Sunday, March 27, 2011

PAC Tour"s Desert Camp Century Week

One of Many Rest Stops

Lon, Veronica Beagan, and me

Bisbee Architecture

This was my first time back with PAC Tour since my 2009 Transcontinental ride from Portland, OR to Tybee Island, GA. Since then I have, at least for now, resolved my forever-expanding nutritional issues of dietary intolerances which had really compromised my performance on the Transcon.

It was so good to be back with the Fold, or as someone called PAC Tour--somewhere between a Cult and a Family; I'll stick with The Fold. It doesn't take long before you have a bunch of riding buddies from all over the country as well as the UK, Canada, and Australia.

It was also amazing to feel and see the difference in my ability to veritably power up the climbs that had daunted me in 2009 when at Desert Camp that year. That's a tribute to resolution of my nutritional/fueling issues and an especially good feeling as I'm now two years older--65 and some months.

PAC has been leading bicycle tours for exceptional cyclists for over 30 years and with a 75% return rate of satisfied customers it stands to reason that it's an older bunch of folks. I was struck with how many of our riders on Century Week had experienced life-reorganizing events in the last year: knee replacements, broken hips, hip replacements, bike accidents, Lyme's Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, spouses with end stage Cancer, professional disappointments, and still they ride. Victor Gallo is well into planning his Team RAAM in 2012--a 4-man team with the average age of the rider being 80. That is a pure and simple statement about the commitment of these riders to their health, cycling, and the gifts of ultra-riding.

The contrast between our group of svelte cyclists was never more apparent than when a tour bus arrived disgorging about 25 tourists, all overweight Americans, most of whom were our same ages, and who needed help with their luggage. Hmmmm.

This week we saw BIG winds as well as the towns of Bisbee, Tombstone, Coronado Monument, Ft. Huachuca, Sonoita, Patagonia, and desert glory every day.

I learned hubbing out of one town, in this case Sierra Vista, works much better for me than riding point-to-point: better restaurants and decent grocery stores which helped with my nutritional issues, as well as the opportunity to mix and match routes rather than feeling compelled to follow the prescribed route of the day.

It was glorious to get out of the Chicago's endless winter and to know that I'll call Tucson home in exactly 6 months.

Monday, March 14, 2011

NOLA 300k

Rob Welsh is a matchmaker. He is also the Regional Brevet Administrator (RBA) for the Twin Cities Randonneuring Club and a veteran of PAC Tour’s Elite Transcontinental 2010 Ride.

Rob Welsh is responsible for introducing me to Michelle Williams, the RBA for the Jackson, MS Randonneuring Club, a veteran of PAC Tour’s 2010 Northern Transcontinental, and will be my riding partner in our August, 2011 Circle Tour of Lake Michigan.

But the weekend of February 26th my Lightning P-38, Fern’s her name, and I flew to Jackson, MS and then Michelle and I drove to New Orleans for the Crescent City Randonneur’s 300k (minimum of 186 miles). No way I’d get a 300k in Chicago in February, that’s for sure.

Of course when you’re in a new place you notice everything that has become so ho-hum to the locals, so ho-hum that sometimes they don’t even notice it at all. My forever memory of New Orleans will be the Mississippi River. Sounds funny coming from an Illinoian whose entire state is boundaried by the very same river. But MY Mississippi, the places where I’ve crossed it all my adult life, is just a little bit bigger version of the Fox or Illinois, or Des Plaines or Chicago--nothing special except for the lore of Tom and Huck. But in New Orleans there are barges, and tugs, and container ports, and evidence of round the clock world wide shipping efforts that made me think I was on a cruise ship coming in to Port. And in the black of night the banks both north and south sparkled in phosphorescence as the heart work of the River beat on and on.

And of course there were those French names like Lake Pontchatrain and Ponchatoula, and water everywhere--canals, and estuaries, and swamps, and bayous--and still the stories of Hurricane Katrina, August 29, 2005 are told as if they were just yesterday.

This was a most special 300 for me because all seven of us were on recumbents: 2 Carbon Bacchettas, 3 Ti Aero Bacchettas, 1 Lightning P-38, and 1 Tour Easy. Not very often am I a member of the majority, but that’s a way-good feeling.

So Michelle and I are riding along somewhere about mile 150 and she asked me what my all-time favorite ride was. I do believe this ride, this 300k was my all-time favorite one-day ride; it had the makings of all kinds of goodness:
new territory
all bent riders
good fellowship--all of us rode together for the entire 192 miles
perfect weather--mid 70’s
no mechanicals
no body issues
no routing issues
and a decent time--just over 14 hours including the 3 hours off the bike!!

But that got me thinking about all the other now 100,000 miles I’ve ridden in the last 10 years and what do I remember of those?

My list is long and sweet: distances and climbs I thought impossible; PAC Tour for showing me the how-to’s of multi-day, long distance biking; the goodness of so many people along the roads who have lent a helping hand--a lift in a front loader, or pick-up truck, the unwavering support of my husband, dear friends, and adult children who have celebrated my victories, sat my by bedside in hospitals after a bad day on the bike, who let me cry the tears of disappointment when I fell short of my expectations of myself, and who had the wisdom to know that to try to curtail my yearning for the road less traveled would be tantamount to sucking the very marrow from my soul.

Thanks to all of you.