Monday, January 12, 2009

First Friday Alley Cat - November '08

Novembers first Friday alley cat race brought the first part of a weekend long cold snap that was preceded by un-seasonal 70-degree weather. There was also light precipitation and moderate winds on tap, hell even some snow. I was jacked up because I was determined to get first place this month, that and my dinner consisted of 2 Vitamin Water energy drinks and an energy bar from work. I had stopped into Wheel and Sprocket because had to install the new bottom bracket into my new frame, since I was having a lot of trouble with the current one and wanted to be in top condition. The only problem I would have once that was done was one of the broken sides on my right pedal, but that was manageable. No, I was geared up as best as I could be to take the race.

I went straight downtown from work and biked to the bar, working out the new part and pumping up my muscles. The new bottom bracket was noticeably better and I felt confident that the thing was going to work right; I was definitely ready to do this. I showed up at the bar after an easy ride in and locked up. There were already a bunch of people there and it was around 7 o’clock. I noticed people I knew, greeted some of them but did not see the guy who was putting on the race yet, Joe. I was nervous, the only thing keeping me from succeeding was fumbling the routing, I was hopping that we would get the manifests before hand, so I could study it with ease. I showed off the new ride to a couple of people and bull shitted while drinking my beer. Joe showed up soon after, and registration took place shortly after that. I quickly jotted down my name on the USPS express envelope he handed to me, no manifest yet though. After another fifteen minutes or so we all moved outside to begin the race. I was all set, I had 2 pens out and ready incase I lost or broke on, my package was in my bag, my bike was all set, I was ready to rock. We all gathered around Joe for the instructions, we still hadn’t gotten the manifest. It dawned on me that he might do what he did in the spring, have us go get our manifests. That would make things more difficult, but I would manage. He told us to pull out or envelopes, I took of my bag reluctantly and took the item out, leaving my bag open and ready for instant return of the goods so I could go as quickly as possible. He told us we had two manifests, gave us the addresses for both and said that who ever answered both of them and got back first with the correct answers one. He also said there were maps on the back of the manifests as well and gave us his cell number incase we needed to call him. I quickly jotted everything down on the envelope and through it back in my bag then strapped it to my back. I was in the street already and positioned my bike to head west and get on Water Street. One of the stops was on south second and the other was north ninth. I was going to head for 2nd first. He called go and I jumped, I was the first one to act from what I could tell. As I took off I heard someone I pass, who was mounting up curse something, but I didn’t look back to find out what. As soon as I neared the intersection the light turned red…well there went my plan, time to revamp. I turned north on Water instead and would aim for the 9th street stop. I though that taking Wisconsin would be the best, because the hill is the easiest to get up. Based on the address we were given I figured out the stop was just south of State street. I got to Wisconsin as that light turned red and took a left on the street, but hugging the left side of the road, going against traffic. The road was moderately busy so I didn’t open up right away, I was playing it safe.

A car was heading towards me as I was crossing the river and it finally notices me and made some room as it passed by. Unfortunately my new headlight got soaked the night before in a down pour and pretty much crapped out on me, one of these days I will get a light that works well and meets my size requirements. As I crossed the bridge I noticed 2 or 3 other racers zoom by me on the correct side of the road. As I passed Plankinton the traffic got a little closer as I had to squeeze between them and the parked cars. As I city bus headed toward me I thought about how much it would suck to get taken out by that thing, one rule of thumb is that it is rare to get hit from behind, but getting hit head on is pretty easy to do. I pushed that thought aside and hugged the parked cars. As I neared 3rd I caught a break in the flow of traffic and crossed over to the correct side, trailing behind the other bikers. As they hit the intersection I saw them all swerve right, at first I thought they were stupidly heading north on 3rd, but then I realized they were avoiding the bad cobblestone job in the intersection, I followed suit. At 4th street we hit a red light, they all turned right, but I stuck it out and waited for 3 cars to pass and carried on. I figured it would save more time to do that then follow them and climb a harder hill on Wells or State, which would be a pain in the ass and be harder to deal with, especially since Wells isn’t 2 way until 6th street. So I continued on and headed up Wisconsin, all alone, I stepped it up but was already gasping for breath, not good. My nerves were calmer then they usually were at the start of a race but I was still blowing myself out way too early. My course up Wisconsin was uneventful and easy going, I climbed the mild incline with ease and turned right onto 9th street. I caught a red light at Wells and had to stop for one car, once it passed I scanned the road and went, half expecting to see the other racers around the corner, but there was no one.

I came to the west side of the street and mounted the sidewalk; I was at the courthouse complex. Our manifests were in free paper boxes, but I couldn’t see any on the corner and judging from the address we got it should be at the corner. I looked down the block, into the tunnel under the complex and saw an Onion box, I figured that had to be it so I took off, still no other racers…was I getting this good of a time?

I got the boxes, hopped of the bike and layed it down on the curb. There were two of them and something told me the non-Onion box was the right choice. I walked to it, opened it and there lying on top of the stack were the manifests. I pulled the top one out, walked back to my bike, picked it up and started to read the stops. I quickly scanned all of them and started to mentally route them. Then all of a sudden, out of the wood work something like 6 or 7 racers showed up. I folded up my manifest and put it in my right cargo pocket and took off, back the way I came. I needed to keep my lead against this large field of racers.

