One Year Ago: Three Souls Ride

On Friday, October 20, 2017, I embarked on my first ever self-supported century bike ride. It was sort of scary to think about doing, I’ve always had someone to ride with on such a long ride and the route would take me through almost all new territory. I went into that part of it kind of blindly on purpose. The ride was intended to in be in honor and memory of three cycling-influential people in my life that had passed away in the last 14 months of time, the most recent being my mom. The plan was to ride from doorstep to doorstep - from my house to my dad’s house, 110 miles away in a day.

My day would take me from 35 degree temps in the morning to 77 degree temps at their peak in the afternoon. I would travel on rail trails, through the city, into the countryside on various paved and gravel roads. Exploring. Thinking. I would stop randomly as I needed rest or refreshment - I didn’t pre-plan any of those stops. I just wanted mostly to take a day of time to hear nothing but my tires, the wind and my own thoughts - maybe also the lost spirits talking to me and encouraging me along the way. To leave the outside world behind for just a day. It was exactly that, and I needed that day to myself in a bad way. I couldn’t help but to think all three of them were watching me that day. That made me happy.

Let’s first talk about the three souls.

First off is Pastor Robert Eckert. He was a genuine leader of our church, the first in a really long time that my wife and I really connected with and wanted to make a better future for our church with. He was inspiring, wise, caring, relatable but most of all, real. You knew where he stood and what his foundations were. He encouraged me to start up “Miles for Smiles” which was my first attempt at a church-based mission. The goal was to get congregation members to walk, run or ride bikes in collection of donations or pledge money. The money would be used to buy shoes and bikes for kids. (we raised $1800!) Not only did he help me refine the strategy and plan for M4S, but also began riding his bike from the parsonage to the church for work instead of taking his car. That overweight old guy said he was loving it, I wasn’t quite sure he was, but I think he was doing it more for me that he was himself, which was just like himself. He suddenly passed away in September 2016 after a month-long battle with cancer. It came on fast and quick and like that, he was gone. Pastor Robert, always giving and supportive, I will never forget him for that.

(Aunt) Dianne Dodds was my mom’s sister. As kids, mom would take us kids to go visit her in Brookfield, a Chicago Suburb, once or twice a summer - always taking our bikes with. She would pack us lunches usually ham and cheese sandwiches with lettuce and real mayo. A different (and delicious) sandwich that we wouldn't get normally at home. Aunt Dianne would have made plans to travel various places on our bikes - whether that was garage sales, their local rail trail bike path or to local parks to play on equipment. In between those times, my brother and I would spend countless hours riding around her block - real “city” riding we’d think of it as. She still had dirt in her alley, which was our first love. She would let us stop at local bike shops to buy accessories and stuff. I even bought my first mountain bike near there - a Specialized Hard Rock complete with index shifters. It was red (of course) and I remember test riding it in the back parking lot. I bet I could drive to it today. She always showed us new things and took us new places, taking the trains and buses of Chicago to get places. She died in January 2017 from a long stretch of battles with cancer and a brain injury which damaged her perception of the world around her. I miss her a lot, and I wish I could give her one more hug for all those shared times. I still remember us visiting her for the last time at the memory care facility she was living at. They closed the window-pane doors behind us, I saw her and waved through the windows as she turned and walked back to her room. She didn’t know she was getting transferred out of state so another family member could help take care of her. It was our last goodbye, but only mom and I knew that.

Last but not least, my mom. She passed away in February 2017, almost one month to the day from her sister. Mom survived a 2 year battle of lung cancer which she had been defeating, but it had already metastasized to her spine, liver and brain. She could feel her memory going that Thanksgiving and I think she sensed things were going to wind down soon. Her dream was to take us and her grandkids to Disney World together. We were able to do that just two weeks before she ended up passing away in February. Mom was always taking us places with our bikes. She taught us how to properly hoist them up on the trunk rack and pack old rags and velcro between bikes to keep them from rubbing during transit. She encouraged me to ride my bike to soccer practice in the summers. (Always wear your helmet!) We were always on bikes. We had our share of funny moments too, mom putting her helmet on backwards accidentally, her running stop signs (don’t do that) and her crashing under strange circumstances. She always had some sort of injury or grease on her leg from a bike ride it seemed. Mom was always interested in my rides as an adult and was watchful of the friends I had made. She would read this blog and we’d talk about it afterwards. I think she would be proud of where I am in my life and I work every day to continue to make her proud. Not one day has gone by that I don’t think of her since her passing.

