Monday, September 10, 2007

Vermont Ride

Princess Di died in 1997. Lisa was a huge fan of Di and planned on staying in with her friend Amy to view the televised funeral services during a late August weekend. I called up Farber (The Mexican) and told him to pack a small backpack - we were heading on a destination ride. Right away, he suggested McNiells Pub in Brattleboro, VT. So I left from my house, which at the time was in Shelton, and he left from his house in Northford and we met up on rt. 10 in Hamden by Sleeping Giant State Park. We then rode north on 10, which turns into 5, through CT, MA, and into VT. From my garage door, it was a 140 mile trip. I remember that somwhere between Greenfield, MA and the Vermont line, we were chased by a big pig, just as a dog would give chase. Tired and hungry, we found a hotel, showered up and headed over to McNiells. We ordered a pizza to be delivered there and man the beer tasted good that night! The next morning, we put on the same ripe bike clothes from the previous day and rode home. Thus was born the Vermont Ride.

Baker joined Farber and I the next year, and he hasn't missed the ride since. He used to do it from his house in Torrington, but I put the kebosh on that soon enough, telling him that it wasn't official since he lived in northern CT. So he drives down to my house each year only to pass by where we used to meet up with him 60 miles into the ride. He never complains though - he wants to get the most from the ride even though on Sunday, when you are beat and want off the bike, it'd be nice to finish in Torrington. Plus he knows that I'd rag him to much.

We have done it every year, and even twice in 98' and 00'. We have had every type of weather. I remember one early year, it was raining, cold and into a headwind the whole ride up. I came up on Farber and Baker somewhere near the CT/MA line and we said maybe two words to each other and just forged ahead. Word about the VT ride got out and in 99' I began getting calls and emails about it. Some asked how to get on the invite list! I started inviting a group of people to tag along for the pain each year - my criteria for the invite was based on attituide. Ability didn't matter. Those that were fun, positive, and independant, fun, and fun were invited. I remember one particuliar year where the return trip was around 100 degrees out. Jeff Molson lied comotose on my front lawn for awhile when he finished the ride. I think there is still a chalk outline of him there. We began an innitiation for the rookies. One year it was custom liscence plates made for each rookies bike. Then there was the orange flags, and the wool knee high socks. I still can't believe that rookies would subject themselves to this ride AND go along with the initiation!

Each year something memorable would occur that we would laugh about or take away from the ride. We eventually wisened up and began shipping our clothes up to the hotel. Riding back the next day in clean clothes was a luxury! Recieving the box from ups later that week with the clothes you rode up in was not.

The ride usually would take place in August since I would selfishly use it for Hawaii training and this worked great timing wise. However, this August was filled up. It looked as though it wasn't going to happen this year until Baker and I decided that it had to - we couldn't break the annual. So we cleared the calendar for this past weekend. We kept the group very small this year since it was very last minute and in fact, only Kenny O., Baker, and myself went.

We started at 6:45am from my house on Saturday morning and it was steamy already. Baker and I were tagged with prototype MyAthlete GPS units and we handed out the web site to a few friends and family to track us if the were bored this weekend. Soon into the ride, I was by myself. Ken and Baker are great to ride with because they are fine doing there own thing. My legs felt great Saturday and I was clipping along at a good rate. Baker found a new route that twisted and turned through Thomaston, Bristol, Burlington, Farmington and Avon and I didn't know it well so we regrouped before beginning this section. In Simsbury, we pick up rt. 10 and then it's just head north. We hit our first Starbucks in Granby. It was hot and humid and a frappacino works really well in these conditions. Then, after a brief stop in Southwick, MA at a bike shop to get a part for Bakers bike to stop the noise coming from his rear wheel, we aimed for our next Starbucks in Northhampton, MA.

I was by myself again and carrying pretty good speed into a right turn in Westfield, MA at a busy intersection. Through the corner was fairly new tar patching the road and the heat and humidity melted it down to an oily, slick patch. My wheels, in an instant, went out from under me and I came down quite hard on my right hip and elbow. After thumpping the pavement hard, I then skidded out into the intersection a bit. This happened so unbelievably quick. It was as though something grabbed my wheels and yanked them out from right under me. This was a busy intersection and all the cars stopped - yet not one stopped to help or even ask if I was ok! I grabbed my bike and hobbled over to the curb to assess the damage. My left elbow had a nice open wound and some road rash and my right hip already had a golf ball size hematoma bulging out. My rear dereilleur on my bike took a beating and the cable was out, but soon Ken came rolling up and helped me in getting it functional. While Ken helped me with my bike, Baker went and got me some ice packs. I took one and put it on the hematoma between my bike shorts and the skin and headed onward. Abouot 10 miles in I started to stiffen up a bit but soon found myself back in a groove.

95 miles into the ride I rolled into Northhampton and ordered three more Venti Coffee Frappaccinos and sat outside and people-watched. Northhampton is one of the best people- watching places. One woman was having a nice conversation with herself. Ken at first thought she was using a bluetooth headset!

The rest of the ride up was uneventful. It was very, very hot and humid, but my legs still felt good. I rolled into the hotel around 3:15pm. John Brennan, amongst a few others, were tracking us throughout the day on the MyAthlete website and it was extremely cool! He called me at one point when we were stopped at the bike shop tending to Bakers bike and said "why are you stopping in Southwick? Get moving!" Very big brotherish! On the ride back home Sunday, we roll through the center of Woodbury where my sister lives. At the exact time I was riding by, she came walking down to the street with a big jug of ice water. She told me that dad just called her and told her I was about to ride by. I would call up Lisa to get an idea of where Baker and Ken were on the route. How cool is that! Then, upon return, I could review the history of my ride and even print out a topical route map. It was unbelievably cool!

After showering and scrubbing, I made my way over to the supermarket and purchased some peroxide and bandages to clean up my wounds. We headed out for a lousy dinner (restaurants in Brattleboro are very undesirable) but some fun conversation and some great beer. In fact, the three of us were a bit looped when we left the pub. The numbing helped a bit though since I was quite sore and my right hip was getting very stiff. It was a fun night though.

We awoke at 5:30am, wolfed down some breakfast, and by 6:20am we were on the road. The return trip from VT is way different than the previous day. It's certainly not as fun, or even fun at all, but it's a solid day of training. The focus is usually on just getting home. There is usually no conversation on the climb out of brattleboro, and I knew that the three of us needed to do our own thing this day. At the top of the climb, I was alone and solo for the rest of the day. It was still very humid, and drizzling slightly which was a nice relief. Very strange in Deerfield, MA was the amount of dead frogs on the road. I was keeping a steady effort although my right side felt as though I had no power and my back was hurting from the fall. I find on these days that you can't overthink it, you just have to put on some good tunes and pedal. About 50 miles into the return trip, the sun came out which wasn't that welcomed. It made the return climbs through Burlington, Bristol, Thomaston and Watertown a bitch.

I rolled back into my driveway around 1:30pm, glad to be getting off the bike. Kenny came rolling in later and said that we all split up on that first climb right out of Brattleboro and he and Baker rode solo all day as well. Kenny headed home to see his wife and daughter, and then Baker came in. A nice custom of this trip is that we go get some big greasy cheese burgers and fries upon the completion and that's just what we did. We have a Five Guys burger place close by in Newtown and these burgers are amazing - especially after a nice 280 mile weekend ride.

2007 VT ride in the books!

No comments: