Friday, October 1, 2010

Confession + DALMAC

So I have not updated this blog in a while, for a few reasons really. Firstly, I haven't been taking many photos since I've been so busy. Second, I've been busy because I've graduated, moved away from Lansing to the Detroit area, and begun looking for a job.

Basically, this leads me to the realization that using such a location-specific URL was probably not a great idea. I'll be deciding on a new name sometime and probably move everything to the new URL. Or maybe just start with a clean slate.

Anyway, my last few days in Lansing were quite interesting from a cyclist's point of view. My wife and I went on our first multi-day bike tour, from Lansing to Seault Ste. Marie*, known to locals as the DALMAC. DALMAC is a sag-supported tour, where you pedal about 60-100 miles a day, set up camp at a high school at a small town, and the volunteers bring along your gear in a UHaul. If you break down terribly they'll help you out and maybe give you a lift to the next stop, but beyond that you're on your own pretty much, as we would find out.

Day 1 was nice, flat, and a good pace. We rode on pretty familiar roads much of the day, and aside from the odd dairy farm and beef farm not much was out there to look at. We set up our tents as it began to drizzle, ate some cafeteria food, and played some cards with the friends we were lucky enough to have with us. Holly's 650b tires showed some cuts, which taught me two lessons: 1, bring a spare if you're rolling on odd-sized tires, and 2, make sure your tires are in good condition BEFORE you're 70 miles from home!

Day 2 was similar, but brought with it some nasty rain showers about 12 miles from camp. We put the hammer down and arrived in camp only to realize the place where the crew had unloaded our gear was now a lake. Lesson: pack your gear in waterproof bags, or in ziplocks within the luggage. So we found a laundromat before closing time, dried out our sleeping bags and clothes, and had a beer or three.

Day 3 was rainy on and off, but the scenery was starting to get more interesting, with pretty rolling hills, pine forests, and friendly people selling pie at a church. A few heavier storms put a bit of a damper on things (har), but in all it wasn't so bad, and we had the opportunity to head over to Short's brewery at Bellaire, Michigan. We'd highly recommend the side trip if you can, as the brewery will be the best food and easily the best beer you'll have all trip. Also, the food at camp was truly awful here. The night fell, and brought with it 50 mph winds and heavy all-night rains. Lesson: Bring rain gear and cold weather gear. Even if you don't use it, it's good to have. You can always pack less warm weather gear and get by, but missing cold and rainy gear sucks when you need it.

Day 4 sucked. No way around it. Heavy winds, biggest hills of the ride, cold, and downpours for all but 10 miles of the day. We started out with about half of the riders who began the tour already having bailed. We would have bailed too at this point if it were an option, but we were up north with nobody to pick us up within hundreds of miles. 14 miles in, after struggling up and braking down difficult hills during the worst rain yet, we flagged down a SAG wagon to see if they'd give us a ride past the hills. No dice said the crew, so we soldiered on until catching up with our friends at a little breakfast spot. We waited through the worst weather while enjoying a hot coffee and warm cinnamon bun.

Heading back out again, it began to look a little nicer (raining on and off instead of constantly), and once we hit Boyne City the sun was downright beaming. At this point our silly crew was actually thinking of going for the century option for the day instead of the 65 mile route. We watched the whitecaps break on the bay as we rolled through town, enjoying the beautiful view. It would be our last fun moment of the day. As we broke north towards Pellston, with about half the day's mileage behind us, the Gods once again showed their anger, gusting winds and stinging rain. In the worst of the weather, we stopped at a McDonalds for respite and food. When the weather continued to worsen, we headed back out to be greeted by a wave of water as we pulled out of the driveway, courtesy of a passing SUV. The roads chosen for this section were the busiest with the worst shoulders of the trip, and combined with the limited visibility I really began to worry for our safety. Lesson: bring along a spare rear blinky light in case. The Superflash in particular seems susceptible to rain-related shorting out, and mine was useless after a couple days of this weather. Also lots of chain lube helps when it rains for 4 straight days.

Eventually we hit the last few miles. I was delirious by this point, egging on fellow riders by conversing, joking, singing aloud, anything I could do to not allow the rain to break me (or had I already broken?) A passerby said "I don't think the heavy stuff's gonna come down for quite a while," to which my Caddyshack-loving wife replied "I'd keep playing." And of course "Rat Farts!" upon reaching the top of the hill. A few miles later I had good reason to proclaim "rat farts" myself, as a shard of glass had worn its way through the casing of my tire, causing a horrible gash. Just like that, my day was over, about 1.5 miles from camp. My wife and I decided to bail out from the last day as the forecast was another rainy day, with winds that would probably prevent a bridge crossing. The last day, the only one we weren't riding, was gorgeous by the way, if anyone was wondering whether we were the jinx.

So would I do DALMAC again? Even if it was guaranteed nice weather, maybe not. I'd do another tour certainly, but honestly DALMAC wasn't really up our alley. Most of the riders are older men who seem to enjoy riding quite a bit faster than we do, and take the ride more seriously than we do in some ways. You certainly need to go with friends, as hanging out at the end of a long ride makes things go a lot better. I'm thinking the easy-riding, hard-partying souls on RAGBRAI might be more our speed.