Monday, April 20, 2015

Crushing Gravel part 9: Who needs Christmas when you've got Dairy Roubaix?

Looking forward all I saw were really great friends

And looking back was the same!

There are two weekends I look forward to every year more than any other...Riverwest24 and Dairy Roubaix.  The moment the weekends come to a close, I start dreaming about the following year.  Sad, I know, but these weekends are so truly awesome on all levels no words or pictures could possibly explain.

I'll do my best to give you a glimpse of what this year's Dairy Roubaix brought, but really, you just need to experience it yourself.

After a long, cold winter and a windy, cold spring, the sun gods somehow blessed us yet again Earth Day weekend.  A few friends of mine and I found ourselves out in Wyalusing park--near the meeting points of the Wisconsin and Mississippi river--prior to others showing up to help Stew and Michelle set up for the 250 riders who were about to stream into the park.  75 degrees with sun and light winds made it feel like heaven.  The beer Kevin from Red Eye brought for us was the icing on the cake.  As the groups started rolling in to check into the cabins, it began to feel like adult camp with reunions, stories of recent adventures, a bit of poking fun and smiles all around.

Honestly, I didn't want to go to bed.  Several friends noticed I was staring off into space around 10:30 but I was happy to be staring off into space in this environment.  In fact there's no other place I'd rather be a zombie.  Finally, however, around 11pm I called it quits knowing I wanted to be able to ride the next day and help with last minute registration.

At 5:30am I was so pleasantly awakened by the song of birds and a lightening to the sky.  Doesn't take much to get me out of bed to drink coffee and ride with friends in a beautiful location.  As I sat checking people in, the time flew by getting to catch up with those I only get to see a few times each year.  I'm always surprised how many of my groups of cycling friends overlap at events like this and it couldn't make me happier.

Miles and miles of views like this

Rolling.  Like every year the rollout is a bit discombobulated.  Some folks vie to be out front, some want to stick with their groups, others are just out wandering.  I'm kind of a mix between all three.  Believe it or not, the nerves are still a bit wonky for me prior to any gravel ride until a couple miles down the road--then, everything falls into place and I'm just satisfied being out there.  The night prior, I was told by a couple friends that fresh gravel had recently been laid on several roads (I don't like fresh gravel).  They knew this from doing a pre-ride shakedown.  I look back and laugh now since I asked Stew, one of the ride organizers, quickly following that what he thought of the conditions since I heard it was a bit harder this year.  His response was "I don't know, I think it's softer".  I took that as meaning "easier" and he meant it that way, but when we did hit the dust piles and loose stuff, I began to laugh thinking he had teased me by using the term "softer".  Amazing what goes through your head on gravel rides.

The miles ticked by, I hated my tire choice (skinnier and a different model than what I'm used to), the hollows kept coming one after another.  I actually forced myself to stop twice just to appreciate the beauty surrounding me--something I won't do if I'm riding with a group.  A few more miles down the road and several friends caught up to me.  We rode to the half way point together, in awe of Dugway Hollow (also known as Doug Way) and laughing about the dusty conditions.  At the half way point I took in half a banana and a shot of brandy (one of my friends and I twisted each other's arm into doing it).  Another friend, who must have seen me having mild issues navigating the fresh gravel on the descents came up and squeezed my tires checking their pressure.  I knew he was going to do it, I even teased him about it, but I was too nervous to get a pinch flat so I left them as is and told him not to judge me.  He was right of course, they should have come down 5-10 lbs (I thought about this as I lost traction on the climbs in the dust).

The last half of the short route is my kind of ride.  More climbing with a beauty of an ascent capping it off up to the park.  There's something about multi-mile climbs with a doable grade I can't get enough of.  I fall into a rhythm with my breathing and pedal stroke and just "check out".  The best part about climbing C is there's a borer goat farm up at the top.  The other best part is that only a few short miles away, there are coolers with beer--on the other side of a cross course that is.

Those last few miles were ridden with one friend--we split up from the rest of the group somewhere back on the gravel.  Although I made the park entrance ahead of him, I was the rabbit and he caught me going into the cross course.  If I'm going to be caught and passed by someone, it's nice to have it be a riding buddy!  We both plopped down on the grass and waited for the rest of our crew to roll in...with beers in hand.

The rest is a blur.  Food was eaten, more stories were told, more beer was consumed, a hike down to the river happened sometime in between the rest of the 54 milers rolling in and the 107 milers making it back.  I think I showered...god I hope I showered.  The cross course was taken down, a bonfire was made after sunset, I used a friend as a pillow--I wasn't the only one to do so, hot dogs were lost in the fire and I finally found myself on my bunkbed.  As I slept, silly comments from the day danced in my head.  Things like "that's the smell of death","just another day at the beach", "I can smell myself on morning rides", "do you ever smell your septum ring?" and some ridiculous conversation about roundabouts made me laugh in my sleep.

What?!  I wasn't really drinking them both at the same time!
photo by Marc Sharer

Hiking post ride

Two of the coolest guys I know coming in from the 107

Sadness is always a bit of a cloud when packing up early Sunday morning.  It's hard leaving not only a place like this but saying goodbye to friends.  A huge thanks go out to Stew and Michelle for putting on another kickass event! Hope to see many/all of you next year on earth day weekend!


  1. You're always surrounded by such good peeps : )

    It was a gorgeous course!

    1. I am Michael! I have no clue how I got so lucky having such great bike friends--you being one of them. Good luck at TI next weekend...I'll be following your progress!