By Valerie Enriquez
It was a ride, not a race, but had chip timing and medals were on the line. We turned up bright and early on a windy day to ride bikes and raise money for the National MS Society, Greater New England Chapter/Team Spinal Tap.
The start/finish of the Plymouth Gravel Grinder was Independent Fermentation. While 8:00 a.m. was a bit early for a pint, I made note while standing in line at registration to try their Rye and Sage Saison once I was finished. Since we were chip timed, there wasn't a huge mass start of all 57 riders, although I did start in a group including my friends Dana from Ashton-Greycork and Alex from Steve the Bike Guy/Team Betty. Did I finish in a group? Well... spoiler alert: no.
I suppose Seneca's "ignoranti quem portum petat nullus suus ventus est/when one doesn't know for which port to sail, no wind is favorable" holds literally true, although I knew where I was going and the headwind still felt most unfavorable.
The dirt roads were fairly smooth and easy for the most part, at least until the later sectors that had washboard-like indentations that appeared to be from some sort of continuous-track heavy equipment vehicle. Sadly, I couldn't identify the vehicle from its tracks, but I imagine it was quite large. I can almost still feel the shuddering in my joints from bouncing all over the place, while trying to maintain a predictable line. There was even a sector that had a couple hundred yards of dirt followed by a couple hundred yards of pavement, alternating through a couple of times just to keep you on your toes, or more accurately, out of your saddle.
Around mile 45 I got to some picturesque farmland and I had to slow down due to horse crossings. Also, I had to stop and take a picture of some placid-looking cows in a field.
However, I had to briefly hop out of the pizza line to pick up a bronze medal. This was much to my surprise since I was probably 20 minutes behind everyone else, but someone said the other person in my age group got lost along the way. At any rate, as far as I was knew, this was a ride, so receiving any sort of award was a pleasant surprise. I settled in with my small pie (riders got a free small cheese pizza but could throw in some extra dough for toppings, I opted for the spinach and pepperoni for a more balanced meal) and pint (of Rye and Sage Saison that I had promised myself earlier). After 55 miles, I definitely needed that along with the glass of water that a lady behind the IndieFerm counter almost precognitively handed me before I even asked for the beer.
Our after-after-race celebration was ice cream at local institution Farfar's (per Alex's suggestion, as she had married into the ice cream dynasty) in Duxbury. Imagine everything wonderful about New England ice cream: soft, creamy hand-scooped goodness served by a smiling teenager at a shop that's been in the family for multiple generations. There are pictures hanging on the walls of each "graduating class" of student staff along with college pennants (many Ivy League since those kids are wicked smart, as it were).
Overall, this Plymouth adventure had a bit of everything: group riding, solo riding, pavement, dirt, bumpy dirt with rocks, pizza, beer and ice cream. It was everything a summer adventure should be, even with 15-22 mph wind speed and the temperature never rising above 60°F.