I returned to Santos the next day with Pa Ingalls, ready to face the “big boys”. Orlando Dave (HFAC from the day before) was nowhere to be found, the scoundrel. I had been set up. By 6:30 P:M the parking lot was swarming with riders, all of them on FS rigs, helmet-mounted lights, and such.
Finally another rider showed up on a hardtail, and it was the new fastest guy in Tallahassee from my previous post! Man, it was great to see a friendly face. I always prefer to get my ass whipped by someone I know. Everyone was very cool to us, and I couldn’t help feeling like I was shaking hands with my own firing squad. The plan was to ride from the main lot to the I-75 Land bridge and back, 25 miles more or less I think. Lightless, Pa and I accepted the good advice to roll with them to the last bench at the 8 mile mark and turn around. Sounded pretty good to me. Once we were underway, the chatter began. The theme seemed to be – “When was your last race?” , “How did you do in it?”, “Are you going to race Expert this year?” and so on. From what I gathered, everyone there raced, except me. Tucked in the middle of a pack of 16 riders, inches from one another at times, we snaked through the trees. As far as I was concerned, this was the race. Some gaps opened up, one in front of me surprisingly! A little discouraged, I focused on keeping the dudes behind me, well, behind me. I could see the lead group a hundred yards ahead through the trees and I chased them like they stole my lunch money. My mouth tasted metallic, my left eye was twitching, my numb hands clutched the bar like lobster boy. I was prepared to die to keep up. Horse flies intermittently landed on our asses, causing the appropriate but bizarre image of men literally whipping their own asses like a jockey with a quirt. You can’t outrun those evil bastards and it feels like you’ve been plugged with a staple gun.
I knew we weren’t going far, so I focused on blowing out all I had. Juancho Longbow is not built for such antics, but we do what we must.
The bench came into view, Pa Ingalls and our Alpha host were waiting. I geared down and pulled in. As soons as I had a breath (not so soon actually) I wheezed out “It’s a damn good thing you stopped, I was just about to open up on your asses”. Alpha raised an eyebrow to that one. They both looked over my shoulder, to see two riders pull up in a miserable state.
I wasn’t last, and it felt like first to me.
Alpha clipped in, and in a parting shot told me- “You almost had us Juancho, I was just about to blow up.”
With that he was gone.
Thanks to the Santos gang. They are true gentleman and stone cold fast.
To the guys who were behind me, I hope you get over that flu soon.
Homesick Juancho Out!