I quickly crossed Wells again and headed to Wisconsin, when I hit that intersection the street was clear and I dodged across quickly then continued south on 8th street. The first stop was at 700 something 8th street. As I headed towards it I wondered if anyone got the idea to not read the manifest and just follow me, I have done that in the past, for better or worse. I didn’t look behind me; I was just focused on the first stop. As I neared Michigan I started to wonder if I was in the right spot, fearing that I had to take a different road to get to that part of 8th, wondering if I was heading into the freeway onramp. My fears were quelled soon as I crossed and saw the stop. I mounted the sidewalk came up to the front door and pulled out my manifest to re-read the question. I had to write down what the statue on the sign had in its left hand. It was hard to tell at first, as my glasses had started to get sprinkled on, as it was very lightly rain/sleeting. The image was of Justice and I double-checked to see if the hand I was looking at was the correct one, I wrote down balance. In her right hand was a sword. I glanced to figure out what my next stop was, didn’t know the name of the street. I flipped the manifest over and searched for the street for the next stop. I actually found it relatively quickly and took off around the corner.

8th street dead-ended and the street it ended at took me around to 9th and then up a small incline and dumped me back on Clybourn. I hung a left on the street, heading to 13th, which has been paved over finally after all these years. At the bottom of the hill, were 13th is, a van was waiting at a red light. As I neared it I wondered if I should pull around the vans right and turn in front of it to get to 13th, but then imagined the light turning green just as I tried that and the van would take me out. The left and safe side was a bit tricky due to construction barriers right next to the van. As I neared it my problem solved its self as the light changed. Before oncoming traffic could impede me I turned into the closed off southbound lane, slipping between 2 barriers. The northbound lane was open but there was some traffic on it. As I headed under the freeway I saw a large semi attempting some odd maneuver at the intersection with St Paul and feared that I would have to dance with that thing to get through, luckily I wasn’t headed to Canal street yet, so didn’t have to deal with it completely. I neared the other side of the freeway and realized that traffic had the right of way off of the ramp and to my right. I was slightly blinded on that side and feared that traffic might be flying pretty fast off the ramp. I slowed down as I approached it, got a good shot up the ramp, so no cars and took off across the intersection. A this time the semi had gotten out of my way, it was trying to back into the Potawatomi office parking lot on the southwest corner of St. Paul and 13th. This played out heavily in my favor as the semi was no longer in my way and blocked cars from every single direction that would affect me as I pulled a sharp right turn onto St. Paul.

The open road lay before me and I opened up on the bike, holding about 22 mph when I was able to read my computer in the pools of light from street lamps. I pulled out my manifest too to try and get a sense of exactly what I was looking for, but put it back in soon after. I tried to read the map, but the light was to little, my concentration was to short and the wind was too strong to really get a hang of the sheet of paper properly. Traffic from the eats didn’t catch up tome until about the 2000 block. I slowed down to let a car pass by me so I could cross to the other side when I noticed a sign for the street I wanted, Greves. I cut over and went down this road. About a couple hundred feet onto the road I hit a drop pretty hard and slowed down considerably. The road was ill lit and my headlight wasn’t working again, even if it was it wasn’t designed to shed light on the path before me. In the light that was available I could see this road was incredibly torn up, thanks Joe. I hugged the right side, which was a mistake as I continued to hit sharp inclines and declines. I road tentatively, not wanting a jolt like I had at first, but more came.

As I rolled down this messed up and desolate road a thought crossed my mind, this is the kind of place that messed up people come to do drugs and kill people. Would I get shot at or jumped by some unknown menace in the shadows…of which there were a lot. There was no one around and as I went under the bridge for 24th the sense of entering a really nasty area really took affect. I shrugged and kept going, my biggest worry was the road its self, not who might be lurking on it. I traveled further and stopped as I neared some buildings so I could read the question on the manifest properly, figure out which address I needed to look for. As I did I heard the tell tale hissing nose of a rapid leak. I bent down to my front tire to confirm it, wiggled the valve stem and cursed at my bad luck. There go my chances at first place, it would take me a while to change the tire and even then I knew I wouldn’t be able to inflate it all the way with my crappy hand pump. I mounted back up and road on, the tire still had air and I wanted to find the stop first before I decided what to do. As I pulled out my manifest again it got caught between my hand and my handlebar and the left side of it ripped off. I was content to let it fall to the ground and be gone, but then I reconsidered and was about to turn around to search for it when I found it still in my hand, I shoved both parts in my pocket, being careful not to lose either.

The area was very dark and the buildings were long industrial warehouses. The smell was horrible; it was like a meat packing plant or a tannery. Once I found some identifying marks I found out it was a grouping of tanneries, lovely. After a few minutes of back and forth in the general area I needed I finally discovered the address I was looking for but could not find the sign I needed. I rode in the factories parking lot for a minute, weighing my options and considering a number of scenarios; forgoing the stop, giving up on the race, calling Joe, etc. I finally decided to stop, my tire was mostly flat and I didn’t want to damage my rim anymore than I might already have. I quickly undid my bag, grabbed a hand full of my tools out of it, found my wrench and undid the front tire. The entire process was quite mechanical and efficient. I put the wrench between my teeth, grabbed the tire lever and began to peal the tire off of the rim. It was a little off with my gloves on, but it kept the lever from biting into my hand and gave me more leverage. I quickly pulled one side out of the rim, pulled out the blown tube, tire still on rim, and chucked the dead tube into the ditch next to me. I was a bit pissed off and wanted to leave my mark, maybe whoever found it would be incredibly perplexed as too this discarded bike tube in the most unlikely place. Next I pulled my spare out of my bag along with my pump and bead jack. I surgically unpacked the tube, chucked the box after the old tube and even discarded the valve cover and lock ring. I didn’t have time to mess around with components that were nonessential…I could always replace them later anyways, besides this new tube didn’t have the cool red valve covers I liked, so I didn’t want that anyways.

