Saturday, September 20, 2008

Tracing the Natchez (Natchez Trace 600K)

How many warning signs does it take before you wonder if a ride is meant to be? Maybe I'm too dense but looking back, there were plenty of things that should have made me go "Hmmmmm." The mysterious exploding tube at 9pm the night before? No problem. The agitated skunk trotting along in front of me after the start? Okaayyyyy. The rear hub not freewheeling, just 40 miles in? Uh oh! Then finally, a pedal that suddenly won't engage as we reenter the hills? It's only 60 miles to the finish- I don't care if I have to walk!

The Natchez Trace 600K put on by the Harpeth Bicycle Club was a fantastic ride. Byron, a former Nashvillian, knew the first 100K on the Trace like the back of his hand. South of there, we were both in new territory. The Trace is much like the Blue Ridge Parkway in design: low posted speeds, limited access, beautiful scenery. We rode 300K south from Nashville to Tupelo, then returned. The terrain near Nashville was constantly rolling, but at least it was shaded. Alabama had big, sometimes painful, hills without shade. Mississippi had neither.

Saturday was sunny, hot (in the lower 90s) and very windy. Sustained winds in our faces at 15-20 mph with gusts above 25. Limited water options forced us to ride conservatively. Night fell in Tupelo and we got a great tailwind to start pushing us home. Again, few water options meant watching our water. Dawn broke above a thick cloud deck in Collinwood. The temperatures fell, the winds actually picked up. Low clouds scudded by at amazing speed. One volunteer raised our hopes: "Virtually 0 percent chance of rain." A mile down the road, it was PBP all over again, minus the cheering.

We tried to keep moving during the brevet. We took 15-20 minute catnaps often but never laid down for real sleep. Byron was great company and awesome with his MacGyver skills. Dude could probably build a bike out of a few twigs and a couple links of chain. RBA Jeff Sammons was also a blast to ride with. His club really came out to support the riders. I say without reservation that this was the best-supported brevet I've ever ridden. Big thanks to Jeff B, Bill & Sametta, David, and Kent. I was bowled over to have a RAAM record-holder humbly asking if I wanted mustard or mayo on my sandwiches.

They're talking about a 1000K or even more on the Trace next year. I'm not sure if I can make it- but I'll be watching for the signs.


1 comment:

dean furbish said...

Thanks, Branson, for sharing your ride impressions. Congratulations to both of you! I loved the quote about your riding companion: "Byron was great company and awesome with his MacGyver skills. Dude could probably build a bike out of a few twigs and a couple links of chain."

You speak well of your Tennessee hosts in terms of the well-supported brevet. In truth, when I think of our NC brevet volunteers, your name comes to mind. Thanks for your support this year!

Hope to ride with you guys soon!