In preparing for the Tri-State Tour Century Ride I established three priorities:
- Don’t ride alone. The potential for getting lost in Chicago was high and highly undesirable.
- Pace yourself. 100 miles is farther than I’ve ever ridden and I don’t want to waste myself early.
- Shut off the GPS and get lots of pictures. There is no way the battery in my phone was going to last the entire day running GPS and Mapping My Ride. So, forego the detailed analysis of the ride and get plenty of pictures. The added bonus of pictures is that they force you to look around and (theoretically) enjoy the ride.
So, how did I do? Let’s find out shall we?
Don’t Ride Alone.
Everybody getting geared up for the big ride.
I went into this ride absolutely clueless. I had a vague notion of the path of travel from the 3+ years we had lived in Lake County, North of Chicago, but had no idea now many riders would be going, or who any of them might be. I knew I didn’t want to get into a situation where I would be lost and alone somewhere in Chicago. Maps and notes were provided with an emergency phone number, so the organizers were aware of my concerns. I suppose more than anything I wanted to be sure to meet some new people. You know me…I need people.
It turned out that 37 of us were registered for the ride. Hmmm…an odd number. Guess who was the only “single” riding out with the group? No problem. I enjoy a good social challenge. I quickly fell in with the middle of the pack and met Andrew, a police office with the Hammond department and we easily rode together the 18 miles to the first SAG stop in downtown Chicago. We joined up with Aaron, Tom, Eric, and another gentleman as we rode the next 21 miles through the North side into the suburbs. 39 miles in and I was feeling great! As a group we were keeping a good pace, chatting about anything and everything, learning one another’s story, and getting it done! We were all really enjoying the ride.
Cannot believe I rode at least 6 miles on this tire.
About 6 miles out of SAG stop #2 we were stopped at a light and Andrew tells me to check out my rear tire. It was all bubbled up and about to let go! We all checked it out and found three locations were the the rubber and threads had been compromised. I was out of the group. They offered to stay with me until the mobile SAG could get there to replace the tire, but when we learned it was “going to be a while” before the rescuers came, I thanked them all for a great ride and sent them on their way. We exchanged numbers to see if I might catch up to them, but that was my day for riding with this great group of guys. The rest of my day was spent alone, watching closely for the road markers and orange streamers that marked the remaining 40 miles to Kenosha, WI. Thank God for the paper maps and keynotes because on two occasions I was off course in totally unknown territory. Both times I got back on track with minimal loss of time and energy.
My Pit Crew at work (Rob Layton)
At this point I want to thank Rob Layton, Director of Bicycle Illinois and the Tri-state Tour. Not only did he provide turn-by-turn notes and maps of 100 miles through three states and across urban streets, bike trails, and rural roads, but he checked every inch up to the day before the ride and provided amazing support. Every SAG had plenty of food, bathrooms and supportive volunteers. When I called the emergency number and gave my location Rob knew exactly where I was and came right away. He even replaced the tire for me, allowing me some recovery time. Rob was DEFINITELY faster in changing the tire then I would have been. Thanks Rob. Awesome job and fantastic ride!
I was doing really well until the tire change. The morning weather was spectacular – about 65 degrees when we set off. We had started pretty easily through the potholes and traffic lights of Hammond and the South side. The Lake Shore pedestrian trail was a mess with traffic that kept our pace under 15 mph most of the time. City riding on the North side was less congested, but traffic lights kept us from getting too crazy. All this was good in the fact that it kept energy consumption to a minimum. As I said, the first 45 miles were really pretty easy. I’m not sure I had even broken a sweat!
However, after my 40 minutes on the side of the road I knew the sweepers couldn’t be far behind me and I didn’t want to ride into the finish with them as my companions. More than that, I wanted to catch up to my boys and see if we couldn’t finish this thing together. So I set off at a pretty good clip. I have no idea what my speeds were (I was saving phone battery, so no MapMyRide on this day), but I was on a bike trail so I kicked it up a few notches and was soon in my steady breathing pattern for a good 18 mph or so (which is a pretty good cruising speed for me). I short-stopped SAG #3 and cruised into SAG #4 feeling a bit tired, but no aches or pains and my hydration was good.
In the end I missed the boys in Kenosha, WI, by less than 10 minutes and that felt great! I had made up about 30 minutes over the course of about 40 miles. The guys weren’t exactly crushing it, but it was good to know that my efforts had caught me up. At least the sweepers were never seen and I do know that several people were pulling in behind me as I was leaving each SAG.
Of course, there are only 85 miles between Hammond, IN, and Kenosha, WI. My Century ride was not yet accomplished. The Century demanded an additional loop through town to hit the mark. As I pulled in to SAG #5 to the applause of my wife (Thank you Mary) and an unknown lady she had met while waiting for me, I saw that Eric the Young was still there! As was one of my guys. All congratulated me on (almost) catching them! But my ride wasn’t over and I loudly asked, “Who wants to finish the Century?” Eric the Young promptly stepped up to the challenge as well as two new friends, Lyndsey and Dierdre.
Meeting people is always a highlight of any Event Ride. Here I am with Lyndsy, Dierdra, and Eric “The Young” on the Lakefront in Kenosha, WI. At this point we are about 3 miles short of the first Century Ride for each of us.
The pace was easy as we made our priority finishing this Century Ride. It was a first for all of us and from the first pedal strokes we all knew…we were in this thing together. What a great privilege to finish the day with these new friends. We made our way north from the High School, then West to the stoney shore of Lake Michigan. We stopped to look around and get a few pictures, then made our way south through town, admiring the lake shore homes and scenery of rural Wisconsin. In the end we celebrated our Rite of Passage together! It was awesome to know that although I may never meet these great people again, we will always share this one moment. What an awesome…awesome thing!
Shut off the GPS and Get Lots of Pictures
Well… I DID shut off the GPS, and amazingly my phone battery lasted all day! Unfortunately I didn’t get a lot of pictures. The ride didn’t really allow for it. The roads South of Chicago were madly in need of repair. They were terribly and to let go of the handlebars for even a moment was sheer craziness. Downtown was far too busy for pictures, and by the time we got to Lake County I was hustling to catch up.
I DO have to tell you about one picture I missed, but will never forget. When rounding a bend on the southern end of the Lake Shore path (right about the area of The Loop) we ran into and through the Chicago “Biggest Loser” 15k walk/run. There were THOUSANDS of bright orange t-shirts, filled with people who were/were NOT happy to be there, and were/were NOT happy that four guys on bicycles were riding into their sea of humanity. It was CRAZY, and there was NO WAY I was gonna get ANY pictures of this moment! HA!
What few pictures I did get I will share with you though…
Pre-ride meeting where I realized I was the only single rider.
St. Michael’s Catholic Church, where Andrew and his family attend.
First Glimpse of Downtown Chicago, “My Kinda Town!
SAG #1 in Downtown on the Marina.
All were in awe at the simplicity and ingenuity embodied in the Peanut Butter Gun…
The Marina. People seemed a bit curious about us.
Beautiful paved trails in Lake County, IL.
Feeling good at Sag #2!
The path into Wisconsin…FINALLY!
I asked if anyone wanted to finish the Century and heard, “We do!” This is where I first met Lyndsey (front) and Dierdre (back)!
Here we are, hitting the 100 mile marker!
It was truly a great day in so many ways and affirms my commitment to cycling, not just as a means toward fitness, but as a social device. It really is a great way to meet new and fascinating people. People you may never see again, but with whom you share something special; a moment, a passion, a way of life. I love this, and I will forever…
Enjoy the Ride!