When a bad idea is really a great idea
I am not really sure how this whole thing started. My best understanding, or at least the story I made up in my head is Sheldon and Brett were having some sordid conversation in some sketchy location and Sheldon said he wanted to do a double century, Brett’s response was “If I am going to do that, I might as well ride the 240 miles from Lansing to the Mackinac Bridge”. Sheldon, not to be out done then said “If I am going to ride to the bridge I am going to start at the boarder”. In my mind I like to picture this as some slightly illegal or rather questionable business deal going down in a dark alley; and the first Bad Decision Ride was born.
From here things become a little more clear (and less made up). Sheldon posted a map with a route covering about 330 miles and asked if anyone was interested in making the trek. I immediately jump in even though the suggested date was for some time in November. What surprised me was a total of six people said they were interested in this really bad idea and what was even better, three people volunteered to drive SAG (Support And Gear) for us and meet us along the way (two were planning to ride parts of the route). Quite possibly the best surprise came next when the Capital Area Cycling Club (http://www.tnrcycling.org/) volunteered to rent a van for our SAG-mobile; this thing was starting to look all professional and official. Then it got even better when Gary offered up the use of his motorhome (a.k.a. the bus) a 34-foot behemoth with a shower; now we were all in heaven; after the ride we could get clean instead of driving home in our own filth.
The two pieces of this ride I can take credit for are suggesting we do this a bit earlier since November in Michigan can bring anything from 50’s and sun to snowstorms. So the date was moved to Saturday, October 13th. The second was suggesting we move the start of the route to where Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio meet so we could hit three states, not just one. I then set about designing a route. I will not drone on about the details but just know I spent countless time staring at the satellite view in Google Maps to be sure the route stayed on paved roads and fighting with RidewithGPS to avoid a crushed limestone bike path near Cheboygan. (https://ridewithgps.com/routes/28690178)
|Me and Sheldon ready to set off|
Let’s fast forward a bit; after the change of date two riders were no longer able to make it because of pre-existing plans. One of them said something about having to work, we told him to call in sick, he said no (you know who you are). The week of the ride one more rider had to back out and one of the SAG crew was no longer able to make it. We still had a crew of three riders for the entire ride (Brett, Sheldon and myself), one full time SAG driver and master chef (Gary), and one person who planned to ride a leg of the route during the day and help out with SAG during the night (Robin).
We all met up the Friday evening before the ride to put our extra gear on the bus so it would be ready for us during the day and to go over a few final details (so many details). We talked about our SAG stops that were roughly every 50-60 miles, fueling plans, and goals for pace. We were set and nearly as giddy as schools kids before Christmas.
|The Three - let the journey begin|
We met at Brett’s house at 5:00am Saturday morning for the hour and a half drive to the start of our ride, loaded up our bikes and enough fuel and gear to get us to the first SAG stop and were on our way. This was really happening, 3 guys, 3 states, 333 miles. The weather forecast for the start of the ride was 38 degrees and warming as the sun came up so we all dressed for low 40s knowing we would be a little chilly for the first hour. We were all willing to deal with being chilly so we did not sweat to death before we really got in to it. Surprise, surprise, the weather was only a little bit wrong and we saw temps as low as 28, instead of being a little bit chilly, my hands were freezing. What made up for this was the beautiful sunrise as we rode through some nice small rolling hills around fields, small lakes and ponds.
We had our only mechanical issue of the day around mile 44 when Brett’s front tire went soft. He took out the tube and was not able to find anything that punctured the tire so he changed the tube and we were back underway. In hindsight, the thought is his tire was a bit soft when we started and it just slowly leaked to the point where he could feel it.
|Brett fixing his Flat|
We met up with Gary and Robin in Springport at about mile 57. We took a few minutes to have some hot coffee and exchange our water bottles. This was Robin’s starting point for the day; he joined us for the next 80 miles. Not much exciting happened during the next few hours except we did get to ride a few miles on a brand new road, the super smooth surface was amazing. Then we hit the worst traffic I have ever seen on M100 between Potterville and Grand Ledge. I have ridden this section of road a few times in the past and never had an issue but this day there was a steady stream of cars going both directions and everyone wanted to pass us right now. Brett was riding in the back and started to take the lane whenever a car was approaching from the other direction to keep cars from forcing us off the road. This helped a lot, but we all wanted the traffic to end as quickly as possible so we pushed a little faster pace and Sheldon put in a monster pull to get us out of there. Almost the instant we crossed 96 traffic was back to nothing and we were all much happier for it.
