Scouting it Out
I was 12 or 13 years old when I did my first “long ride”. My scout troop had planned a 50 mile ride, as part of our cycling merit badge. The route would take us from our local church, to Cedar Fort, UT and back. The plan was to ride out to Cedar Fort on a Friday afternoon, spend the night at the park, and then ride home Saturday morning. 25 miles out, 25 miles back.
The distance was daunting to me, but I was excited for what was to easily be the longest bike ride I had ever done. We set off, riding on streets that today are just not fit for cycling, but back then they were ideal. A few things really stand out about this ride to me. The first thing was that I had a walkman tape player, and I listed to the “Flood” album by They Might be Giants at least twice on the ride to Cedar Fort. Whenever a song from that album comes on the radio, I immediatley think of this ride. Another thing that stands out is when we got to Cedar Fort, we played basketball at the park until it was dark. Our adult supervisors were to tired to join us. I also remember one of our group coasting down a hill on the return trip. He somehow did not see a mile marker sign approaching, and he clipped it with his handlebars. He of course wrecked spectacularly. He was fine. He got up and finished the ride. Even today when I drive that road I think about that kid hitting that mile marker. I always laugh about it. And hope it never happens to me.
Today the highway to Cedar Fort is a crowded mess. There are new housing developments filling the land between Lehi and Cedar Fort. The result is a lot of traffic. Yet, for the most part the road is still the same 2-lane road it has always been. It was adequate 15 years ago, but the growth has made it a cycling nightmare, and so the ride I did on that road when I was a scout will probably not be repeated any time soon.
On a somewhat related note, I recall as a scout doing something that today seems utterly pointless. I realize that you are all scrolling through your memories, recalling all the pointless things scouting aged kids do….well this endeavor was the 50/20 hike. 50 miles in 20 hours. Our route took us from downtown Salt Lake, to downtown Provo. We startd in the afternoon, and walked through the night. I did this twice in my lifetime. It was torture. And yet I did it twice! I was sore for weeks afterward. Why am I sharing this with you? Well I am starting to think that perhaps my roots as an endurance racer lie in the influence that the 50 mile bike ride, and the 50 mile walk had on me. Like the bike ride the 50/20 was a scout sponsored activity. Hundreds of scouts from all over the state came to do it. I still do not know the reason why. That event was canceled a short time after I did it because several parents complained about safety issues.
Perhaps these events did influence me. But regardless they stand out in my memories from my teenage years. Rather than explain my love for long days on the bike, they may more accuratley explain my disdain for walking down any part of State Street between Salt Lake City and Provo.