A bit over a week ago I was riding close behind some inexperienced young riders on a Wednesday morning ride. We had just finished a down hill and there was a sprint announced 6 km up the road. The pack was hyper. The last thing I can remember was thinking " OH NO , I am going down and it will not be nice." No time to brake, no time to hop over the mess. Blackout.
I must of ploughed into someone hit my head above my eye, then went over on my back and hit back of my head and my lower back and side of thigh. The first day I only was feeling and seeing this:
I recall sporadic moments until we reach Arusha by car about an hour later. Thadayo says I kept asking the same questions of what happened. By the time we reach the hospital I was clear headed and in no pain. We looked at the crowd of patients and decided to buy antiseptic and ibuprofen and have Thad clean me up.
I knew I had a concussion but had no headaches or nausea.
In my confusion and fidgeting I went out later in the day and tried to ride my commuting bike around the drive, and then repacked a bottom bracket bearing. I couldn't tighten the bolts by myself.
It was day 5 of the Tour de France, and they were on and off cobblestones and it was wet. Many crashes so it was hard to feel sorry for myself watching so much misery.
The next day my ribs began to give slight pain and severe pain with a cough or laugh. By two days turning over in bed was a big problem. Only then did I realise the eye was minor.
All during the next week I was still discovering bruises like this one on my thigh after a week:
It took me a week to notice this one and others I won't show, granted at my age bruises form easily.
I think I went to work on the next day. I went to a doctor eventually who said probably not cracked ribs and it would take awhile. We figured x ray not worth the time.
One day I stopped the ibuprofen pain killers and that was a mistake, as I turning over in bed was an ordeal.
Without the exercise of commuting I find my mood low and I question my life, about the accident and road bike racing. Either my body is missing the exercise induced endorphins, or the concussion brings mood, or the constant ibuprofen taking, or being out of contact with acquaintances. Too much time alone to think. Will I be able to give up road riding? should I? Is riding a bike really my best choice of social outlet?
I show up at work late morning but I am not productive.
At least since day 8 I am riding the bike instead of burning fossil fuels.
Lots of stuff going on this weekend. So Sunday only two John's show up at my house at 630. White biker chick is out for awhile.
We ride the normal route up to the west meru plateau. As soon as we cross over the steep canyon we are in some dust. A bit surprising. Crossing the canyon I am convinced John can carry his bike faster than I can push mine up and down the rocky canyon track.
The air is clear and crisp and we have some amazing views.
as we get on the edge of the plateau we can look west and instead of clear it is brown dust haze. Only the tops of mountains stick above the dust, but we see every mountain in northern Tanzania but Hanang.
I beg to stop and eat. we have ridden fairly hard for 3 hours and have gained almost 1000m
We ride 30 minutes on plateau before turning off and are quickly in this open moorland.
there is some cultivation going on, and this must be in the national park.
We ride on a faint track southerly until the end and find a single track. John also turns on google earth and we are 2km from other tracks. Into the forest and immediately it turns 47 degrees down. this is where we lower the seat post. We have to walk over some roots and when it gets excessively steep.
From where we start going down it is only 18.6 km and one km vertical to my house, but we only average 11.3 km/hr and it is always down hill. and sometimes I thought I was going fast. I am amazed at the low average speed.
Below is after the steep native forest. John is not smiling in this picture but wincing from running into stinging nettles and thistle.
I don't do many weddings. When two of your bike buddies get married, and to each other , I attend. The ceremony was in their forest, in a place with no buildings visible. It was mentioned several times during the service about them being avid mountain bikers. The mother of the bride talked about Partnership, and she used a tandem to make the point and then gave them a little toy tandem to remember her talk! Thomas was also there as part of the biker community. Lovely service. The vows were beautiful.
Above two of the wedding party held up their bikes for John and Amanda "white biker chick" to walk through and a few of the party. It was a nice touch.
It was a wedding where we hardly knew anyone outside the happy couple but ended up talking to some interesting people. The mother of the bride reads my blog!
John and Amanda may you have a long joyous life together with much tailwinds.
West Meru Plateau has been ridden up and over a number to times, so the ride is nothing much to write home about.
Thomas is in training for Cape Epic 6 day race and wanted to do 5 hours and promised it to be a "slow" ride, although he only went so far to say it would be his slow and not mine. You can make out the plateaus above Thomas's head, it looks flat but it is hard to find a stretch that is flat for long.
I need to remember the camera moment more and carry a camera more. I had gone ahead on a very steep section, shoulder carrying our bikes , and then realised i should Kodak it, but got there too late. Trust me, we had to climb a few meters using both hands while balancing the bike on the shoulders with no hands. After that it was time for breakfast.
As we cruised up a big logging road the sun came out for the first time in a week . The clouds were attempting to climb up the mountain but something was stopping it on the ridge below us.
Normally this road is 6 inches in dust. Today it was perfect riding.
Great views today.
Second missed Kodak moment was after reaching the edge of the plateau and having another snack. A ten year old boy asked to ride my bike 'around" , "naomba roundi". I always refuse, and did, but as he walked away I thought "why not". I already had asked where he lived. Would of been a good picture, him sitting on the top bar and riding in his gum boots.
We rode 30+ minutes on the not flat plateau and Thomas noticed and nice looking trail and we took it. Always assumed it was a dead end into some part of the forest. It was sometimes like this, sometimes single track through narrow space in bushes. we rode for about 1 km and then lost the trail in an old clearing of potatoes. Found another trail which lead to a road and ......
..and then we were in a moorland. open areas and swamp surrounded by heather bushes. We rode from one clearing to another on a faint vehicle track. Sometimes the road was under the swamp.
