11 Days in…

We did it….. on Saturday, May 14th at approximate 1:00 pm “Team Rancho Feliz” hit the Atlantic Ocean on the tip of Africa! Mike Hobin completed his mind-boggling 7,500 mile ride from Cairo, Egypt to Cape Town, South Africa and Troy, Kevin, Eric & I completed our 1,200 mile section from Windhoek, Namibia to Cape Town. 80% of our ride was on dirt roads in very poor condition making this final section a true test of will. An overwhelming sense of relief, joy, gratefulness and exhilaration has captured us all, coupled with a tinge of sadness as this life-altering odyssey wound to its climatic end.

Though we have finished the ride, I have two blog posts remaining that I was unable to get on-line due to the remoteness of our route. I would like to share these blog posts with you. Here is the first one.

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More lessons I’ve learned while bicycling across Namibia and South Africa. (Preface – these are my personal lessons learned. I speak for none of the other participants as everyone’s experiences are different):

16) People are people. Wherever you go in the world people respond in kind to a smile and a compliment. Our border crossing into South Africa was seamless. Everyone on the streets waves to us and today on the road when I passed a group of 20 or so workers they all stopped what they were doing and cheered and clapped for me. People are people. Most of our perceived dangers are in our own minds.

17) Meltdowns. I have witnessed 3 not counting my own. This type of extreme endurance pushes participants to their limits. And suddenly something snaps. It’s usually caused by a blindsiding realization that the perceived event/obstacle is greater than the will to proceed. Be it another monster hill, another brain-bouncing jolt of corrugated road, a relentless and battering head wind, a mechanical failure (which includes countless flat tires), the 713th careless speeding driver roaring by way too close, another endless section of sand that feels like riding with two flat tires, or just one more friggen buzzing fly trying to lay eggs in your ear as you pedal. This irrational explosion is nurtured by frustration and often has much more to do with your frame of mind than with the event itself. Meltdowns manifest in the vain screaming of profanities at no one or no thing in particular, the hurling of objects such as your bike, your day pack, water bottles or bike pump. Calling your friends assholes and telling them to f-off. Pleading, tear-infested howells and closed-fist gesticulations skyward towards God, Buddha, Allah, L. Ron Hubbard, Zeus, or Obama…. anyone who will listen. And lastly there is the just sit on the side of the road and sob – shoulder shaking sobs. When witnessing a Meltdown it’s best just to back away and let it run its course. Words of solace or encouragement are simply fuel to the fire so just shut up – it will pass.

18) Endurance bicycling is all about marshaling your energy. Accordingly, you must fuel and hydrate the body/engine to meet the circumstances. In the Namibian desert I would drink 6 – 8 liters of water and 2 liters of energy drink per ride. I’d shove energy bars and peanut butter sandwiches down my gullet on the hour. You make yourself do this whether or not you’re hungry or thirsty. It has nothing to do with hunger of thirst – you are simply fueling the engine. For if you get behind the curve it’s too late and you will “bonk” pretty much ending the day’s ride and shattering your frame of mind. Remember, caring for your frame of mind is just as important, if not more so, than caring for your body.

19) Momentum is energy. Anything that slows your momentum (sand, washboard, wind) is stealing your energy. This includes hitting your own brakes. Every time you touch your brakes you are robbing energy from yourself. You become extremely aware of, and sensitive to, this fact. Accordingly, when you finally crest a hill or mountain pass you just fly down the other side at speeds you would never entertain on a regular ride. This also explains the extreme frustration of having your momentum compromised by crummy road conditions such as sand, bumps, brainless motorists and on and on and is often a major contributor to the Meltdowns described above.

20) It’s possible (though not advisable) to wear the same cycling jersey 4 days in a row without washing it. However, never wear cycling shorts more than twice without washing them. The consequences are too dire.

Day 11 of 15 and I’m still pedaling. More to come! Gil

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