The Sunday Club Ride – A Wanker Rides in Thailand
March 12, 2018 § 1 Comment
The question I went to bed with was this “Do I want to try and make the Sunday ride?” The pro was I would get to ride with a group, and I could just sit in and let everyone else do the work and reap the rewards. The main con being that the ride was 100K and I had to ride 30K to get there and 30K back, AND that is 60K that contains some very obvious in your face climbing. I had already ridden back over those climbs in the heat once. I wasn’t to eager to repeat that performance. So I made a plan. I would ride there and meet them and explain my plan which was to ride as far as the mainland, and then turn around and do my own ride back. Seemed simple enough. There was one wee little problem with this plan, and being almost 59, I should be well informed regarding what my real personality traits are.
We had turned in early the night prior, and sure enough we were both up pretty early. 3am by what I could recall. I heard Susan get up to go to the bathroom, and then I soon followed. “You awake still?” she asked. “Wide” being my reply. I didn’t need to leave until 5:15 earliest, 5:30 latest to make it up there in time, so we had time to kill. Turned the TV for spell, read some Game of Thrones, and tried to rest a little longer. There was nothing to leave the room for, as the world there wasn’t awake yet. At least not the ones from New Jersey.
I put everything together. The battery for the front facing light was fully charged, so I re-attached that to the frame. My helmet battery was charged, so that ready to go. Filled up my water bottles, grabbed some Gu packets, and then fretted that I had not secured some extra mini bananas during breakfast the day before. They were the perfect size to stick in a back pocket. Two to start with, and then two later in the ride. I was sure the club ride had a coffee shop turn-around and there would be food there as well. The clothing I had worn the day before dried quite nicely, and seeing no skid marks in the shorts, I saw no reason not wear all that again and represent my friend Jonathan Erdelyi and The Red Bicycle Shop. Hell, I didn’t even use a pair of clean socks, though I brought enough pairs for each ride.
Time came to leave, Susan expressed concern that it was still dark out, and I did my best to allay those fears by displaying the proliferation of lighting I had on myself and the bike. Flashing red flasher on the rear of my Jersey; Front and rear flashing lights built into my helmet and therefore pretty high off the ground; A 450 lumen front facing Nite Rider Tri-Newt LED blaze of sunlight to make it possible to “see” and not just be “seen”. My lack of reflective clothing is regrettable, but it was all I had, and out the door I departed. I decided to swing by the breakfast buffet just on the slight chance that they may have the bananas out already, and sure enough they did. Score! I broke off 5 of them and was then shooed away like the birds by a very nice staff person. I clickity-clacked my walk all the way to the street and ate two of the bananas to start. The street entrance guard was a little surprised at my arrival, but then went back to his handheld device.
All my lights lit, I mounted my steed, clicked in my right foot and pushed off North along a well lit beach road. In each direction I could see a few scooter lights, and maybe one taxi. The road was basically mine. I figured that if I didn’t push it getting there, then I could reserve my strength for later, so I settled into a decent but not hard clip. Out of town the roads got darker, but my Tri-Newt is pretty strong, and casts a beam well out in front of me. Passing scooters gave me a lot of room and soon I was climbing freely. I felt pretty good. Soon I was in Pa Tong and about halfway down the road to the beach I observed my first real hazard. Wheel Eaters! Those are storm drains covers with long wide slits that run parallel to the road direction and there were a lot of them on the left where I preferred to ride. With traffic low, I simply moved out and took the full lane, and avoided all of them. On the road to Kamala I was curious about the sidewalk and using it as a bike lane, but then I noticed a few places were people simply parked shit in the sidewalk, and I wasn’t too keen on running into shit, so I kept to the road. One of the Condo complexes “IndoChine” was brightly lit in large Green letters that really stood out and made an impression on me. I finally hit the needle hill and was ascending nicely until I turned the corner and saw the road go another 2 or 300 meters ahead. Off to the left was a reasonably flat wide driveway for a utility plant, and so I pulled off to flush lactic acid. Refreshed I was soon over the top, through Kamala, and flying up the hill to Surin.
In Surin I could see that it was getting lighter now, and halfway through I started to pick up other riders heading to the same ride. One pair was a young man and his younger brother. Perhaps it was a young boy and his younger brother, but I could not be sure in anything except that the younger brother was skinny and could not weight more than 70 pounds tops!. I fell in behind them, and followed. Eventually they became aware of my presence and both did a double take. I wonder why?
Good thing I left when I did, because when we got to the ride it was ready to ride. I did not get a chance to introduce myself to anyone, and explain my plan. It was jump in and follow, and I can be pretty good at that. We set off in a long single pace-line where I was maybe about 10-12 riders back from the front, and maybe 10-15 riders ahead of the tail. The two Thai brothers were right behind me and probably enjoyed the huge draft I provide. In reality I simply extended the draft I was getting to them, but I amplified it a wee bit.
If you recall my preceding posts, there are not many control lights on Thai roads, and the first one we hit was actually not going to stop us because we were turning left anyway, so we bypass all the stopped vehicles and wound our way to the front and turned left. The group re-shuffled a little bit and I found myself a little closer to the front with the Thai boys behind me still. We were moving along about 20-21 mph which felt perfectly fine. Another 3-4 K up the road we hit our first Red Light and the group bunched up with the Thai boys pulling up next to me where they gave me some big stares. I fist bumped the little one and soon we were riding again.
