Imagine for a moment that there was only one more
A single day, a final chapter, a last ride. Of all the miles covered and all the roads ridden, which would draw you back to experience them one more time?
EVENING DELIGHT WITH DAD
Marshall Opel // Podcaster & Fly Fisherman // @marshallopel
It’s just past six p.m. and the breeze pulls at the puffy white seeds from the cottonwood trees along the street. The work day is done and these extended June days mean evening bike rides and barbeques. I’m the first home and get the bikes ready. Air in the tires and a cold lemon drink in our bottles.
We clip in and roll down the hill, still relishing in the fact that no extra clothing is required this time of year. A right turn takes us through downtown Whitefish where tourists are starting to fill the bars and restaurants. Pickup trucks pulling boats and families piling out of their minivans, wearing the unmistakable look of relief, they’ve reached their destination. We remark on the annual influx of out of state licence plates that will populate our little town in the coming months.
Our route crosses the train tracks and heads north toward the alpine skiing destination of Big Mountain. Aspen trees, and their radiant green leaves flutter in the breeze. Hungry young deer break from devouring the yet to be cut grass to watch us pass. The Lodge on Whitefish Lake is buzzing with activity, a full parking lot signals the weddings and parties to come. Any traffic dissipates as the road follows the north shore. Lake air fills our nostrils, drawing up nostalgia of one form or another in us both. A short rise in the road allows us to stand from our saddles and stretch our legs. The work day fades as the miles tack.
The ride undulates along the shoreline. Dappled sunlight and a mellow evening breeze steady the temperature. A rich blue sky has us dreaming about possible weekend adventures in Glacier National Park. We chat and joke, sharing stories about our work day, catching each other up on world events and local news.
My dad is past his athletic prime, so we ride his pace, it’s leisurely for my young legs and lungs. Towards the end of the lake road, we slow to examine any new houses being built. Gordon is always one to appreciate interesting architecture and good design. We stop at the end of the road and drink from our bottles. However, the sound of buzzing mosquitoes has me back on my bike in no time. My dad is slower to clip back in. Maybe additional rest is required, but I think it’s him, taking an extra moment to appreciate the setting in its fullest.
The pace is slightly faster on the ride back. My dad drafts my wheel and somehow it doesn’t feel long ago that it was the other way around. Me, staring at his rear wheel straining to ride a straight line. I reflect on the multitude of lessons he bestowed on me, the pleasures of relaxed evening exercise remains a cornerstone.
Our route brings us back to town where wafts from grills permeate the evening air. We wave at familiar faces and smile at strangers. It’s summer in Montana, a time of plenty, a time of celebration. Our conversation shifts to what belongs on our grill. Burgers, sweet potatoes, salad, and a cold beer on the deck. This is good living and we are lucky to be alive. Long live the evening summer rides.
WHY LIMIT YOURSELF?
Jake Schuppe // Cycling Enthusiast & Advisor // @jake.schuppe
I believe the idea of your “Last Ride” should be an exercise in creativity, not dissimilar from a “pipe dream” or “bucket list”. Ideas you build and develop in your mind to motivate you to continue your own adventures. You may never achieve your “last ride” but that dream has undoubtedly lead you to other countless adventures. With that being said here are my last rides.
#1 Gravel Adventure
I am riding on a coastal gravel road, warm air blowing off the ocean and the full moon is lighting the landscape. I have been riding this road most of the day working my way down the coast over climbs and descents. Each town I pass has its own character and I stop to appreciate the local coffee. Now I am riding down the coast again, tired and hungry. My last stop for the night is the final town along this road, it is lit up in front of me and although it’s not my final destination it feels like home.
#2 Downhill for life
I am at the top of the mountain, it has taken me several hours of climbing to reach the top. The air is cold and dry but refreshing. My bike is new and free of any creaks, the suspension is supple and reactive with the perfect tune. After adjusting my gear and appreciating the view one last time I drop in. The trail is flowy and picks up speed quickly, one berm after another winding through a large sloping field. Each berm is a little larger and each time I exit a berm I exit with more speed than the one before. The trail leads me into the trees where the terrain quickly changes from high speed berms to technical rocks, mud, and roots.
The trees are tight, and I am on the limit of control. With each second my arms become tighter and tighter and it is becoming harder and harder to manage this technical terrain. The trees give up their density and open into a clearing with a buttery smooth pump track, untouched from any other riders. Each jump becomes a bit more progressive, I have never been the best or most confident on jumps but the feeling of flying through the air and following the momentum of my bike on the downside of the jump is one I will never forget. At the end of the jump line I stop to catch my breath, shake my arms out, and laugh at the ridiculous beauty of this trail I have found. When I look downhill I see where I started and the flowy trail I first dropped in on.
