In the weeks leading up to the Hardfolk, many expressed interest, feigned and otherwise. The pitch was simple: assemble, ride, eat great food and drink great coffee, ride, recover. Simple yes, sexy no. This time of year the weather varies from pretty nice to heinous. The Sunday before the Hardfolk, Thom, Will, Rodd and I rode a mixed terrain loop in the rain and wet snow. Fun, but awfully unpleasant by the end with soaked feet. The Hardfolk delivered dry conditions, but chilling winds and temps well below freezing. The forecast was grim enough to keep some away, while a few made failed attempts to join the group for lack of adequate clothing and logistical coordination. So it goes. Yet a hearty few did assemble, bright and early, to earn their Hardman stripes. Relatively speaking, that is...due respect to the real Hardmen. I speak of Hardmen to the exclusion of Hardwomen here because, sadly, none of our fairer compatriots on wheels showed. Maybe next time.
At 7:30 we departed from Tall Tree, well, Starbucks truth be told, heading East. Will, Kent, Rodd, Steve, Brad and yours truly. Steel frame to carbon ratio: 5:1. Pretty good. Wool layer count: somewhere in the 20s. Good. Steelwools: 2. Great. Grand Bois tire count: 8. Nice. Quickly freezing water bottles all round. Super.
After passing through Lac Leamy we decided to modify our route for a couple reasons. Fewer riders than hoped meant fewer wind buddies, and it seemed prudent to take a smaller bite before hitting Wakefield in order to manage to ride some of the good stuff op North. So we stayed on the West side of the Gatineau river and headed directly to Wakefield.
While the others in the group seemed to be fairing pretty well in the extremeties, I had some trouble. Either cold hands or cold feet plagued me on route to Wakefield. By the time we were close I felt pretty good and the others agreed to take a short stop at Pipolinka to preserve heat, and stop again after our upper loop. We left Kent at the bakery so he could preserve his energy for the return to town while we continued on after a quick stop for a snack and coffee.
The upper loop proved, as expected, to be a great time. Crossing the covered bridge, we headed North and looped through farmers fields and stepped hills. As seems to be the norm in this area, we encountered many non-humans: a young buck, a gaggle of deer, a Piliated woodpecker, a school of wild turkeys, huskies, horses, and cows frolicking in a cornfield (their frolic is very mellow). No hunters spotted this time out, and very little traffic. The route unfolded in a meandering fashion, with many a curve, up and down. One or two turns were a little tentative with spotty ice coverage on the roads, dirt and otherwise. I know I was hoping pretty hard for no cars as I rounded some of the turns. Fast changes of direction are distinctly unwise in these conditions. We all got off clean. On our return leg of the loop Rodd and I discussed hitting the gravel gap. I took a poll and no-one opposed the extra 7k excursion. It was Rodd who admitted he'd be happy to leave it out, and the others were happy to comply. I was ready for some soup, and did not protest.
Back at Pipolinka we met a forlorn Kent. Steelwool count: 1. He'd taken his front wheel into the bakery and kept a watchful eye on his bike through the upstairs window while we were off gallivanting. Some wretch defiled his Pure Laine in a mere 10 second window of opportunity while Kent was distracted. He was shocked by its conspicuous absence. Gone. This turn of events damped our spirits and for me, cast a shadow upon rides to come. We've often left our bikes outside Pipolinka to load up on their goodies and felt rather confident that we were in a non-scumbag zone. Wrong. We'll have to be highly vigilant in the future; this is saddening. To think one can rationalize stealing another's bike - while they are in the middle of a ride no less - is sobering. I guess some people think others deserve to suffer when they trust too much. Wrong.
Kent took the loss like a Hardman and looked for the silver lining. He took a walk to pass the time it would take for his partner to arrive from town to taxi him home. We rolled on.
The return to town was uneventful, which was what we were probable all hoping for. We went our own ways, home to wrap up the weekend and meditate on the day's events. I found myself wishing we had more along for the ride while accepting why many stayed away. Next season will bring more rides, some of them epic, others less so. I hope to find ways to motivate others to venture into unknown terrain and unknown resources of energy, strength and determination. The truly Epic ride still looms in the realm of potentiality, and I hope the experience is shared among many.
Blood (circulated), sweat (emanated), and tears (dropulated).