There are two types of bike tire valves, the one most people are used to that is the same as what you find on cars is the Schroeder valve. The other kind, the ones I’m using, are called presta valves. I like the presta better because I think they have a more efficient mechanism and you can inflate them a little with your mouth. The top part of the stem unscrews and you push this small screw in to open up the valve. So all you have to do is unscrew it put it in your mouth, push on the screw with your tongue and blow. When changing a tube you want the tube to have air in it so that it takes its shape a bit, this will help you from pinching the tube between the tire and rim when installing it. I blew it up and as I screwed the valve down I accidentally pushed the pin in and let out most of the air. I quickly unscrewed it again and blew into it again, this time being conscious of pulling back on the pin as I screwed it into place. I wasn’t used to doing this with gloves on, but the worst came as I fed the tube into the tire. I didn’t get it seated all the way on the rim properly and as I began to roll the tire back onto the rim I almost pinched the tube. If I would have blown this tube I would have been out of luck and would have had to walk back to the bar, some 2 or so miles…game over. I stuffed the tube in place and rolled the tire on the best I could bare handed. Then I grabbed my bead jack, which is a wonderful cheaters tool for getting very tight tires on very tight rims with little fear of pinching you tube. I quickly popped it into place seated the valve and began to fill it up with the hand pump, hoping to get 60psi into the tire. This entire process might have taken 2 or 3 minutes, pretty god time I thought, I also remembered during MMI when Matt and I came across the one girl with a flat tube how she had pretty much changed her tire in like 20 seconds, it was unbelievable. I started pumping and reattached the nozzle 2 times as I got more air in it, hopping for a better seal. After some frantic and increasingly difficult pumping with this poorly designed thing I checked and only had 60psi. That would be the best I could do and would have to suffice. The tire is rated for a min of 100 and a max of 150, I like to ride around 145 or so, which is what caused this flat in the first place, stupid bad road. I wasn’t too concerned about rolling the tire off the rim though and would have to make due, my rolling resistance would be worse now so it would be harder to go faster. I mounted the bike, shoving my wrench in my pocket instead of my bag. I mounted up and saw a car creeping down the street and another racer slowing down a bit away from me. He looked at the building I was in front of further down and headed towards the train tracks that I was on the other side of.

Since I had found the address I needed on the far end of the building, were I was stationed, I never though to go too far down the other way to search more. When I saw the other racer do that I followed suit and road further down the parking lot and sure enough I found another address sign, which had the same address and the answer I was looking for. I quickly jotted it down and took off with a furry. I had wasted too much time looking for this answer and with my tire, another racer has already caught up with me and it was highly likely that the others had gone a different route and were blowing me away. I crossed the tracks again to get back on the shitty road and passed by the creeping car, which seemed to be an employee coming to work. Of course they would creep on this crappy of a road. On the way back out I took the center, which was more forgiving, but still treacherous. Soon I pulled off on a side road and took that up about a block until it terminated. I hopped off and crossed a small patch of grass and found myself at the intersection of St. Paul and 24th.

Traffic was fast and heavy, but I took a right and headed towards Canal and my next stop. I saw what was presumably the other biker I had seen before coming towards me on St Paul and I took off with a vengeance, I had some time to make up. Once I got to the roundabout I lost sight of him as I pulled into the oncoming part of the curve, to save time and turn into the left side of canal, a car was coming from the west and I didn’t want to have to slow down to let it pass me. Once it drove by I crossed and began to scan for the next stop. I quickly found it as I stopped in front of the municipal garage and pulled out my manifest. The side I tore off contained part of the questions, most notably many of the address numbers, so it was a good thing I didn’t lose it. I found the question and road into the parking lot. I had to write down what color the post office box was. It was red and blue so I wrote both down; with out checking for the address of this stop, I figured it had to be it. I pulled back out and this time the street was full of traffic so I rode the nice, smooth and wide sidewalk on the north side. As I cruised down it, waiting for an opportunity to pull onto the street, I feared I would hit some unseen curb and damage my tubes. I also kept thinking I had blown my rear one, but when I stopped at one point and squeezed it, it still help up good.

As I approached 13th I pulled out my manifest and tried my best to read it as I rode. I got the gist of the next stop, which was on 12th street. I pulled onto the street near Cargill, but stuck to the wrong side as I would be hanging a left at 13th and didn’t want the possibility of oncoming traffic to hamper me. I got to the intersection and saw a group of 5 racers on the south east corner, stopped. One of them hand his cell out. The idea that they were at the stop I need got pushed out almost as soon as it arrived when I reminded myself I needed 12th and this was 13th. As I took the corner to head north I yelled out if they were lost, they replied with a yes and I laughed and went on. The right side was under construction, but luckily no traffic was behind or ahead of me and I rolled effortlessly up the street, only slightly fearing for my safety as I hit the bridge and thought about my severely under inflated tire. It was starting to precipitate again but I carried on. I turned right at the small access road that runs along the train tracks and goes to the back of the St Paul post office. I figured the weird businesses here had to be the right ones. I pulled up, scanned the area and hesitated going between the poles that lead to the lot in front of the building I figured was the correct one, I imagined there was some unseen wire there, ready to mess me up. I pulled around again; contemplated trying to go around to some foreseeable entrance, but the state of the road further down dissuaded me from doing so. I pulled around again and actually caught sight of the line I imagined a second earlier, good thing I didn’t barrel through. I hopped off my bike, dumped it in the road and hopped the chain and ran/walked to the front of the building. I found the address, but it wasn’t the right one, for some reason I thought I needed to go further south in this part and ran off to another building just south of it, contemplating biking the short distance, but then again the road was messed up. A quick scan brought no luck then I realized I needed to head north. I looked across the train tracks and found what I needed. I ran that way, checked for any on coming trains and quickly scrambled across the, into the short alleyway. I found a door and began searching for my next answer, the businesses Saturday hours. At first I didn’t see any and thought that it was none, but then I saw Saturday hours for this places gallery and quickly jotted them down. I didn’t find an address on the building but assumed it was the correct one. I ran across the train tracks again to pick up my lonely bike. Hopped on and headed back south on 13th to Canal.

