By Captain

July 2010

As the 75 highly trained riders still standing for stage 14 (Revel to Ax 3 Domaines) of the 2010 Tour de France clipped in and headed into the Pyrenees, they launched themselves not only toward the day’s destiny but also – whether they knew it or not –  into a shared experience with the Patio Boys.

For it was this same day, July 19, 2010, that the Boys (plus one Girl) rode the Tour de Patio Boys, stage 1, Loveland to Yellow Springs.  It would be 52 grueling miles, interrupted only by long, lounging moments in Morrow, Corwin and Xenia, with ice cream, hot dogs and sodas at one point and frequent stops for Blackberry email/texting checks.

To the casual observer of elite sports, there may seem little in common with what transpired on in France along the fabled countryside, through regions of wine and history, and on that same day in southern Ohio, through regions of corn and more corn.  But there were in fact enumerable similarities that are indisputable.  Here is just a sample:

  • There as here, the riders were on bicycles, and some riders wore spandex.
  • There as here, a remarkably steep climb was involved.  In France, the riders had an easy and undulating course from Revel to Port de Pailhères, at which point they rose sharply up a peak of the Pyrenees, which, when charted for altitude gain, looks like a chart of Silver Pop’s blood pressure when someone sneaks up behind him and says, “Obama!”  Did Team Patio Boys experience a similar ascent?  Yes, although ours was pre-race when we went to Mount Adams in Cincinnati to the City View on Friday night for cheeseburgers and beers.  The climb (accomplished in motorized vehicles that strained through every wretched inch of altitude gain) was, admittedly, shorter than the Pyrenees counterpart but similar in steepiness (pardon the jargon, but “steepiness,” I believe, is a technical term in cycling; either that or it is a word President Bush used when he biked and approved the Texas Hill Country on his secret visits to the LBJ Library).
  • There as here, riders consumed “water and energy bars”, which is the exact phrase used on the audio commentary by the Tour de France website lady.  Without this minimalist, monkish nourishment, neither cohort of riders or either continent, ours or theirs, could have survived. Gruel for the grueling.  Fuel for the firedrakes.  Were it only one substance (water but no energy bars, for example), you might say coincidence.  But since it was both, clearly this is synergistic and meaningful, signifying an intercontinental  bond between the two events and their riders.
  • There as here, the ride was – to quote the website lady again – “very technical.”  In the case of the Patio Boys, hours were spent on Saturday preparing 30 year old bikes for the Sunday ride. Chains were oiled. Mold was cleaned from the vintage leather seats.  Leaking inner tubes were repaired or replaced.  Dry-rotted tires were filled to 120 psi because what kind of cyclist freaks out over a little dry rot?  WD-40 was sprayed, just as it is by fighter jet mechanics.  No duct tape was used, thus proving this was high-tech work not slap-it-together, last minute fixes.
  • There as here, logistics were attended to.  The Tour de France people can tell their own story on their own website.  As for the Patio Boys, two vehicles had to be driven to Yellow Springs and securely placed in the town police station parking lot.  The duty officer  in Yellow Springs, summoning himself  to high alert, agreed to guard the vehicles until Sunday afternoon.  This is how he stated that: “Sure, you can leave them there.  They should be OK.”
  • There as here, fans flocked to the towns along the route.  The magnetic draw of the Tour de France is evident year after year, and warrants no elaboration in this account.  But readers may not realize the anticipation among racing fans brought on by the Patio Boys first Tour.  In Yellow Springs on Saturday afternoon when the advance team arrived around 2 :45 p.m., the streets were teaming with tourists, who apparently had come just to witness the ceremonial Placing of the Vehicles. Large women in bursting shorts waddled along the main streets to watch.  Children and babies pretended not to notice but were clearly in awe. Some couldn’t help themselves. They squealed with joy.  The parking lot of the Seven Eleven was packed.  And down at Young’s Dairy Ice Cream stand, one of Yellow Springs’ most established establishments, a line of 125 people spilled outside, as fans opted to get their cones on Saturday so they’d be free to witness history on Sunday.  The air was electric with excitement.
  • There as here, once the day’s stage began on Sunday, the riders were competitive, jockeying for position, racing forward and falling back, as lungs and legs alternately found bursts of energy followed by the torment of being pushed too hard by these elite,  powerful athletes.
  • There as here, some doping occurred.  We all know this goes on in France.  It’s been confirmed year in and year out.  But eyewitness accounts from the PB Tour suggest use of unrestrained use of ibuprofen and spotty use of something called “electrolyte tablets” in spiked water bottles. And at the end of the race, another substance, “IPA," also was in wide use.
  • There as here, French influences things. That's obvious for something called the Tour de France; as for our Tour, we talked a lot about a Patio Boy who wussed out, Frenchie, with some lame excuse about a lame Achilles tendon.
  • There as here, Lance Armstrong did not win.

