This is my description of my weekend (Memorial Day Weekend, 1995) at the Kent County Spring Fling. It's in several parts, first a relatively short summary, then some hints for people who might consider going next year, then a long description of what I did during the weekend.
The Spring Fling happens every year on Memorial Day Weekend in Chestertown MD, in Kent County. It's run by the Baltimore Bike Club. You stay in Washington College dorms and eat (most of the time) in the cafeteria. You could check in at noon Friday, and had to check out by 4pm Monday. The info sheet said RIDE RIDE RIDE EAT EAT EAT PARTY PARTY PARTY, and that about sums it up. I'll describe the ride, eat, and party parts separately.
Ride: Every day there's a huge selection of rides to go on, from 10 mile novice rides, to a 140 metric double century plus. The 140 mile ride was ridden for the first time in years, possibly forever, by a small group of 3 women and one man, 3 of whom are BCPers: -- Glenn Schreiber, Debbie Hollein and Jennifer Stockton. The rides are all pretty much flat. They have a scheduled departure time, but there is no ride leader. Everyone gets a set of maps and cue sheets, and when the appointed time arrives, someone says "OK, let's go" and the ride takes off. Admittedly, the longer rides often have few takers, and if you want to do one, it's best to try to convince your friends to do it with you.
Eat: The food is quite good, considering that it is mass produced (there were 600 attendees). There's always a good selection, from vegan stuff for strict vegetarians, to meat entrees, with usually some seafood in between. There are good desserts, sometimes in separate events (an ice cream social and a dessert party). Most of the food was served in the college's mail dining hall, but there was a cookout scheduled outside (which was rained out and so the food was served inside), and some food is served off campus (a cookout at a nearby camp, and a snack of strawberries at a beach).
Party: There was dancing every night, with either live music or DJs. The dancing was in various styles too, country line dancing, contra dancing, square dancing, the usual rock dancing. There was lots of wine and beer at several of these events.
Optional events: Some of the events were things that you had to pay extra for, since not everyone would be interested in doing them. These events were Friday's dinner (some people were expecting to arrive after dinner, which was over at 7pm), Saturday's and Sunday's lunches, and Sunday's ride on a fishing boat. I only signed up for Friday's dinner, but according to reports by participants, Saturday's lunch was very good, as was the boat ride.
And what about me? What did I do, with my broken collar bone? Well, I rode my bike! It had healed enough that I was able to ride without any pain at all, as long as I put all my weight on my right arm when I went over the bumpier roads. I started very tentatively, and gradually increased the distance of the rides I did as I found that I could do it without any problems. By the end my legs, which hadn't been pedaling for a month, are what held me back.
All in all, it was a wonderful weekend, and I'd recommend it to anyone who likes to bike.
There's a guy in Suburban Cyclists Unlimited named Jack, who'd put "Jack's Tips" in their newsletter. I'll pass on some of his, along with things I came across.
Jack says: bring hangers. Some rooms have them, some don't, so bring them just to make sure.
Bring sandwich bags. You'll want them to snag bike food (bagels, bananas) from breakfast and the check-in area.
Bring a lamp! Most rooms have only one little tiny light above the mirror, so if you want to see anything after dark, bring your own light.
Bring your club jersey, if you have one. Monday is "Colors Day".
You don't need sheets or towels; they provide them.
Of course the obvious -- lots of bike clothes and sun lotion, tools and spare tube, etc. Helmets are required. A light lock can be useful. Your bike is quite unlikely to be stolen, but having it locked will make you feel better. Sheldon Isaac got his tools stolen from his bike bag, so you're not completely safe.
One month had passed since my crash. Collarbones generally heal in 6 to 8 weeks, and so, tho' it might not be completely healed, it might be healed enough that I could go riding. I figured I'd do what the doctor at Student Health Service had said -- "Try it, and if it doesn't hurt, then it's OK, as long as you don't fall". I figured that doing strictly recreational riding I was highly unlikely to crash, and since it's flat in Kent County, I wouldn't be putting weight on it by standing to go up hills.
Last Wednesday, almost exactly one month from my crash, I tried biking. I rode the one mile into school. This went fine. So I tried the next step -- short, smooth, slow, and flat. At least I intended to go slow, but I met up with a fast rider who wanted to have someone to ride with, and was willing to let me draft him for two whole drive loops to do it. This also went fine, other than my shoulder feeling a bit weak from not being used, so I figured I'd take my bike with me to Spring Fling. However, since I hadn't spent more than an hour on the bike, I didn't know if I'd be able to go on any long rides.
