Chocolate Milk at the End of Practice

Paul Stevens

Carpe Diem (but in a relaxed sort of way)

Happy Canada Day and Independence Day to our U.S.-based friends! Isn’t it a bit of wonder that two countries with a border that spans thousands of kilometers/miles has never seen the need for anything that even resembles a fence, let alone a wall? I don’t want to get political here but let me just say may it always be so.

It has been a few weeks since I provided my last writing and that has everything to do with what shaped up to be a full schedule. The highlight included a trip to the southwest corner of Vermont to attend a wedding in a sweet slice of New England in the town of Manchester.

New England

What’s the first thing you think of when New England comes to mind? Tall ships? Quaint little towns? For me it’s Icabod Crane of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow fame. Maybe it goes way back to the Disney short cartoon movie of many years ago but it’s an indelible image for me.

Our family has been to Vermont several times as we would use the March school break to take a week long ski trip. Stowe, Smugglers Notch and even Waterville Valley in New Hampshire were visited over the years, each providing more than a handful of fond memories.

To spend a late spring/early summer weekend in this part of Vermont was time well spent. The towering hills were lush with green foliage and they stretched as far as you could see in any direction. My only regret is that I did not think to bring my road bike as I would have had the opportunity to ride the countryside with one of the other more astute wedding guests who had the foresight to bring his wheels. (Next time Steve, for sure.)

The Manditos Ride Again

The following weekend, the Manditos got together for our regular Saturday morning ride and we chugged out about 70 km as we are getting ourselves ready for our 100 km Gran Fondo spin at the end of July. Later that day, one of my long-time friends from my Toronto days came for a visit to Sarnia and what better way to show him around the area that to hit the road on our bikes. We clocked about 60 km on a very warm Sunday with a pit stop on the return leg in a little lakeside town called Bright’s Grove, which is just on the eastern outskirts of Sarnia.

Back in the day, Bright’s Grove used to be a summer cottage destination for Sarnians. But over the years, growth of the two towns has caused them to meld together. Nevertheless, Bright’s Grove maintains its own vibe with a number of the original small cottages still standing; most of which have been significantly upgraded. They are now a lot more than just a place to hang out in the summer with a roof over your head while enjoying a BBQ and few refreshments with friends.

Enjoying a cool pit stop while sitting on a bench overlooking the beautiful blue waters of Lake Huron and shooting the breeze with an old friend makes for a time that you don’t want to see end any time soon but we did have a bit of schedule to try to maintain. Time to roll on we and we made our way back to the homestead.

Post Ride Indulgence

After a good ride, the appetite beckons and no visit to Sarnia during the warmer months is complete without a visit to our favourite French fry joint near the St. Clair River. So after a quick clean up, off we go to enjoy one of life’s guilty pleasures. We don’t make this part of our steady diet but on certain occasions, it just can’t be ignored. Since we had just completed a 60 km ride, it didn’t take much of a sales job to convince ourselves that our minor indulgence was well-deserved. My friend was not disappointed with our fried delights and he vowed to make a return visit with us, if only to partake of another helping at a later date.

The nearby local park hosted a “Show and Shine’ where about 150 car enthusiasts brought their old- time ‘babies’ for all to enjoy. I have soft spot for older cars. There’s just something about too much chrome, steering wheels that look like they belong in a bus and engines that are anything but green that I find very compelling. Some of these rides just wreak of ‘American Graffiti’ and I’m totally OK with that. It’s like hitting a time warp right out of the 40s, 50s, and 60’s. Even a few quasi-classics from the 70s were on display. Poodle skirts and saddle shoes were no doubt to be found somewhere in the crowd. Back at our house, dinner with a sample of the best from our local microbrewery made for a fitting end to a good day.

The Following Day

The following day, we headed out again on our bikes but this time, we headed south along the St. Clair River Parkway. This road provides a series of paved trails and bike lanes on the roads that would take you to Windsor/ Detroit if you had the time and inclination to cover the entire length, a distance of about 150km one way. You then have to get back to your staring point so it’s not a one-day trip. We completed about 50 km and returning to the house, a lunch, without fries, and my friend had to make his way back to his home in Mississauga and I had to get some desk work done.

Tuesday was a welcome day off the bike as I had chalked up some 180 km over the past three days which is more than I am used to doing. No rest for the wicked however as I met up with the local Wednesday evening group who are also prepping for the Gran Fondo. A large turnout of about 70 riders set out in five different groups, each peddling at various speeds.

The top three groups were to cover a 50 km route that would take about 75-90 minutes. I chose the second group that was aiming to maintain an average speed of about 28-30 km/hr. That’s the targeted pace but competitive juices soon take over and the average speed as evidenced by my on-board speedometer tells me that we’re in the low 30s. That is a bit quicker than I might normally do but only slightly.

Chocolate Milk at the End of Practice

I had no trouble up to about the 2/3 rd mark then it seemed like I hit the wall. I just ran out of gas and it wasn’t long before I was looking at tail lights in the distance. It appeared I had not given myself sufficient time to recover from the previous three out of four days of riding in very warm and humid weather and was now paying the price. Not one to give up, I just chugged it out as best I could but noted that my speed had dropped to about 25-26 km/hr so it didn’t take long for one of the slower groups that left after ours caught up to me. At least I had company for the last few kms so all was not lost.

Chocolate milk

The finish line was a welcome sight and an even better one was turning the corner to enter my driveway at home. A very large chocolate milk and a light snack and off to bed for a very restful sleep. By the end of the following day, I was looking forward to the next ride!

Your friend, Paul.

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