In early March, Brad, Martin, Rick and Shawn decided to ride the 2012 Gravel Metric in DeKalb IL. We decided to take advantage of the long holiday weekend and drive into DeKalb on Saturday, ride Sunday, and drive home on Monday.
The extra time on Saturday proved to be useful. We were able to stop at 3floyds brewery in Munster IN for lunch and meet up with Rich, a friend of Brad’s.
It was immediately clear upon arrival that 3floyds was going to be chaotic. At 12:30 P.M., there was already a ~20 person line at the front door. People were unhappily leaving the exit door of the retail section muttering there was no Zombie Dust left. It was unclear if the line at the front door was for retail purchases or taproom seating.
After the doorman donned some sunglasses, he started to move the line faster. Surprisingly, there were plenty of open tables once we got inside. Luckily, there was draft and cask Zombie Dust on tap.
Martin generously and smartly offered to be the designated driver for the remainder of the day. With Martin taking the wheel of responsibility, Brad, Rick and Shawn enjoyed a few more selections from the 3floyds taproom.
Rick checked the weather when we got back on the highway to get an idea of what we could expect for Sunday’s ride. His mobile phone’s weather bug app showed a cactus and sun graphic for Sunday with temperatures in the 90’s. Rick had never seen the the cactus graphic before and we decided to interpret it as unusually and extraordinary hot weather. The cactus image also brought to mind the refreshing taste of Daisy Cutter beer from Half Acre Brewery.
It seemed appropriate to visit Half Acre to show support for their sponsorship of the Gravel Metric. Martin pointed the van North and we headed into the heart of Chicago. We got an excellent parking spot in front of Half Acre and walked in to find that the brewery does not have a taproom. We were able to taste several beers and buy some 4 packs to go. Half Acre had a very friendly atmosphere.
Not being deterred by the lack of a taproom at Half Acre, we took our 4 packs of Daisy Cutter and Double Daisy Cutter to a park on Damen just south of the Brewery. Relaxing in the park with Daisy Cutter was a nearly perfect preparation routine for the following day.
The drive from Chicago to DeKalb went smoothly. We checked in to our hotel and got ready for the pre-ride party that Tobie posted about on Facebook. We were happy to bring 3 cases of Founders beer to the party.
The pre-race party was hosted by Tobie’s friend Jim. Jim built a wood fire pizza oven in his backyard and was cooking pizzas throughout the night for attendees. We heard later in the weekend that Jim and his son Ben cooked 41 pizzas. We met many people involved with organizing the ride and had a wonderful time. At the party, we put the last few nails in our dehydration coffins with a few Centennial IPAs and Dirty Bastards.
The one hour time difference helped with an early-morning wakeup on Sunday. We hit IHOP for breakfast and then quickly prepared for the race. Our hotel was a short ride from North Central Cyclery. During the ride to the bike shop, a local bank showed 84 degrees at 8:20 A.M. Sign-in and staging was low-key and fun.
We rolled out from NCC shortly after 9 A.M. behind a police escort that guided us out of DeKalb. The rollout had an atmosphere of fun compared to the usual tension and competitiveness of a race. The pace picked up when we finally hit the gravel.
Oh the gravel! The gravel in DeKalb is much more coarse and slushy feeling in sections than the dirt and gravel roads we are used to riding in West Michigan. It was fun to experience such a different terrain. We got used to the gravel after the first mile or so.
The route held mostly to gravel but also included some paved road sections and sections that could be described as farm roads or trails.
The heat and wind made the ride challenging. We were all short on hydration at rollout and the ~100 degree temperature didn’t help (one rider mentioned his Garmin reporting 109). On average, most of us needed 6 bottles of water to make it through the ride.
Volunteers at three aid stations helped support riders with water, snacks, and icy squirt gun blasts to the chest and face. A family helped support the ride by providing fruit and keeping a hose running at their residence located on the route. Another couple parked a truck on the route and supported riders with water bottles.
By the end of the ride, we could hear tar bubbles popping under our tires as we rode on the paved sections. Luckily the wind was a tailwind during the final miles of the ride.
We were truly wrecked by the end of the ride. The running hose provided by North Central Cyclery at the end of the ride was a godsend. Many riders hung out at the bike shop post ride to exchange stories and wait for friends.
We rode to our hotel for a post-ride Double Trouble and then went to Fatty’s for our complimentary Daisy Cutter during the post-ride raffle. Just about everyone walked away with cool schwag at the post-ride raffle. Fatty’s was very accommodating of all the riders.
We finished off Sunday with a small pool party at the hotel. Lots of the Half Acre crew were there and we tried to hook as many people up with Founders as we could. El Burrito Loco made for a good late night meal that overcame the disappointment that the cable was out and we couldn’t finish watching Joe Dirt.
We drove back home on Memorial Day after a great breakfast at Flippin Eggs. None of us dared to try the 3lb hamburger but our breakfast food was good and the service was excellent.
Thanks to all Gravel Metric organizers, sponsors and volunteers. We had a wonderful time!