Archive for the ‘Bike’ Category

The Big Move 2017

Posted: September 11, 2017 in Bike, Lifestyle
Tags: , , ,

After a more than disappointing end to this competitive season, I’m just beginning to feel a little semblance to how I was back fitness-wise in June before my wee accident (click HERE).

Throughout this two month period of adjustment, knowing that this year’s ride was going to be my 9th consecutive year volunteering as the “Tail End Charlie” for the Big Move Cancer Ride 100k event, well, let’s just say that it has kept me inspired to get back in the saddle as soon as possible.  And I have.  Where I’ve definitely cycled in some tough situations before – both physical and environmental (lest we forget 2015’s challenging ride click HERE) – I feel good, this morning’s weather looks good, Daisy’s been oiled and the tires are pumped up, and ‘ol Thunder n’ Lightning are rarin’ to get under way as I’m excited to see what this year’s event has in store for me.

Let’s get this party started.

As per usual, I was up early and making a breakfast of eggs and toast and washed it all down with one too many cups of Joe.  What’s different this year is that instead of volunteering, Hailey and Kelly are riding the 50k event and seeing as how their ride doesn’t begin until later in the day, I’ll be arriving on my own and starting my ride before they even show up so no family selfie this year.

Sorry.

As per usual, by 7:30am the grounds around Club Roma is a hive of activity with everything in the process of setting something up, securing something down, moving something over there, then moving it right back again and, well, let’s  just say that there is butt ton of stuff going on.

As per usual, pedaling is my jam so I just stand around drinking coffee.

I kind of feel like the grasshopper among the ants but, hey, once that ride starts at 8:30am sharp, my work officially begins and doesn’t let up for the next six to seven hours, so this relax time with a warm beverage helps to get me mentally and physically prepped as well as providing an opportunity to get myself and my bike all squared away and ready to go.  And then, of course, with just mere minutes to the start I will inevitably have to go to the bathroom one last time forcing me to take off my entire kit one more time and put it all back on again but, I digress…

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Such is the routine.

There are some really cool parts that I love about being the “Tail End Charlie” as these rides.  For starters, it’s a very powerful feeling to be situated out at the very back of the pack for the opening speeches before the ride even gets going.  From this vantage point, you can see everyone’s motivation pinned to on their backs; bibs listing all the names of those for whom the cyclists are riding in memory of.

Think about that.

Cancer sucks and it’s just plain stupid how many names there are.  It’s an overwhelming feeling.  I can’t even fit all those who have been affected in my own life on my bib now, so I just go with this nowadays:

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So, really, you’re not just riding with the cyclists themselves but each and every one of those people with whom they are carrying along for the journey as represented by the names written in black magic marker.

How can that not both upset and  inspire you?

This year I was very lucky to be partnered with a friend, Karen Natho whom I first back in the early TryForce days and have since maintained a friendship with since then.  Let me tell you this about Karen: not only is she the nicest person you’re ever going to meet, but she’s also among the toughest triathletes I know so having an opportunity to ride alongside her and pick her brain was inspiring in and of itself.

It also bodes well that Karen can also keep up her end of a conversation over a 100 kilometer bike route as well.

Here we are at the beginning almost looking like a Before and After pic:

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It’s a bit of a different route this year but it’s the same monster climb up to Rockway Glen that starts it all off.  The climb up the escarpment is the first and most significant challenge faced by the riders.   That typically means there is a lot of coaching and encouraging up this segment of roadway.

Being a decent climber myself I am usually able to do all that but seeing how my legs currently may or may not be up to their usual strength yet, this morning I’m even kind of looking at this hill myself like:

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I did manage to get up it however, as did everyone else.

Check #1 off my sweeper’s “To Do” list.

It’s also usually around this point that the little “Lantern Rouge” group of riders, begins to form at the very back.  This is another terrific aspect of being the “Tail End Charlie”, in that you typically get to meet a new group of people each year very, very well, as you will inevitably get to spend 5-6 hours getting to know them as you are riding together.

This year I was fortunate to be riding with not one, but 6 riders belonging to the same family; 4 year old Nova was riding along with her mother and dad was riding with the two boys in tow.

Here’s they are:

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Here’s why they ride:

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Talk about parenting being done right.

Shortly thereafter, Karen and I met up with Maggie and Kelly, a Niagara teacher and banker, and it was with these two girls that Karen and I would end up riding with for the remaining 70-75 kilometers – not that needed us mind you.

I wish here now that I had some interesting stories about all the difficult trials and travails  we had to endure together over this years 100 kilometers in order to get our little Lantern Rouge  back to the finish line safely and successfully, but I don’t.  Sometimes Karen and I rode with the girls, sometimes ahead of the girls and sometimes behind, all depending on who wanted to chat with who.   Of course, as is tradition about being at the tail end of the ride with me, you also have to endure 5 hours of my endless stories and Maggie and Kelly definitely weathered the storm admirably.

Karen didn’t have a choice.

Dare I say it, however, that the going was easy-peasy and before we knew it we were more than halfway around the course and rolling into the ‘First Incounters’   Rest Stop in Welland, and you know what that means:

Honestly, if the Big Move ride wasn’t what it was, the bib on the back my vest might have well read: “I Brake for Cookies”.

Truth!

God bless the long standing volunteer Martyk family for making their rest stop along River Road at Becketts Bridge what it is, something to be enjoyed.  Many hugs were passed, good cheer was spread and, tragically, many cookies met their fateful end, but soon we were a-rollin’ on.

Heading back into Pelham and St. Catharines, Maggie and Kelly wanted to commemorate their longest ride at the 88k mark along Maple Street.   Balloons were even procured for the occasion out of the sweep van riding behind us.

“Always ready” we are at the end.

Here’s the big moment:

And, again, we continued on with high spirits.

Only another short 12 kilometers to go.

Here’s a few more photos of the day:

I’m going to change the story a bit drastically here, as there wasn’t really much left to tell of my own.  The girls made it back, Karen and I rolled over the finish line in last place (my 9th), a delicious pasta and meat ball lunch provided by Club Roma was crushed, and our day officially ended on the same high note that it started.

Here’s the proof:

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DisclaimerThe pasta lunch didn’t last long enough for a photo.

The other story unfolding today involves Hailey, my 12 year old step-daughter who had managed to complete the entire 50k ride on her own, including riding to the top of Rockway Glen on her own thanks to a little encouragement provided by the 50k sweep team.

Thanks Nicole, Christina, and Paule!).

Here’s some pictures of my step-daughter’s own Big Move experience:

This was a huge milestone to cap off her Summer with and I’m thrilled that she was able to do that as a part of the same incredible event that I am also very passionate about.  We have one last big ride to look forward to together later in the Autumn, so she is currently very jazzed about it as she is extremely confident to take it on.

Great job, sweeps!

And a very sincere and heartfelt “Thank you”  as well.

Maybe in the future, Hailey and I will evolve into a “Father and Daughter” sweep team on future Big Move rides.

Who knows?

Definitely something to look forward to in the coming years though.

See you all next year and until then:

Happy Riding!!

Note:  For a little more insight into this years event, please check out this video HERE.

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Hi.

You might remember me as the “Bike Mount Guy” from posts in previous years (click HERE). This is what I usually love to do except that this year, I haven’t been doing it so much because, well:

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Nuff said.

