Thursday, April 19, 2012

The 8x10 Love Flèche

Last Saturday marked the weekend for the DC Flèche – the 6th I‘ve ridden and the 5th with Lynn Kristianson. She is a Flèche Machine and always manages to put together a terrific team of cyclists with complementing personalities and abilities. Her routes are carefully planned and her cue sheets are the best I have ever seen.

Our team name, The 8X10s, was derived from having 8 riders on 10 wheels (three tandems and two singles). Lynn even arranged to have perfect weather with near perfect wind from the SSW. Our route carried us from Stony Creek, VA to DC via Disputanta, Newville, Ashland, Kelly’s Ford, Manassas, Fair Lakes, Vienna, and other DC suburbs.

The 8x10s jelled from the beginning, but we had a big head start. Six of the team were holdovers from last year and four of us had ridden together three years ago. We are such a tight group that we even decided to write the ride report together which you can read below. Enjoy—we sure did.

The 8x10s – Joel Dechter

It is a rare day that you can combine 8 people, 10 wheels, 24hrs, and 234 miles and finish smiling as if you were on a two-week vacation. We managed to do so. Logistics were a non-issue. Just show up, follow the cue and eat your way through the southern countryside. Need a gourmet meal and a hot shower? 8x10’s got you covered. Want to step back in time and hang with Ma and Pa Kettle at the fire station? We got that too. Group dynamics are critical to any human interaction. Riding with the 8x10s was similar to packing 8 of your dearest friends into an RV and taking a cruise to Fantasy Island. We had puppets dancing in the trees, whip-poor-wills calling from the roadside and locals quizzing us like talk show hosts. The enthusiasm was infectious, the route impeccable and the experience beyond five stars. Can we do it again next week?

Newville Control – Mary McLaughlin

One of our first control stops was the Newville Country Store and Service Center. Calling this place a “service center” is really funny because the service here is not so good. The little old lady who runs the place looks like she could be your dear, sweet grandma. Don’t be fooled! Last year she barked at us “Who gave you permission to write the name of my store on this here card?” Yikes. We are gluttons for punishment so we went back again this year. The plan was to send Mary into the store first, have her scope it out, and sweet talk the old lady into thinking it was her lucky day to have us there. Only problem is, we forgot to tell Jerry the plan so he waltzed right in there and had his peanuts and water at the checkout counter before any of us had our helmets off. Truth be told, while the little old lady wasn’t jumping out of her rocker to welcome us, she was ok and handed us receipts without a problem. She diligently worked on her cross stitch while we enjoyed our snacks in the company of stuffed turkeys and dead flowers. It was all good.

Half-Truths and Dissembling – Jerry Phelps

One of my heroes is Mark Twain who famously said, among other things, “Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story.” So continue reading with that in mind.

Somewhere along the route well past midnight, we pulled into a control at a 24/7 gas station. As the 5 bikes pulled up, some random, friendly, gregarious, probably drunk guy got out of his car and asked “Where are you guys going?” I greeted him and responded that we were on our way to DC (I think we were about 50 miles away, but I can’t be sure—it’s all kind of fuzzy). He replied, “Wow DC!? That’s about 50 miles from here. Where did you start?” “Lynchburg,” I said, but he misunderstood my slurred mumbles at that wee hour and thought I had said Pittsburg.

“Pittsburg?!! ” Instead of correcting him, I thought it best to let him go on thinking he was among cycling greats and said as nonchalantly as possible, “We started Saturday morning at 7 o’clock . We’re going to take an hour break here and finish by 7 AM today. It’s a 350 mile ride.”

Mr. Friendly gave all of us the look that all of you have seen. Waiting for me to say “Just kidding” he continued to look at me with the blank stare with who knows what was going on in his addled brain (if anything). Fade to black.
Well that’s my story. The careful reader will realize that it’s a story from another flèche three years prior, but that’s just a minor detail. I hope Mr. Twain would approve.