When I crossed the river again I saw the lost group headed towards me, I waved at them as I took a sharp left on the long yellow at canal. I had a nice stretch ahead of me and I took off. I was quick to slow down as I neared the dreaded train tracks that cut suddenly on this stretch. As I neared them two cars passed me so I had to slow down and wait for them to pass so I could pull into the left lane to safely cut across the tracks. Once that was out of the way I hauled again, heading to 6th.

When I got to 6th I noticed another racer coming out of The Harley Museums parking lot, and head south on 6th. I wondered if he had the other manifest and had some weird question at Harley or if he knew of some secret route to get from 4th over to 6th behind the museum. Either way, I recognized that it was Gallagher, due to his red attire. I pulled up behind him and we both cranked up the hill into La Barrio. I didn’t want to pass him for fear of scarring him. That’s when I noticed that my new bottom bracket was starting to go again and it was creaking, surely he heard that, incase he didn’t I purposely spit loudly to let him know I was behind him. He was slowing down as we crested the hill but I took it as a chance to rest slightly and followed his pace. I contemplated coming up on his left and either riding with him or passing, but I wanted to rest a second instead. As we reached the curve into the round about he looked back at me and signaled he was turning left. I passed by him, keeping to the right, onto 6th and greeted him as we parted.

The light turned green as I neared Virginia and I kept up with the two cars I met. As I rolled down 6th I wondered why Gallagher had gone east, then I remembered that this stretch of 6th was a little messed up, but nothing too bad. Maybe he just wanted to avoid it. As I neared National I contemplated turning down a side street and taking that to 2nd or something. My next stop was on 2nd and National and I soon hit that street. I pulled into the left lane and noticed that the walk sign at National was blinking; I picked up the pace to make it through in time and did so just as it turned red. I pounded down the road and hit green after green. After I passed 3rd I stopped halfway down the block, pulled out the two manifest parts and read the question. I had to say what model was in the window at the address. As I searched for the address I saw two other racers come from the east and wonder around a second. I then realized I was off on the address, the question was asking for east National, not west. I cursed my mistake and took off. I thought the next manifest was at this intersection of National and when I opened the free paper box in front of La Cage I was disappointed to find nothing. I rode down a bit more but did not find anything, ten I thought it was on first. When I checked that street and found nothing I finally pulled out the envelope to find the address. I was off by 4 blocks. I quickly got back to 2nd and headed further south. The second manifest was in front of the Allen Bradley building. The first one I grabbed was torn in half; I tossed it back in the box and grabbed a full one then spent a minute studying it. I still had a few stops to do on the first manifest but while comparing the two I could take care of my missing stops while doing the second one. Having pushed the National avenue stop back on my list I headed off to Bruce Street, were I had 2 stops. I looked on the back of the second manifest at the map to get a pinpoint of the street, thought it listed it as just south of National and decided to head up Greenfield to get there.

I headed up 2nd from Allen Bradley and turned west at the next cross street. I then turned south down 3rd street, where I noticed that there was construction at Greenfield. In hopes to bypass it, I got on the sidewalk but as I neared the road I could see that even the sidewalk was torn up, I cursed, hopped off the bike, shouldered it and ran across the half of the road that was missing. I cursed myself for continuing to get into these cyclocross type situations as my foot sunk slightly into some wet gravel. I noticed that the portion of road that did exist was new but narrow, only two lanes and no room for cars to pass by me. I got on the street, hopped on the bike and took off. I stuck to the center of my lane, to make myself even more visible and prayed that some drunken jackass didn’t end up blowing through me. I neared 5th street after climbing the slight incline into La Barrio and noticed what I thought was the entire lane north of Greenfield closed off. As I rolled into the intersection I didn’t even bother checking for traffic, thinking there would be none since I thought the road was closed, only to discover a car coming towards me a little to close for my comfort. It happened so quickly I didn’t have any time to worry about it and by the time it fully connected with me I was through the intersection, but the driver in the car was probably a little freaked by my sudden and hasty appearance, I think he honked a little…weird.

The light on 6th was red but there was no traffic so I barreled through that intersection and pushed my pace up to around 24 mph. As I neared 8th I started to think about how messed up this neighborhood is and then 2 guys crossed the construction and stood in my path. Half heartedly fantasizing about them causing some kind of bull shit with me I smiled and pulled as far from them as possible as I passed by. I’m sure my presence there didn’t surprise them, at least not like it does when I ride through the ghetto. Soon a car was closing in behind me so I picked the pace up again, looking for the next cross street that I could get onto with out walking the bike through the construction again. I figured it would at least be 13th street, which would cause me to back track slightly since the next stop was on 12th and Bruce. Luckily the intersection at 11th was clear so I hit a hard right and took off into the darkness. At first I thought that the car had turned to follow me, but when I looked back they had headed south on 11th.

