Sunday, July 24, 2016

The big ride

Collage made from moss at our fancy farm-tp -table restaurant the last night
Cute frog bench at the Hop-In. Unfortunately they could only serve us Bud Light so onto the next bar where we wee seated on wooden versions of bicycles seats (ow!!) until we could get real chairs
Douglas Beach. I gave the ladies the choice of big, beautiful Oval Beach, pictured on sidebar of favorite places, that involved going over and back Mt. Baldy, or a small beach involving very little hills. They chose the flat option. The rides's theme was Beaches and Brews but we were given very little guidance how to get to them. Thus the only rider there were the ones we gave directions to. Fortunately I know the area well

One of the ladies needed beach supplies. I chose not to take a backpack this year as they get so hot and heavy but on beach day I had to carry supplies in a series of plastic bags threaded through my fanny bag belt. The ride from the grocery used to purchase beach food was only a mile downhill. I looked silly but too bad.
Beautiful sky greeted us after a day and night of storms. Weird reflections due to it being through a window.

The last storm we were informed about through a series of blaring bullhorns urging us to take cover immediately in the school  at night didn't involve much rain but the wind broke one of the poles. We still needed the tent the next night. Duct tape alone didn't fix things  but a splint involving a suitably curved tree branch plus duct tape did the trick. Clever?


It's been a week since we left for the Big Ride. 294 miles on the odometer, which is way more than advertised plus additional miles put in due to very poor markings, etc and last minute detours. We had a new ride director this year chosen amongst many for her people skills and ability to form corporate connections. Unfortunately she is not a bike rider so she guessed wrongly what was necessary (water, good road markings, information on what was coming up). On very hot days, the bikers want to leave as early as possible to take advantage of the cool so we want an early breakfast, but from her standpoint, who wants to eat so early? So immediately she was off to a bad start though towards the end, breakfast times were adjusted after much whining. Still people are carrying a grudge vowing never to return. When you are hot, dehydrated and tired, crabbiness sets in quickly. Yesterday I followed an arrow pointing to a restroom that I needed badly. I biked and biked. Finally I asked a walker if there was a restroom down there. Nope. I went in the bushes (classy but I was desperate) and went back to the ride. There was a sag stop (for water) a half mile ahead. I complained to a volunteer. Yep others had complained too. Then why was the f@@@king sign still there? Oh too busy to take it down.

I had 1100 miles on my legs this year before the ride. Was I prepared? Well I didn't get as saddle sore and get various muscle aches that I would have without training. But I had done my rides very early in the morning usually so my body was not prepared for the intense heat. I did do a 21 miler in 90 degree heat that totally sapped me a few weeks ago. Should have known better. And my body started behaving strangely. I noticed I rarely had to pee despite drinking lots of water. Convenient when the bathrooms were far between or far to walk to in the middle of the night. I should be peeing so I drank more and more. I assumed I was sweating it out. After a shower one day, I tried to squeeze into pants that usually are quite loose. I couldn't zip them up. WTF! Did Steve use extra hot water to wash them? Did I suddenly become obese despite little food (way less than I usually snarf  down...food shortages were another issue)I happened to look at my face. All my wrinkles were gone  and my eyes were puffy though I had no eye infection. My feet were swollen too making shoes instruments of torture. I morphed into a water balloon. For some reason even though the heat was still there (and then some) on the last night, the decompressing started with bathroom trips in the middle of the night (stumbling on tents staked (ow!^&$%^!) in front of the school's entrance (note to our na├»ve director: need a clear, safe path..you have the police tape) continuing into the ride all day yesterday (need a bathroom NOW and then finding the one advertised did not exist) and into last night and today where I am quite close, thank-you very much, to relief. My unlovely pruneface has reappeared though my fingers still are sausage like. By tomorrow, I will be normal. Maybe.

