My Old Man is a Beast

The RISD Cycling crew left my parent’s house for Saratoga Springs to a CX race at 4:30am yesterday morning. I crashed on the couch so I would wake up and give goodbye hugs to Marcus, Jane, and Jules before they venture on their 3 hour road trip. I was definitely acting like a weirdo when they were eating breakfast. Maybe we all were. After they packed the van and disappeared into the early morning darkness, I still had 2 hours to sleep until daylight. I got woken up again around 7am when my parents left to do their 5k and 10k run together, and after they faded away into the sunrise, I proceeded to snooze until 9am. Which compared to everyone else is late. I was feeling pretty useless…


Dad in his element.


The day before on Saturday, my dad and his riding buddy, Steve (a.k.a. the dad of my riding buddy, Ben, who I also used to mountain bike with), planned a challenging 50 mile loop that included every unpaved road they could find in the area. That means riding through gravel, single track, dirt, grass, and people’s backyards on a Sunday morning. For my dad, this means the perfect post-10k-cross-country-running-race-spin. So, let’s whip out the cyclocross bikes!


Not exactly a clean loop.


And to no surprise, plans never work out. Instead, it was just my dad and I riding a directionless 35 mile loop on a Sunday afternoon. Around the time I woke up, Steve bailed on us (boo) so he could go with the family to watch the Head of the Charles Regatta down in Boston, MA. What a New Englander thing to do. Their family has probably been aching to spend time together, so I can’t blame them. After this disappointment, my dad came home with a 3rd place medal from his race (what a beast) and we decided to brunch it with mom and her friend, June, at Parker’s Maple Barn in Mason, NH. Not a disappointment. Dad and I didn’t get on the saddle until 2pm.


Where pumpkins are born.


I saw a side of my pops that I haven’t seen in awhile — the side who takes risks. Here we are riding through rocky fields, flying over drops, and tri-poding around loose gravel. He’s taking me on dirt roads and trails he once thought were stupid to ride on, and through woods and around ponds that I haven’t visited since I was tagging rocks with my bros Kevin and Ashley three summers ago. When we stopped at a pumpkin patch on the border of NH and MA, I started to question what was realy going on here. Who is this guy I’m riding with? And why isn’t he tired from his running race? Where is my dad who plays it safe on his road bike?


Into the woods.


After three dirt secteurs, two pumpkin patches, and four farm stands, we ended up in the humble town of Hollis, NH. Literally half the roads here are paved. I swear. We went through a few trails that I once went mountain biking on with Peter from high school. This is the same friend I broke my arm with when I was 16 (as well as a number of other unfortunate incidents). This ride was really becoming a trip down memory lane.


It’s foolish to go for a KOM on a day like this.


This whole ride I thought about how epic it would be to have a road race going through all these dirt roads at this time of year. The colonial style homes, the trees at their peak, the picket fences, and the well-maintained farms would make the event unbelievably amazing to photograph. We rode by a few photographers on the side of the road taking photos of the trees, I’d like to think a race would make their work more interesting. Or even a cyclocross race in one of the hidden apple orchards and horse riding fields in the middle of the woods would be just as surprising. Maybe if I start now by drafting out a route on Google Maps, rallying up the cyclists in southern NH and northern MA, we could make this a reality. Maybe.


Getting dark, almost home.


After 3 hours of dirt, and surprisingly quite a bit of climbing, the sun was on its way down and the temperature was dropping even faster. Yet, we still took our time riding back home, enjoying these routes that don’t have Strava segments attached to them. And for good reason. I’m impressed with dad —50 years old and still finding new ways to enjoy himself.
I was joking with him on the road to the house, that he should just quit cycling and be a dedicated runner. He called me out that all I really want are his bikes.

AdventuresAlec Babala