This was written by Peggy Barons, one of the 3 amigoettes (along with my wife Sue and friend Margaret) that rode the Pedal The Plains bike ride last month. Originally posted on Facebook, Peggy has allowed me to reprint it here.
I got a silly Facebook Invitation one day back in February. You know the kind, “let’s do this crazy thing.. haha” Yeah, wouldn’t that be funny haha…
But on this particular day, I happened to have been reading a book called A Thousand Miles in a Million Years about what makes a good life. The author, Donald Miller, suggests that what makes a good movie, also makes a good life. Most of us spend our lives just trying to stay comfortable and boring. But a good story; a good life, involves conflict, resolution and joy. Real stories require characters that face adversity and overcome. At least this is what his book says, anyway.
So, while reading this book I thought, I have a good life, and I have faced challenges (who hasn’t) but I’d never done anything really crazy, and it was on this day, that the invitation to Pedal the Plains arrived. “I’ll do it!” I said to myself – and to my friend, Margaret who issued the invitation. Another old friend was included, and Susan was in as well! We’d have to train separately as I lived just outside of Boston, Susan in Tampa and Margaret in Denver. We had six months to get ready, get in shape and equip ourselves for a 3-day, 175 mile bike ride across the high plains of northeastern Colorado. 27 miles the first day, 66 miles the second day, and a whopping 82 miles to the finish line on the final day.
I’d never ridden more than 18 miles in one stretch in my life and even that was a rare occasion with cause for celebrating with a cold beer and a nap; and February is no time to cycle in New England anyway. So nothing happened for a while. As summer approached I began to ride on and off road with a fun group of laid back outdoor enthusiasts – never hitting the 20-mile mark, but sometimes we came close. My summer continued with riding once or twice a week, but not nearly as much as I thought I needed. One day I rode 32 miles!! Woo Hoo! Another day I made it to 60. All I could think about was a hot shower and a couch. Was I ready? Not really. But this was as good as it got. Susan was able to sneak in a couple of long rides and even made it to 80 miles one day. Margaret, not so much.
Ready or not here we go. We arrived in Denver, had a couple glasses of wine and nervously laughed about what was ahead. The next day we got our bikes “fitted” to suit our size and took a practice ride through DOWNTOWN Denver. Margaret’s friend, Jeff led the way, jutting in and out of traffic, cutting off city buses and basically ignoring all traffic laws. “They are just, ‘suggestions’ he says.” (Special note: I did not agree, out of fear, and dutifully stopped at all traffic lights often losing sight of my leader.)
The next day we were up before dawn, packed and ready to go. We had a 2-½ hour drive to get to the starting line. Upon arrival we checked in, got our ‘credentials’ and took off casually with others on the Day One ‘rolling start’. It wasn’t easy staying together as everyone rode at a slightly different pace, we had to stay single file, and there were plenty of other cyclists on the road – along with a lot of 18-wheelers that nearly blew us over as they passed.
As we neared the end of the first 27 miles we noticed it was taking Sue a long time to catch up. Soon we discovered why. She had a major blow out, and I mean BLOW OUT – “POP!” she heard, like a gun shot and over she went right into the shoulder of the road. A few scrapes later, and with the help of some good Samaritans along the way, she rolled by waving to us from the back of a pick up truck and met us at the end of the ride.
We found our way to the Bates Motel, ahem, I mean The Butte Motel where we were to spend our first night. We showered and headed downtown where a big town-wide celebration greeted all the weary riders. There was homemade chili, spaghetti, baked potatoes, apple pie, peach pie, blueberry pie, homemade ice cream, all kinds of beer and live music. We relished the glory of it all.