My love of riding bikes wouldn’t be what it is without the influence of these three people.

Since this post is about a bike ride, I suppose I should talk a little about that. Although, there wasn’t really much notable that happened, so this is all you’ll get plus some pictures below. The thoughts and talks that I had with the “Three Souls” during my ride are just for me. Just know, that I felt all of their presence that day and reliving this one year later, makes me wish I was out there riding right at this very instant.

My Garmin says I burned 7000+ calories that day. So that is something I guess. But what is really something is that I did it and I did it with a smile - in memory of those that had left to do greater things for a greater purpose somewhere else. I am forever thankful for what these Three Souls gave me and inspired me to love.

Me and Mom on what would be our last bike ride together.

Much of what I saw this day was corn. Great day for a fall ride, unbelievably lucky really.

My most favorite of all street signs.

I love gravel.

This was my view and lunch I purchased around Gun Lake.

Pastor Robert had a way of making every month's communion special and unique. On one Sunday he handed these out, bread he made specially to last long periods of time. (I forget the story behind it.) It was given to us to enjoy at a time we felt we needed in this little mini-cup cake wrapper. I had been carrying it around with me for a year on my bike rides and finally chose to consume it. I needed it that day and spoke some emotional words to him as I ate it. It was delicious and I wished I had more.

Just me being dorky showing off my local-town spirit in jersey choice.

Ahh..southern Michigan. Where you can ride bikes behind slow moving Amish buggies. Watch out for poop!

Mission Complete. Almost 111 miles. It was a good time. I will have to do it again.

Done and arrived at Dad's. He said he was proud of me for doing this. I needed to hear that from him. It was a good day. I was tired and REALLY hungry. We later went to Indiana and got Italian Beef sandwiches. I'm not sure I tasted mine, it was gone so fast and I was tempted to order another one. What a day.


2018 Night Shift

Friday, August 10th was the sixth edition of Night Shift and I would have to consider it another overall success. I didn’t actually think it was going to go so well as only 45 minutes before the start, it was looking like it was just going to be three riders: myself, Matt L and Rick. Several “regulars” were out this year and I hadn’t heard from many of the other possibles.

With about 30 minutes to the start three more riders rolled up as we were loitering in front of our camping lots at Ionia State Recreation Area - Mark, Craig and Gary. Mark, a multi-Night Shift veteran, had said he might make it for the beginning part only, the other two guys were a surprise. Gary runs Dan’s Bike Shop in Ionia, Craig his friend. Then with 15 minutes before go-time, (another new guy) Matthew, a co-worker of a friend of mine, Brent, rolled up in his Prius with his bike in the trunk. All of a sudden we had seven riders!

George came to cheer us on at the start also. It was great to see him up and around. He recently had surgery on both his hips in the last 5 months and was disappointed to be missing the ride this year. I had very little time this entire spring to do much planning for the route, so being as this was in George’s back yard and he wouldn’t be able to join us, I just had him create the whole thing. It was a good one with just over 5000’ of climbing, so I’d say he did well planning it. Most all dirt roads were in great shape and provided pavement type surface. SAG stop #2 would also be at his house near the midnight mark so whether or not George felt it, he was still very much a big part of this year’s ride.

Rolling out. My first century ride on "Orange Crush".

