I have been doing the Swami’s Poker Ride since long before I became a member. I remember the first time I did the ride in 2012 very clearly. I was on a very strong mixed team of men/women (I was definitely the weakest link), and I recall seeing a certain other mixed team always seemingly going in the opposite direction to us (I know now it was Troy Huerta’s team!). We were a very conscientious team and followed the route to a T, having no idea that the tagline of the ride was “There are no rules except that there are no rules.” There are a few basic guidelines such as, all 4 team members must ride together and be at each rest stop together in order to get their poker card. That is about it. Some years directions were given between rest stops, some years not. That first year, we lost.
The next year was our first year as Team Fun (2013, Team Fun being founded August 2013), and we rode the ride as the only all women’s team. We had a great time. The basic route was more similar to this current year’s route, involving some crazy steep hills off North Twin Oaks. I had to re-read my original post on it to remember that we were NOT in fact LAST! At that time, there were hardly any women riding AT ALL, no less as a women’s team (http://living-idaho.blogspot.com/2013/10/swamispy-poker-ride-2013-team-fun-and.html).
I think the Poker Ride didn’t happen for some of those years in between, or I chose not to participate, but last year we were back in the game, this time as Swami’s members with another full team of women. I thought we would be clever and try to take “better routes” but alas, I think perhaps Jill and I aren’t always good at finding the fastest ways from A to B as we are at finding the most fun ways from A to B. I think we went about 10 miles farther than most everyone else.
So this year I thought I finally had it figured out. That morning, we all did the usual group texting about how we were a little tired, how we were going to take it easy, it would just be a fun ride… yada yada yada. Pretty much no one ever really means that…. or maybe that’s just me. I think I have to tell myself I’m going to be kinder to my body before such an adventure so my muscles and ligaments can relax a little before all hell breaks loose. I think we left all possibility of taking it easy aside when we invited Cliff to join our team – he was a taskmaster! Three out of the four of us in the group knew the general area of the ride well, so there was pretty much no way we couldn’t find the fastest way from A to B each time… and route sheet be damned!
And yet somehow, three or four groups beat us to the first rest stop, even though we had the ride of our lives on San Marcos Boulevard, with hardly any traffic and not hitting a single red light.
This year, as I think most every year I’ve done it, had optional dirt portions or the “adventure version”. Jill and I had done the first section of “adventure” on a Thursday one time and it was so scarring it was seared into my brain as something I’d never want to take my road bike on again. So we easily made the choice to opt out of that portion, and followed Cliff at a breakneck pace to the next rest stop on North Twin Oaks Road just off Gopher Canyon. Here we found Swami’s Team Fun members Tatiana and Michell manning the rest stop with style. Michell did such an awesome job taking photos, that I think she captured every single team on the ride that day! I apologize for not knowing everyone’s name …
Our third stop, which was in the same location as the first, was manned by Swami’s CFO Steve Ummel. This spot was generally the entry point to the dirt, if you wanted to take on the challenge. Our group declined that challenge again, and opted to follow close on the heels of Cliff, who led us down Buena Creek and back to the starting location at Alga Norte Park. Finally, I thought, I mastered the Poker Ride! Here we were pulling in first, so early that Anthony (Swami’s Board Member that organized the ride), was still unloading the food from Bucca Di Beppo. The original route measured about 44 miles, and we completed it in 38.3 miles.
Nothing beats having first dibs and the food and drinks, especially when there have been years when the food runs out before the last teams finish. Not this year! With sensible rider spacing and plenty of food to go around, we finished the afternoon with food to spare. Pasta, salad, and bread hit the spot after a leg burner of a ride, and the full keg from Iron Fist was also not unwelcome.
There were awards, and no one is exactly sure how they were calculated, but somehow, yet again, I failed to win the category I was in. One take-home message could have been, “There are no rules except the ones we make up that you are not aware of”, but really, it completely misses the point of the poker ride. The Poker Ride is supposed to be a more-adventurous-than-usual type of ride, something a little out of the ordinary, something to push your limits. There really isn’t winning or losing – there’s only, did you enjoy yourself and have a good story to tell at the end?
And tell stories we did. The best part of these club rides is always the social time at the end – getting to know each other a little better, having some time to laugh instead of grimacing and gritting your teeth together out on the road. We had participants from every level of Saturday Ride, A through E, out there enjoying a nice cloudy June Gloom day on the road. Thanks to Anthony for all his hard work in putting the event together, and all the volunteers that help man the rest stops. Hopefully the tradition lives on for years to come.