I decided to ride the Huron Chapter’s Frosty 200 as a permanent this past Saturday. The one and only previous time this one ran was in late January 2011. I remember driving down the 401 in the dark, towards Tillsonburg, hardly being able to see out the windshield due to blowing snow. Combined with a temperature of minus 10, I couldn’t help but start laughing and almost questioning my sanity. Since I’d already ridden with Carey Chappelle and Dick Felton, I knew that I was in good company and we would be forming a happy band of idiots. Also joining in was Brian Brideau (early preparation for the snows of the Great Divide), Dave “Hammy” Pearson (riding with full gearing in the days before indexed shifting became incomprehensible to him) and Jacob Ner (on a bike Friday).
We all met in the lobby of Tillsonburg Arena and pretended that this was a great idea. I started the 2015 version by myself in bright sunshine and cool but not glacial temps. But not white. It was interesting actually seeing the sights once I got out of town. If there were 5 other riders with me I would have been able to see them as well. With a fairly strong SW wind it was work starting out riding both west and south towards the lake. Really? I probably wasn’t moving a whole lot faster than the first time. But not white. There are surprisingly a lot of hills in this flat part of the country. Not long but short steep kickers. I passed the spot where Dick (who was riding a fixie) had to convert his bike to a single speed with a free wheel after doing his impression of a gerbil while slipping and sliding down the hills. Further on I remembered the hill where I realized that having fenders on wasn’t such a great idea since they kept getting jammed up with ice. Felt like pedalling with the brakes on all day. I had to kick out the ice every 10 or 20 km at times. The spot where Carey ran into someone and bent the forks of his mountain bike straight back. He fell down since his seat was so high he couldn’t get off easily. He forgot his seat and post so had to borrow one that didn’t quite fit properly and had to be hammered down not nearly far enough. The joke all day was whether we would need a surgeon or the Jaws of Life to remove the seat from his ass at the end of the ride. I’ve seen the same bike still unused in his garage with the indentation from his prostate still evident on the seat. This was all on the way to the first control in Port Burwell. Glen Steen met us there and exchanged all of our frozen water bottles with bottles with flowable liquid. He did this at every control. It was hard to drink anyway since I was afraid to take one hand of the handlebar due to the ice. I started this ride thinking that maybe I’d put in a good time under 9 hours but quickly threw that idea away in the wind. Since it was time to relax, I decided to go down to the dock to have a look at the old submarine Port Burwell is so proud of. While walking around and checking it out I was joined by an old guy who became my guide. While admiring it I asked him if they planned on painting it soon since it showed a lot of rust to which he replied that they want to keep it authentic. I said that authenticity still rusts out and eventually sinks. He didn’t seem too interested in talking anymore. Another great friendship aborted I guess. After having a quick bite to eat at the control restaurant it was time to ride again. Quick turnaround time of 55 min. Pretty much set the tone for the rest of the day. Still not white.
I thought that I might have a nice tailwind along the lake to the next two control stops of Port Rowan and Port Dover. Nope. Swirling at best. Get up to a decent speed and up comes a 2 or 3 minute gust to put me back into my place. Rode down the road which had a foot or two of snow last time. Took a half hour last time but 5 or 10 minutes this time. Not white. Last time we arrived in Port Dover looking forward to a steak and a beet in the Norfolk Tavern but we only had about 5 or 10 minutes before the control closed. Bag of chips and a swig of unfrozen water delivered by Glen. This time though I asked myself what would Carey do now with time to spare? Time for a pint. The tavern was full of leather clad bikers so I fit right in. The bartender asked me if I was with the band (free beer?). I must have had that ruffled just got out of bed at three o’clock look about me. I walked up to the bar, squeezed in and ordered a pint of Keith’s and a veggie wrap. How’s that for blending in? Thought about another but remembered the headwind all the way back to Tillsonburg. While I was getting my bike, near the patio, a bikerish waitress asked me what I was doing and was clearly awestruck and mesmerized by such a specimen as myself. The guy beside her wasn’t. He mumbled something about him being able to do it to which I said “not in a million” judging by the humongous gut hanging over his Harley belt. I rode away pretty quick. Still not white.
The ride west was taxing but it was still good to be able to see the sights. Not white. Or dark. I even took a wrong turn and had to backtrack at the same corner we screwed up at last time. The Tim Hortons, in Delhi, control brought back memories of being tired and not a lot of talking going on due to frozen lips. Even sat in the same seat. The nostalgia was carrying me away. The last control was in Brown’s Restaurant on the way back to T-Burg and was open this time. Glen signed the cards in the dark beside the road last time. This was after having us turn east when all we wanted to do is ride west and finish. I remember last time having to take my tinted ski goggles off to see at night and feeling my eyeballs start to freeze or the eyelids freeze shut. After arriving back at the arena in Tillsonburg, I was able to find an arena guy who opened up a hockey dressing room so I could have a shower. So what if it was the women’s. I’ve been there before. Ask Liz. Last time we did the same thing. Dick even took his bike in the shower with him. I showered quickly to give them the privacy they needed. All in all it’s a great route and thanks to Glen Steen for putting it together. Still not sure I’d want to do it again in January though.