Perhaps the best group ride that has ever taken place since the dawn of time went down this past Saturday. Seriously, it really was the best. If you don’t believe me, it’s because you weren’t there. And it all started on a whim on our team’s facebook page back on December 23rd, 2011:
This small little post got a decent response. It sounded like 4 or 5 people were interested in getting together for a ride on the Berryman Trail. So, I decided to throw up an short “Just for Fun Friday” post here on our blog to make it official by inviting everyone that reads this blog (all three of you) to the ride. That post also got a good response with a couple of “maybes” (Kage and Travis), and some “definitelies” (Kage’s brother, Jim, all the way from Wisconsin and four Hoosier Daddies). We also had a couple of new people commenting on the blog and showing some interest in the ride. Then Jim Davis posted our ride on the GORC forums. This drummed up even more interest with at least two more confirmed riders. (Thanks, Jim!)
At this point, this was quickly turning into the largest group mountain bike ride I’ve ever been on.
As the 14th of January drew nearer, I wrote another blog post with more details about the when and where for the ride. In the comments to that blog post, we had more riders interested, and we received a great lesson on why you should NEVER use UrbanDictionary.com to check your spelling (although, I don’t think anyone other than Casey needed that lesson).
And then the Hoosier Daddies made the ride even more irresistible with a blog post promising brats, burgers and beer. So between our blog posts, our facebook page, the GORC forum, the Hoosier Daddies, and any other site that posted a link to this ride, it had snowballed to around 30 riders that might show up. I was blown away.
So, on Friday the 13th, Bob and I headed to my sweet, little Grandma’s house in Cuba where we were meeting Kage and Jim. Now, my Grandma will be 90 years old on February 9th. She is blind in one eye. She is missing part of her femur and literally has no hip on one side. Despite all that, she still lives alone, and she still made us a feast of Teriyaki roast, rotisserie chicken, green beans, corn, salad, mashed potatoes, gravy, fresh cantaloupe, strawberries (lots of strawberries actually), sheet cake (delicious), and of course her famous chocolate chip cookies:
The next morning, Bob and I awoke before 5:00 AM to sign up for the Dirty Kanza, and then we went back to bed. It wasn’t long, though, before the tantalizing smell of bacon filled the room. We all woke up to another feast of scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy, cantaloupe, grapes, toast, and of course more sheet cake and cookies. And my grandma actually apologized for not making the biscuits from scratch! Can you believe that?!? She lets me bring 3 of my friends to stay at her house, and she has the nerve to use Pillsbury Biscuits instead of making them from scratch?!?!? I apologize to Kate, Jim, and Bob for such inhospitable accommodations. But seriously, my grandma is an amazing woman, and I can’t thank her enough.
With the snow we had recently received and the temperature in the low 20’s when we set out for Berryman, I was really expecting a much smaller turn out than we previously anticipated. I figured we had 10 people between our group and the Hoosier Daddies, and I thought a few more might still show up. If there were 15 riders, I’d still be ecstatic. When we pulled into the parking lot, however, it was clear that people were needing a group ride as badly as I was.
The parking lot was packed, and although I didn’t take an official headcount, I counted 25 riders altogether. I couldn’t believe it! There were many friends that I had already met, and there were even more people that I had never met. If I never got a chance to actually introduce myself and say hello, I apologize.
I tried to get Bob to lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance or our National Anthem, but he chickened out. He’s soooo worried about what people might think of him, because you know, “Image is everything” with us Virtusans. We quickly geared up and got our bikes ready. The Hoosier Daddies handed out maps to anyone that needed one (including me since I forgot to bring one), and more importantly they handed out some travel-size Blackberry Whiskey, courtesy of Bourbon Family Center. Big thanks for the whiskey!
After stocking up with maps and whiskey, we headed into the woods on the Berryman Trail. The faster riders naturally headed out first, and the slower riders (me) stayed to the back of the pack. The trails were snow-covered at the start of the ride, but as the day wore on, only the trails that hadn’t seen much sun stayed covered with snow and ice. The trails were surprisingly ride-able, though. My small back-of-the-pack group consisted of Kage, Jim, Travis, Aaron, Bob, and me. I knew I’d be too slow for Aaron, so I let him around me when I stopped to take some photos.
The first 5 or 6 miles of the Berryman Trail heading clockwise from the Berryman Campground has had a lot of work done to it. I’m not sure if it was the Ozark Trail Association or GORC or both, but I’d like to say a big “Thank You!” to anyone that has worked on this trail. It was a lot more fun and a lot more ride-able than it used to be. The creek crossings were so smooth. Take a look:
It wasn’t long before we needed to stop to shed some layers. Even though it was only 25 degrees or so, the sun was out, and we were staying warm. The only time I ever felt cold was when we stopped on top of a ridge in the wind (not very smart). We leap-frogged two of the newest Hoosier Daddies, Jake and Ryan. It was amazing that Ryan was actually present for this ride. Since it was cold and snowy, everyone thought he’d have to stay home because one of his kids might be “sick.”
