The morning started early, like really early, like why did I even bother going to bed early. I was both excited and nervous. Today was the day for Le Tour De Shore 2017 ride! Today would also be the first time I would be taking a commuter train into Chicago. Being my first time, and wanting to make sure I would get a spot on the train, I decided to be there an hour early. Turns out I wasn’t the only early bird as other LTDS riders were already there!
The train ride went very smoothly, I chatted a bit with a fellow rider but about halfway through I think my nerves started to get to me. I found myself oddly silent and watching the minutes tick by. I had a lot on my mind. My biggest worry was about getting through the day, as I hadn’t put in the training miles like I had wanted to. My longest ride to date had only been 30 miles, and I was about to do 65. It felt daunting to say the least.
With a clickety-clack the train moved quickly down the track, and it soon arrived at Millennial Station in downtown Chicago. I took a deep breath as I felt the train come to a stop, and I said a little prayer for strength and safety. I quickly grabbed my bike and when I unloaded I looked for anyone that could be possibly doing the ride and started to follow them. I had no clue how to actually get out of the station but the advice I was given was to just follow the crowd. The advice turned out to be very good and after a short trek through the underground station and a small portering of my bike up some steps(which is not an easy feat when you have a big yellow bucket, and 4 water bottles attached to the bike) I found myself standing on the streets of Chicago.
It was sprinkling slightly, not enough to worry about but just enough to be annoying. Continuing to follow the crowds, we zigzagged across the streets until we made it to the McDonald Cycle Center in Millennium Park. It was here that I met up with someone whom had found my blog earlier in the year when researching this very ride! I had mentioned that I was planning on riding at about 10-12mph for this ride, and if that fit with her speed she was welcome to ride with me. I hadn’t heard back, so at this point I was figuring on having to ride alone(which I really wasn’t looking forward to having to do). As luck would have it though, this speed worked for her as well, and she had no one to ride with either. So on a drizzly Friday morning at 7:29am we set off on an epic ride.
To be honest much of this next part is a blur, and that is a good thing. The miles just melted away as we pedaled along the coast line of lake Michigan. As we chatted with each other about our lives, the weather slowly started to clear up and by the time we reached the first sag stop the rain had stopped. This was a sag stop that I was looking forward to arriving at! This was the PANCAKE STOP! WOOT! At the helm was Chris Cakes from ChrisCakesIndiana.com, and he would actually flip the pancakes out for you to catch! A fun experience and the showmanship was impressive(flipping up to 3 pancakes at once).
After a quick bite to eat, we soon hit the road. I knew some of this next part pretty well, as it was near where the WHAM RIDE takes place. In fact, I should apologize to my riding partner at this point, because I probably mentioned the WHAM ride about a half million times. I just get excited about things sometimes. At this point we were no longer on the closed trails of the lake shore, and instead were riding in the streets. I personally hate riding in the road, but at least I wasn’t alone. There was no bike lane here and the “side” was filled with parked cars. So I decided to take the lane, for both safety from the parked cars(and doors that might fly open), and for safety from cars trying to pass to close. Going down this particular stretch of road, which had 3 lanes. One going one direction, one going the other, and the center open for turns. I had at least two cars come up behind me, honk, and yell at me to get off the F’ing road. This while the middle lane was completely open and with them having the ability to simply go around me without even needing to slow down. I just don’t get people like this! It wasn’t like I was blocking them and going 5 mph for miles on end. It took them 5 seconds to go around me. Personally, I think every person that does crap like that, needs to be forced to ride a bike on those same roads, but I digress.
We soon reach the trail again, and are going along at a decent pace, enjoying the day as the weather was cleared up. When up ahead we notice about 30-40 other cyclists stopped in the path. I’ll give you 3 guesses on what was going on. If you guessed that we all had missed a turn, you would be correct. We were I think a mile or so off course, so not to bad. But nobody could figure out exactly where to go, because the on line map didn’t match up with the cue sheet(a trail was under construction). It turned out that while doing some construction, they had actually ground away and tore up the road marking for the turn. Ugh. We turned around and attempted to find our way back, when we saw some more LTDS cyclist heading the wrong direction we made sure to let them know as well. We ended up eventually running into some other folks who were lost, and we ultimately found our way back to the trail(thanks to a helpful construction worker).
It was about this time I realized something that I had forgotten to bring, my damn gloves. My hands were beginning to get torn up a by my sticky handlebar tape. No matter where I put my hands I just couldn’t find a comfortable position. This would turn into a worse problem as time went on, leaving me wondering at one point if I wanted to drop $25 to buy a new pair(spoiler alert, I decided to just tough it out). As careful as I was to pack everything, making multiple check lists, I can’t believe that I forgot them.
Around lunch time we rolled into the second sag stop. What was neat to see was that the helicopter and police vehicles were there again this year! It was busy, but not to busy that we had to wait long for our food. Peanut butter and jelly and some chips, which really hit the spot. Here are some photos
Leaving this sag I quickly found myself on my “home turf”, the trail I rode on often as it was near my home. We did make a quick stop at an unofficial sag stop at a new bicycle shop that will be opening right off the trail!
At this point everything went pretty smoothly. We soon arrived in Chesterton and rolled into the last “sag”. Well the sag was a bit down the road this was the bar that everyone stopped at.
After enjoying an adult beverage, and saying goodbye to my riding companion(she was staying at a hotel and I was camping), I sat down outside and just people watched for a bit. Though, with the last leg to go, I figured it was time to get moving. I stopped over at the actual SAG stop to fill up my water bottles, and there met two other riders who were headed to campground. I asked if they minded if I followed them and they said it was fine. I couldn’t help but think back to last year and how I felt at this point. I was dead tired, and could hardly keep going. This year though, while I was tired, I still had plenty of energy to get to the campground. I didn’t feel like death, I felt pretty decent.
