Louisville Wheelmen Newsletter -- November-December 1995

‘So Much Rain — It's Scary!’

by Michael Lowe


Now lest you assume I am going to complain about the rain on Saturday's ride to Bardstown, let me set the record straight with a vibrant “Au contraire!” The title to this little piece is just an inside joke with my two riding companions on the metric century south — Joe Kipp and Phil Brown. For a much more appropriate title this piece would have “Anticipation” in the title and somehow include the sultry voice of Carly Simon on backing vocals. For “anticipation” and “excitement” identify the emotions bubbling through my system at 6:00 am on Saturday. Sure, I flipped on “The Weather Channel” and grimaced at the solid blanket of radar green from Evansville to Knoxville, but “Hey!”, we needed the rain and after all I could have been heading for work. So enough about the rain. The point of my writing is to express my thanks to all the people who made my Saturday and Sunday a wonderful experience.

Wasn't the parking lot a great staging area? Not just to put our bicycles together, but to see the others who would be rolling down the road. I saw Bill O'Brien pumping air in his tires at the Highland Cycle, then Stewart Prather preparing to mount his tandem. Adrian Freund was sitting on his bicycle in front of the registration table, just watching all the to-do, a wee smile upon his face. Mary Margaret was directing traffic with a little hip dance and two swinging, pointing arms. Don Williams was shouting “good-bye” to all who passed him. In fact, the whole scene was so much fun that Phil and Joe waved good-bye to me cause I was “meeting and greeting” and not riding!

Cruising out of the parking lot alone, I set off to catch Phil and Joe. David and Katie Stewart and I rode along for a while. Katie is accustomed to a saddle — but one on a horse, not a bicycle. Still, she was game for a weekend ride with her Dad.

Not too far out of town I found myself riding along with a bearded fellow. (Joe told me later that he knew lots of people in the club by their jerseys, helmets and bikes, not their names. I must confess to the same disability.) Well, anyway, we struck up a conversation and he allowed that he had planned properly for this trip. I asked what he meant and he told me he had brought with him a hair dryer. I must have looked baffled, for he smiled and added, “To dry out my shoes.” Prophetic words — and an unassailable level of advance preparation.

A bit farther on we passed a fellow maneuvering a large yellow caterpillar tractor with a huge front loader through some trees. Some “wag” I passed explained that the man on the tractor was the day’s ridecaptain. If you got tired, just wait, and he'd come by to scoop you up.

On past two men from Nicholasville (beer depot for Centre College in Danville) I caught up with Amy and Marge Johannemann. They had left with Phil and Joe, but the men were nowhere in sight. We laughed about the Monday night classes and the classic photo of Albert Linder and Amy in the Sept/Oct newsletter. I also learned that Marge came to bicycling rather late in life. Later than the rest of us anyway. So if any of you have a friend over 50 who says it's too late, Marge can set them straight.

Finally, at the first rest stop, I caught up with Phil and Joe. Phil wanted to know what took me so long. I wanted to know who the “Witch Doctors” were. Not having been on an OKHT before I was impressed with the spread — fruit, cookies, etc. — and amused with the doctors. Ed Akers passed by and said hello. I mentioned to Phil that I had ridden briefly with a fellow from Wilmore, Kentucky who was pulling his daughter in a red two wheel trailer. (You may remember her from the slide show.) The man standing beside us spoke up and said that the fellow was his brother. He told me it was his family’s tenth time on the OKHT.

Properly stoked with cookies, water and bananas, Phil, Joe and I set off for the next rest stop. This was supposedly Phil's first time over 60 miles, so we let him set the pace. For a fellow conserving energy, he toddled right along. A couple miles down the road it started to rain. Now Joe, an acrobatic sort, was able to unleash his poncho and pull it on while riding. Yours truly had to stop. I spent the next ten minutes in a mad dash to catch up with energy saving Phil.