All the while that I am sitting in I am already starting to think “I feel pretty good. It’s not to bad just sitting in. Perhaps they can carry me the entire 100K?”, the kinds of thoughts that can, and do lead to trouble. The main road undulated a lot, but the lead rider always slowed down on the rise, and then sped back up on the descents and all along I felt like they were actually pulling me with them. Like I wasn’t doing any work what so ever. Thalang, Wong Chalerm, Ben Yarin House, Harley Davidson of Phuket, the airport, we rolled along with the sun rising in the East (where it always seems to) until we came to an interesting structure. When the ride started I did manage to get one question in to one person. Something like “Where are we going?” to which this one person, European accented reply of “To the checkpoint and beyond. Do you know the checkpoint?”. The blank look on my face was answer enough. “Well just sit in”, and I did. Turns out that Thailand, or maybe the Phuketese, decided that at some point in the future they may want to institute a little more control over access to Phuket, so the highway was re-routed through a giant check point where they check nothing but how well you vehicle rolls slowly over two sets of crumbling rumble strips. This while under the watchful supervision of a mannequin dressed as a soldier. They have one for each direction.
Northbound the road departs from its Southbound sibling and swings way to the West before looping back to join up right where the two cross the scenic Sarasin Bridge and onto the mainland. Brandy new road surface greeted us on the mainland and soon the leader of the pack stuck out his left hand and we turned off the main road and onto 3006 for some absolute beautiful riding along the coast. Here the road was a simple two lane road that was pretty damn flat, but also very curvy. Prior to every curve were three sets of rumble strips, but if you knew they were coming, and of course these people did, then you could hug the left and avoid them. So, this long single pace line of cyclists snaked around all these rumble strips before executing whatever left or right bend in the road ahead. Other sights along the road besides nice beaches, were sleeping dogs in the road, dogs walking along the road, various streams and waterways, lots of Palm Trees, varying amounts of shade, and a few hotels here and there.
The 3006 turned into the 2013 and then again into the 3025 as we passed Shrimp/Prawn farms, and other various agriculture farms and small villages, which contained more sleeping dogs on the road surface. I was still sitting in and I was still feeling pretty good. I was even considering taking a pull, as all the while I maintained my relative position to the folks in front, and one by one as each leader pulled off and fell back, I was working closer and closer to the front. There were two people who “attacked” and went off the front, and I flirted with chasing them down, but I was new to this group, and didn’t know the group dynamics. Those two might not have even been with this group, and then where would I have been?
The rural road ended and we were back on the main road and my thoughts were starting to conjure questions to which I had no answers. “Just how much longer do we keep going North?” The pace picked up, and I started to notice gaps forming between riders ahead of me, more specifically in the rider directly ahead of me, so I swung around him and bridged across the gap bringing some with me. Pretty soon we were flying along at about 25 mph, and I could feel the group thinning out. The road undulated a little more significantly, and then on the next rise I found myself on the front! I did my best to maintain speed, and when I looked back I was off the front by the time I crested the rise, so I slowed down to wait and then pulled aside. By this time the front group was down to 5 or 6 and I fell to the back of this group behind a young woman. Some gnarly old dude was hammering on the front and a gap opened in front of the woman, so I stepped around her and then provided the much needed draft that enabled her to hold my wheel and we bridged back up.
Fortunately, over the next rise was the coffee shop! Our Northern sojourn was over and it was time to re-fuel, rest, pee, and interact. There was construction work along the West side of the highway, (expansion) and we found a little incline down to the access driveway, dirt, and slowly rode into the parking area. Steep, huge uneven concrete stairs had to be exercised to achieve the necessary purchase to make coffee and other purchases. I ordered two espressos, grabbed a 1.5 liter cold bottle of water, two more bananas, a coke, and a slice of banana bread, paid my 80 Baht, and found a seat out on the deck. All the others made their own purchases, and the gnarly old dude, and the young woman I assisted sat down with me. Appreciation for the draft was expressed, and these two settled in to speaking French. She was probably in her early 30’s, he was probably my age, just a lot gnarlier, shorter, and most significantly, thinner. They come for the warm weather cycling and stay a few months. I didn’t ask about work and financing etc, but just took the story as is.
I took my shoes off to let my feet breathe and give them a break. As we sat there all the stragglers eventually rode in and re-fueled with us. Total rest time was about 30 minutes and soon we were descending the stairs and getting our bikes. It was at this point that something happened that I did not notice, and was not aware I was doing. I had been up front on the way up, and so why not be up near the front on the way back? What I didn’t know, (and I didn’t find this out till the following week) is that the return ride is organized as two groups: The fast of the fast, and the rest of the wankers. So that meant the fast of the fast had a wanker like me with them. Right from the moment we safely crossed the road and started South, boom 25 mph. Pretty soon we were back on the rural road, and some tri-head monster went to the front, and for the next 20K sat there and cranked out watts into the wind with all of us hanging on, at least I was, for dear life. I was aware that this became a select group, and I was aware, that at any time I could pull out and wait for the others to catch up and I could have sat in at a slower pace, but I was having fun. I was reminded of Kevin Parks, a local tri-head who used to do the same thing. Just an immensely talented strong rider who could hold 25 mph on his own forever.
