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Article #16
Chuckie's Mission

- SlingShot

Bucolic is 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.

Neither the famed English landscape artist Constable nor all the members of the Hudson River School combined could have put it together so well.

Of course 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 sat exhausted.

Tony Defeo, 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.

"KAPOW, 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 worth mentioning."

We had 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.

Curiosity 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 climb.

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!

About half way up to our described stop, I had already blown out my fresh and brandy-new 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.

Gladly, I remembered a Bicycling Magazine article about taking steep curves on the outside because they are flatter there. However, despite 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.

I was staggering when I finally reached Tony sprawled across the road resting as 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."

He burped 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.

This is 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 subdivides into 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!

I always 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.

PhD 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' again, son!"

Apparently nothing had been said about biking.

Most people 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 here.

In summary, 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 them.

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.

Amazingly, when we got up after my tube change to continue on up, the vultures quit circling and went away.

"So...we really were on their menu!"

This story 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!

I laughed, "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 stop.

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 hour that's...

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.

Doesn't all 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 off.

In any case, The Mission was a mythic ride, and Tony Defeo earned a spiffy new nom:

CHUCKIE: one who up-chucks, one who hurls, blows chunks, regurgitates; one who calls New York on the big white phone.

All hail CHUCKIE, Lord of the Spew! 




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this page last updated:
12/27/2021 10:45:09 AM

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