Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Cynthia Lodgepole

When the protagonist of Heidi Jacob’s lovely, very funny, and deeply literary debut novel Molly of the Mall (the perfect gift for that English major in your life) mentions adopting the pseudonym "Cynthia Lodgepole" for publishing her “gothic bodice-rippers,” it’s a wink and a nudge to anyone who’s ever noticed this road sign on the Yellowhead Highway between Edmonton and Jasper.

The names of these two little hamlets 23 km apart in Brazeau County near Drayton Valley, Alberta, do kind of go together, and I’m sure I’m not the only one–besides Heidi Jacobs–who thinks, every time I see the highway sign, of what a great pseudonym this would make. Kudos to Heidi’s Molly for pulling it off.

Yet despite all the times I’ve driven past the sign, I’d never visited either place. Until last Saturday, that is, when I rode my bicycle through both on the route of the DV100, an annual century-ride (pavement) event that I took part in for the first time. This event has been around for 10 years and has a solid reputation in cycling circles in these parts: it’s known for being well organized and scenic, and for putting up a surprising amount of prize money.

I’m here to report that it’s all true. This is the best kind of small-town century ride: tons of local volunteers and a clear sense that the whole community is behind this thing, even if not everyone involved in this rural oil-and-gas town has that much understanding of cycling culture. 

There’s an unpretentious vibe to the whole affair. I love the touch of having a young woman sing O Canada before the roll out. I love how the DV100 has resisted the temptation to use affected Italianate names for its various distance categories. No forte, medio, or grande here; it’s just kilometer numbers: 160, 100, 40, and 27.

And the route is nice, a proper and picturesque loop–none of this out-and-back nonsense that some events try to get away with (I’m looking at you Badlands and Edmonton L’étape ). Traffic was light and the drivers that were on the road, even the semi drivers, were respectful.   

Most of all, though, I was impressed how, after the ride, so many participants stuck around to hang out in the makeshift beer garden in the parking lot of the Drayton Valley Omniplex. In big city rides I’ve attended, people tend to take off right away. Things to do, places to go. But in DV, we’re all small towners for a day, or a few hours at least, more than happy to sit and sip and visit for a bit. The live band (kicking some serious 70s rock classics) helps too.  

I feel obliged to mention that this event is not inexpensive. Registration is $150 for the non-early bird 100-km distance. While that may seem a bit steep to some, it’s worth noting that the DV100 is a fund-raiser for the Drayton Valley Community Foundation, and for me anyway, that makes the price tag easier to swallow. It’s a top notch event, and for that I don’t mind paying a little more.

As for me finally making it to the actual towns of Cynthia and Lodgepole, well, I discovered there’s not a whole lot to either one. The former has the Cyn City RV Park and Saloon while the latter features a general store that looks worth stopping at. (Next time.)  Aside from that, blink and, well, you know what they say.

Molly of the Mall has fair claim to the Alberta-double-hamlet pseudonym Cynthia Lodgepole, even if she ends up not needing it in Jacobs’ novel. I guess I’ll have to settle for Kathyrn Balzac.

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