Le Tour De Shore 2017

The morning started early, like really early, like why did I even bother going to bed early.

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.131418

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

2021

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!

22

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 232425

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.

27

Sorry this was so long, and thank you for taking the time to read it 🙂

Keep On Rolling,

Big Boned Biker

28

Le Tour De Shore 2016

After a restless night of sleep I woke up early at about 4:30 to begin my day. I loaded up my bike, while my oatmeal cooked in the microwave. I ate it nervously, and began to wake up the household. Today was the day. The day I had been both looking forward to and dreading since February, the Le Tour De Shore ride. A 100 mile 2 day ride from Chicago,IL to New Buffalo, Mi.

We arrived at the McDonald Cycling Center at about 6:30. I quickly unloaded my gear and saying goodbye to my family, I figured I would try and mingle. Accept for one little problem, I found myself full of anxiety. I couldn’t bring myself to talk to anyone, because I had this irrational fear gripping hold of me. I did ask one lady for some help pinning on my riding number (number 31), but I soon found myself standing all alone again. However that same lady approached me about 5 min later and asked if I had anyone to ride with? I responded that I didn’t and she offered to let me ride with her group.
13445667_10157062755725164_3008807872832116257_n

We ended up leaving a bit early as another rider offered to show us a better way to get to the Lake Shore trail head. He was a local and his route was very simple to follow, though I doubt I’ll remember it for next year. It was a pretty uneventful start, my nerves were still high as I was worried about completing the mileage for day one. We were keeping a decent pace through Chicago which was a nice difference from the last time I rode through it, Tri-State Ride. Everyone I was riding with was very friendly, which made the time go by very nicely. Everything was going smoothly, until we realized that we were missing someone. We waited for awhile, and one of the guys went back to look for him, but didn’t find him. After a bit we decided to keep going, as we thought he might have actually been ahead of us (he was a very strong rider). After a bit he came up from behind us, he had dropped his bike pump from his jersey pocket, it had wedged itself between the frame and the back wheel! I don’t know how but he didn’t fall and none of his spokes were broken. Luck was definitely on his side!

We were on our way again quickly and things again were moving at a decent pace. I could tell we were getting close to Hammond, IN where our first SAG stop would be. It was at this point we met a train, and not just any train, a REALLY SLOW train. It moved in front of the crossing about 300 feet and stopped. Ugh! We sat there for what seemed about 5 mins and it slowly, inch by inch started backing up. A bunch of us decided that when it was past the crossing we would cross. It was a single track and with the train moving so slowly it wouldn’t be any risk. A few people did yell at us from behind as we crossed but again, there was no danger. We quickly regained our speed and as we rode through a park area it started to turn, and turn, and turn us right back to that same train! Nooooooo! We were stuck at the middle of the train, the slowest moving train that has ever existed in all of human history! About 3 people decided to attempt for a Darwin award by going under the train. Now it was stopped at times, but it was still moving at others. While the 3rd person attempted a crossing the train started moving again, this time at a decent pace. Luckily they realized it in time and were able to get back. One guy had decided to go over the train and he almost lost his bike. It ended up being about a 15 min wait, and we all cheered when the train finally pulled away.

We finally reached the SAG point, and what awaited us was some gloriously yummy PANCAKES! We were all starving at this point, and we quickly found ourselves in line for the delicious food. We were lucky too, about another 10 mins and the line was wrapped around the corner. My oldest son had me bring along one of his transformers, and asked me to get some pictures of him on the ride. So here is Heatwave, in dinobot mode, enjoying some pancakes.

6 75 1

The next section of the ride is kind of a blur, I was keeping a good pace of around 13-14mph. I remembered some of the roads and trails thanks to riding the WHAM Rides WHAM 2014 Night Ride WHAM 2015 the last couple of years. I do remember riding down a “hill”, which was really an overpass on the road. I was ready to get some speed, I moved into my drops and head down low, only to find out the bottom of the “hill” was where we had to make a left turn! Yikes! By the way, my brakes DO work, and I really love the stopping power from my disc brakes. There was another hill, this time on the bike trail, and I the ride down it that time I was able to coast for a good ¼ mile or more and still was passing people. Big Boned Bikers do well downhill. By the time we reached the second SAG stop, our group had split up. One of the riders, the lady who had invited me to join them, had been getting cramps in her legs. We called them and told them we would wait for them at the SAG stop though, and after about 30 mins they caught up. Turned out the ended up in some construction and had to walk their bikes for awhile. While we had been waiting though An ambulance had shown up, and a helicopter started flying over head. All of a sudden the helicopter started getting lower, and lower, and lower. It landed in a field next to the park we were at! I wondered if it was a medical flight, but I noticed on the side it said “LAW ENFORCEMENT”. As it was landing a squad car pulled up quickly, lights on. I was thinking to myself “what the hell is going on!?!?!”. Out of nowhere a bunch of kids started running up to the helicopter though and I quickly figured out it was a “touch the truck” type of event.

