just a word, so I won't waste your time with it.
What I can
tell you about are the cascading twists of a country lane dropping
off below us winding their way down through the verdant mounds of
farmland folded beneath and revealing spatterings of rocks and
shrubs—all found in just that perfect proportion. I might also
mention the subliminal whiffs of cow manure (my favorite
confirmation that I am riding in the rural cycling heaven) plus
complain how putting the olfactory to words leaves a lot to be
desired. I should also tie the scene together by placing the early
October sun blazing above us in this
shimmering-hot haze of our
cottony clouded summer-like day which is splashing its light through
the cascading whirr of insects as the green season's last noonday
solar spotlights meander among perfectly placed rolls of hay that
are couched like still life below the resplendent ridges of the
Catskills Mountains lofting across the reservoir's divide. There may
or may not have been an aging split rail fence.
famed English landscape artist Constable nor all the members of the
Hudson River School combined could have put it together so well.
bucolic is just a word which can neither help with this description
nor allow for the buzzards that circled further up the climb,
reminding us how far we had already ridden to get to where we now
as yet un-nom'd, had just motioned over my shoulder and said, "See
those guys circling, just in case you are wondering what the rest of
the climb will be like. The vultures are waiting."
Somewhere a crow cawed twice.
I don't want
to overstate the degree of the slope, but anywhere we sat we could
swing our legs below us like kindergarteners on full size chairs.
Still, we remained more or less supine while our bikes lay beside
us. Both bikes threatened a chattering slide down the road.
sissss." My rear tire blew out spontaneously, inches from my face. Tony's offhand comment,
"It's a hot day. I guess you were torquing
it pretty good on the climb." Then he made a little burp, laid back,
and said, "I've got to take a break before we go on up."
One could not
actually stand on that hill, so I sat cradling my wheel in my lap
changing the tube. I reviewed how we'd gotten there. I most
certainly was not thinking, "Hmm...bucolic. That is just a word, not
already ridden 36 miles from New Paltz up 55/44 past the entrance to
Lake Minnewaska then down to a left onto Berme Road, on out to 209;
left then right onto 55 along the rolling risers of Roundout
Reservoir and into Catskill Park at which point I said, "Thank
goodness a park. I was afraid there might be mountains."
Then up 55A
to the end, a right to a quick left onto Sugar Loaf Road then
another left onto the climb where we were now resting mid way up—Glade
Hill Road. At the foot I'd thought, "Oh goodie. Even better than
a park. That park turned mountainous pretty quickly
anyway, but now we've got hills
and glades. How lovely."
I hadn't the
foggiest notion the road name had been shortened from Furman
Glade Hill Road, somebody's name, nothing at all to do with glades. The emphasis was
definitely on Hill, but the word was very loosely applied to a mountain rather better suited for rappelling down than riding your road bike up. My first hint of the true nature of this
beast was at the first switchback. As I approached the turn my
peripheral vision was troubled by a large object, probably a house,
too comfortably near the road and just to my left.
finally made me crane my neck to look at it square on. I was
dismayed to see that the overgrown edifice I felt was
actually the side of the hill, and it was supporting the road under
Tony's rear tire above me going in the opposite direction. His wheel
was close enough to my side that I might have touched it, except it
was 12 feet above me. I couldn't believe I was about to make such a
sickeningly tight reversal and drag myself up there. My knees and
tendons hurt in places I'd never noticed before. It was a relentless
You know that
extra steep little bump a quarter way up Demerest on the Wednesday
Hump Day with R&R ride? A moment of slope like that would have been
a welcome release, but nothing even close to as flat as that exists
on Glade Hill. More like Glad Hell, if you ask me!
way up to our described stop, I had already blown out my fresh and
Dr. Art adjustment, a mere few hours old. Don't tell Art about
this. He'll get real mad I treated his work so callously.
remembered a Bicycling Magazine article about taking steep
curves on the outside because they are flatter there. However,
consistently staying on the
flattest path I could find, some of my staggers carried me from one
side of the road to the other. A lesser man would admit traversing.
staggering when I finally reached Tony sprawled across the road
resting and he spit, "How'd ya like this hill so far?"
He was only
about a half mile further up from where I thought I had finally seen
a break across a farm yard ridge, only realizing when I got to it
that although the ridge did go right and flat, the road itself
continued up and left. I fell beside Anthony saying, "Do you know
Kain Road? I've never done it. How's this compare?"
"Oh, I know
Kain VERY well. "This?" he tilted his head, thought and weighed, "Well this isn't that much harder but it's a lot longer. We're only
about half way up this climb—already about a third farther than
Kain. When I was a kid we used to call this ride The
Mission, as in 'Want to ride The Mission
today?' Or, 'Goin on a
Mission?' This is
really just the first loop of a figure eight double loop. We can add
an equally tough hill after this, depending on how we feel."
again, held his stomach and seemed to clear his throat.
After my tire
blew out on its own, I took the opportunity to not talk while I
changed the tube. On the way from New Paltz I had asked Tony about
his ongoing Dissertation, so we had talked more than enough. He is
working on a PhD and his thesis project is titled Differential
Gene Expression in Transplantable Rat Prostatic Adenocarcinomas that
Differ in Metastatic Potential. It involves a technique called
reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and is
aimed at trying to answer the question: "What genes are turned on
and/or off as a prostate cancer cell develops the ability to
metastasize?" That is to
say, "What makes it spread?" Tony is working at the molecular level,
give or take.
important stuff. If somebody figures out how to turn "off" various
cancers' ability to spread—well, you've really got something there.
