March To the Marsh 600

From Terry Payne:

On Saturday eight of us rode along Lake Huron at the beginning of Huron Chapters March To the Marsh 600. Carey Chappelle, Dick Felton, myself, Chris Cossonnet, Tim O’Callahan, Ben Merrit, Ali Lalani and John Cumming.  Some were probably apprehensive about what they were getting into, some confident in their chances on finishing and the rest just ready to enjoy doing the ride again. The first leg was relatively easy with warm almost muggy temperatures and a slight cross/tail wind to the first control in Markdale. Six of us arriving at relatively the same time with Dick and Ali coming a little later.

 A little rain started up as we left the control necessitating donning rain gear which was peeled drippily off 15 or 20 minutes later in the heat. John Cumming and I rode together to Bajeros General store for a much needed rest. Every time I get to this point I’m pretty spent after a tough couple of climbs and a pretty constant uphill ride. This is 78 km into a 139 km leg  to the next control in Thornton. As we replenished our bikes and sat eating the 2nd half of our subs purchased in Markdale , Carey, Ben, Tim and Chris came in feeling just as tired. This is a pretty hilly ride and can be draining at times. Dick was pulling up the rear mentoring Ali. The six of us made it into Thornton for a much needed meal before riding off into the rain around 4:00. Dick arrived as we were preparing to leave while Ali was further behind. Ali called it a day in Thornton. He wasn’t feeling it, wasn’t having fun and didn’t want to ride alone into the rain feeling like that. There’s always next year Ali.

On the way to Kleinburg Chris had some problems and was sick so he stayed in a one star palace of a motel and called it quits. His adventure for the night was dodging bugs and smells.I liked ours better.  At this time that is. Had I known what the next 6 or 7 hours would bring I might have joined him. That left four of us to have dinner and a pint in the pub in Kleinburg. Carey was now on his own a short distance behind us. After leaving the pub, I realized that I forgot my arm warmers behind and turned back to retrieve them. They were very much needed later on.  As much as I tried to catch up to Tim, Ben and John I couldn’t. I could see their lights about 200 yards ahead but I couldn’t seem to get any faster than 18 kph. Thought I was bonking or something. It was now raining steadily with the temperature dropping quickly. After plodding along in the dark watching their lights get further away my rear tire went flat. No wonder I couldn’t get any speed up. There’s that brief feeling of hopelessness that accompanies a flat in a cold driving rain. I thought to myself why not embrace this wonderful new experience. I mean it’s always a great time changing a tire on the side of the road while shivering and almost blind in the dark in the mud. I couldn’t feel anything inside the tire which might have caused the flat. Definitely couldn’t see anything anywhere for that matter. Let’s hope for the best shall we. After saying goodbye to the OPP who stopped to see if I was OK I gleefully rode off into the storm. Alliston was the next town but my “overnight” was in Angus 28 km further on at the 380km point. Tim, Ben, and Carey were planning on riding through on this brevet but I doubted that that was very realistic now. I half expected to find them camped out in my room in Angus. The ride to Alliston took a lifetime and by the time I stopped into Pizza Pizza at around 12:00 I was shaking uncontrollably and completely soaked.

The rest of the guys spent the night in Alliston at the Red Pine Inn and were probably tucked in bed when I left for Angus at 1:00 AM. I climbed out of Alliston in the cold and rain and made my way towards bed. After the turn east there’s a delightful downhill I remember from my first time on this ride. Raining, inadequate lighting, sleep deprived and going too fast. Just like now. What a great time for the fates to deliver another flat tire. Changed it halfway down the hill with numb fingers. This time I said to hell with it ” I’m changing the whole tire too”. The big wave from a passing truck was much appreciated. Finally done. Really an experience not to be missed. Oh yeah. Did I mention that my GPS crapped out around the time of the first flat? Reading a cue sheet though glasses covered in water throughout a plastic cue sheet cover covered in water and on a moving bike in the dark. Not to be missed. My head was down to avoid the needle-like rain in my face when I missed my turn to Angus. I kinda recognized some landmarks seen earlier in our ride to Thornton. I knew for sure when with my head still down my wheels slipped out on some wet train tracks and down I went. Thank God for my helmet since I hit the road hard with my head. Didn’t hurt. Didn’t care anymore. I laid there for a minute laughing and hoping a car would run over my bike so I could quit. I was only a few km off route so at this point so what else was there to do but ride back and get to my bed. I rang the doorbell at the Knight’s Inn at 3:00 AM and fell asleep leaning against the door. After checking in, preparing the bike and a 1 min. shower I turned off the light at 3:25.

Morning came at 4:45 and I hit the road at 5:30 after putting on the still wet clothing which was hanging on the heater. I’m guessing that the room smelled great when I left. A coffee and bagel at Tim’s on the way out of town and I was on my way to the Notttawa control. More cold and yet more rain. I don’t know. I think I’m a good person. I don’t deserve this. The restaurant in Nottawa opened at 8:00. I arrived frozen at 7:40 so the waitress had to shake the sleeping and shivering guy outside the door to wake him up. An hour later I felt human again and was ready to do the two long climbs out of the Beaver Valley with joy in my heart. Made it to Walter’s Falls and wasn’t overly surprised to have a flat on my front wheel now. I usually carry three tubes but only had two (which I used last night). A welcome new experience. Patching tubes on the side of the road. This time I found the sliver which caused the flat. Owen Sound here I come. Got off and walked once on the way to stay awake. 40 min of almost sound sleep the previous night.

Left Owen Sound into a decent headwind and battled sleep all the way to Big Bay where by God if I didn’t flat out on the front again. Two rear and two front. It was weird but after I removed the tube I pumped it up and left it for ten minutes while I put things right with my last patched tube. It didn’t have any holes in it and I couldn’t find anything in the tire. Really started to wonder if this ride was meant to be finished. Started thinking about bailing out and maybe even taking the rest of the summer off. Wasn’t as much fun and just started to feel like needless suffering. What to do? Just get on the damn bike and ride. I arrived at the secret control, run by Carey’s friend, just before Wiarton and found out that I was the first one in. I was shocked! I had been riding all day thinking I was at the back sucking hind tit. I thought for sure everyone was waiting in Port Elgin for me so that they could finally have dinner. My stomach was off so I declined anything to eat or drink and took off for Sauble Beach. It was at the point of the ride where you take it one turn at a time. Even the 7 or 8 km stretches seem to take a long time and you don’t dare look at the bike computer for the mileage readings because the numbers never seem to change.

The last leg to Port Elgin was along the lake into a beautiful sunset over the water.  Thirty something km with lots of turns to break it up. This is always a beautiful and challenging ride but never like this before. About 3 or 4 hours longer than usual at 38:35. Carey, Tim, Ben and John came in a half hr or so later and Dick came in with 15 min to spare. We had a wonderful dinner prepared by Donna Chappelle and collapsed into bed. I don’t know if I’m alone but sometimes while riding it just plain sucks. After I finish, it’s a whole different feeling  Wow. I just did that?

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