Even when the weather doesn’t agree with us, it agrees with us. That’s what I was going to write about how the persistently poor Pennsylvania weather works in our favor when we’re pedaling up the biggest hills since the rockies, burning up inside, but cooled by the clouds and an intermittent sprinkle. The mountains out here have nothing on the Rockies. That’s also what I was going to write until we hit three big climbs in one day on the way to Waynesboro. 50 miles seems like a lot more when half of it is steeply uphill. Of course, the downhills are a blast, but like I said, sometimes the weather didn’t really agree with us.
On our first day of tackling Appalacia, a spritz here & there cooled us off. Then an extended shower kept extending until it poured on us during the entire climb over Laurel Pass into the Highlands. 2,600 feet in the sky is truly nothing for twoarmparty, but when you descend another 1,000 feet then go back up a few times, in the rain…that begins to suck.
So we stopped in Jennersville, a small town just past our first pass, and had some ice cream while we drip-dried. An older lady who we asked about camping said that her daughter was at Camp Sequanota up the street with her grandkids, and maybe we could set up under a pavilion there, or at least in an unused campsite. She made a few quick phone calls, and by the time Andy’s Sundae came out, we were hooked up with a place to pitch a tent at the camp, which happened to be a Lutheran summer camp. And this was family week.
We rode back up the road a bit to Camp Sequanota, and found our way to the main offices, where Linda, the woman’s daughter, came out to greet us and direct us where to go. Shortly afterwards, Pastor George came out, and as we all looked at the darkening skies above the mountains to our west, feeling mists of future downpours drift past our faces, our place to stay was negotiated. What was once a spot on the ground became a spot on the ground under a pavilion, then an unfinished, dusty cabin, then cabin six with twelve beds, electricity, and two bathrooms.
dang...i forgot to rotate this image...but...you get the idea
“Why don’t you join us for dinner,” Pastor George asked. Twoarmparty never turns down an act of generosity. So we walk into the dining hall where teenage counselors are frantically setting dozens of tables, families are chasing around kids who have fallen ill with cabin fever (it’s been raining all of family week), and the staff poured pitchers of Kool-Aid. We stood around a table with Linda, Pastor George, a counselor and another couple while a camp leader lead the room (with more people in it than the entire population of Philip, South Dakota) in the “Johnny Appleseed” grace. It involved lots of hand motions and gutteral sounds that none of us understood and seemed somewhat cultish. But that’s probably just because we’re heathens. Nonetheless, Andy and I had some Kool-Aid and came back later for the puppet show. It was a delightful reinterpretation of classic 50′s songs set in a diner, based on the gospel of Mark, chapters 4, 5, and 6. Even the 18 year old counselor with tattoos, piercings, and a torn Misfits shirt who Andy said “That was me, when I was at Bible Camp” was getting into it. Hanging out with the Lutheran Family camp in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania was just like hanging out with the guys at Pactola lake, way back in the Black Hills of South Dakota, except this time, they were drunk on the love of God.
Rest days seem to be our best friends right now. We took a long weekend in Milwaukee, even though it hurt Quinn and me, and wasn’t always that *restful*. Since Tuesday, we’ve been in Chicago. What day is it? Friday? Yeah. I guess it is. We’ve cranked out a stellar 100 miles over the past six days and spent most of yesterday watching movies or old Simpsons episodes.
Is twoarmparty slipping? Are we giving up? Balderdash! How could you possibly suggest we give up? After we’ve pulled off multiple back-to-back centuries, climbed the rockies, braved the perils of South Dakota, roughed it out in Iowa, and navigated the woody mazes of Wisconsin? It’s not US that gives up when we get to Chicago. It’s those OTHER friends of ours from last summer, and they started on the EAST coast. That’s the SHORT way to Chicago. We’re just hanging out. It’s been tough.
It’s also been inclement. It’s like April weather out here. Yesterday, we had to cancel the barbecue at Dumptruck’s place and go to the brand new Art Institute Modern Wing instead. Blech! Art! (It’s free on Thursdays & Fridays from 5-9!)
Dumptruck. This is the name he goes by. Image from Gus Legit.
