Friday Group Ride #188

When the trail you’re riding ends in the ocean, literally in the ocean, you have done something right, especially if that trail also ribbons left along a cliff that hugs the shoreline. Clumps of goldenrod and sea grass hem you in. An increasingly rare Monarch butterfly dances across your path.

It was the happy accident of GPS route planning, a dudes’ weekend away, and the haphazard designation of “roads” on local maps that brought me here.goldenrod

Block Island is part of a coastal archipelago. It sits 13 miles off the south coast of Rhode Island, and almost the same distance from Montauk Point on Long Island. 40% of it is conservation land. One main road rings the interior, linking houses to the sole, small town, New Shoreham, and, as it turns out, a small spider’s web of jeep track and sandy trails reaches even further, out to the perimeter and into the ocean.

The dudes I was there with all surf and fish. I am the only cyclist, so I was fortunate to escape for much of a Saturday to explore on my own. I had been to the island once before, but contented myself then with a soft spin of the main loop, pretty but unremarkable. This time, resolved to see more of what was there, I plotted a route on a crude map, only to have the ten minutes invested there deliver me to one of the most beautiful twisting, winding solo rides I’ve done in a long time.

Honestly, it’s hard bi_sunsetto weigh the awesomeness of a ride like this. How does it compare to D2R2, for example? Was it more beautiful? No, just different. Did I have more fun? No, but it was a solo ride. It was more about me and less about connecting with friends. Honestly, there were a few times on this ride, where I caught myself laughing out loud at how good the route was, or because a pair of pheasants scurried across the way.

What is clear is that I am undeservedly lucky to get to ride when and where I do. I will bemoan how busy I am, how much time I spend sitting in ice rinks watching youth hockey, how most of my substantive riding begins in the pre-dawn, but that is all just the bullshit ranting of a guy with no clue he’s won life’s lottery.

When I got back to the house, perched there on the edge of the salt marsh, to shower and begin cramming my face with food, I had a peace of mind and a strong sense of having learned a great secret, the feelings we’re all hunting out there on the road and/or trail. Then I took a nap. Yeah. It was like that.

This week’s Group Ride asks the question, what has been your most awesome ride this year? And what made it that way? Was it the location? The company? Or some alchemical combination thereof? Maybe you had some sort of great form and won a race? Or maybe, like me, you discovered a beautiful place that you might have known was there, but still couldn’t believe once you’d arrived.

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  1. ScottyCycles62

    My most “awesome” ride this year was just a Sunday JRA with my girlfriend Cinelligirl riding around the heart of our city San Diego. It was a bridges of San Diego tour. Stopping to ride/walk across the various small bridges in the area to Instagram and just enjoy the sights. Hanging out with no agenda to ride a certain pace or get to a particular place. Just let the road and curiosity take you where it will. Spending quality time on your bike and with your girlfriend makes for an awesome ride.

  2. TominAlbany

    My first century ride since before my son was born 7+ years ago is probably it. Nothing spectacular except getting to spend a big chunk of my day on a bike with some guys from work. Close runner up: I did my first-ever race this year. It was 2 times around a 5 mile Mtn Bike loop. The thrill and the camraderie did it there too.

  3. Paul I.

    For me, the best week cycling this year was my trip to Oregon, and the best day of that trip was the ride over the McKenzie Pass. What an absolutely stunning place. It even beat the tour of Crater Lake for me, although it was close.

  4. Dustin

    Its only October, so the best rides of the year are, hopefully, yet to happen for me.

    So far I would say it was a 70 mile MTB ride back in March. All day on the MTB, in the woods. Glorious.

  5. Disch

    Love this exercise.

    So many great rides this year. Going under 9 hours at Leadville with all the things that went wrong was pretty damn surreal. Tough to beat that. Riding the Park City Point 2 Point with my brother Garrett was another big one.

    A favorite though?