At the first block I passed by a police car heading south as well, for a moment I worried that they might try to hassle me, but quelled that fear quickly, someone in my position, racing status withstanding, isn’t really that rare in this hood. As I rolled through the first 4 way stop without slowing I thought a car was behind me, a cp car to be more exact. At various times through out the race I kept thinking I would get pulled over by a cop for illegally going through an intersection, even before the race started I had that thought. There was one but it wasn’t a cop. I kept going, picking up my pace, trying to keep ahead of the car. I kept a careful eye on the intersection names and when I came to the one just south of National I pulled over to the left side and pulled out my manifest. The second one I decided to keep in my left cargo pocket, to separate from the other one both to save time between searching for the proper one and to limit the chance of dropping one of them. I looked at the map and discovered that my thinking was wrong and Bruce was south of National, my routing had been flawed and I could have had an easier time going down National, plus I could have gotten the stop I missed on National. I didn’t have too much time to worry about the mistakes I was making and went through the green light at National. As I did I stopped and double checked the map again, as there was a shot but annoying hill I was about to roll down and I didn’t want to have to climb it because I made a mistake and misread the map again. I found I was right and flew down the hill.

Bruce Street was at the end of the line anyways but the intersection wasn’t controlled on it, so I had to slow down a bit because I knew traffic was moderately heavy on this stretch of desolate road and it usually went fast too. The coast was clear and I took off, my creaking bottom bracket bothering me, but there was nothing I could do except continue to ride. I pulled out the manifest as I rode to reread the question. I had to find the speed limit sign at 12th and Bruce. I saw one pretty much at the intersection, memorized it and kept going. My next stop was a few blocks up and I pulled the manifest out as I rode to double check that one. This one was on the first one and I had to go to an address on the 16 hundred block. I knew what side of the street it was on due to the numbering sequence and road hard to the stop. I pulled up to the stop, got my answer and began writing it on the wall of the building. The part I was on was porous and the writing was horrible, I think I went through the paper a few times. I moved to a smoother portion and tried to clean it up a bit. I pocketed that manifest and grabbed the other one, studied the stops again and decided to take the 2 stops that were back in the middle of the Menomonee Valley. I was just under the 16th street viaduct so figured that would be the easiest and quickest way to get to were I needed to get. I checked the map for my next stop, noticed it was near Potawatomi and took off, shoving the manifest in my pocket. I backtracked to the street that ran along the viaduct then started going up the short, steep incline. As I did 3 things came into my mind; this is a really shady area, where junkies would come to shoot up, I could use this little street as a question on a race I would do when I won one, maybe something like what does the graffiti say, or when I noticed multiple, I would say how many times is this word written. The final thing I thought about was the fact that this was a sort of off ramp for 16th street and I was headed against traffic, which was moving faster than it should be and not expecting me to be here. My headlight was still not functioning either, so I pulled as close as I could to the west side of the road, hugging the viaduct its self.

As I came out at the top I slowed to see if a lot of traffic was coming, only one car then made a quick 180 onto 16th and took the right lane. The pavement on the viaduct, I remember from a race earlier in the year, was pretty decent, so I opened up, trying to make up lost time. I noticed that the offshoot into the Potawatomi parking lot was near by and figured that was my best course of action. I pulled into the left hand lane as I neared, in order to keep from being cut off by passing traffic. Before I got there a line of cars got the green light and all passed by me before I needed to turn, all but one that was, they slowed and crept into the parking structure. As I slowed to let them pass I smiled and followed behind them. Up until I actually pulled into the structure I was debating how I would get down. I thought of taking the ramps down to the bottom, but that would be long and involved and I would have to maintain a cautious speed since people would be parking and unparking all over the place and not expecting a bike to be in their path…it just didn’t add up to efficiency and safety, so when I pulled into the structure I noticed a stair well directly to my right. I went to it, disappointed there wasn’t an elevator, hoped off, shouldered the bike and went in. I thought this was a pretty funny thing and enjoyed it. I grabbed the railing with my left hand and started running down the four floors. As I went I kept thinking about what would happen if I lost my footing and slipped, this caused me to grip tighter on the railing. Son enough I was on the first floor. There was a door to my left that went outside the structure, but it didn’t look like anything but a grassy field, so I took the other door, into the structure. I came out just as a car was pulling up to leave. I think I shocked the elderly couple that was there, a guy suddenly emerging from the stair wheel in front of them carrying a bike. They kept going; I mounted up and followed behind. They were creeping, which was fine by me, because I was trying to find any sort of street sign; I thought the small street I was on was the one I needed. As I pulled out onto a cross street, I pulled out the manifest and looked at the map, at first freaking out when I didn’t find it in my left pocket, but after a few seconds I checked the right one and found both of them. I kicked my self mentally for reading the map wrong again, the street I needed was just south of St. Paul, were I thought it was just south of Canal. I quickly got back on the bike and cursed my poor routing. I thought about how I could have taken he viaduct further down and been in a better position. At first I thought that another of my stops was on canal, but after checking the manifest again I realized the next two stops were near each other, so again I thought getting off at Potawatomi was a mistake, especially since my next stop was the 1700 block of Mount Vernon and I could only get to St Paul from 13th street. I once again found myself on Canal and 13th. This time there was some traffic including a truck that was heading the same way I was. It was stopped in the left turn lane at 13th waiting for the red light. The light turned green but no one was going, even though there was traffic facing us. As I neared the intersection I realized we had the arrow and the guy in the truck wasn’t paying attention, but he took off just as it turned yellow. I had to wait a second when I reached the intersection for the oncoming car to pass then I too found my self for the 3rd time on this stretch of 13th. Again it was lightly precipitating and I worried again about losing traction on the bridge across the river. I tried to take it as straight as possible, to reduce any sort of crossing the grid, therefore reducing my traction. As I crossed the bridge I saw my horrible luck ahead of me, there was a train blocking the road and I couldn’t tell how long it was. I cursed out loud and slowed down, preparing to wait it out. As I neared the train I noticed that the street on my side of the tracks that paralleled them was my next stop. I smiled at my good fortune, thanked the train for the assistance and took off, bypassing the truck and a car waiting patiently. I wondered if they thought I was going to try and pass the train further up the road.

