Sunday, April 29, 2012

1979: First TOSRV

1979 TOSRV Patch
It was 9 PM Friday in Lansing, Michigan, and we still had a 5-hour drive to Columbus, Ohio. We had met at 8 to load bikes and be on our way. In 10 hours we were supposed to start riding. I had tried to get to TOSRV (Tour Of the Scioto River Valley) for over 7 years, and now it looked like it was all going to blow-up before we left Lansing.

I had moved to Lansing, (well Holt, actually) in the fall of 1978, and started a new job, working as a weekday prep cook. Turns out learning how to cook cream sauces and soups without scorching them had some value for my biking. After 4 years of working every weekend, I now had most weekends off. So I could finally leave town on Mother’s Day for TOSRV.

I also owned a pick-up truck, which made me among the most popular people to know in a college town. I had a “can you help me move” request almost every week. That is in part how, through a friend of a friend, that I fell in with group from the East Lansing Campus Bike Co-Op headed to TOSRV, but with no way to carry their bikes. I would haul the bikes for 1 friend and 5 strangers, along with my own bike, following a car load of riders to Columbus.

By 9 PM we had 7 bikes loaded in my truck. But only 4 of the riders; one more had to work late, and one had bagged it. We had no where to stash the “spare” bike, so it would spend the weekend in my truck, in Columbus. Finally, at 10, we decided I would drive on and the car would leave an hour later. We would meet in the parking lot under the Ohio Capitol building. Where we were sleeping would be worked out along the way, though it was agreed we would try to look for each other at the last rest area north of Columbus. This of course, is all pre cell phones, so once on the road, that was it.

At the time, I was still drinking Mountain Dew by the 6 pack, so I was okay driving most of the way. Riding shotgun with me was Paul, a friend of the friend, who I had met that night. He was a bike mechanic for the co-op and an extreme (okay, that term didn’t exist in `79) skate boarder who thought fun was a 60 mph mountain road descent, not luge style, but standing. We just chatted rides, riding and wrenching through the night. We did take a nap at the rest area, but decided to drive on without seeing the car.  Maybe 5 bikes would spend the weekend in my truck.
A pace line headed north to White Lake

We pulled into Columbus a little after dawn, and found the parking garage. We had been there about 15 minutes when the car load arrived. They had driven straight through, not having left Lansing until after midnight.

So I started my first TOSRV on just 2 hours sleep in the prior 24 hours. I picked up my packet, and I got my baggage tagged and on the truck assigned to my overnight in Portsmouth. But beyond that, the morning’s details blur. By 1979, there was no longer a mass start, but there was still a steady stream of riders heading south out of downtown Columbus. We dropped in and followed, and during the first 10 miles, the landscape transitioned from city to suburban and finally to rural farmland.

Without knowing it, I rode past first sag in Circleville that year, since the route stayed on 104 back then. So I was both sleep deprived and bonky by the end of the first 50 miles in Chillicothe. The lines for lunch were long, and smell from the paper mills made it almost impossible to eat. But after lunch came the best miles of the day, along Canal Road and the rolling hills in the narrowed valley. Spring flowers were in bloom, and we swooped under and over the paralleling rail road. In either direction, that stretch of road remains one of my Top Ten miles of riding anywhere.
In the hills between Waverly and Chilicothe

As we rolled along on that spring day after School House Hill, every rider saw the clouds on the horizon to the west, and the HAM radio caulk boards every 5 miles had said bad weather by Waverly at 75 miles. They nailed it. We came into the north side of town as the storm hit, and by the 100’s we stood with our bikes under store awnings for 20 minutes, until it passed and we could ride on. As we pedaled through the downtown, a 6” deep river of water flowed along the main street, through our wheels and splashed by our pedals. It was like my second DALMAC, just without the panniers trailing in the water.

Just south of Waverly, mud brown water was flowing over the dam spill way as we approached the White Lake food stop, a soggy mess after the 20 minute down pour. But 5 miles down the road, it hadn’t even rained. Pace lines of 20 to 30 bikes formed up for the last miles down the valley, until we finally saw the hills of Kentucky straight ahead as the Scioto flowed into the Ohio. We came at last to the two lane bridge over the river into Portsmouth, and found the busiest party store in Ohio that Saturday. It was selling out of both beer and ice cream sandwiches as the temps climbed into the high `70s.

I found the elementary school that was my overnight, at the top of a hill above the town, and then rode to the “official” CYO chicken dinner. Back at the school, our shower was a hose in a janitor’s closet (really). I finally went back and set up my tent on a baseball diamond, crawled in and started to pull my gear in. With that only half finished, with my head and shoulders outside the tent, I sprawled across my gear and closed my eyes for a moment. That was at 7:30, after 36 hours awake on a couple hours of sleep and riding a century. Almost 4 hours later I woke up still laying on my gear in the door of my tent, and finally pulled myself in and zipped up for the night.

With some new friends post ride in Columbus.
The next morning I was up early, breaking camp and loading my baggage on the truck. It was a mixed weather day, partly cloudy, breezy but not chilly. The pace lines formed again for the first miles up to Waverly, and then we worked our way through the rolling hills to Chillicothe and lunch. I did see Circleville that day, and then started the final 30 miles to Columbus.

It was on that final leg that I saw my coolest first TOSRV memory. A pace line of 3 guys came along, and the third rider had car battery and 10 foot whip radio antennae on the back of his bike. The rider in the middle was Charlie Pace, the TOSRV ride director. He was riding with a HAM radio escort to be kept in touch with the progress of the ride. They stopped at the last sag out, said some hellos and then rolled on, the antennae whipping back and forth as pulled out of the sag.

Finally back a the ride headquarters in downtown, I collected my gear and checked in, getting my first TOSRV certificate and gold seal for completing 210 miles. I had too wait for the rest of the bikes we had to haul, and wandered around the grounds of the capitol, having fun with my TOSRV t-shirt and some of the statues, before finally packing and driving back to Lansing. After seven years, I had finally ridden my first TOSRV, and while not the way I had planned it, was everything I expected. Looking back, while I had no idea how my life would change in the months ahead, I knew I was hooked, and would be coming back to Columbus for at least 1 more Mother’s Day weekend.

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