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Saturday morning dawns beautifully clear. The heat/humidity wave has broken in the night, and we are breathing freely for the first time in days.
Registration takes place in a village park, on a few picnic tables. An assortment of cyclists - young, old, middle-aged, some families with small children - is gathering to hand in checks, sign waivers, and choose from the assortment of free goodies available.
Hanging overhead is a sample jersey designed by ride organizer Kay Lum in honour of her mother and sister who battled breast cancer. (You can read the story of the jersey here.)
The flowery seat cover goes well with my rather hippie-looking backup water bottle cover....
There are four courses available on today's ride: 10, 30, 40, or 60 miles. I have decided to do the 40 as I am still feeling lazy after Bike MS. Riders can leave whenever they like, so Tallulah and I set out as soon as we've registered.
Tallulah the Turtle is sporting a new lime-green helmet (having lost her other helmet on a fast descent in Colorado)....
For the first several miles we have the road to ourselves. I snap some orange milkweed:
(After last week's epic wildflower post I've decided the only wildflower photos I'll take today are of ones I missed last week.)
A very nice birdhouse:
Finally I hear voices behind, and am passed by a group of three. What fun to have other cyclists around!
Soon after this I am caught by a gal of about my own age. We chat and ride, and decide to stick together as our paces are nearly identical. (I find out later that her name is Kathy, and she's from south of Madison.)
One of many handsome barns we will pass today:
A sign on the road...
..and a happy face banner...
...signal the first rest stop.
Breakfast burritos are being served, and I enjoy one with a side of sausage and bacon. Protein is good fuel. :)
On to the second stage of our ride. The morning continues lovely and dry, and the road is filling up with cyclists (many of them faster than I):
On this leg we are joined by Don, who rides an older mountain bike. Don tells us that he took up cycling after heart surgery last year, and has lost 80 pounds in 9 months(!). He's a friendly soul, who asks everyone he meets, "What's your story?"
The course is hillier than anyone expected. Here are Kathy and Don following me up a hill:
(Later in the day I will be following Kathy up the hills as she turns out to have more long-range climbing stamina.)
Another imposing barn:
The next barn has an elegant lamp:
Cheerful words (like "Nice view ahead!") and happy faces in the road encourage us on our way:
It is a nice view:
At the bottom of the hill is Rest Stop #2. A table with umbrella, two coolers (one water, one Gatorade), a few snacks, and some sunscreen. What more do you need?
At this point the routes diverge: 40-milers turn right, and 60-milers turn left. For the last few miles, Kathy has been talking of doing the 60 instead of the 40. "I'll do it with you, if you really want to," I offer. So we turn left and head out on the next leg of the journey.
We cross a railroad bridge. "Watch for Trolls" is the message here:
No trolls that I can see - only an empty track. (But perhaps the trolls are staying hidden.)
The day begins to heat up. Rest Stop #3 offers some welcome shade...
...and also a Mexican restaurant, where some of the riders have gone in to imbibe margaritas. (I stay outside and drink Gatorade.) :)
More hills follow - some of them surprisingly steep. But every uphill has its compensating downhill:
Some lovely barns ahead:
And a new barn quilt for my photo collection:
We're riding through Amish country now. We pass a farmhouse where three small Amish girls, barefoot and adorable, stand in the yard and wave to the passing cyclists. (How I wish I could take their photo.)
Along the way is a glorious stretch of wild chicory. I MUST get off the bike for pictures:
Kathy turns back to see what's keeping me. I tell her that this is my favourite wildflower, and she asks me if I'm familiar with prairie flowers. (I admit to knowing some of them.) She leads hikes for the Sierra Club, including prairie hikes, but wishes she knew more about the flora.
With 2 rest stops to go, I am running out of steam for photos. (A saddle sore has reared its head and my right foot is going numb on the bottom - which was the precursor to my tendon troubles last month. I begin to wonder if there's a pinched nerve somewhere.)
We take a welcome break at Rest Stop #4 (an Amish country store).
"Doing okay, Tallulah?" I ask.
"Fine," she replies.
"How's the new helmet?" I inquire.
"It's good," she says.
"You've been awfully quiet today," I say.
"Because I couldn't get a word in edgewise," she responds. "You and that pink-jersey gal have been doing all the talking."
(Poor Tallulah - she's used to having me to herself.)
We pass a friendly horse tethered on the verge:
(And this turns out to be my last photo.)
We finish well, and I have time to run home for a quick shower before coming back to enjoy the wonderful lunch provided for the riders. (Unfortunately I leave my camera behind so don't get any pictures of the cheerful gathering. But the burgers are outstanding.)
A good ride in good company for a good cause. Also some surprisingly stiff little climbs, and some beautiful roads I'd never seen before. I will go back and ride some of them again this summer.
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Many thanks to the sponsors and organizers of this great local ride!
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