I have not taken a break since the first Sunday in April. A storm is going to happen soon (yay! we need rain). I was thinking about going to the Art Fair, which I have missed for the past 5 years due to the ride but I will be resting all day. Also need to be near a john

The ride had its many ups and downs literally and figuratively though smaller and less hills than way up north where the last 4 rides have been. Lots of time to reflect; lots of time for some negative thinking  (how I have declined!)and reminders for the self to live in the moment, not in the future where I was not riding. At one point, I was riding through some nature preserve quite alone among the rushes and finally a 13 year old rider appeared. I told him Good, I thought everyone left me behind. No he said, most everyone is behind you. I thought the sweet boy was just trying to make me feel better but he was probably right. How many 60 something women can ride 300 miles in 6 days? The positive self tells me. Negative self says, look how slow you are now when you got trophies in time trials before. Older people  and fatter people are passing you. Even your friend, with little training refuses to wait for you (which of course pisses me off. I would have waited for her. My sometimes riding buddy, Rastaman, is 10 years younger than I and rides much more could easily beat me in a race but will go at my pace because he doesn't see the hurry. When I ride with Soulmate in a few weeks up and down the Delaware and NJ coasts, I know I will have to slow down for him)
The forecast was 90% severe storms in the area we would be camping the first night 5 miles north of where my cousin lives. Would she invite us to spend the night? Seems rude to ask and besides my other cousin might be staying there to look after his father, my uncle, whose medical issues are getting severe which was more important than women who didn't want to put up a tent in the rain. Turns out the bad storm hit early, not good for the 2 day riders, leaving only a stiff wind which wrecked the bike carrier and later my rain fly.. At one point she couldn't see her bike and we imagined it smashed to pieces under semi tires on the freeway. It had hit the ground messing up the brakes but was repaired by the tour's bike lady overnight. I had to take my bike apart into pieces to fit inside her car (fortunately, a very helpful rider helped me put it back together..it is currently in pieces again)

I had expected only to have a drink with my cousin but she had dinner prepared for us. My uncle's condition had improved so my other cousin returned to the east side of the state before we got there. And my aunt was there waiting for me looking so much like my mother (dead now for 9 years), it was a bit eerie. From my genealogy searches, I had a photo of her grandmother (yep that's her all right) but the photo of said great grandmother with a bunch of grandchildren, she didn't think any were of her. Though she's the oldest child, she had plenty of cousins that were much older. Blueberry season has started in Western Michigan. Plenty of big freshly picked berries by my cousin for us. Plenty of craft beers in the fridge for us. It was nice. My cousin and my friend had yoga and sewing in common with my cousin doing hers on a paddleboard on the lake she lives on. Lots of grandma, aunt and cousin art on the wall (there are artistic and musical genes that seemed to bypass my mom) In the end, it appeared that though the storms were passed, their door would be open for us to return if need be.

The stiff wind made it difficult to put the tent up. The clips that hold the fly to the tent snapped off in the wind so we had to affix them another way. Then the shock cording broke a few nights later on the fly part. No problem. Just need to put the poles together manually but later in the week, a fiberglass pole shattered. See temporary fix above with duct tape and tree branch. Might be time for a new tent. It had a lot of use (and abuse) over the past 25 years.
We met up with a few friendly people that night. Most of the riders are quite talkative. We made a new permanent friend who lives an hour away and already have plans with her. She rode and ate with us most of the week . We had seen her on earlier rides and had lots of interesting talks over the miles and miles and miles.

Favorite conversation starter? Where were you when the storms hit? On Thursday, between Grand Rapids and Holland, two storm cells developed early in the afternoon. The air had been oppressively hot and heavy. Out in the wilderness, at our third sag, I could hear the weather warnings and didn't want to be stranded in that nature preserve. I thought we had 20 minutes before the first cell and told my friends as soon as they got there, we needed to leave immediately to get to the populated part ASAP. The hail and horizontal rain hit just as were in front of a gas station/ convenience store. That cell was skinny but a much bigger one was coming. I thought we could make it to downtown Holland in 25 minutes or so. We almost made it with just a block to go before our target restaurant. Still in that 5 minutes, we were totally drenched. We went from unbearably hot to cold just like that. Where did we want to sit? Where there was the least amount of air conditioning. When we apologized for being so disheveled (dirt splashed on us from the first storm, she said No matter, she was disgusting TOO. (hot and sweaty)

During one storm, one woman saw lightning hit the ground very close to her and noticed an open garage and immediately went in. Startled homeowners pulled in soon after to find her huddled in their garage but were very understanding and invited her in for something to drink. Some found barns to hide in. Others in a library in a very small town that I had bypassed.

