Well, that was nutty. Just how nutty was it? Never mind the store clerks. Even some of our favorite randonneuring buddies questioned our sanity.
Strike out from the Lumberton Super 8 at 7 a.m. Wet roads from a light rain. The rain was the least of our worries. We were staring down a double-barrel threat of cold and wind. Overnight temperatures in the 20s. Sustained headwinds of 20 mph. Predicted wind gusts of 40 mph.
Let the good times roll. 1K down. Only 599 more to go.
For the record, the evening before the ride started, I tried to sow a few seeds of doubt among my fellow riders. I did my best to turn the tide of public opinion against the 600K. Wow, look at those temperatures and those wind speeds – what, are we crazy? There are other options, I noted. We could do the 300, I said. Be done before the temperatures plunged, I said. Before the winds started screaming in our ears. I got no traction. Local rider Ian Hands and Mark Thomas, who’d flown in from Seattle, were in for the 600K. There was no budging them off their toadstools of enthusiasm. Those are the kind of guys you need leading you into the mental battle of a tough brevet. And so we rode.
The conditions were every bit as raw as the forecasters had called for. There were some very tough moments. Like the slog as we angled into the wind toward a control in the town of Garland, just before 10 p.m. You should have seen our paceline. We were tucked in behind each other for what little protection we could get. Any time the road cut through an open area, we got hit by a fierce and frigid crosswind. On the bigger blasts I watched my fellow cyclists career two or three feet to the right before catching their bikes and leaning back into the wind.
It was raw. It was ugly. And then it was magic.
Right there, in the middle of nowhere. A small country store. Lights on, walls of electric green. The owner has a big smile. And a hot grill. Boys, we have stumbled onto Nirvana. Tacos and burritos and rice and magic beans. Fuel to carry us a few more miles down the road. And a few precious minutes out of the elements. Boy, did we need that. Look at the stunned looks on our faces.
Speaking of magic, Mark pulled two rabbits out of his hat. First, he managed to finish despite a little crash that destroyed his front wheel. For an encore, he made an entire pound of South Carolina barbecue disappear.
Store clerks and curious bypassers often ask why we ride in these crazy conditions. There’s no easy answer for that, but I like the response one of our riders suggested somewhere along this weekend’s 600K misadventure:
“Charity ride? No, ma’am. We are riding to save America.”
Thanks to all for a great day or two on the bikes. Congratulations to Roy for his first 600K. Thanks to Tony for another great series of events. And thanks to RUSA for the sweetest honor I will ever receive.
A few more pix: