"...so I rushed past the pretty girls, and the prettiest girls in the world live in Des Moines." -Jack Kerouac
I cannot say that is entirely true, but at this point I do not have enough evidence to support or disprove it. However, what I can say is that the prettiest girls in the world are not in Belgium. I went there, and I do not know if I saw one. A girl that is.
I have been to, and ridden in quite a few different spots this past year and each and every one holds a small place in my heart. I say that with every amount of seriousness that I can muster. And that is a lot at this point seeing as I have not really left this house much in the last few days. You know this feeling? Cabin fever some call it. It does funny things with ones mind. Just ask Jack Nicholson.
Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina
I am just letting these fly off the cuff here, but this one was pretty damn amazing. We had a day off during our little Rapha Continental adventure this summer so we decided to go for a ride. What the heck, its not like we were going to ride 120 miles the next day. Oh, wait. In any case, if you want to ride on some of the best paved least populated roads in this country. Go to Asheville and ride out from there. And while you are at it. Look up Kevin (pictured above) he works at Liberty Bicycles and is just generally pretty awesome.
BEST ROAD (GRAVEL)
East Coast Gentleman's Race - New Paltz, NY
This one comes in the form of a video for you to look at. I have ridden this section of gravel/dirt road two times. Once when we did the first ever East Coast Continental ride out of New Paltz, and second for this Gentleman's race. There are a few things to note in the video though. One, my tattoo (0:35) says "Contentment" not "Continental" although that would be hilarous. And two when the gravel starts (02:06) Harlan Price hits it like he had been waiting for it all day. Chances are, he was waiting for it all day, but that is beside the point. And then when Peter Bradshaw, in the next few frames, takes over for the Embro team, well that just made me smile.
There were quite a few gravel roads that we rode on over the past year. This one really sticks out because of the sheer bliss that came over all of us when we rode it. The pace goes up. People start to look around with that Devil May Care attitude and inevitably, someone attacks.... so good.
BEST RACE - AMATEUR
Battenkill - Cambridge, NY
Battenkill Wins out on this one. As I understand it Dieter is getting lots of heat for upping his prices. But I have no problem with that. Know why? Because this race kicks ass. I am more than psyched that we are going to be out there for this again this year. What? Did I just say that? The Rapha Condor squad is participating, but more importantly the Embrocation Racing Team is participating - so watch out you Limey Bastards.
I think that there were three or four of us away from the group with 10 or so miles to go when I flatted. PVB gave me his wheel and I was off again, but whatever, it was fun anyway. There was gravel sketching people out, there were other people sketching people out, there was a slo-mo uphill crash that sketched people out. What's not to like?
ALICE IN WONDERLAND AWARD
(two way tie - West Virginia and Outside London)
This is the award for when you go "holy shit, did I just drop through a worm hole or something? Where the fuck am I?" It is a good thing. You realize that wherever you are and wherever you go, there is always some weird crazy shit going on.
Like, when you find yourself standing in a taxidermy shop... blah blah blah... I am quite sure that you are sick of hearing me talk about this ride. Click on the above link to watch the video. This one wins out solely based on its strangeness. One minute your riding through the hills led by one of the best guides ever - Jay Moglia - and the next watching a taxidermist play the banjo like you have never seen before.
The two way tie goes to riding with Guy Andrews outside of London. Also kind of surreal to go from admiring a man's work from afar to becoming great friends with him and being able to ride through the countryside of both the UK and BE with him. Thanks for that.
Other notable mentions.
Best Place on Earth to Watch Pro Cyclocross: Belgium.
Best Place to View Paris-Roubaix: A Press Car.
Best Place to Live if you like hills: As Close to Portland as Possible.
Most Amazing Vista: Pretty much any ride in the US of A.