Manassas Ghost Rider – Lynn Kristianson

On our way to the 22-hour control at the Fair Lakes Wal-Mart, it was eerily quiet in downtown Manassas, where they do not, unfortunately, set all the traffic lights to blink. Heading towards us was a very bright headlight...on a bike…with a front basket. There was a rider with a reflective vest and maybe even ankle bands. Was the World’s Greatest Randonneur going solo on his own flèche? But wait, it's a woman, in her prime, going to work at Wal-Mart, the Liberia Avenue store, not ours. She was a bread and pastry baker there and so cheerful. Doesn't she know Wal-Mart workers are downtrodden and oppressed and that it is 3 am and she is on a bicycle?! She was so happy to see us and wished us a wonderful trip and good shopping at Fair Lakes. "Nothing like Wal-Mart for bargains, anytime."

22 Hour Control – Zombie Land at WallyWorld – Lynn Kristianson

Jerry, John and Cindy led the way into the Fair Lakes parking lot. Much to my amazement, they wheeled their bikes right through the automatic doors (Jerry may have ridden his.). I thought this was being a little presumptuous; there were quite a few cars in front of the store. Someone might yell at us. But no, here was a perfect bicycle parking area by the shopping carts and riding carts and no one around to say "Hey what do you think you're doing.” Mary had grand ambitions for being the first at all the specials. Mostly we dazedly wandered the aisles where all the employees were busily stocking shelves. Many of them offered to help us find what we were looking for, which was actually a place to lie down. We gravitated back to the front of the store and curled up by our bicycles or in the unoccupied Customer Service area (how did they know this was the service we needed?), except for Mary and Sue who found some excellent rocking chairs locked together outside the store. Slumber ensued for the 40 or so minutes until we could buy our fruit and leave.

The Motley Crew – John Mazur and Cindy Piotrowski

So why do people do fleches? To see the real America? To break their curfew? For bragging rights in their day job? Or, most probably, to REALLY get to know some fellow randonneurs! What you want to do, is force a small (or large) amount of physical pain, deep fatigue, sleep deprivation, and sugar/caffeine overload onto a fairly “mature” group and see what spills out of the interactions. Repeat only once a year for safety’s sake. So what little deep secrets did we learn from our potentially volatile combination? Really only a few basic truths – and please, these are simply truths so there should be no offense taken… 1) Mary has been giving deeply lacking family counseling advise for who knows how long. In the future, she will QUICKLY contact Joel or John to help pinpoint how the wife has failed to do her wifely duties. Hopefully this has been caught soon enough before too much damage has been done. 2) Joel and John (and possibly all men driving mini-vans) are the objects of desire of almost every woman that drives by. Yeah, could be the vans, the “interesting” leg warmer style, or the Elton John glasses… chicks dig ‘em! 3) Though she feigns being happily married, Sue, quite obviously, is well known for being a “back ho”. Who knew! 4) Jerry, in a moment of weakness, bragged about being filmed by Brooks while holding hands with some foreign man. We still respect him (socks and all).

There’s more, but it just needs another sleep deprived ride to tease it all out.....

Rookie Point of View -- Sue Senter

This was my first fleche and I have to admit my favorite part of the ride was the whole 24 hours the eight of us spent together. From the time we climbed on our bikes after eating a hearty breakfast at Denny’s (accept for Mary who was gypped on the cranberries and apples that supposed to accompany her oatmeal) until reaching the Marriott, our final destination, I would say our time together was a party on wheels. I am struck by the stimulating conversations brought forth by all members of the group that easily made the miles fly by. I am frequently questioned by my non-cycling friends and co-workers as to why I do these long bike rides; they don’t understand how anything like this could be fun. Little do they know the conversations and advice I receive are what keep me coming back.

