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November 23, 2009

The Great Turkey Chase

Turkey_chase_2009_large On a normal Saturday in November, I'd be sitting on the couch, twiddling my thumbs and cursing myself for ever moving to this god forsaken land of Canada Minor. But this past Saturday, I got up off my fat duff and did something productive — I rode in the second annual Great Turkey Chase.

The Great Turkey Chase is the brainchild of my friend Elgee (we'll use pseudonyms to protect the innocent) and a bitchin' way to get exercise while simultaneously doing something good for the community and scaring the living bejesus out of yourself. Here's the gist of it:

The event is an alley cat race, or an informal urban bike race that pits cool fixie kids against other cool fixie kids in a battle of radness and bikemanship. Think Brooklyn bike messengers riding bikes with handlebars narrower than my waist. These are not folks who wear Spandex clown kits or tip-tap bike shoes. They wear skinny jeans, Vans and neon sunglasses. Most don't even wear helmets. And if they do, they're limited edish and rad.

Alley cat races normally involve a series of checkpoints and large quantities of utility beer like PBR, Genny Cream Ale or Stroh's. Instead, this race involved collecting Thanksgiving food items for the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf. Altruism mixed with bicycling and tomfoolery. What could be better?

This race was based on a series of 10 checkpoints, each one a corner store, a supermarket or a gas station. At each location, racers were required to buy a foodstuff — gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, etc. We had to hit the checkpoints in order, but we could pick the route.

I should say now that I'm not much of a bike racer. While I'm competitive like a mug, I'm somewhat hamstrung by my lack of being-in-shape-ness. So when I found out that the race would begin with a slog up Depot St. in Burlington, I knew I lost before I even began.


These bikes are radder than mine. And faster. Photo by Blotto.

The race started LeMans style, with everyone running to their bikes that were resting on the ground some distance away. When Elgee shouted "Go!," we sprinted to our rides and took off. Now, I'm not going to blame my poor start on my bike, though I did have smaller wheels that most of the other riders. But I will say that there's nothing more demoralizing than getting passed by a tandem bike while huffing up a hill.

The first stop was the Shopping Bag on North Street There we needed to get some sort of canned something. I can't tell you what it was because by the time I got to the store, I nearly needed a shopping bag in which to barf into. Depot Street, I curse you.

It was after the first stop that the pack of 38 riders spread out significantly, thank Jesus. Waiting in line to pay wasted precious time. The next stop was the Hannaford on North Avenue. Here's what I learned about Hannaford supermarkets during this race — they're ubiquitous. They're like the Starbucks of grocery stores; there's practically one on every corner.

From there, we had to double back on North Avenue and head back into town to City Market. While I hammered back on the long stretch of pavement connecting the New North End with the awesomer part of the city, some of my competitors actually rode on VT 127, which, if my memories serves, is not open to bike, skateboard and horse travel. I don't condone this behavior, but I do congratulate those riders who took that route for their cunning and shear ballsiness.

Healthy Living and Hannaford in South Burlington were next on the list. This is where my second drop-out moment occurred. Cranking up Main Street is miserable on the best of days. Add to the suffering the pressure of competition and the thoroughfare becomes especially brutal.


That's an awful lot of food. And none of it was stolen. Photo by Blotto.

With the two Dorset Street locations out of the way, it was on to Hannaford off of Shelburne Road. Then we doubled back on US 7 and pedaled toward Price Chopper, then Shaw's. At this point, I was sopping with sweat and crabby at my poor choice of clothing for the race. Non-elasticated denim is not conducive to crushing at bike racing. To add insult to injury, the employee manning the door at Shaw's informed me that I was probably in last place. Then he told me not to run in the store.

Two more stops and I was home free. But first there was the little matter of the turkey. In addition to getting all the food items from each of the 10 stops, racers could choose to buy a 20-lb. turkey. The first person to cross the finish line (the threshold of The Olde North Ender) with a turkey won an extra $50, courtesy of Blotto Photto.

Now, I was nowhere close to winning. I was more likely to come DFL — dead fucking last — but seeing as how charitable food donations are at near all-time lows this year, I figured I should get a turkey. At Shaw's, I raced to the freezer case that held the birds. Being a long-time committed vegetarian, the proposition of buying a turkey for charity has always been a bit dicey. So I try to go with a bird that hasn't been pumped full of hormones and made to live in a cage covered in its own poo. Thus the turkey I picked cost half my monthly salary. Yet another reason to be an herbivore.


Winner of the $50 turkey prime top right. Not-last-place journalist bottom left. Photos by Susie Floros.

I paid for the turkey and the canned pie filling and then had to rearrange my bag to fit the bird and all the sides. Let me tell you that riding three miles with an entire Thanksgiving meal in your backpack is no small feat. The bird's wing bones were jabbing me in the back the entire rest of the ride. Serves me right for buying it.

I didn't win the race — that honor went to a feisty, wool-bedecked fellow I'll call The Simian. It was the second time he won the Great Turkey Chase. I think he's doping.

The whole event netted 558 pounds of food, or a whole Subaru Outback trunk's worth of vittles. Included in that amount were seven turkeys carried back by various racers. The winner of the $50 turkey prime was the Trump Tower of Power. This kid bought a 20-lb. turkey, even though he didn't have room in his bag. He ended up carrying it in his arms as he rode no-handed.

I didn't even up DFL and I didn't get hit by any cars. Plus, the food shelf got an extra 500+ pounds of holiday grub. I'd say it was a better than average Saturday afternoon.

PS - Super congrats go to Tawny Kitaen, top female rider, ninth overall and potentially best job matching outfit to bike.      

I was doping all right! All hopped up on tomfoolery! Well done Obernout.

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