With introductions out of the way, we were off at 8:01pm. Gary and Craig were really good riders. After we were off the rail trail into Muir, they left us behind rather quickly and stayed with us past SAG stop 1 but peeled away before SAG 2. Gary used to race a lot, Craig commutes regularly to work and rides to Pennsylvania for “fun”. Mark also bailed just before SAG 2 as it was near his house and had an important morning meeting Saturday to attend. Quickly it went from seven to five to just four riders. Let me go back a minute - before we reached SAG 1, we had an exciting ride through some “rustic” downhill and very rocky two-track that was obviously part of someone’s corn field. That was a hoot. I couldn’t remember if that was actually part of the route or if John and Judy ad-libbed this section for us.

Not much happened between SAG 1 and SAG 2. Once we reached SAG 2 at George’s house, he fed us pizza and his son had what looked like a RAGING twelve foot tall bonfire going when we arrived. I really wasn’t sure about the pizza - I really don’t hold stuff down like that very well while riding - but it turned out to be just perfect. What could go wrong with a meat covered slice of pie? It was very humid at both the first two stops, I was dripping sweat and there wasn’t much of any breeze. I discarded extra things like gloves from my list of outerwear.

New guy, Matthew, seemed to be doing okay, but was visibly tired at the 43 mile mark. His speedometer had somehow missed recording 17 (or something) miles of the ride so far, so he was really worried that he felt so terrible after what looked like to him only 26 miles. On our way out, I had told Matthew “It’s a ride of attrition Matt. There was 7, then 5 and now just 4.” That may have worried him a little, he was trying to stay positive but I think he was feeling the reality of what would soon be his last segment of the ride. He had never done a century ride before so this would be his first attempt at that, and his first night ride to boot. Quite the challenge he set himself up with.

At some point I remember telling one of the new guys that things tend to get “nutty” around 2am, and this year was not unlike other Night Shifts in that regards. The “nutty” got real on our way to Belding. Matthew was struggling quite a bit. We were within 8 or so miles from SAG 3 and he was barely hanging on. Matt, Rick and I could ride two miles and look back for Matthew. He was gone. Nothing. No lights. We would all take turns waiting or riding back to check on him. And even when we did, he was getting quiet. At one point he was struggling to do 7mph on flat pavement. I spotted a church. I said “hey Matt, do you want to stop and pray for awhile?” He replied “there is not enough time to ask for forgiveness for all my wrongs.” Put “proper” preparation for a 100 mile mountain bike ride on that list. Ha ha. Just before this, I had sent SAG homebase (aka the “Crankwagen”) a warning about Matt fading quickly and perhaps to expect a new passenger.

Not long later, Rick was back riding with Matthew. Matt Longest and I were ahead riding together about 3 miles from SAG 3 when three dogs came TEARING out at us. They were upon us quickly, I did my usual loud yelling to get them to briefly hesitate giving us a gap, but that seemed to enrage them more and they kept persuing. Without having a helmet light, I couldn’t see what kind of dogs they were to know if I should be worried or not, so we both took off. As we seemed to begin to outrun them, one circled around and was all of a sudden in front of me. I panicked, turned my bars (I thought I was going to hit it) and like that, I was DOWN! All I could think about was having one (or several) begin grabbing and tearing at my limbs while I was trying to get up. Of course one foot was still clipped in and I couldn’t get out. Matt had stopped and circled back around to shine lights on me and them. Once I realized the dogs were standing down and just looking at me laying in the (very hard) dirt road and weren’t going to eat me alive, I did a body check and discovered I was bleeding badly from the knee and had various other scrapes and punctures on my hands and left forearm. By the time I got up to dust myself off the owner (or someone at the house) was getting in their pickup and leaving the scene. Not one word from them, nor did they approach us. In fact, they backed out and drove off in the other direction. I couldn’t tell, but I remember seeing a white Dodge pickup later, cruising past the Wesco - of which I stared down intently. They kept driving. Damn hicks. There were a lot of dogs out this year. What is the deal!? Got something to hide? Put your dogs away. Idiots.

Knowing the next stop was just a few miles away, we proceeded on. My knee was burning. It was ground down raw and gushing with every flex of my leg.