I rode down this short industrial road, fearing for hidden dangers in the road, but it was relatively clean. As I rode I kept my eye out for my next stop. I had to find a speed limit sign at the 1700 block of the road. My memory of the map said that it pretty much ended at that point so I rode on to the end and saw the sign. I made a mental note of the speed limit and prepared to stop at 17th for the train and write it down then. As I neared the train I noticed it was pretty much done. I slowed down and let it pass then I was on my way again. I knew my next stop was something like the 2100 block of St. Paul. I pulled onto the street, which was unusually dead, and took off. As I cranked down the street I saw a group of hipster single speed bikes looked up to a pole in front of a bar on the street. I wondered if there was something I didn’t know about the race but realized that wasn’t true and smiled, these kids could be racing too, suckers. I rode on.

At first I pulled over to the south side of the street, since there were no buildings on the north side, to get a sense of were I was address wise. I found the address and compared it to the manifest. I read the question, which asked were wad the second power transformer, or something like that and wondered what the hell it meant. I crossed the road and noticed a small power box that coincided with the number address I was looking for and saw another one further up the block. I figured there must be something written on one of them, maybe an address. I neared the second one and saw it was open and all the cables were spilling out of it. I thought this was kind of cute but couldn’t find anything. I hopped of my bike, laid it on the curb and walked around the power box. I couldn’t find anything and pulled the manifest to reread the question. I was half tempted to pull my phone out and call Joe to find out what the hell he meant. But that would mean having to power up my phone and dig his number out of my bag. I didn’t want to waste my time and knew I could figure this problem out. I jumped on my bike and headed to the first one, since the clue started with what I thought was that one. I got there and didn’t see anything, there was a number scrawled on it but it didn’t correlate with the address I was looking for. I walked around this one and consulted the manifest again. That’s when I realized I was on the wrong damn street. I need to be on Clybourn…I was pissed now. The quickest way for me to get there would be to go up to 24th and come around again. I shook my head in anger again, as I truly messed up my routing this time and could have taken the viaduct all the way out to this stop and made better time. Pissed, I got back on the bike and cranked down the road, the sound of my creaking bottom bracket biting into my nerves and making me angrier. I pulled onto 24th, hading north, and realized I was again swimming against the flow of traffic and these people were going pretty fast as to the south of the freeway overpass was an onramp. I started climbing painfully up this steep incline, fearful of being taken out by a car speeding and not paying attention. As I crossed the bridge I noticed that the other side was a freeway off ramp. I could however see over the guard wall and noticed no more cars coming up the ramp. I thought about hoping off of my bike and wondering if I could make any better time, but decided against it and bull headed my way slowly up the hill. I cautiously crossed the off ramp exit and only had to deal with the turn lane from Clybourn. A truck passed me on the ramp and I was free and clear.

I quickly crossed to the north side of the street, as I knew the answer was on that side and tried to make up some time, but I was beat up form the hard incline and had a bit of an incline on this stretch. I paid attention to the addresses, the blocks seemed longer then they should be and when I felt like I was getting no where I came across the stop. I pulled onto the sidewalk and noticed right away that there was a weird mechanical device in an enclosed box out in front of this building. As I peered into the fogged up box I could see a plaque on the mechanical device. It was unfortunately sitting behind an evergreen bush and I had to climb into the bush to get close to the box. I wondered what people driving by thought I was trying to do. I scanned the plaque for my info and found that the second one was located in Dearborn Michigan at the Ford Museum. I put my manifest on the glass and wrote that down. Now my next stop was at 10th and St. Paul, so I headed back down to 13th and Clybourn, again into the closed off but newly paved section under the freeway, for the second time today.

I took off like a bullet down the street and noticed I hit 30mph at one point before I had to slow down at a red light on 16th. I pulled into the viaduct to cut between 3 cars turned west onto Clybourn and a guy speeding to head north. I came back around again and headed back to 13th on Clybourn. I pulled onto 13th, in-between the construction gates and slowed as I came to the off ramp on the other side of the freeway. No traffic was coming and I had a green at St. Paul. I quickly pulled left and pounded down the road. Ahead of me car, seemingly lost, was turning around. As I headed to my next stop I noticed another train was moving. It had just started and I figured it was long, so now I would not be able to go back down 13th to get to Canal. I rode by the next stop, counted the number of trees in front of the building and kept heading down St. Paul. I was pissed that I was forced to go out of my way now. I was close to the bar but still had to do 4 stops. I cursed myself for not getting that stop at east National when I got my second manifest. I was really making a lot of routing mistakes in this race and as time was ticking by my chances of winning or even placing high were starting to fade into fantasy. As I cruised down the newly paved St. Paul, I tried to plot the best rout to take to get back on course. I thought about the chances of saving time by double backing to get to 6th street and get on the viaduct. One of the stops I needed to make was at the Harley Museum and I originally planned to cut down 14th to get to Canal and hit it from that direction. But since that train showed up that plan got squashed and I had to rethink my plan. My next best course would be to take 2nd and go hit the stop I passed on national, and then hit the in-between stop then hit the Museum. I didn’t like it because my other way would have left me with a clear shot down 1st street to get back to the bar, now I would be on the 6th street viaduct and have to climb the hill into downtown to head back to the bar. This was not going well at all.