Now, about the race.

This trip may be remembered above all else for how well it worked out.  No one got “misplaced” (our new word for the totally inadequate, inaccurate and previously common “lost”).  Also, in terms of this trip’s amazing perfection, no one got hurt.  No one, that is, except Mrs. Mooch, who took a spill after Mooch bumped her. She wasn’t hurt badly.  She got back up and zipped out of there, her minor scratches providing an adrenaline rush.  No bones were broken.  Or marriages.  It’s all good.  And, significantly, no one went to Campsite 22 (see previous accounts to understand why this is of the utmost importance).

Those are the big themes for the PB Tour.  Here is the basic account:

We left Fort Mitchell Station on Sunday morning very close to the appointed time of 7:30 a.m., and arrived in Loveland at the bike trail about 40 minutes later – all 10 of us on 10 very different bikes, including two pretty nice road bikes, three pretty nice hybrids and one decent hybrid, two pretty nice vintage 10-speeds one of which came via eBay, and a couple of other things with two wheels. We experienced one flat in the parking lot, and repaired that in transit to the trail.

Participating riders: Mooch, Mrs. Mooch, Tarp Boy, Scout, Captain, Doctor W, Bull, B-Goat, PG and, last but certainly not least, our senior leader and early champion of this idea, Silver Pops.

How did things start?  Off we rode, a single peloton at 11 to 14 mph, comfortably through the first 0.1 mile to the first public restrooms.  Quick pit stop.  In and out fast, NASCAR-like.

Back on the bikes, we stayed together for a time, keeping a gentle pace through the canopy of trees that shade the Little Miami Bike Trail for most of the way from Loveland to Morrow, 13.2 miles.  The forward riders pulled over for rest and water and to await the others.  This is when Bull (who had not ridden a bike since 1967 but was adapting well … very well … incredibly well)  kept going, taking a two mile or more lead during his 10 to 15 minutes of riding while his companions dillydallied and snapped  photographs of one another looking almost  athletic.

On we went, trying to catch the leader, which took us until the next stop, Corwin, 14.2 miles from Milford.  He claimed to be meandering along, stopping to see the sights and give food and comfort to starving children from Bangladesh and to save the whales and stuff, which slowed him down.  This was Bull’s way of telling us: “If I didn’t want you to catch me, you never would have.”  This we knew to be true.  The Bull is an animal, driven to excel and exceed.  You don’t beat him unless he allows it.  This is the legend, and we are duty bound to uphold it.

At Corwin, Team  PB paused to refresh – spending freely on junk food.  And then it was off to the next stopping point, Xenia,  7.2 miles off.  The forward peloton raced away, reaching blinding speeds of 19.2 mph, even 19.29 mph!  They traded drafting positions like pros and no animals were harmed in the production of their 7.2 mile masterpiece, which concluded in Xenia where they found themselves lost. Correction: misplaced.  And mapless.  Patio Boys always have maps.  But Patio Boys typically don’t bother actually bringing a map on the trip (for previous examples, see previous trip accounts – you will notice a trend).  So we did the only reasonable thing: We retired to a picnic shelter to stretch out and drink water and chat, waiting for fate to intervene as it usually does for the Patio Boys (again, for previous examples, see previous trip accounts).