With that in mind, here is a rundown of some topics of discussion that stand out in my mind and have left a lasting impression:

1) Why is there so much garbage along the road and how does it possibly get there?
2) Tell me about your experience riding PBP (or insert any other ride).
3) So, you did this ride last year and the weather really sucked, why would you do the ride again?
4) Does shaving your legs really make a difference in the lasting quality of your pantyhose? Do you prefer control –top, reinforced toes, or sandal toe pantyhose?
5) Lynn—Our next control is 20 miles away; please tell me how I am supposed to curb my hunger between this stop and the next?
6) Why do women swarm John and Joel? (at least in their minds)
7) What form of therapy is best for an overweight couple who quit having sex three years ago? What advice would be best for this couple?
8) How many of these brevet rides have you done and how long have you been doing this addictive sport?
9) What exactly do you do in your day job to support your cycling habit?
10) John & Cindy, how long have you been married (legally) and what led you to making the big decision of marriage?
11) Who are the big names in Randonneuring and how many thousands of kilometers have they ridden? Do they have bike seats imprinted on their asses?

I could continue the never ending list of topics; however, the real benefit of doing such a ride came to me today when I returned to work. I had a mailbox full of emails to respond to, phone calls waiting to be returned, a host of meetings to attend, and a budget shortfall to address. I found myself tackling the daily grind of work from a different perspective. The 24 hours I spent with Team 8x10 provided me a new (and much needed) source of energy. I can’t wait to do this again!!!

Member Profiles – Mary McLaughlin

Capt. Lynn – Fearless leader. Master route planner. Expert time keeper. Shameless Bingo crasher. Climbs hills like a homesick angel. Remembers the exact location of every pothole from a ride she did 6 years ago. Doesn’t need a stinkin’ Garmin because her brain is wired with killer map skills that make those fancy devices look like useless Cracker Jack toys.

Gordon – Riding with Gordon is like having a SAG wagon on your team. He can fix anything and does it with a smile. Flat tire? No problem. Broken chain? He’s got it. Don’t feel like riding anymore? He could probably build you some new legs. Strong rider who is usually up front and pulling our team. Always cheerful. Always helpful. Doesn’t judge you for eating sour patch kids during rides. An all around nice guy and a pleasure to be around.

John – Lucky duck who gets to ride with Cindy. Competes in Ironmans in his spare time. Considers running 50-mile races a hobby. Known for hilarious one-liners when you least expect them (like yelling at a child on the side of the road at 10 o’clock to “Go to bed!”). Tries to coerce the group to go dancing around 2:00 a.m. on every Flèche ride. He has yet to succeed.

Cindy – The sharpest tool in the shed (no joke). This gal is a triple threat: brains, beauty, and brawn. The powerhouse behind John. Always pleasant. Never complains. Never stops pedaling. Keeps a watchful eye over her husband as he naps in Wal-Mart. A real team player.

Jerry – Mr. Dependable. Who wouldn’t want this guy on their flèche team? If you Google “low maintenance cyclist,” Jerry’s picture would pop up. This guy could ride a flèche in 12 hours if it was allowed. Funny, friendly and often up front pulling the pack. Nice cycling clothes. Cool socks.

Mary – Likes to give back to the communities she rides through by listening to the local’s problems at control stops. Doesn’t always know where she’s going but has a lot of fun getting there. Easily persuaded to do rides she’s not sure she can complete. Would buy ocean front property in Arizona if Lynn was selling it.

Joel – Larry, Moe, Curly and Sigmund Freud wrapped up into one. There’s “funny” and then there’s Joel. Known for exemplifying “boundary free living,” he adds a much needed shock value to these long 24 hour rides. (I’d give an example but I don’t think it would make it to press). In addition to doing stand-up, Joel is a school guidance counselor and seems like a darn good one at that. So if you’ve got problems and you like to laugh – you want this guy on your team.

Sue – The shadow puppet master. Can do the YMCA at all hours of the night with precision that is unmatched by anyone else on the team. You’d never guess this was her first flèche. She barely broke a sweat all day. Always upbeat and does a nice job pushing Joel up the hills. Easy going and accepts the fact that a sub and a panini are the same thing in southern Virginia.

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