Monday, April 18, 2011

The Best Sausage in the World Is the Sausage After a Long Ride

On April 16 and 17th, I joined about 13,000 other people on bikes, and about 5,000 volunteers on a 170 mile ride from Houston to Austin to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis research. It's a two day ride, with a stop over at La Grange. It is on this ride that I discovered perfect sausage. Here's what I learned: sausage is best hot off the grill, with friends and with mustard, with the sun dipping down over the Texas hills, and with 85 miles of rolling land behind you. It's best when handed to you by fantastic volunteers, after a line of people have cheered your last half mile. It's best when you're dog tired, and looking forward to a cot and a sleeping bag as soon as it gets dark.

On day one, we gathered up, pre-dawn in the blistering cold, at a Stadium in Katy, TX. What seemed to me an impossible number of bikers grew as riders from the other start points merged in. A few hours later, around 9:15, the sun finally starting to warm everything up, we stopped for lunch. I've never seen an operation at this scale - a massive tent, with thousands and thousands of identical turkey sandwiches, cans of fruit, bags of chips. It was impressive in scale, and mind-blowing in efficiency, but I will report honestly that no matter how many miles were covered before lunch, I did not find the best Turkey Sandwich.

By 2:30, 85 miles from where we started, we rolled into La Grange - the middle of pack that started arriving before noon, and kept on coming until after 6:00. What had been, I presume, a typical fairgrounds was converted into a decent size little town. Bike stores, showers, massage studios, music venues, and row after row of tents housing riders and volunteers. Behind each tent, varying in ambition and execution, was a kitchen. Ours was a simple pair of gas grills cooking beef and jalepeno Costco sausage. Down the way a bit was the Continental Airlines tent. Their setup was a little more extreme - a 30 foot  scale replica 777 with a 6-burner Vulcan range on the side. Others were more humble, like the little table-top Weber set up down the hill from us in front of one of the dozens of RV's. I'm working on a plan to get The Jalopy to set up outside our tent next year. Will keep you posted on that one.

Next morning, we lined up early - getting our place in line at about 4:30, taking turns watching bikes and running back to the tent for more coffee. At 6:45, as the sun was coming up, we rolled out for Bastrop, and ultimately, back home to Austin. Where more sausage was waiting for us.

I learned a lot on this ride and in the year I spent training for it. I learned that food is actually pretty central to the whole endeavor. At least for me, the trick to riding for this kind of mileage is remembering to eat all the time. Sport Beans, Honey Stingers, Clif Goo - all this junk I would never have touched a year ago, is my new comfort food. Gatorade is now appealing. I packed Starbucks Via.

I also learned about bravery and commitment. I met riders in their 70s and riders in elementary school. I met riders who had loved ones with MS, or who suffered from it themselves. And throughout, I saw a group of people committed to doing this to help find a cure. It was an inspiring thing (if you'd like to contribute to the cause, we're still taking donations).

And I learned about the patience of my family, who put up with my training rides every weekend, who drove me down to Houston the day before the ride, and who cheered for me when I rolled back into Austin.

Posted more pictures over on Grubbus' home on Facebook.


Jodi said...

Congratulations on your accomplishment! I'll go make a donation now!

Unknown said...

Thanks Jodi!

Shoestring Austin said...

Wow, that's a long trip on a bike! Sounds like you had fun - and good food, too.


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