We arrived in pretty decent time. Here is my daily mileage and riding time for the day
After figuring out where to actually go(it was a different site this year) I got to work on finding the right spot for me. I wanted something close to the exit, and some where that might give me a little privacy and discourage someone setting up camp right next to me. I found a nice little spot and quickly setup my tent.
My only complaint with the camping is that both years now there have been drunk rowdy people who have no respect for the other campers. This years loveliness was the screaming women at 11:30 at night, demanding their friends make them more vodka drinks and then singing “rise and shine and give god your glory glory”. I think next year I will get the number for the DNR on duty and let them deal with it.
Dinner was served again this year by the Rolling Stone Baker and it was simply amazing! I ate about 8 slices, 2 servings of salad, and some fantastic bread pudding. If you are ever out in Valparaiso, IN I suggest looking them up!
After a restless nights sleep, thanks to the drunk women across the way, I woke up at about 6:15 and decided to break up camp. I ate some food bars that I had packed with me, and began to mentally prepare for another day in the saddle. Planning originally to leave at about 8:30, because the annual 5k that is run in Beverly Shores, I realized that I didn’t feel like sitting around twiddling my thumbs. Instead, after getting everything packed up and loaded on the truck, it was time to strike out and leave. This was about 7ish(can’t remember the exact time). Before I left the park though I stopped for what I hope to make my annual Lake Michigan photo
It was about 18 miles till the first sag where I knew some yummy donuts awaited me! Right before I reached Beverly Shores I was stopped by another group of LTDS riders who wanted me to take a picture for them. I happily obliged. As they took off I found myself following them. Not in a way to be a wheel suck, but more so that they were going around the same speed I was going. I ended up following them all the way to the SAG at Michigan City. We chatted a bit on the way there and it seemed like they would be a fun group to ride with. So when it came time for them to leave, I asked if they would mind I rode with them. In which they said that was fine, but to know that “if you get called a jack ass, it’s a term of endearment with this group”.
The ride through Beverly Shores is such a fun one to take. The houses are amazing, and the views you catch between some of them of the lake shore are just awesome. I couldn’t imagine waking up to views like that every morning. So we went a bit slower as we soaked in the views and talked about the different houses we would see. It was a highlight of the trip for sure. But like all good things, it came to an end. After BS begins the “hump”. This is where the hills really start to kick in, you are out in the middle of no where, and you begin to ask yourself why you are doing something like this. On the plus side though, I did manage to stop for a picture with some of the local wildlife!
I don’t know what it is exactly though, but the ride between the first SAG and the second SAG just is brutal. It drags on, and it was hot and sunny out. We were suppose to be getting rain storms all day and it was about this time that I was sort of wishing for one to start. I went through my two water bottles, and started on a third one that was on my fork. I just couldn’t get my thirst under control. I think I let myself become slightly dehydrated the day before, and thus was having to play catch up on day two. Just when you start to feel like you can’t take anymore of it though, you make a turn onto the road leading into Three Oaks, MI. The group did stop just before the SAG as some of them wanted to grab a soda from the local gas station. Now people always ask me the same question on these rides “what’s in the bucket”. Well I carry tools, tubes, food, bug spray, sun lotion, creams for the unmentionable parts, and after this stop a couple of drinks for the riders in my group.
Arriving at this last SAG I couldn’t help but have a bit of a flashback to last years ride again. I had already called my wife to come get me, but she wasn’t able to at the time, and was seriously debating if I wanted to just give up. I was dead, my saddle sores had saddle sores and I just didn’t know if I had another 10 miles in me. Flash forward to this year, and while I again was tired, I wasn’t feeling dead. I had saddle sores, but I wasn’t letting that stop me. I KNEW that I had another 10 inside me and then some. It is amazing what losing about 35-40# can do for your bike riding ability.
We took off as a group again from the last sag, but after about 20-30mins we were all strung out pretty far. At one point I couldn’t see anyone behind me or in front of me. However, I did eventually catch up with a couple of the guys in the front, but as they waved me past them(they had stopped to look at a friends house), I quickly realized that I couldn’t see them behind me anymore either. I was going to have to do the rest on my own, and so I dug in deep and pressed forward. I remembered from last year that the worst part of this short stretch(which is only about 12 miles or so) is that it just seems to drag on. It is the kind of lonely stretch that leaves you alone with your thoughts, and my mind quickly went to thinking about the trip so far. How much fun it was, and the bittersweet feeling of knowing it was about to be over. About 2 miles from the end I met up with a gentleman who I had actually seen the day before. He and his friend needed a bicycle pump for a flat tire, and of course I was happy to loan them mine(though they ended up not needing it as someone from their group caught up with them and had a better one). We chatted for a few minutes and he let me know that we were near the end. It was nice to find that out because I was beginning to wonder if I had missed a turn somewhere as it was really dragging on. He pulled off from me and warned me to watch out on the last hill because the roads were bad. A little bit later I was climbing the final hill and as I began to descend I realized what he was talking about. BOOM. I hit a bad pot hole/crack in the road and one of my water bottles went flying. I hit the brakes and had to go back and get it. After that I gently coasted down into the finishing area. Another Le Tour De Shore in the books, but it won’t be my last! Day two stats
Last year I said “So the big question is, would I do this ride again? I honestly don’t know “ but this year I tell you I will DEFINITELY be riding again next year! Even if I have to ride it alone, because among fellow cyclist you are never actually alone.
Sorry this was so long, and thank you for taking the time to read it 🙂
Keep On Rolling,
Big Boned Biker