We woke up to see about a foot of snow blanketing the trails. By sundown it was knee deep.
That was one week to go until Wintertide. Then it rained for 12 hours a few days before the ride. As seems to be the case with every Wintertide, the weather conditions made the ride memorable, challenging, and confusing. Confusing to prepare for: Should we recommend participants ride fat bikes? Would it be possible to ride with a mixed-terrain 40c studded tire bike? Would the snow stay fun and fluffy? Would the roads be three feet wide and treacherous for bike and cars alike?
These are dilemmas for which the Overland crew lives. The original route we designed, back in October, was impassable because of the deep snow. So we designed a fat bike friendly route, but then the freezing rain made that route impossible on any bike -- studded, fat -- or even walking. We had worked on a pavé -- pavement with some harsh-weather friendly dirt -- version in October, too; OBC always has a backup plan. Those three routes -- 45, 60, and 90 miles -- were the right rides for this Wintertide.
This year was also unique because we designed the road route to intertwine with the mixed-terrain route so, in theory, you could do some really challenging snow trail sectors and then ride the mixed-pavé route for a while, and go back and forth between the two. Smartly, everyone chose the pavé route this year.
Saturday morning came over the horizon very quickly. The first bleary-eyed riders were greeted by the smell of OBC's special pancakes -- the recipe is secret -- and a hot homemade breakfast banquet. Two warm fires greeted participants on a chilly subfreezing morning. A couple cups of coffee and a few plates of food later and the sun was high on the horizon and barely any clouds were in the sky. The temperature quickly rose to above 40 degrees and everyone seemed eager to be riding.
By the time of the first pre-ride meeting, our base camp home was packed with riders of every stripe.
The roads were impressively dry and clear -- except for the parts that weren't supposed to be.
As riders meandered on the road and path to the Summer Home -- the lunch stop -- everyone could see the fire and smell the chili waiting. The cozy cottage was packed elbow to elbow. Fortunately, by about noon, the temperature was above 50 degrees so we could hang out at the fire pit or go visit the friendly old horse in the pasture behind the cottage.
After too much chili, mac and cheese, and cookies, reluctant riders slowly gathered their helmets, gloves, and custom made Wintertide Winter Collars and prepared for the final 30-miles back to Home Base.
Back at home, dinner was ready for everyone: A catered meal featuring lentil strudel and too many other amazing foods to list. As Matt Roy astutely pointed out OBC events seem to be "50% food, 50% riding."
Then it was time for relaxing and digesting in front of the fire, while sharing tales from the pavé.
We still have windburned faces from the ride. We're replaying some of the strange back roads and dirt paths we rode. We'll be heading back there soon.
Thank you to all who joined us for this special season opening ride. We really appreciate that you took a chance with us. We hope it was worthwhile for you -- it definitely was for us!
We're already thinking about next year's Wintertide. We hope to see you there -- whatever dame nature brings our way.