Biking and good food are two of my favorite things in the world. So when I heard about a charity bike ride with cookies at every stop – one that I didn’t personally organize – it was imperative that I sign up. There was only one minor glitch – I’d be seven and a half months pregnant. Back in the winter when I first heard about the event, I had no idea if riding a bike would even be a possibility that far along. Fortunately, good balance and good weather prevailed and I was happily able to participate in Rockville’s Tour de Cookie last weekend.
The day started out bright and early, as I needed to get to the start around 8:30 AM. While I left the house with my bike, I sent Chris out to deliver cookies to the Rockville Bicycle Advisory Committee’s cookie stand, about 2/3 of the way through the short route. As I had baked the cookies by myself, I figured he could at least deliver them.
For a first time ride, the Tour de Cookie had an impressive level of participation. Assisted by the pleasant spring weather, they had more than 300 people pre-register alone. Much to my surprise, there were a good number of people participating in both the short (14 mile) and long (40 mile routes), with a mix of spandexed, experienced riders and families with kids. I saw parents dragging trailers, children on tag-alongs, and kids on their own little single-speeds.
After an opening speech by the Montgomery County Commissioner and the President of Montgomery College’s Rockville campus, the riders took off. Because I was busy taking photos, I ended up being one of the last people to leave. Nonetheless, I moved up quickly, carefully passing lots of little kids and inexperienced riders clustered together.
Barely a mile in, the first stop was mobbed. Rather than traditional water stops, the Tour de Cookie has cookie stands every few miles. When you receive your bib, you get 25 “cookie credits” good towards cookies or other food at the stands. The groups running the stands donate the cookies, so that most of the registration fees go towards the charity organizing the ride. Rockville’s ride benefited the Tree House, a non-profit group that works to prevent child abuse and provide health services/advocacy for abused children. A clearly worthwhile cause. The first stop had a variety of cookies, but they were clearly starting to run out, so I only picked up one. They were quite fantastic – Heath bar chunks embedded in chocolate chip dough.
The ride moved onto the Millennium Trail, my go-to route if I’m being uncreative and pressed for time. I know it so well that I completely ignored the map and cue sheet. Unfortunately, my blissful ignorance caused me to completely miss the third stop! It certainly didn’t help that there was no indication of the turn – I’d definitely like to see better signage next year. From there, I worked my way around the trail, managing to actually put some space between myself, the families with small children, and the faster riders up ahead. While riding by yourself isn’t always fun, it was nice to be out of the crowd.
I hauled my butt up one of the two major hills in low, low gear – I probably would be faster if I walked, but it was a point of pride. Not long after, I was rewarded with another cookie stand. This one had some very enthusiastic marketers, with one kid yelling, “We’re the only non-corporate stand!” While I tried to inform him that the Rockville Bicycle Advisory Committee was also a community group, I realized later that he really meant “family-run.” As it turned out, the stand was run by a few families who decided bake a ton of cookies – five different kinds – for this event. Oddly, they promised people that if they ate all five, they would get a free jump rope.
But soon, disaster struck. While I ignored the “click-click-click” noise coming from my wheel at first, it then began to concern me. While I originally thought it was a minor issue, I spotted a much bigger problem – one of my spokes was totally unattached to the rim. So I rode it slowly to the next stop, aware of the annoying noise with little I could do about it. Thankfully, the Girl Scouts ran the next stop, and like their male counterparts, came prepared for anything. They gave me a length of duct tape I wrapped around the spoke and rim, temporarily holding it in place. I also ate some tasty Girl Scout cookies, accompanied by the background music of “C is For Cookie.”
With my bike as repaired as possible, I carefully rode to the Rockville Bicycle Advisory Committee’s stop, which was the second to last on the whole ride. We had a primo location – right off of the trail and hard to miss, but also adjacent to a community center with a bathroom. Besides the location, we also had the boundless enthusiasm of one of the RBAC volunteers, Carl. Carl had thrown himself into supporting the ride, from providing detailed route feedback to ensuring that our group’s cookie stand was going to be the very best of all. While I knew he was passionate about it, I didn’t realize quite how far he would go until I rounded the corner and saw him in a full-body Cookie Monster suit. Much like myself, everyone – kids and adults alike – were joyfully surprised to see him, grinning irrepressibly. He was probably in hundreds of photos that day.
I spent the rest of the ride volunteering at the RBAC booth, nervous that the loose spoke would cause significant problems if I rode further on it. I already planned on having Chris pick me up, but I had to call him earlier than anticipated because we started to run out of cookies. Except for the one very enthusiastic family, most of the cookie stands weren’t telling people that they could have more than one cookie. So when people came to ours and we told them they had 25 credits for the whole ride, many people took three or four cookies. Despite baking more than 300 cookies, we still had an hour and a half until the end of the ride and only a few dozen left! Fortunately, Chris was able to pick up several more dozen, saving us from the embarrassing position of having a great stand with everything but the baked goods.
With nearly all of the riders through and only 20 minutes until the awards ceremony, we packed up the car and headed to the finish line. Even though my bike failed me, I picked up my finishers medal anyway out of pride for what I was able to accomplish. I was also very proud of the award I shared with my fellow RBAC volunteers – best cookie stand. A very sweet ending indeed.