The second stop of the day was in Fowler at mile 103. Once again we exchanged bottles and I changed my jersey since it was finally getting a little bit warmer, it was now in the 40s. When we rolled in Brett was feeling a bit rough. So he got some extra food in hopes that it would bring him back to life, we did have another 230 miles to go after all. Fortunately, the food really did help and he was back to his normal bearded self in just a few miles.
|Robin, Brett and Sheldon as we leave Fowler|
We were now over 5.5 hours of riding into the day. I had been noticing a ton of caterpillars on the road and for some unknown reason I started to call out whenever I saw one. I never realized how many there could be until I said something every time I saw one, but it was good entertainment and everyone else eventually joined in on the game.
Our next stop was not on the original schedule but it put Robin at the 80 miles he wanted for the day. In Alma we met up with Gary and the bus and dropped of Robin so he could resume SAG duties. We were back to just the three amigos, the three musketeers, the three…stooges.
We rolled in to our stop in Mt. Pleasant (147 miles) just before the bus, since there was a playground at this stop so we decided it would be fun to take a quick break from our bikes and swing; who does not love a good swing.
We knew this would be our last stop before it got dark and colder so we all put on some warmer clothes and our lights before heading back out. Again, not much of note happened in this section of ride. We did stop to try and take a picture of the sunset thought. When we were about 14 miles south of out next stop we rode by a small gas station/convenience store and one member of our small entourage announced he had to go to the bathroom right now and the side of the road was not going to cut it for this one, or should I say two, so we stopped.
I decided it would be a good idea to plug my Garmin in to an external battery to keep the backlight on and see things like speed, time and HR, but when I plugged the cord in the port something inside the Garmin somehow bent. We went back in the store so I could try to fix it and ended up staying inside, nice and warm, for an extra 10 minutes. I eventually gave up, but when we started riding again it felt so much colder and we all started to shiver violently, to the point where it hurt. For me this was probably the worst part of the ride. I was just so cold and all I wanted was to be warm; but quitting is not allowed.
Forty-five freezing minutes later we met up with the Gary, Robin and the bus in Prudenville (205 miles) where we took our longest break of the ride. We were all freezing, a bit hungry and possibly a little delirious. Being that cold really took it out of us so we needed to warm back up. Enter Costco chicken noodle soup and coffee. I could probably rant about how good the noodles were for a few pages, but I won’t. Warm again and wearing pretty much everything we could layer together and still move we set back out on our way to cover the last 130 miles.
Side note: leading up to the ride our plan was to keep our SAG stops as short as possible since it is so much harder to start back up once you’ve stopped. But in order to make our bad idea a safe one, we stopped for much longer periods of time than planned, at least at night. With much colder than expected temperatures, we had to take some time to thoroughly warm up at each stop since no one really wanted hypothermia.
Dark. Pitch Black. Absolute Nothing. This is all we could see when we looked behind ourselves. It really was amazing how much nothing there was. On the upside, the clear sky was absolutely amazing. So many brilliant stars and no clouds to block the view. Then we hit the village of Fredrick and the road surface turned into nothing short of a mine field. The six miles between Fredrick and Waters were by far the worst we rode on all day. We tried to dodge potholes, only to slam into a patch work that had been forced out of the roadway due to expansion. This section hurt. Everything. We were no longer looking at the sky and no longer in awe of the void behind us, we simply stared at the road surface. Luckily after our stop in Waters (Mile 257) the road got much better and we could enjoy the ride a bit more again.