Enter Officer LeMaster of the Xenia Police Department.  He drove up, exited his cruiser, and, “How ya doin?”  It was as if the Bike God (who is related by marriage to the Hike God) saw from above that the Patio Boys were misplaced again and needed a hand.  Well, we explained, we weren’t exactly sure where the trail continues.  In any case, we wanted to get to Yellow Springs.  Simple, Officer LeMaster said, up there past that and turn right by a building.  Or something like that.

Officer LeMaster also told us that Xenia calls itself the “Bicycling Capital of the Midwest” – and no wonder.  They have a bike shop.  One bike shop.  What else could you possibly need to claim the crown “Bicycling Capital of the Midwest?”  Being an excellent agent of the city, Officer LeMaster asked us exactly that question.  He wondered if we had any suggestions of services that might further Xenia’s reputation among cyclists.  Presupposed by his question was the idea that he was talking to cyclists.  We replied: chiropractic and massage services along with hot tubs and free, ice cold beer would be good, as would better signs.  He took notes – mental notes.  He didn’t write anything we said down for some reason.  Memory training must be part of the rigor of being an officer in Xenia.

After an adequate rest and then a reunion with the lagging peloton, which inspired more digital photography, we continued on toward Yellow Springs, 10 miles off.  Our pace was slowed some, as this was uphill, gaining elevation as something like a foot every two or three hundred yards.  Just the strain of confirming that it was uphill was enough to tire you out.

A footnote about the lagging peloton: Granted, one or two members maybe should have been in better shape or maybe should have gotten more than four hours sleep the night before; but the reality is, speed was often a function of equipment.  Better bikes, faster bikes.  As in hiking, where tents that don’t leak are better than tents that do leak, bikes with all the gears are better than bikes with just some gears.  Bikes that weigh 20 pounds are faster than bikes that weigh 120 pounds.  This footnote is important because the Patio Boys feel an obligation to the outdoor community to share our collective expertise, gathered over years of experience.

Sometime around 1:30 pm., we arrived in Yellow Springs as the town celebrated.  People in their summer vacation clothes were everyone, clearly coming to town to see and be part of the scene.  “The Patio Boys are here!” one child shouted out.  Or maybe it was, “I have to pee, Mommy.”  Whatever.  Bill, the bartender at Peaches, was especially exuberant, greeting us with ice water and a list of draft beers that he would bring us for $3 a pint – a special price they must have set just to celebrate our arrival. Peaches was fabulous.  Great burgers.  Great patio (and the Patio Boys like that). This is where the substance IPA came into use, which stirred memories for former microbrewery owner Scout, who tapped his beer knowledge to inform us that he was an IPA innovator with a modest hops bite to his original ales while today's versions are off the charts hoppy; and also this history and chemistry lesson (Captain majored in both, so he likes the combo): the British used hops as a preservative and added more of it to their ales that they shipped to India, hence the ones going there were stamped for shipment: "IPA." Other Patio Boys, less expert than Scout in chemisty and history but apparently linquists, added this wisdom to the conversation: IPA is alternately pronounced "eye pea aye" or "eye-pah."  So, as usually happens, our conversation was turning highly intellectual. Stimulating (and stimulated by). Blame the IPA.

There you have it. The Patio Boys, known for their hikes, can now be known for their bikes. Poetic, isn't it?

 A final note: It was an adventure getting home, as we had only two cars in Yellow Springs to ferry us back to the starting point in Loveland and two bike racks for 10 bikes and 10 people.  But after some disassembly and effort, everyone and all bikes were on board, and we drove home in one piece.  Can the Tour de France races claim a better day?  Je ne crois pas.