(click HERE for a little reminder)

What this means then is that I have been doing a lot of other stuff with the SunRype Tri-Kids instead.  I have done what’s known as “looping”, “crowd control” (aka dealing with over gregarious parents) and, well, everything really.  Today, seeing as how I’m beginning to heal a bit I was actually the “bike captain” helping to escort 400 plus kids around, roughly, a 1.5k course up and down Elizabeth Street in Port Colborne, Ontario.

Sounds like fun, right?

It is.

Sure you’re pedaling for 5+ hours at a time in hot, humid weather, dealing with skipped chains, flat tires, the odd collision and/or accident, the odd gregarious parent (funny how that comes up again), and everything in between but, man, what a rush!

Kids are awesome and say the most amazing things.  Never underestimate a child’s ability to break something down in the heat of the moment to the absolute essential component to what’s really  important.

Take Dylan for example.

I cycled up behind Dylan (8 years old) noticing he was really laboring and having some difficulty getting his pedals to go around smoothly (ie. His bike had about 30-40 years’ worth of rust on it so that the chain had actually fused itself to the cogs on the wheel set).  In this case, I typically open the conversation with something along the lines of “hey buddy, how’s it going?”  trying to ascertain if the athlete is in fact okay, frustrated, tired, maybe needs a little encouragement, or just an “easy out”.

Dylan’s response?

“My dog’s name is Sammy”.

Umm.  Okay?

So I probed a little deeper.

“Are you having fun?”

“Yup.”

Who am I to argue?

Then there’s 5 year old Elizabeth, who seemed to have a rather exasperated look on her face.

“Everything okay, Lizzy?”

The response:

“Yeah.  The colors on your shirt are the same color as my nanny’s hair.”

Okay then.

And so it goes.

Questions of “How many more loops do you still have to do, buddy?”  will inevitably be met with “my cat eats Fruit Loops”, and inquiries of “’is this your first triathlon?”  are responded to with “my favorite color is blue”.

The randomness is absolutely delicious and totally made my day.

Who has time to worry about being tired, hot, hungry, your sore butt, or God only knows what kind of chafing is going on that you’re not yet even aware of yet, when you have these conversational tidbits to keep you entertained?

Other conversational gems over the course of 85k of bike marshaling include:

“Did you know that warts come from frogs?”

“My daddy’s growing a beard too.  Mommy says it’s itchy.”

“When I’m done I’m going to be a veterinarian.”

“I’m pretty good at math you know.”

 

Remember, this is during the triathlon.

It all might make about as much sense as that past trend of wearing flannel and a toque during the hottest part of the summer but, man, it really does pass the time rather well.  Sure there are times when the conversations were a bit more comforting and direct if the athlete is struggling for whatever reason or has just fallen and ended up with skinned knee or a boo-boo of some sort but, in most cases, kids compartmentalize things really well.

“Holy smokes, you’re doing so well!”

“Did you know that my dog barfed this morning?”

Awesome.

“Just keep pedaling, man.”

I love my job.

“Fabia’s Big Ride”

Posted: October 11, 2016 in Bike
Tags: , ,

So this past holiday weekend (yesterday) I got to do something very special of which I am immensely proud.  And not necessarily for myself either.  No, yesterday marked HRH‘s epic bike ride from our home here in Ridgeway to Lock 3 in St. Catharines and onward to the grandparents’ house.  This is what the last 3-4 weeks of cycling with the kiddo have all been leading up to…her own Ironman journey, so to speak.

I don’t have a lot to say that I haven’t already posted HERE so, instead, here’s a record of the trip in pictures:

We left at 10:15am after a big breakfast, a coffee and a poop.  Well, I did anyway.

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We first rode along the Friendship Trail from here in Ridgeway for approximately 14 kilometers passing through Sherkston to Port Colborne.

We arrived just in time to make it across the Lock 7 bridge before a boat passed through on it’s way to Lake Erie.

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We then joined up with the Canal Trail beginning at the Robin Hood plant and, from there, we simply pedaled northbound towards St. Catharines stopping briefly at the Flatwater Center in Dain City for a picture in the grandstand.

The autumn colors were in full bloom along the entire pathway. This is one of the reasons why I consider myself so lucky to live and ride where I do.

Absolutely gorgeous.

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As we had planned, we stopped for a brief lunch of peanut butter and jelly and a few apple slices at the Flatwater Center in Welland before continuing on again.

It wasn’t long afterwards that HRH  learned another valuable lesson about riding:  always spit out and to the side…not directly ahead into the wind.  Hey, some lessons you just have to learn the hard way.

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We continued pedaling on through Allanburg towards Thorold for another 20k or so.  Fortunately at this point, the majority of the ride was on a gradual downhill as we were heading north down the Niagara Escarpment but there was still the odd small hill every so often to conquer just to remind her that this was meant to be something of a challenge.

After all, anything that matters take a little work right?

After another hour or so we popped out at the tippy-top of the Flight Locks in Thorold to begin our big decent down to our finish destination at the Lock 3 Viewing Complex.

Oh, we stopped for these candid shots with the amazing murals in Thorold as well.

It was only another 10-15 minutes from there before we arrived at our intended “finish line” after 53 kilometers of cycling.  Of course, we had to take the obligatory victory photos.

I had even brought along my dad for the ride seeing as how I was using his bike (click HERE) and I like to think he was looking down on us from somewhere smiling.

This one however I think is the real winner on the day:

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Of course, it took her a moment to get it up there in the first place.

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So a celebratory hot chocolate was definitely in order.

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Lastly, we tackled the final 2 kilometers to grandma and grandpa’s house and a well-deserved treat.

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So what does an 11-year-old cyclist do to warm down after a long, chilly, autumn ride?

Why, this little ensemble of course:

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I’m sure all the greats had one:  Eddy Merckz, Bernard Hinault, Miguel Induráin, Greg LeMonde…shit, I hear Chris Froome even warms down in a fuzzy Kermit the Frog suit.

Me?

I’ll stick to the essentials.

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Anyway, this was just about the best way to begin winding down the riding season if you ask me.  I know I’m currently getting in the mindset to renew my Ironman training so I figure having a little fun before that hammer drops would be a good idea.

Besides, if you can’t enjoy your passions with the ones you love…what’s the point?

“Riding with Fabia”

Posted: September 28, 2016 in Bike
Tags: , ,

Summer is finally over, meaning that I have to begin focusing on the upcoming Ironman re-do in July; let’s just say that I have unfinished business there (click HERE).  Therefore, the “training plan” is about to change to be more run and swim focused through the autumn and winter months as biking season begins to wind down.  I’m already in the pool twice a week building a solid base of 6000-7000m weekly, and I’m now running shorter interval runs (3x a week) anticipating a return to my regular fartlek and long progression runs in another month or so.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m giving up the bike just yet, no.  It’s just that I’m not really “training” on the bike at the moment by involving myself in weekly “Hammerfest” rides anymore.  Instead, I’ve been doing some sweep riding for charity (click HERE) and soon I’d like to begin breaking out Snowflake more regularly and actually learn how to mountain bike properly.

However, there is another type of riding that I’ve been enjoying more frequently as well – cycling with the kiddo.

