Until yesterday, I had never really listened to the lyrics of Oklahoma!, and how it says right there in the chorus “where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain.” I shoulda paid more attention.
The route was nicely planned, with all the climbing taking place in the first 42 miles, and the last 25 miles mostly a straight shot south with some light rollers. On a calm weather day, that would’ve made for a good workout on the way out, and a nice paceline ride on the way back.
The weather had other things in mind. The wind started out light (10 mph range) as we headed north to Sperry and then west out to Skiatook Lake. And other than some very short-notice turns (like the one after the Tall Chief Dam downhill, or up onto Javine Hill Dr.) the route at that point was very nice. Wide open countryside, great views of the lake, and roads that were mostly smooth and lightly traveled.
As we headed north out of Skiatook to Avant, the day started to change. The clouds that had greeted our start were quickly breaking apart, and the sun was switched from toasty to barbecue. At the same time, that light 10 mph wind kicked-on the afterburners, and was now at over 20 mph. Made for a nice roll out to Avant, but as we started heading east towards Ramona, things got dicey. There was one downhill in particular that was very steep, wound around a few corners, and had a cross-wind cutting through that made me think I was about to plow a furrow into one of those nice, wide-open, rolling fields with my helmet.
After about eight miles of this, the real work began. Coming out of Ramona, the ride heads south. And I don’t mean slowly makes its way south over many turns and curved roads. I mean someone took a straight-edge, dropped it on the map, and busted out the Sharpie.
Now, as I said when I started, this normally woulda meant a nice paceline run back to the start over the next 22 miles. Alas, the Oklahoma wind was having none of it. It had increased to a steady 25 mph, with gusts upwards of 35. It was so strong that even sitting on someone’s wheel was useless. 12 mph became my new best friend. Unfortunately, it was also my enemy.
At 12 mph, it would take about 5 minutes to cover each mile, or another hour and forty minutes before we were back to the start. That’s a painful thought when you feel like you’re not moving. When the road doesn’t turn, and all you see is a straight line with fields as far down as the road goes, you’re no longer just fighting the wind, the heat, and the muscle cramps… you’re fighting your mind.
After nearly four and a half hours, we returned. And every rider that rolled in from that 67 miler looked like they’d just gone 3 rounds with Manny Pacquiao – with each rider having an expression of “How’d I ever think this was a good idea?”
Personally, it was one of the hardest rides I’ve ever done. But it was also kinda fitting. See, the proceeds of this ride went to the Tulsa Police Officers’ Memorial, and along the route they had sign posts with the names of officers who have died in the line of duty. I have a bad memory, so I can’t tell you many of the names, but I made it a point to read every sign I passed. As I was slamming into that headwind and thinking about how hard the ride was, I couldn’t help but consider the hard lives and service chosen by these fallen officers.
Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate the role police officers play in our lives. We burden them with the enormous task of keeping us safe day in and day out, while entrusting them to ensure our own civility by enforcing those laws which we’ve chosen to live by as members of this society. That, my friends, has gotta be one of the toughest job descriptions I know of.
If riding a hard ride into hot, unrelenting winds can show respect to their lives and honor their memories… I’d gladly do it again.