This weekend's ride sounded like a good idea, way back in the fall, when Branson first proposed it. Ride my permanent, Capitols of the Confederacy, from Raleigh to Richmond, and attend the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. Hey, bike to see bikes. I'm in.
The devil was in the details, as always. Branson and I both had busy work weeks. That meant leaving after work, in the dark, for a 195-mile ride in temperatures that started in the mid-30s and would surely get colder during the night. The whole plan sound nutty as the start date drew near, and I fretted over it all week. Would I be able to stay warm enough? What about the wind? How about the traffic on the two urban ends of our route?
All that worrying, all that wasted energy. The night was cold, but we weren't, except for the feet every once in a while. The wind was very light and occasionally helpful as it swept across from our left shoulders. Roads were quiet, drivers were polite, the moon was nearly full, and low clouds moved in, trapping heat from the day. In short, it was a fine night for a bike ride. In fact, it was incredibly pleasant. Virginia's rural lanes make for some of the best bike riding in the country. Yeah, it could have been a bit warmer, but rides can always be a bit more or less of something, can't they? A bit less hilly, windy, hot, humid. But when there's good company, like Branson or a host of other riding buddies, those things ultimately don't matter all that much. They're just your shared hardships, ripe for embellishment and exaggeration at a later date.
Capitols follows the Lake Loop up to Kerr Dam, so no cue sheet was needed for the first 73 miles, until we dropped off to the right after the dam and continued north on Bike Route 1. We did have to walk across the bridge at Nutbush; it was blocked by debris from high water in the lake.
Here's Branson on the dam for the obligatory photo op. First time I've gotten one in the dark.
We passed the spot where Branson tossed several bags of cookies in 2008, when we did the inaugural ride of this permanent. Last time, Branson was forced to abandon at the Huddle House in Blackstone. This time, we sat down for an hour long breakfast feast from 4 a.m. to 5 a.m., Sadie, our waitress dished up eggs and dished out free advice. We were both sleepy coming into Blackstone, but the breakfast revived us, and we didn't feel too cold, even after that long break, when we got moving again.
Here, Branson practices his 1,000-yard stare in a 900-yard building.
The sun came up near the "Share The Road" sign that has a tractor on it. I took a picture of the sunrise, since I got a picture of that sign on the last ride.
The run into Richmond was largely uneventful. The sun was up now, and it felt like an early morning spin. Our route deviated from Bike Route 1 at Plank Road in Oral Oaks. I believe we picked it back up on Genito Road, at about mile 150, before we crossed the Appomatax River. The route was designed by Lynn K from DC-Rand, and it was a terrific path into Virginia's capital. We crossed the James River on the Huguenot Bridge, a narrow two-laner that was finished in 1950. A fellow I talked to from the Virginia Bicycle Federation was aghast when I told him we'd crossed that bridge, but the Saturday traffic was not too heavy and cars had no trouble getting around us.
We rolled into downtown Richmond at 11 a.m. Branson, who had developed a powerful hunger, suggested we stop at a restaurant on Cary Street. He chose Coppola's Deli (Slogan should be: "we'll make you a sandwich you can't refuse") where we had a proper sit down lunch and lots of cold drink. When we came out of the deli, Branson had a flat tire, and he rode it that way for three miles to the Convention Center. Done with one adventure and on to the next, as met up with lots of our pals at the Handmade Bike Show and made several new ones. More on that later....