Since I got Garrick's weekend report (go RUCT!) I will rashly assume that our gateway machine is up and proceed with my own, perhaps slightly longer, summation.
Our hero (that would be me) sits in a red diesel Rabbit, waiting. Jim is only ten minutes late, but the rain - yes, rain, for the first time in a month or two or three - makes it seem like much longer. Jim finds the Argonne parking lot, and after throwing my bike on top of his in the back of his Subaru wagon (early 80s, charming backfire on the 3-4 upshift) we are off to the wilds of the Banzai.
Boise is about a five hour drive, but Jim does his best to make it interesting by flinging the Soob around all available corners. We get to his sister's house, in the boonies west of Boise, around 9 or 9:30. Nice house. Large house. Sister Wendy starts bugging him about "setting a date" as I doze lightly in a chair. The two rugrats, Tyler and Tim, poke heads upstairs to say hi. Soon it's off to bed, in my own private guest bedroom even.
Around eight Saturday morning we leave for the first day's events, the cross-country and circuit races in Idaho City. Which means back into the outskirts of Boise, then out about 30 miles to Idaho City. Boise, at least the parts I have seen, reminds me of Santa Fe: hills, non-orthogonal streets. Maybe it is the bike-road-trip daze. As Jim says, "Whoever laid out this city was on drugs." I guess the Mormons didn't arrive in Boise soon enough to apply their grid squares to the streets.
But enough about grid squares. Jim is a passing fool, especially in a Subaru wagon with maybe 75 horsepower. But he knows these roads, all the roads we will take this weekend, well. He knows where the shoulders are, and he uses them. I inquire as to any rally-driving aspirations he might harbor. Jim says he wanted to try, but never had the car for rallying. I must agree, with only another 50 horses he could be downright hazardous. Remind me not to let him drive my GTI.
Yet we safely arrive in Idaho City. Check-in yields the obligatory manila envelope with T-shirt, a PowerBar, number, and twist-ties. The lift ticket is a new one on me, though. It goes on the bike Sunday at Bogus Basin, so we can use the chairlifts.
Attempts to warm up are futile. For the race I settle on my warm tights and pink Rice jersey. Tom Baird, my favorite goonyer from IF, is here. I resolve not to sprint after him at the start this time. So I maintain a steady pace around one hundred feet behind the lead pack of about ten guys. Now we are climbing a bit. I notice my eyes feel a little dry, and then *blink* no depth perception. I curse. Finishing this race with one eye shut is not an option, I will die for sure. So I pull over and start digging around in my eye. Of course I have no mirror, so I find the lens and nudge it back on-center by feel. Hop back on the bike, and I am 100 yards up the trail before I realize that the cool breeze on my eyeballs means I have left my Oakleys back there on the road. I must turn around, and everyone who goes by must say, "wrong way, dude!" Jim goes by, and then I turn around and start passing people again for a while. Until the course turns more technical, with several hike-a-bike sections and bumpy downhills to showcase my brilliant descending skills. Many people go flying by me, on-your-left, on-your-right. I have trouble getting in and staying in my new XT toeclip pedals; probably a combination of bootsole wear and smaller kick tabs. Quite a pain in the butt.
Wait, have I mentioned that I did not ride at all between the Lo-to-Ja and Idaho City? With classes (whine whine) my only opportunity to ride is Monday or Tuesday, and my knee was still sore. So I executed a fairly massive taper. Certainly didn't do any interval-type riding which might have been useful for a mountain bike race.
The last part of the course is even more technical, with a couple of drop-offs and a nice ride down a six-foot-wide ravine/creekbed (dry) which had at least one tree trunk hanging horizontal at helmet-height - it did have a nice big "X" (meaning only sort-of dangerous) on it. Then some roller-coasters on this chalky-type surface, the only creek crossing, and the finish, which was through a lumber yard.
So I am sitting at the finish, waiting for Jim to come across, which he does, four minutes after me. There is a girl right in front of me (I mean, how often does this kind of thing happen?) rattling her water bottles as if she wishes she had some water left. Actually, she says to her mother, who is standing nearby, that she has no water left. Nice guy that I am, and expecting nothing in return, I hand her my second, full, bottle. She sucks it down and asks if I am doing the circuit race. Why, of course I am. We will see each other there.
