A Distant Rumble

A Distant Rumble (the 3rd)

About 90 rock solid, multilayered, black hearted bastards (hereinafter affectionately referred to as “Zealots”) signed in for the 3rd WBL event of 2006, the Bowman Ball Buster on 17 December 2005. For the second time in three weeks, trouble lurked overhead—a thick, hazy blanket of misty smoke hanging low in the sky, dangling ominously above the Zealots’ head like a rotten cotton sack stuffed fat with bricks.

Could these portentous purple clouds again herald doom—to fill then founder, drenching the Zealots beneath yet another cold, hard rain? (Please, a tip of the hat to Dylan here, both the poet and the prophet.) The thought alone was enough to make most mortal men and women tap-tap-tap the thermostat farther to the right, draw the blinds down low, rip the phone cord from the wall, grab two Tall Boys from the fridge, and sock-slide back to the boudoir for more of the Saturday morning escapades of true American icon—Scooby-Dooby-Doo. After all, even a Greek like Sisyphus could tell you it’s much easier to push a boulder down a hill than to drag it back up. But these 90 wretched souls weren’t men blessed to be mere mortals. These were men and women doomed to be Zealots—humans with an insatiable passion for suffering, and a quenchless quest for pain. A million years from now, our itinerant tribe of bipedalers will be known as Homo velo masochist. People will be glad we’re gone, like Homo neanderthalensis.

Bowman B.B. was scheduled to be a 4-hour, 80 mile affair, but with Mr. Doppler D. Death inching his spindly green fingers closer and closer to Athens, the route administrators rerouted the wiring on this particular circuit. At the post ride press conference, when asked why the route was changed, Jim Kastner, thinking himself Herodutus said, “Though pain will eventually ebb away into the craggy reaches of the subconscious, the burn marks branded by the rain only two weeks earlier were still throbbing under the magnetic pull of this particular purple haze. In other words: ‘Ain’t no way we gone get caught in the rain today!’” The Zealots elected to do the Around Athens Loop, a course that circles Athens, always keeping Sunshine Cycles—the starting point—in close range, just in case the bricks came tumbling down. Though not completely waterproof, the Around Athens Loop could be as long, or as short, as the Zealots’ tiny little black hearts desired. There were plenty of points along today’s path to tuck tail and skitter back home.

Several Saturday morning West Washington Street denizens were scoring points for the 3rd week in a row and moving into a tie for 1st in the Yellow Jersey competition with 8 points. Some of the fortunate folk in a dead heat for gold were: the Bradley duo of Glenn and Kari; Shooting Starr Bridges, Joe Billy Bob Burch, Stephen Pennies Dean, George O. Drewry, Turbo Gentry, Doug Gilligan Gilfillan, Bruce J. for Jacobs, Erich P.B. Mattei, Ken 4-Leaf Mulligan, Rory the Pilgrim Mellinger, David Farmboy Nixon, Micah Bean Rice, Len 6 hour Slote, G Man Somerville, Mick MKK Stukes and Jeremy Lumpkin County Wadkins. But last year’s Yellow Jersey goddess, Mrs. Erin Boots Winter, had also signed in every week, and because all ties fell beneath the boots of the victor, Boots was still clad in Yellow. After Boots signed in, she looked around at the other contingent of grim faced competitors for this year’s Golden Fleece and shuddered and juddered like a dump truck hacking black phlegm from its exhausts. Boots had been enjoying her time as the Big Dog in the universe and living off the fat of the land. She feared she had gone soft. She had gained .0000000000278600345 of a pound. She knew from studying the musty annals of the forgotten WBL historical pages that kind of slipup could be just the crack that allowed some gaunt, rabid and foaming at the mouth maniac to knock her backside right off the top of the totem pole where it so comfortably rested at the moment.

After the Zealots were again reminded that they participate in these rides at their own risk, and that they assume all risk of injury including the following: a bent toe, a strained neck, sore legs, a jammed finger, a cracked clavicle, hurt feelings, a headache, a backache, fever blisters, wounded pride, a broken heart, a crushed ego, frozen feet, chipped nails, psychological scarring, and even worse, the group of adventurers clipped their cleats into their pedals, and shoved off for another day’s peregrinations through the dark and dangerous roads that are the WBL. As they turned the corner and headed out Prince Avenue, all eyes glanced upwards at the boiling mass of mist. The Believers crossed themselves. The others reached down inside their Spandex where they kept their lucky rabbit’s foot and rubbed it one last time. Brian Lord threw a pinch of salt and a still- beating bullfrog’s heart over his left shoulder to ward off evil spirits. “Hey, does that really work?” Jed Schneider wanted to know.