    Has to be a ride about 6 months ago here in Austin. It was hot and raining. That doesn’t happen much in Central Texas. It wasn’t especially long or fast, and it was on the same roads I train on every week, but there was this moment when it started to rain…I thought about packing it in…and then I just gave into the moment…got soaking ass wet…enjoyed having the road all to myself…savored the idea that people were looking at me from cars thinking I was crazy…and was totally present. Presence is unfortunately difficult to come by. For whatever reason, it all came together that afternoon.

    Best ride of the year.

  6. Margaret Smiddy

    My most awesome ride this year was the Levi Leipheimer King Ridge Gran Fondo. I knew King Ridge was going to be tough going in and trained for it. Still it’s quite a difficult climb and I was a bit intimidated by it. Having made it through I have a new sense of what’s possible for me as far as climbing goes. Also, it’s an amazing place to ride.

  7. Steve

    Spent the first week in August with the family on the Sonoma Coast of California. Mid-50s for highs and fog everyday, nothing but Highway 1 or brutally steep climbs to ride. Tried the mapping app and headed out to find King Ridge Road via Skaggs Springs Road (can’t explain this one, 30% + grades up and down!) but found out that most of the roads on GPS in this area really don’t exist. Eventually found King Ridge via Tin Barn Road, Fort Ross Road and made my way back to Salt Point.
    Decided to risk it and use Highway and bomb it back to home base. Best decision ever, tailwind, fog lifted and I am pretty sure that I could see Russia from here(!), managed 20+ miles at over 24mph average and only got passed by a few cars. The best part was arriving home to discover that the family had left the house and locked me out. Climbed the fence and jumped in, discovered that Assos shorts won’t melt in a hot tub overlooking the Pacific Ocean…. Definitely my best “solo ride” this year.

  8. Michael

    RIding with an old friend and my brother from Santa Cruz down to San Luis Obispo, but not down the coast. We rode inland on dirt roads and trails through oak woodlands and fields, with tiny packs strapped on racks, seeing little traffic and just chatting for days at a time. I hadn’t ridden in California in a long time, and had forgotten the smells of dry grass and chaparral.

  9. Gary

    My wife and I rented bikes and rode around Block Island a week ago. Road and trail. The surf was up at some of the beaches on the north end and it looked like California–maybe Pt. Reyes. It was amazing how quickly the local surfers heard and congregated. (The ferry ride from the mainland takes about an hour.) Robot, did you eat at George’s in Point Judith? Two whole lobsters, caught that day and fresh as can be, with sweet potato fries and cole slaw, for $26. A perfect day with the one I love, riding and exploring.

  10. Andrew

    Tough one. Maybe my fondest memory from this past year was riding snow and ice covered gravel roads one day this past February with a very good friend. We got nailed by several super hard snow squalls, total whiteout, but we had the wind with us and were just flying along, hammering up the hills. Totally stupid, totally fun.

  11. spiff

    2 weeks ago I did the Jeremiah Bishop Grand Fondo in Harrisonburg,Va. He’s a mountain biker not really a roadie, he discovered and couches Joe Dombroski. I went to school in Harrisonburg and loved riding there my senior year but never road in the mountains there.

    It was HARD. I had a great time. I was tired the whole ride. You had to ride attentively up and down every mile. I missed the time cut and only did 93 of the 107 miles. The last climb was Redish Knob from the West Virginia side back into VA. It was steep and paved, the Grand route climb was not. I can’t wait to get better and do it next year.

  12. Running Cyclist

    6 1/2 hours round trip solo to Richland Balsam, high point on the Blue Ridge Parkway. An absolute gem of a ride with nominal traffic, lots of elevation, excellent roads and blissful solitude. Thanks for the intel on Block Island. My wife’s family lives near there, but I have never made it to that spot. That will change next year!

  13. Jeff T

    The Desperado Dual century/double century in SW Utah (Red Rock country). 2 traffic lights at the start, 2 at the end. 4 left turns. And the most beautiful country you’ve ever seen….

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