Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday ride

Now isn’t that just craptastic! As I make the left turn into the parking lot, I see the group of riders just starting out. The last rider disappears behind a building just as I pull into a parking spot. I’m late. Again.

My bike is ready to go in the back of the van, but I still have to put on a few layers before heading out into the 20 something degree weather. I try to quickly pull on my neoprene booties and sweater, gloves and jacket. Leroy, the former NJ RBA, notices and walks over. He is not riding today, but he dropped by to see the group off. We talk as I get ready.

Leroy asks if I know about the route change in the first mile or so. I don’t but I tell him I’m sure I’ll figure it out. The route is Joe’s Great Adventure Permanent. I’ve ridden it once before and I know that I can ride it at a good clip. I figure that the group will ride the first few miles at a moderate pace and I may be able to catch up if I hurry.

In minutes I am on the course, my cue sheet in a baggie clipped to a brake cable, quickly turning the pedals on the fixie. According to my cue sheet, the first turn is 1 mile away (0.8 to the bridge then 02. and LEFT onto Township line Road). Did I mention that one of the rules of Randonneuring is that the official cue sheet is the one that is up to date as of the day of the ride? That cue sheet may NOT be the same as one you printed up days ago and placed in the baggie clipped to your brake cable. If I didn’t mention that, I should. It’s important.

The bridge is right where it’s supposed to be. However, Township Line Road is not.

I think I’ve gone 0.2 past the bridge, but since I’m being all minimalist and spartan on my fixie, I don’t have an odometer, so I’m not sure. I am sure that I don’t see a left turn onto a road called Township Line. I ride on. I come to Griggstown Road. That is not Township Line Road even though it goes left. I ride past it - Joe’s cue sheets would not make that mistake.

Once I know that I've ridden more than .2 miles I turn back. Then I turn right - which would have been left from the original direction- onto Griggstown - which still is NOT Township Line Road - because, well, because at least the word “town” is in the name of the road and it goes in the right (left) direction. Then I go straight.

As I go further, none of the roads I see match up with anything on the cue sheet. I ask a guy walking a dog if the road I'm on leads to Township Line or Willow Road (the next street on the cue). He tells me no. It just goes in a big circle. Great - I am officially riding in circles. I may have to go back to the start and just go home.

On the way back to the start to just go home, I see a woman in her car in a driveway. She looks to be in her 50’s. I have learned that if I must ask for directions, its best to ask a woman who looks to be in her 40's or 50’s or a woman with older kids - not babies. Its almost like they expect men to be clueless and in need of help. She tells me where to find Township Line Road and Willow Road. They are close because, by going in circles, I never got more than two miles from the start. Following her directions, I get back on course.

Now I wonder how much time has passed since the official start of the ride - I didn't know because I forgot my watch too. Did I mention that I went to a Christmas party the night before and had a few homebrewed IPA's. If I didn’t mention that, I should. It’s important.

I woke up  moving slow and left my watch at home in the fumble to get out of the house. No odometer, no watch and an old cue sheet in a baggie clipped to the brake cable. All minimalist, spartan and clueless.

Luckily, I am married to a woman in her 40's with older kids - not babies. She made coffee and oatmeal for me as I was fumbling around to get out of the house. I ate and drank in the van on the way to being late for the start. As a result, despite missing the pre-ride breakfast, I was fueled by caffeine and slow acting carbs, and nudged along by a tailwind. I felt like I was making good time.

The Great Adventure Permanent is a nice route for a fixie. No killer climbs but not completely flat. The inclines are spaced over the course and steep enough to get me off the saddle to climb. The course routes along streams, past fields and bogs. Wrapped in wool from nose to toes, I ride though the cold sharp air on the almost silent hum of the fixie. Climbing in the cold is good. It warms you up.

This ride was supposed a holiday event with Rando friends - 70 fun miles preceded by breakfast and followed by lunch. I figured that I could ride the first half in a little more that 2 hours and catch up with some of the group if I hustled, so I hustled. About an hour into the ride, I remembered why I don't drink the night before a ride or drink coffee the morning of a ride. To be honest, I didn't so much remember as get reminded by the painfully full feeling in my lower intestines. Oh oh. I can hold it off for a while, but the closer I get to the half way point the worse the feeling gets. Its like my bowels know that relief is near but is misjudging how close.

Within a few miles of the turn around, I see Janice, another Randonneur. After a greeting, I move on hoping to find a place to deal with this latest emergency. Luckily there is an open Pizzeria at the upcoming turn. I'll spare you the gory details but I left the place with a much lighter step than when I went in.

Back on the road, I see the first group of riders that departed the checkpoint. They greet me with rousing cheers and mock derision. I call out to save some food for me.

Janice C., Rick L, Katie and JBL are at the checkpoint  controle when I arrive. Janice passed me during my emergency stop. At the controle, I collect a receipt, down a quart of gatorade and eat some fig newtons. I'm good to go. We leave as group.

The trip back to the start is more in line with what I expected for the whole ride. We ride at a more relaxed pace, talk, tell stories and share bits of songs. Seeing Katie and JBL on a tandem reminds me of Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka riding in the depth of the chocolate factory. 

In springtime, the only pretty ring time
Birds sing, hey ding
A-ding, a-ding
Sweet lovers love the spring

(here's a link to the video Willy Wonka Rides a Bike )

At the end of the ride, we meet up with the first group. Joe arranged for food and drinks in a little holiday celebration. I see some folks I haven't seen since summer. There is a birthday cake surprise for Joe. And a good time was had by all. Now this is what I signed up for.

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