At one point, and I am not exactly sure where since many of the details are a bit blurry, we were flying down a hill at a little over 40 and at the bottom, just on the edge of the road, was a skunk. We nearly scared the spray out of it, it jumped and ran and we all stayed smelling like we had for the last uncountable number of hours. It did look like it wanted to spray us and we joked about not being let back on the bus if we smelled of skunk. Somehow this was funny to us at this point in the ride.
A few miles before the last stop of the day in Indian River (mile 298) things stated to get a bit weird. Call it sleep deprivation or a trick of the night, but whenever I was not the first person in line the shadows from our lights would appear to move, then I would have trouble distinguishing between the shadow and the person. Then it appeared there were three people coming out of one and no shadows. It was not good and it really made riding my bike in a straight line next to impossible. Even with this, we made it to the Indian River safe and sound where we spent a few extra minutes in the bus letting our eyes recover and our bodies warm. Being in normal light was so much easier on the eyes and after this I could see straight again.
From here Sheldon told us it was all flat and easy going, he lied. Okay, not really, but little grades felt much steeper than they really were after 300 miles and nearly 17 hours of pedaling. We eventually made it to M23, the last stretch from Cheboygan to Mackinaw City; 318 miles done, only 15 to go and I was feeling remarkably good. Sheldon and I both put in some pretty good pulls, I think I even managed to hold a little over 20 mph for a while. Then we all realized our bike handling had long gone out the window. We had a bit of a cross-headwind but whenever we would try to get into a mini-echelon we noticed none of us was riding in anything like a straight line. One second I would be on the wheel in front of me, the next I was three feet to the left, and it was happening to all of us. Sheldon and I talked about how neither of us would dare drive a car at that moment and we were better off leaving a little more space to keep from hitting each other; all while Brett silently suffered behind us.
With about five miles to go it stated to sleet a little, and all I could think was “great, 23 hours since we set off and we are going to get soaked and hypothermic now”, but it stopped after just a few minutes.
|A view of the Bridge|
THE BRIDGE, we kept getting glimpses of the Mackinac Bridge. These quick sightings brought some more life back to my legs. We were so close now, the realization that we were really going to do this was starting to set in. Then Brett hit the wall, his legs were spent; but with only a few miles left to go he kept them spinning, maybe not fast, but he kept moving as we rolled though Mackinaw City to the very end of the ride.
Nearly 24 hours after setting off and almost 18 hours in the saddle later we made to the Colonial Michilimacknac parking lot, we were at the base of the Mackinac Bridge. We did it. We rode from the MI/IN/OH border to the Mackinac Bridge in one go. What an experience.
|Done, 333.3 miles later|
A few stats from the day:
18:07:54 moving time
23:51:06 elapsed time
18.4 mpg average
11,071 calories burned
28.4 the low temperature of the day
38.4 the average temperature of the day
12(ish) servings of Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem
17 million caterpillars
7 dead cats (sorry cat lovers)
More bad movie quotes than I care to think about
Twice as many tasteless jokes as necessary
3 ecstatic riders ready for another adventure
2 of the best support crew we could ask for
1 bad idea that may have been the best idea
We did learn a very important lesson; for our next bad idea ride (yes there will be more) we will make sure it is a bit warmer. The cold really wears on a body and made starting back up after every stop so much harder than it needed to be.
We are already starting to plan our next bad idea, most likely for late spring so we don't freeze our parts off.
Fuel for the ride:
Pre Fueled with Hammer Fully Charge
During the ride: Perpetuem, Fizz, Anti-Fatigue Caps and BCAA+ Caps, Hammer Bars
Costco chicken noodle soup and sandwich wraps
Coffee, lots of Coffee
Post ride: Recoverite and the All You Can Eat Breakfast buffet at the Pancake Chef in Mackinaw City
|Fueled by Hammer Nutrition|
|Happy Hands Courtesy of RCT Wrap by ESI Grips|