Let’s go back to when I said things get “nutty” around 2am. Yep, it didn’t end there. This was life at the Belding Wesco, 2 am. Knowing that each year seems to have it’s “highlight” moment, I cruised into the stop saying “we have our story for 2018”. I spent some time telling the story to the Crankshaw’s and my wife and rinsing the wounds with water. John even went inside to get some peroxide for me. T’was merely a flesh wound, it was going to take more than this to keep me from finishing the ride. In fact, now I had some anger to work out. Longest already had a nice, relaxing seat in Judy’s camp chair. He offered me the spot, I resisted at first then decided I probably should rest a little. After only sitting there for 30 seconds, POP! A chair rivet gave way and I was all of a sudden sitting crooked. Then BOOM, something else gave way, then SNAP, I was on the ground. HA HA...great, let’s add insult to injury here (literally). Sorry Judy, I crushed your chair. Everyone thought it was great comedic relief - leave it to me - but man, I was tired and now sitting on the ground.

Man down! Chair destroyed. (sorry Judy)  :-(

With that, I decided it was probably time for a full kit change inside the Wesco. I destroyed that bathroom too, rinsing my head and face in the sink. Also did a check on the wounds. Water and crap everywhere. I needed that badly though.

While I was away there was apparently discussion with Matthew about throwing in the towel. It sounded as if there was only one word answers coming from him at the time and maybe grunts and groans. He was bonked, bad. Ride of attrition, Matt. Nice work, you made it 58 miles. Not bad for your first attempt at a century ride. I hope you come back again to redeem yourself.

So now there was three.

But yet, before we left (I also missed seeing this) some greatly stoned dude filled his car up with gas, then proceeded to drive away. Luckily the nozzle jerked out from the side of his car and landing on the ground near the pump instead of getting torn away from the pump. What the hell!? Ha ha. We gotta get out of here quick.

Belding Wesco. You’ll forever hold a special place in our heart.

The rest of the ride was rather uneventful thankfully. Just lots of hills. We killed that next section arriving at the Lowell covered bridge for the final SAG (#4) quicker than the Crankwagen anticipated. That was a good stop. Cool, clear skies, nice pee break at river’s edge...and...Gravel Jacks!! (Judy’s customized twist on Sloppy Joes, the name coined in 2017). Matthew was passed out in the truck, apparently trying to become no-longer-bonked. Whatever he was doing he was sure steaming the place up.

There was a surprise in store yet for the riders after this stop. The first ever KOM (King of the Mountain) challenge. Prizes at the top for the winner. The Crankwagen picked out the perfect big hill for the race on Montcalm road - the first giant climb of the Lowell 50 race. A hill affectionately named “Rude Awakening” on Strava. With Patti and Judy at the top and John and Matthew at the bottom, us last three riders took off, headed for higher elevation. I hung with Matt Longest for about 50 feet then faded quickly. Then Matt was GONE, Rick following but not too close and then me, way back. I was gassed. Matt won a nice homemade KOM pennant flag (which John applied to his camelback backwards - which we said was M-O-K - as in “I’m OK”) and a full size KOM flag for display at camp/home.

Lightning speed finish at the KOM Challenge.

One of Matt's grand prizes for winning the KOM.

From there it was just more gravel and paved roads through Lowell. We didn’t get lost on the route until around mile 87 - probably a new record for us. We took a left instead of staying right/straight on the south side of the river past Lowell. (Montcalm again) It was a beautiful loooong downhill run - FAST on the fatbike. We got to the bottom  reliving the sweetness of that decent and BAM, smacked in the face with the realization we were off course. That’s not our road. We all looked back. There was no way we were climbing up THAT hill. So we paralleled where we were supposed to be and took the next right that would get us back on course.

Bad news. We still had a giant climb back to the route as we were still down in a river valley. There was no escaping the fact we had to do this. So we did. We put our heads down and began what seemed like a mile long climb. 8.5% grade. 9.2% grade. 9.6% grade. Oh god, when will this end!? We eventually made it - it was tiring, but we all decided it wasn’t that bad. I personally, lost the feeling in my legs at about mile 25 anyways, so what the hell?

