While I was down in Alachua and Reddick ripping out 8 mile time trial loops with the waterbug crew, Sasquatch was busy picking off a major ride in the life list, the Spaghetti 100K off-road loop. 70 miles of back country clay roads winding through the north Florida/ southern Georgia plantation land. It was a bellering cry of protest from the gentle giant. As Powder continues to coax me onto the singletrack, Sasquatch heeds the call for more miles. If this crew is ever going to pull back together, I need to get them both to Dr. Santos for a prescription of miles and miles, of singletrack. I have to get to work now, I can’t be standing around the parking lot jacking jaws with you people. Maybe S’quatch will come out of hiding and tell us a little about his weekend ride. Be still everyone, he’s a little skittish. Oh! Ssshhhhh! I think I hear him coming now…

6 Responses to 100K

  1. I’ve got so much joy juice on reserve from that ride I can definitely splash a little on the blog. By way of set-up, the ride was with G.A. (for Guardian Angel), so named here because he practically flitted his way the whole 70 miles – a couple of times I’d crest a hill to find him scurrying back my direction to make sure I hadn’t been chased down and gummed to death by Farmer Brown’s ancient coon dog. Between the bike and rider weight difference I was pedaling about 100 more lbs than G.A., so it was like a mustang running with a Clydesdale (who likes his feed). Besides, G.A. runs marathons and twice has completed a double century, which for those who may not know means that he got on his bike and raced it for two hundred miles in one hellish day (6th place), and then a year later chose to do it again. G.A. also took on the job of reminding me along the way that this might be a good time to drink something and now might be a good time to eat a little something, and he wore a camelback cornucopia of carbtastic treats that were all Sasquatch kosher, as is any consumable that’s not been buried in the ground for more than three days, allowances made for kimchi.

    Now that I’ve introduced you to G.A., I’ll say a bit about the Off-Road Spaghetti 100. It’s 100 kilometers, which is around 65 miles, and it’s all red clay double-track running through North Florida / South Georgia plantations, with the very occasional stretch of asphalt and a couple of tiny Georgia towns like Boston, which ALWAYS smell like freshly mown grass and ALWAYS have kids in the yard who are overjoyed to see you ride by. These towns make you think to yourself that if you had been born and lived there you’d probably be a more decent person, but then a scarcely perceptible and mysterious shudder passes through you that makes it easier to pass on through.

    The bottom line is that this ride is gorgeous. Red clay ribbons cutting through new green and ancient green and pine green and oak green and all variety of flowering vine and because almost the whole damn tract of land is owned by one single, solitary daughter of the confederacy you can ride the whole route and see maybe four cars. Seriously, if you got so fatigued or high or hot and mentally compromised that paranoia set in you could get in the middle of all that and wonder if maybe you were trespassing because it’s all yours while you’re riding it, with a couple of exceptions that I’ll get to later but that don’t really matter when you’re riding with G.A. and his trusty pepper spray.

    O.K., so that’s the set-up. Next entry I’ll tell you about the actual ride.

  2. Don’t be bothering me when I’m telling the story you invited me to tell. Damn. O.K., on with the saga….

    Part II: It’s All Good

    The first leg of the ride is about 3 miles of paved county road which leaves from the town of Miccosukee, FL before hitting the red clay doubletrack. We started out at a brisk pace, me on my Gary Fisher 29er hard-tail with a new wheel set and road worthy tires. G.A. was riding a completely tricked out Cannondale F600 hard-tail with his knobbies pumped up to 60 lbs each.

    I’d ridden part of this route with Juancho earlier in the year, and on that day the humidity was low and the clay roads were hard and the course was fast. Today G.A. and I were riding in a sauna with a 40 % chance of showers. I was DETERMINED that nothing was going to stop me from completing the entire ride, come hell or high water, and both turned out in the end to be in plentiful supply.

    That first transition from pavement to clay was a difficult moment for Clydesdale consciousness. That was the moment I realized I was going to sink into the road just enough to leave at least a small track the whole trek long. Visible footprints are clearly against the Sasquatch code. You know those resistance machines you adjust by number? Well, if road firmness is number 1, I’d been picturing this ride as a number 3, and we hit soft clay that I’m calling number 5. Firm enough, but my expectations changed immediately. Increased slog factor, fishtail soup alert engaged: Undeniable pain ahead.

