Consider supporting my Ride to Cure, which funds research and advocacy to improve lives for people with type one diabetes.
From about 2004 until years later, I wrote a lot about bicycling. Rather than flush it down the memory hole, I added it to this blog.
You will find, if you trouble yourself to sort through ~950 posts:
- Some useful posts. For example, cue sheets.
- Opinions. Lots of opinions. And do those really matter?
- My growing disinterest in group rides.
- Broken links and missing photos. Not sorry.
Was my last JDRF Ride to Cure really October 2019? It doesn’t feel like it was that long ago, but the COVID era has a way of warping our perception of time. And my photo album confirms that, yes, it really was.
From 2008 until 2019 I was immersed in the Ride to Cure in a lot of ways. I coached and filled several leadership roles in helping shape, promote, and execute the Ride program. Until I took a step back because it was important for other faces and voices to come to the fore, I was on stage at most events. Ride became part of my identity in a way that could be comfortable and confining. Even though my interests in JDRF expanded and I devoted an increasing amount of time to supporting the organization’s mission through marketing and volunteer activation, to many I was always “Coach.”
JDRF pressed pause on the in-person Rides during COVID, and the timing was a relief. Like everyone, I was going through a lot of personal and professional changes between 2019 and 2022. Trying to stay healthy, new jobs, divorce, dating again, focusing on being a single dad, boredom with cycling, volunteering in other areas of JDRF, and spending time on other interests gave me excuses to hang up my bike and step away from Ride for a while. And I gladly took the opportunity.
I didn’t plan to ride in 2023. I’d heard from several folks that the JDRF Ride had changed and was missing something. I wasn’t keen on cycling again. I didn’t want to step back into the persona of “Coach.” I have a job that keeps me busy and often on the road. I have good excuses.
Two things brought me back: My support for JDRF is stronger than ever, and I wanted to support the organization by fundraising. I have wonderful friends and family who answer the call when I ask for donations, and they came through for me this year (if that’s you — thank you!).
And, there’s a singularly wonderful person who I met through the Ride, years ago, and who I’ve been friends with since. That friendship led to a series of adventures together, and to more. When she mentioned that she and her son, who I also met at his first Ride to Cure, would be riding for their tenth time, I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend a weekend and signed up.
The same, but different
Last weekend we rode at the JDRF Ride to Cure in La Crosse, Wisconsin. It was and wasn’t the same Ride I was used to. And that’s okay.
It was (mostly) the same course, the same host facility (La Crosse Center), the same Wisconsin August weather (hot-ish, muggy), the same beer on tap everywhere (New Glarus Spotted Cow, for sure), the same places I’d frequented at Rides before (the Bodega and Turtle Stack, to name two), and many of the same people I hadn’t seen in person since 2019.
But 2019 was a different lifetime for me, and being back felt different. Believe me, I was ready for a different kind of experience.
I was a rider and not a coach, and came to the Ride with my own goals. There were two: Have fun, and ride a few miles.
I had more time to share with the people I wanted to share it with. I wasn’t attending coaches’ meetings, preparing for nightly programs, leading seminars, or jumping from conversation to conversation. Because we weren’t staying at the host hotel, I could be as immersed, or not, in Ride as I wanted to be.
I stopped into the old places (a beer at Bodega, and a quick hello at Turtle Stack), and spent more time getting to know new places. That included a couple of lunches at Pato Azul (duck tacos! margaritas!), walking through Riverside International Friendship Gardens, and browsing the stacks at the wonderful Pearl Street Books. As much as I loved my years of coaching and total Ride immersion, the downtime and slower pace were magical.
