Saturday, May 9, 2009
Skagit Spring Classic - 50 miler for Cycling Merit Badge
In April, I began working with a handful of Troop 574 scouts pursuing their Cycling Merit Badge, one of 12 merit badges required for Eagle, Scouting's highest award. Six of these Troop 574 scouts had one last requirement to complete their Cycling Merit Badge. It was the 50 mile ride. I chose for the scouts the Skagit Spring Classic's 25 mile route that we would do twice. I knew it would be fairly flat, fully supported, and have a great spaghetti feed at the end which they would inhale. I wasn't wrong!
We arrived at the Middle School starting point in Burlington. I would be riding and leading the six scouts while Jim S. would drive in his pickup truck watching the back of the pack, taking photos, and being our SAG wagon. The boys were in great spirit as we rode the flat route past the nearby airport and local farmland. They kept in a paceline, observing all the rules of the road they had learned. In fact, a driver in one of the ride's support vehicles pulled alongside of me and commented on how well the boys were doing. I was pleased.
They stayed strong for the first 12.5 miles where we reached the halfway food stop. We would circle this route twice, so we were a quarter of the way around. The boys loved the spread of food available and filled up on watermelon, cookies, grapes, pretzels and more. We filled our water bottles, and then mounted up to take on the next stretch.
The winds were blowing strong on the flat farmland, but soon we were climbing up some rollers and riding along Padilla Bay. The sun was out and the trees along the water protected us from the wind. The boys did a great job climbing up a few of the more challenging hills. As we turned east and neared our starting point, they felt great about their first trip around the loop. We stopped at a grassy area to enjoy our sack lunches.
As we ate lunch, we relaxed on the grass, talked about how well they were doing, and tried to regain energy for the next lap. Soon, we were back on the bikes and riding our second and final 25 miles. As we turned north and reached the flat and windy farmland, I could tell the boys would be digging deep. Our pace slowed and our group spread out as a few scouts dropped back. I relied on Jim in the pickup truck to keep an eye on the scouts in the back of our pack. We encouraged them and clapped as they finally reached the rest stop for our second lap. They were overjoyed to be resting again. Robbie was the last to reach the church rest stop, pulled into the parking lot, and slumped over his handlebars!
All of the boys lingered around the food, sat in the chairs, and enjoyed the respite off the bikes for as long as they could. When we left the church rest stop, the adrenalin surged and the boys found their second wind! We battled the strong headwinds, worked our way along the route back toward Padilla Bay and reached the "big hill" we had already climbed once. Each of the boys did a fine job climbing up the steep roadway. Then I looked back and saw Robbie. I turned around and pulled up alongside Robbie where Mr. Schumacher had pulled over, parked his pickup and was standing with Robbie. Robbie was in pain. He was bending his right leg, complaining of it cramping, and then shouted. As he turned his leg inward to escape the pain, I was sure it was going to spin at the waist, disconnect at the joint, and fall to the ground!
I explained to Robbie that he could put his bike in the truck and ride with Jim, but he only had 10 miles left and it would be a shame to hang it up now. I wasn't sure how much pain he was in and whether or not he could make it. He walked his bike up the hill, and then felt good enough to climb on and continue the ride! Well done, man!
All six of the scouts finished the ride, were elated to pull in the school parking lot, and then parked their bikes, high-fived each other and searched out the Spaghetti Feed! As we sat in the sunshine, devouring our pasta, salad, garlic bread, and ice cream, we talked about the ride, what we enjoyed, and what was the hardest part. They asked me questions about my cycling exploits and my upcoming ride across the United States. More than a few of them were excited to ride again.
This was a great way to expose these boys to a great adventure and fun way to exercise. But, I suspect a few of them may have fallen in love with the road and are now suffering from a new addiction: Cycling! I'm been an addict for many years and I'm afraid there's only one cure... get out and RIDE!
Riders: Bob H, Kyle H, Jonathan L, Sam S, Jacob S, Chris T, Robbie L
Total Time: 6:15:00