13435316_10157062754340164_1133558755172886447_n

At about 1pm we left the SAG stop and continued on, heading to the last SAG of the day in Chesteron, IN. The sags were all spaced about 20 miles apart, and about 10 miles in, we had all split up again. We stopped at an unofficial SAG stop. It just was a park with a restroom and some water. It was here that I ended up splitting up with the group. I didn’t want to be late getting to the campground, because dinner started at 3pm and only went to 6pm. What was interesting, and kind of weird, was that this section of the ride was right by my house (less than a mile). It is the trail I ride all the time! In fact, I almost turned to go home by mistake at one point. I was starting to feel a bit run down about this point, and ended up stopping to rest a couple of times. It wasn’t so much my legs that were feeling it, it was my “boodle” as my son likes to call it. I should have applied more cream( I use diaper cream to help protect and it works great), but for some reason I decided not to even though I stopped at a spot with a restroom. I kept on going though, one pedal at a time and found myself arriving in Chesterton! It was getting late at this point, almost 3pm but I had decided that I would stop at the bar next to the SAG and have my one beer. It was at this point one of the guys from the group I had been riding with pulled up! We decided to go grab a beer together. I had a Lagunita IPA, which on such a hot day was amazingly refreshing. We went outside and I quickly drank my beer. It was so damn good, I couldn’t make myself nurse it like I normally would.

9

After finishing my beer, and checking out Broomhead  bars booth, who I must say have AMAZING bars! I couldn’t believe they were gluten free/healthy! I was headed out, and I must say this was the hardest part of the day. I was completely by myself, and I there were a few hills. I was tired, my butt hurt, and I just wanted to get to the campsite with out getting lost. I eventually ended up stopping to check my directions and someone else came along at that point. A lovely couple on a tandem bicycle, I offered to take their picture for them and they let me follow them to camp. Well I tried to follow them. I was just barely able to keep them insight. After what felt like forever, we finally pulled into the campground. It was a free for all setup and I found myself a nice quiet spot to setup my tent.

10 20
I had expected people to be already eating but the place was pretty empty. Turns out dinner didn’t start till 6pm and it was only a bit after 4. I was starving, and if I do this ride next year, I plan to pack a second bag of just food! The campground slowly began to fill up though and dinner was finally served. It was from this AMAZINGLY FANTASTIC SUPER DELICIOUS OUT OF THIS WORLD wood fired pizza place. This is coming from a guy who hates thin/crispy crusts. Here are some photos of dinner and the firetruck they cooked it out of.

11 12 13 14 15 16

Feeling a bit jelly aren’t you? You should be.

21 1922

That night, I slept pretty well, despite the party that raged outside my tent for what felt like hours. I fell asleep quickly though and I remember waking up to complete silence at about 1am. I had decided to leave before the official start time the next day. There was a 5k race taking place along the route that I knew would end up slowing down the ride, and the weather was going to be warm out. I got up at about 6am and packed up as quietly as I could, and was on the rode by about 6:30. I did take a quick stop by lake Michigan to grab a photo of Tallulah.

23

Again, I found myself riding alone, and this time along a busy hwy near sunrise. This sent me into a small panic attack as one car decided to buzz right by me. An inch more over and he would have clipped my handlebars. As I rode along I shortly found myself riding along the lake, it was amazingly peaceful. I passed the location where the 5k was going to take place, no issues at all since I was so early. After going a ways though, I hadn’t seen any marks to turn, and I knew I had a turn somewhere near here. I stopped my bike along the narrow lane, and pulled over as far as I could. I dug into my yellow bucket and fished out my cue sheet. Damn it, I had missed my turn. I back tracked about a mile, back to where the 5k was going to take place. They had painted over the turn marking on the road! I made the turn this time and kept a sharper look out for my next turn. This time I missed it again, but only went about 100 yards before I realized it. Eventually though I was on course, riding through a swampy area and wondering to myself why I decided to pack the bug spray with my camping stuff. After what seemed like an eternity though I finally got to Michigan City, where my first sag stop of the day was taking place. As I pulled into town I meet up with some other riders, who invited me to join them. They were planning on riding at a slow pace, so I figured it would be a great group to ride with. I was surprised to find out that the reason they were on the road so early was because their hotel had a fire the night before. They had been up since 2am and had spent most of the early morning drinking coffee at a nearby panera.

