Other riders seemed surprised or impressed that we would be riding "unsupported" - no help along the way from the ride organizer and no personal support at any of the controls. Although unsupported riding is the essence of randonneuring, our longer NW brevets typically have club-organized support at the overnight stops or out on long, service-less segments of the courses. The unsupported nature of the ride fazed me only a bit, however - Greg and I rode it that way in 2007 and had a grand adventure of it.
But I also knew from years of riding these events that there would, in fact, be lots of support for us. That support would take many forms, some expected or planned, some much less so:
- The organizer, Susan France, had created a wonderful route that would urge us along with promises of varied and wonderful scenery around every (rare) corner.
- The United States Postal Service cycling team is no more, but the USPS can still deliver - in my case a support package at each of our overnight stops - fresh shorts, additional bike food, etc.
- My riding companions carried cameras and good memories. They would take pictures and do great post-ride accounts, so I wouldn't need to. (See Geoff's here and Vincent's here).
- Nice folks served us food in restaurants along the way, including great sit-down breakfasts in Lyle, WA on the first day and in Thompson Falls, MT on the third day.
- The friendly residents of La Crosse, WA lined the main street of town to witness our arrival. (Possibly they were waiting for a parade, but we didn't see one.) The residents of Tekoa celebrated our transit with an egg toss contest (happily completed before our arrival).
- When Geoff and I crashed in a deep sandy shoulder just north of the Tri-Cities, a passing motorist stopped to offer aid and wouldn't leave until she was convinced we were ok (which we were).
- In addition to providing glorious scenery, Mother Nature supported us with 100 miles of wicked tailwind on the first day from Lyle to Plymouth.
- Random by-standers assaulted with tales of our adventure provided the boost of acting suitably impressed.
- The passing RV from which a "Yeah, Go Seattle!" cheer came our blue-shirted way over 900km into the ride nearly made up for the idiot RV'er that almost ran us off the road a bit later.
- Regular support came from caffeine, my favorite performance enhancing drug, in its many and wondrous forms: diner coffee, Starbucks DoubleShots and Frappucinos from convenience store refrigerators, chocolate bars, iced tea, caffeine tablets, cola nuts from Africa (courtesy of Vincent's dad), caffeinated Clif Blox, and of course, espresso wherever possible. (I couldn't, however, bring myself to go for the Red Bulls that worked so well for Geoff).
- After I started posting our progress on facebook (see below), many supportive comments from friends and family kept my spirits high and made quitting even less of an option than usual.
- Although it came after the ride, we welcomed the offer by the night clerk at the finish motel of her car so we could get a post-ride meal without having to ride into the torrential downpour again.
- Mile after mile, the steady friendship, strong riding, and good humor of Geoff and Vincent bolstered the spirit and enhanced the experience. Thanks.
- And of course, neither this or any other ride would be possible without the bemused support of my family at home. On hearing that I planned to ride a 1000km to Montana, my daughter said "Yes, of course you are. What else would you be doing?"
Facebook updates posted along the way:
June 19 at 9:39am
Mark Thomas with Vincent & Geoff at breakfast in Lyle,WA (108 km).
June 19 at 1:49pm
Mark Thomas in Roosevelt, WA (200km)
June 19 at 7:08pm
Mark Thomas is now having dinner in Kennewick, WA (320km).
June 19 at 11:52pm
Mark Thomas is having a beer and getting ready to shower and sleep in Connell, WA (398km).
June 20 at 11:03am
Mark Thomas - enjoying an iced mocha in Dusty, WA (half way!! - 505 km).
June 20 at 12:58pm
Mark Thomas at Colfax, WA control - 536km.
June 20 at 5:34pm
Mark Thomas is dining in style on sidewalk in Plummer, ID (610 km). A hundred km of bike trail before bed. (Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes).
June 20 at 11:04pm
Mark Thomas working on a Foster's oilcan and a cup-o-soup in Wallace, ID (715km). Sleep soon.
June 21 at 10:53am
Mark Thomas - Minnie's Montana Cafe!!! Thompson Falls, MT (807 km)
June 21 at 1:54pm
Mark Thomas checked into penultimate control in Plains, MT (849 km). A hundred miles to Whitefish finish.
June 21 at 8:20p
Mark Thomas - aargh! Lonepine closed. Limped into DQ in Lakeside, MT (955km).
June 21 at 11:19pm
Mark Thomas in Whitefish, MT. 1005km; 67:13 elapsed. Two 6 hour overnights. Two great riding companions. Thanks Geoff and Vincent!