Eight years. I never expected it to take that long to be back ride another DALMAC (Dick Allen Lansing to Mackinaw). My rides in '08 & '09 seem like yesterday. Funny how I kept ending up in all these life situations where Labor Day travel was not possible or practical. Maybe if I had made those missed years each one would not seem as special. i am just happy to be here again, and to see so many familiar faces and places.
I meet my friend Steve at the MSU Pavillion, the DALMAC registration check-in, after driving straight through from home. Steve and I go back to the late 70’s, having met on rides around Lansing. Steve was a DALMAC chair for my third time to ride in 1979, the same year I was the Tri-County Bicycle Association (TCBA) club treasurer. We worked together as I chaired another event before leaving in 1980 to follow in Linda home to Missouri. It worked out that we kept in touch and kept meeting for bike events, even as I moved first to Indiana and then the west coast, and we both raised families. For the past 10 years we have met for at least 1 ride somewhere in the Midwest, sometime just Steve and I, and sometime the with our wives and families.
I work registration with Steve for 2 hours Tuesday night. The work is so familiar, the same routine of rider packets, map books, clothing orders, luggage tags and wrist bands. The packets are alphabetized in dozens of boxes; the only variation for DALMAC is the different tables for each route.
While no longer required, riders have the option to pickup a DALMAC flag on a 6 foot pole, ready to mount on the rear hub or rack. The are still popular with many riders, and and arrive with years or bridge crossing ribbons on them. I skipped riding with mine this year, though I have one in my bag to place outside my tent each night. (I tried to find my DALMAC 74, flag, but it is stashed in a box somewhere, so I had to settle for my "newer" flag from 1979. The new flags are no longer dated.)
|2017 DALMAC Check-in|
My work assignment for Tuesday night is the information table. Each rider has questions and situations, some you here every time, and some new. Where do I park? Is it too late to get a jersey? Where are the maps? And the new: the woman without her driver license, left behind in her old wallet (Costco picture ID is fine). The family expecting an exchange student the next day, who will start riding from the airport (no problem, her packet can be picked up in Vestaberg). All are taken care of, everyone goes away happy and excited.
The entire event is run by volunteers. The volunteers are for the most part older, as they usually are. Part of that is spare time available, but there should, has to be, more younger ones coming along. What factors produced a wave of people that made these events possible, and yet did not, or could not produce a wave to follow? No easy answer to either question. There is one they all seem to common; everyone of them seem to have ridden 5-10 or 20 more DALMACs themselves. They all have the smiles and memories.
|With Dick Allen, the man responsible for DALMAC.|
The riders checking in all seemed touched with grey, and all look familiar. Not that I know them, but that they have that same look from every other ride I have attended for the last 10 years; TOSRV, Hilly, River Ride, etc. The younger riders and families will check in the next morning. But there is still a lot of grey riding.
About halfway through the evening Dick Allen comes through. He is in his mid-80’s now and still has that same sparkle in his eyes and smile, but his overall appearance reminds me it has been 8 years. I shake his hand, and say hello, and get a picture with him. I don’t know if I am really recognized, but wonder if he can appreciate how much his event shaped the life of that kid followed him out of Y-lot that first time so many years ago.
After registration closes for the night, I follow Steve to his home, driving what he calls the back way. As we head south from campus, we are on the same roads that every TCBA weeknight “Y-Lot” ride use ride. Fittingly, a groups of riders are coming up the road as the sun set approaches, the first in a fast pace line, and then stragglers in 2-3s. We cross under the highway, past the cross streets and roads from so many weeknight rides. Each intersection we pass in the twilight brings brings back a memory of summer evening rides.
Back at the house Steve, his wife Maria and I socialize for a bit and have a snack. We catch up on family and kids and Maria’s recent retirement. Yes, it is hard to believe it has been 8 years between DALMACs. But all the other riders that we have made together I have kept the ties close. We say our good nights, and since Maria is skipping this DALMAC, it is so long until Monday morning, almost a week away.
Before bedding down, I shuffle a few items of gear between bags, trying to wean down the load, but it isn't easy to leave something behind. Choices are easier when you are carrying the load on your bike yourself rather tossing it on a truck. I don't think I have anything overly extraneous, I could potentially use all of it. There is still the nagging question what did I forget? I guess I will find out tomorrow night (And I did).