This morning, I joined several dozen riders for an informal group ride east of town. It was a route I’d never ridden before, but had been meaning to, so I looked forward to it. And, the ride featured some nice touches: One person drove a sag vehicle, and riders could grab a map of the route, which included a cue sheet showing 20, 44, and 60 mile options.
I could see right away that I would have problems with the sheet. A standard letter-sized sheet of paper, the map filled the top half and the cues on the bottom. But the cues were in tiny print, and since I don’t wear bifocals while riding, I was going to have a tough time reading the small type.
I headed out right behind the lead group, figuring that I’d be fine as long as I could stay with them. I knew several people in that group had done this route before, and knew the way. What I didn’t count on was getting dropped by them before we had gone 10 miles. I found myself riding alone past farm fields and manufactured homes, dodging the occasional dog that came out to give chase.
And then came a corner. Which way to turn? I had folded the cue sheet into a small square, and tucked it under the hem of my left shorts leg. If I was going to be able to read it though, I’d have to stop and pull it out.
So I turned. Yeah, you guessed it. So I doubled back to the corner, and I did stop and hold the tiny cues up to my face to be able to read them.
Two young women caught up to me, and we held a confab at the corner about the correct route. Once in agreement, we headed out.
Yeah, you guessed it. We picked the wrong road. By now, I had tired of the folded cue sheet rubbing against my thigh, so I shoved it into one of the back jersey pockets. When we got to the next corner, my cue sheet was limp and damp, already starting to tear along the folds.
We figured out which way to go that would get us back to the route. At a T intersection, we got into a spirited debate with two other women about whether to turn right or left. I pointed out on my limp, floppy, and damp map that a right turn was in order.
All seemed to be well. A turn was coming up, and we recognized the road as one on the route. The two contentious women went a different direction. My cohorts and I spotted a spigot and hose in the corner of a country cemetery, and stopped to refill our water bottles.
I figured I’d check the map to see how many miles to the next turn, and reached into my jersey pocket to pull it out. Little pieces of soft, wet, paper fluttered away on the breeze. The part I held in my hand tore like a knife going through warm butter.
One of the girls had the same problem, but the other somehow managed to keep her map dry. We realized we had made yet another wrong turn, and got ourselves pointed back to the start of the ride.
Eventually, we made it back – thanks to the dry map. I’ve gotta come up with a way to keep maps and cue sheets dry in the future.
Randonneurs use handlebar bags with clear plastic windows on top for their cue sheets. Other riders use zip ties to secure a cue sheet in a nifty plastic window to their handlebars. A Zip-Loc bag would probably work.
Do you have your own preferred way to keep cue sheets dry and usable? I’d love some ideas.