We finally got to do our first Bikes & Beers ride after all of their events were cancelled in 2020. (Sorry, we weren’t interested in paying $100 to do a “virtual ride.”) But we’re glad to report that it was really fun and worth the wait. While the organization hosts rides all over the country, this one, which began and ended at Victory Brewing in Parkesburg, Pennsylvania, had appealed to us because…who doesn’t love Golden Monkey?! (With an ABV of 9.5%, it doesn’t take many to get a party started!)
About 100 of us took off from the Victory parking lot at 9am and turned onto the first of several country roads. (An earlier group had left at 8:30 and another followed ours at 9:30am.) We were actually surprised to see so many riders of roughly our own age although we’d guess the average age to have been about 45. Everyone seemed happy and excited and we enjoyed friendly banter throughout the ride with those whom we passed or who passed us. (“Oh, good, another hill.” “Great jersey!” “How far to the turnaround point?” “Too bad it’s not hotter or more humid!”)
On either side of us grew endless rows of produce: blueberries, cantaloupe, watermelon, tobacco, corn and small green plants we did not recognize. We knew this part of the country to be populated by the Amish (pronounced /ahhh’ mish/) and Mennonites and it wasn’t long before we saw horse drawn carriages and long-bearded farmers in straw hats and suspenders. One of the cutest things was the Amish children (or Mennonite – not sure of the sartorial difference) who stood at the end of their driveways watching and shyly waving at us. The little girls wore hairnets and long, dark dresses with round collars and the little boys wore black pants, dark shirts and suspenders. Some even sported their own little straw hats. We’re not sure how they and their parents could wear such heavy clothing in the 95-degree heat, blazing sun and wilting humidity.
Surprisingly, in addition to the occasional buggy on the road, we also passed SUVs and sedans with hairnetted and straw-hatted passengers. And some of the farmers drove gasoline-powered tractors and used weed wackers. Yet all of the homes – the very nice, large farm homes – had clothes hung out to dry in the yards. It seemed the men of the family were permitted to adopt modern conveniences to help with their chores; the women, not so much.
The first 15 miles of the ride seemed to be one hill after another and the pack quickly thinned as the stronger riders pulled ahead and the incumbent bike riders and a group of women in those stand-up elliptical bikes lagged behind. (When Kellie asked one of them if those contraptions were fun, she responded in a winded voice, “No, they’re just work!”) This was at about Mile 4 of a 30-mile ride, before the steep climbs began. So, scratch that off the Christmas wish list!
At the turnaround, a tent manned by volunteers serving water, Gatorade and granola bars awaited us and we joined about 40 bedraggled bikers resting in shade. It was a tough first half of the ride, but thankfully, the second leg, which followed a clear, shallow stream, was largely flat and shaded. But both legs were beautiful!
Much later than we anticipated, we rolled back into the Victory parking lot and, after loading our bikes back onto our car and mopping the sweat from our entire bodies, we headed inside for our reward beers. There were tents and taps outside, but we were ready for air conditioning. The brewery is huge with a large upper floor that overlooks the first and a two-story bank of windows. The beers were delicious. Kellie had a Twisted Monkey wheat ale with mango and a Tart Monkey fruited sour. (She drinks enough Golden Monkey at home, so she wanted to try their other varieties. A small sampling of their V Twelve Belgium Quadrupel was delicious, but at 12% ABV and a long ride home, she decide against a full pour.) Jim had the Summer Hazy Love American IPA and the lighter Summer Love golden ale- a favorite among cyclists judging by the number of Summer Love bike jerseys we saw.
As we said, this was our first Bikes & Beer ride, but we look forward to doing more. It was extremely well-organized; it had lots of support staff and volunteers (including the ones who topped off our tires with air before the ride); and the after party — with two beer coupons per rider, a band, give-aways and a popular (with Kellie) merchandise tent — made for a really fun day!
Got thoughts or memories of another Bikes & Beer ride? Do share – in the Comments section below.