This beats watching the corn grow
Biking is exhilarating, enjoyable and great exercise! But riding the same roads within a 15-or-so-mile radius of your home can become a bit monotonous. Tom has started taking pictures of the corn at the same spot in one of his more frequent routes in order to document the corn growing. Yep...riding the same routes can be almost exciting as watching corn grow! Over the past two years, we have found that joining organized rides throughout the summer and fall can be the perfect solution to spicing things up a bit and keeping our bike rides interesting. As our kids begin to fly from the nest, we look forward to filling up even more of our weekend days with either organized community rides, or our own explorations of new trails. I'm thinking about journaling a bit about our transition to an empty nest, as well as our biking adventures through this (or maybe a new) blog. (Don't know if anyone would be interested in reading it, but writing is a good practice, helps me process my feelings, and may be the only way I'll remember what we did!)
So this is my first official entry in what might be a new blog about empty-nesting and biking. How's that for being definitive and vague in the same sentence?
Today was the first time we rode the "Amishland & Lakes Bike Ride," even though the new t-shirt I bought says it was established in 1973! Wow...that's 44 years (wasn't that shortly after the bicycle was invented??)! The ride had several well-planned-out routes...for 22, 38, 52, 67 or 100 miles. We opted for the 52. Since we rode 53 miles on the Heartland Trail in Minnesota a couple of weeks ago, I was pretty sure I could make it the whole way. And the 52 appeared to be way more interesting than the 38, as it added a loop around several small lakes near Wolcottville.
We arrived in LaGrange, Indiana (at Lakeland High School) around 8:10 a.m., and by 8:40 we were on our way. Within the first 5 minutes we saw three horse-drawn Amish buggies...a taste of what the rest of our day would hold. Riding behind them can be interesting as you wait patiently for a safe opportunity to pass, all the while dodging fresh horse apples in your path!
About six miles up the road we were inducted into the "Amish Baked Goods Tasting Club," as we came across an Amish family sharing a plethora of carb-laden treats. We almost passed it up, until another biker (who had been doing this for many years longer than us) said,"You have to try the homemade donuts!" So we did. (I mean, really, when an experienced biker says you have to do something, you must do it of course.) Tom had a homemade donut, and I had this amazing creation I believe they called a "Cream-filled donut square." Let's just say, it was a slice of Amish heaven.
Two more miles up the road, we hit our first SAG stop. Although we weren't hungry, we tried to add some healthy nuts and fruit to our diet before hitting the road for the next long stretch of 23 miles. This was the loop around the lakes...between Westler and Witmer, beside Atwood and Adams, and finally alongside Oliver Lake, which was the prettiest shade of blue-green. We had one small inconvenience along our journey, as Tom's pedal started to wobble, and eventually fell off his bike. He didn't have any tools with him, and since we were just passing by a family working outside in their garden, I stopped and asked if they had a wrench. Of course they did, and they quickly helped Tom get back in business. Stopping to chat with the children in the garden made me wonder if I was more curious about their unique life of simplicity and hard work, or if they were more curious about us...this couple in skin-tight spandex and wildly colorful shirts who could spend a beautiful Saturday in recreational activities. We thanked them for their help, and continued on.
At one point, Tom split off from me to get in a couple of extra miles. As I rode along by myself admiring the lovely homes and gardens, a young Amish woman who was outside hanging up her laundry yelled out to me, "Did you get a donut?" I quickly stopped, and proceeded to have a nice conversation with her about her family who we had met earlier over our donut break. The girl told me she and her husband had moved to their own house a couple of years earlier after getting married, and how she really missed being able to pass out donuts with her family. After this little chat-break, I continued on, met up with Tom, and we made it back to the 2nd SAG stop around noon...31 miles down; 21 to go.
After a rest break and some refreshments, we hit the road again. At this point we began heading mostly north and east, which unfortunately was the exact direction the 11-12 mph winds were coming from. At times I was actually thankful for the hills (I'm normally not a fan), as they blocked the wind for a bit. The cornfields also helped in that regard. Just when I was starting to really tire, we began hitting one Amish family road-side stand after another...created specifically for the enjoyment of the bikers. Enticements included: root beer floats, homemade cookies and whoopie pies, MORE cream-filled donut squares, cinnamon rolls, and warm soft pretzels (oh, and fresh produce too). It was fun to see the bikers who had come prepared with Tupperware, saddle bags and other such means of carrying home their goodies. Most of the stands simply had a plastic "donation" bucket with a slit cut in the lid to collect their appreciation. The children were always an integral part of the operation, and at times were running the show by themselves.
The blueberries and watermelon at our final SAG stop had a hard time competing with the Amish fare, but we were happy to have reached the 39-mile mark...now just 13 (grueling) miles to go. Tom, who bikes much more than I do, would frequently ride ahead, and then circle back to ride with me again. I was glad we were both able to get in a good workout. As my legs screamed at me, my eyes took in the beauty of the Amish gardens, horses at pasture, roadside wildflowers, simple Amish school houses (we passed four throughout the course of the day), and clotheslines filled with freshly laundered linens and clothing. We also passed a biking couple who had their little 4-month-old puppy in tow...that was a first! The distractions were a great way to keep my legs pumping.
As I climbed the last couple of hills and then coasted to the finish, I had one very tired body, but a good sense of accomplishment and a refreshed spirit. The Amishland & Lakes ride was a adventure we won't soon forget (um...and did I mention the cream-filled donut squares?)!