I can’t tell you how much fun I was having. I love the Berryman Trail, and I love riding in the snow. So this was simply the best. We were taking our time, stopping for snack/whiskey breaks, photo opportunities, and to try to ride stuff that we didn’t think we could ride. To see some photos and videos of us you should check out Kage’s write-up (just let me make it clear that photos and video NEVER do justice to how cool or gnarly the trail is).
Travis needed to leave a little early, and Bob wasn’t really feeling it on a rigid singlespeed. In addition to that, free beer and BBQ was waiting for them back at the campground. They decided to kick out on a gravel road at around mile 8 or 9 to take the pavement back to the campground at mile 15. We made sure they had a map, and we made sure they really knew where they were going so they didn’t have a repeat performance of their last Berryman Ride.
Kage, Jim, and I decided to push on to Brazil Creek Campground. Since Jim had driven a wee bit farther than everyone else, and Kage had driven quite a ways as well, we wanted to get as much riding in as possible. The next two miles were mostly flat with some downhills, and we had a blast. After that, though, we hit some stretches that were destroyed by horses:
Some of the climbs had us off our bikes and walking, but there ain’t no shame in that. There were some fun downhills too. We even came across some sign that other riders had indeed made it this far.
Right before we hit the Brazil Creek Campground, there was a really fun stretch of trail that skirted along the side of the hills with nice, flowy ups and downs. Kage was in the lead, followed by Jim and then me. She flat-out rocked this section. I can’t even tell you the transformation I’ve seen in her. She hasn’t even been riding a mountain bike for a year yet, so I was very impressed. We flew through this section, and it was one of the best parts of the ride for me.
Once we got to the bottom, we crossed a creek without getting our feet wet.
We then took a snack break to keep Betty White at bay. We checked the map to make sure we could get back to the campground, and we set out on the pavement with hopes of burgers, brats, and beer awaiting our arrival. Unfortunately, the climb out of Brazil Creek Campground is brutally long and steep with a few false summits where you think you’re done, only to realize that the hill in fact keeps going on and on and on. To make things worse, Jim’s gears kept jumping around and locking up which made it even more difficult for him. But we forged on with our minds on the post-ride festivities.
As we finally reached the Berryman Campground, we could smell the food and hear the laughter coming from the pavilion. We had finally made it after 6 hours. I could not wait to get into dry clothes, drink an ice-cold beer, and eat a freshly grilled brat. Kate had other plans, though. Being a true blogger, she needed a photo by the Berryman sign. We quickly took a couple of photos and then made our way to our vehicles.
We got to our vehicles and began changing into nice, dry clothes. As we were trying not to freeze while changing clothes, a Hoosier Daddy (I think it was Ryan, but I’m not sure) actually brought each of us a cup full of Blue Moon beer with a freshly squeezed orange slice. Now that’s service!
Then I met my new best friend, Bruce. He had ridden his bike a few miles with his daughter and son-in-law (neither of them had ever ridden any single track before, by the way), and he then turned around to man the grill for the rest of the day. And man the grill he did!
He promptly had me fed with an amazingly delicious cheeseburger (and two brats… and another cheeseburger). I can’t even describe how tasty the grub was. And I can’t thank the Hoosier Daddies enough for providing the food, beer, grill, and and grill master. These guys made this event a party, and there was definitely a party atmosphere when we arrived at the pavilion. Here are a few shots from the par-tay:
I believe the gentleman in the red jacket above was actually supposed to be meeting a few of his friends at Berryman that day. However, they stood him up. So he did what any true mountain biker would do. He rode with us and stuck around for some free food and beer. I never actually caught his name, and I feel bad about that. But I’m glad he was able to ride with us and hang out afterwards.
Just when I thought the post-ride party couldn’t get any better, Justin and Bruce came up with the best thing ever. Justin dropped one of Kage’s delicious homemade cookies onto the grill. Before he could grab it, Bruce said, “Wait! Give it a minute.” After a couple of tries, they determined that two minutes on the grill led to a perfectly warm, chewy, and moist cookie. I have to say they were right. I think this is by far the most important accidental discovery since Penicillin.
As the fire died down and people started leaving, the conversation took on a much more serious tone. We bantered back and forth about Mike Tyson’s Punch Out, how the Spread Gun on Super Contra was waaaaaay better than the stupid Lazer, the proper way to shoot a deer, Martin Luther King on a mountain bike, and certain topics of which we will never speak again.
We also decided that the MLK ride has become a tradition. We know there has only been one MLK ride, but if you were there, then you’d understand how it has already become a tradition. If you weren’t there for the MLK Ride, I’m really sorry. Just make sure you’re there next year for MLK 2. It will be bigger and better, I promise. And if you were there, thank you for showing up!
The only thing that leaves me feeling badly about the ride is people thanking Bob and me. We really didn’t do anything. All we did was suggest a group ride. The Hoosier Daddies are the ones that made the MLK Ride what it was. They are the ones that need to be thanked. They are the party gurus. Not only are they gurus, but I now consider them all friends. Their philosophy when it comes to racing and training is right in line with ours: It’s all about the experience. I can’t wait to ride with or race against you guys again. Seriously… Thank you. You made the ride an amazing event that I truly look forward to next year.