As you know, some rides are born great (Peletonia, for example), some rides achieve greatness over time (TOSRV comes to mind), and some rides have greatness thrust upon them. Such is the case with the First Annual Pre-Labor Day Recovery Ride.
The brainchild of Steve “The Ox” Oxley, this ride is destined to become a classic, for reasons both real and imagined. Conceived as an easy ‘recovery’ ride after the rigors of the 100 mile, split-personality Covered Bridge – Millersport Corn Ride, it quickly became apparent this ride had a style and personality all it’s own.
The start was the parking lot off of Bixby Rd for the Three Creeks Park system. From here one can access a multitude of trails across the vast Columbus landscape, and as this was a ‘recovery’ ride, the fact that we would be sharing these trails with a variety of walkers, joggers, runners, rollerbladers, and cyclists of every age and ability, would have little to no impact on our leisurely pace and purpose. We simply wanted to have fun flushing lactic acid from certain overworked muscle groups.
In keeping with this relaxed attitude, we (the 3 people who showed up for the ride1: Steve, Jimmy, and Rick) brought our old back-up bikes (except Steve, who brought his NEW bike, demonstrating how the exception proves the rule), fully aware that speed would not rule the day. To highlight the casual, generous ambiance of this ride, Jimmy furnished oatmeal raisin cookies for the entire group, a tradition we’ll look forward to year after year. The relaxed peleton rolled out of the parking lot at a very sensible 10:45 AM, or as Rick likes to call it… 10:30, and proceeded northward, destination undetermined, drinking in the sights and sounds of a clear, bright September morning; heads pounding with the memory of pounding beers the previous September evening (come to think of it, that was actually earlier that same morning). Anyway…
1 (It should be noted that Mark V AND his wife showed up to ride, and did… although they left the parking lot at 10:30 AM, apparently unwilling or unable to wait until the ‘official’ start time of 10:30 AM, as described above. It’s easy to forget the conversion factor embedded within the subtle math necessary to calculate EDHT [Eastern Daylight Holt Time] The Committee for Responsible Participation is reviewing their petition to be included as original members of the 1st TAP-LDRR)
The peleton maintained a reasonable 14-15 mph pace, dodging the occasional walker, runner, and idiot riding a bike without a helmet, but making his kids wear one, cause a mind is a terrible thing to waste, unless you’re a parent, in which case it’s easily sacrificed, apparently. After a while, Rick got the bright idea to ring the little bell he had tucked away on his top tube, as a warning to the folks we were about to pass, and he would do this every time he remembered, or about 50% of the time. The rest of the time folks would be alerted by the squeak coming from every revolution of Steve’s pedal stroke, which sounded not unlike a mouse partially caught in trap such that neither escape nor death were possible, so it was left begging for one or the other with every revolution. Thus, Rick was ringing the bell half the time, and the other half lost in thought imagining hacking a mouse (bearing a striking resemblance to Steve’s foot) into a thousand pieces with a double-edged machete. A wasted mind is a terrible thing to disturb.
Each of us took turns taking the lead, which sometimes meant riding in front, but mostly meant explaining what we were seeing, and shouting which turn to take when the trail would split into different directions. Steve explained us all the way to Broad St., Rick talked us all the way to downtown, then Jimmy picked up in true tour-guide fashion to take us from downtown up past Grandview and into the OSU area. Did you know without Battelle there would be no Xerox… or was it without Xerox, there would be no Battelle? Well, anyway they’re co-dependent. And did you know there are porta-johns located along the trail just past St. John’s Arena? Steve didn’t either, but he was glad there were! In fact, Steve often stops to check out the porta-johns, so this ride was extra exciting for him. Columbus city trails connect many city parks like pearls on a string, and of course, city parks mean picnic tables, and… porta-johns.
We were close to 20 miles into what many thought would be a 30-mile ride, still heading north, and stomachs were beginning to growl. You know hunger is kicking in when the conversation turns to questions like, “What did you have for breakfast?” Rick suggested we ride the Olentangy trail to its’ endpoint in Worthington, where there would be a couple restaurants, and that would make a good halfway point. The peleton agreed it could wait that long, but the further it rode, the more pointed the questions got: “Exactly what restaurants are there? Are you sure? What are the names of the restaurants? Do they have sandwiches?” “Steve, they’ll be food there if I have to kill the next groundhog that runs across the trail, cook it, and bake and slice the damn bread myself!”
It took forever to cover the last 8 miles to Worthington, even at Steve’s squeaky 17-18 mph pace, but we got there, and found a place called The Rusty Bucket, a Subway shop, and a little ‘gourmet’ grocery store (this IS Worthington). Jimmy insisted we treat ourselves to something nice, we had worked hard, and the peleton agreed. We were 28 miles into a 30-mile recovery ride, and we deserved something special. So we sat down to dine alfresco, under a shady canopy at The Rusty Bucket. Jimmy and Rick would have been just as happy to dine indoors, but Steve insisted we weren’t properly dressed. Rick remembered he had a tie (regimental stripe, navy & burgundy) in his rack bag, but since the others apparently had forgotten theirs, he didn’t push it. The service was a bit slow at first, but eventually the water and ice tea was flowing freely. The food was excellent, the conversation lively. Not ours… the loud mouth woman with the baritone voice at the next table apparently wanted all the people at all the tables, and the gas station attendant two block away, to know how self-centered her friends were, and now we all do.
