Two years in a row I've participated in the Real Ale Ride (a bike ride starting and ending at the Real Ale brewery in Blanco, Texas), first as a volunteer, then as a rider. As a volunteer, I got drunk and wandered the grounds of the brewery bagging litter. As a rider, I completed my first
serious road ride on serious hills, and then got drunk. Which was a better time overall? Let’s compare.
Pros of Volunteering
1. Volunteers got more free beer than the riders.
2. You can totally drink beer WHILE picking up trash.
3. Litter reduction is a tangible social benefit, making the world/brewery a better place.
4. It requires no strategy or pacing.
5. It’s a happily solo activity.
6. You get some nice exercise with little exertion.
Cons of Volunteering:
1. As a volunteer, I felt like I couldn't go ahead and do the brewery tour (on the clock, so to
speak), although it sounded cool.
Pros of Riding the Ride:
1. Touring truly lovely countryside on an utterly perfect day. (Seriously, if you've never visited the Texas Hill Country, you simply must, because it is simply beautiful, particularly when the wildflowers are out.)
2. The camaraderie among strangers on the course, urging each other on — particularly the guy in the Viking outfit at the first nasty hill, who laid his bike down to just stand there and cheer everyone struggling upward.
3. Going 47.8 MPH without even pedaling — just hanging on and letting the bike soar down the other side of the one hill where I had to hop off and walk up.
4. Makes all those hideous hours of spin class worth it at last.
5. Gave me an excuse to rent a super-spiffy carbon road bike — only $34 for 24 hours with a lovely machine that goes for $2000 retail, an amount which is as far from my budget as the sun is from the earth.
6. All the hills were in the first half, so the last half was a delightful exercise in seeing how fast my bike-for-a-day could go. Verdict: so, so, much faster than my 18-year-old mountain bike.
7. The brewery tour was AMAZING. Fans of chemistry, you must go tour a brewery, because that process is fascinating.
Cons of Riding the Ride
1. The friend who was supposed to do this event bailed on me, so I was left standing alone sipping my beer like a weirdo while everyone else hung out with their friends who did not bail on them. The post-event chitchat (did you see? remember when?) is a good chunk of the experience, so I felt gypped on that point.
Which experience would you prefer?
Maureen Kelly lives in Austin with a variety of mammals and rides her bike a lot.