preamble: It should be know that this blog post is quite tardy, the race took place on March 13th, 2016 and it is now 8 days into April. I started my post the very next day on my way home and just had a small conclusion to write, but apparently procrastination is my new MO. Since I started this post, my dear Lauren (who is the part of this story that makes the most prevalent pronoun 'we') had a bad crash in the road stage at the San Dimas Stage Race just six days ago. She is stable and has close friends and family by her side. I wanted to share this story even though I couldn't have LaurenPony proofread for approval (she always approves of the things I write anyway). Our trip to Louisiana was the best trip of my life. Thanks for reading.
I enjoy traveling to the south. It’s an entirely different place (culturally, geographically, meteorologically, and socially) to where I live these days, but not all that dissimilar to rural Minnesota, where I grew up. It’s humid, people are open and kind, mayonnaise is the main ingredient in salad, the towns are mostly small and sparsely populated compared to the eastern edge of the country, or California, for example. I suppose that sort of nostalgic familiarity to my childhood is what really draws a deep joy and amusement when traveling to such places.
Lauren and I arrived at our hotel, the Magnuson on The Lake in St. Francisville, just a 30-minute drive from the Baton Rouge Regional Airport, on Friday for our race on Sunday. We went for a ride on Saturday to preview the course. It was raining a little, but in the 70s, so it was a sensation I haven’t felt in a while (warm rain vs. the PNW 40 degree bone chilling rain). We made our first turn onto a tiny road bordered by high water on both sides and soon discovered what record rainfall meant and why there was talk of rerouting part of our course.
The Low Water Bridge was planned as a part of the course near the end of the 100+ mile race, but the approach and exit were submerged in about 2-3 feet of mud. I felt an overwhelming impulse to go through it anyway while Lauren was the more sensible one and expressed some hesitation (mostly because she wanted to keep her pretty shoes clean). While we stopped to take this picture, two red jeeps rolled up with conviction. Before we knew it, the skies opened up and we were sitting in Leslie’s jeep with her, watching Troy proceed to get his jeep stuck on the far side of the Low Water Bridge. Troy came walking back across and Leslie felt it appropriate to point out the obvious; “Troy, ya stuck!”
There was a moment before Troy came back when it was just us gals in Leslie’s jeep and we had just enough time to learn a little bit about the two of them. Troy had just moved to Louisiana from Michigan last June, Leslie has lived there her whole life. They met out at the bar last week, the Saint Francis, and, from how we understand it, the interaction went something like this:
Troy: “I’m going to take my Jeep mudding on Saturday.”
Leslie: “I’m going to buy a Jeep tomorrow!”
The rest seems to be history, they seem a good pair. Is it love? We like to think so, given our hopelessly romantic tendencies. Our encounter ended with Leslie telling us to come out to the Saint Francis for live music that night. We gathered our soggy selves back onto our bikes to finish our ride while Troy and Leslie devised a plan to get the stuck Jeep unstuck. Later, we couldn’t help but wonder about Troy and his jeep, so we made one last stop on our way out of town at the Low Water Bridge. It’s confirmed, Troy is no longer stuck.
Later that night, we wanted to rock-n-roll our new Rouge Roubaix commemorative tees. Which is to say, we cut the sleeves and neck to allow for a slightly more feminine shape to the box-shaped tee. We didn’t have adequate scissors, so I walked over to the round-faced front desk attendant to see about getting my hands on some. She gave me a sort of skeptical look, one indicative of a history of loaned scissors never returned. So I quickly came up with a proposition;
Me: “How about I give you something in exchange?”
Front Desk Attendant, still entirely skeptical and giving me a sideways glare: “Like what?”
Me, quickly searching my brain for the appropriate trade: “hmmm, oh, how about a glass of wine?”
Front Desk Attendant: “Now you’re talkin’”.
After we finished modifying the commemorative tees to our satisfaction, I went to return the scissors and request a late check out so we could come back to our room after the race. This time, I brought a snickers bar as a bargaining tool. The Front Desk Attendant was impressed with the power of my negotiations and suggested I run for President of the United States of America. She said I should just write my name in, and upon asking, she gave her promise to do the same. Watch out Hillary, AGC is coming in hot with an armful of cheap wine and Snickers bars to solve all the problems.
Just before bed, Lauren and I decided to create a joint email account to make it easier to communicate with us. Feel free to reach out at: email@example.com. No need to type two separate emails anymore. Can you believe that such a prime email address wasn’t already taken? Lucky us.
The next morning we arose early and got into our pre-race rituals, like shoving cotton soaked in eucalyptus oil up our noses, going to the bathroom a thousand times, satisfying our caffeine addictions with cup after cup of ‘a case for bad coffee’, and stuffing our mouths full of nut butter and bananas. This is the stuff dreams are made of.
I won’t go into details of the race in favor of keeping this pleasantly concise (and Lauren already made a race report), but we’ll just say the gravel ponies hit it hard with text-book team tactics and came home with the 1-2 punch. We didn’t care which one of us crossed the line first because it feels like a win in both our hearts no matter which one it is. I accompanied Lauren to her USADA drug testing post race and we were sure to rouse many laughs out of the kind lady administering the test.
Post race we enjoyed the complimentary southern food and were awarded solid slabs of etched granite that we would later lug halfway across the country to our respective homes. We were our own mechanics for this race, so we decided to put on crop tops and tear our bikes down in the sunny park. Just before this, a local started chatting with me. He was wondering what we were up to and where we were from. I filled him in and remarked on the beauty of Saint Francisville. He told me that we outta visit in July when it’s 100 degrees with 100% humidity. I said I think I quite like it in March, to which he replied, with a taunting half-smile; ‘Chicken’. He’s right, I’m a chicken.
Our last stop on our way out of town was to get lattes. We love a good latte. We walked into the only coffee shop we knew of in the small town. As we approached the counter, we realized they were technically closed despite the obviously open door. She offered to make us lattes anyway (with a little huff) since ‘well, you’re already in here, aren’t ya?’. We couldn’t decline, our deep desire for lattes vastly overruled our impulse to be polite and proper. We sat and drank the steamy, milky, caffeinated goodness out of tall Styrofoam cups in the sunshine while resting our tired selves on chilly black metal patio furniture.
The conclusion of this southern trip takes place at an airport hotel. We briefly considered the idea of staying up all night and raging in New Orleans, but soon our sleepiness stole away all motivation to get out of house pants and into something more city-appropriate, so we settled for gathering hard evidence around our claim that we are exactly the same size. We used my measuring tape to take all of our body measurements with great precision and we can now confirm that we are indeed the exact same sized human ponies.
This was the best trip of my life.
Lauren was really into this house, she took about 100 photos of it with my phone, here's a sampling