Louisville Bicycle Club

Louisville Bicycle Club Newsletter — September-October 1997

An “Amish” WACKY — Part 1

by Michael Lowe

Editor: This article was originally posted to the KyCycList mailing list on Monday, June 30, 1997.

171.74 miles; 10 hours 15 minutes riding time; 11 hours 55 minutes total tour time!

A marvelous ride, with a unique happenstance.

The Club departed Third and River Road at 6:45 am early yesterday morning. I guess there were about fifty riders total — 11 doing the Wheels Across Central Kentucky (WACKY); about 10 doing the 100; another 15 doing the 60; and the remainder doing the 30. A few were doing mileage around 80 or so.

Traffic was nonexistent for the first hour as we cruised through downtown, through Old Louisville and out the parkways to Iroquois Park. Lots of runners and joggers appeared near the Park. The sun rose, but was largely obscured by a high film of ice crystals, leaving the temperature about 68.

On out New Cut Road, past the Outer Loop and National Turnpike, headed for Shepherdsville. I rode with a group going 20, but that was too fast, so I dropped off and was caught by a group going 18-19 mph. That was still quicker than my planned 16, but by drafting at the back the exertion was the same, and I covered more ground. Lauren Staples was in this group, doing her first-ever 100. She was excited. I was surprised to hear that her longest ride to date was 87 miles. Dave Stewart, a friend from way back at Highland Presbyterian, and I rode along at the back talking about the importance of a good, positive attitude on a long ride; nutrition; hydration; the clouds; the other riders; and trivialities.

Closer to Shepherdsville the group dropped David and me, so we rode on alone until we reached the first stop (the early turn for the 60 — it’s actually just shy of the official turn), a Marathon Gas and Food Store. I made a pit stop and walked back outside. Everyone seemed to be content to stay and talk, but my body was ready to continue, so I said goodbye to David, mounted my bike and rode off alone.

Maintaining 16-17 was easy as the sun was still relatively dimmed and there was no wind to speak of. I paralleled I-65 up and over the “hillock” before Lebanon Junction and cruised past the second store, waving at Rory Whitaker, who was taking a break on his WACKY ride. At Lebanon Junction the road curved east and headed towards Boston. I passed the Heaven Hill bourbon distillery and rolled along route 61 into the teeming metropolis of Boston — pop. 50? For a few minutes I stopped and spoke to Jerry, another Club friend, asking about his buddy who had attempted his first club ride the week before (30 miles in 95 degrees heat) and had suffered “intestinal problems.” Jerry said he made it home okay.

After a couple of minutes I set off again, just as Debbie Browning, Paul Battle, Jay Palmer, Adrian Freund and several other WACKY’s pulled in for a pit stop. Rory passed me by and I followed him down KY 52 towards Nelsonville and New Haven.

The other WACKY’s caught me, along with several 100-milers just shy of Nelsonville, offering a welcome chance to draft and rest. Duc Do and his wife Paula, Tomasz Cholewo and Welby Winstead were in this group. Duc and Paula were on their tandem, Paula making a one-way to Hodgenville, where Duc planned to shift to his “single” and become a full WACKY. Welby was as animated as ever. As we approached the LaRue County line, he decided to race Duc and Paula to the county “Green Sign” (the sign saying “Entering LaRue County”). It was a close race, but try as he might, Welby never could get past them. As it turns out, I understand that Paula did not even know Welby was racing for the green sign. She was just pedaling to keep up with Duc!

At New Haven Don Williams, who along with Mary Margaret, his wife, has mapped and promoted the WACKY, arrived in the SAG van (that’s Support and Gear — I think). In his haste to catch up to the riders, Don ran afoul of a Lebanon Junction police speed trap. <sigh>

Paul Battle stopped for water out of the van and I hung back to ride with him. Jay, Adrian, Duc and Paula, and Debbie rode on. I never would have caught up again except that Paul decided to and closed the half mile or so gap with me drafting along. Right after we caught up we passed the Lincoln Homestead, site of Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood home.

Not too far past the home we started the one serious climb on the entire ride, a long relatively straight mile or so up. I got in a good rhythm and worked my way up the hill rather strongly. I kept telling myself that I still had 110 miles to go; but I only know one way to climb hills and that is to attack them in a steady rhythm.

