Why would you do that to yourself?

On Saturday, I spent 8 hours riding a 126-mile loop around Paul Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin. It wasn’t a race. It wasn’t a charity ride. It was pain management.

The Evansville Classic 200K was my first randonneuring brevet. It was one hell of a—

Wait, what?

What are those words?

Rollout for the Evansville Classic.

Rollout for the Evansville Classic.

Randonneuring. Brevet. I don’t know that I fully understand it. But I know it involves riding for hundreds of miles, racing against the clock (not other people), and accepting no outside help or support. You have a time limit to complete the ride, and you must check in at “controls” along the way to prove you’re not off-course, and to make sure your pacing is OK. Someone at the control signs your cue card, and off you go.

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Day 27: One large pizza? Nah, get two.

7/11/15: 63 miles, Farmington, Mo., to Ellington, Mo.

First of several tough days ahead. We didn’t bolt from Farmington right away as we decided to wait for Trans AM Cyclery to open so John could get a new tire and some spokes.

From Farmington, the route snaked along U.S. Bike Route 76 into the Ozarks proper. Lots of hills, lots of traffic. We got honked at and flipped off by an Orca-fat woman on a Harley, which we henceforth took as the token emblem of southern Missouri.

A fairly uneventful day on the bike aside from the middle fingers, loud horns and coal rollin’ pickup trucks:

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Day 26: Proper Popeye sendoff from Illinois

7/10/15: 47 miles, Chester, Ill., to Farmington, Mo.

We set a new record for waking up late today. We didn’t get out of the bike shack behind the Eagles lodge until about 12:30 p.m. Sure, you could say we, uh, went to bed late. Or we had a few too many drinks that we paid for or didn’t. To be fair, we were inside of a dark little shack with an air conditioner that cranked all night (or morning).

I helped John true his wheel and adjust his brakes as my coffee cooled. Once we were ready to go, it was almost 1 p.m. and into the high 80s. That the city of Chester was under a boil alert because of the recent flooding didn’t help, either, because we had no more water. The bar wasn’t open until 3. Our first stop, then, was a Casey’s gas station to get some water and Gatorades.

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Day 25: What happens in Chester stays in Chester

7/9/15: 78 miles, Goreville, Ill., to Chester, Ill.

Woof. We got pounded by rain overnight. I ended up cooking dinner under my rainfly and eating dinner in my tent. After what was a wet night, we slowly packed up camp and made the long, steep climb out of the campsite. Rain beckoned once again, making the decision to indulge in a big breakfast at Delaney’s in Goreville even easier:

What a breakfast. Eggs, hashbrowns, pancakes, bacon, French toast, coffee. The brazen overconsumption of calories at the beginning of the day is still one of the top reasons I love bike touring.

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Day 24: Golden Retriever torpedo

7/8/15: 63 miles, Cave-in-Rock, Ill., to Goreville, Ill.

After we cleared out of the cabin, I loaded our wet crap into the car and our bikes on the back. Of course, the rear windshield was fogged up, and I gently backed into a small tree (really?! really). That’s what I get for not driving a car in a month.

I ran out to check the bikes, and it all appeared fine. Phew.

I drove John, Michelle and I back down to the Ohio River where we’d officially commence day 24. Said important goodbyes and moseyed on. We rode by what looked to be a low-security prison, setting a warm tone for the day.


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