Maybe we've seen the last of our winter rides for this season. I hope so. Putting on 25 pounds of wool every time we go for a ride is starting to get old. The temperatures on Saturday's 400K started at 33, climbed to 55 at mid day then jumped off a cliff into the mid 20s after the sun quit the sky. It wasn't supposed to get below 33 for the evening. But my frozen water bottle tells no lies.
Tony Goodnight, one of the NC RBAs, put on a fantastic event -- or pair of events -- yesterday. For those looking to go long, the 400K was the obvious choice. Or you could break that up into a pair of 200Ks and spend the night at Atlantic Beach.
Tony lives in the middle part of the state but has been opening up new early season territories by taking riders east to the coast. This is the second ride of the year where we got to see the ocean and smell salt air and fried seafood. Yesterday's ride started in Wallace, NC, about 60 miles from the coast and meandered through several coastal towns, including Beaufort, Morehead City, Emerald Isle and Surf City. Everything east of I-95 in North Carolina lies in the coastal plain; several flyover bridges provided the only hills.
Here's the top of the bridge into Atlantic Beach. I'll call this an art shot since it's so out of focus.
Flat rides are tough because you're always pedaling and you're always sitting on your tookus. I wisely slathered on the Lantiseptic at the ride's start and never had any issues.
When you ride down east in NC, sooner or later you're going to run into some big-ass body of water that needs crossing. Historically, many of the crossings were by private ferry. Ferries still serve an essential transportation role but now the state runs them, including the one we took on Saturday's event, a 20-minute ferry ride at Minnesott Beach, where we crossed a broad stretch of the Neuse River. Ferries on brevets may be old hat for the folks in the Seattle area, but it was a first for me on an NC brevet, and it proved to be a pleasant diversion. I looked up the schedule before the ride and saw that it ran every 30 minutes, on the :15 and :45. This bit of knowledge came in handy. When our group got overly excited and ramped up the pace to about 23 mph, Carol and Ende and I sat up. We dropped back to a leisurely conversational pace. We'd done the math -- try as they might, the front group would miss the 1:15 ferry and end up on the same boat as us, at 1:45.
The ferry ride was the perfect time for a lunch break. However, with no restaurants nearby we thought we'd be eating nabs out of the vending machine. Then Tony showed up, just before we boarded, with bags of Subway sandwiches. Ever seen sea gulls swarm the back of a shrimp boat? Here's the rando equivalent at a food source.
A tired rider? Nope, that's Tim from Wilson, doing his best impression of a snake on a rock. He was taking advantage of the sun soaking the ferry deck. Either that, or it's a case of Yoohoo poisoning. Tim lives on that drink.
Here are other riders enjoying our forced break.
Our ferry ride over, we rolled through the lowlands and swamplands, enjoying a slight trailing breeze in our run into Beaufort and Morehead City. The best part about yesterday's ride was our peloton. Ten of the riders on the 400K managed to hang together for nearly the entire ride. That gave me a chance to chat up Keith on his Surly (he has a ride report here) and one of the newer riders, Tim from Wilson, who put in some tremendous efforts on the front. We also had Tom and Mary, Lynn, Carol, Capn Ende, Jimmy and Steven (aka "The Smile Doctor"). Early in the ride we lost Joel, Jerry, Dean, Lin, Gary and Paul, but we passed them in the dark of the night on an out-and-back portion of the route near Surf City.
We had one mechanical along the way. As we rolled into the control at Bogue Inlet Pier near Emerald Isle....
...Capn Ende's right SPD pedal fell slap off the spindle. The bearings were shot. Here he is the moment the pedal failed.
The end of Ende's day? Nope. He located a bike shop about a mile away. Although it was right at closing time, the shop owners waited for him and installed new pedals. The rest of us plowed through piping hot plates of Chinese food at the restaurant a block from the pier. Ende joined us about 15 minutes later, his bike ready to roll once again.
Here, the crew stares across the ocean. If they squint, they can almost see PBP 11.
By my count, our front group had, let's see... 1, 2, 3...4 doctors or dentists. Forty percent. Since percentages are easy with 10 as a denominator, here are a few more: PBP finishers -- 50 percent; LEL finishers -- 30 percent; PAC Tour participants -- 20 percent; Cascade 1200K finishers -- 30 percent; RAAM-qualified riders -- 20 percent; Super Randonneurs -- 90 percent; Women riders -- 30 percent.
Another fine day on the bikes, but by day's end we were all glad to get out of the bitter cold and into something warmer, like a hot shower or a car with the heat cranked.
Quote of the ride, at the Chinese restaurant, with 150 miles down, 100 miles to go: "We've just about got this fish in the boat."
Best improvised cold-weather gear: The bubble wrap that Mary, Tom and Lynn stuffed in the front of their shorts and jerseys for a bit more insulation from the cold.