Saturday, July 7, 2007

Tar and Stones in Illinois Day 35

Pictured on top is "Gold". That is one of the two conversion vans which are driven by our AbB staff. It carries the trailer in which all the cyclists' luggage is carried. The other van is called "Silver". The four AbB staff, which include Andy, Michelle, Gerard and Christine, usually spend half their day riding, and half their day driving the vans. Today, for example, Christine and Gerard rode bikes the first several hours while Andy and Michelle drove the vans, transporting any riders who could not ride today, offering water, helping with "mechanicals" (flat tires, other bike related issues) and setting up food and water at the SAG stops. Midway through the ride, they switched. This allows the staff to ride with the cyclists, and to experience what we experience.
Our ride was scheduled for 97 miles, but I got 102 miles, including a trip to a bike shop in Champaign, IL (where we're staying) for two new tires. The middle picture shows one of the roads we travelled, with seemingly endless rows of corn on both sides. We travel some pretty, isolated roads at times. Unfortunately, as today was hot, the "tar and chip" roads led to problems. I got a tremendous amount of tar on my tires while riding in the latter part of the route, and small stones were sticking to my tires by the hundreds. I had to stop multiple times to scrape off tar and stones, and even rode on the grass because the stones would get stuck in the brakes and prevent the (usually rear) tire from rotating.
The third picture is of my rear tire, after I had scraped off much of the tar and stones. You can still see a thick coat of tar on the tire surface, and multiple tiny stones. When we reached town, I was told a bike shop was still open, so (along with several other riders who needed bike work) I rode to the shop, where I purchased two tires and degreaser/tar remover. I put the new tires on at the shop, then rode to the hotel, just in time for a shower and dinner. Then another 45 minutes were spent cleaning the bike! Several other riders also had tar, but no one had as much as I did. Lucky me!
Tomorrow is a somewhat shorter day, scheduled for about 82 miles, so I hope to get a little time after the ride to relax, swim and "catch up". The ride is going well, and today's "tarring" was one of those challenges we have to face when cycling across the country.

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