Villages, shrimp farms, sleeping dogs, rumble strips, beaches all went by in a blur. Soon we were on the Sarasin Bridge again, and that was when I first became aware of the transformation of my lower legs from skin and muscle into what was beginning to feel like lead. “Hmmm, what is wrong with these legs? Why won’t they go any faster?” I put some gallant efforts in to not let a gap form in front of me, but as we approached the check point, I just knew that I could only go to the well for water so many time, and I still had a long way to go to get home, so I pulled out of the line, waved my left hand in a “here this spot is now yours” fashion, and eased up as I shot out the back of that moving train. And then I was on my own with a good 30K just to get to the decision point of whether to return along the hilly coast road, or explore a different option. I was well on my way to a century plus ride either way.
My pace dropped to 17-19 mph and I didn’t feel too badly. I felt the small rises, but there is a funny thing about riding alongside a major motorway. All those moving vehicles move the air as well, and that air was helping to move me as well, so though the sun was getting hot, as long as I was moving my temperature seemed well regulated. I still had water, and snacks, and I pulled over once to eat another banana and hydrate. Another fast group casualty came by and we rode for a bit, but I decided his pace was greater than my pace, and I let him go. While passing a large re-fueling station I noticed a small coffee shop with shade, and I pulled. I got a new bottle of water, and a pastry, and did some self assessment. I decided that with the decision point coming up, I needed to go with what I knew. I didn’t really have time to flush out an eastern return. I had a 1 PM appointment, and I wanted to make that, so when I got back on the bike again, I saw the signs for 4030, and there was a gap in the traffic, and I cut across the roadway to make the right-hander. All was going to plan all the way to Surin Beach until I hit the first climb. Halfway up I could feel the mis-firing signals in my left leg and I started to cramp. I jumped off the bike, gave a quick massage, drank a couple of big gulps, and used my right leg as much as possible to gain the summit. The lookout was here, and so I took another break with water, just to give my body a chance to absorb that. I might have cracked up a Gu packet as well.
The rest of the way to Kamala went fine, but on the super steep and along needle climb out the other side, my white flag went up. I was done. I pulled over but there was no shade. I cursed myself for passing those Diatshu Taxis back in Kamala, and not throwing my bike in the back and instructing the driver to drive. I was considering riding back down the hill, when I saw an empty one coming up the road. I waved my hands wildly, and he pulled over. We negotiated a fee, and I threw myself and my bike into the back and I was heading home. This was just the rescue I needed, because I was never going to make my appointed time without this help.
Back at the hotel, probably looking like death warmed over, I staggered back to my room, showered, dressed, and zombie walked to the massage place. I didn’t have time to eat, but I did drink some more water, and the fine ladies at the establishment brought me tea. I do recall grabbing an ice cream from the street stand, and so I sat in their parlor eating that while we discussed what form of torture I desired. I select the full body massage again, as I felt like I needed the upper back massage for all that time on the bike, and the leg work, well, for all that time on the bike. It starts with a foot wash, and I should have known what was going down during that step when the young woman was drying my left foot, it suddenly cramped up and I jumped out of the seat. The cramp subsided, and she led me across the alley to the the other half of the establishment and into a private room with a table. There was one private room and outside of that was a long raised platform where it looked like they could handle 4 or 5 others.
Disapproving of my swim trunks, she brought me a pair of no-seeum underwear that clearly was the better choice for a full body massage, but they felt like nothing was on. I lay face down on the table and she got started. All was going mighty fine. She stretched my upper body, and then worked my back like it was tough leather that needed to be suede. With my back and arms finished, it was time to turn over. Like the day before, I simply turned over, except this time every muscle in my legs cramped at the same time. I screamed and lept off the table thinking wrongly that putting weight on my legs would get them to relax. Now I am standing in my no-seeums still practically crying in pain as I move back to the table where I found a very slight purchase on the edge where it was all just bearable. The slightest move was met with more pain. My poor masseuse was beside herself not knowing what was going on. I think I sat there for 5 minutes while she went to get help. Finally I found that I could lift myself on my hands and slide myself back onto the table without a reaction from my legs, and soon I was back enough that I could get back on my stomach. When my masseuse returned I was better, and she went to work on my legs as they were. 15 minutes later I was able to turn over very slowly, and she finished her work. I was still pretty helpless, and the poor woman helped me slip on my trunks over my no-seeums, and then I limped back out into the parlor, had some tea, paid my bill, and limped to the food alley where I sat down, and ordered two meals and three beers. By the time I was done, I could walk again.
Back at the hotel we lazed around the pool the rest of the afternoon, snacking and no one felt like dinner this evening. We had a big day on the morrow with our cooking class, and we retired early looking forward to what was in store for us there. I did not cramp up the rest of the day, nor again the rest of the trip. I still feel sorry for that poor young woman.