Out for a joyride

Out for a joyride

Where did you go on your summer vacation? Several local cyclists left the cornfields for weeklong bike trips featuring some spectacular scenery not available in central Illinois. Here are their trip reports:

 

Sue Ellen Finkenbiner: Gaspé Peninsula, Quebec

Where did you ride?

We started in Quebec City, Quebec, and rode up the Gaspé Pennisula along the St. Lawrence Seaway, ending in Gaspé, Quebec.

Blog PhotoWho rode?

Sue Ellen Finkenbiner, Philo; Bonnie McElwee, Urbana; Nancy Sivertsen, Champaign; Karen Gschwend, Champaign; Andrea Stack, Mahomet; Stan Shobe, Champaign; Richard Brannon, Champaign; Jay Reutter, Urbana; John Hughes, Urbana; and Sam Stern, Corvallis, Oregon.

We also had four spouses who accompanied us but didn’t ride bicycles: Bill Curry, Philo; Mary Shobe, Champaign; Vevi Brannon, Champaign; and Beth Rietveld, Corvallis, Oregon. They drove and toured while we rode. There were a lot of activities for the non-riders -- a whale watching tour where they saw three different kinds of whales; visiting Grosse Íle, which housed quarantined Irish immigrants from 1832 to 1848, 5,000 of whom are buried there; hiking in provincial parks; and visiting local artists. Some of us wondered why we were riding bikes and not seeing the other sites.

How many miles total was the trip, and how many miles per day did you ride?

It was a total of 358.5 miles. We averaged 60 miles a day.

What was the elevation change?

We had a 787-foot climb and descent in elevation on the third day between Riviére-du-Loup

and Rimouski. We frequently had climbs and descents with grades between 7 and 11 percent.

Did you do this as a self-supported trip, carrying all your gear, or did you have either a crew or a bike tour company to do that?

We used an outfitter to support our trip. It’s Velo Quebec, based out of Montreal. They

support the Route Verte, which is the Canadian bike route through Quebec Province, and any profits they make go to support the Route Verte. They provided a tour leader who drove a support van that carried our luggage to our hotels each night and also provided mechanical support if we wanted assistance with flats or other repairs. Our guide was a special education teacher from Montreal who was an incredible resource for local breweries, restaurants and shopping in every city/village we passed through.

What was your favorite snack food on the trip?

Ice cream was the winner, although we also enjoyed fresh strawberries from roadside stands. And did I mention we were along the Saint Lawrence? So we had an abundance of salmon, shrimp, lobster and fresh fish for lunches and dinners. Even rose wine at lunch on a few days. This was quite a step up from RAGBRAI.

How many flat tires did your group have during the trip?

We had eight. Richard Brannon was the winner with three, Andrea Stack and I each had two, and Bonnie McElwee had one. When I started the trip, I couldn't change a flat tire unassisted. After the trip, I was able to put on new tires and tubes on my bike unassisted. Not exactly the skill I thought I'd pick up on this trip but not a bad one to learn.

What was the hardest part of the ride?

The unrelenting hills were tough. There were a lot of long, steep climbs and long, steep descents. At least they seemed long and steep to our mostly flatlander group!

What did you enjoy the most on the trip?

The scenery was spectacular. Most days we were along the coast riding a rural highway that passed through one charming French Canadian St. Something village after another. Every day I thought I had seen the best views possible, and then the next day was even better. Repeat this for six days. Nancy Sivertsen enjoyed practicing her ancient high school French. She got better at it through the trip and even got some compliments towards the end.

Harold Allston: Ride the Rockies

Where did you ride?

The ride was a seven day trek in southwestern Colorado. The trip began in Alamosa and then stopped in the host cities of Pagosa Springs, Durango, Ridgeway, Montrose, Gunnison and ended in Salida.

Blog PhotoWho rode?

