Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ponte Vino Giro 2009 (Part 2)

So, after a full day of cycling, freezing and falling, capped off with two and a half bottles of Grand River Valley 'River Rouge' wine, the Saturday edition of this year's Ponte Vino Giro came to a blurry-eyed close.  Sunday morning was still a good 8 hours away, but it already hurt.  As I lay in bed with the sound of cresting Lake Erie waves gently lulling me to sleep, I was confident that Sunday morning would bring with it glorious sunshine, warmer weather, and error free riding.  I forgot, of course, about God's wicked sense of humor.

When I arose at 6:30am Sunday morning, not only was there no sunshine, there was no power!  The alarm clock was dead and none of the lights would work.  Oddly, I could see the glow of hallway lights slipping in under the front door and through the door's peephole.  I opened the blinds on the rear patio door and saw that the poolhouse was also well lit.  What the fu...heck??  It was time to call the front desk, but as I made my way around the room by only the light of my cellphone, I could discern the chatter of lodge employees commenting on the accident that had occured in the middle of the night.  Apparently, someone had struck a power poll outside the property that knocked out the entire street, including the lodge.  Fortunately, the lodge had a generator for just such an emergency, which kicked in to power up essential hotel functions (guest rooms apparently not being on that list).  It is what it is.

Now, the night before, my new friends and I planned to meet at 7am for breakfast, so not wanting to let them think a trivial power outtage would cause me to miss the grand buffet, I dressed and packed, again only by the light of my cell, and made my way to the restaurant.  Impressively, the hotel staff was up and at 'em, working diligently to make sure everything was as normal as possible. They even had the entire breakfast buffet cooked, warming, and ready to go.  Kudos to them, for sure.  I was pleased...but not all was as it seemed.  Now, I am not much of a coffee drinker.  In fact, I'd rather suffer through intestinal flu then try and gag down a cup of joe, but for some people, the intake of the Columbian bean is a morning ritual not to be messed with.  Ever.  Unfortunately, with the power not scheduled to return till later in the day, electric coffee makers were not even pulled off the shelves.  As I sat peacefully in the corner devouring a dozen scrambled eggs, I could sense the natives getting restless at the thought of no coffee.  Suggestions like "boil some water" were being hollered about, and I knew a coup was only moments from erupting.  I quickly inhaled the rest of my breakfast and snuck out of the restaurant.  Only when I made it back to the safety of my room did it occur to me that my friends never joined me.

Having already packed, it was time to 'pre-flight' my bike for another day on the road.  Although today's ride only called for about 42 miles, it was notorious for being a very hilly and challenging 42 miles, so I wanted the bike running smoothly.  I lubed the chain and filled the tires with air.  While pumbing the rear tire, I heard an enormous POP!  At first, I feared the coffee crowd had finally taken matters into their own hands, but then quickly realized the sound came from my bike!  The rear innertube just blew. Crap!  As if everything the day before was not enough to amuse my God in Heaven, now this.  Fortunately, I brought a spare innertube, and as I wheeled my bike into the well lit lobby to make the change, I thanked that very same God in Heaven that the tire blew here...and not out there.  Sometimes, it's the small things we need to be grateful for.

Having successfully changed the tire, my trusty steed was ready for action.  By this time, my friends had finally joined me.  After several minutes of sharing our morning horror stories, we headed outside.  The aforementioned sun was still buried behind menacing clouds and the wind was whipping around like crazy. Temps were easily in the low 50's...a repeat of yesterday.  Great.  All this and hills.  Bonnie, Joe, and Dave had left their bikes outside on their respective vehicles and now were preping them for riding. (I know what you're thinking...they left their bikes outside in the cold rainy weather all night, but I'm the one who gets the flat!  Yet another example of an omnipotent sense of humor at play.)

Finally, the crew all set, it was time to head out.

The intial start of the ride took us around the newly paved bike path that circled the property.  We coasted along the Lake Erie shore, which would have been breathtaking if not for the cold and wind having already taken our breath. After about three miles, we broke from the path and onto the open road.  The next 15 miles proved easy as we glided along side streets and through quaint little towns.  The sun had even managed to make an appearance, giving the changing Fall leaves vibrant color.  So far, so good.  Even the temperature picked up a bit.  As positive as all these signs were, the dreaded hills still lay ahead.  One of those hills occurs right before the first rest stop and is said to be a killer. Bring it on, I say!

