I initially signed up for the 33mi ride, thinking about taking it easy. But that's not the cyclist's ethos (wouldn't you know it), and L encourages me to challenge myself. So I'm on for 73*, not even sure I'll make it. I hear there are hills (and a really steep one) beginning around mile 70 by which time I'll be riding on fumes. But word is, there's great SAG support (no that does not stand for the Screen Actors Guild, though I'd be happy to see them).
I do the maintenance I've learned to do (and swore I would never do, but love changes everything, right?) for Lola: lube and swab off her chain, clean her rims and inspect her tires for glass.
This last is something I've learned recently, and it's more important than you'd think, especially if you live in the City. There's glass all over the place and like it or not, most of us are "carrying glass" when we ride. If you then find yourself in rain, water lubricates the glass to go further into the inner tube and then you have a puncture. Bummer.
And by the way, it's already begun to rain as we pull into the Mastic Shirley station.
As we start our ride, it begins to really come down.
Meanwhile, we haven't gone 20 minutes before I see this:
Once we get going, the neighborhoods are really beautiful. There are green, leafy areas. There are bridges over estuaries, with herons watching us ride by. But we are definitely riding in rain.
Here, all pretense of dignity is discarded and road bikes are laid (carefully) on the ground (kick stands too heavy, definitely not cool).
At this point, I find myself alone scouring the road for route markers. I have a moment of panic, thinking I've taken a wrong turn. Then, (around Hampton Bays it turns out), I find myself riding with some guys who tell me, no worries about directions - they've done this ride lots of times. But every ride is different. At a harmless intersection, I hear a sound I've come to dread: the sound of metal on asphalt as one of them goes down (he's righting himself by the time I turn around).
Soon we see stores that sell boats.
Smelling of verbena and jasmine and, well there's no other way to put it:
Glen (Our Humble Servant) has planned these rest stops very evenly, to make sure we all get a chance to pull off the road. But I could use a sit-down. Unfortunately, my terror of Lyme's disease prohibits an easy plotz on the grass. I voice this to a fellow cyclist who pooh-poohs my fears. Really? Has she seen these signs?
My favorite of course, is the crossing for golfers. You know how they are if one of them gets a birdie. They just wander into traffic.
But the other thing is (now that I've done a few protracted rides), I notice that around 40 miles, I enter a sort of dream state (and I don't come out of it). It doesn't matter how much food is offered at the rest stop. I can keep riding - my legs are working - but I am no longer as alert. I'm not as cognizant of danger, more likely to take chances, and not as quick to notice the simple hazards of the road. And now I have nearly 30 miles to go.
Riding, as I've learned, is an incremental sport. The equipment you upgrade to, the stamina you develop, the doping you do - whoops, did I say that?! What I mean is, this kind of distance riding is fun, it's scenic, it's adventurous - but it's not easy. If you're gonna do it and push yourself, you're gonna need more help than the fruit, PB&Js - or even the great pies Glen is offering.** And as I talk to other riders, I learn that there are all kinds of aids out there. The one most often mentioned is Gu: basically caffeine in a tube. Well where was Gu in high school? Now that sounds like just the thing. I make a mental note of it, and pedal forward, hoping I'm not headed to a life of hard-drug dependency to support my biking habit.
Meanwhile, at least the bikes are resting...
Next thing I know, we're at the finish line, with people ready to ferry us.
There is beer. There is food. There are showers - yes hot showers. Glen has thought of everything. I walk past all of this. To the massage tables.
Truly Glen has outdone himself here (and no gratuities accepted). I have already been impressed at his meticulous planning for transportation, for marking the route, for all the logistics that go into a ride like this (not to mention dealing with the natives who don't always want us out there). But massages? I flop down on a table and let the masseuse have her way with me, feeling a wave of gratitude.
It's been a great trip, and I will spend the next week basking in the afterglow. My only regret is losing touch with K. I hope she enjoyed her ride as much as I did. And she's a dervish. With luck, I will run into her on a future ride.
As for The Big One, the hill I have been dreading?? Apparently I never read the fine print: Glen has taken pity on us and constructed a route without it. In hindsight I'd like to be able to say I'd done it. But in the moment?
Well, maybe next year with Gu.
*69.39 in actuality.
** Briermere Farms "With whipped cream made on the spot."