Sunday, April 24, 2011

Team Lantisepsis: Big Hill Baggers

Hardest fleche route I've done. Scrambling for time the entire time. Hit the 22-hour control with 7 minutes to spare. But we bagged it. A sweet trophy of a ride.

Along for the journey:

  • Cap'n "Kidney Stone" Ende, who assembled the team and planned the route.
  • Branson Kimball, who challenged 16,000 feet of mountainous ascents and hair-raising descents on a fixed gear.
  • Guest star Spencer Klaassen of Missouri on a single speed. Spencer is an accomplished world traveler with more randonneuring swag than Mark Thomas.

The highlights:

8:10 a.m. As we head to our starting point a dreadlocked teen flags us down at Craggy Gardens. He is soaked and cold. He is not wearing any shoes. He borrows a phone. He needs a ride back to town. What are you guys doing? he asks. A bike ride? In this weather? 

8:25 a.m. Unload the bikes at the top of Mt. Mitchell, in a hard rain. The temperature: 42 degrees.

8:33 a.m. Wait in the biting cold as the other boys take care of business in a U.S. Government restroom.

8:40 a.m. Drop down from 6,660 feet into the fog, Branson off the front, legs spinning madly at 35 miles per hour. We fear for his sanity.

11:52 a.m. Mile 43. The rain has stopped, morale is high and the fellow working the gate at the Arboretum is happy to sign cards. We learn something new -- bikers get in free. We'll save that for another day.

1:06: p.m. Mile 58. A self portrait taken in Etowah is posted on Facebook.  It's all smiles for the camera and then we head the wrong way out of the parking lot.

2:51 p.m. Mile 71. Lunch in Flat Rock, sandwiches and steaming bean soup, and talk up Carl Sandburg, who has a house there equipped with U.S. Government restrooms. Carl likely had our fleche team in mind when he wrote "fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness."

5:05 p.m. Mile 95. We stop at the control in Brevard and the sweet lady who signs our cards asks how we are getting to the next town, Rosman. Capn tells her East Fork Road. She looks puzzled. "East Fork Road? Is that paved now?" We do a little math. It will take us 9.5 hours to do the first 100 miles. And the really hard climbing has not yet begun. The panic comes in on little cat feet and sinks its claws in. 

5:28 p.m. The single speed crew are forced to walk their bikes up the perfectly paved but treacherously steep East Fork Road. They begin "flinging magnetic curses (to quote Carl again) amid the toil of piling job on job." 

5:30 p.m. Capn successfully quashes the undertones of mutiny. It will not be the last time he must step up to put down open rebellion. Capn has tapped into a universal truth: Great talent must sometimes be coddled. This sign is at the top of one hill on East Fork. It says it all.

7:28 p.m. Mile 118. At our Balsam Grove control, I head around back to use the privately owned restroom. A young boy whose house is just behind the convenience store is toting a large sack of garbage. He pitches it into a dumpster. He confides, "I'm just a little kid but my dad lets me take out the trash." I immediately declare this the quote of the ride. Carl swinging for the fence on his finest day can't touch that.

10:30 p.m. Mile 138. Well, that was hell on two wheels. We have just gutted it out on the painful nine mile climb up Route 215 to the Parkway.  In poetry, the fog may come in on little cat feet. Up on the Blue Ridge Parkway, at 5,200 feet after a rainstorm, the fog stomps around like a rutting wild boar. We use the solid yellow line to keep us on target. The folks at Pisgah Inn, located on the Parkway at Pisgah, are cheerful and accommodating. They don't blink twice when we park our damp fannies on their fine Mission Oak leather. The Inn's restaurant closed hours ago. We take an inventory of our food stock: three gels, a Snickers bar and some pocket lint. That should get us down the hill.

12:34 a.m. Mile 166. Team Lantisepsis regroups in Etowah after briefly separating when Capn diesels off the front. There is no food to be had. Things may be looking bleak but it is too dark to be certain.

