But this past Saturday, I had it all: Fourteen hours of daylight, and a fast tandem to sit in on.
First, some disclosure. I did turn on my taillight before we started, but just because it was pretty foggy out in Leiper's Creek.
That's John Shelso in the center of the picture. He's the guy that saved my life last month. Sadly, I didn't get to ride much with him because I was hanging on for dear life behind the tandem with Jeff Bauer and Fredia Barry.
Earlier in the week, Jeff had asked if I was going to be riding the 300K. I told him that I was, and he said that I probably wouldn't see him and Fredia much, since I would "go off with the fast guys."
Here's Jeff and Fredia and most of "the fast guys" about mile 30, heading up Pulltight Hill.
George Hiscox, in the yellow jersey, was telling us about this year's Cascade 1200K. He had a funny story about his third day of the ride, when he decided not to stop at the overnight control so that he could do one of the long climbs in the cool of the evening. He didn't realize that "cool of the evening" at the top of the Cascade Mountains means 30 degrees and snow on the sides of the road. When he got to the top, he was suffering from hypothermia and became tired, so he laid down to take a nap. When he awoke an hour later, he was freezing, so he started down the mountain. Halfway down, he was freezing even more, so he stopped in a bathroom on the side of the road and stole all of their toilet paper, stuffing it in his jersey and wrapping his exposed extremities as best he could to pad what is (obviously, if you look at the picture) a lean frame. This worked enough to get him down the descent and back to the warmer desert of east Washington.
Can you just imagine being in a car driving up that mountain from the other side just before dawn and seeing a mummy with blue lips, shivering violently from the cold, heading down on a bicycle? This is why I love randonneuring -- the stories you hear are priceless!
After descending Pulltight Hill -- and about mid-way through George's story -- Jeff said we had to stop and read the historic marker there. I've got to admit that I've bike past this 50 times and never read it. Interesting bit of history, though.
From here we went through Eagleville, where a few keys roads are being moved. After clearing the control there, we rolled on towards Bell Buckle. Although the fog had mostly burned off, we still had enough haze and clouds to keep the temperatures low; unfortunately, the extreme humidity kept it from being really comfortable, except on some of the shadier roads.
We developed a routine through here that kept our moving average high. I sat immediately on the tandem's wheel (yes, I am a selfish pig ... and your point is?). When we approached a road, I would zip ahead and watch for cars, trying to time Jeff and Fredia's entry to the intersection so as to keep them from wasting energy by unclipping. This also gave me the best vantage point for the early town-line sprints and the "secret" county line sprint (at the top of the hill just before you get to Bell Buckle, where the pavement turns from "iffy" to worse).
Our moving average was almost 18 miles per hour when we hit Lewisburg just after 11:30 am. I managed to take one last town-line sprint there by going off the front with Tom Trinidad; however, 95 miles of hard riding were then taking their toll, and I had to stop for a big lunch at Wendy's. By the time everyone had eaten and topped off bottles with ice and fluids from the nearby convenience store, the fast threesome from Jackson (Tom, George, and Darius Blurton) were gone.
Leaving Lewisburg, we had the usual few miles of busier roads before turning onto some hillier ones. At this point, our group was down to Jeff and Fredia on the tandem, Bob Hess, Larry Lewis, RJ Locurto, and myself. On every steep hill, Jeff would tell us to go on (the classic, "Leave me. Save yourself" speech). Anyone foolish enough to begin the following descent without Jeff and Fredia, however, would soon find themselves being passed by a descending tandem rocket, and furiously sprinting to regain that receding rear wheel. Bob and I (that's his shoulder there) quickly decided it was smarter to just wait at the top and take Jeff and Fredia's picture when they came over.
At the Mount Pleasant control, the cashier told us that the Jackson contingent had only left about 10 minutes earlier. We were pretty tired by this point, however, and took our time filling bottles and Camelbacks with ice and fluids before we headed out. This turned out for the best.
You may have seen the classic horror movie, "Village of the Damned." Well, the above is a scene from "Control of the Cooked." It's the Gordon House rest area, next to Hwy 50 on the Natchez Trace. We had been moving so fast that we got there before 5 pm, and the volunteer who was going to man it that evening, dispensing cold water and sandwiches, was not due until 6 pm. We had, literally, been too fast for our own darned good.
Fortunately, we had a few bars and gels to munch, and the bathrooms had water (albeit tepid), so after a short break we all headed out for the last hilly 30 miles. Fredia had been having some stomach upset, so I stayed with her and Jeff while Bob, RJ, and Larry went on. The sun was now low enough to make most of the Trace shady, and a short shower earlier that afternoon had washed away much of the remaining heat, so we just chatted and spun easily as the miles rolled by. As all three of us were pretty hungry, we started to talk about what we would eat that evening. Fredia really wanted a turkey sandwich. I described an elaborate plan to call in a pizza order at Mellow Mushroom in downtown Franklin as soon as I got to the car, so that it would be waiting for me when I got there. I could then just walk in and scarf it at the counter.
When we got to the end at 6:55 pm -- 12 hours and 55 minutes after we had started -- Bob had a recovery meal for Jeff waiting in the cooler in his truck.
You chase a rabbit for almost 200 miles, you damned well deserve to eat whatever bunny you want.