We found a trail going down and it seemed to be heading to Sambasha Hill direction but feared it would be steep. The google maps showed Sambasha not far off. (Later I asked a man wandering around the moorland and he said it was a good trail, not too steep and got you quickly to the top forest roads. At home I see it is 1 km and 350m of height loss.
We took another track, it became a trail going towards what looked to be a familiar hill near the main plateau road. Came upon this elephant skull.
It was narrow path but ride able, even when the grass was waist deep. It kept going uphill.
Came to the road as hoped. I was feeling knackered and was thinking we would return on the road but Thomas kept going away from home. So we make the loop down to Oldonyo Sambu.
Made unwise decision and ended up going another 5km around mountain on rough logging roads. A recovery soda at the highway and cruised home. Thomas said it was about 80km. instead of 5 hours turned into 8 hours.
I was just editing my last post and realized I had a good story. Secondly I need to emphasize how fit these two are.
A few weeks ago John and Amanda announced they are getting married in March! Cool, always easy relationship when two of my friends are married to each other. And they both are bikers! Another of my friend's wife says she is a biker's widow.
I would like to be in better shape, but being in bad shape helps in other ways. When one is super fit it is sometimes hard to ride a bike with less serious riders. Right now I just cant ride with my buddy Thomas, his easy equals my 85% effort.
Before I tell the story you have to know that these two work full time and train something like 15 hours per week currently getting ready for a week mtn bike race. I can't stay near either of them anymore, not even close. Amanda can ride more technical stuff than John, so in a rouugh spot she rides through it, John falls over, and Erik gets off and walks.
In the middle of Sunday's ride we stop for "lunch" and for the first time I can see them, as the rest of the time they were way off in front. I notice that Amanda's legs are bleeding and scratched, and I remember she will be in her wedding in a couple of months and most of the time she will be in hard training .
" So what is the plan for the legs for the wedding?" I ask.
" oh we got that covered."
I have ridden around Monduli Mtn in a day almost a dozen time. So why would I do it again?
Here we are comtemplating the route up that excarpment. The tan slash is a rocky short trail to the top.
I could claim it is a classic ride with fantastic scenery and fun descents. However today it boils down to being a litmus test for my fitness.
The circuit is 100km +/- and 1600meters elevations gain and loss. A mixture of tarmac, good road, bad road, and some trail. If you want there is 200m vertical on steep rock trail in the picture above.
John and Amanda meet me at my house and we ride clockwise. I need to mention they are in training for a 7 day race in south america and are very fit.
We have several options for the first section to Monduli town. We choose the very very old road to Monduli town. It gets more washed out each year and this time the washouts were deeper. It took almost 3 hours to get to Monduli town. Next time I will try going way up the mountain into the forest and down as we did a fair mount of route finding and up and down.
Riding through the wheat farms of Likamba. It was greener than it looks and no dust.
We left the fog around Mnt Meru behind.
Friendly kids getting their entertainment.
Huge erosion canyons.
Next section is riding up a good road through a thick forested valley to Monduli Juu plateau.
Then rolling road on the plateau.
Then long downhill and hairpin switchbacks to Mfereji.
More gentle down hill.
And past the 1/2 way mark up the escarpment. first third we pushed, then two carries of the bikes.
John showing the method.
that is Amanda way ahead. I carry everythign on my bike and racks and tools. My bike was heavy.
I have been more tired at the top but the ride accross the plains on top of the escarpment did me in. I was tired enough and started to waste energy wrestling the bicycle, I fell down. I had to adjust my brake. I had to walk twice. And i was tired.
the reason i wanted to go clockwise was so that the final 15km is downhill. I think my brake was rubbing a bit at this point but I was in survival mode to get home. At home i managed to lay on the couch the rest of the day. we were out about 10 hours.
There are too many reasons why I haven't been a regular on Arusha Cycling Club wednesday morning rides. I made this one that was a mtn bike ride. Lots of them waiting for me. Lots of climbing and a long fast descent. It was spectacularly green up in the forest and no dust, no mud, perfect conditions.
I must say this, that afterwards I feel great physically and emotionally.
First, half of the current 6 readers live in North America. North Americans keep in mind Tanzanians drive on the left (see * footnote), so a right turn is when you cross the oncoming traffic, opposite to what North Americans do.
I have two lights to navigate on my commute. The second light is where I have to make a right turn.
It used to be that the right turn light went just before the straight light. So I could get in between the cars up front and felt safe.
A month ago they switched and now the straight goes first, and no way do I want to be in between as they speed straight through the intersection. Arusha drivers are a "in a rush" breed and I don't want to be there.
the options were :
1. go straight like a pedestrian, then wait again to go straight again on my road. I am a "in a rush" Arushan , that will add a minute or two to my commute.
2. Sit in the right turn lane but behind a car turning right. I haven't tried that but I suspect that would make "in a rush" drivers fidgety, worrying that i will slow them down through the light .
3. Sit in between and hope everyone sees me. We have a few drivers, usually drivers of Foresters, who might try to overtake a slow moving truck in the intersection. (Yes unfortunately it does happen.)
4. Sit on the far left. wait for the light to change. wait for all the cars (certainly any Forester) running the red light straight. Then cross in front of the straight lane and make my right turn with the cars.
Now bicyclists in North America and militant about not doing #4 (but opposite) , but this is what motorizied vehicle drivers like them to do.
I am reluctantly doing # 4 .
The worst part is waiting for the people running the red light straight (patience erik), followed by I am the entertainment for the cars waiting to go straight. They all start being helpful thinking i am going straight and yell at me to "go, go , go".
It is a tough life commuting.
* There are times when Tanzanian drivers drive on the right, in fact sometimes they drive on the far left in the shoulder. When traffic backs up then 20% start going anywhere there is room, including the oncoming traffic lane.