Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Guys That Got Me Into This

Saturday, I rode the Watertown 200K with 21 other mildly insane randonneurs, including two of the three Americans who have ridden Paris-Brest-Paris six times: Johhny Bertrand and Tom Gee. I'm not going to say that we all had a great time, because it was still pretty chilly and windy all day, and the Watertown route has some tough hills. But we probably had more fun than the eight folks that rode the 200K earlier this month out of Murfreesboro, in sub-freezing temperatures and near-gale force winds.

In the winter of Snowmageddon, it's all relative.

The real fun part of this brevet for me, however, was that I got to ride most of it with the two guys that I blame -- er, thank -- for getting me into randonneuring:

Bill Glass:

And Jeff Bauer:

No, wait, wrong picture. Here's Jeff:

You can see where I might get confused, however.

Here's Jeff and Bill together:

I'm not going to go into the story of how they lured me into a life of ultracycling. As with most addictions, it began innocuously ... you do a century or two, and then one day you get lost on a century and find that 110 miles isn't that bad. They just showed up at the right place at the right time, telling me that if I enjoyed a century, I would love a 200K. Then, if I thought that was fun, I had to try a 300K.

They never tell you about doing these things in the middle of winter, or about a 400K in a spring hailstorm, or about a 600K in 100-plus temperatures. It's not that they hide the hideous underbelly of this sport ... they just wait until you're addicted to the pain. Then it becomes a matter of bragging rights, and who has survived the worst sh*tstorm.

Anyhow ...

Speaking of surviving, Bob Hess from Knoxville and Steve Phillips from Birmingham decided that this would be a fun brevet for a fixed gear bike. Here's an over-the-should shot of Bob, when he still had knees and could smile.

The Watertown brevet is really one of the prettiest routes that we have. The stretch right past Center Hill Dam is really incredible.

Here's Phil Randall, who came down from Kentucky, crossing the dam.

Followed by Jeff, Bill, and Dave Penegar from Knoxville.

After going through the forest past the dam and back up onto the ridge, I got to talking with Phil, and we missed a turn. The good thing about bonus miles is that they let you see neat things like this funky cabin:

This dog really did not want me to take pictures of his cabin, though.

He stopped barking just long enough to let me get his picture.

Once we were back on route, we caught back up to Jeff and Bill just past Temperance Hill, and rode in with them to the little town of Liberty.

I was starving by the time we got to the control. Here's Bill again, and the middle Tennessee RBA Jeff Sammons.

I don't know who the other two guys were, but they were hanging out there when we came in, and were still there when we left. You seem to get a couple of guys like this at a lot of little convenience stores in small southern towns, and I'm pretty sure that this is their lot in life.

The road from Liberty to Woodbury starts out nice and flat, but pretty soon you've got to go over a nasty little ridge. Bob Hess and I ended up dropping Jeff and Bill here for a bit, and I tried to capture the steepness of this grade with another over-the-shoulder shot.

It gets really steep at the top. Since Bob only had two gears, he had to walk the last part of it.

As I approached the top, I saw that Steve Phillips had been forced to dismount for a bit, too, but was doggedly starting back up. He told us later in the Subway at Woodbury that he was not going to walk it, and he didn't.

Coming down, the wind was blowing up the hollow and making it a rough go. Bob and I stopped a couple of times to admire the ice on the exposed rock along the side of the road.

This frozen waterfall was particularly nifty.

Just past this, Jeff and Bill joined us, and we rode into Woodbury together. After a big sandwich from Subway, we turned north ... where we still had a headwind. All I can figure was that it was blowing from the northwest, and that the hills on Stones River Road had been funneling it.

After a quick break at the Norene control, we headed out for the last eight miles. The sun was setting, which quieted the wind and lit up the hillsides. 

I've done this brevet faster and in much better weather, but I really enjoyed riding it with all of these good old friends. As I've said before, cycling is one of the most intimate forms of travel, and it's even better when it's shared.


  1. I have been thinkiing about the Harpeth Red Tomato as well. Shows you how nice the brevet is that he missed the closing ceremonies to attend!

  2. I heard he did a double McTwist 1260 off that 18% grade at mile 77.

  3. And Jeff was on a unicycle, too.

  4. Gosh, I can't believe that I had to ride for a few hours at the Central Valley, CA road race. I was being a complete tourist watching Katharine race in the sunshine and sixties. It was tough when all those petals blew off the thousands of blooming fruit trees in the orchards and covered the roads like snow. I hope you guys missed me. V