Monday, June 15, 2009

Riding Long

We sat on my porch at 5am, watching the radar on the iphone and waiting for the hard rain to pass. On this, the day of the Westchester Cycle Club's famous Double Century ride, we were leading our version of the ride. Nobody had showed up to join us, and only one person had signed up online (definitely not coming. Note: you guys are nuts). The goal was to ride the double century route, more or less, from my place, making a neat 300km (188 miles). We hoped to meet up with some of the other folks riding long that day, and enjoy ourselves. I figured, after riding 240 mountainous miles in one day, sleeping a few hours and then riding 135 miles, this would be a piece of cake. But, nobody was handing out any medals for this one, so I was not compelled to start in the pouring rain. By 5:30, we decided it had slacked off enough to ride. We got our gear together and set out.

Riding out on familiar roads was a very nice, although very hilly start. The wet roads also slowed us down a bit. A couple of weeks ago, Victor finally gave up his fender fetish and got himself a sweet new titanium frame. He spent some hours building it last week, and Saturday, took the bike out for a few minutes for a test ride. With a new saddle to boot, we were taking some risk setting off on such a long ride. No fenders meant no drafting and wet butts, but we were enjoying the familiar muscle-memory feeling of setting off at dawn for a day of riding. By mile 25, Victor was lobbying to sit down and have a hot breakfast at a diner, but I nixed that idea. He is a Clydesdale and needs to eat constantly on these long rides, but I didn’t want to take the time so early on, so we just grabbed a Starbucks Double Shot at the gas station and he ate a few candy bars.

After a while, the rain sputters stopped and the roads dried out. By Millerton, we were ready to take off our jackets and switch out clear lenses for dark ones. We stopped at the CVS and got some Fig Newtons and some more Double Shots. While Victor was inside, I adjusted my new saddle a bit, and was stretching when who should come riding past but Ave & company, who were riding 150 miles. We met them over at the McDonald’s where they were making a quick stop. There was Terry and Paul (on his mountain bike!), James and Larry and, to my delight, another woman, Marion! Hiroshi came pedaling past without stopping, as he was going for his 9th double century. We passed him as we set off, telling him we’d meet him in Great Barrington. We road and chatted a bit with everyone, and then James, Larry, Victor and I road ahead. We never did see Bruce and Aaron, who had started off from lower Westchester, as they were riding fast.

The farms and houses are quite beautiful in that part of the world, and we were having fun commenting on the scenery. At one point, we saw a fellow up ahead with large panniers and a sleeping bag strapped to his bike. He was an old guy, and told us he rides down to a reunion every year, and was on his way back up to Great Barrington. We paid our respects and continued on our way, marveling at all the ways to enjoy life on a bike.

At Great Barrington, we pulled into a gourmet food shop and waited for the others. This was a very gourmet shop, with sandwiches that had things in them you might not want to know about, and iced coffee with real cream, and jars of duck fat for sale in the cooler. The sun had come out, I took off my shoes and when the others got there we all enjoyed a pleasant lunch. Besides the above-mentioned crowd, there were two more that joined us, Klaus and Brad, doing 200. Chatting and basking, it was over an hour later when we set off.

Soon, it was the four of us out front again, and I encouraged Victor to draft behind James for a bit, but he likes to be out front (although he doesn’t seem to mind drafting me occasionally). So, we rode side by side-by-side most of the way to the river. When we got there, we found a detour that took us off on a dirt road between the train tracks and the river for a few miles. It was pretty, dark and cool, so we didn’t mind. When we finally crossed, a quaint covered bridge was our reward.

At Kent, I took the boys to a great little gelato place Eve and I found last year on our Northern bike tour. There was a sign in the grass that said it was a children’s play area, so I lay down and watched the puffy clouds go by, carefully licking my pink grapefruit sorbet cone and feeling really good. Larry and James told us there were riding a century, and would take off soon to end in Dover. So, Victor and I found ourselves riding alone again, and contemplating whether we should make a few extra loops somewhere to complete a full 200mi. We saw Trudy, Hiroshi’s wife, waiting to offer him (and all of us) encouragement in Pawling. We got some lube at the bike shop for our squeaky chains and kept going.

By Mahopac we decided we were hungry and wanted to chill by the lake instead of putting in extra miles, so that is what we did. We found a restaurant with outdoor seating. I had a strawberry mango margarita and Victor had a pina colada. We shared a chicken marsala pizza and watched the jet skis from the patio. Setting off for the last leg home we marveled at how good we felt. As we found ourselves again on the familiar roads leading home, we could smell the barn and picked up the pace. In spite of all the time we spent lounging around and socializing that day, we managed to get back before sunset, goal accomplished. I hope some folks will join us next time.

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