I pulled had onto 2nd street and wondered if any of the stopped cars on the northbound side thought I would run into them since I was wide out. I thought for a second that a car might come up behind me but knew that was impossible. I righted myself and pounded down 2nd, crossing the tracks and the bridge. The thought never occurred to me that the train that blocked me at 13th might block me at 2nd, but luckily it had pulled into the Amtrak station instead of continuing south. I crossed the grated bridge, mindful of the cross pattern and my low front tire and was into the south side again. I don’t particularly like this stretch of road, but it’s a lot better then some of the roads I had traversed so far in the race so just minded my path and took over the right hand lane. I opened up again but was feeling very exhausted so could only maintain 20 or so mph. My saddle was starting to make me sore as well, it had been a long time since I had been riding this long and this hard. I looked at my computer and noticed the time was around 45 or 50 minutes for total on bike time. It had been a tough race but I was nearing the end. I paid attention to the street signs as I headed south so I could pinpoint the exact location of the second stop I had to do on this leg. As I went under an overpass a car heading northbound honked at me…I have no idea why but it startled me a little, I hate when motorists honk at you suddenly. I wondered if it was someone who knew, or though they knew, me. Oh well, I kept going and contemplated heading down a side street and continuing down on 1st but by the time I pulled onto the eats side of the street I was a block away from national. I did not make the green light unfortunately and pulled into on coming traffic and hugged the parked cars yet again. I sure was having to do this a lot in this race. The traffic cleared westbound and I pulled into the lane, waiting for the eastbound traffic to open up for me to cross and get onto the correct side. It did so and I made the green light at 1st street.

I had never been down this stretch but knew a little bit of the area east of 1st in Walkers Point. I crossed one road and found my next stop, the one I passed on the way to get my 2dn manifest. I kicked myself for not doing this one sooner. Stupid. I could have routed so much better if I had done this stop and the next one after I got my second manifest. Oh well, no point brooding on the past mistakes. I rode along the building, regretting not having mounted the sidewalk earlier, searching it for windows. I had to figure out what the model in the window was of. As I rolled under a train track I couldn’t see any windows on the building. I pulled onto the sidewalk on the other end and backtracked, checking again. I then rolled back to the bar on the corner, found the address and realized that the building under the tracks was the right one. Now I just had to find the windows that had the model. I came back around again, turning on the sidewalk this time and pulled into a small parking area in-between both buildings. There were windows on the west side of the building, but everything was dark and the lights outside were making it hard to see. I laid my bike down and started to search, hesitatingly for a number of reasons. There were people in the back of the bar that I could see and I didn’t want to raise any suspicions and cause trouble. I also expected some kind of post Halloween shock and surprise with this stop. It was just plain creepy, the windows were dirty and fogging up and from what I could see of the inside was all old and light industrial. It looked like some set out of the movie Saw or something. Along the side of it there was a parked truck so I figured maybe someone was inside. As I squeezed between the building and the truck to get a better view in the window’s hesitatingly, I kept imagining that I would see some kind of messed up cadaver model or some one wearing a grotesque mask would pop out and scream at me suddenly, or I would actually see some gut butchering up his latest victim on some table.

I franticly and hesitatingly tried to peer into the windows to find the target. I tried to block out the reflecting light from the bar, but it was of no avail. The windows were fogged pretty well at my eye level and I was contemplating calling Joe and yelling at him, but he might not have realized the trouble this stop would pose with this condensation problem. I looked again and finally saw it. In the set of windows I didn’t pay to close attention to I could see half of the floor space taken up by a really cool and elaborate HO train set. It was amazing and really quite surprising. I smiled and pulled my original manifest out to fill in the last stop. At first I tried to write it on the brick, but when that proved futile I moved to the metal door into the place and scrawled my answer down. This stop was a nice surprise, especially after my imagination was taking over about ghouls and freights. I hopped on my bike and headed back to my next stop.

I had to get to 4th and Florida and write down what color the stand pipe was. I didn’t know what a standpipe was but figured I could figure it out at the stop. So I rode, first west on National then north on 1st as I hit a red light at that intersection. I pulled ahead of northbound traffic pretty quickly, but kept to the bike lane. That luxury ended a few blocks up the road as we came to construction. Traffic was light now and I was able to get into the left hand lane safely. I assumed the next block was Florida and pulled down it. There was construction again right before the intersection with 2nd and a car was waiting at the red light. My only choice was to squeeze between it and the curb. I slowed down considerably as I had to roll over some sort of object that kept cars off of whatever cables they were routing into the construction sight. It was steep and sharp like some kind of pedestrian warning sped hump. After I crossed that hurdle I found no cross traffic and quickly headed west through the red light. Another block up I could see more construction and the westbound land was blocked and routed south. I pulled into the eats bound lane and kept rolling as the car I passed at 2nd had to turn at 3rd…ah it pays to bike a lot of the time. As I crossed 4th I kept my eye out for the standpipe. I also saw Gallagher again, heading eastbound. Well, there went my chance, I knew he was headed back to the bar already and I still had two stops and a poorly positioned ending spot to deal with.

I searched franticly for any kind of address and rolled around the parking lot of the Coackly building, laughing at the security cameras. I tried desperately to find this standing pipe and even rolled to the west side of the building to try and find anything. With no luck, and wasted time closing in on me, I decided to double check the street signs and realized I was on Virginia instead of Florida and took off down 4th street. I came out and saw that the street kept going west, I was just down the block from the new Harley hotel and saw two pedestrians, which didn’t seem so out of place in this industrial area anymore. I scanned the building that took up the entire 4oo block of the street on the north side and once I mounted the sidewalk I could see what the standpipe was. Is was sticking out of the building about half way down and to rest any doubt there was a brass plaque that simply said Stand Pipe above it. I now had to figure out what color it was, but in the darkness that was a little difficult, how I wished for a flashlight. There were two parts but I decided to stick with the top part. It looked rusty so I considered putting that down, then I looked at the plague again and noticed it was like a fire engine red, but was old and rusting too. Hat looked very similar to the top portion of the standpipe and I thought this must be some sort of fire fighting implement of yore and that it would obviously be red. So I wrote that down and headed off to the last stop.

