Well, once again a bunch of us braved the cold weather and ventured forth into downtown Knoxville in search of fun and adventure. This year marks the third or fourth year that I’ve participated in the Tour de Downtown Parking Garages, and the second year that it’s been held on New Year’s Day instead of Christmas.
We had a bigger crowd this year than we’ve had before. Actually, attendance has increased each year, I believe. Last year I think there were six of us. This time I think there were sixteen or more. We met at the sculpture of the Rowing Sinking Man as usual at around 3 pm. Why so late? Well, the hometown college team played in the Outback Bowl (and sadly lost), so we made accommodation for those of us who wanted to watch the game.
I showed up right on time, but had a few issues to iron out. I’d just replaced my rear tube (which I'd flatted weeks ago in Florida) before I left the house, but somehow it went flat again before I could get to the meeting point. I spent about five or ten minutes changing my tire and then changing into my cold weather riding gear, but everyone was willing to wait for me. Besides, it gave Bob D. a chance to change the gearing on his singlespeed. Then we headed out toward the Walnut Street Garage.
In years past I have always done well in the parking garage coaster races. That’s where you go to the top to start and everybody coasts the whole way down. However, I find myself a little more tentative about riding very close to other people, especially since I hadn’t ridden with some of these folks before. I chose discretion and took a fifth-place finish.
I’m used to us hitting almost all of the downtown parking garages on these rides, but the will of the group was that we head straight over to Thompson Boling Arena for the ‘Spiral of Death’ race. As we took a practice lap I noticed a concrete bollard that was lying on its side that could have caused somebody big problems if they hit it. So after the practice lap, I went over to try to move it out of the way. I was able to move it in increments (sliding one end over, then the other, then the first again, et cetera). However, much to my chagrin, I pulled a muscle in my lower back in the process. Ow. Not bad enough to keep me from continuing riding, but bad enough to hurt like crazy.
We ended up doing two races there (I was not competitive in either). I took a flying start in the first race before waiting for someone to say “Ready, Set, Go”, but that was mainly to prove that I know how to cheat (cheating is encouraged in these races) and to get everybody going. I didn’t even maintain my lead for half of the first lap.
Last year we stopped at a fountain on campus and watched as Phillipe rode inside of it (it's drained and dry this time of year). On this occasion, we got to watch Phillipe and Luke W. do it at the same time. Next year I expect to see it done with circus bears and monkeys riding on tandems. To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, here's a shot of Phillipe doing it by himself last year.
We ended the day at the Dwight Kessel Garage, which is arguably the best downtown venue for bicycle garage racing. I think we did only two races, but we also did a lot of other laps inside the garage for practice/fun. Again, I was not competitive.
After that we all went our own respective ways (though I stopped by Bob’s truck – parked near mine – for an adult beverage and a slice of summer sausage). I got home and pulled an ice-pak out of the freezer and laid on that up in the office while MG was processing expense reports. I’m not sure it helped much, nor did the hot shower I took twenty minutes later, but at least the shower felt good.
And my back really hurts this morning. I walk with a strange shuffle, and I can’t stay seated for long. Still, I’m glad I moved the bollard. I just wish I had lifted it differently. Or maybe just marked it with road flares or something.