Because I thought this is what my therapist meant when she said “get a hobby,” every year I now train for a 100-mile bike ride in September. As part of the training plan this year, I signed up for a series of organized bike rides throughout the summer. These bike rides come with roadside support, fully-stocked rest stops, and an ugly t-shirt to commemorate the ride.
This past Saturday, the training ride was a 63-mile charity event for which I signed up namely because the registration fee was cheap. #foreshadowing.
first second mistake was in thinking a “Stockton University charity bike ride” would leave from Stockton, New Jersey – about an hour southwest of my house. Nay. Stockton University is in Galloway Township, New Jersey (two things I’d never heard of!), a.k.a. exit 44 on the Garden State Parkway, a.k.a. Might As Well Be Cuba.
But, at least it was going to be a leisurely, social ride on a beautiful day – 75 degrees and sunny. “The best day of the weekend!” forecasters declared.
That morning, my alarm went off at 4:45am and as I headed out the door, a blast of cold air took my breath away. “Geesh!” I thought, “It’s June 3rd! Well, I’m sure it’ll warm up in a bit!” I grabbed my coat, picked up my sister, and we headed for the Parkway.
A few minutes in, raindrops hit the windshield.
“No matter!” I said. I checked my trusty weather app and it looked like it would be just fine by the time we arrived in
Cuba Galloway Township.
When we parked at Stockton University (seriously, is this like Trump University? Have you ever heard of this place?), we realized we were going to have to wear our winter cycling gear because it was still 55 degrees.
As the clock rounded 8:00am, the official start time, an overly cheerful man got on the microphone by the registration tent.
“We just have a few announcements to make…”
My sister shot me a look. We hopped from foot to foot trying to keep warm, and forty-seven announcements later, we finally took off with a huge pack of men going 21 MPH. In the rain. We got sand in our teeth and dirty water splashed in our faces as we pedaled at full race speed.
By mile 30, we were starving, soaking wet, and one meltdown in (mine. I am not proud). That’s when our friend, Jen, got a flat tire. Despite being experienced tire-changers, we managed to use up all of our supplies without actually fixing the tire, and were forced to call the roadside support number given to us during registration.
A girl answered and said, “What? You’re where? Your bike has a flat tire? Hang on, let me see if I can find someone. …No, you have to call a different number. Do you have a pen and paper?”
“At least the fully loaded rest stop is only two miles away!” we said a half an hour later when we were back on the road. “Mmm, what do you think they’ll have? Bagels? Peanut butter & jelly?? Cookies???”
By then, our mouths were watering more than the skies overhead. We pulled up to the rest stop and looked around. There were three port-a-potties and one square folding table holding water, four gel packs, and half a dozen green bananas.
We shared the fig bar I had stuffed into my saddle bag and readied ourselves for another cocktail of gravel and tears (did I mention it was an out and back, all flat ride, meaning you never stopped pedaling, mostly into headwind?). Before we made it two blocks from the rest stop, we heard a hiss coming from my sister’s front tire.
As I turned to head back to her, I started tipping to the left. My left foot was clipped into my bike pedal, meaning there was only one thing that could happen next.
Splayed on the road and hovering close to the double yellow line, I unclipped my foot, leaving my shoe dangling from the pedal.
“It’s not that I’m not helping you!” Jen shouted from a few feet away. “I’m just stopping traffic!”
I hobbled over to the curb, avoiding eye contact with the line of cars inching past us.
Four years later, we finally finished. Our prize?
A two and a half hour car ride home.