One positive feature of the ride that was kept was the coffee lady. At 4 am, she starts firing up the burners to make her gourmet coffee. Her official opening time is 5:30 am but often at 5, she will have some ready. I keep a huge plastic mug to bring there. Riders gather there to gossip about the route. I learned more from them than from the official route guide.

Before breakfast, I wash and dress. Afterwards pack up the gear. We are allowed 2 bags apiece. Each of us had a personal bag but then needed two bags for the tent, pads and sleeping bags. We load them onto a truck that takes them to the next stop where they are thrown onto blacktop for us to pick up. The heat this year caused my deodorant and my Vitamin D capsules to melt. They did put a tarp over the bags during the rain but some of my bags got wet anyway. Packing clothes and everything else in giant ziplock bags is necessary. Even without rain, the dew causes everything to be damp.

First day: Fruitport to Hart: 62.5 miles due to a detour adding on 4 miles to the route. We spent too many of these miles in Muskegon, an industrial town on a sidewalk bicycle path that we had to stop many times on due to turning traffic and many lights. Not pleasant nor was it marked. Then we doubled back along the water, which was much more pleasant and recently improved.


Then along the shore in North Muskegon, a much more upscale area with expensive houses along the water with beautiful gardens and big shady trees. Onto the pretty Berry Junction Trail whose tail end weaved through woods and sculpture gardens towards the Whitehall side. By that time, I was hungry and wanted to eat in Montague at 40 miles or so but my friend wasn't hungry. I ate my one allotted Kind bar (they got more generous as the week progressed) and sighed. I agreed to wait until Mile 52.5 (very long) to outside New Era, Country Farm, a very popular place. A young man checking us in extolled the milk. For $1, you can drink all you want and he was able to guzzle down a gallon. Well I had the chocolate milk which was so rick and creamy, it tasted like a milkshake. They served sandwiches and pizza too. It was a very late lunch so I was not hungry at dinner time. Just as well as we were served some disgusting version of Shepherd's pie.
The 33 mile Hart- Montague trail is the first rail-trail in Michigan. It was just recently repaved so it was very smooth. I had been on it years before with Josh.
We camped in a county park outside of Hart on a lake. After dinner, we walked to town to find beer at the Pour House sitting outside enjoying the musicians on the lake brought in for our benefit and meeting new friends. A pleasant night.

Day 2: Hart to Newago 52 miles. Still sunny and warm. We backtracked on the smooth trail past the Country Dairy and then went uphill (hadn't seen a hill until then) inland and east. Still I didn't need to get out of my 2nd chain ring. An ambulance blew by us outside Fremont. Hope it isn't one of us. But it was. The director of the Michigan Greenways who this ride is the chief fundraiser for. Also she lived on the same street as I did from 5th grade to graduating high school and is my Facebook buddy. She hit a large pothole hard on a downhill and went flying off her bike face first with no time to protect her face. As she kept repeating It happened so fast, they assumed she had a concussion. She broke her cheek bone and had black eyes but otherwise was OK. I talked to her two days later. She seemed to be mostly recovered except for the bruising.

2 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

Some triumphs, some frustrations.
A bit like life really.
Congratulations on your ride. I am a smidge younger and couldn't do it.
I am so glad that your friend's face plant left her with (relatively) minor injuries.

Sue in Italia/In the Land Of Cancer said...

EC, you seem so much like such a wise soul, I always assumed you were older than me.

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