It’s a beautiful day for math!

It is a perfect day. Too bad the century ride is tomorrow. The sun is out, the sky is blue, it’s beautiful and so are you…wait,

The title comes from the kids’ algebra teacher. I rode past him on the footbridge on the way home from the co-op, buying supplies for the camping weekend…

As I set up camp, the front blew in. The sky turned dark and the wind kicked up. The temperature began dropping. I closed up the tent before going to Sister Bay to pick up my ride packet. The threatened rain (whose chances and number of hours forecast kept shrinking as the week wore on) never came, but it will be a cool ride tomorrow. I’ll be getting up at the usual time for work due to a 7 AM start two towns up the road from here. Carbo-loading tonight with pumpkin tortelloni covered in pesto I made this morning.

I got up in the dark, normal at home but a little different when camping. Breakfast and coffee and off to Sister Bay at 6:20. First decision – what to wear. The temperature was in the low 50s (11 C), with a forecast high in the mid 60s (18 C) and it wouldn’t get to 60 (15 C) for a few hours. I opted for a long sleeve jersey, figuring it would be good all day, and shorts, figuring they’d be chilly at first but the right choice later. In a variation on the old bike racer trick of stuffing newspapers down the front of the jersey, I used the plastic bag we got our swag in. No ink on your chest, and no peeling off the disintegrating newspaper when you sweat through it. I needed that for the first 25 miles. My knees were cold in the morning and the sun felt pretty good when we were in it.

I avoided the mass start, not liking anything with “mass” in it these days. I rode out with someone I would see off and on all day. We started at a comfortably slow pace. The other advantage to avoiding the mass start is avoiding the adrenaline rush of the big crowd, which makes me ride faster than I should with 100 miles ahead of me.

At the 28 mile rest stop they served brats – only in Wisconsin (at 9 AM). I passed. A few miles on, I saw topiary in the shape of a camel. I wanted to stop and take a picture, but there were barking dogs on the other side of the fence. I figured they’d go nuts at someone stopping right outside their gate. It didn’t matter, since 100 yards later I came upon a couple of real camels grazing.

Camels? in Wisconsin?

At 46 miles I was hoping for some substantial food, but there were only melons, donut holes, and cookies. I noticed I was riding faster than I intended to, so I thought I’d slow down a bit to save strength for the end. A few miles on from there, R from Milwaukee rode up beside me. I had seen him coming and figured he’d pass me, but he settled in and started talking. The next 15 miles flew by – both because I don’t notice them while chatting, and because we were riding faster than I intended.

At mile 64 his family was waiting to meet him. After saying hi to them we started off with 5 more of his friends we met at the rest stop. From there to the mile 80 rest stop was easy going as a result. At that stop, all the talk was about the big hill coming up.

We hit that hill at 85 miles. It was pretty much like the average sort of hill we climb several of on every local ride. The Milwaukee crew disappeared behind me on the way up. I didn’t see them again. At mile 90 I talked to a couple of Ironmen (I don’t know why we don’t call a woman who completes one of those an “Ironwoman”, but we don’t.) I didn’t plan to keep up with her or her partner. They hadn’t done our local Ironman last week, but were planning two others this fall. This was just a warmup.

The miles were starting to take their toll after that as we rode into a headwind. A group of about 8 passed me with 6 miles to go. As they were young enough to be my children, I wasn’t tempted to try to keep up, even though it would have helped with the headwind. Miraculously, they did not disappear up the road and I followed them into Sister Bay after 101 miles and 6 hours and 6 minutes in the saddle. I had expected it to take 7 hours. The free beer was a welcome sight. Even better, they had several choices – all from One Barrel Brewing. It was a perfect day for the Oktoberfest while wading in Green Bay.

It was, by the way, a great ride – well-organized, through beautiful country, and less crowded than the more famous ride up here a week ago (which I did once and will now avoid). In a week, we’ll see if I can do it again (though close enough to home to sleep in my own bed).

The Ride (getting closer)

Carol was the Nurse Case Manager for Trauma. At daily rounds, she was often the only one who got my jokes. Everyone else looked puzzled. In turn, I was the only one who got her cultural references. Everyone else looked at us blankly.

She turned in her resignation on short notice. It was whispered that she had cancer. Soon I saw the notice for her funeral – on a Saturday, so I had to remember her the way I knew her – by working. In her obituary I noted that she was 3-4 months younger than I; thus the same high school graduation year. Not only did we think alike, but we had the same cultural touchstones. Like Geoph, it was pancreatic cancer. Like Geoph, it was fast.

My first personal encounter with cancer (that I recall) was my favorite singer. The call went out for a bone marrow donor and platelet donations. While donating platelets I was tested but not a bone marrow match. Kate Wolf died soon after. She sang of cancer (not her own) in her cover of Muriel Hogan’s “Agent Orange”.

I will be riding to benefit the Carbone Cancer Center on September 26; 100 miles or so. If you can, please add to my donation at: https://runsignup.com/half-fast I ride to remember the friends I have lost and I ride to try to keep that list from getting any longer. Thank you. If you have stories you want to share, please add them in the comments.

