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Off to Indiana

Later this week, I will head back east to Indiana for my first (and probably last) attempt at the Ride Across Indiana, a one-day, 160-mile ride from Terre Haute to Richmond.

As I've written previously, my biggest worry is the 14-hour time limit. I suppose, however, that I really shouldn't be all that worried. If I can maintain 14 mph while in motion -- which shouldn't be that difficult, given that there's less than 3,000 feet of climbing the entire day -- that gives me about two and a half hours of leeway to spend at rest stops, photo breaks, and other pauses (such as the numerous traffic signals and stop signs on the bypass of Indianapolis, I'm told). However, this ride is indeed about 30 miles longer than any other ride I've done, and it took me more than 15 years before I made the jump from my first 100-mile ride to my first 200-kilometer (125-mile) ride.

There's also the psychological factor. Everything I've read about this ride suggests that most of the riders are fast, in the 17-18 mph range or even faster. I know I'll be near the back all day, and I might even be chasing rest stop closing times throughout the day to avoid elimination. (Rest stop 1, at the 40-mile mark, closes about four hours after the ride begins. And what's this about no rest stops in the first 40 miles anyway?)

(Oh, did I mention that the 7 a.m. ride-out time is equivalent to 4 a.m. on my West Coast clock?)

I'll also admit to some nervousness over getting back to Terre Haute at the end of the day. I've put my name in with the bus service that provides SAG during the day and brings riders back at the end, but it all seems way too low-key and easygoing compared to the type of rigid scheduling I'm used to. (I tried to pay via credit card, and they said they wouldn't even run it through until after the ride, and I'm more than welcome to bring cash to ride day.) They've assured me they've never left anyone behind, but I still fret over being stuck at the other end of the state in the dark with no proper clothes and a big bicycle. But the bus service is well-established, so I'm sure that it's all legit and logistically sound.

Finally, there's the weather. The forecast seems to be changing wildly almost every day, from sunshine and 80s to thunderstorms and 90s. I've never done endurance riding under Midwest summer conditions; heavy rain and/or an insane heat index could knock me out of the running. And if the weather looks really bad, I might even have to weigh the possibility of not doing the ride at all. That would be a huge letdown after all that driving, but safety first and all that stuff, etc.

But before any of that, to get to Indiana, I must drive. (Well, maybe not "must," but I choose to drive and not deal with the hassles of shipping and reassembling my bicycle.) I hope to make several short bicycle stops along the way there and back, perhaps in places as diverse as the Washington coast, northern Idaho, eastern Utah, or even southwestern Wisconsin.

I'm particularly intrigued by the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes in Idaho, a paved multi-use path that spans nearly the entire width of the Panhandle. When I used to live near those parts, the trail was still under construction, and I'm mildly curious to see how this giant Superfund site has evolved into a recreation destination.

All of this traveling and riding, however, means that I won't be leading any training rides for Seismic Challenge this season. I'll be away on the day of the last ride leader certification, so I won't be eligible this time around. As much as I'll miss working with another group of riders, it's all probably for the best -- I think I could use at least a little time away from the grind of organizing large group rides. Perhaps this will put me in a decent frame of mind when the next AIDS/LifeCycle season rolls around this fall. I know many of you are already looking forward to the 4th annual Altamont Pass Double Metric! (The tentative date is May 21, 2011.)

Check back here throughout the month for ride reports and photos from the road, including the big RAIN ride day on Saturday, July 17.

Photo: The start of RAIN in 2007, just west of Terre Haute.