First off, the Munger Bungo itself is a challenging route. There are lots of reasons a ride can be challenging some predictable and some not, there can be hills, there can be weather problems, it can be navigationally challenging, there can be limited services. Some of those challenges bother some more than others and there are always little kinks we all have in our riding. I view the role of the organizer as trying to minimize as many of the non-cycling related challenges as possible. A 600k is never easy, no matter how many one does. This particular ride is challenging to organize at all. Reasons include creating a scenic, fun route across a major urban area that was recently devastated by flooding, a lack of last minute overnight options (the overnight has to be planned months in advance) and severely limited options for services during the night. Rural areas have been hard hit by the economic downturn, 24 hour options are declining. What's a would be rando to do?
This is the second year I have organized this brevet. It is my sincere hope in doing so that everyone has a good time, end of story. In the RUSA handbook, they talk about the qualities that are most important in finishing a ride of 600k (or 1200k), the biggest one is the desire to finish the ride regardless of the time it takes. So whether you are going to earn a medal or not, enjoying the riding is the most important part of being a successful randonneur. So the overall tone for those volunteering at the overnight was "enjoy your ride".
The weather (one of those very unpredictable challenges), was not shaping up to be what people expected from a ride in September in Minnesota. The forecast for day 1 was for the mid-upper 80s during the day with a headwind for the first 300k. The second day had a front blowing through that would drop temperatures down into the low 50s for the night and only highs in the low 70s with a strong cross/headwind. There were 23 riders signed up including 6 people on their first 600k and several from out of state. With a ride that essentially goes 300k straight north and 300k straight south, that's a lot of terrain to cover. We had 4 people supporting the ride at the overnight and 1 person with an early water stop at 100k.
So I went out to the start at 5:00 AM in Stillwater, MN at the venerable Super 8 (motel of cheap randos everywhere). The traditional hustle and bustle was going on. Vincent (a pre-rider) did bike inspections and I handed out cue sheets telling everyone to throw away the one they had on the web since changes had to be made at the last minute (part of the urban-area-under-repair challenge). I took notes to bring a reflective vest to the overnight for the rider that forgot his (thankfully, the ride started in the first minutes of daylight). There is nothing quite like the excitement that sets in before a ride -especially for GearBob, who was riding a brand new frame of his own creation. Also of note at the start was one rider who was late, but started 30 minutes late anyway - big kudos to someone who comes to ride and does even if the start isn't what they were planning.
My information is somewhat sketchy being that I didn't actually ride. One of our volunteers, Ed, collected dropsacks. We had an agreement to meet in Duluth at the overnight at about 1:00 pm to organize everything. I had been to Costco a couple days earlier to get food for 20 and Kit, another volunteer, picked me and the food up at 10:00 to drive up. Lara, the third volunteer, road her bike to the overnight from Ely (kudos to her for riding, she's recovering from a broken hip suffered at the Texas Rando Stampede).
Kit picked me up and we loaded up her Dakota (to the roof). Our plans included towels for everyone, bedding, a 55 gallon garbage can - everything I have learned that is a good idea to have when 20 tired people show up. Our first words "from the road" were from Norman and Jonas, two longtime riding friends". Norman had an issue with his rim tape and was being plagued by flat after flat. "Don't worry, just slap something on at the next control and we can have rim tape at the overnight - all you have to do is figure out how to get there" - we added a trip to the bike shop to the list of places to go on arrival. We then heard from Rob, the RBA, at the 100k water stop. Our late starter had caught up to another rider and they were working together. Another group was approaching Hinckley. The wind was definitely an issue for everyone. At this point, we at least knew that no one would reach the overnight inbound until 5 pm or so (riders do and out and back to Two Harbors from the overnight before sleeping). We got two more calls from Norman - they had plastered his rim with electrical and masking tape.
After 2 bike shops, we found the rim tape and the 4 volunteers all got treated to lunch before getting ready. We also discussed how to best lay things out. We had 2 very large rooms reserved with the dining area of the Munger Inn open to us all night. Our thanks always go out the the Munger Inn for helping out and allowing us to somewhat take over their lobby and dining area. They also provided the extra cots and extra blankets we needed. Compared with the previous year, when weather was very favorable and the ride started earlier, it was to be a long night.
