If you ever stay in a hotel with a randonneur, you will soon discover that, as soon as they get into the room, they will turn on the television and find the Weather Channel.
Seriously, they will flip through the bottom-of-the-ninth bases-loaded seventh game of the World Series, past Who Shot J. R., and not even slow down (much) for the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. The critical thing is to find "your local weather on the 8's" and see what the morning will bring. If it's more than a 300K, they will also want to know what tomorrow night will be like ... and maybe a night or two beyond that.
After they've studied the map in motion for half an hour, you can flip back to Victoria's Secret while they repack their bags and get out what they're wearing in the morning.
The middle Tennessee RBA, Jeff Sammons, was going by the weather forecasts last Tuesday when he suggested that Saturday would be a great opportunity for a 200K permanent. Five of us -- Kevin Warren, Peter Lee, David Bauer, Phil Randall, and myself -- eventually agreed with him. I waited until Thursday, when the weather report was pretty solidly predicting a dry 50 degrees.
Compared to what we had been "enjoying" so far this year, it was decent when we started the ride. The weather lady that morning had said that we wouldn't get as much sunshine as they had predicted on Friday, but that it shouldn't start raining before dark. And it was definitely warmer, with the temperature above freezing as the sun rose.
David Collings came with us through the first control at College Grove and on to Versailles. By then, the day had warmed enough for me to take off one pair of tights, and we rolled on towards Bell Buckle.
You may notice that Kevin Warren (on the left) is riding his fixed gear bike. Since Jeff Bauer -- who often does these winter rides fixed -- has been working nights and weekends and couldn't come out Saturday, it was good of Kevin to do this. Those of us who use technological innovations like freewheels feel less pain on very long rides when we coast past folks on fixed gear bikes.
We made very good time, getting to Normandy and the turnaround at the George Dickel Distillery by 11 am. I have finally figured out how to get the timer on my camera to work, and was thus able to get a picture of all of us in the group. From left: RandoBoy, Jeff, Kevin, Phil, and Peter. Dave Bauer was a little behind us at this time.
Leaving the distillery, I was feeling pretty good, and I think Max Watzz took over. It was only 15 miles back to Bell Buckle, but all I know is that at one point I was at Normandy, and the next thing I knew I was leaning my bike against the convenience store wall, just under the awning. It was raining, and my legs hurt. About five minutes later everyone else pulled in, and we had lunch.
It drizzled off and on all the way back to College Grove. Pulling into the grocery store there, Kevin found that his rear wheel was flat. As he had never changed the tire on this bike before, it was a learning experience for all of us.
Q: How many randonneurs does it take to fix a flat tire?
A: All of them.
We also somehow managed to knock out the quick link on Kevin's chain. Fortunately, the store had needle-nose pliers, and Kevin's bike was quickly right as rain ... pardon the pun.
Yeah, we got about half a mile down the road before the tire went flat again. It was still raining, the road was busy, we didn't have the store awning, and we were all getting cold. This time, Peter pulled out the new folding tire that he almost always carries, and we replaced both tube and tire in about 10 minutes.
Q: How many randonneurs does it take to change the and tire.
A: Still all of them, but they do it really fast in cold rain.
Anyway, once we started going again, I was shivering and beginning to worry about the traffic awaiting us in the fading light once we got back to Brentwood. When we started up Eudaily-Covington Road, I let Max Watzz take over again, since redlining the engine up a long climb is one of the best ways that I know of to get warm. He did not let up again until he was back at the last control, within half a mile of the dry comfort of my car.
Peeling off wet clothing as the engine tried to warm up, the thermometer on the RAAMinator read 43 degrees. It was almost 5 pm, so I don't think the forecast high of 50 ever materialized.
Nonetheless, we had all finished the ride -- albeit wetter and colder than we would have liked -- and now had the year's first 200K behind us. For folks like Jeff that are working towards another R-12 award, this is critical, since the weather will probably be cataclysmic for the next two weekends.
At least, it had better be.