hopped on a shuttle and went to the Coleman theater in Miami, OK. If you ever get a chance to go into this theater you need to go, it is a breath-taking theater. They brought in a Bluegrass band for a concert for all the people with Free Wheel, it was amazing and so much fun. It was nice to sit in the cool air conditioning, but when we made it back out to our campsite it felt that much hotter. During the night on Friday night, both mine and Sue's fan batteries died. It was the worst night's sleep I got since the first night.
Saturday morning came quickly, Sue and I were up and moving at 4:45 am. We headed and ate some breakfast (apple turnover for me, yummm), got all our gear together, and were headed out for our last ride by 6:05 am. We had a scheduled 38 or so miles, but had heard that it was going to be quite a hilly day. We were also told that we would have 3 rest stops. It was a much more relaxed riding day. It was obvious that most people were taking the pace a little slower and sharing stories along the ride and just taking it all in. We were fortunate to see most of the people that we had met along the ride and spent time with at some point during the day on Saturday. It was a little sad knowing that good-bye would be coming. However, I was so ready to be done. At the end of the day, and the week, Sue and I managed to bike in 5 states in 8 days. We took the optional trips to the Texas border, the Arkansas border, the Kansas border, through Oklahoma, and obviously through Missouri to get to Joplin.
Today, Sunday, my body is pretty physically drained. The most fascinating part to me is that the most sore part of my body is my hands. My hands are extremely cramped and sore, I can barely hold a pencil to write. I am glad to be home. I feel that I have a clear head, and a better grasp on my life. We'll see how long that lasts.
Well it was a weekend packed with bike riding. Tulsa Tough was in town. It was made up of some fantastic bicycle racing with some "fun" rides and the 8 mile Tulsa Townie Ride. In preparation for the Oklahoma Free Wheel, I decided to participate in the 100k (62.4 mile) fun ride on Saturday and the 50K (31.2 mile) ride on Sunday as well as the Tulsa Townie that some of my friends were also going to do. This would give me over 100 miles on my bike for the weekend.
It was quite hot on Saturday, but fortunately I had Sue and Jodi to whine to, and with about how hot the day was. Jodi successfully completed the 50K on Saturday and Sue and I got through the 100K.
Sunday morning had a nice cloud cover, and a little bit stronger wind. Both days were challenging and fun. One more leisurely ride before Free Wheel starts next Saturday... OH Goodness.....