    In my opinion, commitment to a quest is the joy of cross-country cycling. You may cut a corner here or there — go around a swamp, connect two trails with a section of road when you could have found a way to stay on dirt, walk the bike somewhere you could have ridden it, but in general you pick a route and clobber the bitch. Sometimes it’s easier than you think it’s going to be, and sometimes it’s harder. But once you ladle it up, you lick the bowl until all the pudding is gone. Either that or you pretend not to notice when Life sticks the “I’m A Big Pussy” sign on your back to wear until next time.

    There is a section of this trail about 15 miles in at the Florida/Georgia border when you come to a thickly canopied clay road intersection and the road you’re on suddenly gives way to a crow’s foot of three, equally intriguing roads. One road veers slightly to the left, one slightly to the right, and one is a 90 degree right turn. All three choices are bright red, graded roads, and you can’t see too far down any of them. Each one looks like it goes to its own magical, ancient Oak destination. It’s one of the few situations where the overused phrase, “It’s All Good” actually seems to apply. Our route is the middle path, but it’s hard to give up those other possibilities. We’ve been on the trail for close to an hour and have yet to see another person.

    From here it goes on and on and on, on, and on. Turning pedals through the hummingbirds and fox squirrels. About 35 miles in we pulled up to the town of Boston Georgia. There’s one convenience store with the A.C. cranked which is great because the world by then was one giant green steam room. There are two fifty something black men sitting in front of the store, and one has what I swear is the biggest nose I’ve ever seen. Not only wide, but long as hell and huge with personality like you’d expect on an exotic, termite slurping bear. This guy immediately says to me, “Looks like you’re missing something there” and I’ve gotten all the way to the soul portion of my self-inventory before he clarifies that he’s nagging me about not wearing a helmet. What can I say but everybody wants to protect the Squatch.

    From there we hit the working man’s section of the trail – head down, getting it done, G.A. patching a flat, a little political/religious discussion from different sides of the fence, and ticking off the miles on red clay that’s either moved from a 5 back to a 4 or I’ve gotten used to it.

    This route is a huge rectangle, and at the end of the second long side, about 45 miles in, is a six mile spur that leaves the rectangle and takes you (still on clay roads) to the town of Thomasville and a the tiny Thomas college. You have to take this spur out and back in order to add the 12 miles necessary to make it a metric century. By the time we hit this spur trail I was tired as a motherfucker. Honestly, G.A. had lost no noticeable zip, but I was hitting every hill now with some serious dread. By the time I limped into Thomas College at 52 miles or so I was just taking it one hill at a time. It was 1:30 P.M. and I was completely out of water. When we left Thomas College all hydrated and steeled for the final 13 miles, I was ready for this ride to be over. In other words, it was time for something to go terribly wrong.

    Stay tuned for the third and final installment : Hell & High Water

  3. During this intermission I would like to remind our readers in the circus community to always wear a helmet, and if you run out of water, you can drink your own urine to survive. Now back to the story…

  4. Part III: Hell & High Water

    Remember the out-and-back spur I talked about in Part II? It involves two roads – Hicks Road (2 miles), which connects to the road to Thomas College we’ll call T.C. Road (4 miles) because I’ve forgotten it’s name. This spur is a bit different from the rest of the route because it actually goes somewhere, which means a few more people, which means trucks, and which also means dogs. Country folk may start out with one dog, but if they don’t shoot it or someone else doesn’t poison it, there will be more. There’s lots of room under the house, and it’s a pack thing anyway. The first pack of dogs we ran into were a shaggy, mangy lot, and they all smelled like skunk. Three or four around the bike and you’d swear you’d been sprayed. Remember the country kids that wave at you when you ride by like it’s a bike parade? Well, country dogs are similarly excited by spandex floating by on slow skinny tractors because packs of country dogs are bored as shit. They worked the alpha thing out a long time ago, and any cats still alive in their area will flat out fuck them up if they get any ideas.

