Three of us -- Alan Gosart, the RandoWife, and I -- went out to Baxter, TN, to ride my Green Acres permanent. Although I am admittedly biased, I consider Green Acres to be the greatest 200K permanent in the world, and Saturday it once again lived up to this billing.
The day started jacket and knee-warmer cool, but sunny and with light winds. Everything was starting to bloom up on the plateau, and the world took on that special light green that Mother Nature can only conjure up in the spring. Almost as good, the roads were just as smooth and the drivers (except for one or two trucks with trailers) were very well-behaved.
The RandoWife was riding the tandem with me. This was her first "official" 200K -- she rode the tandem with me on my Dog Meat permanent about a year and a half ago -- since she joined Randonneurs USA (RUSA). She had offerred to ride with me because this made for my 12th straight month of brevets, and as such this ride would qualify me for my second R-12 Award from RUSA. She has also been training for the Three-State-Three-Mountain century the first weekend in May, and 125 base miles is a good way to prepare for a hilly century.
I have always felt that Green Acres was a great permanent for a tandem. It has only 5300 feet of climbing, with much of that on a five-mile stretch as you go onto the plateau. Jeff Bauer, who has ridden Green Acres twice before with me, had said the same thing, and he's done Boston-Montreal-Boston and Paris-Brest-Paris on a tandem with Mary Crawley.
We left the Love's Truck Stop in Baxter just after 8 am, and had a great ride down to the first control in Smithville, and then on thru Rock Island State Park to the second control. We were making great time, and had a blast doing the shady rollers of Laurel Creek.
And then we came to the hard part: Baker Mountain Road.
The toughest part of this road is near the bottom, and we were moving along at just under six miles per hour. Alan had gone on up to the top, knowing that we would be slower than a single on this stretch. The RandoWife and I were working hard, but doing okay, when her back started spasming.
She's had this trouble before -- most notably this past fall at the Six Gaps Century in Dahlonega, GA -- and was doing everything she could to keep moving. She would change position, stand, sit, rub her back, but nothing helped. The climbing kept going, and the back kept hurting, and the RandoWife admitted later that she felt as if she was going to throw up.
That's when the transformation came.
The RandoWife fought thru the pain, telling herself it was only transitory, and focused instead on the beauty of the mountain road. And then we were at the top, and she emerged from the chrysalis to become ...
Her back still hurt, of course, and we were less than half-way thru the ride. There was lots more climbing going thru Fall Creek Falls, with some really steep stuff there that got us down to the granny gear and out of the saddle.
But she felt better after a quick lunch at the A&H Market, sitting in a chair and eating french fries. Rolling out from there, we had the extraordinary descent on Hwy 30/285, and then the even prettier part of the course as Hwy 285 follows the river. And RandoGirl was having a blast, even with her sore back, tired legs, and the assorted other aches and pains that come from not riding more than 60 miles for the past six months. She and Alan and I were yakking up a storm, laughing, and occasionally putting our heads down and cranking out long stretches at 25 mph.
Towards the end, RandoGirl was talking about what we need on the new tandem. We decided a little more room for her long torso would be good, and maybe disc brakes. The frame should be titanium.
When we got to the final control at the truck stop, I pointed out that RandoGirl was now the first randonneuse to have ridden Green Acres, and that we were the first folks to do it on a tandem. And we began talking about her doing her own R-12, and maybe some 300Ks and fleches, and it was only the "ride through the night" aspects of these things that really gave her any pause.
I love to quote the villian, Jafar, from Disney's Alladin movies, when he says, "You'd be surprised what you can live through." I don't know what it is about your first 200K -- the sense of surprise or the sense of accomplishment -- but you come out of it rethinking your boundaries and limitations.
Maybe leaping tall buildings in a single bound ain't so tough after all.