2:49 a.m. Mile 188. Food! We find an open Huddle House in Asheville and hunker down over plates of eggs and hashbrowns and waffles and bacon and sausage and grits.

Capn questions whether we have the fortitude to make it up a one mile climb that stands between us and a control five miles away at Capn's house. We are uncertain whether this a psychological trick or a very steep hill.

4:30 a.m. Mile 195. We strike out from the Ende's. Our plan to catch a 30-minute catnap was foiled by a yellow lab named Ellie, who was none too pleased at us invading her sleep and was only too happy to return the favor with an ingenious strategy of nonstop earflapping. To sum up: the people did not rest, for sleep was not there and the touch of dreams was just out of reach.

5:25 a.m. Mile 202. Hey, things are looking up. We reached the post office control in Alexander in record time. Maybe we are studs after all. Since the 22 hour control store doesn't open until 6 a.m., we poke around for a few minutes then lollygag toward Marshall. Our 22 hour clock will start at 6:30 a.m.

6:23 a.m. What the =#&$@? Mile 215. We've miscalculated and roll into the 22-hour control with just 7 minutes to spare. We've all looked at the profile for the next 17 miles and know we'll have our work cut out for us -- there are two serious climbs toward the end. We'll need to work hard to make it in on time.

7:44 a.m. Mile 230. That's us, smiling away. We're at the top of the last climb. Tony met us there and snapped this shot of Team Lantisepsis.  All we have left is a 3 mile screaming descent into Hot Springs. Branson may truly be screaming as one of the toughest downhills of the entire ride threatens to shred his tired legs. The riders heading out on Tony's 200K passed us as we climbed the final hill. They waved and cheered. We felt like conquering heroes.

8:00 a.m. Mile 234. Hot Springs, hot damn! We park our bikes on the porch of the Diner, just yards away from the Appalachian Trail. We are all done. This tough old fish is out of the pond and into the record books. Ende says take a picture, this is his last fleche. He said that after the last fleche, too. We pile into a booth, order pancakes and coffee and eggs and bacon and grits and toast and juice. We begin to fill our bellies. 

Let the tall tales begin.

Thanks to the Endes for the hospitality, the Easter basket, the gig, the double lattes, the good times.

Special thanks: Tony for making it happen.

Congratulations: Jimmy's team.

Missed you: Carol and George. Next time.


I asked professors who teach the meaning of life to tell me what is happiness.

And I went to famous executives who boss the work of thousands of men.

They all shook their heads and gave me a smile as though I was trying to fool with them.

And then one Sunday afternoon I wandered out along the Desplaines river

And I saw a crowd of Hungarians under the trees with their women and children and a keg of beer and an accordion.

-- Carl Sandburg


sag said...

Wow. Just wow.


Cap'n said...

Someday randonneurs will be doing a fleche and pass the Mike Dayton house. The ride report will be filled with Daytonian prose. Nice work flyer. Great time as always. Are we the hungarians? Next time I'll build in more food controls and maybe you won't be so hungarian.

Rich said...

Good ride! Sounds like a figure eight scramble without enough eggs that hit all the local high-lights!

geof said...

wowzer! awesome ride, and very entertaining report Mikey!

super job guys!

the riding out there is spectacular, and after the 200k, I can imagine what some of that was like in the dark. exhilarating!

'twas great to see ya on the final climb. you all were conquering heroes.


skiffrun said...

Nice double-concept for the write-up. Well done.

Oh, and the ride sounds epic, too.

Anonymous said...

Amazing.. Great write up.


John Morris said...

Great ride and write-up, Mike. Branson, if you can ride this on your fixie, PBP should be a breeze! John M.

bullcitybiker said...

My only regret is there were not enough "Dude" references from "The Big Lebowski" during the ride. But I did hear Cap'n throwing out some Girl Talk samples.

One of the best- if not the best- ride reports I've had the pleasure to read. I know I'm not exactly partial but I'm sticking to it.

Thanks for the adventure and the fun, fellas-


Doctor on a bike said...

Wow. I was ready to lead the mutiny about half-way through reading this. Amazing stuff.