Monday, January 18, 2010

Road Trip: Tarheels in Gainesville

Check out the brand new randonneuring poster and poster child.

Without a doubt, Lin had way too much fun in Gainesville this past weekend. When Laura turned him over to us for safe keeping, we were obviously guilty of being way too permissive. Sridhar and I apparently forgot whose turn it was to watch him.

Thing is, we’re still at a loss as to what really transpired. Did Lin take a BMX side excursion (Sridhar’s hypothesis)? Or did he and Sridhar just get into it some where along the way (my hypothesis)? For Lin’s part, he’s not talking. Could he have really gone after that gator that caught him in a stare down? If that’s the case, then not only did Lin live to not talk about it, but the understanding—What happens in Gainesville stays in Gainesville—remains intact.

Five wet NC Randonneurs at the finish of this year’s Gainesville 200km (l.- r., Alan, Dean, Mike O, Lin, Sridhar).

Owing to well-lubricated roads, triangle tarheels’ elapsed time of under 9:30 wasn’t too shabby, considering we’d taken time out for a catered lunch; lollygagged at a couple of controls; stood around “helping” change a flat and adjust a derailleur. Not to mention sundry other antics which were nothing more than veiled time-killing activities in last ditch hopes of maintaining some sort of face-saving pretension of early-season fitness.

In anticipation of what has now become almost an annual event for a few Triangle-area randonneurs, e-mails danced back and forth last week with subject lines about potential eateries, weather forecasts, and riding clothes. The same was probably true in other randonneuring enclaves sealed off by winter’s cold.

Upon awakening the morning of our ride, we brushed the sleep from our eyes, turned on the coffee pot in our room, and began munching calorie-dense scones we’d procured the previous evening from Panera Bread.

Note the really clean bikes already prepped, lining the hallway, dutifully and eagerly awaiting their riders.

All we had to do was pull on our cycling clothes and head out the door to the parking garage less than a hundred yards away where we’d join some 60 other randonneurs under bright fluorescent lights reflecting off yellow and orange rain gear in anticipation of a rainy day.

I should have suspected something when I glanced at my controle card and saw a leaping frog!

RBA Jim provided pre-ride instructions. He delivered part pep talk, part etiquette rules, part safety instructions.

I imagined hearing him say that the rain probably wouldn’t be as bad as the forecasters had predicted, not to pilfer oranges, feed the panthers, or pet the alligators. But I could be wrong. Admittedly, I should be more attentive at crucial moments like these. I get distracted by the bright lights, the vivid colors, the cool bikes, the crowd of people, my pounding heart . . .

At any rate, I distinctively heard Jim say, “It’s 7:30. Go!”

He must have said it because both Lin and Sridhar jumped out with me ahead of everyone.

We headed out of the parking garage onto SW 16 St. Our lead group of five or so was able to catch the green light at the first turn—hmm, SW 16 Ave—then two blocks later, the green light crossing over US 441. The second light pinched off the rest of the pack, which we were able to hold at bay all the way into the first control at mile 34.

Sridhar, Lin, and me heading toward the water park in Gainesville.

Membership of our small group remained in flux the first four or five miles. Three strong riders, including Lin’s friend, the affable “grand randonnée” Judith, went off the front and disappeared for good.

Our group dropped one, reeled another in, while three caught us from behind. Eventually, seven of us—Lin, Sridhar, Cory, Roger, Van, Terry and me—settled into a rotating paceline for the next 50 miles.

Here is Sridhar (yellow) and Roger, who is down from Georgia and glad to be riding in Florida. Roger said they’d been gripped by a cold spell since before January and that he was tired of ice freezing in his beard. At least the cool rain today was not freezing. Incidentally, Roger is excited about serving as a 2010 volunteer for the support crew for fellow Georgian randonneur and last-year RAAM notable, Kevin K. Go Kevin!

Our group finally pulled into the first en-route control (mile 34), where I grabbed a bottle of water and got my card signed before the horde that was chasing us descended.

Here come Phil and Woody from South Carolina; our Alan and Mike; Andy and the Georgia crowd; as well as a dozen or more folks down from Ohio; with many more to come.

Phil from South Carolina.

Alan and Mike at the first en-route contrôle.

