Monday, July 9, 2007
Blackbeard Training Ride / July 7-8
The magic of rural night riding.
Five of us rode the 283K Blackbeard's Permanent this weekend: BobO, Dean, Wes, Byron and myself. We settled on a 10 p.m. start time. That gave the three riders heading to Paris Brest Paris an anticipatory taste of what that nighttime start will be like.
I made a round of lattes for one last bracing jolt of caffeine before we headed out.
The crew hit our busiest street within the first 2 miles, cruising through Raleigh’s Glenwood South district, where the odor of cheap beer and cheaper perfume hung in the sticky night air.
A run through downtown to east Raleigh, 8 miles on Poole Road, a right turn on Grasshopper Road and boom we were in the country.
For the next six hours, the world went quiet and black, illuminated only by the crazy dance of our headlamps.
Dean rolled up beside me as we headed down Covered Bridge Road, about 20 miles into the ride: “I feel like a kid,” he said.
I knew exactly what Dean meant. Night riding is as close as I can get to seeing life through the eyes of a child. As we sailed along on a dark ocean of asphalt, every sound, every smell was exotic. We were on our way to the New World.
Byron recognized one smell as we rode along the tobacco fields near Rock Ridge -- a sickly sweet chemical sprayed on the plants to prevent suckers.
“I worked in tobacco as a kid,” he said. “That smell always made me gag. Not a pleasant memory.”
I warned the crew that we might not see any services for 80 miles or so, and that proved to be the case. We stopped at a “24-hour” service station as we crossed the I-95, about 45 miles into the ride. Closed.
“It’s 24 hours,” Wes said. “Just not 24 hours in a row.”
We drew a crowd as we filled our water bottles and Camelbaks at a faucet out front. At least four cars pulled up, perhaps drawn like moths to the only signs of life in a five-mile radius.
Throughout the night the dogs were spooked by our presence. They howled ferociously as we rolled past, but few strayed from their front porches for a closer encounter.
We made impressive time through the night, regularly hitting 20 mph on several flat straight roads.
We found our first open store in Winterville at mile 82. The store clerk did not bat an eye at the sight of five cyclists arriving at that time of the morning, and he did not ask a single question about where we were from or where we were headed. An extraordinary lack of curiosity or an impressive respect for personal privacy? Dunno. I didn’t ask.
As we ate Powerbars and drank Coke on the front sidewalk, a local rolled up on a one-speed cruiser. He bought a pack of smokes and took his cruiser off into the night.
The sky lightened as we neared Grimesland, just past the century mark, and by the time we reached Washington at 6 a.m. we’d seen the dawn of a new day. We got our cards stamped at the Travel Store, then detoured off-course to the local McDonalds.
Three of the crew had begun to complain about stomach issues, but everyone managed to choke down a biscuit or hash brown.
Breakfast over and stomachs secure, we headed back to the course, following Bike Route 2 for the remaining 100K.
We had an easy 10-mile roll into Bath, Blackbeard’s former hometown where a new breed of pirate, the land developers, appear to have set up shop. From there, a few of us tested tired legs, laying down a 20-plus average on the 13-mile stretch to Bellhaven, where we stopped for drinks and a few photo ops.
Here's a shot of Bob and Dean at the Bellhaven rest stop....
And one of Wes and Byron...
Nothing notable about the last section from Bellhaven to Swan Quarter, except the road itself, which has more bad cracks than a Rodney Dangerfield movie. A constant eyetooth-rattling, wrist-jarring buh-bump, buh-bump, buh-bump.
Wes took the King of the Mountain points by outsprinting a lackluster field up the Intracoastal Waterway bridge.
Here’s a shot from the top.
If the roads were a little bumpy, at least the weather held. Cloud cover sheltered us from the sun, and the wind, which can be a fierce adversary across the exposed wetlands, took the morning off.
Our little group splintered as a couple horses raced to the barn. The frontrunners reached the ferry at 11, with the others arriving a few minutes behind.
We got our cards signed by the sweet woman working the ferry window, and got drinks from another sweet woman, Dean’s wife Deborah, who met us at the ferry station.
We washed off the stink and the road grime with cold hose showers behind the ferry station. Nothing says good morning like 70-degree water. We were kids again in the backyard sprinkler.
Our day accomplished before noon, we loaded up the bikes and headed buh-bump buh-bump home.
Another great training ride with good friends.