The final question I had to do was from the plaque at the cool bronze statue in the Harley Museum of the guy riding his bike up a mountain. It was a fill in the blank question, “Ride _____ “. When I first saw it I knew it would probably say Free, but that seemed too obvious so I doubted that and didn’t want to risk getting it wrong. I did think I could bypass that stop and pulled up to the hotel to ask one of the staffers. I caught up with the pedestrians and one of them was greeting them and the other was opening the door. I stopped and asked him if he worked here, he approached me and asked me what I said as his hearing was limited with his earpiece. I asked him again if he worked here and both guys approached me and said they did. I asked them if they knew what the phrase was on the statue at the museum and they both said they hadn’t seen it yet and didn’t know, jack assess. I said don’t worry and thanks and took off again. I had to pull through a small looping parking lot to get back on track but on the way I noticed what looked like a trail leading up to the 6th street viaduct but passed on taking it and instead back tracked through this parking lot, wondering at what the two door men thought I was doing out here, all geared up, with a pen stuck under my cycling cap, why a scavenger hunt of course, duh.

Out of the parking lot for the hotel I took a sharp right and found myself entering the 6th street roundabout, just at the same time a car coming from Virginia was. I wasn’t in fear of the car because he was in the left lane and I pulled sharply onto the right lane, but I’m sure the driver freaked a bit and if the door guys were watching they might have cringed a bit because it all happened pretty quickly. But all was well and we both raced up the small incline onto the viaduct its self. I pounded down the road to the next stop and hit about 28 before I had to slow considerably and pull into the museum. This was my first time on the museum grounds so I wasn’t sure were to go. I rolled down the interestingly designed road and got to an intersection. On the other side there was a bizarre looking procession of catering workers hauling carts, it looked like some old peasant parade, it was pretty weird. I shouted out to one of them if they knew were the bronze statue was, but right as I said it I saw it further down the road and said never mind quickly and took off in between them.

I had liked what this thing looked like since I first saw it in the paper after its unveiling. I may not be a Harley fan but it’s a really cool statue, I didn’t have any time to admire it and needed to find the plague with the answer quickly. I ended up rolling around the thing entirely as I approached it from the opposite side I needed to. It sits on a dais of sorts and I was surprised when I went up the sharp incline suddenly as I neared the statue. It was too dark to notice and the stone is colored oddly offering camouflage in this light. I rolled around the statue slowly and finally found the answer, I shouted fuck and took off, it was Free. As I crossed through the catering procession again and pounded up the road I yelled at myself mentally for not trusting my instinct. Now I would have to climb up the 6th street viaduct incline into downtown, but luckily I could easily get to Michigan and take a straight shot back to the bar. My pace slowed as I went up the hill and I wondered at the ramp that leads to the top level of the main post office, I have always wondered exactly were that all went and one of these days I will find out. Not tonight though. At Clybourn there was a red light, but the road was one ay and my view showed me two blocks on no cars so I rolled through unwaveringly. The next block was Michigan and I took a hard right and was free from any competing traffic. I did however have to slow at 5th at a red, since the buildings are to close to the corners to get early views of the cross traffic. My brakes squealed as I slowed and once I saw that the coats was clear I took off again, but had to do the same thing the next two intersections, each time slowing enough to make sure I wasn’t going to get hit if I crosses. By the time I reached 2nd my timing was right and I had greens so I stepped it up, crossed the last bridge, mind full of crossing the grating wrong and opened up to make it across Water before the red. I pulled on to the sidewalk and noticed a number of bikes and one of the racers outside. He asked if I completed the race, I said yes and dumped my bike on the sidewalk to check in. As I went in I wondered if he would try and hide my bike like he does to others, but wasn’t worried about it too much,

The bar was packed, but most of them were not racers, this was a good sign. I quickly found Joe and he asked how it went, I told him to hold on, took a spot on the bar and filled in the 2 stops I hadn’t filled in yet, the answer for Harley and the number of trees answer. He said I might be in second place as I wrote. As I did so he said, I can tell you know that this answer was wrong, the one from Bruce with the speed limit, he said the answer wasn’t the one on Bruce but a little up in 12th. He said I could go back and find the answer; I debated it a little but decided I was done, I didn’t want to race anymore tonight, it had been over an hour and ten minutes of on bike time and I was beat. I shrugged and said I would guess and wrote down 35, he said that was wrong too and I said fuck it. He told me the answer was 15 and I shrugged, I was done. We talked a little more then I went out and locked my bike up. When I came back in I bought him and myself a bar and we talked more about the race. I was the fourth one in, and as Joe went over those four manifests we got our 1st and 2nd places. Both people had done it fastest and had all correct answers. I was behind Gallagher for 4th place because we both had two wrong answers, the answer about the hours of operation from my 3rd stop was incorrect, I had gone to the wrong door. The place was closed on Saturdays, like I jokingly quessed. The racer I ran into outside had quite 2 stops into the race and returned to the bar. Out of us that had returned so far three had flats, including the winner, Eric. He was near his home when it happened so he swapped out bikes instead of dealing with the flat. We all talked about the insanity and problems with the race and had a good time. Once I finished my beer I said goodbye and thanked Joe for the fun and challenging race. As I left the bar the group of lost bikers I ran into back on Canal arrived, I congratulated them and took off to head home. December would be mine to win!

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