Jim and I go have lunch at Diamond Lil's, a fine Idaho City dining establishment, and talk to Jim's friend Bob (remember him from Mackay?). I seem to remember seeing this girl at a race before, perhaps Mackay or Lava, but certainly have never talked to her.
After lunch we go find the circuit course, just out of "town" and next to the Forest Service heliport from which choppers have been whop-whop-whopping all day. Making sure all those fires are out. The course is less than a mile; experts do five laps, I do four, Jim does three. The first part is a dirt/gravel road right by the heliport, then a bit of a climb and three berms or whoop-de-dos, the type that one sees dirt bikes go flying fifty feet in the air off of. The first one is the worst, coming as it does after the climb; these are about ten feet tall. The next one is much easier, having a little dip before it to help you along, and the course kind of cuts to the side of the third. Then some cross-country type stuff, a loose descent with a hairpin, one really nasty sandy turn and a water crossing. Then you are back on the road and around you go again.
Having completed our pre-ride with time to spare, Jim and I zip back to the car and grab the lawn chairs. Which we place on the outside of the turn onto the road after the water crossing just in time to be moistened and nearly run over by the experts, who are coming around that turn really wide. We move the chairs over to the inside of the turn, though this means we will have to swivel our heads all around to catch the water crossing and the road both. The girl and a friend come over to talk to us. "The girl" is normal height for a girl, a little short on me - typical. Mid-long brownish-blonde hair (about the same shade as mine, really), nice nose, blue eyes. Very nice. And she had about the same time as I did in the cross-country. It sounds like I'm pretty happy she's talking to me, right? Bingo. The friend (remember her) is skinny, no-power skinny, long blonde hair. We all chat amiably for a bit, then it's the girls' turn to race. "Cheer for us," they say, "Cheer for Kara and Paula." Well, okay. "The girl" == Kara, "friend" == Paula. They race. We cheer dutifully. I am up next, so I make my way to the start/finish down the road from our chairs and cheer as Kara (that's /care-a/, as opposed to /car-a/) comes across.
Then I stage poorly, in the last half-row. At the start, the two guys right in front of me tangle up and make a heap even before they cross the line. Everybody else is making big dust up the dirt road by the time I hop around and get going. Then, after I chase almost back to the pack, one idiot doesn't carry enough speed into the first berm/whoop-de-do and stalls. The next idiot promptly runs into him, creating another mess for me to go around. Ha! Bet you thought I was one of those idiots! I'm no ordinary idiot, though. But now I am even further behind any hope of doing well (here's where that interval training would have come in handy), so I kind of muck along, down the hill, across the water - where my feet keep popping out of the pedals, back up the road. Kara is cheering for me at the lawn chairs. How nice. I hand Jim a water bottle as I go by (not quite so fast as the experts) since I have now figured out that I probably won't need it for the other ten minutes of this race. The second time through the berms I play it safe and go around the first, only to be cut off be a bozo going over the top; then carry a bit too much speed into the second and almost catch some major air. That would not have been pretty. I pass the bozo and manage to stay in front of him for the whole rest of the race. Wow. Going through the water the last time, my feet pop out again and I make a half-ass unclipped sprint for the line. But the bozo is way back and there is certainly nobody in front of me to catch.
I go back and plop down in the lawn chair, mud-splattered and kind of in a bad mood. Jim is racing next, and so I invite Kara to use his chair. I whine to her a little, and she tells me to suck it up and get some SPuDs. Then we start swapping biographies. She is from Boise, Mormon, has a son who is spending the weekend "with his father"; I am from Idaho Falls, staying with Jim's sister. When I say I am from IF, she starts going on about how I shoulda/coulda stayed with her, in her cute little new house - just like Tom, my favorite goonyer. Wouldn't that have been fun. Never mind that I had not met her before that day, or any silly details like that. It's possible that I got some nasty looks around this time from the aforementioned Tom, as I was monopolizing his housing provider, but it's not like I was forcing her. I don't even believe I was hitting on her, just talking to her. Perhaps I entrapped her with the lawn chair ploy.
Anyway, the goonyers race next, so Tom must stop possibly giving me dirty looks. When they come around the water crossing the first time, he's in front. He is pretty strong for a 17-year-old, I'll definitely give him that. Then he started pushing the traction envelope and picked up a scraped knee with embedded sand by the next lap, and finished in a pretty bad mood.