Not far after that, the skies began to lighten. We were approaching dawn and within 8 miles of the finish. We only had a rail trail and few sloping climbs left to camp, one of them paved. We stayed the course and made it back to camp at what we felt like was early. (It was before 7am). Just before this time, I realized my bloody knee was now scabbing over (and weaving itself through) my spandex. That was fun to peel off once I hit the showers, and it was a sad, runny mess all day after. That's it. Night Shift #6 complete. 103 beautiful miles, almost 5100' of elevation gain. Not too shabby for one night's work.

Overall though, my nutrition and hydration was on point. Pre-event hydration is a big deal for me (I can’t operate low on fluid and often takes me days to ramp up to what I need before a race or long ride like this). I was stressing about my hydration status all week as it was really hot and humid - there was lots of sweating at camp and at the beach leading up to the ride - I drank nearly a gallon of water each of the two days before the ride and still didn’t feel like I had enough on reserves. I ended up feeling pretty good all evening/morning and didn’t cramp up even once. I had plenty of varied sources of fuel to keep me going, Heed, Endurolytes, Infint Tripwire, Redbull (for the caffeine), a few Hammer Gels and best of all, PayDay’s. Lots of water, sugars, proteins, caffeine. That’s all I need. And...apparently, a slice of greasy pizza. (Thanks again George.)

After a nice shower at camp, there was a 2 hour (much needed) nap, then a wonderful big breakfast for all riders and their families. It's always a good time to share stories and chuckle a little about our pain and agony. It was another great weekend for some crazy dudes (and ladies) of Night Shift. Thanks to all for coming to ride, or supporting us, or thinking about our safety and holding down camp while we were gone. I have a sneaking suspicion, we’ll do the same route next year. It was a good one. Come out and join us in 2019!! You have plenty of time to prepare!

This year's riders and crew: (L to R) - Gary, Craig, Rick, Judy, John,
George, me, Matt L, Mark and Matthew.

Rolling back into camp. Three hardy souls with aching butts. (I look really happy.)

The "display" version of Matt's winning effort on the KOM Challenge.
A Tour de France style KOM flag!

The beautiful Crankwagen post-event.


2017 Night Shift

The 2017 edition of Night Shift went off without a hitch last Friday night, August 11. This year saw the most riders with 9 (Myself, Matt R, Matt L, George R, Doug H, Allison H, Mark G, Rick P and Chuck G), plus we added three newbies who wanted to ride one segment for the sake of sharing our experience (Laura R, Patti M and Judy C). So that counts as a dozen total from SAG2 to SAG3. It was a blast. Chuck and Allison were our two full-ride newbies this year. Chuck a seasoned cross and road racer from the Carolina's and an expert who Judy once told me "I've seen him ride through sand up to his hips!", (we joked that by mile 60 "maybe" Chuck was just getting warmed up) and Allison our second female to ever participate - now a "doctor" as I understood it and recent graduate from college.

This year we based our operations out of Yankee Springs Recreation Area on Gun Lake. It was a very busy campsite, people packed in and lots of activity, dogs barking, children crying, cornhole beanbags being slammed on boards. Ugh. Not exactly a place to go if you want to "get away". However, the location was super-premium for what turned out to be around 5000' of elevation gain through the night on gravel roads in Barry County. (And I will admit a shower after the ride was a HUGE bonus that we usually don't have.) Much of the course would follow the famed Barry-Roubaix route, which brings in a range of Pros to amateurs from the across the country to race on gravel, snow and ice every March.

Most people started rolling in to camp on Friday afternoon - near 5pm. Our family had been camping since Wednesday afternoon, which I enjoyed more than staying for days after the ride instead. (for days after the ride, you're still a little mushy and disoriented due to lack of sleep and physical exertion. So this was more fun for playing with the kids and exploring a little with them before the festivities.)

