Monday, December 14, 2009

Flash Frozen Dog Meat

RUSA (Randonneurs USA) has an award called the R-12, which any member can win, more or less, by riding a brevet or permanent every month for 12 months straight.

This sounds easy, particularly if you live in middle Tennessee where we have so many brevets during the season, and lots of good permanents to choose from. I've done two R-12's, as have many of my friends.

The tricky part of the R-12 is getting the brevet in during certain months. Naturally, this includes the winter, but it also can be hard during the spring, when the weather is usually great. There are so many other great rides around here that are not brevets that you may have to choose to skip one of your favorite club centuries to ride a solo permanent. In fact, I did not ride a brevet or permanent this past June, since I was off on vacation for two weekends, and the rest of the weekends were consumed by the Harpeth Bicycle Club's River Ride, and the Smokey Mountain Wheelmen's Cherohala Challenge.

But the perfect storm, of course, is December. This is when you can have really crappy weather here, plus you have trips to see family, holiday parties, shopping, and so forth. Inevitably, in December, you have to watch out for the best weather date that you can get when you are going to be in town, and then either skip out on something else that you're supposed to do, or ride the permanent fast enough to get home in time to do it in the evening.

Which is a long way of setting up why these three idiots are standing here in Murfreesboro freezing to death.

Jeff Sammons, on the left, needed a permanent for his R-12 -- this is either his second or third. Although the weather Saturday was not great, he figured it would be best to get in his permanent early just in case. Peter Lee, next to him, and myself were out there to keep him company ... or maybe we are just idiots for the sake of idiocy.

As usual, we started at 7 am from the Starbuck's on Nolensville Road near where Concord Road runs into it. It was 27 degrees. I had ridden over from my house two miles away, and had actually gone back home to get my warmer gloves and a balaclava. Thus, I had to guzzle a fast coffee and scone before we rolled out.

The extra clothes felt right as we rolled out. I felt nice and warm as we climbed up Pettus Road, watching the sun try to slip through the clouds, and then rocking down the other side the few slivers of skin that were exposed felt the biting cold.

Jeff had actually named this route for me, thanks to all of the dogs that chase you on these rural roads. But the cold Saturday kept the usual varmints on Old Hickory and Cane Creek inside, and it was not until we were south of Nolensville on Fly Road that the first dog -- a lumbering but lethargic beast that may have been a small polar bear -- actually came into the road to chase us.

The traffic was also very light as we rode down Rocky Fork Road to Del Thomas, over the steep climb on Paw-Paw Springs to Independent Hill, and then down Almaville Road to Shores Road. From there, we touched the edge of Murfreesboro at the first control, a convenience store on Hwy 99 and Armstrong Valley Road, where we grabbed a quick bite, topped off our bottles, got cards signed, and rolled on.

The wind had been light for most of this section, but it slowly gained strength as we went southeast on Armstrong Valley Road. Although the name of the road changes a couple of times, navigation is very simple here: Get on this road and keep going until it ends. As usually happens this time of year, the wind was in our face for the entire 25 miles, but one advantage of riding with randonneurs as strong as Peter and Jeff is that we were able to trade off pulls and make pretty good time down to Shelbyville.

After again clearing the control quickly, we then turned west, putting the wind a little more behind us. We zoomed north up Old Nashville Dirt Road, then tacked down Shaw and Troupe before settling in on a beam reach down a series of quiet country lanes. The dogs were still staying mostly inside, but we did manage to scare the two buffalo at the farm just past the creek on Fishing Ford Pike. I'm not sure if two running buffalo constitute a stampede, but it was more fun than dancing with wolves.

Eventually, we found ourselves back on Highway 31, being pushed by the wind up through Henry Horton State Park and in to Chapel Hill. The skies were still ominously overcast, promising rain and keeping the temperatures down to a level that would make things extremely unpleasant; thus, we skipped the stop at Subway and, after clearing the Shell station control, rode on.

Departing West Depot to Daughrity, swinging up Smiley to Sweeney, riding Thick, and then Dowdy, the route became hilly again. We went over the ridge to Bethesda on Cross Keys, then took Bethesda-Arno to the fun little climb and even more fun descent on Cool Springs Road. The southern wind buffeted us a bit more on Peytonsville and over I-65 to Old Peytonsville Road, but we ended up at the penultimate control at Henpeck Market about 1:30 pm.

I've mentioned before the Tomato Basil South at Henpeck, so I won't wax poetic about it again. Suffice to say that finally stopping to sit down here, after 110 miles, for a cup of this soup was sooooooo good.

Unfortunately, we were still trying to beat the rain, so we rolled out to start the last 24 miles about 2 pm. After getting beat up by the wind again on Old Peytonsville, past the Williamson County Agriculture Center, and all the way down the rollers on Long Lane and Crowder Road, we finally got our tailwind back on Peytonsville-Trinity.

It was about here that I began to get tired, probably because I have not ridden as much as usual in the past few weeks. I was able to hang on down Wilson Pike to Tuloss, but then let a gap open up on Clovercroft. The wind was against us down this stretch, but I knew that I had plenty of time and it looked as if the rain was going to give us a break.

Jeff, in an act of mercy, dropped his chain going up the last steep climb on Clovercroft, so that I could catch up to him. Unfortunately, he dropped it too far and the chain ended up slightly jammed. We had no trouble on Pleasant Hill Road, but on the first steep hill on Split Log the chain snapped.

In the perverse world of randonneuring, however, a mechanical problem is just an opportunity. I pulled out my Crank Brothers multitool, and Jeff quickly took a couple of links out and repaired his chain. It meant that he would not be able to use a couple of gears for the rest of the ride, but since we only had another five miles to go it was no big deal.

We took Split Log to Sunset, then north on Waller to the SUV-choked hell that is Concord Road. When we got back to Starbuck's, Peter was getting ready to come looking for us in his car. It was almost 4 pm, we had beat the rain, and none of us has to do another permanent for the rest of the year.

Unless, of course, the weather is really good this weekend ...


  1. You guys are truly the McGyvers of the cycling world.

  2. Congrats on keeping the R alive in December.

    PS: I followed your excellent example and created an animated ride report on xtranormal for our own R last weekend.

    Andy in NC