“Guitar Ted and I drove down to Emporia, Kansas on Thursday. GT wasn’t racing, but he wanted to see everyone and hand out Riding Gravel stickers. He had printed out maps of the area and was going to do a ride-about away from the course; I’m sure he will submit his CO’D metric century soon. We stayed in a dorm room at the college; the AC wasn’t working and the building was hot and stuffy. We went for a short ride Friday morning until GT had a major blowout on his rear tire and we had to limp it back to town. We spent the rest of the day getting registered, going to the rider meeting, and getting new tires on GT’s bike. The weather was looking perfect for Saturday, until the forecast changed and they were predicting rain at night and up to 20 mph NW winds all day Saturday. We woke up at 0400 and headed to breakfast at the cafeteria before heading down to the starting line. It had rained, but everything in town was drying up. GT hung out with me at the starting line until we left at 0600. As we turned on to the first gravel road at the edge of town, the entire road was flooded with 6 inches of water. By the time we rode through a few sections of flooded gravel, we had passed several hundred riders on the side of the road with various degrees of mechanical problems. I saw more than one derailleur hanging from the bike. I wasn’t trying to win the race, so I just gingerly pedaled my way through the water and tried not to force anything. Within a few more miles we were on dry roads, but I could tell that all of my chain lube had washed out of the chain. I didn’t bring any extra lube, so I just kept pedaling. The wind was out of the West and the course was typical Flint Hills two-track. There were rough sections where I was riding my bike faster than I would ever drive my 4X4 pick-up. I rode past a bike wreck with several people attending to an injured rider; he appeared to be in pretty bad shape. Several emergency vehicles responded and we all stopped and pulled off of the road so they could get by. At the first river crossing, I saw everyone carrying their bike, but it only appeared to be ankle-deep, so I attempted to ride through it. Everything was going good until I hit the main channel on the far bank and hit a knee-deep hole. It probably washed a pound of mud and rock off of my bike, but I doubt if it did my bottom bracket or wheel bearings any good. We were heading mostly SE towards Madison by this time and the tailwind was making for a pretty easy ride. Every now and then I could hear Bobwhite Quail calling in the pastures and creek bottoms along the course; I heard quail off and on all day except when the wind was whistling past my ears. I saw several little turtles sitting in the middle of the road with their head and feet tucked into their shell. Rolled into Madison and found the Never Let Go Crew-for-Hire tent in the high school parking lot. Filled up my Camelbak, cleaned my sunglasses, and added a few pumps of air in my front tire. Pedaled out of Madison and headed into the west wind again before swinging to the SE towards Eureka. The scenery in this area was spectacular; grass and rock for as far as you could see. There were a few roadkill armadillos, and I was hoping to see a live one before the end of the race. The tailwind was awesome and I made Eureka in a little over 7 ½ hours. I was in good shape and I didn’t spend too long before heading out again. We rode South and East for quite a ways before turning north. The wind was mostly out of the NW and it had picked up considerably. This was the longest section between checkpoints, and it was getting hot. The wind was taxing, and I was going through a lot of water as I ground into the wind. I was hot, dry, and tired when I arrived at the last checkpoint. I was hungry, but my gut wouldn’t let me eat a lot. I spent a lot of time walking around and hydrating before I topped off my water and headed out for the last leg of the race. My chain had been noisy since mile 30, but it was really raising hell now and I thought it was going to break at any minute. I tried to keep the chainline as straight as possible and use easy gears, but the chain popped and groaned as I pedaled. As the sun set, I stopped and took a picture of the horizon.
I switched glasses and turned on my lights so I could read my cue sheet. Next year I am going to use the navigation on my Garmin instead of the cue sheets. The wind had died down, but my knee was pretty sore so I wasn’t going very fast. The chain was getting downright embarrassing now. It was so worn that it would bend instead of shifting to the next gear. At mile 180, I could see the town of Emporia. We still had to go East and North to get over the river and then to the north side of town. An ambulance and several first responders passed us before the bridge, and when we caught up, they were loading an injured cyclist on the cot for transport. His injuries didn’t appear to be too serious. There were a lot of turns and I had to stop and change my cue sheets a few time in just a few miles. I saw a pair of eyes reflecting on the side of the road ahead of me and thought it might be a cat, but it turned out to be an opossum; it was heading towards cover as I rode by. I came to a “DEAD END” sign and took a left as several people with Garmin navigation kept going straight. I turned around and followed them to a tunnel under the highway and into town. My goal was to finish the race, but my ultimate goal was to finish before midnight. Some people race the sun, but I was just trying to beat the calendar. I rolled through the Finish Line at 11:54 PM with 205.32 miles on the Garmin. LeLan was there to shake my hand and GT was at the fence offering his congratulations. All of the venders were wrapping up for the night, so we went back to our hot stuffy dorm room and opened the windows so we could sleep.”