This is a good time to give our thanks to Brean. Hey Brean, thanks. For letting us stay at your place for three nights, watch all your roommate’s DVDs while it rained, and meeting us in Kenosha to guide us into Chicago. We’ll never forget you. Come back to New York. Don’t just say it, do it finally. And good luck with the kids you’re coaching out at the track.
Goodbye, Chicago! Nice lake.
Oh wait! I totally forgot to explain why we’re wasting so much time. It’s because we’ve got time to waste. The next place we have to be is in Dayton, Ohio, and we need to be there by next Friday. It’s less than 300 miles away, and we can easily make it there by Tuesday. So instead of pushing boring, 30-mile days through cornfields and Gary, Indiana (which is not nearly as nice as the song from the Music Man leads one to believe), we figured we’d hang out in the windy city and visit our friends. So there you go. That’s why we’re here.
This weekend, I woke up more sore than on any other day during the trip. My knees hurt to bend and my ankle hurt to walk on. Jumping right back on a brakeless fixed gear bike weighing 1/5 the weight of my fully loaded touring bike and sprinting back & forth all day long in the rain didn’t come with as much ease as I might’ve expected it to, having powered nearly three thousand miles by this point. Quinn & my polo bikes were stored by friends in New York, and shipped out here for the tournament. They’re both fixed gear bikes. A good number of the people reading this blog know what that means, but for the rest of you – our moms’ friends, the ladies at Curves, maybe a few lurkers who haven’t left comments – it means that the bike only has one gear, no brakes, and doesn’t coast. To slow down and stop, you pedal slower or lock up your legs to completely stop the rear wheel from turning. It works an entirely extra set of leg muscles than riding a “normal” bike because stopping the bike requires applying resistance to the pedals’ constant forward motion. Sure, Quinn and I have worked the crap out of all the other muscles, but the fixed gear muscles had been more or less dormant for the past two months. Then we go and hurl ourselves into round-robin competition using them. I personally hurt a lot Sunday morning. It probably didn’t help that I fell on my knees & ankle once or twice – and the half-bottle of vodka I shared with my teammates before the last match of the day probably didn’t improve my coordination either.
These idiots also showed up. If you haven’t watched their videos, you don’t understand bike polo.
My team’s Saturday win/loss ratio suffered. 1-6-2, I believe. One of the two ties was 0-0 with a Chicago team. Disappoinment all around. The other tie, we TRIED to lose 0-5 like most of the rest of our matches, but Ch0mb0 kept scoring goals! WTF!? Our one win came against Quinn’s team, “Ladies”, made up of herself, Birdie from Madison, and Amandaconda from Tampa/Seattle.
Quinn’s brother, Jarrett, by the way, is on my team. No mercy. Another good lesson we learned is that we tend to play better sober and maskless. We did much better on Sunday. Yet another valuable lesson learned is that we’re great dancers. Watch this video! Here’s a caveat – you have to lay down or turn your entire computer sideways to watch it, and imagine there’s music playing. It’s got a fantastic ending.
People come out of the woodwork for these things, especially the well-sponsored and hyped events. Sven, Kat, Dustin, and Sue I met in Minneapolis; Ben Hunter, Johnny Hunter, Birdie, Jill, Pierre (from France as of a few months back) and Sam from Madison; Jason from Baltimore; Jarrett, Ch0mb0, Doug, Paul, Bad Zach, Good Zach, Red Chris, Johnny Midwest, Adam Ackbar and Cecily from New York; Amandaconda from Tampa/Seattle; Sea Bass & Leon from Seattle; Lucky from St. Louis; Alexis from Ottawa who’s Canadian teammates backed out at the last minute and left him with Sea Bass & Leon (they came in 2nd place); Rory, Gentleman James, and Pieter from East Vancouver; Gus, Jav & Nick from Boston; Nick, Ben, and Ian from Richmond; Ben, Dumptruck, Joe, Tucker and Brian from Chicago; all those kids from Portland whose names I forgot. There are names I’ve unintentionally omitted, and for that I apologize. And too many names from Milwaukee to recall – except for Jake and Kremin, who orchestrated the entire event with near flawlessness. Well done, in spite of the disagreeable weather and less-than-expected attendance, guys.
