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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Ammi Midstokke: 24 hours of Riverside with ride or die friends

By Ammi Midstokke The Spokesman-Review

Some months ago, I was at the same party as a friend, probably drinking the same canned cocktail signifying our lack of sophistication and our willingness to settle for less than mediocre, when I made the impulsive suggestion that we sign up for a race together.

This is generally unwise – racing and suggesting random folks be a teammate because everyone’s calves look stronger after a can of White Claw. Here’s the thing though: This guy once literally outrode a wolf to save his life. And his bike was loaded with camping gear. And it was in Canada or Alaska or something and so he probably had to force his way through a cloud of mosquitos while emptying his can of mace on a determined canis lupus.

So basically I knew he could dig deep when needed, or at least pepper-spray the competition into submission if necessary (though generally frowned upon in racing society).

The plan: Take turns riding our mountain bikes in a circle for the 24 Hours of Riverside. This insanity takes place in Spokane’s back yard, which is not surprising because, judging by the number of bike-related stickers on the cars, the insane-per-capita ratio is high. For a whole weekend, they all converge on Riverside State Park where their offspring either ride bikes faster than you or waddle around in preparation to do so in another year or two.

You feel much better about riding your bike that far if you have a sort of Formula 1 pit crew staged to pamper you. The kind of friends you require for this task are unique because they must be reliable and crazy. The qualifications include needing to stay awake all night while being mostly sober, knowing what chain lube you prefer, cajoling you into eating when you’d rather vomit, then somehow motivating you to get back on your bike even though your nether regions are beginning to feel like a tenderized pork chop seasoned with cayenne.

Not surprisingly, this person is not my husband, who I invited to stay home in the most supportive wording one can try to keep their spouse out of the way.

“You’ve been working so hard on the house, honey. You can just stay home and relax this weekend,” I said.

Mostly because I didn’t want to share my snacks. Also because when Charlie sees me suffering, the sad look of sympathy in his big blue eyes makes me think something might actually be wrong with me. I fear if he saw a blister on my heel he’d suggest I call it a day and draw an epsom salt bath for me, damned be the six months of training I’ve invested.

“I’d rather rest there and eat your snacks while I watch you race from the comfort of a lawn chair,” he said.

I’m paraphrasing, but that was basically it. He brought some of his own snacks.

Everyone was given specific jobs. My team captain was also my mother hen. She knows where I keep everything, from my bike lights to my booty balm, and she’s probably comfortable applying both. Another friend was the official timekeeper and relay-watch. He’d diligently wait on the course and tell the resting rider when it was time to gear up again for a handoff. Another friend came and tuned the bikes each lap, tracking our tire pressure along the way. We were so good at pretending to be professionals.

There’s a consoling effect to that kind of support, perhaps even a little enabling. All night long while these tireless busybodies slurped coffee and I tried to force down pickle juice and rouse the courage to get back on the bike in the dark for another 30 miles of kidney-jostling, teeth-chipping fun, the sweet familiar sound of my husband’s snoring resonated like a soft rumble through the camp.

It’s true that riding your bike all night might appear dumb, but it is the only way you can find yourself blazing across an exposed ridge while a giant golden moon rises to light up the cliffs near you. That bright moon at 2 a.m. is what leaves a silver sheen on the grazing elk you pass later while muttering a prayer of gratitude that it’s off the trail. It is the only way you feel the chill leave your tired bones as the first rays of sun creep over the tree tops and turn the blue-wash of dawn into an explosion of oranges and greens and birdsong.

It’s also the only way you find yourselves standing on the podium wearing fat grins and first-place medals in a lineup of other incredible and insane riders.

But if you want to find your way back to your car or get home safely, make sure at least one of your pit crew has the ability to sleep through the cacophony of bike bells, retching, demands for burritos, perhaps even the apocalypse. Fat, happy and safe, I passed out before we hit the highway, reveling in gratitude for the people who show up for me in the most unexpected and wonderful ways.

Nothing we do is possible without our ride-or-die friends, without the generosity of strangers, the tiny cosmic nudges of support we’re given without even knowing. When we are basking in the glory of our latest accomplishments, the joy of it is only compounded by recognizing all the souls who shared the journey in one way or another.

How lucky we are.

Ammi Midstokke can be contacted at