2019 Pere Marquette continued...
Even with the flat tire delay I was able to make up some time and keep us on schedule. I can crack the whip if I need too. I think everyone enjoyed traveling back in time as we crossed the Chain of Rocks Bridge. For some they had never seen it, for others it was a trip down memory lane. We still have fifteen miles to Alton for lunch and we are still bouncing along on gravel - so much gravel. Needless to say everyone was elated to finally reach smooth, hard pavement. Let the fun begin. The break at the Confluence Tower needed to be short to keep us on time for our buffet lunch. Talk about herding cats. Not naming any names but I got chicks gone wild. There are girls waving from the top of tower. Rumors of girls buying tickets and taking the tour. My intentions were to only break for 10 minutes. "I had lost all control". It all ended well and when you just start riding they have no choice but to catch up.
This section was very nice. It is beautiful as you near Alton and see the bridge and city in the skyline. We gathered and all rode in together to refuel for the 22 miles after lunch. Old Bakery Brewing did a fantastic job hosting us. The food was hot and ready. Tables reserved and beer cold. We had 8 fresh riders join us here so time to hear speech #2. I forgot to have everyone introduce themselves at the start and this worked out better since now we had our full group. It was entertaining as always you need to see the slideshow to see why. Back on the trail this should be an easy 10 to Elsah and then 11 to Pere Marquette. This section involves about 10 miles of road riding. I was in the lead and when I pulled into Elsah I was updated on numerous stories of multiple mishaps and spills. I was completely unaware of all the background work security was shouldering. We had several people fall. One girl was experiencing shortness of breath and over heating and needed to be driven to the lodge. It was crazy. Security was scooping up riders right and left. Once things settled down it was time to get back on the road. I waited at Grafton for everyone and we rode as a group on the riverside of town. This was definitely a highlight. It was a warm Saturday afternoon and every bar, winery and rental was busting with tourist partying and enjoying the day. It must have been a sight for people to see 40 bike riders all in pink winding through town. People were waving and honking. It was great. Just the inspiration we needed to fuel us for the hills to come. Just outside of Grafton we were met with a nice steep one. Normally not a problem but very hard after 40 miles in very hot temps. My legs were noodles. It took all I had. I think many had to walk it. From there it is about 3 miles of very curvy hills. This is my favorite section. You literally are transported to your childhood on the Mine Ride at Six Flags. It was AWESOME!!! Finally we all made it and rolled into Pere Marquette to get our cabins and get to that pool as quick as possible to cool off and clean off.
Everyone found their happy place on lodge grounds. Chicks were cabin side, poolside, patio side, at the camp ground and at the lodge dinning. It really worked out great. Time for fellowship and socializing. We had a campfire in front of the cabins but no one was up past 10:30. Some never even made it out after dinner. Rest was a priority and necessity to tackle 39 miles the next day.
We had 16 attend mass on Sunday. What a tribute to this group to have that many up early for 8:00am mass. We needed the prayers if we were ever going to make this ride home. Apparently the church was under repair from the recent summer flooding and this was the first mass after reconstruction. Yet another blessing on our weekend.
Everyone gathered and it was time to tackle the ride home. Today was going to be a hot one and it would challenge us all. The ride to Grafton was easy but stopping to wait for everyone was like sitting in a hot box and it was only 10:30am. Definitely better to keep moving and make some breeze. We developed a new strategy to make the road riding section a little safer for everyone. We all rode together and kept our group tight. Security took the lead and rear of our group and forced the two lane traffic into the passing lane. This kept traffic a lane away from us on the shoulder. Everyone really enjoyed this section on the way back. It was downhill, with beautiful views of the bluffs and felt safe. The heat was ramping up and everyone was definitely ready for a break at lunch. Everyone stayed rubber side up on their bikes and well hydrated. We rolled into Alton and our buffet was ready at Chez Marilyns. I picked this place because of the beautiful outside patio. I was the first to beeline right inside to cool off. I had every intention of enjoying a long 1.5 hour lunch and cold glass of chardonnay. I was finally able to relax because all the hard timing and planning was behind me. At the end of lunch Tom Tyree stood up and gave the most wonderful talk. He thanked Mark and I for the planning and then surprised us with the announcement that everyone had chipped in and paid for our cabin. That was a wonderful gift - you chicks are too good to us. Well no sooner everyone is up and getting on their bikes. Enjoying the wine and cool air I completely forgot my task at hand and did not change out of that hot jersey, fill my water bottle or get the intended air in my tires. Before I knew it we were off and riding and I was ill prepared for these 7 miles. By the time we made it to the Confluence Tower I was completely whipped as most were. Now we were well into the high 90's heat index with no shade, strong winds against us and on the tail end of 87 miles. It was wearing on everyone and this is where we lost a good number of riders overheated and exhausted. I am so glad people used common sense and stopped if they needed. Personally I had to sit in my jeep with the air on my face to cool down. If I was not the head chick I too would have been taking that ride those last 9 miles.
So now we are on the good, bad and ugly of the last 9 miles that put the nail in all our coffins. It was hot!! Oh did I mention that yet. We were in the full sun with strong winds and not in our favorable. The trail was all big rock now and water was scarce. Security had to run what few bottle of water we had left up to us on the levee in a section you can't access by car. It was all we could do to try and finish. Everyone was dripping in sweat. I seriously felt like I was riding in hell and brought all my friends there. But now for that good part I mentioned. It was amazing to come into the finish. What a sense of accomplishment. One of the most challenging rides to when you really don't think you can. This ride pushed all of us. Every person whether they rode all or part of this ride demonstrated perseverance and will power. I am so proud of all the chicks, the riding & road security and lastly, the Ass Man. Everyone did their part and we are all winners. If I say one thing I was most impressed by is the positive attitude and perseverance of every rider. Way to go!
I promise next year will be easier!!