#3 The Team
Imagine crossing the finish line after the hardest, longest, most difficult race you can. When you step off your bike who do you imagine being there to congratulate and welcome you home. Those people are your team and who are most important to you. My team is my family, my wife, and my parents. No matter what “Last Ride” I come up with my team is always there with me putting me back on my bike when I can’t myself or congratulating me every time I cross a finish line.
#4 The Real Ride – The Race Across Minnesota
The Race Across Minnesota is held once a year near the end of summer on August 18th. Covering Approximately 240-miles (486km) from the small town of Gary South Dakota and ending in Hager City Wisconsin. For those of you not familiar Minnesota it is located in the Midwest of the United states, nestled between South Dakota and Wisconsin with Canada sitting above it. This area is known for its agriculture, abundance of lakes, winters, and small-town feel. Because there is so much agriculture in Minnesota you can find beautiful gravel roads for hundreds of miles. In this case 240 miles all the way across the state. The race starts at Midnight Saturday August 18th, you have 24 hours to complete the distance to cross the finish line in Wisconsin. From previous results you will find that this race has a very high attrition rate, with the best of the best finishing in roughly 13 hours. What makes this race unique is that it is a 240-mile point to point race with only 3 checkpoints. When starting the race, you are only given enough direction to get yourself to the next checkpoint. If you are able to arrive to the next checkpoint before time cut off they will provide the directions you need to move forward. Outside of these checkpoints this is a completely self-supported race, no outside aid from your support crew (Team) is allowed.
I grew up in the Midwest just east of Minnesota in southern Wisconsin. The area (Not dissimilar form Minnesota) is covered in rolling hills, green grass, and farms with big red barns for miles. The lifestyle here is slower, and vastly more simplified than what I have become accustomed to in the Bay Area of California. Near the region where I grew up, I will be able to find that simplicity again. Take the moment for what it is and enjoy the suffer, the quiet, the stars, and the adventure.
Lori Nedescu // Chef & Dietician // Elite Cyclist // @cadencekitchen
Asking my friends to join me on a trip to Briançon would be the beginning of my last ride. Little did I know, that they would all agree without hesitation. After having watched Le Tour on my computer screen from my couch in Ohio (where the roads are as flat as crêpes), we would set off for a Last Ride of redemption to settle a score with the Alps.
It would be exactly as before. Our group barely settling into the mountain top rental house before assembling bikes. Maps scattered across the kitchen table, flowing local red wine and big plans being discussed.
The next morning, the 5 of us Americans from central Ohio set out filled with gleeful exuberance and cappuccinos to tackle the day’s route. The route that we were about to tackle once more was nothing less than 90 miles and 13,000 ft of climbing, including about 40 miles of ‘rolling hills’ (8 category 4 climbs and 1 category 3) before reaching the start of Agnel (HC). We’d climb Europe’s third highest col before retracing our steps back down then up and over the Izoard to Briancon. It was a daunting plan but seemed doable given that we were all fit cyclists.
Kitted up, pockets stuffed with snacks and arm warmers, we clip in and take off. We chase each other around the beautiful rolling mountainside scenery for hours, taking it all in. Every mile is a spectacular departure from the corn field views of midwestern USA.
We pedal through Saint Martin de Queyrières to Les Vigneaux, along la Durance and stop for a long, leisurely coffee ‘pit stop’. Time isn’t a concern to those working in the mountains and why not just embrace it?
Roughly 45 miles down and approaching Agnel, this time the fatigue doesn’t come. No one turns around but on the climb we separate to find our own pace for the huge task ahead.
The rain falls but only to keep me cool as I find my climbing rhythm . I know that this climb can get you at the end. I’m ready for when my mind starts playing its tricks as the air gets thinner and tries to tell me I’m closer to the top than I actually am. I surf the adrenaline bursts served up by views of the summit and weather the deep fatigue that threatens to bubble over as the road turns the other way to wind its way up the mountainside.
Alone in the rain, I would be happy with my place in the world. And arriving at the summit with a sense of accomplishment, I’d move up from 11th fastest women to take the Strava QOM. Recovering from the effort I would re-group with Luke and take another selfie at the French/Italian border.
This time we’d be better prepared for the descent. The sun would shine and we would float down the mountain. There would be no shivering and sheltering half way down the road – we would only stop for photos of the beautiful vistas.
As a result we would reach the bottom of the Izoard with plenty of time to enjoy the climb. There would be no last ditch rescues from friendly French men like the previous attempt at this ride. We would climb Izoard and summit just as the sky was turning to dusk before descending with the sun to Briançon for a regroup and more of that great local wine.