Ed, the martial arts expert, sliced the watermelon with serious expertise. "I have to slice cucumbers on someone's torso in class", he explained. Watermelon can be an art. Kit and Lara made the hummus and peanut butter sandwiches (2 kinds of sandwich - no one eats hummus and peanut butter on the same sandwich). I made lots of beds. We also numbered each bed and had a corresponding tag to show us when to wake the rider up. Lots of drinks and we were ready.
|Ed, Lara, Kit, and Road Pixie (Michele) ready for business|
The first 2 riders, Hall and Joel, showed up at around 5:30. They were happy to be out of the wind as it was at least starting to die down as was the heat. No one stayed too long on the inbound side but they posed for our "Power Ranger" shot of the ride.
|Joel and Hall - Rando Power Rangers!|
Ed on the left
|Phil and visitor from Wisconsin with a Road Pixie special vest|
|Mark #1 - Think he was a first time 600 rider|
|Bob, Richard and Eric - hey, it's too early for that kind of fatigue!|
|Mark #2 - A Minnesota Staple|
Big pause at this point and then more riders came in, we had Ron, Villanouth, Ilter, Bob K and others. I didn't get as many pictures since we were busy. All riders got cheers coming to the overnight - 170 miles is a long way in a headwind.
|Ron - just glowing that he's at the 170 mile mark.|
Between 9:00 pm and 11:00 pm we had a pause to clean things up and get ready for the return - about 11:00 pm the Power Rangers returned followed shortly by another big group.
|Penne and Meatball dinner for Mark,Villanouth, Ilter and Phil|
As people got up, we were ready with sleeping spots. We had a window with all the bed numbers and who was waking up when. This worked exceptionally well.
|Who's getting up and when? The big windows also let us keep a close eye on the bikes|
One thing about an overnight is that it never stops - you get to meet all the riders and experience a tiny bit of their ride. I got way less sleep (1 hour on the floor during breakfast) than I did on the pre-ride. Kit didn't get any sleep until about 7:30. But we had great fun talking to people. Some just needed to know where to crash and others needed some pepping up (230 miles is a long way too). We had one rider come with his wife, he had DNF'd at 136 miles and wanted to pick up his drop sack and say hi. Another would stop at 230 and just sleep in, but gave it a true try - that's the rando spirit.
However, I have to give serious congrats to Ilter, who had knee issues and road continuously until Moose Lake. He didn't hit the overnight until 9:00 am after getting to Two Harbors and taking a ditch nap. Though he didn't finish, he still was just happy to be on his bike; the mark of a true randonneur. I have confidence that everyone who didn't finish on a day with such difficult conditions will return again.
But the ride wasn't over just yet...
It's 150 miles from the overnight to the finish. We cleaned up the Munger Inn and said our goodbye's to the Mungers (the trail, the ride and the overnight are all named after them). Then Lara was ready to head back to Ely.
|Farewell Lara - you'll be back!|
Vincent met us at the end and Kit departed for well earned sleep. After a short lunch, we drove backwards to see when riders might start appearing...
|Go Hall! You've only got 10 miles to go!|
So 20 riders pulled into the finish in total. 6 completed their first 600k ride too. I think everyone appreciated all the work that Vincent, Ed, Lara, Kit, Rob and I put in. Despite the rain and perhaps not the greatest conditions, everyone had fun, no one was eaten by bears, was hopelessly lost in Duluth, etc.
I once sat in a control at a 1400k across from a woman who was nearly in tears that she would not finish and that the wind and heat were too much. I reminded her that she only had 73 miles to go and 12 hours to do it in and to think of every 70 mile ride she had ever done before, that I was still sitting in the same place and was sure finishing was possible. She wound up finishing with 2 hours to spare. Sometimes it's just the right person saying the right thing at a control that makes a difference. So that is why volunteering is important - you can make a difference.