Wine, Wind, Writing, and Wakeful Wonderings

Amidst work, watching Indians games, mourning the Indians’ ALCS choke, my lively social calendar, and the search for Meaning and Truth that has recently consumed me, I’ve been a bit lax on my blogging. This is a big “no, no” in the world of writing — every book about becoming a successful writer will tell you to WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! You’re supposed to get in the habit of writing at the same time every day. Lately, my “same time every day” has conveniently been at work when there’s nothing else for me to do but look like I’m busy. I have trouble with maintaining consistency. I’m still trying to get myself to crunch a morning work-out into my schedule now that the winds of winter are on the periphery of my senses, their chill just brushing the hairs on the back of my neck.

But, alas, I realize I’ve been remiss in keeping up with what is supposed to be the main topic of my blog: the rides I’ve done. Most notably, I wanted to summarize the PVG Tour, which took place on the beautiful weekend of October 6, and what has become known by its participants as “Heidi’s Hiram Headwind Ride”, which took place last weekend on October 20 (Sweetest Day — I originally called this ride “I Reject Sweetest Day Ride” but it didn’t stick). I apologize for the delay, as I know my cycling audience has been just sitting on the edges of their seats, awaiting my reviews. Right? =)

Pino-Vino-Giro (Covered Bridge & Wine Tour) – Lake & Ashtabula Counties, OH

Rode With: Michael, Diane, and Jeff

Ride Mileage: Day 1 – 65 miles (Me & Michael), 35 miles (Diane and Jeff); Day 2 – 48 miles (Me & Michael)

Start & End Location: The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake

This was the second year of the PVG Tour, coordinated by HubBub Custom Bicycles, so I have to cut them a little slack for some of the items about which I’m about to complain. The ride was a definite improvement over last year in both route, activities, and goody bag. I feel personally responsible for the inclusion of the specially labeled PVG tour wine bottles in the goody bags, instead of just offered for sale as they were last year, because I wrote the suggestion on the survey at the end of last year’s ride. I’m sure there were a lot of other similar requests, but it was nice for once to have something happen that I suggested on an after-the-event survey. Like a prayer answered, my voice was heard by the faceless entities in cyberspace to which I submitted the survey. That almost never happens to me, so I feel that taking the time to complete one of those things finally paid off. I feel like I have power! *evil laugh*

Although, they didn’t listen to my suggestion for improved course markings. If anything, the markings were worse this year as I got officially lost once and thought I was lost another time. First of all, the roads were marked with dark blue arrows, which are nearly impossible to see on 1) black pavement, and 2) in the shining sunlight. Additionally, some public utility company had chosen to use a variant of blue paint — a brighter, more noticeable color — to mark the location of their subterranean lines and these arrows frequently threw me off in confusion. I felt like I was constantly asking myself if that was a PVG mark or some other mark I could ignore. Though, if I noticed it, then it obviously was not a PVG mark.

Secondly, arrows did not appear for turns until you were right at the turn. As experienced riders of even average speed know, turns indicated too late cause you to either pass them or stop abruptly (thus a creating a potential for wiping out). Some arrows ahead of the turn, regularly spaced, would have been much more bike-friendly. I always use the MS 150 as the model of route marking. Since most of the people who ride the MS 150 only ride this kind of mileage once a year (to do the MS 150), the ride coordinators are extremely deliberate with their route markings. All turns are indicated by first a single arrow several yards before the turn; two stacked a few feet later; and, finally, three stacked arrows right at the turn. It’s hard to miss these turn indicators.

Thirdly, a confirmation arrow on long stretches of the same road would have been helpful. When you’re riding along a road for a long time, after having crossed a few roads, and you don’t see anyone else around for awhile, you begin to wonder whether you’re still on the course. An arrow every once in awhile to give you the confidence that you’re still on the route is really helpful. And, yes, the MS 150 does this as well.

To make matters worse, the cue sheet was inconsistent. Sometimes cross roads were marked, sometimes not. There was no map of the overall route, which would have been handy when we fell off course within the first five miles of the ride. We ended up backtracking and getting back on route using a road that was later supposed to meet up with ride. We ended up having about 5 additional miles tacked onto the route for this mistake.

The first day’s route took us across some questionable roads that troubled even Diane and Jeff’s hybrids. I won’t complain much about this because it seems to me that many of the covered bridges we’re supposed to see are not on paved roads. Still, the route was scenic and the weather was perfect — in the upper 60s, which is a vast improvement over last year and last year’s conditions were quite nice (just chillier).

I did enjoy seeing the covered bridges. Last year, we didn’t hit too many, but the first day this year covered about five or six. The Netcher Road bridge was my favorite (pictured left). I like its Dutch design (it looks Dutch to me).

Lunch the first day was on the Mechanicsville Road bridge. We passed this bridge near the beginning of last year’s ride. I thought it was kind of neat to eat lunch ON the bridge. However, I will note that the lunch stop was rather late in the ride, somewhere around 50 miles. I was a bit starving by the time I reached the stop and I really hate being hungry during a ride. I always strive to eat just enough that I never feel hunger pains but I’m not feeling stuffed. Riding is hard enough; doing it on an empty stomach is like trying to drive a car when all that’s left in the tank is fumes. You can still go, but you can feel the accelerator losing its power to move the car. Fortunately, there were almost too many rest stops along the route, so I was able to make myself sick on bananas and carb bars.

