Sunday, June 15, 2008

The road leads home...even on two wheels.

Oklahoma FreeWheel '08 is done.

Rather than go into a weekly, day-to-day, hour-by-hour breakdown of our week on the road (me in the 42 mpg import, chasing S down with a video camera on her LeMond road bike) I'm just going to adduce some observations and reflections.

Oklahoma is not flat, nor dry, dusty and barren.

If you think your town is a small town, hear me now, there are many, many towns that are much smaller than yours.

If all TV News Weather persons were cyclists, they may be a little less sensational with their forecasts.

Cyclists come in all shapes, sizes, skill levels, and sensibilities. You know that nearing-retirement guy standing behind you in line at the C-stop (cyclist speak for gas station/convenience store) with the truckers cap, a hard and solid beer gut, long beard and grubby stained dungarees? Well, picture him in spandex cycling shorts, a brightly colored jersey, streamline helmet, sunglasses and holding a sport bottle up to his mouth in-between pedal strokes and you've just met roughly a quarter of the male participants in OK FreeWheel.

Grandparents who looked more appropriate to be in line at the geriatric doctor's office than in biker's shorts and jerseys took up a good portion of the rides retinue, as did youngsters no older than my own two girls, family pets, and a good representation of father-daughter/father-son/mother-daughter/mother-son sets on tandems.

Basically, take the entire staff of the tv show, "The Office," (this includes Stanley, Bryan, and Phyllis) put them in cycling shorts and jerseys and you have the 800+ population of the Oklahoma FreeWheel in a nutshell...quirky personalities included.

S had several "moments of truth" moments while on the ride, the first one occurring during the day long 64-mile lightning and thunderstorm ride from Sulphur to Seminole (she rode the entire day).

Another screamed from within her while navigating the 10 and 12 percent graded hills on the 70-mile ride from Henryetta to Drumright (not once did she dismount and walk up a hill).

The most emotionally poignant moment came in the faces of the two young girls who were murdered in the small town of Weleetka (one of the rides final rest stops on Day 3) and in the faces of family and friends of the girls who were selling cookies and water to raise money for their funerals.

On a lighter note, my new can't-sleep-without-it tent camping item - my battery powered fan.

S' can't-go-to-the-bathroom-in-the-middle-of-the-night item - her noggin mounted headlight.

Finally, the can't-do-without item for anyone who camped next to our tent and couldn't deal with my snoring the way my wife can - foam earplugs.

There are several listings in the blogosphere with detailed accounts of the entire ride from Texas to Kansas, this being a decent one if you are at all interested (pics included). My take on laying out some heavy duty retrospection of the event is that it's one of those "you had to have been there," gigs.

Heck, I was there as a coat tailer myself with not a second of cycle seat time, so who am I to espouse "freewheelisms" so freely.

As a outsider observing the event through the lens of my video cameras and the filter that was my non-cyclist status, for me it was about the lives I was inventing for the people I would see on the journey or meet in the camp after the days long ride was over.

Like the young girl who we dubbed "Single-Speed April", that cruised along through life as she cruised through FreeWheel, on her own schedule, at her own pace -- seemingly always skirting the edge of deadlines but always making them none-the-less. A butterfly on the wind that managed to land on the right flower, not all that concerned with what flower it was, as long as she was out of harms way and near those who shared her interest in cycling.

There was the fella we all called "Forrest, Forrest Gump," the barely there, socially schitzophrenic, and borderline autistic savant character that pedaled his ancient, cobbled together Franken-cycle to the finish line every day, mumbled to himself for company, and cradled his new Camelbak water-filled backpack (presented to him by a king-hearted fellow cyclist) with the passion of a mother with her newborn.

We ran into "Lawton Jerry" several times on the road, at the rest stops and in camp, who had better luck with his cycles than he did with wife selection (4th wife, 2nd cycle). We bonded with "Prince Charming Barry" and his 14-year old daughter, "Princess Extremely Charming Lauren" from Phoenix, who were sharing a daddy/daughter bonding week on their Cannondale tandem cycle.

There were dozens more S cycle-bonded with on the road, dozens more we camp-bonded with at the end of the daily journey, and still dozens more we exchanged emails with in that final mile of the final day.

On the drive home from Kansas back to our small town, the LeMond happily secured to the trunk rack and the last of my stash of Cliff bars and G2 Gatorade being consumed by S and I, our thoughts and conversation soon left behind the talk of ordinary people doing extraordinary things and onto the weeks ahead filled with work assignments for her and girls of summer tasks for me.

Not quite willing to let go of this great thing that my mid-life wife had just done and the pride I was feeling for her completion of it, I asked her if she wanted to do it again next year, to which she replied, "It's kinda like pregnancy...ask me again in a month or so when I've forgotten how much of a pain it was to go through."

Meanwhile I'll be spending my Father's Day logging and digitizing 5 hours of miniDV footage and transferring 4, 16-gig SDHC memory cards worth of 1080i video - basically reliving the entire week all over again.


AMomof2 said...

I am so impressed that she completed the week, although not surprised! Especially since there was enough publicity of her participation to spur her on in the "dark" times. lol! DH & I would really like to give it a try next year but ....

Tell her we hope she has a nice week on her own 2 feet. I remember that pregnancy memory loss well.

GoRockets! said...

Sounds like a great trip! Consider you and yours invited over for a blow by blow commentary. Proper beverages and snacks provided of course. No more Clif Bars. G2 is acceptable, although Tiger's has been a favorite lately.

route66news said...

All that footage you shot ... is that for your wife's work? Or are you going to show us your awesome cinematography skills with a pithy YouTube clip?

You FreeWheelers rock about your donations to Weleetka. Did you know what happened there before you got into town?

OKDad said...

Footage...partly for my wife's work, partly for another project in the works, partly for FreeWheel's use in the future, partly for my own enjoyment...definitely not YouTube fodder.

S' riding partner for the duration was an OSBI Supervisor so we actually got the heads up on the tragedy in Weleetka before the press was even notified.

As word spread throughout the camp about what happened, and the fact that the ride was going to take us through that small town - one of our rest stops was the school where both of the girls attended - a somber mood settled onto the riders that afternoon.

As we approached the rest stop and saw the family members and kids with their hand made memorial signs and small table of baked goods, the FreeWheeler's opened their hearts and wallets to tune of over $4,000.

That night, one of the girl's fathers visited our camp in Henryetta and tearfully thanked the riders during the evening meeting. It was a sobering moment indeed.