If You Can’t Stand the Heat, Stay Away from the Lizard
July 19, 2010
Total mileage: 1801
Sunday morning we loaded up the bikes for a trip to Lawrence to ride Lizard Under the Skillet. It wasn’t yet 6:00 a.m., but the air temperature in Topeka was already 80°F. Worse, the humidity slammed in at around 75% and a heat advisory was in effect. Oh, well. We knew it was going to be hot, and the Lizard folks make the most of the summer. Their slogan is, “Hot? It was so hot I watched a lizard crawl into the campfire just to get in the shade of the skillet.”
There must have been 150 cars in the parking lot of the Broken Arrow Park in southeastern Lawrence, and more arriving all the time. It appeared not many cyclists were deterred by the heat. Riders on Lizard can depart any time from 6 to 8:00 a.m., and when we left shortly before 7:00 a.m. there was a steady trickle of riders. Although the humidity was oppressive, we were protected from the worst of the sun’s rays by a thick bank of clouds moving out of the northwest.
Lizard is a beautiful ride through the countryside around Lawrence. In July the landscape is green and lush, filled with hayfields, horses, and cattle. The hills are undulating and not very difficult. Because it was early Sunday morning, there wasn’t much traffic, although for safety’s sake we were helped through some intersections by sheriff’s officers. We riders were spread out because there was no mass start, so we never felt crowded. It made for a very pleasant ride. I almost forgot why we don’t do it every year. Oh yeah, the heat.
The sun began to catch up to us at the 20-mile point. It was about this time that Husband and I realized we’d forgotten sunscreen. On top of that, my bicycling gloves were at home and back in the car was a wonderful new tool I’d just discovered this season, a cooling bandanna. I could ride without the gloves, but the absence of sunscreen and the bandanna presented a more serious situation.
Earlier this year I was struggling mightily with the heat when a fellow cyclist told me about these products. He’s a construction supervisor and his crew swears by them. I was skeptical, but desperate for relief. It seemed as though nothing would help, not drinking plenty of water, not dowsing my back, nothing. Then one day on a miserable ride, fighting off nausea while taking shelter inside an air-conditioned convenience store, I spied my savior among the sunglasses and scorpion keychains–a cooling bandanna for just $5.00.
These bandannas are sewn into a casing to make a neckerchief, and inside the central section are gel beads that expand when soaked in water. I paid the lady at the cash register, grabbed a plastic cup and filled it with water, then settled down in the shade outside to wait for the beads to soak up the liquid. When it was plump like a sausage, I tied it around my neck. Reader, it provided instant relief. When your neck is cool the rest of you feels pretty darn good, too. My cooling bandanna quickly has become my best cycling accessory.
The Lizard ride would have been even better for me if I’d remembered to tie the bandanna around my neck instead of leaving it in a cup inside our car. Once the sun came out, the atmosphere began to heat up and I was very worried I wouldn’t be able to take the heat for long. It was about that point that Mr. Spoked and I decided to ride 40 miles rather than the longest option of 62 miles.
Lizard celebrates July’s heat at the final support tent by serving riders Mexican food. This tests the theory that spicy fare cools the body by making you sweat. On Lizard, it’s also a measure of your cojones. You’re hot and tired, and there are still 10 miles to finish. Can you take the heat? Then stuff your face with spicy rollups and jalapeno ice cream.
We had ridden Lizard once before, about five years ago on a cloudy and cool day. I ate the jalapeno ice cream then, and it had seemed mild. This year, though, two riders warned me off it. One of them was dripping sweat from his face onto a completely soaked t-shirt. Now that’s hot. Didn’t matter to me, so I opened the cooler and began spooning the treat into a cup. The chunks of pepper seemed bigger than last time, and there were a lot more of them, so I stopped after the second small spoonful and decided to taste it before taking any more. Man, it was hot. Stupidly, I ate both spoonfuls, panted (whew!), then chased the ice cream with water and finally ate a creme cookie to try to cut the heat. But you know, it did seem to make me feel cooler afterward, so perhaps it was worth it.
Lizard Under the Skillet: it’s a great ride, despite the heat.