Ride Day felt much the same, but with a few twists: Early breakfast, move to the starting line, pick a starting wave (we went to the back so we could be slowpokes), then roll. Some changes to the program caused grumbling and made the timing seem off (“Do we go now or what?”), but eventually we inched forward, clipped in, and rode toward the bridge across the Mississippi River. That was the first time I’d been on a bike (in this case, not my bike but a sweet borrowed Kona gravel bike) outside in almost three years, but you know the saying and quickly it felt perfectly natural. Team-Jill-Connor-Debbie-Ian enjoyed an easy ride to rest stop one, voted for tacos, and turned back. We were done by 10 am, after 30-ish miles, and before the heat and wind kicked in.
I didn’t realize it until I showed up, but after a break from Ride, this was the exact Ride experience I needed. I loved it. We (Jill and me, Connor’s a maybe) are already talking about where we’ll ride next year.
I can’t wait.
I developed a roll of Kodak TriX that had been in my Minox 35GT for several years. This was taken in 2015 along Lake Champlain during a two-day bike ride from Burlington, VT to Alburgh, VT and back.
Day one was a straight shot up the greenway out of Burlington, across the bike ferry to South Hero Island, then along the lake to the Ransom Bay Inn in Alburgh.
Day two included a lovely detour onto Isle la Motte. I rolled back into Burlington just as heavy rain began falling.
Earlier this year I collaborated with JDRF to create a video that highlights the type of people who ride and fundraise to support research into treating, preventing and curing type one diabetes. The video has been playing at JDRF Ride events this year, and I’m now able to make it available online.
The first JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes of 2019 is in the books. 650 riders in La Crosse, WI raised more than $2.1 million for type on diabetes research. Here’s the start of our day.
Masiguy is expressing what a lot of cycling fans are feeling today. Vinokourov’s positive test was fodder for conversation at the Farmers Market tonight. I got the sense that even the folks who’ve been holding out hope that this might be a clean Tour are seeing the light.
If you love cycling, you choose to love it in spite of the doping scandals. Doping has been part of the sport since competitive cycling’s birth, and although the drugs of choice change with the decades, doping’s presence is a constant. So you either embrace cycling for all the right reasons — because it reflects our capacity to do seemingly amazing things under the harshest conditions — or you can turn your back on it.
Does that mean I accept doping? Nope. I’d like to see it eliminated, though I doubt it will be. But I don’t see it as the defining characteristic of cycling, and I don’t think I’m alone. The images of Hampsten, in the snow, on the Gavia, or Lemond charging down the Champs d’Elysee ultimately say more to many of us than the notion that some of the most stirring performances are drug enhanced. The reality of doping makes me more than a little sad, but it’s an idea that — for me at least — can coexist with cycling’s ideals.
Tonight, between conversations about Vino we went for a fast ride. It wasn’t my best night, but for a while I was full of energy and riding hard. It was the kind of experience that defines cycling for me. And it has nothing to do with what’s happening thousands of miles away in France.
So far I’ve been fortunate to escape any cycling injuries, but last night my lucky streak ran out. About three miles from the end of an informal show and go ride, one of the guys in our paceline of five dropped off the road, lost control, tried to save it and then all hell broke loose.
I remember thinking this wasn’t going to end well. My next thoughts were that I was on the ground, I couldn’t figure out why, and I knew that I was hurting. Fast forward through all the boring details of getting to the emergency room — the bottom line is that I have a pelvic fracture and contused ribs. That means no more riding for 6-8 weeks.
I hit my head hard, and have a crushed helmet to show for it. And the bike? I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet.
Tonight the Roaming Ride group knocked off a 29 mile loop starting at the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market. I billed it as a relatively easy ride — around 17 mph — but it turned out to be quite a bit faster. We had the largest group yet this year (about 30 riders), and some folks liked the fast pace while others weren’t so pleased. The recurring issues of big groups, disagreements over the right pace (Fwiw, the right pace is whatever I say it is. My ride, my rules.), and so forth are getting in the way of my enjoying this ride. More on this later.
The Tour to Tanglewood is up next. 100 miles on Saturday, about half that on Sunday. And it looks like the weather’s going to be perfect.