Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Foggy Flatland Breakdown: Tar Heel 200, Nov 15, 2009

Penned up all week, local randonneurs were squirming and wanted out to play. They got their chance this past weekend. The forecast for ride day called for a cool start with high temperatures in the low-to-mid 70s, mostly sunny skies, and negligible wind. Not bad for mid November! When the weather broke and the anticipatory ride was announced, eight riders joined the fun: Andy, Byron, Geof, Janis, John, Mary, Tom, and me. The National Weather Service and one of our local meteorologists known as the “Fish” had nailed it. I think they added the fog as an afterthought, a special treat to include an other-worldly element. It worked! Although the surrealism continued long after the fog had lifted, translating into a day of levity on the bikes. A few minutes before the 7 AM start, Janis and Andy are ready. After today’s ride, only four months separate them from their first R-12 Award, having managed to complete eight consecutive monthly Permanents since joining RUSA in April. With one more ride, Janis will have also earned a 2000km Distance Award (medal) for the year. Not bad for a rookie, having only eight months of riding in her first calendar year with RUSA!

Geof, John, and Mary. Can you tell Geof is pumped and ready to go!

So is Tom, who, with Mary (lead-in picture), have been logging considerable miles, readying for the Sebring 24 Hour race in February. The day before our ride, they’d participated in a 100-mile fast-paced club ride. Today would be another training ride. As usual, it was a pleasure riding with them today.

Group, sans Janis (inside), at the Erwin control.
Just after the Averasboro Battlefield Museum, I find myself slicing through the fog behind blogmeister Geof, snapping pictures of a surreal morning landscape that seems to have enveloped us.

Geof’s and my conversation eventually turned to potential blog titles for our upcoming ride reports. “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” fell from my lips. I knew it was lame as soon as it slipped out. It already had two strikes against it. There are no mountains in eastern North Carolina, and no one had had a breakdown. This is when I quickly added, “And I hope no one has a breakdown on today’s ride.” This was before Tom’s flat which caused him to go down just before the turn to Tar Heel. Fortunately, Tom rebounded nicely, although he had us all concerned for a while.

What can you be sure of when you’re cruising through the early morning fog as the shapes of objects continually morph before your eyes and you hear the distant wailing and muffled roar of a fast rumbling freight train?

Look closer, for example, at Mary’s lead-in picture above. Notice the antlers sprouting from her helmet? You may have to click on the picture. This may explain why Tom was overheard occasionally referring to her as “Deer.”

What about the invisible person with gloved hands guarding Andy’s bike while Andy’s getting his Permanent card signed? Spooky, huh?

And then there was the talking dog conversing with Tom that went something like this:

Dog: Hey, mister, is that your Permanent card lying there? You’re gonna need it. I’d fetch it for you, but I’m tied up at the moment.

Tom: Oh, yeah! Thanks, canine!

Dog: Don’t mention it, mister. Have a nice ride. Wish I could chase your wheel!

The sun finally appears just before we reach Stedman.

Andy celebrating the first sunshine in almost a week and Byron (in green) peals down to shorts.

Andy’s on fire, leading the paceline out of Stedman.

While under the Spanish-moss laden trees near the turn to Tar Heel, the driver of an approaching vehicle stopped to inform us that a cyclist ahead had gone down.

When we found Tom, he was in good hands. Mary, who had already reached Tar Heel and had turned back when she’d gotten wind that a rider was down, was on the scene. I could tell instantly by her demeanor that Tom was okay. Even Tom was demonstrating a “preternatural calmness” for the situation, which we’re told is a characteristic of randonneurs.

Apparently, his front tubular had developed a very slow, imperceptible leak and he was thrown attempting to make a turn.

Tom had to decide how he was going to repair the flat. If he were going to replace the tubular, it would take some time to unseat the tire, replace it with a new one, and wait for it to reseat after gluing. He decided instead to try to apply a pressurized sealant into the tire. It was hard to tell if the sealant was going into the tire, since a lot of white foam was building up outside the tire and onto the ground. We crossed our fingers while Tom then reinflated the tire with a gas cartridge. It held, and Tom continued on to the Tar Heel control. All of us were relieved that Tom was okay, his usual sense of humor fully intact.

Just after we’d crossed the Cape Fear River bridge, we met the lead group—Byron, Geof, and John—on the return to Benson, which they’d easily reach before nightfall.

We had a leisurely ride back along River Rd/Tabor Creek Church Rd. Mary, who rides considerable miles in this area, remarks that she’s never seen this stretch flooded. Great news for Permanent riders!

The weirdness continues . . . with an Elvis sighting in Erwin.

As we are putting our bikes up and readying to eat at the Subway, a train rumbles through Benson. Andy remarked that each railroad company has its own characteristic whistle sound. I did not know that!

Five of us then headed over to the adjacent Subway for a post-ride sandwich and ride recap.

I’d mentioned that I had a new toy—a headlight I’d wanted to test, a Magicshine 800 (900 lumens). Although not yet an endorsement, I was amazed at its output at medium power. My reasoning for running the light on medium was due to the fact that Ron, who alerted me to the light, had determined it had a run time of seven hours based on a test in his garage. Time will tell how sturdy it is and whether it develops water issues. I’ll keep you posted.

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot to extend my apologies to Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs for my being inspired by but nonetheless butchering the title of their award-winning instrumental, which is worth a listen and a toe tap or two.

Several riders committed to a December Permanent. Let’s ride! Stay posted! Be safe!


Anonymous said...

Glad to see Tom riding tubulars!

Here's some great sealant for pre-loading a tire as a prevention against flats.

In the past I've used Tufo sealant but I'm anxious to try this. I usually insert some in the tubular after initial glueing.
A syringe works great to get past the valve.

See you guys soon!

"Rico Boy"

sag said...

Hey Elvis, er, Dean,

Thanks for another great ride report and photos. It captures a great day.


-b said...

Thanks for a great ride, Dean. You're in charge of scheduling the weather from now on. Couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day!


skiffrun said...

Foggy Bottom.

Unless you're concerned the DC Randonneurs will think you mean the US State Department.

Jack said...

So, with a few extra weeks, what's the verdict on the Magicshine? I am in the market for a new light pronto as my Ixon IQ just broke.

While I like the convenience of having AA batteries in the Ixon IQ, I am drawn like a moth to the amazing light of the Magicshine. The cheap price doesn't hurt either!