    Of course I never even thought about dogs being a part of this ride, but at the first distant bark G.A. just casually goes to his utility belt for the pepper spray and slips the safety off smooth as you please. The first pack was huge in numbers, but the dogs were all medium size to small. I swear there was a ninja Chihuahua in that bunch, and a equally skunky lady and her tramp, and one that looked and ran like a cocker spaniel mutt crossed with one of her own littermates . This was one motley canine crew. G.A. blew through them, then turned around backwards in his seat and sighted down the barrel of that pepper spray on the lead dog while he was riding away, just as effortlessly as he’d done everything else that day. Later he shared that despite their skunkzombie wild-eyed and tattered displays of aggression, he felt those were basically good dogs at heart, more sporting that vicious, and he couldn’t bring himself to squeeze off on any of them. See, G.A. doesn’t want to hurt you and truly hopes you won’t make him.

    The next pack was different. First of all they started howling and gnashing their houndish teeth when we were still about 500 damn yards away. Even from that distance you could see they were bigger and better cared for than the first bunch. Nothing worse than self-esteem in a pack of dogs — even the runt bitch might make a run at you. I’m going to call these dogs German Shepherd Bird Dogs, because they appeared from a distance to have houndish abandon mixed with a working dog’s steely resolve. On our nervous but swift approach, G.A. unholstered his death spray and I unclipped my kicking foot and prepared to get frantic. But then they got goofy. The lesser dogs came in with an uncoordinated and half-hearted fan-out attack, fading back as we passed then turning up the volume in a half-circle rush at our back wheels. The biggest and baddest dog picked G.A. out and charged him at an impressive angle, but with only one dog to worry about G.A. just stood up out of the saddle and was gone. That left the 2nd in command to me, and he did the weirdest thing yet. He sprinted into the shallow ditch by the side of the road and stood perfectly still with his tail straight up in the air. He looked like a sportsman’s dog statue for two seconds, but the instant I came by parallel to his stance he charged into the road at me wildly like it was his last act in this world. Now that’s an internal doggy conflict. Do I impress this man with my ditch pointing skills or do I bite his ass? Anyway, I felt more sorry for him than afraid, so I screamed at him like a little girl and then rode away as fast as I could and it was all over.

    Of course these dog stories are a little flashback to better introduce the spur road experience. When I left you last time in Part II, we had already braved this canine trauma, hydrated at Thomas College, and had started our backtrack of this same treacherous section! Remember, also, that I was dying at this point, but trying to be brave. I also had three St. Pauli Girls iced down in my truck and they were calling to me like sirens on an impossibly distant rock. I eased up beside G.A. and tried to give him the key to my truck so he could just go on, get it done, and have a cold beer to drink while he waited on me. I preferred to suffer alone, but he wasn’t having it. He rode ahead, but never let himself get more than two hills away.

    Two miles out from Thomas College on the spur home, the road started changing from a ‘4’ to a ‘5’, and then a sloppy ‘6’. Wait a minute! We’d just passed through here on this same road and it was fine, and now it was getting definitely not fine. Then we felt the sprinkles and the road started slipping toward ‘6.5’. I was just starting to think, “Oh, this is some Bullshit right here….” when the heavens opened up and started dumping out the infinite mop bucket they keep up there. By this time we were maybe two miles or so from the Hicks Road turn and then we’d be two miles on Hicks Road before we were even back on the main route, which was even more clay and 7 – 8 more miles to home. Not that where we were mattered a damn bit, because where I was was my own private hell (drowning both physically and emotionally). Road firmness ceased to matter because you have to have a road to rate its firmness. What we had was a red clay creek bed. It was raining so hard it was like a summer joke, the bucket propped on top of the door and you keep going through in an endless loop. The groundwater was nutty, like sometimes it would be running like a river down the recent tire tracks in the road, and later when the storm just kept raging it started running across the road in that wash-out-the-road fashion, reminding me that several times that day G.A. had asked rhetorically, “I wonder if this road just washes away if it rains hard enough.” I didn’t even believe in rain until it happened, so I secretly blamed him for worrying about it. Hicks Road was a nightmare. First of all, the rain just kept getting harder and I got cold. I’d been baking and parched all day and now I was half-drowned and freezing. Every rotation of the tire got maybe 10 inches of real traction, so I was spinning along unevenly at about 3 miles an hour. Oh, hey, remember I said there were a few trucks traveling the spur? Well they weren’t faring a lot better. Occasionally one would slide along, wipers on hyperdrive, fishtailing from one side of the road to the other, with only the resolve to NOT STOP, whatever else happened, including taking out anyone insane enough to be on Hicks Road on a bicycle in THIS. Not that they could see us anyway through the sheets of rain and their own dry clothes, unmuddied panic. Come to think of it, it was the perfect setting for a reported Sasquatch sighting.

