Wednesday, October 21, 2020

I'm A Cowboy, On A Carbon Horse I Ride - 2020 Pony Express Gravel Dash

Photo Oct 16, 4 58 34 PM

This is the third year I've done the Pony Express 120 Gravel Dash and it's normally one of the last races of the year, this year even more so with it happening a month later than normal. Usually we'd be Ponying it up in September but then the gravel race formally known as DK... The Dirty Kanza, if you're nasty... (a Prince and Janet reference in the same sentence, be still my heart) slid into the weekend that the Pony Express had slated for their race. The organizers of the Pony Express then called an audible and moved to October, ironically the DK never happened but the new date was already set. Still in the midst of Covid guidelines, masks and social distancing was the norm for the Pony Express as it has been for all the races I've been a part of this year. To the credit of the organizers of the races that I've participated in, I have not heard of any cases being contributed to the race. It's possible that the elimination of mass starts, large rider meetings and after race parties might be a rarity for the foreseeable future but from what I've seen and experienced, it does seem like modified events are possible. Even if not a popular opinion.

Photo Oct 16, 4 41 53 PM

Teach me how to Hopken.





With the normal area used for the start/finish line in Marysville under construction, this year it moved to just in front of the Union Pacific Station. Built in 1929 the Station was weeks away from being demolished in 2015 when the City of Marysville and the UP Preservation Society bought the station and started restoring it. The Union Pacific station was designed by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood, most famously known for designing lodges in our National Parks. Underwood also designed 9 Union Pacific stations and all of them were beautiful, ornate designs, the Union Pacific Station in Omaha is another of his designs. These stations and lodges were built by the Union Pacific as an incentive to get folks to travel by train to the National Parks thus increasing UP revenue. While still in the renovation process it's great to see these types of historical buildings being saved from the wrecking ball, architecture like this just isn't being produced today.


Photo Oct 16, 6 29 36 PM

Photo Oct 16, 6 26 27 PM


Check-ins were checked, beers drank, prizes raffled and won. Amy also gave an emotional speech about her recent battle with breast cancer and gave a little insight into her coming up with the idea and formation of Pink Gravel as a way to raise awareness of breast cancers among active runners and gravel enthusiast. For more information on Pink Gravel, click HERE.


The staggered start was in affect and participants had a 20 minute window in which to start their race, I was part of a three person relay team riding the third leg so I had time to kill before I'd need to get ready to ride.




Winds were strong and temps were low that morning, I was not envious of those riding in the wee hours of the day. On my way to checkpoint one I snagged a few pictures of the Pony Express rider and a few of the black squirrel sculptures that are everywhere around town. Two things Marysville is famous for is as a former Pony Express station and for the abundance of living black squirrels, which are also everywhere but not as into posing as the sculptured ones are.






The tiny town of Summerfield, Kansas, a town totally devoid of any sort of cell reception, was the site of the first checkpoint. Winds were still whipping and temps were still in the 40s, I was chilly but riding must have helped with that because a few of the crew left jackets and vests with me to take back to the start/finish. That was a good sign because it meant I might actually warm up at some point in the day.



The first relay point was some 20 miles up the course in Du bois, Nebraska. While bigger than Summerfield, there wasn't a single thing in Du bois except the forbidden love of a dog and cat. Nothing was open in the entire town, the lady running the Post Office was also the lady who would open the bar at 11 am after she closed the Post Office. I picked Doug up, who crushed his leg of the relay, and watched Sarah ride off to start her leg before Doug and I went in search of some Casey's pizza.


After Casey's, Doug and I headed to the second relay point to wait for Sarah to ride in. Once we saw Matt pull into the lot we knew it was only a matter of minutes before we'd see her so I grabbed the bike and warmed up a little bit. Sitting in a car and standing in the cold and wind most of the day was not ideal for preparing to race bicycles so I am glad that I got a few minutes to get the legs going.



Since we as a team were trying to do well in the race, I opted to not bring the camera along on the bike to stave off that distraction. The first 15 miles into that stiff SSW 24 mph wind sucked but thankfully as the day went on the winds began to drop so the second half of the leg became a little less windy as the ride went on. The entire leg was in about the same direction but I was able to add almost a mile per hour to the total mph average over the course of the second half of the leg once the winds started dropping. While not the fastest time or average I've had on the Revolt, given the winds I felt like it was a good effort and I gave it what I had.



