This week I had the pleasure of joining one of my cycling friends on his birthday ride – a ride where the route is as long in miles as the person is old. This type of ride isn’t something young people do. Rather it’s what men 50 and older do because – and here I’m speculating – we want to prove to ourselves and others that we are still are capable of a long ride.
If we chose to analyze the motives further, it’s probably significant that I’ve never heard of a woman doing a birthday ride. Either they don’t want to talk about their age or they don’t feel they have to prove themselves like men do or both.
Our ride was fairly typical of the birthday rides I’ve participated in. The person with the birthday sets a date for the ride and contacts a few friends to go along. The date might be the actual birthday or a date close by: it depends on the forecast for that day. After all, this ride is supposed to be fun, but if the forecast is for rain or high winds, then there’s no need to be legalistic about riding on the birth day: another day will do fine. (Of course, people who live in this area and who have birthdays in the winter need to find a date in better riding weather.)
After picking the day, the organizer maps out a route that’s as long as he is old. These days Google maps makes that task much easier than in the past. Sometimes the mapmaker will also drive the route to be sure that there are no major detours and that the roads are relatively smooth. Major considerations in picking the route include identifying places to eat and potential pit stops along the way.
Our group included seven riders: the person with the birthday, Buddy Dyck, plus Dave Kaufman, Ora Troyer, Bill Miller, Elvie Bontrager, Merritt Lehman and myself. We met at 8 a.m. at College Mennonite Church and headed south for breakfast in Syracuse. The temperature was in the 50s, and we all wore light jackets. We arrived in Syracuse in about an hour and squeezed around a round table at the Syracuse Café where the service is fast and friendly, the food is excellent (my one pancake was huge) and the prices are very reasonable. When we lined up for a group picture after breakfast, the café’s waitress saw us through the window and came outside to take our picture so that all of us could be on it. That’s service.
Then we headed south on N 500 E past James Lake and between Little Barbee and Big Barbee lakes before heading west to Winona Lake where we had lunch at the 1000 Park Baker & Café. I had a delicious Tuscan sandwich and enjoyed the breeze while eating and sitting on their porch. Although I’d ridden to Warsaw many times, this route through the lakes was new to me, and I was glad to explore some new roads I might visit again. (My GPS was mapping the route, so I didn’t need to take notes on where we had been.) Some of the time, I was completely turned around, but the GPS was always there to tell me what direction I was actually going, despite what my head thought the direction was.
Leaving Winona Lake, we turned north on N 100 East into the wind that had helped push us along going south. We eventually got on to old State Road 15 and passed through Leesburg, Milford and New Paris, arriving back at our starting point around 3 p.m.
Several factors made the trip enjoyable.
- We all had relatively the same riding ability. Sometimes a few would get ahead of the others, but we made it a point of coming back together by stopping and waiting for the group to reconnect.
- We rode at a reasonable pace. My average speed was 12 mph.
- The eating stops were excellent. I took along three Clif bars to eat if I got hungry and didn’t open one of them.
- Pit stops at our age are essential. The tall corn of early September is our friend in that regard.
- The route was planned, and we each had printed directions. We made one wrong turn, but recognized the problem within 100 yards and quickly got back on track.
A bike ride with old friends that explores new territory, goes at a reasonable pace, has opportunities for good food and temperatures in the 70s most of the time: what’s not to like about that day?
Here’s a link to the ride: http://ridewithgps.com/trips/1749945