14480671_10154396707870977_384844982912467854_oJust recently, we introduced HRH  to a proper women’s road bike (thanks Colette!).  We replaced the clip pedals with normal pedals, gave it a decent tune up and, Bob’s your uncle, we’re now riding together – regularly – 2 to 3 times a week.

It’s a whole new world for her.

On these rides, I’ve been giving her the crash course on how to use her gears effectively so she can manage a decent pace (for an 11-year-old anyway), otherwise known as the delicate art of “cadence”.  She’s no lover of hills (yet) – like her mom – but we’ve practiced how to get up and over them anyway.  We’ve practiced how to draft properly and she has become rather proficient at riding on my wheel.  We’ve even practiced the dynamics of riding in a group (communicating, hand signals, clearing intersections, etc.) on the occasions we have invited another cycling buddy along for the ride.  We’ve practiced how to drink on the bike as well as how to ride safely in traffic.

And, yes, we’ve even practiced how to spit and wipe your nose whilst riding too.

You know: the fundamentals.

And I admit, she even has her own Strava account as well as her own special sprint segment of which she is now gunning to be the KOM.

img_0856In other words, we haven’t just been going around the block any more like we did last summer during our ‘Tour de Ridgeway’ outings, no sir.  This year, now that she has the proper tools, “Fabia van Hall unt Hauser” has reinvented herself as a serious Grand Tour rider, so to speak.

Meaning, we’ve been doing some decent distance.

So far, we have managed to complete a whopping 45k ride as our longest ride to date, and then we also complete a few other shorter, fun rides (weather permitting) that more or less explore all the back country roads in and around our area that she has never had a reason to go down before and, likely, never would have been able to get to on her own pedal power.

Remember, after 10-11k last year on her little kid’s bike – her legs were toast.

I think the most fun part of it (for me anyway) is getting to witness that sense of accomplishment and, ultimately, that “freedom” that comes from the accomplishment of completing some serious distance, especially after she realizes that she has ridden out to Port Colborne, Stevensville or Fort Erie…all by herself.

1We have even set our own goal now to “train” towards to be tackled in the next 2-3 weeks or so, in that we’re going to ride from our home here in Ridgeway to her grandparent’s place in St. Catharines – a total of approximately 57-60k which, for her, will be quite the epic journey.

Stay tuned, folks.

What this all means for me besides being a fun way to wind down my riding season knowing that early morning trainer rides are likely in my near future (never say never, honey), is that I get to share my love of riding with my daughter and spend some quality time in the saddle together. And, believe you me; our conversations have about as many boundaries are our chosen cycle routes these days.

This is definitely something I can see us doing a lot more of and bonding over in the future and as she grows older and more capable, I may even have myself my new riding/training partner in the making.

Clara Hughes – watch out!

The Big Move 2016

Posted: September 21, 2016 in Bike, Lifestyle
Tags: , , ,

It’s been a year already and that means that the time has come yet again for one of my favorite events of the riding season, The Big Move Cancer Ride in support of the Walker Family Cancer Center at the St. Catharines hospital.  This will be my 8th year participating in the event and my 7th working in the capacity of the “Tail End Charlie” (click HERE for previous years’ reports).

Yup, that’s me…the nameless guy who finishes dead last at the tail end of the entire parade.

Don’t get me wrong though, I’d have it no other way.

Here’s a little video summary of last year’s ride (you can see you’re truly at the 51 second mark):

Given the crappy conditions we rode in last year (click HERE for a little reminder), today was going to be glorious; bright, sunny, and not too stinking hot.  A perfect day for riding.  So there was no trepidation on my part this morning as there was last year and once again I sprang out of bed at the ripe hour of 5:00am.

Exactly like this:

Similarly, this was the third year that I have volunteered with my family who would be working themselves in the support van along the 25k route making sure the riders themselves were supported as well as all the volunteer and marshaling stations along the way.

We arrived together on site at 7:00am sharp so the girls could get to work helping get the truck loaded and the rest stations set up out on the course.

Here’s our obligatory family selfie:

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Me?

I stood around drinking coffee.

Not the smartest thing to be doing given I would have to get myself undressed about a gazillion times in order to take my gazillionth pee.  But there really wasn’t much else for me to be doing until the ride started except keep warm (it was a little on the cool side) and just take it all in.

There are certainly a lot of moving pieces come ride day to deal with and it never ceases to amaze me what an amazing job the organizing staff do in making it all come together.  I mean, I just have to pedal.

Easy, right?

Well, often it’s not and it can be rather like this on the morning of the ride:

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But, I digress.

For the most part, I just pedal.

However, there are just so many other things going on to account for in order to make the day successful and enjoyable for everyone.

I’m sure the organizers checklists look something like this during the days leading up to ride day:

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It really is amazing.

Kudo’s to them for being able to manage it all.

At 8:00am the organizers began calling to the riders for the 100k ride (my route) to begin making their way to the starting line.  Being the “Tail End Charlie”, I gravitated to the back with the other sweep riders.  This year, I was honored and excited to be riding with Kathleen, an ICU nurse at the St. Catharines hospital whom I was fortunate to ride with two years ago.  Kathleen is genuinely kind, supportive and a very capable rider, so I felt very lucky that I was going to get to be in her company all day once again.

I find the opening speeches prior to the ride very motivational.  You get to hear a few personal stories on why the ride is so important to other riders.  Everybody has their own inspiration for participating in The Big Move Cancer Ride.

Here’s my own:

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At 8:15am, the ride got under way.

Here’s a photo of us as we rolled out:

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Those two figures in the hideous yellow vests at the tail end are Kathleen and I (she’s on the right and I’m on the left).

She definitely looks better in her cycling shorts.

The rides begins by heading down Vansickle Rd, left on Pelham Rd. and then directly up the monster climb at Rockway Glen.  However, just as we were starting our way up the climb we got word from our sweep wagon that four riders had started a bit late and were now behind us.  I circled around that hightailed back to greet them just as they were approaching the hill.

Ashley was the last rider to reach the hill and with a little encouragement and suggestions on how to use her gears more effectively, she managed to get up the hill with a lot of huffing and puffing.  In fact, she didn’t even stop at the aid station at the top, she just kept on trucking and I would see her again for the next four hours.

However, Kathleen was there and she was just starting out with the last two stragglers that she had assisted to the top of Rockway.

Perfect.

Our little tail end group had found its way back together again.  In the sweep business, this is definitely a good thing as everybody is then present, accounted for and, most importantly, safe.

I am sensitive to the riders at the back of the pack as they somehow think that this is in some way a bad thing, or that they are failing at something.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, if I had to relate to you what it can be like at the back of the pack, I’d offer you this amazing picture:

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I’m not in this picture, nor is this even my route.  But this picture taken by Kelly (my wife) from the support van, perfectly captures everything I love about “sweeping”.  This rider was just two weeks out from her last cancer treatment and here she is finishing up her 25k ride with a little help from the Sweep Riders.

Out-freakin-standing.

Was it hard?

Yes.

Did she do it?

Yes.

Is she deserving of all the respect in the world?

Abso-freakin-lutely!

She’s an absolute hero.

I just can’t express how meaningful this image is to me.

Well done, sweeps!

