Sunday was one of the shortest days of the year. Perfect for a long ride. A dozen of the Tar Heel randonneurs struck out from a parking lot in Benson on Dean's Tar Heel 200K, which winds through the flatlands down to Tar Heel, the town. Befitting the season, we bundled up like Ralphie's little brother in A Christmas Story. Maria even had strings on her new gloves. It was below freezing when we started, and above freezing when we finished, but I couldn't tell you exact numbers on either end. With warm clothing and good company, it just didn't seem that bad. This was my first time riding the Tar Heel route. I liked it. At least half the group managed to stay together for most of the journey; a flat route lends itself to that sort of pack riding. We generally lollygagged through each and every control for a full day of riding in the crisp winter air, rolling back into Benson at dusk, the Christmas lights ablazing a trail for us.
I'd like to say the ride went off without a hitch. But we had one accident along the way, set in motion by a dog that leaped across a drainage ditch directly in front of us, shortly after the Steadman control. I was following Mary and Tom was on my wheel. As the dog made his grand appearance, Mary hit her brakes hard. I followed suit and veered to the left to avoid her. Tom did the same, but to use a NASCAR term, I collected him and he went head over heels onto the road. His handlebar went through my rear wheel, pulling a spoke, nipple and all, out of the rim and locking up my wheel when the handlebar jammed against my seat stays. It also put a series of handsome dents in my stainless Berthoud fender. I dragged Tom's bike down the road but managed to stay upright. Tom was apparently none the worse for wear. The only damage appeared to be a few scrapes on his bootie -- and by that I mean his shoe cover, not the one you shake. Chalk it up to his martial arts training, where a good part of the education focuses on how to fall without injury. We dusted ourselves off and had a short and unsatisfactory exchange with the dog owners. It took about five minutes to get the handlebar out of my rear wheel as it was lodged securely between two other spokes. Then our resident mechanic, Byron, pulled out a spoke wrench and had my wheel in rideable shape in short order. Adventure over, away we wobbled.
A special thanks to Dean for hosting the crowd, congratulations to all who needed the 200K in pursuit of the coveted R-12 Award, and a tip of the wool cap to Maria, who has figured out how to stay warm when things get cold. A special congrats to Tom and Mary, who will have 15,000 miles for the year by the end of this week! It was great seeing Sridhar out there. Here's to many more rides with him in 2010.
A few photos:
Dean lit up like a... well, Christmas tree.
Geoffy Pop gives words of encouragement to Nanook of the South.
Here are Tom and Mary giving a little love to the photographer....
Burger King -- putting the gas in gastronomic.
Dean and Fearless Leader Al on the move. Thanks to the magic of the InterWebs, this image was on Facebook exactly 15 seconds before I took it.
Fearless Leader Al can do this ride in his sleep.
Byron...fastest wrench in the South.
Maria breaks the speed of light on a slight downhill stretch.
Telephone pole badly in need of a shave.