Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Gangrene (Well, Maybe Not Quite)

As I’d mentioned, I did go riding last night. I did not, however, go riding at Cades Cove. I talked to Wally at mid-day and he established that instead of going up to the Cove, he would instead be leading a night-time Greenway ride starting at the old Bi-Lo Supermarket at 6:00pm. I begged for a later start, say …6:30, and he agreed. I just can't get there after work by 6:00.

It should have been easy for me to make it by 6:30. Really, I could have been there a few minutes early on an ordinary day. But as I was leaving work yesterday, a co-worker asked me for an opinion on a subcontracting issue he was struggling with. He’s a good guy, and I’ve been dealing with subcontracts for years, so I spent a few minutes discussing it with him. Not a problem; even ten minutes late leaving I could make it.

Then I got behind a flatbed truck carrying sod on a curvy, hilly road (actually I was about seven cars back). I think it averaged about 15 miles per hour (the speed limit is 55 mph). Yes, they had room to pull over onto the shoulder. No, of course they didn’t. Five miles later the line of cars stretching behind that truck was likely a mile long.

Even once I got home little things slowed me down. I ended up finally deciding to take my mountain bike since it already has my light mount on it and I didn’t have time to transfer it to another bike. I barely had time to find my lights before I left. I called Wally and let him know I was running behind, so he said they’d ride up a little ways and then come back for me.

I got to the parking lot and got my gear together as quickly as I could. Gary C. showed up and asked if I’d seen Wally and the others. We took off down the trail at about 6:40 pm to go catch up to them.

We met Ron coming back the other way after about ½ mile. He told us he was headed back to Wally’s truck to get him some extra light cable and that Wally and Gary S. had taken a detour to RiverSports to get better gloves. The temperature was in the low 30s and the gloves they’d brought weren’t doing the job. Gary C. was under a time crunch, so he decided to go on and ride out the Greenway, so I turned back with Ron. We got Wally’s cable and headed to RiverSports.

Wally and Gary S. got some nice gloves there. There was a sale on some Mountain Hardware gloves, and they did look warm. So with that out of the way we headed back to the Greenway happy and warm…almost.

I had good gloves. I had good tights, a wool jersey under a windshell, a balaclava, and wool socks. Sadly, the socks were the weak link, or rather the lack of shoe covers may have been. My toes started feeling a little cold right from the start. No worries, I thought, as they would warm up once I got my body temp up and my circulation really going. Riiiight.

We rode out to the Ijams Nature Center, stopping at the Island Home Community Park when we saw Gary C. coming the other way and spent a few minutes chatting with him. We did a total of about 23 miles, and I’d given up on having warm toes after about seven. I just didn’t think they’d ever get that cold. I ended up being the one to say “OK, let’s get going again” each time we stopped just so we could get back to someplace warmer sooner.

With about five miles to go I noticed that the cold was creeping up my legs. That was actually a secondary concern at that point because I noticed that my lights were fading. In fact, the light on my handlebars was about dead. The light on my helmet was still shining, but somewhat diminished. I turned my light off during the times we were under streetlamps, but the last three miles were in the woods. With a little over a mile to go I had to ask Wally to pull up next to me so I could see by his light. It might have been my imagination, but I think he started half-wheeling me about then.

We got back to the cars and decided to go get food. We ended up at Ruby Tuesdays (I do like their burgers), but I never really warmed up while we were there. Even when I left I blasted the heat on high the whole way home. I never got warm in the truck even though my head was sweating. I took a hot shower when I got home. I changed into clean dry wool socks. I hopped in bed and stuck my feet under a heat engine (aka: cat). It still took another hour before my feet felt warm.

We’re doing this ride again next week. I’m buying some shoe covers this weekend. And maybe some battery-powered socks.

I wonder what the ASPCA would say if I just strapped a cat to each foot while I ride?

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