Anyway, today, my (our) little group at the back of the 100k route happened to consist of Stacey, a kindergarten teacher, and her friend Jamie (my apologies if I have your name wrong) whose father had passed away from cancer last year.  She had purchased herself a new bike and trained all summer long for this event, even managing to ride the entire 100k distance once a week for the past three weeks.  And knowing how the weather has been ridiculously hot and humid for the past month or so, that’s a huge  accomplishment in and of itself!

Unfortunately, today she was under the weather with a flu bug that had been passed on by one of her students.  What this meant then is that she was constantly fighting waves of nausea throughout her entire ride as well as fluctuating energy levels due to the fact she hadn’t been able to hold down anything substantial in days.  Any lesser rider would have packed it in well before the ride had even started…but not Stacey.

This is the perfect example of the strong mindset that most riders enter into The Big Move with.  They are determined, motivated and inspired and they’re not about to give up…at any cost.  I feel then that it’s my prime responsibility to assist them in ensuring that these goals are met.

I mean, how could I not?

So if they’re committed, then so am I; come Hell or high water.  Sometimes (as there was last year) there’s a bit of both.

And with Stacey, she was all in… 100k or bust.

One of the things I find that’s helpful with “struggling” (and I use that term very loosely) riders is to take the lead and allow them the opportunity to “draft” on my wheel, meaning I pull through the wind and thereby minimizing the amount of resistance they experience allowing them to maintain a manageable pace.  Not all riders are confident in riding so close to another rider, so I use this as an opportunity to teach the some basics of good group riding.  And with Stacey, once she got accustomed to it she pretty much stayed on my wheel as often as she could allowing her to keep moving along nicely.

One of my favorite things about The Big Move is the rest stop at ‘First Incounters’, at the corner of Hwy 27 and Victoria Ave..  In actuality, every rest stop is pretty awesome as the volunteers there offer so much support and much needed encouragement to the weary riders…it’s fantastic.

But ‘First Incounters’ is near and dear to me, largely because of Shirley Martyk and her family.

Shirley has volunteered at the First Encounters rest station for a few years now and besides being one of my favorite people ever, she also has cookies – homemade cookies.  And it’s these cookies that kept me going for the last 25 kilometers.  These are no ordinary cookies, believe you me!   In fact, Shirley even brought little baggies of these cookies in for all the sweep riders to the previous weeks’ Volunteers Meeting on the off chance that there weren’t any left when we arrived on ride day.

How amazing is that?

Fortunately, there were lots left when we arrived at ‘First Incounters’ so I was all like:

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I have no shame.

It was here though that I began to get a little concerned for Stacey.  While I appreciate how sick she was and unable to keep anything down, I knew that we were essentially “chasing the dragon” in that if she didn’t eat something – anything – there was a very serious likelihood that she wouldn’t make it to the end.

After all, the body cannot function on will power alone.

We coaxed her into eating half a protein bar and although I know she didn’t want it, nor did she enjoy it, she chomped it down reluctantly and after a few hugs and waves goodbye, we were off again down River Rd…aaaaand directly into a head wind.

Yay.

Fortunately, I have no problem riding at the front and blocking the wind so we reformed our little peloton and rolled out along River Rd. into the second half of the course which, truthfully, is my favorite of the course.  Here we also got to see other riders as they rode past us in the opposite direction and we received lots of waves and support in the form of “keep going”, “you got this”, “you’re doing great”, etc.  This is the kind of motivation that struggling riders need to hear and, lucky for us, there was lots of it.

(Thanks everyone)

We had some trouble along Concession 6 in Wainfleet as Stacey’s stomach began to reject the half a protein bar we’d force fed her only a few minutes ago but she was able to regroup quickly and we continued riding.

Turning back onto Riverside Dr. (Hwy 27) was fun as the headwind we’d fought on the way out and then again down Concession 6 was now directly at our backs and, hey, this is what cyclists live for.

Time to ride.

We formed up our little group again and off we were…temporarily.  We were cruising fine when we had our first flat tire of the day…mine.

I let my little group ride off without me as the support van pulled up behind and I set about the business getting it fixed up and back on the road.  It took me about 5-6 minutes in total I guess to get everything straightened away; just long enough to fall well behind the rest of the group but, here’s my real fun began…the chase back up.

Like last year I used this opportunity to go all Tour de France by drafting behind the support van at nearly 50kph  back to the intersection at First Incounters (about 7-8 kilometers in total).  It felt good to open up the throttle on the legs for a little bit and it about the fastest I’ve ever covered that distance before, minus descending down hills of course.

Having said that, I was definitely redlining it at one point but this is where I channel the memories of my own mom and dad and just keep applying the power to the pedals. I don’t know what it says about me that I like to suffer a bit periodically, so read into that as you may.

Soon, I left the support van behind and veered left on Victoria Ave and then right again on River Rd., still desperate to catch up to my flock.

However, when I did catch up upon turning north on Church Rd., my heart sank.  Stacey and Kathleen were sitting together by the side of the road and Stacey did not look terribly well.  Apparently she had experienced a dizzy spell and made the smart decision to take a break (smart thinking, Stace!).  No doubt that our attempts at chasing the dragon were starting to take effect in that her inability to keep anything down was beginning to pay with her energy levels.

Of course, this didn’t deter her resolve to continue on at all and after the spell passed, we were on our way again…albeit slowly.

So we had a bit of a conundrum now.  Given that Stacey was in no way ever going to back out of her commitment to finish (and power to her), we were running the risk now of being far enough behind that there was the very real chance that intersections up ahead were no longer going to be open for us to pass through safely.  Likewise, just up ahead was the long gradual climb up Cataract Rd. immediately followed by the short summit up to Effingham Rd. back up to Hwy 3 and onward to Tice Rd.  There was a real risk now that these efforts – in her current condition – might have ended Stacey’s quest to complete the full ride for good.  After all, all the motivation in the world isn’t any help when your body is 100% drained of it’s necessary stores of energy.

Not good.

A quiet decision was made then to reroute us around those climbs.  And I’m sorry if you’re just realizing this now Stacey upon reading this, but please understand that it was a judgment call in order to help you complete the ride safely as we all knew that having to abandon the ride would have been the far worse option had those climbs gotten the better of you.

But here’s the great thing, our new route also meant that we wouldn’t necessarily have to sacrifice any of the mileage meaning that, ultimately, her goal of completing the 100k ride would still be honored.

Promises are promises after all.

Unfortunately, the rerouting also meant that others riders were now behind us after continuing on for a few more kilometers so I had to hustle back in order to make sure that all those riders were being herded back together again safely towards the finish line.

After the final rest station along Cream St.and another heroes welcome for the riders, Kathleen and I continued on with a sole lone rider – Ashley, whom I had helped up the Rockway Glen climb at the beginning of the day no less – and together we all rode the last few kilometers back to Club Roma again.  As per usual, we peeled off at the end to roll across the finish line dead last once again, after all the other riders had finished successfully.

I was very happy to see Stacey and Jamie there with their families and very relieved to hear that she had rolled over the finish with her odometer reading 100.1k exactly.

Mission completed – hugs all around.

There were no finish photos of me this year but there was certainly was a highly-anticipated hot pasta lunch saved for us by the amazing volunteers and, maybe, even an alcoholic beverage or two.

