Sunday, January 4, 2009
Jan 3 2009 200K: A Ticket to Ride
Another Saturday, another morning socked in by a blanket of fog. What gives? This is the third weekend in a row where, to borrow from Mr. Sandburg, the fog came in on little cat feet and sat on its big fat haunches until noon.
In years past, the N.C. Randonneurs would have to wait until spring to get the ACP series under way. Things crank up way earlier now, thanks to Tony Goodnight, who took over as High Point RBA from good friends Richard and Joel Lawrence. Tony has rides scheduled before and after the series of Fearless Leader Al Johnson, which means we now have year-round excuses for ducking yard work. Of course, we also find time to drop in on randonneuring pals in the nearby regions of South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, D.C., Tennessee and Florida. Have bike and credit card. Will travel.
Tony calendared his 2009 200K-kickoff for Jan. 3. The ride launched from Denton, home of the Southeast Old Threshers' Reunion, which is billed as "the greatest steam, gas, and antique farm equipment show in the Southeastern U. S." We would be riding threshers of a different sort, every bit as impressive as the old farm equipment but propelled by a more stubborn variety of mule.
I carpooled down with Byron, leaving Raleigh at 5:15 a.m. for the 7:30 start. We took 64 to 49 before hooking off on Hwy 47 to Denton. During the pre-ride ride I collected a pre-ride brevet card -- a pink one doled out by a humorless but efficient police officer. Reminds me of a story from buddy Rob Wilson. He was in upstate NY on the Taconic Parkway, driving a beat-up old Plymouth, and got pulled over by a trooper. Do you know how fast you were going? the trooper asked. You were going 88 in a 55 mph zone. Really? Rob said. Write that down because none of my friends will believe this car can go that fast.
Our roadside fun over, we reached the start with 15 minutes to spare. So how foggy was it? The ride started in the Lowe's parking lot. We turned around at the parking lot's entrance and headed back into downtown Denton, not being able to see the dozen or so bikers just 50 yards away and already lined up for the start. A quick circle through town and we were back.
I saw lots of the usual N.C. suspects, including Branson, Chuck, Dean, JD, Joel, and happy couples Tom and Mary and Gary and Sara. The N.C. rides have something of a regional pull because of our forgiving winter and spring weather. So we had Glenn and Bill and Justin down from Virginia, as well as VA RBA and friend Matt Settle, Phil Creel from S.C., Larry from Ohio. I'm sure there were one or two others I'm missing.
A quick pep talk from Tony and we were off! And immediately off course. We made two wrong turns in two miles. Fun. Look, I warned my riding buddies, keep this up and I'll pull out my cue sheet. Yes, once again, I was flying blind, no cue sheet, no speedometer. I would rely on the kindness of strangers and the strange for the rest of the day.
Somebody in the lead group was in a hurry. I came off the back in the first 15 miles or so and rode into the first control with Joel and Glenn. Glenn and I swapped a few PBP 07 stories and marveled at the magic of selective memory. Did it rain? Nah, all I remember was a sprinkle or two. Glenn was on his beautiful and immaculate Mercian. That guy really knows how to set up a bike. But his buddy Bill managed to upstage him with a powder blue Waterford that drew the kinds of ahs and oohs normally reserved for classic cars on the hi-def channel. Of course, riding with Joel is always a treat. He's done rides all over the country and he's always good for a story about Texas Hell Week or Calvin's Challenge. And a joke: You the guy that dropped that wad of cash wrapped with a rubber band? Well, I found the rubber band...
We regrouped with the speedsters at the first control, where Paul Smith was waiting to sign cards and greet riders. Always good to see him. As we continued up the road the group dropped it back into social gear. I chatted up JD, the beaming dad who's loving every minute of fatherhood, and Justin, a 19-year-old Hokie student with an amazing focus and ambition. He did our Morrisville series in 07 and last summer rode his bike across the country for a loaded, self-supported tour, including a 1,000 mile detour along the way to see some of the national parks. He now has his sights set on a through hike of the Appalachian Trail. If he represents the leaders of tomorrow I am encouraged. And let me also mention my son, Daniel, who as many of you know is currently serving in the Peace Corps in Mali. I could not be prouder of the path he has chosen.
The fog ultimately skedaddled, leaving behind a glorious day for a bike ride -- lots of warm sun and warmer company. JD and Justin and Tony and Tom took turns setting the pace in our cozy little peleton. I took a couple of pulls for display purposes only before settling back near the caboose of the paceline.
We ate lunch at the control in Woodleaf -- a home-cooked plate of mashed potatoes, pinto beans and strawberry cobbler, washed down with a Dr. Pepper. John Morrison and his daughters showed up at the last control before the finish and handed out yummy coated fruit squares.
Tony pulled the wagon for the last 10 miles to the finish, riding a time trial down Hwy 47 with the rest of us gasping for air. The conversation went something like this: Branson: My heart rate's at 185. Tom: My heart rate's 911.
Back in by 4:20, we changed and immediately swapped war stories, cheering as other riders made the turn into the Lowe's parking lot. A few more stories over pizza just down the street and we pointed the car to home, careful to watch the speed limit as we rolled through each town along the route.