Melon Metric XV

August 6, 2000

Plano, Illinois

96 miles

Bicycle:  Cannondale H-300

Ride Info: Naperville Bike Club

On Sunday, I headed back out to the land where I was raised for another century, this time starting in Plano, about five miles from where the Metro Metric  started in Yorkville. This was the Naperville Bike Club's Melon Metric " Melonstock" Ride. Every year they have  a different theme, and this year it was a " Cycledelic Bike Tour." The T-shirt was very cool--a deep pine green shirt with a graphic on the back of a rider flashing the peace sign that looked like something from a Fillmore East concert poster. Its slogan read, " Tune in, drop out, ride on!" Many of the volunteers wore tie-dyed shirts, and several of the sag wagon drivers greeted everyone along the route with a peace sign instead of a wave. Each rest stop had music playing, too. Jimi Hendrix was blasting at the start, but my favorite was Cream's Disraeli Gears CD  at the third stop. I had to drag myself away  during " Tales of Brave Ulysses."

The day began partly cloudy and foggy, but the clouds disappeared while I prepared my bike. In sharp contrast to the previous week, it was SUNNY! We started out at Plano High School (Home of the Reapers, which  always reminds me of Blue Oyster Cult) and headed south out of town. There was an overlap of maybe 5-6 miles with the Metro Metric  route the week before, but thankfully that was all (not that the Metro Metric  route was bad, just that it would have been a little boring to do the same route). I decided during this ride to finally measured my cadence. I figured I was spinning pretty well, but I'd never checked how fast. There and at several points throughout the ride, my cadence was usually around 90-93 rpm. I also checked it when I felt like I was really dogging it and going slow-- it was around 80. Yeah, I guess I'm spinning fast enough.

Just like last time, I started out a bit fast, arriving at the first rest stop in Leland averaging 16.8 mph. There was a decent variety of foods at each stop: watermelon (of course, since it's the Melon Metric), oranges, bananas, grapes, Oreos, chocolate chip cookies, mini-muffins, granola mix, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, vanilla creme wafers and best of all... A woman said, " Take a bag of Cheez-Its for the road!" I took her advice and tucked one into my jersey pocket.

The course was laid out in three loops side by side. The 30-mile riders did the first loop, the 62-milers did the first and second loops, and the century riders (centurions? Okay, maybe not) did all three loops, doing half of each on the way out and the other half on the way back. This was ideal for several reasons. Five rest stops were provided, but with the overlap the club only needed to staff three locations (excluding the start). The best thing about the course was that it went west first, then came back east. Since the wind is usually from the west out there, I got to fight the headwind early while I was stronger and had a little help on the way back. There were a few rolling hills, but Illinois plains flatness prevailed. Between the terrain and the wind, it was really an ideal course for a fast century. It was also fun for me because it had been perhaps eight years since I'd been on many of those roads. I saw some things that had changed, and I enjoyed challenging myself to remember what the next crossroad was going to be.

By the second rest stop in Earlville (or " Ervul," as the locals say), I had slowed a bit, but I still felt pretty good. It amazed me that these small towns had really nice public washroom facilities in their parks--flush toilets, sinks, the works. Too bad it was daylight because Earlville has one of the few remaining drive-in movie theaters in that part of the state. From Earlville, things got mighty lonely and scorchingly hot. I did not see a single rider all the way to Mendota, about 20 miles. At least the headwind kept a me a little cooler. There wasn't much shade to be found--the only trees in that area are near farmhouses, which are few and far between. My mom said later that the radio station reported 97% humidity. When I reached Mendota, I was actually surprised to see some other riders there. I was even more surprised when more came in, more than ten minutes behind me. At least I wasn't last--not that there's anything wrong with being last, but I'd hate to be the guy that was making all the sag wagon and rest stop folks wait around for me! I spent some extra time at the Mendota stop, drinking cup after cup of Gatorade and water. The boombox played Bob Dylan's " Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" (" But I would not feel so all alone... Everybody must get stoned!" ). I finally opened a bag of Cheez-Its, and it was like manna from heaven, exactly what I needed! From this point on, I became unusually chatty, telling the volunteers at each rest stop about how this weekend compared with the last. Maybe someone put acid  in the Gatorade.

After about half an hour of rehydrating, eating and talking, I began the trip home. Along the way, I got to go through a town I've never been to before, Triumph. They even had a museum and a ranch (open to the public). With a tailwind now, I was really cranking, despite trying to hold back because there was a long way to go. Although my average at the halfway point had been 15.2 mph, I was now cruising along around 18-20 mph. I got back to Earlville and was disappointed to hear that Disraeli Gears had been replaced by some kind of early 60's pop (c'mon, stick to the theme!). A volunteer there apologized for the Oreos: " Sorry they're a little soggy. They've been out here for a while." I replied, " That's okay, I really don't feel like working too hard to chew right now!" All things considered, I was feeling pretty good, but not great. Despite vigilant hydration, I was feeling the effects of four hours of biking and baking in the sun.

The next leg from Earlville to Leland was very short, only about 8 miles. It passed very quickly since I'm accustomed to 15-25 mile gaps between rest stops in centuries. That was a good thing, because when I got to Leland, I was instantly wiped out. For the first time all day, I took off my sunglasses and helmet. I sat down on a bench and drank water. I had been getting a bit of a headache since the previous stop, and I was concerned about my hydration and electrolytes. Then the Succeed electrolyte cap I had taken a little earlier started to work its magic, and I headed back to the table to eat something. While I stood around and ate and drank, I listened to a couple of sag wagoneers talking about the day's incidents. There was one guy they stopped for who'd had two flats already and was worried that he was having a third. The sag person pulled out a tire gauge: " Well, you've got 110 psi, so I think you're okay!" Then there was a woman they picked up who they said wasn't in trouble physically, but emotionally: she had been riding with her husband and her girlfriend... and they " dropped" her (left her behind)! But the sag people said she had the last laugh because she had the car keys!

I was feeling good again when I headed out for the last 17 miles back to Plano. I was still speeding along, and some quick calculations told me that I wasn't going to finish this century in 6:40 like my first three centuries. Suddenly, the sun wasn't beating down on me anymore. That was good. There were dark, threatening clouds to the west. That was not good. At least it motivated me. Despite the day's heat, I did not want to finish in the rain--I had enough of that in last week's Metro Metric. I hightailed it back to Plano, finishing around six hours at an average speed of 15.9 mph. Not only did I break the 6:40 barrier, but I added a whole mile per hour to my average speed.

It turned out to be a good thing that I had raced back to the car. By the time I loaded up the car and stopped for gas in town, a torrential downpour had begun. The rain came down in sheets, and there were large branches down all over US 34. I was soooo glad not to be riding in that! Then I stopped by my parents' house for a nice shower to wash off the day's grime and had homemade cherry cheesecake to celebrate my brother's birthday--he turned 21 on Monday.

The two centuries on consecutive weekends  were an interesting contrast. The weather made such a difference, good and bad. While the sun was better psychologically, it also posed more of a challenge to stay hydrated. The first century had great homemade cookies, but the second had top-notch store-bought treats like Oreos and Cheez-Its. The first course had more interesting curvy roads, but the second had a superior layout. The first ride was a tough mental challenge, but the second seemed much easier. One observation about centuries: I've done four centuries now, and I have yet to actually ride 100 miles. They were all 96 to 98.5 miles long, not just on my cyclometer, but on the cue sheets as well. Why? Melonstock would have been 100, but they cut out a section at the last minute due to construction. Oh well, since I followed the course, I still consider it a " century" even if the mileage is short.

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