Lots of miles for Less Cancer, powered by paella and pancakes.
Tim Pulliam and the Keen Technical Solutions crew started hounding in January. Split the Mitt, he promised, would be the most fun we’d have all summer. He’d take care of every detail, of which there were many. Transportation, lodging, food, support, all the niggling things that discourage people from doing big rides in large groups, he’d have it taken care of.
And he swore it wouldn’t rain.
Last year’s ride was a bit of a Death March, and the veterans of 2017 were constantly refreshing their weather apps as we drove down to Flint on Saturday morning. Rain or shine, we’d at least be arriving in luxury. A pair of Zuma pants that contained a Luke Tjosvold drove us down in a giant trolley, which nearly broke the necks of drivers being passed by the vehicle. It rained, too; but true to his word, the skies were clear when we rolled into the parking lot of Michigan State University’s Flint campus to get rolling.
We were spandex’ed and ready to roll in just a few minutes, largely thanks to the up.bike Team Bicycle Hauler. Dan Ellis and Rob Goepfrich had fitted it out with 16 mounts that carried all of our bikes. We loaded up and unloaded in two shakes of a crying baby, no fuss, no muss, and no bent hangers or scratched paint jobs. Can’t ask for anything more than that!
On the road, we had Flint native Winston lead us out of town. Flint has a bad wrap, and unfortunately, it’s earned it. That doesn’t mean there aren’t great people and great organizations that serve as bright spots for the city, and we definitely saw some signs of life as we pedaled through just a tiny slice of the metropolitan area.
Once out of the city limits, we saw just a handful of cars on the 134-mile route. For me, the best part was rolling into my family’s hometown of Elsie, Michigan. We went past my uncle’s house, and my grandma’s, but we were so far ahead of schedule, we didn’t hook up to see them. We still had time to enjoy a killer aid station in the park, a spot that I’ve played in as a kid.
From there, we kept it rolling through Gratiot County and north to the campground at Merril Lake. Ted Shaw and Andy Battegier wheeled in and got to work cooking dinner, with the Brothers Powers already DEEP into paella prep. If you haven’t seen the Keen paella pan, the pictures don’t do it justice. It’s about a million calories of pure deliciousness, and even after about 25 people took their stab at it, we hadn’t even made a dent in the dish. Since I’m not into meat (have you seen pigs?) I was rescued by the ever-awesome Official Dad of kolo t.c., Joe Sovis, who hand-delivered Subway and a Coke, plus what was possibly by 99th and 100th cookie of the day (like I said, the aid stations were well stocked).
We played FrisKnock. Let me explain the complexities; you use a Frisbee to knock a water bottle off a ski pole. Yep, you guessed it, it’s a Canadian game and it’s that exact type of on-the-nose creativity that’s going to whip our asses in the upcoming trade war. And you’ll get no further credit for predicting that Ty Schmidt, the pride of Canada and probably Justin Trudeau’s second cousin, dominated.
Sunday’s 100% forecast for rain was not wrong, making Tim a liar and all of us a bit soggy. Luckily, the rain didn’t really start until we were filled to the brim with coffee and the best pancakes you’ve have had. Ted and Eli Brown had the paella pan back in action to crank out seven pounds of bacon and dozens of pancakes to have us fueled up for the 108-mile ride home. And we needed it, too.
About ten minutes into the ride, it rained, and it kept raining on and off for about an hour. We ducked onto the White Pine Trail, which was a safe place to be except for the woodchucks (one nearly got us near LeRoy) and debris. We had one, two, three, four, FIVE flats before the first aid station in Tustin, which meant we had to stay on the gas to make it home in time for the 31st Annual Cancer Survivor and Prevention Picnic. 108 miles is nothing to sniff at, especially with some rolling hills at the three-quarter mark.
Our bad luck washed out with the rain, and once we were north of Cadnasty, we had perfect conditions; it never got above 73 degrees American, and the headwind never slowed the collective roll of a group that had swelled with the addition of 3 out of 5 Steel Wheels (the night’s entertainment, by the way) and Chelsey Schlitt, who easily made most of Day One and all of Day Two with some of the strongest riders in the north.
It was definitely a treat to hit the Cowell Cancer Center with all of us together and be greeted not just by friends and family, but by cancer survivors, too. It put a face on what we did and who we were supporting, and over the course of the ride, we all shared stories of how cancer had affected our own loved ones. The disease, unfortunately, links nearly all of us together, but it’s that connection that builds the same unity that drives us to prevent and ultimately cure cancer, once and for all.
As a bike ride, Split the Mitt was incredible. The organization was top notch; there are riders who pay hundreds of dollars to do bike tours half as well run as this one. We had the easiest job of all, eat and pedal. We did raise some money, too; this year’s ride raised over $60,000! It’s got us anxious for 2019 already. If 16 riders from Traverse City can raise a few thousand dollars, what can 50 do? What could 100 do? Next year, you can help us find out.