|Final control: Mark, Tom, Mike, Luke, Mary, Ed, Andy, Capn, Ian, Vincent. Photo by Tony G.|
So yeah. Three years in a row. A winter 600K. This was the best weather yet, and it won’t great. Ice in the water bottles cold. Better than the rainstorm of 2011 and the freezing windstorm last year. Maxi went to a party Saturday night. Her friends asked where I was. She was embarrassed to tell em. That's a pretty good temperature gauge right there.
But here’s the thing. Roll through a long night in the mid 20s, melting Sheetz caffeine strips under the tongue and wondering when the chemical warmers in the shoes are going to kick in, and you’ll know what works and what don’t. Lessons to be learned while the mad rookie does crazy loops in the far lane.
|Ian, Vincent, Mike, Capn at the former Andy's. Photo by Mark.|
There are laughs to be had when the cat hightails it for home in a dead sprint. There are chicken fingers to be eaten on convenience store curbs. There are the low moments, when the cold gets your fingers and your muscles run out of fuel and your morale is sapped and you are a thousand hours and a million miles away from a warm bed and your lover. Sometimes these rides are about pushing until you see the dark edge of your personal stratosphere. It’s an odd sensation, this feeling so very alive at the moment of the deepest exhaustion.
I ride with some tough damn folks. They make it all look like a catwalk strut. I’m in awe. The weather is just one more annoyance, like a dry chain. This weekend we had Vinnie, who is all about suffering and smiling, one of the smoothest guys ever on a bike, even in Duke Blue. And Capn with the midnight songs and the pace line shout outs. And Mark with his bags of tricks: Ask and you shall receive, from a phone charger to a little medicine for the Achilles flare-up. And Luke, Rookie of the Year and looking to repeat. And Andy with his race day tales, and Ian who ain’t about to let a bout of the flu slow him down. And Janet, who joined the midnight madness portion of the event. And Ed, who took delight in motoring off the front and Turbo Tim who just motors. And Rick / Rex who can't be contained by one name. And Mary, our very own RAAM rider, and hero Tom, who got on the front and pulled us home for 80 miles, and Tony pulling for all of us from the sidelines.
My good fortune to hang on to these guys and grateful when they wait up. Thanks to all for another great adventure on the bikes.