|Jon and Al lead two Canadian riders on the Sea Way Train in New York State|
|Al and myself on day one. It's starting to get hot.|
This ride, indented to be the pinnacle of my 2010 season, has been on my calendar for about nine months. I registered at the first call, along with about fifty other riders. My friends Paul and Jon signed up as well. Unfortunately, as the date drew near Paul needed to withdraw with a stomach ailment. Although, he would be missed Jon was still intending to go, so I would have company. In addition, Jon had completed the route the prior year when it was run by the Ontario Randonneurs. His experience with the ride would prove invaluable.
The event was being organized as an unsupported ride. This meant that amenities, such as drop bags, or provided food and sleep stops would not be part of the organizers responsibility. This left the onus on the riders to figure out where to eat, sleep and to manage all their own gear. The extra planning was substantial. I did not feel that I could carry everything I needed on my bike for three days, despite equipping my Salsa Casserole with a handlebar bag and rear pack. My wife Lucy would be driving up to the ride start with me, then going off to do some sightseeing in the Niagara Falls area. I convinced her to visit Toronto as well and stay overnight while we would be passing though there. She would stay at the hotel with me on night two of the ride having any gear I needed with her. As for the hotel on night one I sent a package from home with the things I would need. A return envelope inside the package would allow me to ship anything I needed to get rid of back home. The plan was workable but very burdensome to organize. I envied my friend Jon who just decided to travel light, taking only what he could fit in the rear pack of his bike. Although, I did convince him to give a small overnight bag to Lucy to be taken to the hotel on night two.
With the logistics handled I was then able to concentrate on the ride itself. The start was in Ontario NY, which is a small town on the lake just east of Rochester. A very civilized start time was scheduled for 6am. We stayed over the night before at a hotel in the neighboring town of Webster. Jon drove up separately from New York City and met us at the hotel in time for dinner. We ate at a very nice Italian place a few minutes from the hotel, seeing other Randonneurs there as well. After dinner we drove over to Abbot's for frozen custard. After the refreshing respite we returned to the hotel for a good nights sleep. Jon would drive me to the start in the morning allowing Lucy to sleep in. After a somewhat restless night of sleep I meet Jon at 5am for the drive to the start. The location of which is at the RBA's home on the lake. A breakfast of bagels and coffee was promised starting at 5am. We would be in time to partake in a little food before starting out. Much to our surprise when we arrived we were greeted by a lady bag piper with full outfit. Quite unique to say the least. With breakfast in hand we moved to the road for the start.
|Organizer Pete Duesel ready at the start|
Day # 1 Lap of Lake
After a few last minute announcements from RBA Pete Duesel the group was off at 6am sharp. There were 50 starters in all. Several I recognized from our New Jersey brevet series. For most of the journey along the New York side of the lake we would follow what is known as the Sea Way Trail. The trail is actually just roads that are as close to the lake as possible offering many nice views along the way. The great thing is there are signs that clearly mark the way, so for much of the ride the cue sheet isn't needed. However there are a couple of spots where we use different roads so one must pay some heed to the sheet. The trail starts out as rolling terrain. Nothing particularly steep but fairly constant. We are rolling along with many other riders at about 20mph with a light tailwind. I am noticing that it is on the humid side and temperature predictions are for the mid-nineties. The thought of a hot humid day puts a bit of a knot in my stomach. We are scheduled for 400k today before taking a sleep break in Belleville, Ontario. After a few miles I come across a rider I've seen before. Al, from the DC area, recognized me from the 600k I attempted there back in early June. We both dropped out from the heat at around the same spot. He rides along with us as we chat about all things Rando. Soon we reach the first control at Oswego, NY stopping for a quick break. Oswego is about 60 miles into the ride. So far we've made good time to here. We are ahead of the time I anticipated. This was a good thing because it was getting quite hot now, surely we were going to slow down at some point.
|Jon and Al cycle by Lake near Cape Vincent, NY|
After a brief rest we continue on towards the next control which is Cape Vincent, NY. Al has decided to continue riding with us. It is really heating up now. I had placed a small thermometer on my bike, it was registering well over 100 degrees. This was not the actual air temperature but rather the effect of the intense sunshine beating on it. The sun was also beating on the top of our heads with the same intensity. I made a note to use the ice sock I had packed at the next opportunity. There is no longer any doubt this was to be a long hot day. The terrain of the Sea Way trail remained about the same if not maybe a bit flatter on this 75 mile stretch. We manage a nice pace as the tail wind is still helping us. About half way to the control we spot a deli/grocery and decide to replenish our water supply. There are a lot of other riders stopped here and everyone appears to be suffering from the heat. I buy water and a bag of ice. The time has come for the magic of the ice sock. We spend about twenty minutes icing up water bottles, camelbaks and socks. We continue on with the ice cold socks around our necks. We get back into a good rhythm making good time despite the heat. My thermometer climbs to the ridiculous temperature of 111 degrees which is obviously somewhat hotter than the real temperature. I take a photo of it just the same as I've never seen it this high. We arrive at the control smoothly and in good time. There is a support vehicle there provided by the ride organizer with water. The driver Marcia reports several DNF's already. This does little to buoy my spirits. After refreshing water, sustained energy and replacing the ice filled sock around my neck we are off to the next stop - Canada.