Another successful year complete.

As a final word: Stacey, understanding that you may not have been at your best on this particular day, I absolutely think that what you accomplished in lieu of it all was nothing short of heroic and I consider myself very lucky to have to have shared the experience with you.

Best wishes and happy riding.

As for everyone else, I’ll see you next year…for sure.   Maybe I’ll see you at a rest stop, or as you ride past in the opposite direction (make sure you wave!).

However, if I’m lucky, we’ll even get to ride together.

 

On Monday, I took Daisy in for her annual check tune up to in.cep.tion cyclery.  I figured it was high time since I’ve been putting a lot of kilometers on her this summer as I am apt to do every year and, being an older bike, I like to ensure she is in good running order.

Among the list of things I wanted accomplished this time around was to have the rear cassette cleaned out as it appeared as if a squirrel had proceeded to build itself a nest in it for all the gunk and road debris that had built up in it the past few months.  I thought this was normal.  However, upon pick up the next day, Brandon (the proprietor of in.cep.tion cyclery and ‘go-to’ guy for all things bike) dropped a little mechanical science on me regarding how to properly maintain my bike chain and, ergo, my rear cassette.

And, yes, I agree, for most cycle guru’s out there this might already be common knowledge and likely prompt a “What the fuck Terry, really?”  but, for all the other mechanical buffoons out there – like myself – this was a great learning opportunity that I thought I could share; basically, how to properly oil your bike chain.

For most, this probably seems like such a no-brainer thing to do requiring very little knowledge and mechanical aptitude; drop a few drops of oil on the chain, spin the pedals a bit and, Bob’s your uncle, you’re set to go.   How hard is that?  However, as it turns out, I’ve been doing it all wrong.  As I learned yesterday, there is a preferred “process” involved in effectively unfunking (ie. lubing) a bike chain that will both significantly improve your ride as well as limit the amount of wear n’ tear on the chain itself over time.

For the past eight years I have been lubing my chain the same way – the way I was shown how: drop a few drops of oil on my chain where it sits on the rear cassette (see below), and run it through by spinning the pedal backwards.  Presto!

Good to go.

1

Wrong.

First off, you should never drop the oil on at the rear cassette.  What I was basically doing was gunking up my rear cassette so that during the ride all the dust, grit and gravel I was inevitably riding over was being drawn up into the cassette and sticking there.  Hence the rats nest of shit that had built up in my rear cassette.  All this grime was essentially wearing down my chain prematurely each time the cogs passed through this tangled mess of debris.  Secondly, in applying the oil in this manner, I was dropping the oil on the top of the chain.  Now think about it, the top part of the chain isn’t really what comes into immediate contact with either the front or back cassette, or rear derailleur for that matter.  No, the bottom does.  So why am I applying oil on the top then?

Because I’m a total idiot, apparently.

Instead, I should be applying the oil to the bottom of the chain and, then, not over the rear cassette.

Here:

2

This way when you run it through the chain by spinning the chain backwards, it is more effectively lubing the actual parts of the chain that will come into contact with the rest of the bikes drive parts (ie. the cassettes and derailleur’s).

Makes sense, right?

 Let’s review:

3

Now, here’s the critical part.

Once you’ve applied the oil and run it through:

WIPE IT OFF.

Yes, wipe it off.

hioly shit!

I know.  It blew my mind too.

Before you begin riding, take a rag and gently hold it against the chain and continue back pedaling lightly in order to wipe off all the excess oil.  I know this might seem counter-productive, but the only oil that is really necessary is the oil which has seeped down into the chain cogs themselves as that essentially what comes into contact with the cogs of the front and rear cassettes.  Any extra oil on the top or bottom of the chain is only going to serve to further gather up more unnecessary road crap and then proceed to drag it all through the cassettes, which you definitely don’t need.  In essence, once you’ve finished this process, very little oil should come off at all if you were to run your fingers along the chain.  Currently, if I were to do this with my chain (well, prior to today anyway), I would be looking at grease marks which would likely never come off without removed a layer of skin.  And, heaven help me if it gets onto my cycling kit.

Just ask Kelly.

Honestly, how many times have you ended up a ride with that toothy imprint where you your right leg had briefly rested against the chain wheel; affectionately known as a “shark bite”.  Ideally, that should never happen.  Me?  I don’t consider it a ride unless I have to practically take a Brillo pad to my calf in the shower afterwards.

To me, this bit right here was a total revelation.

So I took Daisy out for spin today with her new clean and improved cassettes and here’s what I noticed immediately.  She sounded better and she rode smoother.  Sure, having just had a proper tune up certainly would have had something to do with this but, I’m also wagering that not having to have the chain pass through such crud in the rear derailleur had something to do with it as well.

So for those of you who were either shown how to do this seemingly basic bike maintenance procedure incorrectly, or just plain didn’t know any better (I fall into both brackets apparently)…now you do.

Happy riding.

Tour De Waterloo

Posted: July 12, 2016 in Bike
Tags:

A few weeks ago, seeing as how I had originally planned to be away out east – you know, competing in an Ironman competition (click HERE and HERE for the whole story) – I had some time off from work with which to relax.  Now, I recognize that there were about a thousand things I could have been doing like ticking things off my wife’s “Honey Do” list but, truthfully, I was feeling a bit morose about the whole failed event; disappointed and frustrated.  I ran the whole gauntlet of being depressed as if I had actually failed at something.

Silly, I know, but there it is.

Instead, I read, drank beer, and felt sorry for myself while listening to a buttload of sad records.  Honestly, I accomplished little other than being a lazy arse and driving Kelly completely bat shit crazy (mission accomplished on both regards, by the way).  I decided then that maybe a little “Cycle Therapy” might be order.

Hello, Waterloo!

This area (ride) is pretty familiar to me for many reasons of which I will soon explain, and I’ve cycled this particular route a few times now.  So I guess you could say it’s becoming a bit of a tradition.  Each time I go back it feels a little bit like a homecoming of sorts for other reasons I will also elaborate on.  The “tradition” started four years ago when Kelly planned for us to join what was then billed as “The Butter Tart Ride”, organized by one of the local cycling clubs.

Butter tarts and bike riding, what’s not to love about that?

Together we cycled 112 kilometers through Amish and Mennonite back country, gobbled butter tarts by the mitt full and otherwise enjoyed each others company on what we would come to affectionately refer to as the “Boogers, Ball Sweat and Hoark” ride.  It’s a long story.  I remember it being brutally hot out that day but together we soldiered through the heat and had an extremely agreeable time.  The next year my father passed away and remembering how therapeutic I found that ride the year before, I returned again and plotted out a 95 kilometer route that, while still following some of the same roads as the Butter Tart Ride, also took me past more of the area that I am familiar with and have a strong connection to.  This time the ride was solo and I pedaled along at a pace that I am more comfortable with, with fewer stops.  Not that stopping for butter tarts is a bad thing, mind you.

When cycling alone, I can turn my brain off, turn the pedals over and just get lost within myself and the passing landscape in state of Zen that one can only achieve through effort and pleasing exhaustion.  Call me crazy.  I may not have gone as far, but by the end I was still thoroughly spent and more at ease with my swelling emotions.  Last year I couldn’t make it out for one reason or another, so I figured I’d resurrect the trip this year in lieu of not having an A-race to compete in; a total lemon vs. lemonade kind of dealie.

