Cycling is a wonderful pastime. One reason is the places you go, another is the people you meet. Last year I met Brooke while riding the last 150kms of the Peaks Tasmania ride. Brooke seemed to have been doing one cycling adventure after another.
During a recent conversation Brooke told me about the Belgian Waffle Ride (BWR) in the US. It was a simple account initially: waffles, cycling and beautiful landscapes. Sounds fantastic! Below is Brooke more detailed story on her experience with the BWR.
1. How did you got into cycling?
I started cycling six years ago when I bought a MTB for commuting. Six months later I borrowed a girlfriend's roadie to see what all the fuss was about and I was hooked! I got myself a second hand road bike soon after. I started doing hill repeats of Black Mountain (Canberra) on my way to work and well, I haven't stopped doing endless hill repeats since then really :)
2. What are some other events and places you've visited on with your bike?
I traveled to the US twice last year - in April I did a 5 day training camp with Vanderkitten through Californian wine country (the Santa Ynez Valley) and in August I went to Colorado and Montana to cycle up some favourite mountains that I'd hiked a few years back. I did Pikes Peak, Mt Evans and Independence Pass in Colorado and the Going To The Sun road in Glacier National Park, Montana. Pikes Peak and Mt Evans both reached an elevation of 14,000 feet and cycling up that high was an experience in itself.
Here in Australia I visited Adelaide in January for the Tour Down Under, an event I'll now aim to return to each year. A fantastic week for any Aussie cyclist. Last year I also traveled to Victoria, Gold Coast and Tasmania for the Peaks Challenge series.
3. How did you learn about the Belgian Waffle Ride? And what attracted you to this event?
I learned of the Belgian Waffle Ride from a Vanderkitten cyclist I met in the US last year. On her Instagram I saw she course-marshalled what seemed like a very unique and tough event and I was intrigued!
The timing to participate this year was good and two Vanderkitten girls I'd ridden with last year were riding for the first time also. What attracted me was it's uniqueness and the challenge - 235km, 170km on road and 65km off road. With 3500m of climbing and traditionally ridden on road bikes.
I'd gotten a small taste of riding road bikes off road with the local Adelaide Hells 500 crew who ran a number of Hellish group rides in Adelaide during the Tour Down Under. I experienced enough to know I found it terrifying and thrilling at the same time. Combine that with a promise to be fed waffles pre and post ride and it was a no brainer for me - I had to do this event!
4. Tell us about trip itself: highs and low, distance, terrain covered, people you met, logistics and organisation of the event
The trip was amazing and varied. In typical me fashion I crammed a lot in and drove and rode myself to near exhaustion. The day after the Belgian Waffle Ride which was in San Diego County where it was 30 degrees and sunny, I drove to Lake Tahoe where it was snowing. I'd checked the temperature before I left Australia but not the actual weather report and got quite a shock as I was driving to Tahoe to realize it was snowing!
It was still dry and warm enough (in my humble Canberran opinion) to ride though so I did the loop around the lake one day and then both sides of Mt Rose the next. I got snowed on up at Mt Rose but it was beautiful more than anything.
From there I drove across Nevada to Utah and rode through Arches National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park. Dead Horse Point State Park is where they shot the final scene of Thelma and Louise, where Louise drives them off the edge of the canyon. The next day I drove further south in Utah and did a stretch of Scenic Byway 12, from Escalante to Boulder which I believe is part of the route for the Tour of Utah. All up I drove around 3500km.
I met some every enthusiastic and friendly cyclists on the Belgian Waffle Ride. Everyone was extremely supportive of each other to help one another through the day. As you can imagine everyone I spoke to enroute was excited to hear I'd come from Australia to join their ride. Don't quote me on this but I think there was maybe 1,000 participants?
The organisation of the event was similar to a Peaks Challenge with the event village having a great atmosphere with food, drink and other stalls open all weekend. The event village was outside a brewery and was one of the sponsors, in similar fashion to the Bright Brewery for the Tour of Bright.
The main difference I encountered on the day was there was no designated lunch stop and that the pace in general was pretty no-nonsense. Everyone got supplies at each rest stop as quick as possible and kept moving. In typical American style the rest stops were well supplied with cookies, coke, muffins, cake etc. As well as plenty of Clif bars and electrolyte. One of the last rest stops offered quartered pickles which at first I turned my nose up at but after the guy working the rest stop told me they were good to prevent cramps, I put one away quickly with the guy remarking "That's the Aussie spirit" in giving anything a try :)
The entire trip was a high with the only low being US Customs damaging my bike frame on the trip home during an inspection of my bike case. It was clearly very carelessly inspected! :( But these are the risks you take when travelling with your bike and the damage is repairable so I shouldn't complain too much. Considering I fell off my bike twice during the Belgian Waffle Ride, once into a rocky crevice and once in a sand pit and didn't scratch my bike on either occasion - I came away pretty happy :)
5. Overall thoughts on your experience?
That the Belgian Waffle Ride is a highly recommended event for anyone who wants to get out of their comfort zone on a road bike and have a great time. As for the other parts of the country I rode, cyclists are treated well and I'd recommend a road biking trip to the US to anyone!
6. What's your next adventure?
I'm looking at flights for my next adventure as we speak! It will most likely be a week to ten days doing some climbs in the French Alps and Pyrenees starting at the end of August, a little of northern Italy (the Stelvio Pass) then probably to Prague to visit a friend (unlikely I'll cycle there) who just relocated there.
Then Israel on the way home. I follow a couple of Israeli cyclists on Strava and cycling seems quite possible there although it won't be a top priority. If I'm feeling game and reasonably safe I might try ride from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and back (have seen it done on Strava) which will be around 130kms, but we'll see. I may just cruise up and down the equivalent of Melbourne's Beach Road in Tel Aviv :)
More great photos on the 2016 Belgian Waffle Ride can be found here.