Thursday, April 30, 2009

Phils Ride Across America - The Story Of My Amazing Race, uh, Ride With Phil Keoghan

Video of the ride is here, click on Day 33.

“Take it up to 22,” I overheard Amazing Race TV Show Host Phil Keoghan say to the driver of the BMW motorcycle.  While I’ve been in some really fast races, I had never been motorpaced before.  It was a rush.  We left the GNC on Polaris Pkwy. in Columbus OH with about a group of 20.  Some were local GNC employees and MS Foundation volunteers who had only enough legs to hang for the first 5 to 10 miles of the 108 mile leg to Dennison, OH.  Others hung on to the increasing pace a little longer or decided to turn around.  Since most didn’t have arrangements for a ride back, myself included, and Phil’s people don’t provide transportation back to the start city, most picked a place en-route to pull even and shake hands with Phil and turn around for a solo slog back to Columbus.  It was either that or do 216 miles in a day.  I don’t think so.

I had met Phil about a year ago, at my real job, on a radio station promotional tour for The Amazing Race.  I write and produce commercials for those dying to know my glamorous occupation.  His first reaction was, “you look a lot like Lance and you ride bikes?”  I do get that a lot.  Believe me the slight resemblance ends where the helmet straps hit the cheek bones.  I guess my eyes are a little beady like Lance’s.  He did remember me on Wednesday and kept calling me Lance on the ride.  I’m sure some of that will end up on his daily video blog, or maybe when the show about the ride airs on national TV.  Eek.

When I first saw Phil that morning in Columbus, I have to say, he looked thin and sort of wiped out.  My face has looked like that from time to time.  32 days of back to back centuries, glad handing, and promotional stops is bound to take its toll on the body and mind.  Just the day before, he wrecked on a set of rain slicked railroad checks leaving him with road rash on his knee and hip.  He took a little nick out of his cheek too.  You can see the bandage in the photo.  The video of the incident is here, see the day 32 video.  Soft spoken with the Aussie lilt, he was gracious enough for photos, book signings and autographs, but you could tell he really wanted to get on with the ride and more importantly a midday nap.  After check presentations from GNC and the local MS group, he announced to the crowd that he was going to put on and I quote, “Belgian Butt Butter,” and by 10-10:30am, we were on our way.  Phil’s riding across America to raise awareness for the National MS Foundation. 

The ride itself started out like most group rides do on the way out of town.  Phil chatted with riders who worked their way up to his side and the pace was easy for the first 5 miles or so down Polaris Pkwy.  The casual riders fell off the pace or decided to turn around.  As we turned onto OH-3, the pace ratcheted up again.  I didn’t have a computer on my bike, but I guess it went up to about 18-20mph.  A group of about 10 or so hung strong till we pulled over for Phil’s crew to check their route on GPS while the rest of us took the opportunity for a natural break.  At this point, some riders said they would be turning around in a few miles; there were one or two that still intended on doing the entire 108 mile leg to Dennison with Phil.  Since I didn’t even have a map or know the route, I told someone that I thought I’d go about 50, before I would turn around and head back to my truck in Columbus.  We mounted up and were on our way.

As the road became more rural, I heard Phil tell the motorpace driver, “Take it up to 22.” We had a slight cross wind, but luckily I had Phil’s wheel.  We were starting to haul.  The conversations among riders ceased.  I quickly understood that this is how you ride across America when you’re on a deadline.  This is also how you systematically and kindly keep riders from getting in over their head while trying to follow you across America.  Somewhere I Iooked back and realized that I was the only rider left on the train.  We hauled on.   I nearly popped at least once when the motorcycle didn't ease up on a riser.  I’m sure at points we were running 23-25 mph now.  I was just trying to keep track of the turns, so I could find my way back to my car whenever it was time to turn around.

Earlier, I had heard Phil say that he really needed a nap and that he had hoped to grab some winks around lunchtime.  That made me wonder.  Was Phil trying to drop me?  He put my stewing thoughts at ease when he asked me to pull along side and ribbed me on camera about how I kind of look like Lance.  It was just the two of us now.  I think I had gained his respect as a strong rider and truthfully I think he welcomed the company and conversation.

We rocketed through some sweet country.  The rural farm roads we were on, sandwiched between OH-3 and OH-62 were freshly paved.  Smooth, twisty and rolling, this is what I came for.  We stopped twice along the way for them to check the GPS and confirm lunch plans with the people towing the Airstream which stuck to the bigger roads.  I tried to recall the way back.  Right at the cement factory, left on Johnstown, right at the new yellow house on the farm road, a slight chicane and back to Route 3.  The sky was starting to look a little grey.  My legs were starting to feel the pace. I had two swigs of Gatorade left in my bottles. I told Phil that I’d turn around at the next convenient store.

“Join us for lunch,” he said, “we just have another 12 miles.”  Sure I could do that, I thought. I can’t pass up lunch with the host of the Amazing Race.  At this pace it’d be just another half hour or so.  I could tell Phil was getting tired.  He lost the motorcycle's wheel up a gradual climb.  Not to be a chest thumper, I could tell Phil was running out of gas.  Then, somewhere within the next 5 miles, it started misting, then lightly raining.  It wasn’t so bad, but the spray from the motorcycle was hitting my feet.  My jacket was feeling damp on my arms.  I didn’t want to be stuck in the rain with wet feet and a 50 mile solo ride back home.  About 45 miles in, probably 15-20 minutes from lunch and just a few miles east of Martinsburg, OH, I pulled even with Phil and told him that I was going to turn around.

Sitting backwards on the passenger seat of the motorcycle, the camera guy lifted the camera to his shoulder.  Phil and I said our goodbyes and shook hands.  I signaled a turn around with my finger in the air and we parted ways.  Hopefully that’ll be up on the website’s video blog.

With renewed energy from the adventure, through patches of rain and sun I absolutely killed the 45 miles back to Columbus.  What a great day on the bike.  But, man climbing the stairs at work hurt the next morning.


DT said...

thats a great entry. sounds like a great job. work for horizon productions??

Mark said...

Nice Write up -
here's my write-up about the day prior. The guy is fast and can pedal a bike. He said he likes to race on the track and enjoy's crits as well.