We continue to cruise along, enjoying the landscape around us.  Then it happens...the hill.  What's most impressive at this moment is not the sheer climb of the hill itself, but the wicked downhill prior to it.  The first thing you see is that infamous yellow sign with the image of a truck on a steep incline.  They only post those signs when the hill is, well, steep.  The four of us tuck in and attack the downhill.  As we rapidly pick up speed, the road starts to curve and wind.  My bike's computer indicates we are screaming down at close to 40mph!  That speed would be even faster if not for the necessity of breaking occassionally around the tighter turns.  Let's face it, wiping out on a bike at these speeds could be disasterous, so caution must rule.  We roar down through a valley and over a small bridge when suddenly before us, the road inclines dramatically.  As we start to coast upward, our speed drops exponentially.  In minutes, we are struggling to maintain 5mph, grunting and grinding on the pedals in an all out effort to climb up the hill.  This is where a cyclist has to dig deep for that little something extra.  Dave crests the hill first, followed by myself and then Bonnie and Joe on the tandem.  Once at the top, we regroup and continue for another mile or so before reaching the first rest stop.  The killer hill, as well as about 15 miles of riding, was now behind us. 

At the rest stop, there were only a few other cyclists.  In fact, many had dropped out of the ride earlier in the morning.  Whether it was due to the prospect of hills, cold temps, or threat of rain, we will never know, but the crowd today was a third less then Saturday.  We were the diehards.

After a short reprieve, the four of us took to the road again.  We were now entering the heart of Ohio wine country.  It was here that the sprawling landscape revealed some of the areas most historic vineyards, all showing off their turn-of-the-century architecture and perfectly manicured vistas.  For miles at a time, the surrounding air was saturated with the fruity aroma of grapes.  Of course, not only were the views impressive, but so was the constant rolling terrain that intermixed high speed downhill coasting with grueling uphill climbs, making for some of the most exciting cycling of the year. 

One thing you notice about touring this type of terrain is that the miles click off in a hurry.  Before we knew it, the lunch stop at Harpersfield covered bridge sprung into view.  We departed the main road and headed to the pavillion.  As with every scheduled stop, the location was quite a site.  We even had the benefit of a classic car show taking place at the very same time.  In fact, about two dozen of them crossed the bridge and paraded around the pavillion grounds, right in front of if for our entertainment alone.  Then again, maybe they drove over out of shear curiosity to see what type of morons actually ride around on bicycles during cold, windy Fall days. Either way, sweet cars.

Finished with lunch, we crossed the Harpersfield bridge and immediately had to climb one bitch of a hill.  It was not as long as the one from earlier, nor as much fun, but it was steep!!!  The good thing was that we hadn't been on our bikes for the last half hour and were well rested.  The bad thing was...we hadn't been on our bikes for the last half hour and were well rested!  Needless to say, the expletives rolled off my tongue as I struggled up the insane climb (and I'm sorry, but screaming swear words DOES help).

The rest of the ride went smoothly, and after a few more rolling hills, the road began to level out.  This was a clear sign we were nearing the end.  Finally, after 42 miles, Bonnie, Joe, Dave and I pulled back into the lodge exactly the same way we left it earlier in the day...cold, but together.  We quickly stowed our bikes, checked in, and headed to the bar to throw back some cold beers.  The 2009 Ponte Vino Giro was now history.  Raising our glasses, we toasted to a great ride and new friends.  It was truly a wonderful cycling experience and I look forward to many more adventures over the historic covered bridges and scenic rolling hills of Ohio's wine country.

Thanks to all!
(And a special thanks to Bonnie Sears for all the Day 2 photos on this post.  Now I know why Joe had to work so hard on that tandem! JUST KIDDING.)


  1. Bob you make it sound so hard! :-) It sure was a lot of fun though, despite the hills and us tandem bike riders sure do love those rollers. As far as the photography what else do I have to do in the back...pedal hard and say "cheese"!

  2. Thought it was a awesome ride, too. In fact, it was the challenge of those very hills that made it great cycling! Looking forward to next year for sure!!