The Ride

Geoph lived in a comfortable home in San Francisco with his family of nine, some biological and some otherwise chosen. He left that home and family and hit the road in his tan Mazda pickup truck, with carpentry tools in the back, to visit intentional communities around the US.

He spent time at EastWind in Missouri (purveyors of fine nut butters), Twin Oaks in Virginia (makers of rope hammocks) and The Farm in Tennessee (foremost trainer of lay midwives), among others. He became known as “The Peripatetic Communitarian” and wrote extensively for Communities Magazine and produced films about the world of intentional communities. (Image from ic.org)

One of his communities was Co-op Camp Sierra, where our paths crossed every summer. In the summer of 2007 he stopped in San Francisco to visit his daughter on the way to camp. He wasn’t feeling great and she thought he looked worse. She convinced him to go to the doctor while he was in town. He never made it to camp that year, or ever again. He died that fall of pancreatic cancer.

Jerry was a carpenter. He built the steps in front of my house. He built his house. I was doing a bathroom remodel and called him to help hang some drywall. At nearly 80 pounds per sheet, lifting them overhead and holding them in place while screwing them into the studs required two people in my book. He came over, picked up the first sheet by its top edge, lifted it into place, held it with one hand, and screwed it into place with the other. I was just in the way. He had more strength in his fingers than I had in my whole body. When I tried to pay him, he said, “You just owe me an hour of labor next time I need an extra pair of hands.” He never got to collect. A misstep walking into the garage shattered a hip weakened by leukemia and he never recovered.

Lloyd was one of those people who made this town my home. I never knew him well but we had many friends in common. He walked into the hospital for a bone marrow transplant and was carried out when his weakened immune system could carry him no longer.

Karl was a weightlifter, a writer (at least one novel and one true crime book), a cook (which is how I met him) a runner, and a purveyor of fine running shoes. He autographed his novel for me during the first of many hospital stays, when he famously said to his surgeon, “I didn’t know you were going to make me look like Mr Potato Head.” [Ed. note: now known simply as “Potato Head“.] Head and neck cancer eventually claimed him but didn’t seem to slow him down before that. (photo by Rob Kelly)

On the other side of that coin, in my work I see women (and the occasional man) the morning after mastectomy pretty much every week. They have a cancer which is curable and often cured. I am no longer surprised by the ones who look great and are ready to move on after a few weeks to recuperate.

Cancer is one of those words we have learned to dread. Once it was seen as monolithic. Eventually we came to understand that there are many types of cancer. Some we can cure, some we can control, others are pretty universally killers. So why am I talking about cancer in what is, ostensibly, a bike blog?

During this pandemic, life has been confined to going to work five days a week and staying home the other two. I used to go on a weekly ride with friends and acquaintances. I used to ride on Sundays with a local club. I rode centuries, I rode across the country. Now I ride alone.

I have now registered for The Ride, a fundraiser for the Carbone Cancer Center. I hope to be able to ride 100 miles with others by late September. Even if the ride is canceled, cancer continues. Please consider visiting my fundraising page and making a donation in hopes that your friends don’t have to join mine in this list of stories. And if you have a story to tell, or a friend’s story to tell because they are not here to tell it themselves, please add it in the comments below.

Triplets of Belleville

After last week’s ride out of New Glarus, this week we rode into New Glarus, out of Belleville. As a teen, I rode here to dive in this lake. Where the building and pier appear in the photo, there once was a diving board.

The best place for feet after a ride

As a young diver, I was always on the lookout for another board. Our town pool had the worst board in the region, which gave us a home pool advantage when the country club teams came to us. One day on the way to visit my sister in Monroe, we took a wrong turn and drove through Belleville. I spotted the diving board at the lake and made plans to ride my bike down to try it out. As diving boards go, it was nothing to write home about, but the beauty of the lake beat a municipal pool and the smell of chlorine. 25 miles down, a couple of hours in the lake, and 25 miles home left me tired and happy.

Over the years, Lake Belle View silted up and became nothing more than a mudpit. It has been restored, though the diving board was replaced by a fishing pier. This Belleville has nothing to do with the French film The Triplets of Belleville.

But the film does have something to do with bicycling:

As this month features the ridiculously late edition of the Tour de France, Eddie Merckx climbing Mont Ventoux is timely.

It is century season in these parts. Last Saturday was a century for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (led locally by the Lymphomaniacs), Sunday was the Wright Stuff – through Frank Lloyd Wright country (in a pandemic “you’re on your own” edition with very limited support), this Saturday would have been the Door County Century (canceled) and the following week the Peninsula Century (same area, also canceled). We’ll have a report on solo riding on the Door Peninsula soon.

Chip off the old block

My daughter, a newly-minted grad student, put 50 miles on their bike last week getting to and from school and an internship. At 50 degrees and raining, with a north wind, they borrowed a spare pair of my rain pants for the 18 mile round trip rather than take the bus. That’s earl, brother.