As I took up a position behind the two of them Joe suddenly broke into a rendition of George Thorogood's “I Drink Alone.” What prompted that, I had to ask. “Karaoke!” exclaimed Joe. “We have to practice for karaoke!” Aha. (Note: Did anyone see Joe sing karaoke?) For the next several miles Phil and I were treated to Joe’s version of singing in the rain.

Now I thought the first rest stop was thematic, but the second was better yet. Perched up on the top of that hill, spooky sounds coming from the speakers, with three very ugly witches behind the table — it was a great setting. Too bad about the clouds at that spot. Phil and I stood on the edge of the bank over the road and commented about how far one could have seen on a clear day. (Joe didn't hear us so he didn't break into “On a Clear Day...”) Then we struck up a vocal beat for Amy Johannemann as she neared the top. She laughed at us, and Bill took her photo right at that moment. So we are proudly responsible for her smile in the slide show.

Phil borrowed a rain breaker from Bill Johannemann. Bill groused about how he would now be cold (but he did it with a grin). Phil said several times later that he would have been mighty uncomfortable without it. As we started out we were passed by a couple on a tandem. Phil and I voted for them in the “Best jersey outside of an official OKHT jersey contest.” Their multicolored Disney prints stood right out against the rainy day (and they too made it into the slide show).

The next part of the ride was marked mostly by quiet and rain. We didn't pass a lot of people, and few passed us. We talked about the farm houses, the wild flowers, and the dry creek bottoms. Then we reached the long hill just before the covered bridge. Peeling off like fighter pilots, Joe, then me, then Phil, flew down that hill. Just before the bottom, right in a patch of fallen leaves — Ka-pow! Yep, a sudden blowout does indeed sound like a .22 rifle shot. And yes, you know it’s a bad one when the “hiss” lasts only a second. Joe had hit a rock that punctured his tire. Fortunately, although going 35+, he used only his rear brake, encountered no wobble and came to a muttering stop. In the time it took Phil to answer nature's call, Joe changed the tire. None the worse for wear, we headed off.

That is where the covered bridge appeared, right next to a single lane ridge with rough concrete paving. You know, I must have mentioned the bridge to six people the next day and not one of them saw it. Did you see it? Did I see it?

Now the second rest stop may have had the best location, but the third had the best costuming. I think that was Frankenstein's bride behind the table, but you should have seen the very strange, wild white-hared, silver masked, robed wizard (?) muse (?) sorcerer (?) Greek actor (?) with the staff at the next stop. The round of applause at the slide show for his pose in the middle of the road was well deserved. Of course the stop also had other charms, such as real inside-the-church facilities. Did you catch all the rules on the door? How about the motto for the church — “This is a friendly church.” True, it was, but we had to jokingly wonder if there was an unfriendly one down the road.

Now came the real split — 60 to the right, 100 to the left. Energy-saving Phil thought about it, but he stayed with us on the 60, and he stayed with us all the way to the school. The Energizer Bunny has met its match!

“Hot showers!” Need I say more? How about, “Dry clothes!” I don't know who set up the big fan in the hallway, but “kudos!” to him or her. Unlike my bearded friend, I had no hair dryer, and overnight the fan took care of my wet shoes. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Well, with the rain still coming down, I decided to take the shuttle bus and ride the loop. Aboard the magic bus several people sang “Sixteen Tons” and “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” but I was intrigued by Tracy Eells pointing out to me that two of the hotels on the accommodation list had the same phone number. His wife was at one and he was heading for the other. Fortunately they turned out to be across the street from one another. I hope Tracy and his wife agreed on the same room. Forty five minutes later the magic bus returned to the school. Nap time!

Dinner time! Phil and Joe showed up from their hotel rooms and introduced me to Phil “Pflip” Esterle. (Ask him about his balance on a mountain bike.) Settling in at table with our heaping portions of spaghetti (thank you kitchen crew!), Joe’s wife mentioned that it felt like we were at school. I intoned that “I had math class with old Mister Gruber,” Phil chimed in with “We're studying fractions,” someone said “Again?” Pflip answered that with “Yeah, and three halves of the class don't understand them.” The retort came, “And the other 40% don't care,” and we dissolved into inane laughter. Thus was born our running joke of the night. But whether caused by an overabundance of endorphins from the ride or just plain silliness, the remainder of the meal was spent in fractious jokes and the insistence on calling coffee “beer.” Even when joined by Pennie Dubarry, Marilee Martin, and Ellen, friends of Pflip's, it took a while to settle down. Fortunately the ladies had a calming influence. Until Pennie set her coffee down and left the table, asking us to watch her “beer.”

