I decided to go on a CRW Saturday ride since it met my criterion of the start being within 10 miles of my house. Only problem was that since it was a Saturday ride, there would be no arrows. I can’t remember the last time I went on a club ride without arrows. For directionally challenged people like me, arrows are de rigeur. But there was a GPS route available that I downloaded to my GPS, and I figured that plus a cue sheet should be enough to keep me on track.
Of course, a much better idea is to find people who know where they’re going and follow them. So I started working the parking lot. First I ran into George and Lynell, good riders and navigators. But they were doing the short ride. The there was Barry and Linda. Good strong team whose tandem wheel I would love to suck, and always go on the long ride. As luck would have it, today Linda had a Camelbak malfunction, and they too were doing the short ride. The I spied Kaz across the lot. We ride about the same speed and I was sure he was doing the long ride. Then I remembered the last time I rode with Kaz, when it became clear that he too had no sense of direction. No help there.
So having exhausted the usual suspects, I had to take my luck with the pack. As we started off, I had my eye on another guy with a GPS, who looked like he knew how to use it, but he missed the very first turn, so I wrote him off. I found myself in a group that was going at a reasonable pace, which I could maintain with grace and ease, and I was thinking, yes, this is going to work out. But then I started to get worried. What if my dream group was doing the short ride. It was a beautiful day, and I really wanted to do the long ride.
There was a small group off the front, who seemed better long ride candidates, so I went and affixed myself to them. Again, I was thinking, “this is excellent.” Small group, but big enough so someone should know where they’re going. Fast pace but not enough to bring me to my VOP Max*. Everything was just ducky until we had an abrupt stop. Seems the guy in front didn’t really know where we were, and no one else in the group did either. So, I whipped out my GPS from my belt pack (note to self: spend the money and get a handlebar mount). It was vehemently telling us to turn around. We did and managed to find the road we missed. Shortly thereafter there was more confusion. Again, my GPS was saying “go back” but this time I noticed it wanted us to take right on Grove, which was on the cue sheet but was a left turn. Somehow we had gotten onto this road in the wrong direction. So we did another about face to get back on track. By this point, we had been riding for what seemed like hours, and my GPS was saying we had 38 miles to go (on a 50 mile ride).
There were five of us at this point. One guy bailed since he had to be back in Watertown by 2 (at this point it was unclear if we would be back in Concord before dark). Two got off the front and made it through a light that the remaining guy and I didn’t. So then we were two.
Then along came Kaz. I was happy to see him, since he was another soul who was on the ride, and ended up in the same place. Unfortunately, he was also lost. He admitted to being a two time loser, getting lost in the exact same way the last time he did this ride. Other guy at this point had little confidence in our navigational skills, and opted to strike out on his own.
So Kaz and I soldiered on. The cue sheet and my GPS seemed to be pretty much in accord, so it seemed likely could find our way. Wrong. We again found ourselves on a road not on the cue sheet. At this point, I was ready to bail since the 50 mile ride was heading toward a century. Time for the DNS (Donohue Navigation System), which in a nutshell is “Always pick the bigger road.” Eventually you will get to one you recognize, or at least has signs pointing you in the direction of towns you may have heard of. And so it was. We eventually came of Route 126. Now being a Northwest Suburb resident, I rarely make it south of Route 2, which as far as I was concerned was terra incognita. But I knew 126 would eventually end up in Concord (assuming of course we pointed ourselves in the right direction). We did, and the only downside was having to go through Lincoln, which takes the prize for town with the worst roads. You literally couldn’t find a patch of road in Lincoln longer than 100 yards without potholes or a poor attempt at patching which creates a mound about as high as the former hole (“potlumps” as Pamela is wont to say).
We made it back finally, and I spent the rest of the day chanting my mantra “Arrows are my friend.”
* VOP - Verge of Puking, a term coined by Rick Lawrence