Taking Baths

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I’ve always liked taking baths.  I liked it when I was a little kid and I still like it now.  Maybe it was because when I was small, we didn’t have a shower, I don’t know.  All I know is that a hot bath is sometimes is the difference between getting by and suffering.

I’m been taking a bunch of baths since I crashed.  I am having a little trouble controlling my thermostat.  I’ve been getting really cold, even if I’m dressed right, so the only way I can figure out how to get back warm is to take a hot bath.  The first couple weeks I was taking maybe 10 a day.  I know that sounds weird, and it is, but it worked.  Now it is down to a couple.

I’ve had a few odd bathing situations over the years racing.  When I was first going to Europe, many times it was hard getting hot water.  Even when I was living in Switzerland, racing cross, my super nice apartment in Aigle had a small insulated water storage tank and every morning around 6, it would fill full of hot water.  That is the water I had for the day, which wasn’t really enough to wash dishes, clothes and shower.  I definitely needed to prioritize.

The first time I went to Europe, we were racing a stage race that started in Rome and finished in San Marino.  The weather was sort of bad early in the race and I got dropped by myself.  It was raining pretty hard and I was worried I was going to miss a turn and get lost.  I was riding through a small Italian village, going up short steep climb, and this big man, without a shirt on, smoking a cigarette, is standing on the sideway yelling die (sp), which I was, but he was cheering.

When I came by, the guy, shirtless and barefoot, steps into the road and starts running behind me, pushing..  Man, that guy was talented.  He pushed me at least 50 meters up that hill and then promptly, stopped and fell on his stomach, laying in the road as water streamed down it.  I didn’t realized how passionate Italian cycling fans were until then.

Anyway, I could see the finish town and I was wondering if there was going to be hot water at the hotel, it was that sort of day. The previous hotels didn’t have hot water.  I was the last American to finish and made my way to the hotel.  When I got there, I was a mess.  Sort of bonked, soaked and covered in road grit.  It turned out we didn’t have a hotel, but an apartment.

The other guys were already clean.  I walked in and they said they had some good news, and bad.  The good news was there was hot water.  The bad was that there wasn’t much, so they had filled the tub and had all cleaned up.  I walked into the bathroom and the tub was full of, what looked, like muddy pond water.  I reached down and it was semi hot.  So I just took off my cycling shoes, left my shorts and jersey on, shut my eyes, and got into the tub.  I was so cold and it was great.  I thought about how much better muddy hot water is than cold clean water, in certain circumstances.  This was one of those circumstances.

A couple years later, I was racing the British Milk Race.  Phil Liggett was the promoter and there was a lot of riding in wet conditions.  I had a gotten a cold on the flight over and wasn’t feeling that great.  The first stage was hilly and I was dropped towards the end of the race again.  It was raining hard, windy and cold.  I finished, pretty blown again,  and was told to ride to the local gym to shower.  I rode over there and virtually the whole race was there.  Bikes stacked everywhere and when I went inside the whole peloton in the showers.  I was freezing and it was going to take forever for a shower to open up.

I wandered to another room, opened a door and in that room was an antique bathtub, free standing in the middle of the room.  This tub was huge, maybe 7 feet long and a couple feet deep.  It had a cutout on the back where you could put your neck and relax.

I turned on the water and it came out super hot. I was stoked.  I stripped down and got in.  It was heaven. And that was it.

A while later, the coaches were asking where I was.  They went to the gym and my bike was the only one there.  So a coach checked around and saw some water coming out from under a door.  He opened the door and there I was, floating in this huge tub, nude, with water running over the edges.  He thought I was dead.  He came over and shook me and I woke up.  It scared the shit out of me.  He was mad.  And I was embarrassed.

I had been there for over 30 minutes.  It was weird, but I felt pretty good, quite warm, so I can’t say that I regret it.  Just another bike race/life memory.  I’d like to have that tub.

This photo was on the front of the sports page of the Topeka Capital Journal when I was much younger.

This photo was on the front of the sports page of the Topeka Capital Journal when I was much younger.

21 thoughts on “Taking Baths

  1. olmowebb

    Steve, I love these stories. You have lived such a unique life and so many great experiences. If you wrote a book of your racing experiences over the years, I’d buy it. Keep them coming!

  2. Blake Barrilleaux

    Steve, looks like you and I have the same type of feet, with the second toe much longer than the first. Our feet kinda look like our hands when the fingers are all together.

  3. Neal Henderson

    Hello Steve and All,

    I am with you on the hot bath …

    Long ago and far away I was a pilot with Northwest Airlines flying the Seattle Tokyo run.

    We left at odd hours and arrived in Tokyo after about 9 or 10 hours in the air and out of time sequence.

    Bathing in Japan is an art form and the hotel tubs were deep enough to drown in.

    After getting a beer and filling the tub … which took some time …. climb in and the water came up to your chin if you sat up straight. I would fall asleep occasionally and wake up sputtering after going under …..
    I did not have a bike in downtown Tokyo for the first few years we flew into Haneda Airport …. later we flew into Narita and stayed out there in the Northwest Hotel where I kept a bike.

    We would get a few cyclists together and ride the farm roads in the Narita area.

  4. bob

    hi steve,thank you SO MUCH for your amazing,entertaining and heartfelt experiences you share! i recall seeing you appx 15-20 years ago as you did every road stage and most( or many many) of the events at sea otter! go “tin man”!……bob

  5. Steve Tilford Post author

    Neal – Hope you’re good. I’ve been in a few spas in Japan and they are 2nd to none. One thing about them is the hot water pools are super hot. Like scalding. I like them that way, but for the average guy, they would be a shock.

  6. Steve Tilford Post author

    bob-Yeah, back then I used to race all the road and MTB stages for the Iron Otter award. I haven’t been there for a few years. I’d like to go back this year. Might be a little early, I’m not sure yet.

  7. Bill Stevenson

    Bob, please make it out yo the Otter. Last year was good but seeing you would be a real treat.

  8. Neal Henderson

    Yep …. very hot … but also right next to a heart stopping … scrotum shrinking … ice cold pool … and everybody in the buff …… male human …. female human …. old and young

  9. Dog

    Blake that is called Morton’s toe when the 2nd one is longer than the first. Some people have trouble with shoes and need a straight last instead of a curved last so the 2nd toe doesn’t cram into the end of the shoe. Good story Mr. Tilly

  10. The Cyclist

    Must of been drunk. The Italian guy. Also miss the times you could leave your bike outside a public bath and it would still be there an hour later. Amore.

  11. bob

    steve,hi,thanks very much for the comment,if i hear of you maybe going back to the otter to do any/all of the events as you did awhile ago then i will try to return!


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