My brother-in-law, Bud Garner of Albuquerque, and his daughter, Emily Sumner of Denver, were my inspiration and companions for the trip. They had previous experiences in 2013 and 2015, and were over the moon about the adventure.

How many miles total was the trip, and how many miles per day did you ride?

Each day's distance and terrain varied, but we rode 447 miles in the course of the week.

What was the elevation change?

It was always hilly, with over 32,000 feet of climbing. We were blessed with great weather, sunny skies, cool mornings, warm afternoons and a constant headwind all week.

Did you do this as a self-supported trip, carrying all your gear, or did you have either a crew or a bike tour company to do that?

The ride is well-organized and mirrors RAGBRAI in its structure. Baggage trucks carry our gear from town to town. The cyclists simply have to rise early enough to break down their camp, pack their gear and have it loaded by 8 a.m., then spend the rest of the day riding to the next destination where we set up camp, forage for food and rest. Each town offers entertainment and a few dining options beyond the local restaurants. Selection for the ride is by lottery and only 2,000 people are chosen. We were selected as a team -- Team SAG, with our cheery motto “Death before sag".

What was your favorite snack food on the trip?

At designated spots are food stops where vendors sell pancakes, tacos, burgers and smoothies. After a day in the saddle, one quickly discovers strawberry mango smoothies are the elixir of life.

Who were some of the people you encountered doing the Ride the Rockies?

Bud, 70 years young with a knee sorely in need of surgery, rode his recumbent, a bright yellow Lightning with two U.S. flags for visibility and pride. We saw one other recumbent on the road ridden by a gentleman named Chris, a veteran of many tours. There were also four handcycles on the route. They were part of group of disabled cyclists that come annually. In fact, many riders I encountered were veterans of previous tours. One teenage boy was a legacy rider -- his parents had ridden it before him, and his grandparents before them. The challenge of the mountains creates strong bonds among the group. The organizers’ attention to detail ensures stragglers that they are not forgotten as I can personally attest. Four medical vehicles and several sag wagons accompany the riders each day, as well as a few motorcycle policeman. Not to mention an army of volunteers, many of whom return year after year.

What was the hardest part of the ride?

The hardest day was our fourth. It was also the most magnificent! From Durango to Ridgeway, over three mountain passes, with 7,800 feet of climbing in 84 miles and an awe-inspiring descent into Ouray on the Million Dollar Highway. Every corner was a postcard of breathtaking views, deep rich colors and the sound of rushing water in streams and falls all around. The beauty almost eclipses the agony of that long, long 13-hour day.

What did you enjoy the most on the trip?

The best part of the journey was spending time with family. Bud and Em are the best of companions: cheerful, resourceful and determined. We shared many hard days beginning with the first, 92 miles total, the first 60 into a 20 mph headwind before a 7-mile climb up Wolf Creek Pass. But we never had a bad day. Just good times and good spirits every day and a few sores.

 

Jodi Heckel, a writer for the University of Illinois News Bureau, is a runner, swimmer and triathlete. You can email her at jheckel@news-gazette.com, or follow her at twitter.com/jodiheckel. Her blog is at www.news-gazette.com/blogs/starting-line/.

 Photos: Top: A group photo with Sue Ellen Finkenbiner and her fellow cyclists on the ferry from Quebec City to Lévis with the Château Frontenac in the background, where they started their trip. Photos provided by Sue Ellen Finkenbiner. Bottom: Harold Allston, right, with Bud Garner and Emily Sumner at Monarch Pass on the Continental Divide, west of Salida, Colo. Photo provided by Harold Allston. 

Sections (1):Living

Comments

News-Gazette.com embraces discussion of both community and world issues. We welcome you to contribute your ideas, opinions and comments, but we ask that you avoid personal attacks, vulgarity and hate speech. We reserve the right to remove any comment at our discretion, and we will block repeat offenders' accounts. To post comments, you must first be a registered user, and your username will appear with any comment you post. Happy posting.

Login or register to post comments