Our original group left together, quickly forming another paceline.

Cory, Roger, Sridhar, Van, Terry . . .

Lin and cyclotourist me taking the picture.

Cory is a Floridian. Awaiting her RUSA number, this was her first-ever brevet. A strong rider, she regularly rides with a group of “tough” riders who have a habit of riding 70 miles before taking a break. Terry and Van are also from Florida.

Roger springs a flat and the paceline pulls over to “help,” or, as Sridhar says, “take a bio-break.” We learn that it’s a very tiny red-glass shard poking through his front Michelin that’s causing the problem.

Having knowingly relinquished our position, we wave to the pacelines now overtaking us, who ask if we need help.

We regroup under hazy drizzle.

Just before the lunch control, Lin needs to make a mechanical adjustment. Although Lin insists that we go ahead with the group, Sridhar and I won’t give him the satisfaction. Instead, we wish to make him suffer as a direct result of our company.

At the lunch control (mile 73), Meegan outdoes herself again this year. Cold drinks, pasta salad, and desserts await riders. Meegan personally serves each rider, constructing special-order sandwiches on the spot. Not only that, we dine on china using real silver ware, socializing with friends.

Finally with full tummies and Camelbaks, we hit the road again. Everything was mellow until we turned right onto NW 32 Ave at mile 94. What happened next I’m not exactly sure, but by the time we made a left just a mile and a half later, it was all over, and Lin looked like he’d just been crowned BMX champion.

A little later, Sridhar, Lin, and I were joined by a group of five-or-so cyclists at an intersection who were awaiting some “wheels.” We gathered they meant us, when they fell in right behind us.
Just before entering the last en-route control at mile 106, we heard the clap of thunder. That meant that in addition to donning reflective gear and riding with lights for the last 20 miles due to the darkening sky, we’d also don rain gear. Alan and Mike pulled in after us, so we decided to wait for them and ride together as a group the last leg of the journey, Team Tarheel.

No more pictures. It was time to seal the camera inside a plastic baggie and place the baggie inside my pannier out of the rain for the remainder of the ride.

A shame, since for me at least, the last leg was the most memorable—five buddies riding through the countryside in the rain, through the puddles: kids on bicycles in the spring rain.

After arriving back at the hotel, signing and relinquishing our contrôle cards and showering, we set about the business of deciding what and where we were going to eat. Having had Mexican the night before, we settle on Thai over animated conversation of the day’s events and past rides.

The name, Yo A, is mentioned more than once across the weekend. Highly fitting since Adrian “pioneered” the Gainesville trek for Triangle folks.

Eight hours in a car to Gainesville. Ten hours on a bike. Eight hours in a car to Raleigh. Eight hours is too long to spend in a car. —Adrian Hands, 2008

Securing bikes the next morning for the return trip in the squinty sun, the locals had witnessed a little taste of legendary Alan’s rain-making prowess on the previous day.

Here’s hoping for a return trip! Thanks to Jim and Meegan for hosting another spectacular event and for making us out-of-towners feel special!

Congratulations to Mike O, who with this ride is now within a couple of months of his R-12. For me, the ride represents R-36.

Let’s ride!


sag said...

Hi Dean, neat report.

Congrats on your 3rd R-12.


bullcitybiker said...

Great photos and fun read. I second the congrats to all. And Dean- you're a month ahead of me so I think this ride is your R-37, right? Check the Awards section at to make sure.

Mike O. said...

It was a good day for fenders, I spent a considerable amount of the time dodging rooster tails. I'm much happier with my results this year compared with the last time I rode it in 2008 with Adrian; 3 flat tires, the glue in the patch kit was bad and my pump was broken.

Mike O

Jerry Phelps said...

Nice job Dean and crew. No wildlife sightings this year?

"...five buddies riding through the countryside in the rain, through the puddles: kids on bicycles in the spring rain."

That's what it's all about!


Anonymous said...

Adrian is right about the drive, but the muddy ride sure looked like fun.

Congrats to you all.


dean furbish said...

Branson, congratulations to you on your R-36!

Jerry kept me company on my first RUSA ride (Kerr Lake Loop) from Clarksville back to north Raleigh in February 2007.