FRIDAY: I arrived just after noon, when the registration opened. I found that Linda & Terry McAdams had been there already and had left a note for me telling me where they were. I found them and we arranged to meet to bike to a place for lunch. We ate in a restaurant on the water, then hung around until 2:30 when we'd do our first ride, a 20-miler to Chesapeake Bay and back. Linda got talking with a woman who was going kind of slow, so after awhile of riding with them I took off, gradually passing everyone 'til I got to the front of the ride, which consisted of Glenn Schreiber and Jennifer (? last name), and then I rode with them. The last section of the road was really rough, and this made my shoulder very uncomfortable. On the way back I put all my weight on my right hand on the rough roads, and I found that I did OK.
Since it was warm and very humid, even the 20 miler had made us pretty sweaty, so we took showers before dinner. During the meal, Glenn started talking about doing the 140 mile ride. Amazingly enough, he found a couple people who were interested in doing it with him -- Debbie and Jennifer. Jennifer asked me if I'd like to go. I said "No way!" She said "You're a strong rider", to which I replied, "Yeah, but I'm a strong rider with a broken collarbone. Or rather, a mostly-healed broken collarbone". I found a ride that looked good for me -- an easy ride, either 25 or 29 miles depending on exact route you take. It also left at a good time of the morning -- 9am.
The evening's entertainment was a husband-wife couple who did standard rock songs. I danced a bit, and gradually we all headed off to bed.
SATURDAY: I woke up around 7, and on the way over to breakfast I met Glenn and Debbie, waiting for Jennifer, ready for their adventure. I wished them well.
I had breakfast with Jeff and Gail Bakely (and their baby). They said that they were planning to do the same ride I was (its name was "The Bike Ride") with the baby in tow. I met them at the parking lot where all the rides took off from and found a bunch of other people there with mountain and hybrid bikes. I asked "Does any one want to go fast?" I didn't want to risk a long ride, not wanting to get into trouble far from Chestertown, but I did want to try to get a workout. Jeff said "I can't", since he had the baby in the trailer. Another person asked "Is there anyone macho on this ride?" and at that point I knew that if I wanted to go fast, I'd do it on my own. Oh, well. We started out, and I lead it out slowly (about 10mph) until the first turn, and then I said "I'm taking off" and did just that, picking it up to about 18. I went out and thought that I felt pretty good, maybe I'd do the 25 mile loop, and if I still felt good then I'd do it again.
It had started somewhat cloudy that day, but it gradually cleared, and by the end of the ride it was sunny, and it remained that way for the rest of that day. Towards the end of the ride, the route left the numbered highways and went along named roads. The numbered roads in Kent County are all beautifully smooth and flat, with shoulders wide enough for two bikes to ride abreast without getting in the way of cars. The other roads have almost no shoulders, but they also have almost no traffic. They are paved with tar and stones, and they can range from almost as smooth as the numbered roads to very bumpy. In one extreme case, a road had just been repaved and it was alot of loose gravel. Luckily, I didn't go on this gravel road, I just heard about it.
After finishing the shorter version of the ride, which turned out to be 23 miles instead of 25, I grabbed a snack of bananas and lemonade from the hospitality area, and then headed out again, this time cutting out the section that left the smooth numbered roads, which cut the ride down to 20 miles. Towards the end of the second loop my thighs were starting to ache, so I knew I'd gotten a good workout.
I ate lunch (stuff grabbed from breakfast) and rested. There was a 36 mile ride scheduled at 1pm, and I thought that I'd go on it and not do it fast -- I'd just relax and chat with the other people, and it wouldn't be too much of a strain.
I showed up at 1, and Jeff and his family were there. Jeff was on his racing bike, ready to get a workout, leaving the baby with Gail. Oh, no. So much for having a nice relaxing ride... We started out side by side, but I soon ducked in behind him. He dropped back and let me lead every now and then, but soon tired of my slow pace and lead the last 2/3 of the ride. My legs were not happy, and I had to work very hard to keep up with him, but I did it. Upon arriving back at Washington college, I lay on the grass in front of hospitality area and didn't move for awhile. Eventually I sat up and talked with the people around me, and soon got up the energy for a shower. After that I lay down in the grass some more until dinner time. I had really overdone it. I should have left it at the 43 morning miles...