Here is a photo of the group, they were all from Indianapolis.

13450944_10101848750122118_8720182470820509910_n 13423753_10101848750032298_808247524784839830_n

Despite my best efforts, I was quickly dropped. In all fairness, they did offer to slow down, but I knew that this was going to be a tough day for me. The night before all I was hearing about was how hilly this part of the ride was going to be, and it didn’t disappoint. This was the worst part of the ride. 20 miles of hot and hilly riding. At one point it got so bad I did the unthinkable, and something I really hate to admit. I called my wife. I told her I was done. I couldn’t go on any more and that I was exhausted. That’s right, I quit and gave up. Only, she wasn’t able to come get me for at least an hour or more. I decided that instead of sitting in the middle of nowhere I would keep on riding. I’m proud of myself because instead of completely giving up and throwing in the towel, I decided to keep pushing on. Turns out I was over half way to the sag stop! I ended up making it to the SAG, after having to stop a few more times to rest, and nearly going through 4 bottles of water. I was sweaty, thirsty, tired and beat up. It was still another 10-15 miles till the end of the day. Why 10-15? Because the mileage had seemed to be off on the cue sheets. I really didn’t know if I had it in me. But thanks to some encouragement from a stranger, who told me that if you do 90miles you do 100, I kept on riding. Luckily this was a much flatter portion of riding, and I was told it was just meandering through town. They lied. While it was less hilly, it was still hilly, and it wasn’t a simple ride through town, it was a ride through the country side, which meant less shade. However, after stopping one more time, I finally found a pace I could keep up with. My “boodle” was on fire, because I had developed 2 bad saddle sores, but I just kept pedaling. After what felt like 10 hours, but really was only about and 1.5 hours I rolled into the end of the ride! I couldn’t believe it, I made it!! Big Boned Biker completed his first Le Tour De Shore.

25 24

So the big question is, would I do this ride again? I honestly don’t know. If I do it again, I need to drag someone along with me, because the times that were hardest were when I was having to ride alone.

Would I recommend it? Absolutely!

Keep On Rolling,

Big Boned Biker

Just an update

Going a bit stir crazy today! So sick of this snow and cold!!

Going a bit stir crazy today! So sick of this snow and cold!! The ride I took this last Sunday was more of a tease than anything. Can’t remember if I shared about it or not, but did 14 miles that felt like 100. Why? Because my phone died half way through the ride(literally, right where I was turning around!) and had to do half of the ride sans music, speed info, mileage (to gauge where I am at) and had a strong headwind making me question if it was perhaps just a touch to cold to be out. Ventilated shoes seem like a great idea, but not so much in winter. This post will just be more of an update on what I am doing lately.

tallulahbridge

Green Bean Heatbot Troll
Tallulah and Green Bean Heatbot Troll

My son is loving his new bike (picture above)! I was very impressed with how well he did on his inaugural ride! He even named it “Green Bean Heatbot Troll”, but surprisingly he won’t eat green beans(unless they are from Grandma’s garden). We did a short ride, around the block, did a few corners and I must say it handles very nicely. Eventually, I will be hooking up the trailer to his bike and will have a long train. I may even have to pull out my sons wooden train whistle. If you are looking for a good tag-along option, I highly recommend this one. Great price and solid, also comes with mud flaps(very important).

We-Ride

I have been doing well going to the gym, and love working with my new trainer. I am doing a 10 week “bootcamp” of sorts. Right now we are learning the basics, and there was only a couple of times I may have mumbled a few obscenity along with his name. Working out 3 days a week, with some light cardio thrown in on some days off. I must say, I am really liking weight lifting way more than I ever thought I would! While I am still a bit wobbly, but I like that I only need to focus on a couple of things, it really helps me clear my mind.

Big Boned Biker midway through a workout
Me middle of my workout!

Really excited about signing up for Le Tour De Shore , doing the camping version(very few spots left, I think 10). Will be the closest thing to a bike tour that I have done, 100 miles over 2 days. If you live in the Chicago/NWI area, sign on up! Considering signing up for the Tri-State bike ride  again too, but going to see how the LTDS goes first. Though thinking about this, LTDS is technically a tri-state ride! It starts in Illinois and ends in Michigan.

Overall things are going very good, getting use to the new program and my new medication is really working well. If you are going stir crazy like me, I hope we both can find something to do till the weather gets nice again!

Keep On Rolling,

Big Boned Biker

PS you can now follow me on InstaGram!