Thursday, December 20, 2007

Another Cotton-Picking Ride

What a great day on the bikes.

RUSA’s membership team, Don and Phyllis Hamilton, are in from Dublin, Ohio to spend the holidays with relatives in the Triangle. And that’s my good fortune.

Have tandem, will travel. Phyllis and Don brought theirs along on vacation and invited me to show em the back roads. Hey, you don’t have to ask me twice. And so we snuck off as a trio, meandered in the countryside east of Raleigh for a 40-mile social.

I picked one of my favorite winter routes: the Frostbite Loop, the perfect choice for cycling chitchat. It leaves from Archer Lodge, about 20 miles east of Raleigh. We occasionally had to pull in single-file for cars, but mostly we rolled along side-by-side under a mint-blue sky, custom-ordered from a high-dollar catalog. The landscape is flat and decidedly Tar Heel rural: weathered tobacco barns, newly planted winter wheat, black creeks, doublewides and old farmhouses. And speedy dogs.

The Hamilton tandem is a big steel monster that gallops down the hills. I had a hard time hanging anytime the road developed a slant.

Along the way, Don filled me in on a few of their big biking adventures. Like their first 600K, which wandered into Johnny Bertrand’s backyard, and their tandem tales from two PBPs. I also got the skinny on how Don and Phyllis met. An interesting story, and one I won’t repeat here. But after 25 years of marriage they still make a cheerful tandem team.

We made one stop along the way for drinks, a Little Debbie cake and a gooey grilled cheese sandwich. Here's Phyllis out front.

The Frostbite Loop features a 10-mile run on one of my all-time favorite stretches of pavement: Antioch Church Road, the road that time forgot. There must be better, faster ways to go everywhere else because cars are a rarity. We owned the sparkling blacktop for the afternoon. Antioch climbs ever so slightly past abandoned barns and vast swaths of open fields.

We passed several cotton fields where the crop is gone but plenty of cotton bols remained. Phyllis had never seen cotton growing before, so we stopped while she gathered up a few handfuls as a souvenir.

I guess that made it a cotton-picking ride.

After the slog up Covered Bridge Road, we finished at the Archer Lodge rec center. A handshake, a hug and off we went to our separate holiday cheer. Another great day on the bikes.

Postscript: I wasn't the only one with a camera. Don just sent along these pix. The first is at the convenience store, the second at the cotton fields on Antioch Church Road. Notice the moon rising over my shoulder. Also, I added a couple more shots I took.

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