I searched out the route from my Garmin.Connect data and, this time, made more mental notes of what I wanted to see and accomplish.  Namely, retracing certain aspects of my childhood when we used to visit this area on family trips to stay with relatives.  I wanted to more thoroughly indulge in all those memories from my past and let them flood into and out my brain like water through a pipe.  Except this time it would be from the saddle of my trust steed, a Trek 1000 road bike that I have affectionately nicknamed “Daisy” (don’t judge), and not the backseat of my parents old cream colored Volvo.

Fortunately, my relatives now live in not-so-far away Waterloo, a bustling metropolis of 120,000 people (depending on what school term is currently in session), which provides the perfect launching and ending point for the trip.  Also, having attended the University of Waterloo back in the early 90’s, I am also very familiar with the north end of the city and downtown core which definitely adds to the whole “Trip Down Memory Lane” purpose of the journey.   Convenient, right?

My Aunt Kathy now lives around the corner from the campus – quite literally.  I arrived around 11:00am which was definitely a bit later than I had originally planned, thanks to on-going construction, detours and a dodgy GPS device which thought it was best I take the slowest and most inconvenient route possible.  I also have to say that I’m sure the Waterloo city planners also intended for motorists to be required to stop at some intersection other every 3.6 nanoseconds or so.  It felt like I spent more time sitting at traffic lights than I actually did making progress towards my destination.  But I eventually arrived, set and ready to get on with the journey.  After a quick chat with my aunt and tire pump up, I headed out of her driveway eager to get going.

me

I knew that leaving a bit later meant that I would also be dealing with the mid-day heat and humidity but I have learned to cope with both in as long as I keep moving as I can usually generate enough “breeze” to convince myself that I am actually cool.  The only real unfortunate thing was that almost from the get go, I was cycling directly into a headwind and for that I have no easy fix, so I consigned myself to the fact that it was potentially going to be a very challenging day.  Regardless, I was under way and feeling pretty good about it.

The 2016 edition of the Tour de Waterloo was officially underway.

I chose the quickest route of the city that I knew figuring that I could do the reminiscing around campus later when I got back into the city.  Let’s just say I was eager to get out of Suburbia.  I headed out west down Westmount Rd. North and, coincidentally past my old dorm on campus where I lived during my first year of university back in 1994, exactly 22 years ago.   At the time I lived (if you want to call it that) in the Village 2 Residence and as fate would have it today, I rode right past the window to the very same room I lived in East E.  It didn’t look like there was much life going on around the Village today as the drapes were all drawn and there were was absolutely no sign of student life whatsoever, given it would likely be the summer break for most students, so I rode on.  It’s not like I have terribly terrific memories I wanted to relive here anyway.  After all, how much fun can one possibly have living in a room the size of a broom closet and where everything – furniture included – is permanently fixed down?  But, hey, just for shits and giggles, here’s a throwback picture of that very room from back in the day:

pic1

My old dorm room along Westmount Rd.

Looking back at it now, it almost seems like I was in fact having fun.

Huh.

Anyway, it was then a left on Columbia Rd. past more residences and the Trillium Lake Valley and right on Erbsville Rd., past the shops and strip malls of Erbsville and, eventually, a pretty lake belonging to a local conversation area of which I forget the name.  What I do remember about it though is the big climb up and past it…a sure sign of things to come.

pic2

Unknown Conservation Area

At the end of Erbsville Rd., you come to a tee at Kressler Rd.  This is what I consider to be the actual starting point of the bike route I had planned.  It’s evident that once you get to this point you are no longer in Kansas.  The city is now behind you and you have officially arrived in the country.  All this constitutes approximately 10 kilometers of cycling.  Had I known I was this close to the countryside back in university, or had the required energy levels to do so, I might have been more inclined to make an effort to get off campus more.

A quick dog leg to the west and then to the north and you’re on The Weimar Line, one of the major thoroughfares.  Upon doing so, this is the sign that greets you:

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How awesome is that?

Unfortunately, just a few meters beyond that you are greeting with this gentle reminder:

pic4(1)

Remember that you would see this exact same sign every, oh, 1.2 km.

So, sure, there may be lots of horsies and wildife to behold, but it’s still not going to be any easy trot through the pasture, so to speak.  And it wasn’t.

The Weimar Line, as scenic as it is, is basically one challenging hill after the other, over and over again, requiring nothing short of a total Sisyphean effort.  Making matters even more challenging was that I was also riding directly into a strong headwind.  With no buildings or man made structures to protect me (one of the few benefits of city riding), the wind was more or less blowing across the open fields unobstructed so that it was at times, like riding into a brick wall.  In fact, as I worked my way up each climb, instead of a nice downhill descent as a reward (after all, what goes up must eventually come down), I was greeted by a strong gust of continuous wind that would require me to keep working at turning over the pedals lest I should get blown back up and over the top of the climb again…backwards.  What a rip.

Regardless, the landscape down the Weimar Line to Bamberg is breathtaking.  It runs pretty much straight as the crow flies for 5 kilometers or so past stately country homes, rolling meadows filled with hay bales, old barns, and expansive pastureland with herds of galloping ponies.  And every inch of it you have to earn, as I mentioned before. In total, it took me exactly 12:01, averaging 25.8km/h; good enough for 666th position among other cyclists, according to Strava.

Weimar Line

That’s not an entirely impressive time and I could certainly do better, but I was too busy enjoying myself and taking in the sights and smells of horse shit and dried grass.  That’s not to say however, that I wasn’t working.  To effect, I don’t think it’s any through any mere coincidence that I ended up 666th over all.  I genuinely thought at times that I could feel Lucifer himself prodding me along up the road by sticking his pitchfork in my ass.  Coincidentally enough, I also passed this sign:

pic6

Little did I know at the time that this sign was actually in reference to myself.

It was also somewhere along here that I passed my first Amish horse and buggy, of which there would be many more over the next few hours.  I would have taken a picture to post here, except that I know the Amish hold humility as a highly-cherished value and view pride as a threat to community harmony.  They literally take “Thou shalt not make unto thyself a graven image” (Exodus 20:4) to heart and they would prefer to be remembered by the lives they lived and the examples they left, not by physical appearance.  So I refrained from doing just that.  Besides, I’ve seen ‘Witness’ and wouldn’t want to end up laid out by some Amish poser with a well timed Harrison Ford-style haymaker to the bread basket (click HERE).

I will say though, that there is something hugely satisfying about passing a horse and buggy on your bicycle.

I should also mention here that the last climb into Bamberg is a real doozy.  Just look at this gradient:

Bamberg Climb

This little bump here in the middle may only constitute a mere 380m of elevation, but it took me exactly 2 minutes and 50 seconds to grind up and over, good enough for 643rd spot on Strava.

Big whoop.

I will concede by saying that on the left hand side as you climb, there is the most spectacular farmhouse and working farm you have ever seen, complete with vegetable garden, pretty flower beds and a clothes line with wet laundry flapping in the breeze.  When was the last time you’ve actually seen laundry on a clothes line?  It was something right out of ‘Little House on the Prairie’.  I have expected that Laura Ingalls herself would come running out of the house, pigtails trailing behind her, to cheer me on as I struggled up and over that damn hill.  But she didn’t and I almost died.  I did, however, finally make it over and pressed on.