The usual hustle and bustle of planning gear, prepping our wheels and nutrition was happening for an hour or two leading up to 8pm, official start time. We ended up starting thirteen minutes late as Rick had some tubless-goop related tire seal issues with his cross bike before we left. Once he got that fixed, we continued with the start of the ride. Awesomely, that turned out to be the only mechanical of the evening.

(from left to right: Rick, Doug, Mark, Matt R, Me, Chuck, Allison, Judy, Matt L, George, Patti, Laura, John and Crankwagen)

Our pace for the first 24 miles to the first SAG stop seemed really fast. It always seems like you're going faster than you really are in the darkness, but I swear for a casual group ride, we were still cruising around 18mph. And, as (most of us) are just regular guys, barely able to keep up with life let alone some sort of regular riding schedule, that's pretty fast. The first SAG stop was a good one, at an old school house - apparently at a rather busy intersection for 10:30 pm. Lots of cars were slowing down and checking on us with all our blinky lights and beams shining everywhere.

This next segment wasn't unlike the first with some nice rolling hills, but nothing really to mention too much about. SAG2 would be in Nashville (thankfully in Michigan, not Tennessee). It was surprisingly well lit up. What a nice little town. The Shell station there was really clean and had great bathrooms. The girl working the counter didn't seem to care we were using their parking lot and street at almost 1:00 am. Now about half way done with the ride, a few of us were beginning to feel the pain. This was where I slammed a Redbull.


This would be where we were pick up the three ladies that wanted to ride one segment. Everything up to this point had been very hilly up and down. I was nervous about not really knowing what to expect out of this third segment for the sake of the ladies, but it turned out to be perfect for them, and maybe perfect for us husbands who might have needed a bit of a break too. I was hoping their first experience wouldn't be a deal breaker to having them potentially ride another Night Shift. Both Laura and Patti are relatively new to riding bikes altogether, let alone riding on dirt. Oh yeah, and in the dark. Between 1 and 3am. So otherwise, no big deal, I guess, right? ha

Laura had nice fat tires to roll on, Patti had her cross/city bike. She did great climbing any inclines, but was really hesitant to let herself coast full speed on the downs with her skinny tires. We spent most of the time riding together in the peace of the dark, dark night. Finding ourselves spending this time like we do when we're traveling in a car...just sitting there, not talking. Minding our own business. I guess we each enjoy the peace and quiet of not having kids continuously asking us questions and asking us to "lookit, lookit". This segment turned out to be just right for the newbies, (as far as I know) they enjoyed their time with us trying something new. 17 miles, boom. No tears. No fights. No anger. Can't get much better than that, right?

Inside the Crankwagen (SAG)

Since Patti and I were the latecomers to the party at SAG3, I tried to refill my bottles and jam a Subway sandwich segment in my face before we quickly took off. I didn't want to hold anyone up. So we bolted pretty quickly. There were more hills on this fourth segment, although not too terrible and it would only be 12 miles till the the single track, then a few more till the SAG anyways. Totally easy if you break it down in your head just right.

We seemed to get to the single track section at Hammond Hill outside of Hastings pretty quickly, although once we reached the staging area, we had a hard time figuring out where to start. We all had some hesitation on who was going to lead us out. Doug stepped up and took the lead. What a BLAST! Wow. This was perfect for riding at 4am, with increasingly weak and uncoordinated bodies (read that as: a need for an increased degree of sloppy bike handling skills). The trail in many spots was nearly 2-3 feet wide and was extremely "flowy". Ups and downs with good rhythm, high embankments in the turns with fast, turning descents. If you knew what you were doing and carried some speed you might be able to catch some air and rail over a few burms at a time. But that wasn't happening for us. There wasn't much to stand up and pedal for even on my cross bike. So that was sweet too. It was just what we needed to spark some adrenaline at such an early hour.

