Thor The Destroyer
August 19, 2015 § Leave a comment
I could tell already what kind of Hustle Ride it was going to be. Me, I was already aching and quaking from a 14 mile AT hike along the NJ NY border from High Point State Park to Wallkill River Wildlife Refuge. As I seem to do on all of those AT hikes is I forget to start off with Ibuprofen and continue an Ibuprofen regimen throughout the day. I know I would ache a lot less on Tuesday if I did.
I turned the corner from Elm onto River Road by The Red Bicycle Studio and I could see Derrick and 3 baby seals. Andrea Brennan was there as well and had texted me earlier to see if I was riding. Said she would sit in for the ride. That coming from the US National Champion in Team Pursuit Women 40-45. “Sure, you can sit in”.
The three baby seals were Adam, Chris, and Baby Seal #3. At the time I wasn’t really sure they were seals, as I had never seen them before, but history always says that most of the time when new people show up for this ride, they will be clubbed and they will be clubbed hard.
Six of us started out, and more than likely we would pick up Jack and Bobby out on The Hook. Before departing I laid out some words about safety on Ocean Avenue until we cleared the Beach Clubs. It was breezy, however in Fair Haven it was difficult to project what the winds in Sea Bright would be, but the prevailing winds of Summer afternoons are always from the South. How strong we would see when we got there.
I led us out of Fair Haven into Rumson and up the hill thinking in the back of my head that I shouldn’t work too hard since I am sore. However, there was also the logic that if I led, then Derrick wouldn’t, and as long as Derrick wasn’t on the front, then we had a chance of staying together for a little while. Derrick has been back on his bike for at least a month now, having recovered from a horrific crash at the entrance to The Hook when the powers that be, seemed to think that speed bumps were needed at the pay booths and installed them one day. They installed little itty bitty signs as well, warning everyone, but who reads itty bitty signs? No Derrick and neither did anyone else. Derrick was one of four or five riders who crashed on the first day of usage, and the next day they were gone.
For some stupid reason I led the entire way to Ridge Road, where I finally relinquished the front and followed wheels the rest of the way. I realized soon that we had already dropped one of the baby seals. Could have been a traffic issue, or a light. We hadn’t really pushed it that hard yet. When we reached Ward and Rumson Road intersection Chris caught up. “This is faster than the Sunday ride”. “This ain’t no fucking Sunday Ride, this is The Tuesday Night Hustle. This ride will let you know exactly how many sutures are holding the valves of your heart together.”
The Sea Bright Bridge was busy with Eastbound motorists who just couldn’t wait to get over the bridge, and stop at the traffic signal. It was imperative to their survival as a human sub-species. The NeanMEthal with a brain that seems tuned to “Me!”, will do anything to not be behind a cyclist.
The good news, sort of, was the flag on the bridge could easily have been a moon flag that was starched straight and simply hung from a pole pointed straight North. The wind is strong my friends. We got the Green, and maneuvered onto Ocean Ave, took it slightly easy past the beach clubs. This time through there wasn’t much traffic. Perhaps with the wind so strong, the push to get to the club wasn’t all important for members today. Baby Seal #2 started off and set a decent pace for about a quarter of the way to The Hook. I was behind him and though I am speed knowledge challenged, I felt we were making good time. No cars were passing, so we must have been close to 30 mph when Baby Seal #2 pulled off and I took over. I kept the pace, and maybe upped it a little bit and decided to take the group all the way to The Hook. I knew Derrick was on my wheel, and if I let him take over too soon, it would have been twenty pound cannonades into the Baby Seals and flesh would have been strewn across the road. We would save that mess for The Hook.
By the time we got to The Hook we had dropped one of the baby seals, his head crushed from the blow and brain matter littered across Ocean Ave; The Sea Gulls already gorging themselves. Thor came to the front. There simply wasn’t any way to keep him off the front any longer. We grouped up and settled in. Thor, Andrea, Me and two Baby Seals behind me. Thor started out in 5th gear knowing he still had overdrive, and soon I could feel nothing behind me but more brain matter in the road. Finally, Thor pulled off and I thought “Ah Relief”, then Andrea pulled off and holy shit the cars ahead were stopped for pedestrians at the first parking area! I was late to my brakes, and had to squeeze past Andrea on her right, but I still had too much speed, and lucky for me, the car stopped ahead had a gap on the right, and the walkway was clear, so I slipped by and waited for my guts to catch back up.
We all said our “Holy Shits!” and the two Baby Seals caught up, and then Thor, silent like a lamb, but determined like a badger, put the fuggin hammer down and we were off. Thor, Andrea, Me, and brain matter. We managed one negotiated exchange of leaders, before Thor, probably looking at his speed indicator, thought to himself, “Gee, I think we could hit 40” and proceeded to make that a reality. Andrea was stuck to his wheel like a good tubular, and I was pushing my shifter in and in and in looking for just one more gear change, which just wasn’t there. I was spinning out and then, there was that ethereal moment when the light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be a Conrail Diesel and I was about to become it’s new hood ornament.
It should not be lost here that while I became one with a locomotive in the wrong way, Andrea stayed right on Thor’s wheel. She kicked ass. I fell off just prior to Atlantic, and we re-grouped. I believe what I mean here is I passed them and they got behind me, and I led for a while until I pulled off and they smoked me again. I didn’t lose contact until the final stretch, but I threw a shady move into the mess when we rounded a corner near beach access and a cager was taking it too damn easy. Stupid move on my part.
We rode that Zephyr all the way out, and now it was time to make payments on a debt I had no ability to repay. I had made it clear to the Baby Seals that we would meet them at Fort Hancock as if they had gotten dropped, then they should continue Clockwise until they met us coming around anti-clockwise. We also picked up Jack and Bobby so we would have a little more horsepower for the return trip. I wanted us to stay together longer on the return, so I called for a rotating pace line where we drop back on the right. Either pull off immediately or take a few a turns of the crank and pull off. We managed this for a good part of the return trip. It wasn’t ballet motion, but it was working until we came upon 2 ambulances and a Ranger car with lights flashing. We held up a bit till we passed, and then instead of returning to the pace, the dial was pushed to “Harder” and we were soon 4 riders, and then Thor looked back at me, sensing that blood was about to leak from my eyeballs, smiled, said something like “Ready?” and lit his after burners, and was gone. Andrea rode her bike up and over my back, leaving chain ring marks in my helmet, the last thing I recall her saying was “Is that all you got?”, and I watched her ride away from me.
I thought about trying to catch on again, but since I was planning on racing tomorrow, I thought better of it. I caught Jack at the Highlands Bridge and paid my fare-the-wells, and simply kept Thor and Andrea in my sights, as small dust specks down the road. When I got to the Sea Bright Bridge Thor was waiting, so I pulled up and he paid me some nice not-deserved compliments to stroke what was left of my ego, and we waited for the others. He commented on Andrea’s strength, and how I wasn’t bad for an old leaky prostate geezer.
Baby Seals 2 and 3 arrived and when Baby Seal #1 was close enough we set off for home. Thor is apparently on target to attack IM Austria this month, and I would say he has the bike down strong. Pretty sure he has the run down as well, the swim and his mended collarbone will be the real test. We said our goodbyes, and that was another Tuesday Night Hustle. Tomorrow when the time seems right I will give my new asshole a go, and see how it functions. If it is better than the old one, I will schedule some surgery.