I’d signed my husband and I up for the 100 Miles of Nowhere because this was our year. Last year I was 3 months out from having our son. Who knows what we’ll be doing this time next year. This year I was going to do it and I was dragging him along for the ride.
We discussed a few venues for the ride but weren’t feeling overly inspired. Then opportunity knocked when my aunt phoned to tell me that the cottage was free last weekend if we wanted to use it. The cottage is at the end of a tiny, rutted dirt road that’s just off another (slightly less tiny) dirt road, that’s off a pretty bust numbered highway in cottage country in Ontario. Not quite nowhere, but not really anywhere either. I’m part of the fourth generation to cottage there and cancer has touched all of the preceding generations. My grandparents both died of cancer and my aunt was just treated for it last summer. A friend in a neighbouring cottage was able to have the public health nurse deliver and administer her chemo at her cottage a few years back. The cottage is a great place to fight cancer and to relax — two things the ride to nowhere is all about.
The one problem with doing our ride at the cottage is that we would not have any help to watch our now 15 month old son while we rode. We therefore made the executive decision that this would be the 100 Mile Tour de Nowhere – a multi-stage event wherein stages would be contested while little B slept throughout our 4 days at the cottage. It was deemed that this would be considerably simpler than trying to keep his fingers out of moving bike parts.
Derek borrowed a trainer from a colleague while I used our set of rollers. The unfamiliar surroundings led to an unhappy night’s sleep for little B – and us in turn. We therefore set out on our journey [can a ride to nowhere be called a journey?] during nap time on Friday afternoon – somewhat later than anticipated. It was a cold day. The predicted high was 11 degrees Celsius and there was a fire going in the wood stove. I made it all of 1.5 kms before deciding I would roast inside the cottage, so I moved out to the veranda – a screened porch overlooking the lake. With a stiff north wind blowing in, 11 degrees wasn’t feeling all that warm, but it’s always easier to add layers and I convinced myself to just ride fast enough to get warm and stay warm. Sadly, despite my best efforts to take advantage of the weather by pointing the rollers downwind, I saw little in the way of tangible gains from the substantial tailwind.
In the meantime, Derek had changed his tire to a trainer tire and joined me on veranda riding the trainer. After setting up his bike on a collision course with mine (so we could chat), we realised what a risky endeavour this truly was. We were breaking all the rules. No helmets were worn, his earbuds were firmly in place, bells, reflectors and blinkies were left behind all while we played chicken. Oh, and our energy drink typically consisted of gin and tonics and wine – we were at the cottage after all!
Derek has asked me to point out that this arrangement had him riding into a stiff headwind.
B’s nap was short one, so we only managed 20 kms before he was up and ready for action. We’ll just call this the prologue. Not wanting to be left out, little B played was the consummate team player, fulfilling all the other support staff positions on our squad.
After 2 hours of enforced off the bike playtime, then dinner and bedtime, we were able to fit in another 20 kms between 7:30 and 8:15. Our average speed was 34.1 km/hr. This was going to be a slog. There’s no TV on the veranda. I could watch the waves on the lake. If I were lucky, a fisherman boated by or an occasional loon surfaced.
Saturday was a bit warmer, about 14 degrees, but still rainy. Friends we hadn’t seen in ages were up at their cottage on a nearby lake, so we drove the 40 minutes to visit, play and have lunch. In true Fatty fashion, we stopped at the dairy on the way back for ice cream. Upon our return, we pounded out 30 kms during nap at a higher average, ice cream powered speed, then grabbed a few minutes of kip ourselves. After dinner was another 30 kms, so we’d broken the back of this tour with 100 kms down, but there was a long way to go yet and the wind wasn’t letting up.
Sunday dawned early (they always seem to dawn early when there’s a 15 month old around) with the promise of sun and a high of 17 – much better! This called for a good, solid nap for the entire family! 2.5 hours later, we suffered a major setback when the nicer weather allowed our soigneur to discover the outdoors around the cottage. He had no idea there was an outside to explore until his silly parents opened the door and let him outside. There was no keeping the boy inside after he’d seen the trees and lake and found a ball to throw around. Anytime he was awake and inside, he beelined for a door and demanded to go outside. There was no holding him back. He’s just learning how to temper tantrum and we didn’t want him to perfect the art, so instead of mom riding while dad plays and vice versa, we all ended up outside. Afternoon nap allowed another 30 kms to be knocked off in 10 km segments. I should mention at this point that being in the middle of nowhere meant that our swag bags had not arrived in time. There was a real lack of DZ Nuts and I was feeling it so I decided that on the Tour de Nowhere there were feed stations every 10 kms on this stretch. Also, the higher temperature meant I moved the rollers and turned myself around so I had a head wind for the first time starting 120 kms into the ride!
By the time our domestique woke the mosquitoes and blackflies were out in force. We were being eaten alive! Scratching bug bites while riding rollers is a skill I perfected on the 100 Mile Tour de Nowhere. Derek developed some other skills like fishing while riding, forgetting to start the cycling computer before riding, and how to resist cringing as his wife wobbles on the rollers while itching bug bites.
The local media also came out to document our ride using helicopters
After our mechanic turned in for the night on Sunday it was decision time. We’d ridden 130 kms at this point. Did we finish the full 160 at night or wait and do a short parade stage on Monday? I decided that 5 kms is a suitable parade distance and I was feeling confident on the rollers. Our team manager was rousing us at around 7 am and the lake had been calm at that time every other morning. If it was smooth again, I would ride the final 5 kms on the floating dock.
After riding another 12.5kms I was getting really bored and was particularly sick of listening to Derek sing along to his ipod. I’d been riding with no entertainment to the 142.5 kms mark. Remember that Derek had his earbuds in? Turns out he’d brought TWO sets, but hadn’t mentioned the second set until I mentioned I was bored. I pulled out my ipod and put it on random, only to land on a very long Portishead song. Trip hop was not exactly the energetic music I needed to get me through that last 12.5 kms. I slogged and slogged and made it to the 155 km mark.
Monday morning dawned bright. Our trainer let us sleep in a bit, but the lake was still calm. Pulling on bike shorts and clothing and walking the rollers out to the dock was a bit daunting. A floating dock floats and is subject to the whims of wakes and rogue waves. I dressed our team doctor in a sweater over his fleecy pyjamas, shoes and a lifejacket and walked out onto the dock. The bugs weren’t out yet and I had a really pleasant ride.
I finished off in good time and then asked Derek to come to the dock. I told him to put the camera on sport mode, took off my shoes and dove into the lake. Good thing I didn’t stop to look at the temperature – it was about 7 C outside and the water temperature was 13.5 C. It was into the lake and out of the lake immediately, then up and into a warm shower.
A few hours later the wind still hadn’t come up, so Derek was able to do a few kms on the rollers on the dock but the bugs were doing a good job of eating him, so he finished on the veranda. He did follow my lead and jump in the lake after.
So that was our 100 Miles Tour de Nowhere. 4 days. 2 parents, 1 fifteen month old. Numerous bug bites. Fueled by Tanqueray and Schweppes. I’ve done some interesting things at the cottage over the years – the highlight till now was writing my PhD thesis. I think the 100 Mile Tour de Nowhere might take the cake now. How will we top it in the future?