Back at our hotel we carefully attached the chain lock and put the bikes up against the inside of the door. Needless to say the area seemed kind of sketchy and we made sure to do everything we could to stay safe. The next morning we again awoke long before dawn (east coast time and menopause will do that to ya) We spent a lot of time chatting and catching up and solving all the worlds problems from 4:00 AM to 6:00 AM – then got up, got ready, slathered on our Butt Butter (this I will not explain) and prepared to get going. We looked everywhere for the hotel room key – the old fashioned kind with the bright yellow plastic handle with room number 21 written on it in magic marker. It was nowhere to be found, but once we opened the door, there it was still in the lock on the outside of our room, all night like a neon welcome sign. Guess we three middle-aged women weren’t the targets of anyone with unsavory ideas…
We had a good laugh and off we pedaled into the chilly Colorado morning air. Today it was Margaret’s turn to get a flat. She didn’t have the same handsome guys help her, but two quite capable ladies fixed her up fast. After that, we decided it was prudent to purchase a tube. Of course, once we bought the spare tube, no more flats befell us!
Day Two was long and grueling. Lots of hills and wind, and, when we would finally crest a hill and turn a corner, the view opened up to show us yet another, even longer climb. (insert groan and wtf here) Other cyclists passed us and we passed some too. There was the guy in the pedal powered rocket ship, several recumbent bikes, you know the kind where they look all relaxed, leaning back in their recliner while pedaling like crazy; and at least one guy that just used his arms to pedal in an upright seated position. Of course there were a few tandem riders with matching outfits as well. We found out later that some of the tandem riders were actually part of a group that rides with the visually impaired so they too can enjoy the joys of cycling. How cool!
As we neared our final stop for the night we rode in to Burlington, Colorado and what a welcome we received! We were greeted with claps and cheers and whoops and hollers and bowls of freshly cut up sweet, sweet cantaloupe, ice cold chocolate milk, (a near perfect muscle recovery drink) and many other libations. There were television crews and local folks galore, all there to make sure we were welcomed with open arms and had lots to eat!! Medical tents for the injured, information booths for town, the ride, and entertainment for the evening dotted the sidewalks. FFA kids walked around with free homemade cookies, and a County Fair feel was in the air. This was a town happy to be alive and happy to have some company!
Too bad we were too exhausted to enjoy it all. After a quick dinner and lovely chats with a few locals – we were ready to call it a night and prepare for our final 82 miles.
Again, we awaken at our usual 4:00 AM but this hotel, The Best Western, was definitely a step up with free coffee in the lobby and we savored every sip while sitting in our beds laughing and dreading the day the day ahead.
It was freezing when we left (well almost) and windy. When I say windy and mean WINDY! And uphill. With that wind in our face we set off, full speed ahead at about 5 miles per hour. The first twenty miles were intense. Barley anyone talked as we watched Sag wagon after Sag wagon cruise by full of dispirited riders. Just get to the first rest stop. Just get to the first rest stop. Just get to the first rest stop.
The three of us all met up again at the first rest stop. Re-fueled, hit the port-a-potties and then the real fun began. The route changed directions, the wind was at our backs and the rolling hills (mostly downhill) started happening. The best ride of the weekend. The best ride of my life! I literally felt like screaming “Weeeeeeeeeeee!!”
Fun Fun Fun. No more flat tires, no more sweating, no more panic about finishing the ride. This part was easy. Easy, but still long, with 60 miles more to go. It wasn’t all down hill, but it never got hard again, just long, and flat but soon the finish line was on our minds. Our backs and necks were sore, our hands ached, our “saddle areas” were tender, but we were almost there.
Almost like a cruel joke, the road was in need of repair during the final 10 miles. Every 20 feet there was a tiny bump in the road and we all felt it, like the Princess and the Pea. Over and over again, men and women alike were standing up on their bikes and complaining to one another. This last minute torture made the finish line all the sweeter. We did it! Grimy, but happy we received our medals at the finish line from a little 5-year-old cowboy decked out in all his western regalia including the biggest belt buckle I’ve ever seen. The first order of business was something else I’d never done before (never even knew it existed) we all showered in the “Shower Truck”. This was, you guessed it, a semi truck with shower stalls and lots of naked women. We had no towel and had to dry off with an old shirt, but it was worth it. We changed, celebrated with a cold beer and hit the road for our drive back to Denver.
No, it wasn’t A Thousand Miles in a Million Years but it was close.