Recently, I bought a new car. When cleaning out the old one, I found a small item deep in the glove box that I’d gotten as a give away from the Bay to Bay Ride over 10 years ago. It was a keychain flashlight made of plastic. It blinked fast, or slow, or acted as a steady light depending on how many times you pushed the button. It has the name and date of that event on it, and they probably cost the organizers no more than $1.00 each. In the end, they made money on us, despite giving these items out to the riders and volunteers. It didn’t even have a battery door. It was the sort of thing you hang on to until the battery dies, then throw out. Or you give it to a child, or throw it in a drawer (or your glove compartment) and forget about it. I mentioned that find to my friend Ron. It sparked a few memories.
Yes, Ron and I rode that century together. When the ride happened, in late June of 2012, we were riding every century ride within driving distance of the DC area, because we wanted to ride 10 centuries a year. Because we had fun (and were generous with our post-ride beer), we had a sizable group of friends who rode with us and we all got along well on and off the bikes. We rode so many miles together that we became skilled at drafting and pace lining. People in our group were riding between 3000 and 5000 miles a year. We all had jobs, but we made time to get together for rides, and if someone wanted to go out and ride a new event, or led a ride in our local cycling club, we all got together in support. That Bay to Bay ride would have had about 6-8 of us riding together.
The Bay to Bay ride runs from Betterton Beach by the Chesapeake Bay to Woodland Beach by the Delaware Bay, crossing from Maryland to Delaware and back. Before getting to the rest stop at Woodland beach, the ride crosses salt marshes, and those marshes are the home to biting flies. They are such universal pests that they put one in the Bay to Bay Century logo. I don’t remember ever riding that event on a bad day, so in 2012 the weather would have been good. I’m sure I got bitten a few times as I rode through the marshes. We all did! I remember the rest stops, and the route. There weren’t many climbs to speak of. I remember how hot it would get by late morning. The scenery was typical of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and I always enjoyed it. After a few years, events like that flowed into each other. We always stopped on the way home for a late lunch and a beer. That’s what we did between about 2010 and 2015. I don’t think I missed that event during those years. My flashlight souvenir found it’s way into the glove compartment, and worked its way to the back and down into the “out of sight, out of mind” part of my life.
Things eventually had to change. Some of us retired, some moved on, some were injured and slowed down, one tragically passed away. I stopped riding 10 centuries a year after 2015. I went down to 7 centuries a year, then 5. In 2020, no events were held due to the pandemic. This past year, I only rode one century. It’s been 10 years since the event that handed out those souvenirs. The people who rode with me that day in 2012 are older, wiser and driven by other things. I may ride Bay to Bay again, but perhaps I’ll ride the metric century – 63 miles instead of 100. There was a time when we wouldn’t plan a ride less than 40 miles long unless it was in the cold of winter. That has changed. I’ve been on rides planned around a cafe stop. I won’t stop riding my bike until my body breaks, but I’ll always have good memories of those years when I had an unofficial team to ride with, and even as a recreational cyclist, I was very serious.
The usual memento for event rides is a T-shirt, and I have far too many of them. Spring cleaning has often claimed old event shirts. I’ve heard about people making quilts or art out of old event shirts. Sometimes a shirt will spark a conversation. You never know what will inspire a memory. As for the keychain light, I carefully opened it and replaced the batteries. It still works! I suppose that’s a metaphor for me and my cycling. While I still can, I’ll ride. As long as I do, I’ll keep having good memories.