Of course some mad man out there is certainly working on figuring
out a way to turn them "on," but that's a different story.
I was fully
aware that people pay a lot of money to get into Tony's classes just
to listen to him talk to a group and then be harassed by his tests,
so I was listening real close, asking all the questions I could, and
enjoying the fact that I had Tony all to myself for free, except of
course for the hill tax.
I worked real
hard to absorb his overview of the basic area headings and
sub-headings including Carcinogenesis & Toxicology which
Molecular Oncology then Aquatic, Systemic, Inhalation
and Environmental Toxicology respectively. Of course I got it
all wrong, so the preceding is basically worthless information.
Except, you should memorize the terms, so you can ask Tony about
them on a ride. Talking about it SLOWS HIM DOWN!
carry a little list of topics with me on the AA rides. If I can keep
them talking, I can stay with them longer. It is pretty easy to come
up with topics; because, as you might have noticed, cycling attracts
the best people at the top of their fields. The local bicycle club
is just full of interesting people; and, unlike a Country Club, it
is basically free to be a member. All you need is any kind of
bicycle, a helmet, and twenty bucks. You can borrow all three, or
have Sissy Boy steal them for you. Well, Sissy Boy won't really
steal stuff, he just looks like he will, which is usually enough.
Dissertation aside, Tony really came a lot further than New Paltz to
get on Glade Hill this day.
When he was
17 he rolled his uncle's VW, breaking his back along with various
and a sundry other parts. He flat lined twice (that's right, died
and then died again) and had to be resuscitated via two direct
injections of adrenaline to the heart.
He woke up on
a respirator, was paralyzed from the waste down, and was told, "You ain't gonna be walkin'
nothing had been said about biking.
would stop at that and label their life interesting, but Tony got
more. He has also been hit on his bike twice by cars. The last time,
he got run into a guard rail and basically pulverized his shins plus
some other wonderful stuff that's way too complicated to explain
they had to cut open his legs like sausages, drain all the nonsense
out, nail the bones together...sort of straight, then graft skin
from his thigh to cover the gaping holes. They were going to just
cut his legs off and feed them to the hogs, but the doctor found out
about his biking and decided Tony might like to keep one or two of
To this day
his left calf looks like a textbook dissection. You can easily
identify the muscle groups through the Saran wrap thin grafts on
both sides of his calf, giving the appearance of being pasted-on
overlays revealing a pealed back cat eye hole all the way through
his leg. It is beautiful, and I can't stop looking at it. Neither
can you, but you won't admit it.
when we got up after my tube change to continue on up, the vultures
quit circling and went away.
really were on their menu!"
could have gotten real interesting after that, because during a
second stop I almost strangled Tony and left him for dead in the
woods, in thanks for him bringing me up that hill, if only my hands
hadn't been way too weak by then to squeeze around his scrawny neck.
But turns out I'm glad I didn't do it, because I would have missed
the grand finale.
On the way
back from the big climb, we were grinding back up 55 toward
Minnewaska when I heard Tony mumble something from about 10 yards
behind me, then yell, "CAR!".
I turned to
see him pulling over to the guard rail and decided I'd better go
back to make sure everything was ok.
I got there
just in time to see him finish heaving his lunch into the weeds.
Apparently he had not yelled, "mumble muff CAR," like I had heard
but, "I've gotta BARF!"
When I pulled
up Tony was looking down in amazement at the sour contents from his
gut. I was looking down at...well, A STORY!
"This aint no kegger, boy. Get back on your bike!" Then I started
laughing and couldn't stop.
That was a
mistake, because after his stomach was relieved Tony got real frisky
again and dropped me. So, being a connoisseur of such things, I made
a note to myself, "This here's another clue to add to my list of
things that mean I am about to be dropped."
Clues I knew
from previous rides are: Randy (R&) is about to drop me when he
scrunches forward and his unremarkable calves become bulging
Schwarzenegger style cut-up knots. I know Seth (The Biker) Piker is
about to drop me when he stands to prance like a member of River
Dance up a hill. I know the AA's are about to drop me when we leave
the parking lot. And I am pretty sure my wife is about to drop me as
soon as her cast is removed from her hand, but there I'm just
guessing, and we've got another month before I know for sure.
Now I know
that Tony's about to drop me when he pukes.
We only had
to stop for puke breaks two more times before Tony moved on to dry
heaves and figured he could do that on his bike without having to
A long while later just after dusk,
running before the headlights, we pulled into New Paltz. That gave
us just over seven hours for an 81 mile ride that included the
biggest mofo hills imaginable.
I drove Glade
Hill in my truck a few days later and almost burnt out my brakes
coming down. It is 2 miles exactly bottom to top, so at 2 miles per
Tony and I
had turned back down at our second stop which was at 1.5 miles.
Since Kain is ¾ of a mile with only the slightest break at ½ mile, Tony's comparison
guesstimate had been perfect.
this make the AA's look like a pitiful bunch of wannabes and losers
who just don't care? They only drop me for dead, quick and
immediately. I've never seen any of those guys and gals wretching
their guts out because of their fierce determination to finish me
In any case, The Mission
was a mythic ride, and Tony Defeo earned a spiffy new nom:
who up-chucks, one who hurls, blows chunks,
regurgitates; one who calls
New York on the big white phone.
CHUCKIE, Lord of the Spew!