In my DALMAC write-ups I didn’t delve too deeply into the most important aspect of doing that ride. On that particular weekend, you’ve got 2,000 cyclists stretched across Michigan’s north and south country roads with one goal: Make it to Mackinaw City. Our group, a main core of seven cyclists this year, is a mash-up of cyclists from all over that, to describe us apart from cycling, would look like you picked us out of a hat. The main core of the group has shifted over the years but a few main riders keep the group together. We’ve got a podiatrist from the west side of the state, a few retirees, a construction management guy, a woman who works for the Canadian government (she couldn’t make it this year because COVID – they’ve got Canada locked up tighter than Madonna’s chastity belt – wait, maybe that’s a bad example…), a bike shop owner, an HVAC technician, a farmer, an IT tech who heads a major university’s staff… we’re all over the map.
You put us in a pace-line, though, and you know instantly the one thing we all have in common; we’re cyclists.
Todd met Sue on the road, who we picked up out on the road because we were fast enough to keep their interests up. Mike was a straggler who was picked up on the road roughly about when I joined the gang. Dave was a part of the core group for quite a while. Phill and Brad, too. Chad knew Doug… JoAnn knew Dave and Cricket and Cheryl knew JoAnn… Chuck, Mike and Matt are the nucleus of the group.
For the most part, we’re fairly evenly matched. When we’re pointed north on Labor Day weekend, something magical happens. Political differences, economic status, gender… all of the crap they use to group people and keep them divided is left in the parking lot of the MSU campus and we roll out, headed north with the sole goal of helping each other get to Mackinaw City, 377 miles away (500 miles away for some, every five years), as quickly as possible.
Along the way, we ride together, we eat together, help each other with mechanical problems, laugh together, and we don’t worry about much more than how fast we’ll get up the wall at the end of Day Three and what kind of ice cream we’re having after dinner – and when it’s all said and done, we even help some of our friends get home. My wife and I regularly give a couple of friends a lift.
For a weekend, people from a broad spectrum, wealthy and meager, cats and dogs, republicans and democrats, men and women, we act like good and decent people should for four (or five) days; we concentrate on that which is most important: having fun together.
Each and every year, at some point while heading home with my wife, I have to work through the sad realization that the weekend is over and it’s back to normal for everyone. After feeling through that, I eventually come to the happy awareness that we’ll be doing it again next year and that the memories we made this year will keep me warm through the winter and motivated to train through the spring and summer… so come next Labor Day weekend, I’ll be ready to go again, to go play with my friends on the country roads and along the lake shore of Pure Michigan. Come join us. Wheels roll at 8am.
Somebody get me Tim Allen…