Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hotter N' Hell

Another Hotter N' Hell is over. This year was quite a different experience for us. We usually get a room in Duncan, OK for the ride. It's 60 miles from Wichita Falls and rooms are plentiful and cheap. This year Z was unable to attend the ride and offered us his room in Wichita Falls. We accepted. The room was affordable at $113, even with the two night minimum.

Aimee and Liz and I shoved off around 9am Friday morning and had lunch at Woody's in Centerville. I remembered the smoked pork chops from last year and had them again. Delicious! Ken, Jim and Danny were about an hour ahead of us so we didn't see them until the trade show.

My plan had been to ride the Flevo this year, but in the end I opted for the Seavo. With three of us in the Tahoe, it would have been a stretch to load the Flevo into the back of the truck. I could have trailered it, but I was concerned about finding parking the morning of the ride since I would need two spaces.

The trade show was alot of fun, as usual. We had a quiet dinner at the Olive Garden with just a 45 minute wait. the last time I tried to eat at an Olive Garden during Hotter N' Hell, the wait was 2 hours, but that was 7 years ago. We were in bed by 10pm. The Fairfield Inn kindly let us stow our bikes in their break room which is locked at night, so i didn't have to worry about them getting ripped off.

Since we didn't have to drive the 60 miles in from Duncan on Saturday morning we were able to sleep a little longer and still arrive at the parking lot by the Civic Center almost an hour ahead of start time. We had both bikes on the start line by 6:30 for the 7am start. Starting positions were changed this year. Early registrants had the location of their starting point printed on their bib number. We registered late so we didn't have this. We managed to get to the front of the start line since we were on a tandem. Nevertheless, a group of 100 milers lined up on the block ahead of us. They started early so that we had empty road ahead of us as the national anthem started and the usual 4 jet flyover thundered overhead. Before the anthem had finished the ride starter told us to shove off so we did. Being old school, I would have preferred to wait until the anthem was over, but I did not want to be caught in a sea of riders on the tandem, at least not on the start line.

The weather was as good as I've ever seen it for a Hotter N' Hell. Moderate temps and light winds.

Our ride was great headed for rest stop one. For some reason we always ride faster on this stretch. I guess there's a certain crowd psychosis that makes you pedal faster in a fast moving pack. There was an awful accident on this stretch last year involving multiple DF's and we saw the same thing happen this year. Three or four bikes went down in front of us and as we passed the wreck site another bike went down on top of them. Aimee saw this biker make an unsuccessful attempt to get up after he fell. I try to stay on the right edge of the road to avoid this danger as much as possible.

Our ride came to an end at mile 7. I felt my seat give way a little to the left. We stopped and found that the sprint brace for the captain seat had cracked right at the weld. As much as I wanted to continue the ride, we were done. We turned around and limped back into town at reduced speed. It's difficult to describe how disappointed we were. Still, I suppose we were lucky that this happened on level ground and not on a climb or on a fast downhill run. What's infuriating is that this is not the first time a weld has given way on this bike. Last year the same sprint brace gave way at the same location but on the other side (see below). I returned it to Rans who told me it was a bad weld. They replaced the brace and sent me an extra, but I never dreamed it could happen twice. I'm writing Rans tomorrow.

Liz, who was riding her first HHH and her first organized ride on a single, finished the 50 mile route as planned and in great time.
As for me and Aimee, well, there's always next year.