Making lemonade: Brutal conditions made for happy bike riders this past Saturday


The event, Ride the Ups & Downs, is sponsored by the G.O.A.T.S., the Galena cycling club. The annual bike ride was held this past Saturday. And, seriously, there could have been a “goat” or two, if you use the definition of “a person who is blamed for causing a failure or defeat.”

That’s because the conditions for riding a bike on a hilly course that extended from Elizabeth through Schapville, Apple Canyon Lake and even up to Apple River, Wisconsin and Apple Canyon State Park were absolutely brutal.

With sustained wind speeds of 28 miles per hour and gusts exceeding 45 miles per hour, the wind was a constant challenge and maybe sometimes dangerous if caught up in a crosswind.

As human beings, when faced with challenging situations, we have a tendency to complain when things don’t go according to plan, especially when we’re with others. And. . .it could have happened on this Saturday when 185 riders braved the wind, cool morning and hot afternoon to tackle a 32-, 52- or 63-mile course.

Complaining didn’t happen.

My job this day involved transporting people in distress from the course back to the Jo Daviess-Carroll Career Technical Education (CTE) academy. Most of these folks were spent physically or mentally and could go no further. Two others had mechanical issues with their bicycles and could go no further. The most disappointed riders were the two with mechanical issues.

The others, who were spent, felt good about what they’d done and talked about coming back next year.

Think about this for a second. This bicycle ride, regardless of the route chosen, is challenging under the best of situations. Throw in brutal wind and the word “challenging” almost becomes an understatement. With all that, the 20 or so volunteers who assisted with the ride heard not one complaint.

Everyone talked about the wind and its challenges, but no one complained about the situation. Think of that–185 people participating in an event and no one complains. There must be something about shared challenge that can lift one’s soul from time to time.

How often does this happen?

The four young women whose photo appears with this column epitomize this day. They were the few who weren’t wearing spandex or the traditional bike clothing. They weren’t riding fancy road bikes, either. These were four friends sharing a day together.

Their ride, with two others (who I brought back to the CTE) even started off badly. Instead of turning onto Elizabeth-Scales Mound Road, they rode along U.S. 20 for three miles and then had to return.

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So, when I saw them along the Elizabeth-Scales Mound Road just after 10 a.m., I knew right then and there that they’d have a difficult time completing the 32-mile course, the shortest.

When they arrived at the first rest station at Schapville Presbyterian Church, I made a point of meeting them. We needed to have a discussion.

I shared with them–I hope I didn’t sound too stern–that they were just nine miles (you need to add on six extra miles for the U.S. 20 ride) into the 32-mile course and if they proceeded to venture onward that they would finish way after rest areas and transport services (also known as SAG) were shut down.

I made two suggestions, they could turn around after they rested and head back to the CTE or if they were really tired I’d be glad to give them a lift.

I also said something to the effect, “When you finish, I want you to have had fun and feel like you’ve accomplished something. I’m worried that if you continue on the route that you won’t have fun and could put yourself in trouble.”

It turns out that these riders were into having fun and achieving success. When rested, they turned around and headed back to the CTE. When I last saw them they were at the corner of Hoffman and Elizabeth-Scales Mound roads resting on a road guard, their feet swinging, smiling and having fun.

These four riders did what everyone else did on this challenging day. They made lemonade out of lemons. They made the best of the situation, had fun, shared in shared challenge and had fun.

I exchanged texts with one of these women, Stephie Keogh. One of mine read in part, “I enjoyed meeting all of you and hope you come back next year.”

She replied, “We did too!! Everyone was so kind and helpful!! See you in a year!!

That warmed my heart. Can’t wait until next year!

by P. Carter Newton, publisher