Columnist on bike ride: Tour de France can’t touch this • Alvin Richardson
Since cycling seems to be such a popular sport nowadays and the Tour De France race has recently been in the spotlight, I thought it appropriate to regale you with my experience in this sporting endeavor. For those who may not be familiar with the Tour De France it is a bicycle endurance race that covers about 2,100 miles over roughly 22 days through the high mountains and low valleys of that beautiful European country. The participants are particularly healthy adults who ride contraptions that have all the bells and whistles known to modern biking. These bikes have ten or twenty gears for going up and down hills and brakes that are capable of stopping a runaway locomotive both of which make the race relatively simple compared to my experience.
I did not actually ride in the Tour De France but rather in what has famously come to be known as the Tour De Conyers. In many ways it was much more difficult and noteworthy accomplishment. Here are the details.
One summer day I, along with my erstwhile companion Reverend Jim, decided to go for a bike ride. Now as previously noted in this space Reverend Jim was not yet a man of the cloth at this juncture of his life. Quite the opposite. He was the person who always got me into trouble. He has since spent most of his years in ministry making up for the mistakes of his youth. His idea on this particular day was to strike out on Highway 278 west from Rutledge, a trip we had not previously undertaken. I reluctantly agreed but a little voice in my head was sounding alarm bells. Part of my problem was that when we got in trouble the Reverend would get grounded for a day but I would be banished to the butterbean patch for life or worse.
In retrospect it was much tougher than the Tour De France. Two 12-year-olds on bikes equipped with one gear that was directly proportional to individual leg thrust and brakes that operated on the complicated principle of reverse thrust, that is to say you had to work the pedals backward in order to stop.
The race began innocently enough. We encountered reasonably flat roads, were still fairly close to the safety of home and had no real time line to adhere to. By the time we had ventured a few miles toward Covington things were going quite smoothly and our confidence was high so we cycled on.
It was about this time when we came upon our first obstacle in the form of a monstrous hill with a grade rating equal to that of Pike’s Peak. There was no discussion of turning back and we took on the challenge. At the top we were winded but undeterred and before long found ourselves at a place called the Hub Junction. This marked the halfway point to Covington and that lovely village now became our goal. We could just see the admiration on the faces of our friends when we told them we had ridden our bicycles to Covington. Our fame would last a lifetime.
We climbed a few more hills and made the city limits. It was early afternoon and we were neither overly tired nor were we thinking clearly. The decision was made to push on and increase our fame exponentially by heading for the next town which was Conyers. We had not yet stopped to consider how long we had been riding or if we could make it home by nightfall. It was a fatal mistake.
The stretch from Covington to Conyers took on a surreal quality. The hills seemed steeper and longer, and our legs, which had seemed so fresh, were now burning with fatigue. To this day I have no idea why we didn’t turn around. I think we figured it was just too far home and our celebrity status was too close at hand. Needless to say we didn’t have a plan.
As we entered the final stage of our race it finally dawned on me that trouble was on the horizon. We were 35 miles from home, it was getting dark and we were dead in the water with exhaustion. My keen mind which had blanked out all day on these possibilities finally kicked into gear and I started crying like a baby. “What are we going to do now Jim?” He was not yet to the point in his life where he would suggest a prayer but it would have been an excellent notion.
All of a sudden an inspiration came from nowhere. My grandfather lived in Conyers. Papa would bail us out. Fortunately I was in possession of a dime and called him. He located us, took one look and let out a booming laugh. I was glad to hear someone cackle because I was pretty sure that once he took us back to Rutledge there wouldn’t be any more of that.
So we did the Tour De Conyers in record time and became famous within our peer groups at home. Reverend Jim was put on probation for 20 minutes and enjoyed the rest of the summer basking in glory. Unfortunately my fame was fleeting because I spent the rest of the summer standing up in the butterbean patch. Nevertheless those guys who ride in the Tour De France won’t have anything on me until they prove that they can take on the rugged and much more challenging Tour De Conyers.
By Alvin Richardson firstname.lastname@example.org
Printed in the August 16, 2012 edition