This is a good time to express our gratitude to Ben’s Cycle/Milwaukee Bicycle Company. One of the two main sponsors of the event, they also accepted the shipment of our bikes from New York, and had no apparent qualms with us loitering in the back of their shop for hours unpacking and assembling them. COG Magazine, the other major sponsor, made it possible to coordinate 22 teams into a two-day round robin/double elimination tournament on three handmade courts.
Before competition even began, Tucker from Chicago cracked two of his teeth in half after an errant mallet swing collided with his face. International polo medic Johnny Midwest leapt onto the scene of the carnage with aplomb, and Jarrett somehow found the teeth fragments on the surface of the refashioned tennis courts. Tucker fortunately lives a mere hour’s drive away, and his nearby family came to shuttle him to some emergency dental work. Polo can be a dangerous sport. As if it doesn’t take enough coordination to maneuver a bicycle while weilding a mallet and trying to hit a ball through a goal, you have to do this while five other cyclists swerve, twist and sprint, trying to do the same thing. Crashes are inevitable, and there are few rules prohibiting defensively rough play. Bike Polo is a contact sport.
Even the spectators are often at risk. Andy’s Mom, for instance, took a mallet to the face from Jarrett. Andy has given me free license to exaggerate the retelling of this event, but it’s good enough in real life to not have to.
Andy’s family lives across Lake Michigan. They ferried to Milwaukee for the weekend to meet twoarmparty and observe the polo. Tournaments, unfortunately, are all-day events, and they never got to take us out for some one-on-one dinner time. On Sunday, they came with sandwiches for the day and cookies for the trip. Quinn & I took a break from the crowds to hang with the family. As Jarrett walked up to play a game of pickup on the adjacent court, Quinn introduced him as her brother. At this exact moment, Jarrett was hurling his mallet onto the court. He missed. Instead, as it left his hand, it caught on a part of the plywood wall and redirected itself towards Andy’s Mom’s face, Jarrett’s hand extended in an expectant handshake. WHAM!!! In slow motion, this moment is spectacular. Andy’s Mom staggers back. Jarrett’s handshake turns into two hands covering his face in horror and humiliation. Quinn is mortified. Andy is in shock. I can’t believe that just happened. Bystanders shake their heads humorously, wondering how Jarrett can make this ok. He really can’t. Andy’s Mother was fine. No cuts, no scrapes, no shattered teeth or broken glasses. Jarrett only got that one chance to make that first impression, but he went as far away as he could afterwards to play his game. Well done, Gigante. Gigante smash!
Sunday’s weather was far more forgiving than the cold, intermittently rainy Saturday. As teams got eliminated from the bracket, more kegs were tapped and more courts were opened for pickup. The sun brought out more babies & dogs than I’ve seen at any other tournament. Our friend Roxanne brought out her baby, Mabel, who’s one of the most adorable babies the midwest has ever seen. And that’s saying a lot, since it seems an apparent requirement to have a baby out here. Like they give you one for signing a lease.
That’s Nan, Ben Hunter’s daughter. She’s teaching me how I can become a fairy. (Photo by Gus).
We stayed with Roxanne & Mabel Monday night after packing our bikes back up and saying goodbye to our friends. It was far more comfortable than my Sunday night slumber party at Kremin’s, sleeping next to Nick from Boston, who accurately warned me that he snores loud. While a party went on around us and he snored, I struggled to sleep on a dusty matress with no pillow or blanket. It was raining too hard for me to go back to the hotel, and my phone had died (more than just the battery) so I had no way of getting back into the room at this hour anyway.
I wandered downtown Milwaukee in the morning and found some girls handing out free Stone Creek Coffee in honor of Bike To Work Week. I gave them our blog and explained Bike Polo to them. We saw them again the next day in front of the Stone Creek coffeeshop on our way out of town. It was a good time taking some exhausting rest days in Milwaukee. We reconnected with people we’d met along the way, and saw some of our best friends for the first time in months. One of them in particular was impressed with how good we’re starting to look. I think he has a crush on me now…which is actually kinda disturbing. But flattering of course. Everyone was happy to see us and tell us how much they enjoy following us on this blog. We’ll see you soon guys. Thanks for a great weekend.