Sunday, August 24, 2008

Route Scouting: Showdown at Black Creek or Who's Your Daddysville

Do we ever get tired of talking about PBP?

Apparently not. That celebrated randonneuring event is just too big, too life-altering. Do it once and it's forever burned into the DVD of your memory, cued up for replay anytime two or more anciens gather for a ride.

And so it was Saturday when Branson, Byron and I tested a route I'm preparing for an October brevet. (I'll call it "Showdown at Black Creek," because it has a nice western sound, like a John Wayne cowboy movie. But the first alternate could be "Who's Your Daddysville" since we cut right through that crossroads community.)

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We gathered Saturday morning at the parking lot of Wakefield High School in North Raleigh.

Byron and I were both wearing our PBP '07 jerseys. Coincidence? Well, yeah, but Branson later surmised some bigger forces might have been at work since exactly a year ago we were on the PBP course, suffering through the rain and the cold and the hills.

Under the big clouds of eastern North Carolina, we mentally relived the rolling hills into Villaines and Mortagne, the speed-run to Dreux. But there were very few hills on yesterday's course, which largely followed state Bike Route 2 before switching off to Bike Route 7 northwest of Wilson and angling south to Black Creek. The route is often signed as a bike route, making navigation fairly easy. The roads were exceedingly quiet, with the exception of Thompson Mill about 5 miles from the start and 3 or 4 miles of Tarboro Road around Youngsville, also near the start.

Here are the boys rolling along on one of the many quiet stretches of back road.

The ride is being planned as part of an effort to travel the state's Mountain to Sea Trail in October. Land is still being acquired east of Raleigh for a true hiking trail, so it currently follows the bike routes. This effort is being coordinated by friend Kate Dixon, the executive director of the Friends of the Mountain to Sea Trail. She's married to randonneuring buddy Dan Wilkinson.

Kate drew out the route for me in the N.C. topo map book. I generated a cue sheet in about 15 minutes using Google's new "Walking Directions" and a program Branson found. See this post for more info.

The mileage on the cue sheet was right on the money, but occasionally Google had trouble when the road crossed a county line and changed names. Google would put in an extra direction or two that, while not wrong, was confusing. Once we had to stop and decide whether we were still on course. We were. Also, Google does not put in confirmation points -- for instance, it makes no mention of crossing a major road. But these minor quibbles were easy to fix in the shake-out ride.

We passed multiple country stores, noting all of them and taking advantage of several for water and fuel. Running out of water should not be an issue on this route.

Here's one we stopped at on the way down. It's at 40 miles and I may use it as a control. It used to have a grill but I'm not sure it's fired up these days. However, there were plenty of food options.

Speaking of options, with a growing Latino population in eastern North Carolina, we now have some new drink choices.

We picked up two riders along the way -- a guy named Jeff who let us know he was very competitive, it was his nature in everything he did, before riding off the front.

Just outside Black Creek we picked up a kid riding into town for a sleepover with a pal. He had a 40-pound pack on his back and a Bozo strapped to the front. He also had a competitive streak and hung with us for a couple miles.

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When we hit Black Creek, the odometer read right at 62 miles -- hmm, this might be a perfect 200k.

The Wilson County municipality of Black Creek is closer to a ghost town than an ongoing enterprise. At one time the railroad must have been the town's lifeline -- it literally slices the place in two, dividing East Center Street and West Center Street. But the railroad doesn't stop there any more. Not much stops there anymore. There are a dozen old storefronts along the two Center Streets, but only one or two appear to be up and running as a business.

Luckily, the Black Creek Grocery is open -- "8 to 8" -- Mickey the proprietor told us. His family has owned the store since 1979. We bought a gallon of chilled water, chips and sandwiches. Byron heated his sandwich in the microwave until "it was 1,000 degrees on the bottom but still frozen on top."

We ate lunch on the only seat in town -- the bench in front of the BB&T bank -- before heading back around 1 p.m. for the second 100k. Any legs I'd had on trip down must have taken the bus home. On the homeward journey I relied on the kindness of Byron and Branson to break wind, but in a good way.

After so much flat riding, it was almost a relief to get back in a few hills around Youngsville.

Speaking of flats, Byron had one about 5 miles from the finish but got it repaired in no time flat. We finished up a few minutes after 5.

All in all a great day on the bikes, topped off by a pizzas at Rudinos, where we were joined by Maxi.

Here's the map in EveryTrail, after being dumped from my GPS.

Showdown at Black Creek

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dean furbish said...

Great article, Mike.

Please, please, does this mean we can expect another permanent route?

I really couldn't tell by Branson's expression whether or not he was endorsing the drink.

I learned one thing from the article. How many experienced randonneurs does it take to fix a flat? The answer is three---one to fix the flat, one to take the picture, and one to operate the stopwatch. The bad guys at Black Creek didn't have a chance.

Seriously though, please tell me that the young randonneur you met at Black Creek with the 40-lb backpack and Bozo clown riding shotgun didn't drop you guys, but really turned off to his friend's house ;)

I look forward to more posts!

Anonymous said...

Hello im only 13 doing a paper on Black Creek it is where i live and i remember seeing you guys riding around That kid was going to my house lol well niice article
Bye :]]