During dinner, we wondered how Glenn, Debbie, and Jennifer were doing. They didn't show up by the time they stopped serving dinner. After dinner was a dessert party with a bluegrass band playing. Terry and Linda went for a walk downtown, and I started to go with them, but then found I really didn't want to walk, I wanted to just sit down and not move. So I went back to the dessert place and found some more BCPers sitting on a wall to socialize with. Just as the dessert party broke up, Glenn showed up, alive, all in one piece, pretty much coherent. All gathered around to hear the story. The story was this -- the cue sheet was amazingly bad, but they eventually gave up on it and followed the map, and then they were OK. They'd met up with another woman, Kathy, at the beginning of the ride, who had been planning on doing it alone! So there Glenn was, doing this 140 mile ride with 3 beautiful women. As he said: "I have no complaints". This made them all heroes, and they were congratulated for the rest of the weekend...
There was a party with DJs that evening, but I was too tired to even contemplate dancing. I went to bed early.
SUNDAY: I went for breakfast at 7am, meeting Linda and Terry and gang to plan the day. The weather was cloudy, and rain was predicted. But we'd take our chances and ride anyway. The idea was that we'd go to a crab place, Waterman's, in Rock Hall, to have lunch. I felt that after Saturday's 80 miles, I could handle a ride of about 40 or 50 miles, as long as I didn't go too fast. There was a scheduled ride of the right length (50 miles) that left at the right time, so we went on that. There were quite a few people on that ride, and I couldn't help wanting to be at or near the front riders during the ride. For a portion of the ride, Glenn and I took turns at leading a pace line consisting of the remaining group (Glenn leading more than I did, just letting me take a pull when he needed a bit of a rest).
We got to the crab place feeling hungry. We ate outside. It was cloudy and cool, and I was glad I'd bought a jacket. We were joined at lunch by some friends of Terry and Linda who were in town for the weekend. Steve Shelley pulled in just after we sat down, having gone on the boat ride, which he said was quite enjoyable. After lunch we headed out, with Terry and Lincda staying behind to socialize with their friends. The group broke up pretty quickly. Glenn was feeling fast, and he set a pace that dropped several people right away, leaving 4 of us. I stayed with him, but it was work. He wanted to take a detour to Vonnie's Restaurant to have another of their wonderful milkshakes (he'd had one the previous day on the 140 miler). At the turnoff for Vonnie's, Steve and I continued on, heading back to Chestertown, while Jennifer and Glenn went off in search of milkshakes. Steve and I went back at a relaxed pace, riding side by side and chatting, much nicer than me drafting and putting alot of effort into pedaling, as I was doing with Glenn. The month off my bike had really taken its toll. Upon getting back to Chestertown we stopped by a diner for a hot cup of tea, and got back to the college just as the rain began to fall.
Because of the rain, the cookout was moved indoors. That evening there was another DJ dance, and this time I hadn't overdone it and so was quite happy to dance. Most of the time I couldn't find anyone to dance with, so I went out alone. I really like dancing to good rock music...
MONDAY: On Monday, all rides went to Betterton Beach, where there would be a snack of strawberries waiting for us. I was trying to decide what ride to do. If I did the 55-mile ride, I'd have done 200 miles for the weekend, which was a nice goal. But my legs were a bit tired, and furthermore, the 55-miler took off at 7am, so I thought that I'd go on the 35-mile version, which took off at a more civilized hour. But I was still undecided. Maybe I'd look over the maps at breakfast and find a way to do a 40-miler. I met Debbie at breakfast, and she was trying to find a partner for doing the 55 miler. So I consented, and we agreed to meet at 7:30 for the ride. The weather was cloudy, warm, and muggy, and there were strong winds, which were in our face as we took off. We saw several people coming back, and we realized that they'd probably started out on the 55 miler at the official time, but found the headwinds too much and had given up on it. Debbie and I never contemplated turning back. We took turns leading, alternating every 2.5 miles, tho' somehow she managed to be in front more than I was...
I think she got more benefit from drafting me than I did her. Debbie is small to begin with, and she tends to ride quite low, while I feel more comfortable on the top of the bars. Still, we managed, each going about the same speed when we were in front, and we got to the beach in 3 hours, including stops for food and map checks, for the 41 mile trip. Of course, it helped that once we got thru' the first long into-the-wind stretch, we had a tailwind. We felt a couple of raindrops during the ride, but never any real rain.
We ate lots of strawberries and then rode back with a bunch of people -- Glenn, Jennifer and Kathy from the 140-miler, and Jeff. Kathy isn't used to riding with people, and so doesn't draft. Since we had some pretty hefty headwinds, she quickly fell off, and Glenn dropped back to stay with her. The rest of us all got into a single pace line which Jeff lead most of the time, joking that it was like towing his baby. Well! At least towing us didn't slow him down...
During the course of lunch, the clouds gradually went away and the sun came out. And then we all packed up and drove home, with thoughts of a nice weekend with our bikes and friends...More ride stories