The Around Athens Loop can be accessed at a myriad of different points along its sorta-circular route. This day, the pack cruised out Prince Avenue and connected with the uppity end of Jefferson Riviera Road (doublewides and Cadillacs) via the Pink Church Aqueduct Shortcut. Once again, it was the military strongman the Big G Greg Somerville assuming his customary position at the front and wailing away on his pedals for the first 45 minutes like a scalded dog that’d gone insane too. Big G pulled out the J. Riviera and all the way around the Brocton Loop Road. When he did pull off, he said, “Now I’m warm.” So was everyone.

Today, though, there were no shortages of pedal bashers who wanted to be the lead dogs in this sled train. A lean looking rabble of Young Turks, including, but by no means limited to, Todd No Name Henriksen, The Kid Jon Murphy and Mad Zack Bolian, put the bit between their teeth, taped heir ears to their heads, and stuck their faces into the wind. They pulled the frostbitten, but lusty lads and gritty gals around at a tempo that was guaranteed to please—enough to keep the coals in the furnace constantly stoked; but also requiring a constant inflow of fuel into the tanks. These experienced slaves of the lonely road knew that the bitter cold can drain your tanks faster than a stripper can swipe all your (my) paper.

Some folk’s fuel is better than others, and the perfect fuel became the topic of the day as the pack ventured across Highway 441 and pushed into D. Nixon goat, turkey, hog and emu country, all of which he suggests as a pre-ride meal, on the bike snack, and/or post-ride feast. Skinny Dan Asbury recommends “chocolate bars and plenty of sex. How come you think I’m so damned fast,” he snickered, chocolate fudge oozing from between his teeth. Chris Cannonball Andrus suggests a flask filled with scotch and Powerade: “Takes the bite outta the air,” he claims, “as long as you space your draws at 5 minutes apart. “I prefer air,” Chris Ice Pic boasted, “but only sucked when sucked in through my [what?]” Scott Edge and his wife Louise were partial to creepy-crawlers, ladybugs and incense, but refused to elaborate. But all of them agreed that without the added element pain and wonder, their concoctions for love and speed were nothing more than a simpleton’s recipe for fun, but without the pleasure.

The groupetto continued its push around town muzzle to arse, seeking warmth and comfort in close confines. As the group bounded through Hull and drove like a spike through Winterville, all riders knew that like the ancient migration of the wooly mammoth, should they stumble and fall, the pack would not—could not—wait. This was Darwinism in action: the strong will themselves forward; the weak falter and die, left to freeze in the deep ravines along that lined the sides of the roads.

But this was a group of wizened old wizard-Zealots. They had been down this road before, and they all knew how to clamp down on a bullet with their front 4 teeth. As the pack cruised through Winterville, the average speed was 18.7 miles per hour. When the Young Turks heard this news, they said this will never do. They took the lead on the flat 6 mile runway of the Arnoldsville Road, and ratcheted the pace up 2 pegs or more. The wind pushed the peloton from the rear, the Turks pulled from the front side, and the average speed began to climb slowly, slowly, slowly.

The group zipped through Arnoldsville and cut over to Wolfskin Road. On Wolfskin, the pack continued straight to Watkinsville, crossing the terrible trifecta of hills that included the monstrous Bad Dog Hill. These last torturous set of hills twisted the Zealot’s quads into a quivering shock of fibers. The bold and hearty pack would not stop fighting and crushed the steep pitches of the trifecta and sped home via South Milledge Avenue. It was handshakes all around back home at the parking lot: the average speed had been bumped upwards to 19.5 miles; the total distance 72 miles. The pack had beaten Mother Nature today; they had completed the journey before the water dropped or even dripped. All was well, no worries.

No one even saw the lights flickering in the far reaches of the western sky. No one even heard the distant rumble.

The Chronicler