Once finished with the single track, we were only two miles away from SAG4, our final official break. Now around 70 miles in, John and Judy's parking lot "Gravel Jacks" sandwiches (special mix and take on "Sloppy Joes") were delicious morsels much needed. I wasn't sure I could even eat mine, but before I knew it, it was gone. And I burned my mouth they were so hot and I was so hungry. After laying flat in the parking lot to stretch out a bit, I loaded up on some short-wave sugary snacks (a baby-sized Mountain Dew and a PayDay), took a stroll to the bathrooms at the Family Fare and we were off!

This last segment was the Boss Hogg of the entire route as far as hills go. Much of this is the opening 10-15 or so miles of the Barry-Roubaix race. We quickly got crushed down by the three sisters (those whores!, and honestly I think I counted eight of them) and there was just more coming after them. Hill after hill after hill. Approaching 90 miles, it was getting brutal. Near the end of the route we had a choice: turn right on some beautiful pavement for our last few miles, or continue on the planned route straight ahead on a sandy two-track, which dumps us out to the same pavement anyways - just later. Judging by seeing Allison with her head in her hands across her bars, I asked everyone if the pavement was just fine enough. (because I was feeling just like Allison and I gathered that from a few others in the group too.) Then Rick chimes in. (the guy doesn't talk hardly at all.) "Hey, I thought this was was a dirt ride!?" Okay, lay the guilt trip on me. So we made choices of compromise. If we take the pavement, we have to hit Yankee Springs trail. If we take the sandy two-track, we get to skip Yankee. So, that's what we did. Bring on the sand. Oh how I hate the sand.

No major incidences and now leaving the dirt behind us for the balance of the route, I felt myself becoming complacent even with 7 or so miles to go. I was riding at the back of the pack, just chatting with Rick. Then I remember how fast and long the hills are leading back to camp. I want the ride over so fast. Three words came to my head: Done. Fast. Destroy. So on the next downhill, I slammed into top gear like a Ferrari (bam, bam, bam, bam) and just took off. Pedaled my ass off for the last few miles up and down hills going as fast as I could. At one point reaching 33 mph, about the max for my cross bike with knobbies. Rick was with me most of the way, he with around 3,000 riding miles this year, me with 350. I think he was still chatting and cruising along side me as I tried not to vomit. After pedaling and pedaling and pedaling and being as "aero" as a 200 lb man wearing spandex with hairy legs can be, I decide to look behind to see where everyone was. I only saw two more riders; Chuck (which I pictured as coasting, eating a piece of pizza and sipping a martini as I abused my legs) and Doug.

The four of us rolled into the entrance to camp, and waited for the rest of the crew (only 30 seconds behind), then coasted into camp together. Victory! 7:20 am. Hmm. No one is up. Surprise, surprise. Get me into a shower and bed ASAP. In all, it was a very successful ride. I think Chuck and Jen will be back next year (I hope anyways) and Allison not only became the first female to ride and finish the ENTIRE ride, she also accomplished her first century ride ever. Congrats Allison!! You're a strong rider, hope you can also come back and bring some friends!

The rest of Saturday and Sunday was filled with great visits with friends and families, a giant group coordinated breakfast, then a group coordinated Mexican dinner complete with authentic (Pandora) mexican music by a campfire and stories shared by all. By 9pm our site was vacant of all visitors, we stayed up for a bit till the mosquitoes forced us in the camper.

Some ideas are already flowing for Night Shift 2018. Hope to see you all there. We will try and keep it more local like this year as that seemed to be a good option for many and makes it easier for camping and travel.

See you in 357 days!

(let's be clear, this was BEFORE the ride, NOT after!)


Gravel Ride

Nice, cool, sunny morning for a gravel ride. Preparing for Night Shift and had to try some new nutrition stuff too. Only 16 more miles till I hit 10,000 since 2009. Hope to accomplish that next week.


Buddy's First Trail Ride

My little buddy and I (okay, most of you know him as "Nick") took our first dirt trail ride together on Sunday. It was near 90 degrees and we rode just over 2 miles. Not too many cars in the lot at Luton, so it was nice to not have to worry about people trying to pass us on the trail. In fact, we didn't see anyone out on the trail the entire time. We rode the Green loop to the Blue and finished out on the Green again.