As a team we did fantastic and raked in the hardware, we finished under 9 hours total time for the 120 miles and took first in the relay. Super proud of my teammates for absolutely crusing it out there on course!


The second and third place teams were comprised of junior racers from the Move Up Cycling Team. Don't let their young age or diminutive size fool you, they were fast and did really well, they are the future of gravel.


We weren't the only ones of the group to come home with some hardware however, Joe and Roy took 1st and 2nd in the 70 mile fat bike division.

Overall I am super stoked with our team and decently happy with my leg of the race. The Revolt performed flawlessly again and was fast as always, winds and temps could have been better but we don't get to control that part of it I suppose. It was great seeing all the Rastas out there and to have so many of us podium, great folks and great shop. Next year we are coming for the 70 mile tandem race, I think we have a decent chance of doing really well in that race also, we just need to get the miles on the bike early in the season and perfect our on bike teamwork. 

Oh, some of the photos were borrowed from Matt Pearson. He can take some mighty fine pictures. 


Monday, October 12, 2020

Old Hat and New School




Tried to get out to Van Dorn Park and Wilderness Park last week but a late Friday night shower put a damper on those plans. So were rolled forward a week and gave it another go and as it turned out the conditions were much more favorable this week. We did two laps at VDP first and then headed over to Wilderness Park with the plan to get to the danger bridge and cruise on back. VDP first worked out much better than waiting until the end, while not the biggest loop in the world if you're trying to maintain some speed, those punchy climbs will get the lungs and legs working. 



Park was in great shape, once we got to Danger Bridge we decided to roll down on the top of the old railroad bed to check out the progress of the new bridge that will eventually connect the Jamaica North Trail to the paved trail system in south Lincoln. 


Looks like they are really close to being done on the west side of the construction, not sure what it looks like on the east side where they needed to pave about a half mile of trail to connect the bridge to the existing city trails. I was a bit disappointed to see that they built the hand rail in a manner that cuts off the trail on top of the old railroad bed in Wilderness from the new bridge but it sounds like eventually they plan to open up access at this point. My understanding is this will happen after they figure out how to take some of the danger out of Danger Bridge by adding guard rails of some sort to that bridge. That's "progress" and the world we live in, nobody has ever fallen off the bridge in it's 100 or so years of existence that I know of but because someone might decide to do that now we have to make sure there is Nerf on all the sharp edges and the crayons are all picked up. Morons are not an endangered species but we certainly act like they are, maybe that's why there are so many of them.




After Wilderness we hit up Saro for a much needed refreshment, Dave was looking especially pretty in his kit and scarf.


"Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath borne me on his back a thousand times, and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. —Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one now to mock your own grinning? Quite chapfallen? Now get you to my lady’s chamber and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favor she must come. Make her laugh at that.—Prithee, Horatio, tell me one thing."

Had a bit of a Hamlet moment at Saro, didn't think much of it at the time and was just goofin around with the mask clad skull but later when I was going over pictures it kind of hit me how fitting that scene in Hamlet is for everyday life. Death comes for all of us and we never know when that is going to be.



After Saro there was a quick stop over to Oso Burrito for some tasty morsels. I am so glad it was just a brief hiatus for Oso, used to stop at the one on Van Dorn and 70th Street all the time on my way out of town and it's nice to have it back. Menu is a bit truncated currently but hopefully that will change as things open up more, time will tell on that I suppose. 







Sunday we finally made it out to the Oxbow Trail in Ashland, pretty cool place. A lot of jumps and a few elevated skinnies, not really my style of riding but for those who prefer that type of thing it would be a veritable play land. I did happen upon this waterfall and pond on the back half of the black diamond section. Hard to believe this is Nebraska but it is and while the waterfall is technically a culvert it does carry water from the natural stream, it was a gorgeous crystal clear surface over a jade green stream bed. The camera didn't do it justice at all, if you head out there make sure to take it in even if it means walking most of the black diamond trail. 


Wrapped up a perfect weekend of riding bikes with a stop at Glacial Till's tasting room. While Oxbow might not be my bag, Ashland is definitely worth a repeat visit and who knows maybe the more I ride Oxbow the more it'll grow on me.