June 24, 2016. Warwick, New York. Farm To Fork Fondo Hudson Valley.
The weekend started on a good note when I opened Yelp to a deluge of four- and five-star rated establishments, including roasters, breweries, distilleries, cafes and restaurants tightly clustered on the map of this charming old-brick town. I stopped at Caffe A La Mode for an excellent espresso before meeting up with my Cannondale family, savoring the shot over a brief survey of this glorious density of gastronomic delectations. Ah, the anticipation!
But food would have to wait. First, bikes.
A few miles out of town, the sun blushed low over fields striped with leafy green and black, black soil and stretched our shadows across the road. Our Cannondale crew had set out a couple of days early for the Farm To Fork Fondo Hudson Valley to capture this gestalt in photos. We started at the winery. I swung my leg over a beautiful new gray-on-gray Synapse Hi Mod Disc (love that color-scheme!), and we rolled out through thick shadows of leaf canopies, catching glimpses of the open valley of square fields through shutter-like openings of the forest. Only a few minutes of pedaling had impressed upon us the magic of this place. All I could think was how I wanted nothing more than to continue exploring these roads further, grinning to myself because that was precisely what we were here to do.
Riding a bicycle creates a very visceral bond with a place. The air becomes part of your blood; the terrain shapes your muscles; freedom and adventure strengthen the soul. A sommelier studies the terroir of a wine (or coffee or maple syrup, for that matter) -- soil and climate and sun and care all manifest in a glass, the wine a conduit of place to palate. For some of us, bicycles serve as a conduit of terroir, exhilarating our senses with all of the real things about a place.
Tyler and his team at Wrenegade Sports intuitively understand this. The terroir of a Farm To Fork Fondo delights the full experiential palate, including foods produced by the very land over which you pedal, fueling the legs that propel you.
The night before the fondo, we sampled ciders from Pennings Farm among the orchards, all aglow in copper summer light and the anticipation of the ride ahead.
Saturday's fondo did not disappoint. We sampled goods at the farms who produce them, pedaling from one to the next through scenic back roads, curated by a pro with the help of local cycling aficionados – the crème de la crème of local terrain and scenery. Wineries, orchards, dairies and more supplied local fruit, pizza, juice, cider, cheeses and the literal (and arguably figurative) pinnacle: ice cream at the Bellvale Farms Creamery atop the highest peak of the route, with a panoramic view of the terrain covered in the previous hours.
... and all of this accessible to riders of all levels.
Each Farm To Fork Fondo features routes of varying distances and terrain. I saw all kinds of bicycles, all manner of kit and gear, bodies of all shapes and sizes – common among them were the smiles and easy connection of people coming together over a shared love of seeing the world from a bicycle. It wasn’t hard to strike up an enjoyable conversation with anyone on the road and to be met with a genuine smile of mutual understanding.
At their core, the Farm To Fork Fondos are about connection. They invite you to get to know the true heart of a lovely community and connect you with the multi-layered experience of people, terrain and food. There is much that sets these events apart from other fondos, but what resonates most with me personally is the commitment by Wrenegade Sports to social good, to leaving their host communities better off than before the events. They showcase local producers, contribute to local charities, support open space initiatives and the agricultural backbone of what fuels us.
I finished my ride sweaty, with tan lines reinforced, heart full of stories, conversations and laughs, stomach happy with the prospect of tucking into yet another plate full of scrumptious local flavor. I was met with high fives and cheers and cold craft cider. I was exhausted and empty and yet so so full.
In a world of increasingly virtual experience, there is much to be said for engaging with real people and real places. No social media post -- no matter how many likes -- can rival the powerful and lasting impact of memories like these. Digital doesn't do terroir. Bicycles do.
If this sounds like fun to you, check out the other upcoming Farm To Fork Fondos. I'll be at the Farm To Fork Fondo Pennsylvania Dutch this weekend, August 5-6. Remember: you can get 10% off registration at any Farm To Fork Fondo if you use code TEAMGOODLIFE at checkout!