He just learned how to ride a bike without training wheels almost exactly one month ago. Ever since then, he's been riding like crazy. (It helped apparently to get him a new bike, then add some technology to it - a digital speedometer, and then a kickstand.) That first week he took a 3 mile ride with Patti while she ran on the rail trail. This kid is going to be a very capable pedaler.

While preparing for and enjoying our actual ride, I couldn't help but reminisce of days long past (5 years ago) when Marissa and I went on her first trail ride. It was similar (lots of tiny-voice-talking about random things and nature) but unique in its own way. He was similarly nervous about being left behind, but also not afraid to get dirty and crashed a few times - and still thought it was fun. No tears. He just got back up and kept on pedaling. We walked a few hills up and down as needed. He never complained about any of it. Our little "Mr Technology" said it would be "cool if all the leaves of the plants were colored the same as the color of the trail on the map so you wouldn't get lost."

I still can't help but feel that this was a bigger moment for me, than it was for him. With Father's Day coming up, I hope he will remember our "man-time" spent together. Special little trips like this - there will be more, but the firsts are always the most memorable. I also couldn't help but hope mom was peeking in on us as we enjoyed nature and bikes together. She would have loved that.

Happy, happy day. Hot and sweaty, but happy.

Here is some GoPro footage of our ride too. Something I didn't have five years ago, unfortunately.

We got the little 16" Giant on the rack!

Gotta get the picture in front of the sign!

Time for a break! It was hot out.

Another break. Almost finished.

This sweaty kid had fun and said he'd like to come back someday.
I'm pretty sure we can do that.


A New Tradition

New traditions have to start somewhere I guess. Whether out of something glorious or something terrible.

Yesterday, mom would have been 70 years old. Last weekend we should have all been gathering to celebrate such a milestone with a surprise party of some sort. A room filled with laughter, hugs and kisses, cake and sugary pop (or in my case a cold glass of milk) and catching up with relatives and friends. So yesterday was tough, none of that happened. A "regular" day of work full of complaints, stress, drama and overall draining tiredness. I felt I didn't have time to even set aside to think about mom and I was a bit disappointed about that. I felt bad that life was just "continuing on".

However, a few weeks ago I decided that I'm going to start a new tradition - something to look forward to every spring. Something as constant as celebrating a birthday, but not a birthday. Just a dude and his bike, celebrating his love of cycling because of a mom who encouraged him to ride bikes and seek adventure and nature in the first place.

So going forward, every April 5, you will find this man riding his bike in honor of his mother's birthday. As long as I can lift a leg over the top tube, I'm riding. No matter the weather. And yesterday was the first challenge. It had rained all day, a downpour. Flood warnings were out. About two hours before I was to start riding home, the storm split in half. There was this sweet gap of no rain or clouds cutting right up through Grand Rapids. I was going to ride no matter what anyways, but it sure made it nice to not get wet until the last three out of twenty-four mile commute. I couldn't help but to talk to mom while riding, as this was the first time she got to see my route and what I experience on my rides home from work. I felt like a tour-guide for passengers on vacation.

So, the ride was good. My legs felt energetic, my back was great. I was just warm enough. It wasn't a fast ride, and the trail was bare except for a few dog-walkers - so a good ride to just think.

There are plenty of things I can do throughout the rest of the years to "honor" mom - whether it's picking up trash on the roadside, helping someone in need or lending an ear to someone that needs to get something off their chest...but this one day a year is now forever, just for me.


Missing her today

My mom passed away on Monday from a two year long battle with cancer. I'm really missing her today, then I stumbled on this...

This turned out to be our last ride together. She got on her bike after her diagnosis to go for ice cream with friends and also to fetch the mail down our lane. For Mother's Day 2016 I got her a new bike pump. We put air in her tires, she grabbed her bike out of my cautious hands and took off. She wouldn't let me help her. She was just gone. I miss that.

And now, she's really gone.