Monday, August 29, 2011

South Dakota and Alley Cats

I should post more.

South Dakota.

My wife and I took a "just the two of us" trip to Spearfish Canyon, SD recently. The cycling portion of the trip involved rental Schwinns that had seen better days.

It was totally worth it, you miss out on a lot of stuff when you're caged up in a car. We coasted from the Spearfish Canyon Lodge down 14A to Bridal Veil Falls, and then made our slow steady climb back up the hill. My wife remarked that the hill seemed a lot steeper when we were going down, and that this climb isn't that bad.

We made a couple of stops on the way back up: We went climbing in a gulch that was obscured from the road by trees, then hiked along an abandoned rail corridor along Iron Creek.

We stopped for lunch, then climbed up a gravel road. Compared to the heavily traveled 50mph farm roads around here, that gravel was smooth and easy climbing. A steady 3-4% grade for 5 miles. (One spot was pretty steep, my wife got off and walked, I hit the bailout ring. Pretty easy after that.) It was smooth enough that I would be comfortable taking my road bike up it if it were dry. I was looking for an MTB friendly trail which exists near the top of the road that takes you to Baldy Mountain overlooking the Canyon, but we never found it. It was about this time my wife remarked "I'm so done riding right now". I don't blame her, she's not much of a cyclist and we had put in about 20 miles at this point, 13 of which were going uphill.

Alley Cat.

I did my third hustle race on Thursday. (I had done a Haunted Hustle and Snow Globe Hustle previously.) For those not in the know, a hustle race is an unsanctioned, checkpoint-based race on city streets. They're also called "Alley Cat" races.

This one was entitled C-Rad Hustle, as it was put on by a local guy whose nickname is C-Rad.

I was the first to arrive at Woods Park. Per instructions, I had a flashlight and can opener. About a dozen or so other cyclists arrived to participate in the festivity.

Once the sun was low enough on the horizon, we were released to our first checkpoint, a screenprinting factory on Cornhusker, about two and a half miles away. We had to drink a beer, then ride through the factory following some arrows laid out with blue painter's tape. We were given our next point upon completing the course.

The next checkpoint was Amen's Liquor store at 12th and Belmont. I got around the group I was riding with and threw the chain into the big ring and powered up the hill to 14th and Adams. Boo-ya.

That was a big mistake. I know the Belmont neighborhood about as well as I know the freeways around [major metropolitain area], meaning I have no flippin clue. I remember reading the instructions on the sticker saying "two blocks north of Cornhusker". Trouble is, I got off Cornhusker at Adams, then hit 12th street and went... North. (Adams is about 5-6 blocks north of Cornhusker at 12th street.) I made it all the way to Superior Street (a mile out of my way) before realizing my mistake.

Here's where things start to get surreal. I'm a sweaty mess. I lean my bike against the liquor store's entrance, I walk in, the guy stops ringing up a customer, points at me and says "one moment please, this gentleman is on a mission". He pulls a can of Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy out of a cooler and asks for a dollar thirty four. I pay him, he holds up two coozies and asks "green or purple?"

I ask "will it matter later?"

"I guess you'll find out," he replies.

I am a bit confused and disheartened by my earlier mistake and just say "Oh well, green I guess."

He puts the sticker on my spoke card and explains "your next stop is the bar behind knickerbocker's". I know where Knickerbocker's is. They have quarter tacos on Thursday and tons of local and regional bands I never get out to see. Trouble is, the most direct route is a stupid-busy two lane blacktop over Salt Creek, through the North Bottoms and then by UNL. I grinned and beared it. Two other participants were unlocking bikes as I was walking in.

I had to buy/chug a beer at that bar before getting my next sticker. I bought a guinness. Dude poured nothing but foam, it went down easy.

My next stop was a "small park at 50th and O, look for the stone bench". That's close to my 'hood. It's also 3 miles from downtown, the most direct route is also the "main drag". I hit the side streets and the sidewalk along said drag.

By the time I got to the park, there were three people. One was handing out stickers, the other two were relaxing with a Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy in branded coozies from Amen's Liquor store and remarked about my hill attacking ability. "How did we get ahead of you? We thought we'd never see you again!"

Before I was to drink my beer, I had to run up the hill, then bike down it, as if I were in a cyclocross race. This idiot brought his road bike...

By now the beer was shaken up, and upon opening it, I found myself wearing part of it. Oh well. I got my sticker for the next checkpoint.

It read: "Visit any grocery store and buy a can of tuna. Then report to the alley behind TJ Maxx and Best Buy."

There's a Hy-Vee right across the street from the park, and it's down the road/round the corner from Best Buy. I ran into the store with my bike and got strange looks. I told one employee that it was okay, I was on a mission. After fumbling with my wallet and chasing down two other participants, I met up with C-Rad in the alley behind Best Buy and presented my can of tuna.

Now I used my flashlight and my can opener to open the tuna. My next task was to empty the contents into one of the bowls "over there".

So here we are at about 10:15, walking along a narrow foot path in the grass that used to be a creekbed, holding freshly cracked open cans of tuna and a spoon, dumping it into bowls placed near old doghouses.

I think you can tell what's going on here: the task at this checkpoint was feeding alley cats. Seems appropriate, yes?

The final checkpoint was a downtown bar. I don't know my downtown bars. I have a fuzzy recollection of where they are, but I couldn't tell you what block has what bar. I overshot my destination by a block. I wasn't done hustling until I chugged another beer, this one being Old Style.

I took the DFL prize for getting lost twice.

I hung around for a while to drink beer and converse about bikes, beer, star wars and zombies, then seriously did not remember the ride home. When I got home, I remember I had packed a tall boy of Schlitz just in case I needed a beer for the Hustle, so I pulled that from my bag and hit facebook. Mmm. What's wrong with the beer I got now? Warm Schlitz drank pretty good, don't it?

I don't remember crawling into bed.

The next day my head reminded me that I'm 30-freaking-5 and had to work, idiot. I should have headed home at 11:30. I then checked to make sure 1) my bike was in the garage and 2) the garage was closed. Check and check.

I feel like a kid again when I do these events. I mean, except for the beer chugging. 

We had Mountain Dew instead.

I did think up a cool hustle "theme" while typing this. Whether or not I make it reality is another story.

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