It takes a while for the rest of the races to start and finish, so a group gathers around the lawn chairs. In addition to Kara, me, Jim and Paula, there is Pat, who had no hair other than a mid-back tail at the Lava-Rama but now has fuzz; he also has really large biceps and a really evil laugh which he uses often. He is a plumber, I later learn; it's kind of funny to see his Otis Guy beam-bike hanging in a plumbing truck. Pat is in Jim's age group, Veteran. 35-44 or something. Kara's mom shows up with the camera again, and offers to take pictures if we throw her in the creek. Pretty cool mom. Pretty cool time.
But eventually all the races end (as eventually this story will, I hope - it's getting really long) and we go down to the town for ice cream and awards. I don't get a ribbon, having finished about 32/37th in the cross-country because of my general lameness, but I am able to purchase an ice cream cone no questions asked. Tom and Kara get ribbons. Then Jim and I blast back down to Boise (really blasting when downhill, less so when uphill - wimpy Subaru wagons, you know) and pick up a steak to grill back out at "the farm". Jim also thoughtfully gets some Killian's Red. Hey, the more mass the better for the downhill, right? We go home and watch the kids run around with the dogs. Eventually to bed.
In the morning, we stop for pop-tarts before heading up to Bogus Basin. Up one of the most-curved roads in the world, according to Jim and the Guinness BoWR - something like 128 bends in 16 miles. Worse than the Pacific Coast Highway, even. Jim once more displays his rally skills. We are a bit late for the theoretical start of the "widowmaker hillclimb". And Jim has to get his wheel to the Trek Wrench Force guys, since he caught some air on the second whoop-de-do and stripped a nipple (aluminium). Kind of put a wobble in his wheel. But they fix the wheel, then tune his front derailleur. Handy guys to have around.
The hillclimb is an old rope-tow slope, and it is pretty damn steep - not really impossible, just see how long you can grind your granny. I watch some goonyers go up while Jim gets his wheel fixed, but figure I won't get up far enough in the trees to warrant walking up there to have a look at the ground conditions. Besides, it is once more rather chilly - 50 degrees according to the inaccurate Bogus electronic billboard. My first attempt I get maybe 30 feet up the hill before squirreling out and stopping. Pat goes up about that far and snaps his small chainring in two - he goes off to the Wrench Force van, borrows a new crank, and comes back later. My second attempt I get as far up as the first trees, which have lots of loose dirt and pinecones under them, then I spin out. Jim gets a little farther up, and Pat makes it about that far his second time. The girls (sans Kara - she slept in) go after the Sports finish, and all cluster around the pinecones until Liv from Sun Valley gets another 30 feet up the hill. But the Experts make us all look bad, as they mosey up and up and up. That's why they are experts, I suppose.
It's now about noon, so Jim and I get on the multiple-ride chairlift to have lunch at the Pioneer Lodge on top. Lots of other people are there just to ride the chair up and bike down, for which they pay $10. After cheeseburgers, we zip back down the hill and get in line for the once-only ride to the start of the downhill. It is still cold, even in armwarmers and tights. Should have worn the long-sleeved Rice jersey. We get to the top, and see about forty bikers crammed into a ski patrol shack. The other several hundred of us have to lean against the transmitter building or go climb down the lee side of the hill.
There I am, sitting on a rock. I have this hip shiver going that I wish I could do when not hypothermic - it would make a great dance move. Up to now it had been sunny, but now these gray clouds start moving in. And then, yes, it did actually snow on us. Not very much, but definite snow particles. After several years it is time to go start the downhill. Everybody is shivering and jumping up and down. The Experts go off in a great cloud of dust (even though the course was supposedly watered just to prevent dustiness) and then the Sports as well. That would be me. I pretty much let all the crazies (that would be almost everybody) get ahead of me, because I know I suck at downhill and being stuck at the top of the mountain with a broken bike or leg would suck even worse than just being really really cold, my current situation.
The course is all jeep trail, but with quite a bit of not-quite-packed sand. I freeze my butt off down to the one-mile climb in the middle of the race, where I begin to pant and wheeze and actually sweat a little. Then more downhill, and coming around one corner I pick the wrong side of a rut. I slide out down into the bottom of the rut, hopping away from my bike, which has attempted to turn its fork 180 degrees. Luckily it was prevented from doing so by contact with my front derailleur under-bar shifter. Which now does not want to function, so I place the chain back on the middle chainring - a good compromise, no? - and continue on my merry way. Bumpity bumpity bump. I really need a dual-suspension bike for this sort of thing.