Anyway, continuing down the Weimar Line, not to mention up an over another stupid amount of hills, you eventually end up at the end of the line at Hutchinson Rd.  I turned a sharp left here and made my way towards the Township of Wellesley.

Wellesley is where my relatives lived for many years when I was a kid and this is where my family would venture out to on Christmas vacation.  So I am quite fond of the area.  Wellesley encompasses approximately 277.79 km2 and had a population of 10,713 as of the 2011 census.  Most of the residents likely will not have a home phone, access to the Internet or have the faintest idea about Pokemon Go!   The town of Wellesley’s original name was Schmidtsville, derived from its founding settler, John Schmidt.  But In 1851, the town was renamed Wellesley after Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley, the eldest brother of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.  The community quickly grew to be the largest economic centre in rural Waterloo Region, then called Waterloo County, with a wood mill, feed mill, grain mill (which still stands today after being constructed in 1856), leather tanner, cheese factory, restaurants and housing, and many other businesses that also brought much trade to the town from the nearby farms and farming villages.  It was in here that Kelly and I stopped for our first butter tart on our ‘Boogers, Ball Sweat and Hoark’ tour, at a cute country style deli on Nafziger Rd.  It was also here that I had a colossal (not to mention embarrassing) wipe out on the curbside outside the shop.  There would be no butter tarts today, however, and I pressed straight down Queens Bush Rd. through the center of town past the local post office, feed store, pharmacy and a village market.

This entire area is also the setting for the annual Wellesley Apple Butter and Cheese Festival of which I am also well acquainted.   Periodically, my family would make the bonus trip up in September to visit with the relatives which, for whatever reason, always welcomed us back even after allowing us access to their home for a week already that past December.  The festival, founded in 1976, attracts a few thousand visitors to the grounds located at the Wellesley Arena and Community Center during the weekend-long festival.  The festival begins with a community pancake breakfast at the crack of dawn and continues with a smorgasbord at noon, not to mention the apple butter and apple cider available all day long.  There are cider tours, coach rides, quilting bees, remote-controlled boat races on the nearby Wellesley Pond, horse-shoe pitching competitions and a classic car and tractor show.

*sigh*

Good times.

At the top of Queens Bush Rd., I turned left on Greenwood Hill Rd. and up an extremely scary looking hill that leads back up to the Weimar Line completing the loop through Wellesley proper.   It was here on our butter tart ride that I waited for Kelly to get to the top.  Here she is at approximately the half way mark, ready to toss up her butter tarts:

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Don’t laugh though, this climb may be short but it’s a total bitch.  It took me a whole minute and 45 seconds to breach the summit (good enough for 483rd spot on Strava).  I thought it would be altogether appropriate to have a Sherpa greet you at the top with an oxygen bottle.

Here’s the results:

Greenwood Hill

How the hell the KOM on this segment navigated this hill in 35 seconds averaging a speed of 44.3km/h  I’ll never know.  I suspect doping.  However, providing you are observant around the half way mark of the climb as your lungs begin to explode (especially given how hot it was out), you might notice this beauty on the right hand side:

pic8

On the other side of the hill is a more modern and fancy residence complete with a private pond, gazebo and floating jungle gym.  As gorgeous a property as it is, it seems extremely out of character with the rest of the landscape.  But, hey, power to them as I would have loved to have been able to jump in that pond at that point.

At the top, I kept climbing up and over the Weimar and down again…into another headwind.

FML.

This, however, was a stretch of road that I had really been anticipating since I left.  For here, at #2039 Greenwood Hill Rd. is where my cousins lived.  To say I have fond memories of this place would be understating the obvious.  I remember my cousin Jodi tangling her hair up in the tire swing out back, getting trapped half way up the tree house in the field beyond the backyard and having to be rescued, waking up Christmas morning with chicken pox, mountains of presents piled up under the Christmas tree, huge roaring fires in the afternoon as the snow slowly piled up outside.  Man, those were the days.  I also remember going for my first “jog” here along this very stretch of road, when I stubbornly followed my Aunt Kathy until it was impossible to keep up and I was abandoned to play in a snow bank by the side of the road until she came back to collect me.  In total, I think I made it about 50m from the house or so.  Now, she has no recollection of this whatsoever and swears that she has never ever jogged in her life, but the memory is so vivid in my mind that I can’t imagine how it could not have happened.

Anyway, the house is one of only a few residences along this stretch of roadway which definitely adds to its quaintness.  Back then, it was a log cabin style residence and features a gi-normous wood burning stove in the family room, perfect for Christmas eves and mornings; especially for disposing the small rain forest worth of wrapping paper we inevitably tore through.  Its new owners have now covered up the log exterior with a soulless cream-colored vinyl siding and have paved the driveway, but I was pleased to see the same huge bay window in front.  Back then, this was about as “rural” as I thought you could get.  It seemed to be in the middle of nowhere but, then again, anywhere where I could cross the street to see cows grazing behind barbed-wire was about as rural as I could get; city slicker as I was.    I would have stopped and peeked inside the window had there not been a Dodge Caravan parked in the driveway.  Can you just imagine the reaction of those people had they found some stranger in a skin tight pink and purple Lyrca cycling kit pressing his nose up against their front window?

“Honey, fetch my shotgun.”

Shortly afterwards, I turned right on the Hessen Strasse, which more or less parallels the Weimar Line meaning I had to deal with all those hills again in reverse order.  And let me assure you, they are no less challenging in the opposite direction.  In fact, they’re longer, meaner and nastier.  And any notions I had of finally having the wind at my back were immediately vanquished the second I turned onto the Hessen Strasse; Mother Nature was definitely having a dig at me today.

Similar to the Weimar Line, the Hassen Strasse is beautiful…maybe even more so.  There are the same vast expanses of open pasture land, quaint little churches (one of which we would visit on Christmas Eve) and maple syrup farms as far as the eye can see.  If you stopped to have a swig at every maple syrup farm along the Hassen Strasse you would surely have type 2 diabetes by the time you navigated it’s entire 10 kilometers or so.  One day, I might even put this to the test.  It is along here though that you begin to come across a lot of little roadside “aid stations”.  This one was located approximately half way up another stupid climb:

pic9a

That’s one of the reasons why I love the Amish and riding in this area in general.  They may not like you very much or care to do business with you directly, but if you’re inclined to leave a buck for a cold can of Coke left in a grungy old cooler at the end of a remote driveway, so be it.  Other unmanned roadside stands (if you can call them that) will have bouquets of flowers, home baked goods, bottles of water, and excess fruits and vegetables from their own gardens.  Garlic scapes were certainly in season as that what was primarily on offer.  You really don’t need to bring any GU gels or protein bars when you have all this instant nourishment available on the honor system by the roadside.  Likewise, who needs Clif bars when you can have a home baked Amish-style fig cookie?  I love it.  I could pedal for hours after one of those things – and I literally did.