The slide show was great. Did anyone but me notice that the kids in the very first row clapped for every slide! Was that your secret fan club, Bill? I must admit though, to several of us it appeared that the right hand photos in the middle of the show proved that one of the routes was dry. Those people were not wet! Don, climate data notwithstanding, please route us that way next year. Bill and Edd, identify that route! (Note: nice flower shots!)

Door prizes, karaoke, and more “beer” — what more could we ask for? Other than Joe singing, that is.

Ten o'clock. Lights out. Sound asleep. Don turning on the lights. 6:00 am. Did the man ever go to bed?

Did you ever try catching pancakes wile still waking up? The man ahead of me caught three pop flies and one going over the fence, but I wimped out. I told Mr. Chris Cakes it was just too early. Fortunately he took pity on me and only threw me a stack of four at one time in a “grounder.”

Morning passed in a blur. Bags on the truck, dry shoes from the fan, hello to people I met the day and night before. Outside it was barely light, BUT IT WASN’T RAINING! I can say that out loud now, but at the time I was afraid to. No wood to knock.

While waiting for sunrise, Earl Jones explained the meaning of the “National” on my Metric Century patch and a woman from Dayton, Ohio asked him to thank everyone for a wonderful tour. A fellow named Steve asked me how fast I was going to ride and I answered 15–18. He said that was too fast, later I chuckled all morning long as we passed one another over and over between Bardstown and Louisville.

At 7:30 Debbie Browning and her family set up their tandems on the rail and prepared for the return journey. Chad and Meg set off, Earl put more air in his tires, and my warm up lap took me straight out onto the highway and off for Louisville. Very different from the start in Louisville, but it wasn’t really a start anyway. It was more a resumption of yesterday’s ride. Joey was having problems with his leg and Phil was apparently still in bed, so I was alone. But it wasn’t raining, the light was adequate, and away I went.

Well, this article is already long enough without a blow by blow description of the return. I must say that the big hill out of Taylorsville sticks in my mind (and my thighs). I also thought the “cookie stop” was great. I was boogeying down the hill immediately before it, drafting behind a tandem, and almost cruised on past. Don't know who that was that flagged us down, but “Thank you very much.” And thanks, too, to the kindly old Kentucky farmer whose land it was. We had a nice talk about his home and farm. He’d been there since 1959. Cleared the land himself. Only leased it out now. Had another 30 acres on the hilltop. Perfect place to live, he maintained. Close to the cities, but not too close. Told me he could be in downtown Louisville in one hour and that he knew a way to Nashville where he only hit two stop lights. Perfect.

All too soon I was pulling into the parking lot alongside my car. The sun had popped out at the last rest stop and, just as the weathermen said, it was 11:00 and clearing. With an honest degree of satisfaction at having ridden 110 miles in two days and a certain degree of sadness that it was over, I loaded up my bike and headed home.

Looking back on these words it appears I may have written more of a personal diary entry than an article to the newsletter. But if you were on the ride I hope that some of what I have written brings back one or more of your own memories. And if you weren't on the ride, maybe it will encourage you to be there next year. Because the ride was good deeds, new friends, old friends, laughter and fun. This was my first OKHT and it came after only seven weeks in the club. For years I spurned joining, being content to ride on my own. Now that I've finally responded to Stewart Prather’s fifteen year old invitation to join, I wish I had joined earlier. Thanks to everyone for welcoming a new member. Thanks for all the volunteers who made my first OKHT a great adventure and experience. And thanks for letting me share a little of my exuberance about the weekend. You know what they say, “There's none quite like the newly converted.” See you on the road.


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