In case centuries had started to impress you, our schedule today called for 107 miles. 106.6 to be precise, but when you’re biking that long, what’s another .4 miles? Actually, on the very worst days, it means the world, but on this day it did not.
Everyone was trying to strategically get into riding groups with people who fit their riding style so they could be comfortable throughout the long day, but no one has my riding style so I just went with my prom date so we could plan matching outfits together for our couples outfit themed prom that night, and the other people she was already riding with: Alessandra, Sarah W, and Roy.
The ride was beautiful, overcast and looking over Texas’s hill country. However, looking at hills all around you usually means you have to ride over hills. I was going much slower than my group, so I let them take off from me and enjoyed my own private sometimes 6 miles an hour ride. Then a tailwind set in and I revved up past 16, up through the early 20s. Between the tailwind burst and not stopping for anything beyond my own pee whims, I caught up to everyone else at Lunch 1. I made myself a brisket, hummus, and kale salad and had half a Reese’s pieces cookie to motivate myself to get to Lunch 2 and have more of those.
The town in which Jack had set up first lunch was the most Christian place we have been all summer, despite the stiff competition. The welcome sign said, “Claredon believes in Christ and the Crucifixion” (’No dissenters,” said Roy), and people ha strung up PVC crosses along the road in what I had to assume was a religious rather than KKK gesture.
After lunch, my group wanted to stop at a gas station to pee, as apparently they hadn’t accepted my method of simply walking behind the random building lunch was set up at and popping a squat. I figured they’d pass me anyway, so I took off again on Stretch 2 of the day solo. “Please don’t let me get a flat in this creepy Christian town alone,” I prayed to Jesus, or whoever protects people from his followers.
The highway was long and boring, but peaceful enough. I chugged along in the shoulder, at one point stopping by Nick and Kelp, two crushdogs who ride solo but join with other speed demons when they happen to run into another. They were stopped for a nap. I stopped to pee. I know I can’t nap, and besides, 107 miles doesn’t leave time for slow people to attempt such extravagant stops. Right after the turn off the highway, I saw a bunch of bikes outside a gas station and took my major break of the day, reading Facebook posts about Orlando in a handicapped stall. I figured it was the most shade I’d see all day, anyway. I rejoined up with my group and made it to Lunch 2. I was surprised it had ever come, all the way at mile 80.
The third biking stretch of the day was the hardest. The sky had cleared, the winds had turned against us, and the asphalt was so hot it oozed sticky when you stepped on it. I rode packed tightly between RTK, Roy, and Sarah W, who pulled us for most of the route. At a certain point I could feel my body give way. Roy noticed that my rear wheel was a bit flat, so we pulled over and he pumped it up, though when he asked me my brain was addled enough that I couldn’t comprehend doing anything to slow us down, even if it meant going faster in the longterm. Sarah W pulled us, RTK made us take a break and helped encourage me, and Roy tried to break the wind for me by riding directly in front of me
The last 7 miles were in the city of Amarillo, which had experienced a hostage situation at a Walmart in town. The specter of gun violence loomed over us. Biking in town showed me that my brakes did not, in fact, work all that well. But by the end, I felt as if I had been biking forever, this is just what I do now, it might not be pleasant but I have never not been biking. “I have never not been in this Korean work camp,” suggested my mom.
But then we actually did get to the church. RTK had the brilliant idea that we should join with Meegan and Younbul for a double date costume of the leaders, which meant not only did we not have to go to a store, but we were guaranteed to have the best costumes ever. It was decided that I was to go as Jack, so personally I was also guaranteed an exceptionally comfortable evening. The four of us scavenged through the leaders’ stuff and changed clandestinely, waiting for all the leaders to leave so we could make a grand entrance. Before we left, we drew Melissa’s Bike and Build tattoo on RTK and Alex suggested I slather calamine lotion all over to mimic Jack’s poison ivy treatment.
In our Uber over to the bowling alley, we brainstormed signature moves we should each do to act in character. We determined that Younbul/Rob should do pushups and say GTFO a bunch, Meegan/Sarah should go lie down on the floor somewhere, RTK/Melissa should say softly, “if you can hear me say ‘cinnamon,’ and I/Jack should say stuff like “you tryina watch the game?” and stare blankly. I had not previously been aware that that was a defining trait of Jack.
We walked into the Amarillo bowling alley like the cast of Entourage. Everyone else’s costumes were on point too. Rob and Kevin had dressed like WASPy women, with visors, sleeveless polos, belts, and scarves. katie H, Oli, and Jenna were warm and fuzzier, with fuzzy robes that people wrote nice notes on and slippers, while Lucas had Rainbow Dash socks in honor of our equestrian safety talisman. Kayla, JoHo, and Alessandra dressed in denim, patterns, straw hats, and blacked out teeth, Alex and Luke were Chippendale dancers, at least before we left the church and they put on clothing, Jack and Katie S were Texan/American, while Kelly and Nick were Mr. and Mrs. America. Yunbul as Rob wore the Bike & Build cycling cap and tank top and flip flops, Meegan as Sarah wore her floppy colorful hat, glaucoma sunglasses, hair in low Ewok buns, harem pants, and Jazzercise mug, RTK as Melissa wore her tank top dress and Younbul’s New Orleans hat, and I as Jack wore his Panama Beach snapback, Hawaiian shirt, Hawaiian print swim trunks, and Tevas. I walked with a swagger that only comes from wearing the pajamas boys call clothes and also being a man everyday. I put on a sleeve of temporary tattoos, not because Jack has any, but because I wanted them.
After bowling, some of us walked over to karaoke. Younbul started the night by singing Captain Jack. Jack followed him with Why by Jason Aldean. I had never heard this song, but everyone assured me it was a terrible karaoke choice and he did an equally horrendous job at it. The night continued like that, “Let’s bring Will up.’ “And next we have Jack.” “Now here’s Will.” “Up now is Jack.” Will seemed incapable of picking a song under 8 minutes, though they cut off his rendition of Freebird before the long guitar solo. Roy asked me to request a Celine song as Christina so she would sing it, which she did, at first apprehensively and then with an extreme level of commitment. I tried to request Ridin’ Solo by Jason Derulo to surprise duet Jack with, but when they didn’t have that, I just went with talk Dirty to Me. And that is how I found out that Jack knows none of the words or the rhythm to that song. Christina asked to sing remix to Ignition, but left before it came on so Alex and I took on Ignition by Kelly, as the screen said. Lucas had promised donors of a certain amount to sing a karaoke song and do a dance move of their choice, so a bunch of us got on stage and joined him in running in place to Maniac from Dirty Dancing. I cannot run in place; it’s just too much like running and too boring, so I did running-like dance moves all over the place.