Not too far off the top the others caught up to me — Adrian, Paul, Debbie and Jay. My energy surge continued and I shifted into my big front chain ring and set off to catch Rory, who I could see about a half mile or so ahead. It took a little doing, but we eventually caught up, mostly by making up time near the crests of the little rollers that marked this stretch of road. It also helped that it was generally downhill. The five of us then rode on into Hodgenville, greeted by the statue of Abraham Lincoln gracing the courthouse square.

We turned left, climbed up a hill on US 31E and turned into the parking lot of a little restaurant where the others planned to eat breakfast. We were 62 miles into the ride.

Now when I do a long ride I do not like to stop for very long. My body drops down in metabolic rate and I have difficulty restarting it. My mental state also shifts to a non-athletic mode, decreasing performance. When Jay said they might stop for as much as an hour, I made my apologies and headed on by myself. I was encouraged by having had breakfast at home, and carrying a full load of Cliff Bars and high energy Goop gel.

By now the sun was out fully and the temp was somewhere in the 80’s. At least it was not humid, and the wind was still not a factor. I rode south along route 84, then south on KY 357, way up on a mid-Kentucky plateau with vistas in many directions. At about the 75-mile mark I stopped under several shady trees, ate a Cliff Bar, drank some water, took an aspirin and walked out the kinks for 10 minutes. It was extremely quiet. Flies and bees buzzing past. A young man on a mountain bike came out of a driveway half a mile down the road and came riding toward me. I could hear his knobby tires on the pavement when he was still a long way away. He checked me out carefully, riding the middle of the road. “Good morning!” I offered. “Hullo” he said, as he smiled and noisily passed by.

Somewhere near the 80-mile mark I noticed that the horse droppings I had seen in the road were fresher and not crushed by tires. Then I spotted a caution sign warning of Amish buggies. Not too much farther I spotted a buggy working its way through the bottom of a dip and heading up a steep slope. I chuckled as a truck passed in the other direction, thinking of bicycles and buggies still out on the same roads in this day and age — 100 years after our Club started.

I waved at the three little kids riding in the back of the buggy. They grinned and waved back. I told them they had a great spot to ride. For a few minutes I rode alongside the driver and his wife, saying hello and exchanging greetings. But they were slowing way down as the hill grew steeper, the two horse team struggling to pull the buggy. So I wished them a good day and pulled out just beyond the yellow line to start to pass the horses.

Suddenly, without any warning, the team sidestepped one time in my direction, the left horse tossed its head and it kicked out with its rear leg, striking me flush in the side, just above the top of my hip bone and catching the lower three ribs.

I recoiled in shock and found myself unable to breathe. I was somehow completely across the lane, next to the white line, still astride my bike, almost stopped, tottering in a track stand. I managed to click out of my clipless pedals and bent over the bike, trying to relax enough to breathe. Mind overcame instinct and I drew a couple of shuddering breaths, waiting for the searing pain of a broken or cracked rib. There was none.

It was perfectly quiet again. I raised up and looked over at the family. They were all sitting there dead quiet. The children were wide-eyed, the wife had her hand over her mouth and the man just looked shocked. Oh, for a camera. Then the man, still holding the reins, asked “Did the horse hit you? Are you all right?”

I walked my fingers over my ribs, checking but finding no sharp pain. I told him I was all right. Then I pulled up my shirt and they all gasped. I had a rather prominent ugly red scrape and mark where the hoof had struck me.

The man started apologizing, professing to have no clue the horse would do such a thing. I told him not to concern himself. I admitted having simply passed too close to a horse with blinders.

He asked how far I was going, and I told him the Tennessee border. His eyes widened. I told him there were other riders coming and he spun on his seat to check. Of course there were none in sight yet. “I’ll warn them!” he said.

My breathing having calmed, no broken ribs apparent, I realized I was still standing on the edge of the wrong lane. Deep breaths did not hurt too much, so I told them not to worry, I was fine. Then I smiled and said, “This will just be a good story to tell my grandchildren.”

I clipped in and climbed to the top of the hill, riding on, testing my side, but feeling no extraordinary pain outside of the scrape and the bruising. After a couple of miles I started to laugh — a combination of relief and incongruity. Don Williams caught up to me in the van and offered some antiseptic while lecturing me good naturedly on the proper and safe passing distance for bicycles and horses. As Duc would later ask, “How far away from the horse were you?” Answer: “Not far enough.”

Part 2 of this story to be published in the November-December newsletter.

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Copyright ©1997 Louisville Wheelmen
last updated: 6 November 1997
by Duc M. Do