UPDATE: In the USA, our Apple Cider is unfermented, therefore alcohol-free. I most certainly did not fall off the wagon yesterday!
We rolled out in the cold, sunny morning air. Crisp is a good word for it. The sun didn’t help much – that crisp. Below freezing, crisp.
There were seven of us for the ride and we took the l-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-n-n-n-n-n-g-g-g route to Spicer’s Orchard/Cider Mill. We had our Saturday best beneath us, most on gravel rigs of some sort; one guy on a hand-built Ritchey, one on a Giant, the rest on Specialized in one form or other. We rode gravel, as we often do when the weather turns cold. There’s something therapeutic about not having to deal with traffic just to ride a bicycle.
We tackled all of the headwind on the way to the cider mill, and to be honest, I
barely noticed didn’t even notice which miles were into it and which were with a crosswind. Such is life on dirt at the end of the year for us.
The entire ride, all of it, was about friends riding together. We talked about everything except politics (the kibosh had to be put on that once). There were so many laughs, I lost count after three miles. I completely lost track of the miles several times thinking about how lucky I am to have the friends I do. An immense blessing it is to be able to enjoy life simply by throwing a leg over a top tube and pushing pedals with friends.
We arrived at the cider mill with just shy of 26 miles and I was hungry. I bought the donuts, a dozen cinnamon sugar, and they were still warm. We each got a hot apple cider (except Chuck, who opted for cold) and headed outside to enjoy our late-ride snack.
Even with the sun blazing, it was still cold enough to numb the hands if they were exposed too long (start temp was 27 with a feels like of 21 (that’s -3 and -6 in C land, Garmin showed an even “freezing” when we stopped). The wind was starting to pick up as well, but that was a good thing as we had crosswind or tailwind all the way home.
Sadly, Greg was struggling. He is not a hill climber. He’s a tall, lanky fella and as soon as you put the poor guy on a hill, any finesse he possesses is left at the bottom. It’s ugly watching him try to ascend a hill… and the route Chuck drew up had some of the gnarliest hills I’ve ever ridden. One was so immense, so grand, I couldn’t believe we were in southeast Michigan. Now, I’m a hill climber – I’m not near fast at it, but I like climbing, and this one put the fear of Jesus in me. Easily a half-mile long and better than 20-ish% in places. It was so steep I had to lean forward to keep my front wheel on the dirt to climb it – I was down to my granny gear, out of the saddle, grinding up the hill. It was awesome. I don’t know how Greg even made it up that one.
And then we were on the home stretch. While I was absolutely tired, I was bummed that it was almost over.
Chuck, Chuck, Joel and I went into the local bakery for a post-ride cup of coffee that simply hit the spot. We talked about lawns and leaves, and to-do lists. We were spaced, of course, but for the most part, except having to wear my neck gaiter over my nose and mouth to order, it was just a normal ride with friends. These times are a lot less trying on two wheels. On dirt. With donuts and hot apple cider.
Photos taken by Joel S.