|Like us my bike thermometer is getting way too much sun.|
|Jon takes our photo on the Thousand Islands Bridge. Notice the narrow walkway.|
|Jon cycling on Canadian side of the lake on hot day #1. The advertised boat ride looks inviting.|
Day # 2 Lap of Lake
It's a warm overcast morning as we depart from the hotel 1/2 hour behind schedule at 8:30am. The weather forecast called for showers for at least part of the day. The gathering clouds would seem to bear that out. As we pedal through the town of Belleville a female rider appears on my left. In talking to her I discover her name is Michelle, from Rochester, NY. She is riding the LOL. having slept at the town of Napanee 25 miles back. Her three riding companions have all dropped out. We invite her to ride with us and she falls into step seemingly happy for the company. Our next control is in Bowmanville 75 miles away. We make it about half way before the rain begins. It's gentle at first but soon it's really pouring. We arrive at the town of Bowmanville totally soaked. Upon locating a restaurant with some bikes parked outside we decide to eat there. We enter the establishment dripping wet. The staff couldn't have been any nicer. They showed us to a table and immediately brought us towels to dry off with. After enjoying a nice lunch our waitress refreshed our water bottles with ice water. It was a great stop. Upon leaving the rain had stopped, at least for the time being Our next stop was Stouffille about forty miles away. The terrain is a bit more hilly today as we move away from the lake shore for the purpose of avoiding the city of Toronto. I welcome the hills which are not really too challenging, even though they slow our progress some. We have two flats on this stretch, one for me and one for Al causing us to lose some more time. When we arrive in Stouffile we are behind schedule. Peter the RBA is there along with Marcia and the support vehicle. We fill our water bottles from the vehicle and have a bite to eat at the restaurant. After a quick meal we depart for the next stop in Erin Mills a suburb of Toronto. We are outfitted with night gear since it will get dark along the way. There is more climbing on this section as well. It is pleasant enough but it does slow us up some. Plan #B called for us to arrive at the control around mid-night. It appears we would not make it on time. We arrive at the Tim Horton's at around 2:30am in desperate need of some refreshment. Coffee and muffins go down smoothly for me. With only 21 miles left to the sleep stop I feel confident we will make it in.
|Endless rolling hills in Canada|
Day #3 Lap of Lake
|Climbing the escarpment to the top of the falls.|
|A passing tourist takes a photo of the four of us in front of Niagara Falls (Canada)|
Niagara Falls New York is not nearly as nice as the Canadian side. In fact the surrounding area is quite seedy. We decide to ride right through until we find a more desirable location for lunch. We are directed back to the Seaway Trail which leads us to a small town with a Subway and convenience market suitable for our purposes. After a rather long break we get back on the road following the Seaway Trail. We are now in orchard country passing by countless trees of peaches and other fruits. The tail wind allows us to keep a steady pace with minimal effort. With over 500 miles in my legs I'm pleased and surprised to be able to ride so efficiently. Soon we find ourselves at the control in Olcott, NY. Many riders are here some coming out of restaurants having enjoyed a nice meal. We opt to refresh water and get back on the road. Our target finish time, according to plan # B, is mid-night. It's clear to me this is no longer possible, but I am in favor of mitigating further time erosion.
|Chowing down at Charlotte close to the end. I'm using my I-pod to stay awake|
Much of the remaining route is through the city of Rochester. Quite the party town it would appear as every car passing us by has someone yell out the window. Mostly those doing the yelling are voicing some form of objection to our mode of transportation. I simply put the blinders on ignoring any and all verbal assaults. Michelle who is from the town comes alive in the hilly terrain. It is all I can do to stay with her. After a fast descent Al has a flat on the rear. We pull into a bar parking lot for the repair. Peter and Marcia miraculously appear with the support wagon. A bar patron enjoying some fresh air outside the bar asks about 100 questions. Al and I focus on the repair while all the others deal with him. With the tire repair complete we resume riding through the city following the Sea Way Trail to Pete's house. The speed of our little group increases as we get closer. The last mile seems to be an all out sprint to the finish. We reach the driveway to the house, which is gravel, and gently ride in to the sound of applause. Lucy is there waiting for me. It is about 2:30am, more than two hours beyond the predicted finish of Plan #B. Truth is...I really don't care. I'm happy to be done. Final result: 68hrs 32min.
|Jon and I at the finish. I can't believe we're really done.|
I was too tired at the finish to know exactly what I was feeling. After a number of hours of quality sleep I awoke to sheer elation. The memory of the last three days was etched in my mind. As thoughts of the ride popped into my head I couldn't help but smile. To say it was fun would be putting it mildly. The ride was a total blast. I would do it again in a heartbeat. There was just the right mixture of challenge and adventure. We caught it lucky that there were not dire winds, as was the case in prior years. The climbing was on the mild side. Most of it being concentrated on the second day. Despite the hot first day, and the rainy spell the next day, the weather was manageable. The organizer and crew did an admirable job. We were promised no support at all, yet Peter and Marcia seemed to be everywhere providing whatever was needed, for which I am grateful.
A special thanks to my buddy Jon for all his knowledge, experience, encouragement and companionship during those three days. Also, thanks to Al and Michelle for the many hours of lighthearted conversation and humor. The time passed quickly thanks to the excellent company.