Greetings to you, the rabidly loyal Team Seagal Fan. Casey Ryback here. Today, Thursday, was unlike any other day. It was chock full of glorious weather, and completely lacking my need to be at work. So with the day off, I found myself needing a lengthy ride under the belt. The trails were muddy if not completely submerged thanks to several inches of rain, so the road bike was calling my name - it said, "Casey - come straddle me!" And who am I to resist that siren song? So I embarked from my apartment on what would prove to be a great ride full of strange sights.
The Spoede overpass of Hwy 40 allows for a view of the progress:
I wound my through towards Kirkwood, with a brief jog down into Sugar Creek Valley, and then a short but steep climb out via Couch:
The plan was to cut over to Marshall Road, bomb down that Euro-tuck style, and then continue through Valley Park, and cross over 141 onto Vance. No dice:
So instead, I turned right onto Marshall (something I've never done) and that afforded me a sweet view of Fenton, and the Chrysler plant:
I made my way down Big Bend, turned onto Forest, cut underneath the RR tracks, and then went ALL the way down St. Louis Avenue to see if the flood wall was closed. It was, and there were Police on top, telling people with a bullhorn not to go on top of the levee (even though there is a pedestrian path up there.):
So I turned around, course set for Castlewood. I wanted to see how flooded it is. Coming down Ries is a great place to go fast, and this time I hit over 45mph. I can normally hit 49 no problem, but my early-season confidence being what it is, the last left-hand turn had me a little skittish. They closed the whole damn park down! So again, no dice:
Can you tell me from where this view of downtown is possible? I'll give you a hint, it isn't anywhere near downtown. You can see the Arch, directly to the right of the chimney:
I continued my path of destruction down Old Manchester, all the way across 109, and turned left into the top of Rockwoods Reservation. That place is amazing, and has some great memories attached to it. I love stopping by Smokey the Bear for water, but he's not able to speak right now...
There is a very picturesque spring (first picture) right on the side of the road inside Rockwoods, it makes me want to drink from it each time. I figure I'm probably better off with municipal water. Looks inviting though! The second picture is of a spring is on the side of 109, visible from the paved extension of the Al Foster trail that runs up to Woods Road:
Speaking of the Al Foster Trail (you can just imagine how Castlewood will be, and how much farther the trail will erode on the River Scene):
I hopped back onto 109 and turned onto painfest known as Alt Road, which takes me past Hidden Valley and into downtown Eureka, and past a TON of new housing developments. I was both dreading and looking forward to doing the Allenton Loop across the highway from Six Flags. That would mean two more notoriously painful hills that would have me seeing spots, especially being at mile 60. Once again, no dice:
So I removed the arm warmers, and turned around to climb slowly back out of that valley. I was really starting to get hungry, despite having eaten fairly consistently up to this point. The gas station next to Six Flags made short work of that! I love refilling my water bottles there, because the water comes out of the tea nozzle, and even if you only dispense water, there is ALWAYS a slight hint of tea mixed in. Every time. Some Nabisco crackers and a can of Mountain Dew later, I was feeling pretty f***ing extreme. There was a lady getting into her car who paused to make small talk, saying it was a great day for a ride, and asked where I was headed. "Creve Coeur..." It must have not have dawned on her how far away I was from that area. The funny part was when she cautioned me about a big wreck on 270 that had traffic backed up pretty badly, and that I might want to try and avoid that highway. That's right, avoid riding your bike on 270 because of the traffic. Being as EXTREME as I am, I could totally do that, but I wasn't headed for 270 until later when I had to cross it via Conway. Onward!
I Continued out on one of my favorite stretches of road to ride - Fox Creek. Very smooth, rolling, and promises some big hills once it crosses Hwy 100 and actually turns into Manchester. Even though the Allenton Loop was busy getting its wrist snapped by a bunch of water, forcing me to skip those hills, I still had to deal with Bouquet - what cyclist doesn't know this hill? This turn-off has struck fear into the hearts of many, and I was about to kick its ass - slowly:
This hill is a multi-stage hill. Within the first 100 yards it throws you directly into the fire by exposing you to its steepest grade which mellows out slightly, and climbs around a couple of corners. I was seeing lots of single digits on the Cateye. It then tricks you by turning downhill for a while, all over very nice surfaces. It has a couple of decent rollers, before bottoming out into a narrow valley. Then it lands its finals blows right to your face. This climb turns so many times, that unless you've done it before, you have absolutely no idea when the top will come into view. You really won't see the crest until you are basically on it. Picture staring at this for like 10 minutes:
Of course, I had a superior attitude and a superior state of mind going into this hill, so no problemo. What a great climb.
That was just about the last notable hill on my Tour of West County. I crossed T and bombed down Ossenfort (passed one of the Mesa guys who we always see at the endurance races on a singlespeed - Jim? Steve? He was suffering his way up to victory at the top of the hill.) I cruised through Wild Horse Creek Road, passing many a cyclist, including one group of like 7 or 8 dudes, who were being lead down the road by a bald guy with no f***ing helmet on. They looked like serious business. I passed by this house that was being renovated, and wondered how many corpses are decomposing in that tomb of a cellar:
I didn't take any pictures after that, even though I had 15-20 miles left to go. Once I turned off of Wild Horse Creek onto Centaur, away from the hillside, the wind hit me right in the face, and continued hitting me in the face and snapping my wrist the rest of the way home. The worst, most consistent headwind I've had yet this year kept me struggling to hold 2-3 mph below my overall average speed - and this is all in the Chesterfield flats! Olive Street, Airport Road, and Edison were just an exercise in pure futility. Now I know what it's like to live and ride in Kansas. The climb up Old Chesterfield Airport Road was quite a grinder... come to think of it, every incline until I got home, no matter how bad, turned into a long, punishing grinder.
It is always a good ride when you ride until you bonk. 5.5 hours of ride time, 6.25 hours from start to finish, and a very hilly 88.5 miles. Had I left at noon instead of 1, I'm sure I could have made the full 100! And I probably would have done it anyway in spite of the setting sun, had I not had plans that evening.
Something Ouachita This Way Comes...
P.S. Who's up for a road(?) ride Easter morning? Is that blasphemous?