What would you do if you had a blank slate to magically create your favorite day ever.
Me? If I could tap a magic wand to write my perfect day, I’d start by gathering my family and best friends; I love hospitality so I’d invite lots of other friends, acquaintances, heck, folks I’ve shared group rides with or said hi from across the coffee shop. I’d ask my sponsors to come because they swim in the close circle of terrific people and have become like family as well. Riding my bike is my job, but much more than that it’s my therapy, my enjoyment, my recreation, and my hobby. I would invite this crew to a massive bike ride back in what I consider heaven-on-earth at my favorite time of year: New England in the fall. It would be in, oh, let’s say mid-October when the foliage isn’t just good or even above average, but absolutely freakin’ peaking. It’s the kind of stuff that makes you say in three distinct sentences, “Wow. Wow. Nature is stunning.” We’d start sometime in the morning when the early part of the day is crisp and cool, but within an hour the sun is shining, lighting up the trees like a painting, and it’s warming us up as much as the steaming hot coffee. Let’s be honest, every time I’m back in the northeast, I ride to Lil’s so their crullers would be part of the morning mix for delicious and obvious reasons. Then the real fun begins when we’d start pedaling. It would be a mass start event, because bike racing is cool and all, but the simple pleasure of riding a bike with the surrounding cycling community is way way way more fun. We’d ride, we’d chat, we’d have a well orchestrated motorcade of course, because cars don’t seem to like cyclists these days — but we enjoy the day for what it is. Of course this is New England on a Saturday morning, so the traffic is already virtually nil. We ride hard here and there and on the silkiest smooth of the pavement, we regroup and eat grilled Justin’s nut butter sandwiches with bacon, cold brew coffee, pulled pork bahn mi sliders, UnTapped of course, and wrap it all up back at ride HQ with an even bigger spread of food plus a whole bunch of kegs, maybe some wine too. Let’s bring in Lagunitas, because they put the pub’ in public radio, but they also have a strong cycling centric vibe and just make great beer. We’d auction off some nearly priceless stuff from those aforementioned amazing sponsors, and we’d ask that people bring a few bucks to donate to a very very worthy cause in the Krempels Center.
That is the King Challenge in a day. That’s my favorite day of the year. That’s the most meaningful day of my year. That day wraps together everything that’s great about cycling. We raised more than $100,000 for the Krempels Center this year and that’s something that no matter how I stumbled of it, really leaves me without words of thanks.
If you’re reading this and supported this ride or any previous King Challenge in any way: thank you. Think back a few days and remember how much fun we were having at 2pm when we’d just finished riding, we’re laughing, eating paella, burgers, and pizza, sipping some IPA, and soaking it all in. Make a commitment today to come back next year. Better yet, make the commitment today to bring a friend next year. Let’s double every aspect of what we had this year, from rider turnout to fundraising. I know it’s not easy coming up with the fundraising minimum, but it makes a difference in the world with the money we can raise for the Krempels Center. I spend as many days as I can there whenever I’m home and it’s makes a direct impact in those living with a brain injury. It’s a hidden epidemic in our country, the number of people who have suffered from concussive symptoms, stroke, traumatic brain injuries, or related issues and it’s crippling. The Krempels Center isn’t a rehabilitation center, it’s that sense of community that we share on the bike. I’ve seen what the Krempels Center can do with my father after his stroke 14 years ago and we can make that difference now.
The King Challenge isn’t a gran fondo. This isn’t a half-wheel fest. This isn’t a gravel spectacular. It’s an event unlike anything else I’ve ever done with an unequivocal emphasis on community. It’s everything that’s right with cycling in one very full day (and events leading up to it if you find yourself in New England the week before).
Photos courtesy Dustin Marshall Photography.
If you didn’t make it this or any of the previous seven years, let this be my formal invitation. Join me, my family, and friends for the 2018 King Challenge. I promise it won’t disappoint.