Here’s another more “elaborate” one:

pic9b

Around this time I passed another horse and buggy.  As I approached it from behind, I noticed two little faces pressed up against the back window watching me ride up on them.  Two little Amish girls were sitting in the back seat of their family carriage on their way to market or whatever with their father.  As I passed, the stern looking man never gave me so much of a sideways glance, which given what I happened to be wearing, seemed kind of surprising, but such is the Amish’s ability to block out the rest of us “English”.  However, I did manage to get a quick and nervous little wave from one of the girls before she instantly snapped her gaze straight ahead again as to not be noticed by her father.  I flashed her a little smile but I don’t think she noticed.

Turning left on Kressler Rd. again, having completed the first big 40 kilometer loop of my route, I headed north towards Heidelberg.

Oh, and I also passed this:

pic10

Yeah.

Weird, right?

Anyway, there’s not much to write home about Heidelberg aside from its being nearly 200 years old.  There’s not much even there aside from a stop light intersection, a garage and The Olde Heidelberg Restaurant of which I have never visited (maybe someday).  Really, it’s a reference point on my route to turn left on the Lobsinger Line into St. Clements and then right on Herrgott Rd. to Wallenstein.  Neither of these routes are particularly enjoyable riding as they roughly paved, and busy thoroughfares for traffic and large trucks so I just boogied along them as quickly as possible to get to my next intended destination in Elmira.  In fact, I will likely seek out an alternative route altogether on next years’ tour.

I will pause here for a moment however to point out that one of my stops is at the General Store in Wallenstein.

pic11

By this point I am at the (more or less) 60 kilometer point of my tour and could generally use some sustenance in the way of a cool beverage seeing as how there is very little shade along the road out here…anywhere.  The last shade I passed through was likely back at the University Campus.  It has been my habit to stop here for a Coke and give my ass a brief break while I’m at it.

Now, say what you will about the Amish and the Mennonites, but they generally aren’t very welcoming of strangers for one reason or another.  Each time I am in their presence I do my best to be polite and courteous and mind my own business.  When I entered the store, I was greeted by no fewer than 13 ladies in their traditional plain dress.

I gave them my best non-threatening smile.

Nothing.

Not.  A.  Single.  Response.

Then again, considering that I was dressed like somebody who was about to be shot out of a cannon, maybe it was too much to take in all at once.  Maybe they were just stunned?  I tried for a little friendly small talk by confirming with them that Elmira was in fact just up the road.

Nothing.

I thanked them for my Coke and told them to keep the change.

Nada.

So much for “Where Friendly Neighbors Meet”, and I exited the store to allow the women to return to their scowling.  While sitting on the porch though, a huge Parmalat truck pulled into the parking lot beside the store.  One of the scowlers (about 70 years old I might add) came out of the store, jumped on an old forklift and proceeded to unload about a dozen palates of ice cream out of the truck and into the back of the store in seconds flat.  I guess the Amish and Mennonites really like their ice cream.  So say what you will about the Amish and Mennonites, they sure can drive a forklift.

I continued on to Elmira, about another 7 or 8 kilometers along Country Road 86, where I had planned to have lunch.  Elmira is the largest community within the Township of Woolwich in the Regional Municipality of Waterloo.  While the land comprising Elmira originally belonged to the Huron followed by the Mohawk Indians, the first settlers arrived in here in the late 18th century.  In 1798, William Wallace (not this William Wallace) was one of the first settlers in the area after he was deeded 86,078 acres (348 km2) of land on the Grand River for a cost of $16,364.  In 1806, Wallace sold the major portion of his tract to Mennonites and the rest, as they say, is history.  There is obviously still a strong Mennonite influence in the area.  Each spring, beginning in 1965, tens of thousands of people gather in Elmira to celebrate the return of spring and maple syrup as part of April’s Elmira Maple Syrup Festival.

My usual stop is at the Elmira Donuts & Deli off the street a little behind some shops.

You can see my little jog back to it here:

Elmira

It’s nothing fancy.  Believe me.

See?

pic12

But they do have one kick ass tuna fish sandwich and the Mennonite proprietors are a little more welcoming than the ones in Wallenstein.  Not much, mind you, but a little.  I will usually pass 20 minutes or so here on the front stoop in the shade thoughtfully noshing on my sandwich and whatever cookie that happens to catch my eye and do my best to “blend in”, which is not at all.  I consider this to be my half way point, even though it’s really more of my three quarter point.  Regardless, I know it…I like the tuna…so I keep returning.

Such is life.

From here I zip out of town as quickly as I can down Arthur Rd. and right on Listowel Rd. and back out into the countryside.  A quick left turn onto Three Bridges Rd. and, low and behold, I experienced my first tail wind.  Amazeballs.  Finally!  I amped up the turnover of the pedals and applied a little extra effort and eventually was cruising down this nice scenic stretch of roadway at an average of 36.9km/h  and at one point I was sailing – effortlessly I might add – at 47.2km/h.  After 70 kilometers of head winds I was determined not to waste this brief opportunity.  My effort was good enough for 15th position over all on Strava this year, covering the distance in 5:26.

Yay me.

Turning left on Hawkesville Rd., I pointed my bike towards popular destination tourist town of St. Jacobs.  First known as “Jakobstettel” which means “Jacob’s Village”, the village was settled in 1820.  The St. was added to the name simply to make it sound more pleasing and the pluralization was in honor of the combined efforts of Jacob C. Snider (1791–1865) and his son, Jacob C. Snider, Jr. (1822–1857), founders of the village.  It now pedals that heritage to tourists who have come to experience the “Mennonite Lifestyle”…which is entirely laughable.  Basically, I consider it as a necessary obstacle to endure on way back to Waterloo.  I mean, it’s a nice enough village, don’t get me wrong.  There’s lots of artisans, and a thriving market and yadda, yadda, yadda.  But the hapless throngs of people and touristy bullshit piss me off.  It reminds of own town of Ridgeway which practically triples its population in the summer when the “out of towners” flood into town and literally proceed to take over the beaches, shops, restaurants, etc.  It’s enough to drive you insane, so I get out…quickly.  And that’s pretty much what I did today in St. Jacobs.

Funny thing though, in the 30 seconds or so it took me to pass through the village I probably had my photograph taken about a dozen times.  Do tourists really think a Mennonite would be caught dead on a high performance road bike…and dressed like this?

The fuck.

Anyway, shortly afterwards there is a fun stretch of road along King Str. which takes you pretty much back into the city of Waterloo again.  “Fun” in that it is downhill and protected from the wind.  Eventually you pass through Wagner’s Corner and onto Weber Str. which will take you back into downtown Waterloo.  I spent a little time passing by the old familiar haunts of my University days and much has changed.  There is a significant amount of new high rise buildings now on just about every corner.  Waterloo, it seems, has been very busy.  I also passed though the campus quickly and it too has changed drastically; most of which are the students.  Did I look that young when I was in university?  Anyway, I was hot, tired, and getting instantly annoyed with all the hipster beards and toques on campus (seriously guys, it’s JUNE!) so I made my way back to my Aunt Kathy’s and a well deserved beer…or two.

All in, I covered 95.3 kilometers in a little under 4 hours, averaging a speed of 26.8km/h, which seems miserably slow.  I know.  But given the ridiculous amount of climbing I did today (almost 2,000m to be exact), I’ll take it.

Until next year.