We ate at a leisurely pace, enjoying watching each other’s lips move without actually hearing what we said, and as we cleaned up the last of our culinary selections, we agreed that this ride should be an annual event. As the checks were being brought out, and Steve was emphatically making the point that he was not helping to pay for any but his own, (having recently been burned in a similar situation), suddenly Rick’s eyes grew large, his mouth dropped, and his face got red. You know how it is when you want to stare, and you know you shouldn’t, and you can’t help yourself, and you get caught at it, and you pretend you weren’t, and it’s killing you to not look, so you do? Like when a woman approaches, and she’s built like a brick…. house, and she knows it, and she’s looking around to see if anyone is noticing, and she’s dressed so people will notice, and so you do, and she gives you that look like… what are you looking at, and she knows damn well what you’re looking at? Well, here comes this blonde across the parking lot, and Rick is the only one facing the parking lot, and she and an older blonde (her mother?) are heading right for the restaurant… and our table, and Rick is mouthing the words… Check this out! Followed by… Are those real? And when Steve sees what Rick sees, Steve responds: No, those aren’t real. To which Rick responds, I didn’t think so. Nature doesn’t do that to a person. Well, we had already paid our bills, but it was obviously not a good time to leave, especially since once the blonde and her mother (it really was her mother, we overheard her say so) were seated, the blonde decided she needed something from the car, went past our table out to her car, and came back in past our table to sit down again. At that point, it was time to leave, since we were having difficulty breathing and so on.
We got on our bikes and headed back to the trail, each silently lost in our own thoughts, and retraced our path south, at a lively pace. When we were able to speak again, we concluded that the blonde’s prodigious assets were an occupational investment, and probably amortized over 10 years. That settled, we continued to retrace the route, and noting that the scenery was essentially the same as the first half, and that the second half would be 28+ miles as well, Rick offered to lead the peleton on an alternate return route. We’d be on some city streets, through various neighborhoods and industrial areas, and, as it was getting late, we would shave a few miles off as well. The peleton agreed, so Jimmy took the lead back through the Clintonville, OSU, Grandview section, and Rick would take over once we hit downtown.
Rick happened to be lead rider as the peleton was passing beneath Third Ave. and approaching the short, ingenious little tunnel that takes you under 315 and away from Grandview, toward downtown. He catches up to a blonde female cyclist (no, they’re probably not related) who, rather than be passed on a short uphill section, stands and rides up the section with skill and power. Obviously, she’s not new to the sport. Rick and the peleton follow her around several twists and turns, and when a straight section approaches, Rick says, “On your left” and passes without incident. The tunnel is next and Rick enters the cool shade, thinking and planning for the upcoming alternate route.
SUDDENLY, the silence is broken by a loud, shrieking string of f-bombs, and disparaging comments about someone’s mother, and the sound is bouncing around that tunnel like a bell tower on St. Swithen’s Day. It’s a female voice, although the language is pure sailor at sea for 6 months, and thoughts are racing through Rick’s mind… IS she talking about ME, and my mother? Or Steve? Or Jimmy? What the hell happened back there?
Rick exits the tunnel, as does Steve and Jimmy, and then a blonde with fire coming out of her mouth. I can hear Jimmy offering an apology several times, but the blonde is having none of it. She powers past the entire peleton, saying unkind things to all of us, although it’s hard to make out exactly what, except for the word that rhymes with luck, which is always crystal clear. Rick turns to Steve and Jimmy to ask what happened back there, and Jimmy explains: “As we were entering the tunnel, I could see it was going to be a little tight if someone was coming from the opposite direction, so I said to the blonde, ‘Careful.’” That’s it? Yep, that’s it. About this time Steve goes powering past us, intent on catching up to her, and Rick thinks: “He’s going to “engage” her in conversation and get her to calm down. I’ve seen him do this before. It’s his gift. He’s good with people, good at diffusing difficult situations.” Steve disappears up the trail and Rick fully expects to shortly find he and the blonde stopped, talking calmly, smiling and exchanging phone numbers. Instead, we come upon the blonde, stopped, alone, and muttering profanities to anyone and everyone riding past. So much for Steve’s gift. The thought of stopping never enters Rick and Jimmy’s minds as the sound of f-bombs recedes in the distance.
Wow, what next great adventure awaits us as we continue to recover? We take the trail downtown, past the replica of the Santa Maria, and then…dead-end; trail blocked by construction. We’re forced up onto downtown streets, but here’s where Rick’s internal compass and unerring sense of direction come into play. Jimmy asks: Where the hell are we? to which Rick replies, How the hell should I know? So much for Rick’s gift. We continue south on Front St., which turns out to be 2nd Street, which becomes an alley; so we leave the alley and stumble onto Front St., taking that to Greenlawn Ave., where we wait 20 minutes for a light to change, cause we’re law abiding cyclists, or too tired to think straight, take your pick. Eventually we dead-end into a side street that takes us to High St. and from there we take a one-way street east through a scenic neighborhood with people cleaning their guns on their front porch, preparing for the holiday on Monday. We cross Parsons, and follow Marion past all the shuttered industry to Fairwood. With Rick in the lead, and dying from thirst, we take Refugee over to Alum Creek where it crosses 104, and THERE, we get back on the trail. Recognizing where we are, finally, Steve can smell the barn. He kicks it up a notch, and leads us back along the trail to the cars.
Done. 54 miles of recovery. Put this one in the books. A classic. Join us next year about this same time. It’s the Pre-Labor Day recovery ride. That way, you have Labor Day to recover.