I have been heard to say that, “The ride has to have a story to be a good ride.”. Based on that criteria, and the number of stories that I heard about the 400K, last week’s 400K must have been a great ride. As a former English and History teacher, I love stories. There are stories about sights, suffering, fatigue, as well as stories about success and gratitude. There is great knowledge and experience to be found post ride sitting around together sharing stories.
Saturday stories started early in the ride. In order to convince riders to pedal on and complete a ride, I quote a good friend and former randonneur, who always told me to ask myself, “Can I make it to the next control”. I have often done so when the mental challenge of what we do kicks in. The reasoning follows along these lines. I can get refreshment, get off the bike, just sit down, and attempt to recover and refuel before going on. I tell my volunteers to always have a smile and encouragement when they man a whole control from open to close. It helps the riders to see a friendly face, and perhaps receive some minor or major SAG at the control. Plus, we know where you are. Dave Miller and my wife Debi spent an awful lot of hours waiting for ALL the riders to come through. Of course, they end up with stories to share too.
After Saturday’s 400K, I may have to modify the question to “Can your bike make it to the first control?” Sam Carleton called me while I was sitting out at the first control, and said he was a few miles out, but that he had a mechanical issue. I asked, “Can you make it to the control?” He informed me that the rear derailure had fallen off of his bike. He said he could start walking to the control. This created a few questions that needed to be answered. A local was willing to give Sam a ride to the control. Was he going to make an emergency repair and continue on? How was he going to get back to the start? A few different answers could present themselves. Did he have the proper tools to make a repair, did he have cash on him if he needed it, did his loved ones know where he was, were his friends or loved ones able to SAG him to the finish? The emergency repair could have been to break the chain, shorten it, put it on one cog in the back and still have two gears available using the chainrings. He could ride back to the start or continue on the 400K. Some of the problems solved. At the end of the ride there would have been other suggestions I’m sure. Things can happen, so it is good to have a plan just in case. We spend big bucks on our equipment. We modify it ourselves, or ask our LBS to do it for us. Inspect and repair your vehicle periodically and some problems can be minimized. Let objective eyes help.
The 400K took its toll on bodies too. There were one, maybe two, crashes that I heard about. The riders assessed themselves in both cases, and continued on with some road rash, but no broken bones. Both riders fell victim to “Buggy Ruts”. We were in Amish Country, there were plenty of sights. Hugh Walsh, whom I have rarely seen without a smile on his face, had some problems too. He did not have his “Sunshine Smiley Face” during the 400K. When riders get to the start of the brevet, their equipment has to be ready, their body and mind have to be ready, and they have to check in at all the controls. I need to know who is on the ride, and who has abandoned. Communication is of utmost importance, and that can include your reflective gear as well as your loved ones.
The best story from the 400K was a personal one. Paul Smith ( RUSA # 95) rode the ride. He knew about Debi’s date bars, for he had ridden brevets out of Gainesville, Florida sponsored by Jim Wilson and his wife Meegan. Jim would not send Meegan North, so I asked for her recipe. Paul recalled a brevet from years ago where there were several riders from Ohio who participated. I said that was “The Davey Train”; David Roderick, David Buzzee (RUSA #14), David Miller, David Knight, and Peter Hoffman. We named Peter an unofficial “Dave” for the weekend. It was nice to share stories with Paul.
Randonneurs are supposed to be self-sufficient and, for the most part, we are, but it does not hurt to help each other out. We had volunteers from Ohio put this all together, we had first aid offered from Indiana, and we had lots of stories to share. We have to take care of each other. I heard on the news this week in relation to the death toll on Everest so far this year, “You can’t count on someone else looking out for you.” There is a fine line in randonneuring. That is what makes it fun and challenging. The Ohio 400K lived up to its reputation as being the toughest distance to ride. Riders and machines were tested, bruised, and broken. If you want to share some of your stories, pictures, or memories of the 400K and other brevets, Ted Meisky has made it possible for you to share on our website. Maybe somebody will learn from your story and know what to do if something happens to them. Then they will have a story.