As we began to roll we observed the tireless Evan Palmer-Young starting the gentle climb on Hayts on his mountain bike. Six riders for a 60 mile ride. I was a bit concerned given Jamie's observation of snow in Lansing, but fortunately we had sunshine for the first 40 miles of the ride. I remember riding this same loop back in early September. It was one of my favorites of the year. Of note was the presence of Glenn Swan, John Dennis and his pulse oximeter and also the mechanical that forced Paul Steen and his wife to give up the ride after only a few miles. Dave Ruppert also had some trouble with his shoes on that ride, which Glenn attended to promptly. It is amazing how my brain was flooded by memories of that Sunday as we rode today.
Returning to the present day, the climb on Van Kirk seemed more gentle this time. It is most likely because my legs have seen a lot of action since then and at that time my lifetime mileage on a bicycle was less than 500 miles. Ben rode most of the climbs a bit ahead of me, while I was trying to perform my Zone 1 training. That really did not happen. I'll leave that to the trainer. We rode to the crest and decided to wait for Bill and Blaine. After about 10 minutes I saw them grinding the pedals. In an effort to cheer them up I shouted "Bill, you can do it!" , "Come on!". Ben promptly noted that if it were him he would probably kill me once he arrived at the top. I hope neither Bill or Blaine were offended. My encouragement was genuine. We took a little brake before we began the awesome descent of Van Kirk. I tucked into my aero position, hands snugging the stem, butt almost off the back of the saddle, knees pressing the top tube and head just behind my hands. I must admit it is a bit scary. The thought of a pothole did not cross my mind or my path, so I made it safely to the bottom with a half frozen face. After a few moments I was joined by everyone else and then we started a rather painful stretch on 224 towards Alpine Junction.
Alpine Junction was a little oasis on a cold and windy day. After having spent a lot of my fuel on 224 pushing against the wind, I needed to reload. Ben and I shared a tuna sub, Blaine had some pizza and Bill drank a quart of chocolate milk. It seemed like an awful lot to me, but chocolate milk is amazing, so delicious. As we were savoring our lunch Evan strolled in and began fiddling with his shoes. The screws were coming loose, but he was well equipped and solved the problem. We shared some riding stories and made our way to the bikes. Blaine had announced he would leave us. His last ride had been a 20+ miler before Christmas. So for him it was enough and he was really close to home. It was a temptation too large to resist. On our way out we greeted Evan who was having a nice salad. Those first 10 minutes after Alpine junction were very cold. I was shivering. But eventually were were working hard enough to stay warm. Just before the turn on Pertl Road we passed an automobile accident. I was too cold to pay much attention, but I remember seeing only one car involved, rather odd. As Bill, Ben and I made a right on Pertl we bade farewell to Blaine who made his way home.
This was probably the most pleasant part of the ride, on CR10 and then CR6. After passing through Mecklenburg we joined 228 and then Perry City Road. After a left on Waterburg Road Bill complained about not feeling very well and shortly thereafter he was struck by a flat tire. We stopped to wait for him, but he urged us to continue and said he would cut the ride short. Ben and I reluctantly continued. Because of some logistical problems, I had no cue sheet and before the ride I quickly memorized all the important turns and roads. I was aware that this was probably the trickiest part of the ride if you are not familiar with the route. Fortunately I had done it once and Ben was familiar enough with the region that we managed to continue according to plan. Soon I found myself in familiar territory from the FLCC Thurssday "slow" rides. Old friends like Rabbit Run, Taughannock Park Road, Gorge Road, Willow Creek Road and Dubois kept us on track and back to the start. Upon arrival we noted the presence of Bill's car and also the absence of Bill. We decided to wait for a bit and after just a minute or so we were happy to see him stroll in the parking lot from 96. Apparently after fixing his flat he felt much better and was able to put up a strong tempo until the finish. Next time I'll carry a pocket knife, so that I can relieve those in need of rest by puncturing their tires.
Ben and I then flew down 96 back to Ithaca. I then road up East Hill back home where I now write to you.
All told, and quite a bit I must add, it was a great ride. On the downside it was a bit cold and windy. However it was a joy to have sunshine for a good portion of the ride. All have been accounted for, except for Evan. I hope he is now enjoying the warmth of his home.
Unfortunately it was too cold for my camera battery. I have posted the only three pictures I managed to take