Words & Photos || Gary J Boulanger
A handful of us cut our targeted 65-mile day short, returning to the hotel after 35 miles and 3,500 feet of climbing. It appeared I was running out of steam, and the lure of coffee and a more sedentary afternoon beckoned back at base camp. The others proceeded to Morro Bay toward the coast, a bit too far and windy for my taste. We had already ridden 208 miles in four days, with 16,800 feet of climbing, and collectively consumed several bottles of wine.
The ride back into town gave me plenty to think about.
Enlarging the flock
What do I do with this experience? Do I reach out and create my own conversational-paced rides with friends back home? There are several folks who assume — because I'm skinny and own nice gear — that I'm a racer, and untouchable; not sure where this stigma comes from. I'd like to change this perception.
The men and women who participated in the Gentleman's Training Camp came from all walks of life, but once we clipped in and pointed out front wheels in a specific direction, age, gender and ability melted away and we rode. A few folks relied on heart rate monitors to gauge their performance (this was a group with an average age of nearly 59), but there was rarely any braggadocio about material things, exotic travel or wealth. If there was, it was about cycling.
On December 31, 2012, I took my final step toward Facebook detox and deleted my account. My goal for 2013 was to participate in life, not spectate, and certainly not go on adventures mainly to impress my 'friends'. Off came the cyclometer, and away went the Strava. I was jumping into the New Year with as little tech as possible, focusing on my mind, body and friends (in the flesh). No siree, 2013 is a year meant to be cherished daily, and the Gentleman's Camp was an important ingredient in my cycling casserole.
In late 2009, my friends Tom Z. and Gary W. approached me about riding together more often. In Gary's case, his doctor recommended cycling after years of running had worn out his knees. With Tom, an inoperable brain tumor and a cheating wife opened his eyes to the healing power of cycling. I was all too happy to oblige, and for a couple years we enjoyed our 'Gentlemen's Ride' every Saturday before life got in the way. Tom splits time between California and Minnesota, frequently in airplanes, and my daughter's track meets each late winter/early spring have been a highlight the past few years, but often land on Saturdays. Gary rides regularly, and tells me about his adventures at church each Sunday. He misses our talks.
I wasn't being very gentlemanly, despite my initial good intentions. Life as a freelance writer is feast or famine, and it was closer to starvation for a stretch, so when the feast began, I was constantly on the go, away from home and good friends.
Last week, when I was transcribing my interview with Fast Freddie Rodriguez for a future PAVED feature story at the desk in my workshop, I heard the familiar whirl of a chain humming over a cassette. My neighbor John just purchased a nice Focus carbon road bike with Shimano Dura-Ace components, and was rolling slowly back and forth in an attempt to dial in his shifting.
"New bike?" I called out.
"Yeah, but no matter how I try, the chain keeps rubbing…" he responded, looking up briefly before attempting to drop the chain to the small inner chainring.
"Roll it in here," I said, pointing to my workshop.
Ten minutes later, I removed his bike from my repair stand, and sent him down the road to make sure the tweaks we made were solid.
"Thanks, Gary!" he shouted as he cruised up and down our cul-de-sac, pleased as punch and wearing a huge grin. "We should ride sometime."
I've known John more than six years, and I know he rides. Our schedules never gibbed, but as the sun set we spoke of riding soon. A couple days later, on Sunday, he came to my house at 11:45 am, bearing the gift of avocados and Sierra Nevada IPA as a token of his appreciation.
"Did you get out for a ride yesterday?" he asked.
"Yeah, but later than usual," I said. "My buddy Tom thinks he got food poisoning Friday night, and texted me to say he wouldn't be riding. So, I took a solo flyer before my friend's wedding. In fact, I'm meeting Tom in 15 minutes; care to join us on a short 25 miler through Portola Valley?"
"I'll be ready in 10," he said, jogging across my lawn to his.
And with that, another riding partner was obtained, a ride was shared, and I felt whole again. Seems that the Gentleman's Training Camp had a higher purpose after all…