Today’s title comes courtesy of Young Bouhhl, who said it at our breakfast of grits and New Orleans-style pork at a church from the 1800s down the road, in an attempt to ask if we had what it takes.
I rode with Christina, Sarah W, and Alessandra. Riding felt weirdly hard, harder than it should have. My thighs burned with the fire of 1000 miles. Christina stayed with me as I rode like a slug dosed up with tranquilizers. We checked my bike, and my rear brake pad was rubbing on my wheel a bit, creating drag.
We came upon an old school bus painted like an alligator with a bunch of Bike & Builders around it, playing with puppies. Turned out when they had gone to check out the bus, the litter had come out and started playing with the bikers. As the first group got on their bikes to ride away, five of the pups bounded off behind them. One, however, was too immersed in play to realize they had just been abandoned. We panicked and strategized (we is a loose term, I didn’t have strong feelings and kinda figured the puppies might live with some people nearby or would sort things out themselves, Boxcar children style), deciding that it would be easier to reunite one puppy with five than to bring five back to the one. Luke picked up the remaining dog (he had been holding it anyway, with a chant of “babies like to burp, burp, burp,” as he burped the dog’s non-burpy stomach) and whisked it away on his bicycle.
I got back to biking, leaving with Alessandra because we were ready to be done with the puppy fiasco sooner than the others, who were calling animal control even as they debated if a rural, southern town would have a no kill shelter. We rejoined with Sarah and Christina after a while, splitting and reforming as needed (mostly by yours slowly and truly). Unshockingly, it started to rain. It does not seem safe at all to me to ride on highways slick with rain, not just for you on your bike but for the cars and semis riding alongside you, up and down hills, with decreased visibility from water shooting I’m your eyes, but we do it. Sarah W stayed with me for this leg of the trip, as I oozed along slower than the last drop of conditioner after you’ve left the bottle to sit upside down overnight. At the top of one hill, I need to pull over, so we did, and Sweep came up to join us, barred from passing even the slowest riders. Alex and Lucas were sweep that day, in matching safety green rain jackets, and as they joked it felt as though a vaudevillian duo had just biked up to my little hill. At one point Lucas asked me what I was doing (clutching my hands to my bare arms to try and warm them) and I answered, “holding my arms with my smaller arms,” realizing a few moments later I meant my fingers. Then Lucas shouted that he had stepped in shit before crying out, “ah! Hella ants!” and darting away. “Keep running, you’re losing them,” Alex and Sarah reasoned sarcastically. I reflected that while I had never found America’s Funniest Home Videos-style crash and fall humor funny, it had a certain charm when it was someone you knew and you were losing it in the rain.
Sarah and I found Alessandra and Christina once again, only for us to all stop and pee in a ditch across from a truck stop. Trucks seemed to linger just a bit too long before pulling out of the lot, almost as if they never seen four girls pee in a ditch on the side of the road before.
We made one more accidental separation into pairs, then got onto local roads in Great Cane, Louisiana, a town of around 200. We reasoned that in a town so small, even if everyone were on the roads they would be pretty calm, and it was true; the winding backcountry roads were a relief after the rest of the day. We passed farms, a weirdly emaciated horse, and some surprisingly fancy homes, as well as the small downtown. Our hosts had never had a Bike & Build trip before, because our leaders had called around last minute when our expected hosts suffered flooding. They seemed especially excited to see us, and made us hamburgers, veggie burgers, and very sweet baked beans. Fake meat always makes me feel at home, so I ate one of those mysterious discs.
Marcus, an alum of two Bike & Build trips as well as a pan-American race, came along for the ride, and had set up bike shop in the church’s parking lot looking at what ailed our rides. When I excitedly said I had a pain he had, he flipped my bike over to look at its seat angle. Yes, just as his had been, mine was tilted too far downward, sliding me with it. I told him my brakes were weird everyday, too loose and difficult to clamp down on one day, then tight and rubbing on my wheel the next. He noticed that one of my rear brake pads had the angle of a consistently used eraser, a straight side C of an isosceles triangle rubbed clean. “You’ve been riding with your brake pad rubbing on your tire,” he told me.” “For a while, from the looks of this.” I think it is clear that without said impediment, I would be the fastest motherfucker on the streets. “I’m stronger than everyone!” I shouted to no one.
I set up my customary conference table chair bed (4 chairs in a row, with one facing the opposite way to create a semi-crib) and was out by 9.