Robert Zimmerman from Hibbing, Minnesota
Part III: When in doubt; take a nap…
…so where was I? Oh yeah, I limped into the cabin half-a-man. Actually, the term “cabin” is a misnomer as the midway check-point is actually a beautiful chalet-styled modern bungalow complete with two bathrooms, spacious kitchen and a roomy loft-like second floor that is equipped with a multitude of comfy looking, temping berths. The place was populated with hosts that were seemingly direct descents of a hybrid of all the positive traits of Mother Teresa and Gloria Vanderbilt. Consequently the volunteers were incredibly polite, supportive, empathetic, even nurturing. “Minnesota nice” does not adequately describe the warm aurora; with the whole ambiance in some ways simply too accommodating for a man of my social standing.
So after about an hour and forty minutes, I donned my man-diaper, loaded up my camelbaks, and left. I would guess that I was twenty minutes of so behind Don and Greg as I mounted my trusty old Gunnar 29er, hoping to push hard and catch them up. It was obvious that the temps had finally started to descend and so on shaky legs but with a wholesome dinner in me and a dose of full-on optimism, I turned my trusty steel steed into the darkness and started tracking those malcontented Pugslies. There is a surrealistic magic associated with riding solo on snow trails in the darkness. I was energized, pumped-up and even though the conditions were still much less than optimal, I pushed hard and my legs responded favorably. I looked skyward and saw glimmering stars and it was good.
It was great to catch them and ride with them, but just at about the time I met the duo, the hilly sections came into play. The combined stupidity of no granny gear and skinny tires left me really struggling to maintain their pace in the hills. I was being forced off the bike and jogging to keep up and the descents, (usually one of the few strengths of mine), were very sketchy as my front wheel was super squirrelly in the loose snow. Anyway, dear reader, surely you've got your own problems and so you certainly don’t want to hear the laments from some old guy about some inconsequential night ride in the far north. Fact is I did not have long to whine or contemplate my ineptitude anyway as my legs took over and made the call…I started to seize up just like that old ’78 Dodge Charger did; the one that my brother and I burned-up on our way home from a semester at CU in Boulder, back like twenty-two years ago. Yeah, it was just like that in many ways, the red light came on just as we were leaving Sterling, Colorado and yet we kept driving it, sure we would stop every hundred miles or so and try to cool it down, hoping against hope that the old girl could just hang in there long enough to get us back to Minnesota, but only fools hope against hope and it should have been no big surprise when the old girl seized up just outside of Lincoln, Nebraska. The pistons melted into the aluminum engine-block causing the front wheels to lock up. We squealed to a halt, luckily there was enough momentum to skid it off the highway. We sorta looked at each other kinda in an embarrassed sorta silly way, then we got out and hitched-hiked into Lincoln, so it goes…
The sun came out as we rode it home…and it was good………nothing better really!!!!
Thanks again to all involved, especially Cheryl and Pierre and I can’t wait to do it all again in 2009...p.s. Good luck to all who partake in the Ultra of Ultras...the Iditarod Trail, especially Pierre!