    Frankly, I was thinking it might be nice to be taken out by one of those metal beasts. The crash and crunch of it would be hard, but the surrender to the soft, deep mud and the helpless lying in wait would have its own sweet currency. I was 56 miles in at that point, and the longest ride I’d ever had before that in my whole life was 53 miles on sweet, accommodating road. That said, here’s the thing. I felt like a concussion victim who wanted to sleep but knew he couldn’t. I knew I couldn’t as much as put one voluntary foot down or I would be lost forever. I had to stay upright and keep pedaling, even at 3.6 miles per hour, because to stop would mean to start walking the bike with 50 pound Frankenstein mud block shoes and the next thing you know you’re just sitting cross-legged in a red water creek moaning for your damn momma. And this is the beauty of cross country cycling. You just keep fucking pedaling. And suddenly you find 10 yards of Georgia Clay slick rock that CAN’T be softened and it propels you forward and there’s a flash of hope before you’re fishtailing and sputtering and spinning out again. You just keep pedaling and stringing together those flashes of hope whenever and however you get them.

    Of course that was a little tougher when the yellow flies descended on us. What the fuck?! I kid you not when I testify that at the ABSOLUTE HARDEST of the HARD rain, yellow flies – Satan’s own sentinels that bite so hard they make you involuntarily suck in your breath – decided to start having their sick little way with us. It would have been better for us if someone had outfitted that second pack of dogs with cattle prods and taught them how to run out and shock us as we lumbered by in the rain. How could any creature even fly in such conditions? A little after we finished Hicks Rd and were back on the main route home, we slopped to a sliding halt and huddled together and took out our paper map of the route. I suppose we were hoping to find a miracle way home we’d somehow missed before, possibly involving a helicopter and a Bond girl. In the thick sheets of rain that were still coming down, the map immediately disintegrated in my hands and literally fell in pieces to the raging creek that once had been a road. At that moment the yellow flies found us again and started dive bombing G.A., and I thought for a second I was going to lose him. I was picturing him tearing off slapping at himself and screaming into the woods and never hearing from him again, which was just as well with me because by this time I was convinced that this whole thing was just a sick bet between God and the Devil that G.A. could be turned to weak indignation and wickedness if only God would let the Devil have his way on one ride. I was just an innocent bystander, maybe someone for G.A. to slay to prove he’d really cracked and embraced the devil’s ways.

    But no, in fact G.A. pulled it together immediately and stoically pointed to one of two roads we were pondering and yelled above the rain, “If we go that way we’ll hit pavement in one mile.” Why I believed a New Jersey guy who’d never been near this area before had any idea where he was or what he was talking about, I can’t say, but I kid you not that just hearing the spoken word “pavement” was a transcendent experience, and when we actually hit it a mile later it was all I could do not to smash my mouth on it just to watch my cursed blood run off fast and clean. Allow me one quick glance back to the clay ocean we just left to tell you that not one of those sorry dogs on Hicks Road as much as yipped when we floated by the second time. But BELIEVE ME when I say that the fantasies I was having about slaying them with my bike as a giant club before taking my own life with a mud dive fueled my fire for at least half of Hicks Road. I was muttering to myself, “I wish you motherfuckers would come on out here with your weak-ass yappy doodle bullshit cause I’M NOT AFRAID TO DIE!!!”

    Once we hit the pavement we never left it again. This made the ride home longer and jacked the whole adventure up to 70 miles, but that’s a nice biblical number and appropriate since God won his bet concerning G.A. without even breaking a sweat. Once we hit state Road 59 (a definite ‘1’ on the firmness scale), the sun peeked back out and that sweet blacktop blazed us into Miccosukee and a strong, triumphant finish. Sitting on the tailgates of our trucks and sipping those sweet, cold beverages was a bliss only found at the end of an epic ride where spirit has prevailed over despair and the red-washed pedals turn just because that’s all there is to do.

  5. It sounds like you got off course, so did you really complete the “Spahghetti 100 Off-road course”? Hmmm, maybe you need to go back there and get it done right this weekend.