We finished officially at about 68 miles. Michael prompted me to ride a few more miles to 70, but I just wasn’t feeling it. Shame on me. Maybe it was the late lunch. I kick myself in retrospect. Uneven numbers are troublesome.

After cleaning up at the Lodge, the four of us grabbed a glass of wine down the street at the Lakehouse Inn and Winery. I stayed in a cottage there last year with three other ABC members (I tried to get one this year, but they were booked). This winery has a beautiful deck seating area right on Lake Erie. Last year, I’d enjoyed a glass of wine, by myself, at this very location, so I was very excited to return since the wine was pretty good (they have a great Cabernet Franc and a lovely dry red they call Red Sky that I purchased at an Ohio wine event last year). A glass of wine is the best way to relax from a long day’s ride.

Tired cyclists enjoy tasty dinner at Grand River Cellars.

Dinner that night was held in the wine cellar of Grand River Cellars. I had ordered the ribs and chicken plate and they were excellent. The ribs were the way I love them — the way everyone

should love them — tender and falling off the bone. The chicken skin was slightly charred with the delectable barbecue grill burn flavor on them that I savor (chicken skin is my favorite part of the chicken). Three samples of Grand River wines as part of our dinner, so it was really the perfect evening.

The second day only had one ride option, a 45 mile route that went mostly through Lake County. This really was the best route of both days as there were enough hill challenges to make my body-abusing heart sing praises of painful joy. The best of it was a scary, windy drop into a river valley on Blair Road (south of Madison) with an immediate ascent after crossing the bridge over the river. The climb was challenging, but not impossible after my rigorous summer, though I had to keep my eyes focused immediately ahead of me because I was psyched out by the illusion of how steep the road was.

Michael, ever the master of hill-climbing, naturally charged ahead of me. He turned around near the top and cycled down a little to tell me that I was almost there. (Smart-Alec! =) I felt great after this climb. The first rest stop was shortly after at Paine Falls Park. We took some time to enjoy the falls before continuing on our way.

The remainder of the ride was pretty nice — not much traffic, pretty back roads, nice “rollers” by the wineries. The weather was even better this day (nearing the 70s) and I was just in my riding groove, enjoying every minute of the ride. The lunch stop was at my favorite Ohio winery, Chalet Debonne Vineyards. (Their Pinot-Syrah is excellent!) The menu was a lunch meat spread with bread for sandwiches, salad, ice tea, and cookies (!!). Debonne is situated among the rolling hills of Ohio wine country and has a cozy atmosphere in which to enjoy lunch and a break from riding. I was content.

The only covered bridge we visited the Harpersfield Road bridge located in a county metro park at the bottom of two sizable hills (as river crossings often are). As soon as I saw the bridge, I remembered it from last year. While climbing Tinkers Creek Road in the Bedford Reservation in the early spring this year, I had experienced a strange feeling of deja vu. Yet, it was my first time climbing Tinkers Creek Road. As we paused to take a picture in front of the Harpersfield bridge, and I took in the surroundings — the park, the steep climb on the other side of the valley, the water — I simultaneously remembered this particular climb from the PVG last year as well as the day I climbed Tinkers Creek with the knowledge that I’d climbed it before. Maybe it was an old age moment. But I realized that this place, Harperfield bridge, was the place that inspired the deja vu on Tinkers Creek. How often do you get to figure out the source of that “I’ve done this before” feeling you’ve had once?

I warned Michael that the hill on the other side of the road was very steep. Recalling how the hill had unnerved me last year (my bike was new to me then) and how hard it had been to me then, I felt a little anxious. So it was with surprise that as I started up it, I thought, “Oh, this isn’t as bad as I remembered it!” It wasn’t that long of a climb and I didn’t even have to use my lowest gear. It’s so cool and inspiring to see noticeable progress in my riding abilities.

About two miles from the end of the ride, I decided to give into my obsessive-compulsive craving for even mileage and I persuaded Michael to double-back a mile and a quarter so that we could roll into The Lodge parking lot at 50 miles. At this point in my cycling career, 40-50 miles doesn’t kill me (unless it’s in Holmes County!). It was such a great day and I chose the point to double back at Geneva State Park — small, but scenic and pretty flat (though the road surface left little to be desired).

We finished the ride around 1:30. After a packing everything up (Diane and Jeff, who didn’t do the second day’s ride, had already left), I headed off to Debonne to grab a few bottles of their Pinot-Syrah (which none of the stores near me sell) and Cabernet Franc. I’m such a lush. But it wouldn’t be a wine tour to me without taking home a souvenir of wine!

Despite my complaints, I still contend that this was a fun ride. It’s still a fledgling ride so perfection is not yet required or expected. You can bet that on my survey this year, I expressed my concern for the cue sheet, route map, and route markings. Last year, the food was a little questionable and the route itself was okay (some parts had had to be rerouted last year due to the flooding of the Grand River). This year was a vast improvement on food, goody bags, and route, so I can only expect the ride to get better and better. However, I’m probably going to take a year off from this ride and try something else. I’m not saying I’ll never do it again… but like a fine wine, I think I’m going to let this one age a little before enjoying it again…

Coming Soon… Review of Heidi’s Hiram Headwind Tour! Stay tuned!

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