It was a full week, so I'm going to break up the events in a two-blog post. And, here's the big surprise: This is the first one.
I left Naples Tuesday morning, stopping in Panama City Beach on the way. Partly this is because it's too long a drive from Naples to Nashville without a break, but also because I needed to drop off some stuff at our rental house there. I also had dinner at the Red Bar, where I got to listen to the band. Bonus.
Wednesday, I drove across Alabama and got to Nashville in the middle of the afternoon. That evening, I had dinner in Hillsborough Village with old friends Jeff Bauer and Naresh Kumar.
Thursday, I had to pick up RandoGirl at the airport just after 10 am, so I rolled out from the hotel at the crack of dawn to ride 50 miles of hills.
I hit Dunkin' Donuts first, and then took the regular Tuesday night route over Gosey Hill. At Peytonsville Trinity Road I turned right to climb Cool Springs Road, then rolled down through Bethesda.
In spite of not riding any hill bigger than a bridge for the last six months, I felt great. At this point, I'd done two of the tougher short climbs in the area, and felt ready to see how I could do on something a little longer. I headed over to Pulltight Hill.
Although I was able to climb it in the middle ring, I could feel a difference. For one thing, about halfway up I developed a slight stitch in my right side -- a sure indication that my climbing was off and my core weaker than usual. I was also running out of time, so I took a short-cut over Arno Allisona Road, and then used Meeks Road to get back on the River Ride route.
The roads at this point had seemed like old friends welcoming me home; however, the night before, I had noticed that the construction had been finished on McEwen Road. This used to be a quiet -- albeit torn up -- road, but now has six lanes. Two of those are for bikes.
That's my kind of progress.
After a quick shower, I loaded everything back on the Watzz Wagon, checked out of the hotel, and picked up RandoGirl at the airport. We spent the rest of the afternoon stuffing envelopes of rider packets for the ride, and then had a quiet dinner with Bill and Sametta Glass before heading to Karla McVey's home. Karla had volunteered to put us up for the long weekend, and we will be forever in her debt.
Friday morning, I was up at dawn again. Thursday night a front had blown through, and it was much cooler, with a few clouds left over. The wind was scudding them across the pale sky and I was wishing that I had brought arm warmers when I pulled into Krispy Kreme. A couple of hot donuts off the conveyor belt and a cup of coffee fortified me to head out for some more hills. I started with South Berry's Chapel, then doubled back via North Berry's Chapel and it's 20-ish percent finishing grade.
I chickened out on the second -- and longer -- climb further down South Berry's Chapel, and took Hidden Valley over to Manley instead.
The sugar from the hot Krispy Kreme was about gone by now, so I cut through the Belle Rive subdivision to Granny White Pike, and 10 minutes later was in Maryland Farms eating a bagel and drinking coffee. It was strange and wonderful to be able to go from an empty country road to the center of a busy office complex like that, and I began to make unkind comparisons with Naples.
My belly was full again, but the time for my ride was getting short. I had just enough time to head back down to Holly Tree Gap.
There were a few more cars out by now, but they didn't seem to have any trouble getting around me on the fairly narrow two-lane road. I passed two ladies riding horses as I started the last good climb of my morning ride.
Back at Karla's, I quickly showered and headed over to the ride command center to stuff more packets. Then, Bill and I went out and drove the century course.
Just like last year, he and I swept gravel and debris out of any sketchy corners to help avoid accidents. By now, the weather had turned incredible, and we had a great time for the next six hours. When we were done, all of the rider packets had been finished and delivered to Nissan headquarters, so I got him to drop me there. I was able to meet my friend, Vida Greer, and help her a little bit in getting the Gran Fondo booth set up for the Bike Expo, and then handed out packets for another hour.
Just before sunset, my stoker for the next day -- Dan Dillon -- arrived, and we took part in the ceremonies surrounding the Adaptive Athletes program.
Yeah, I don't know what was up with the balloonist, but wasn't that cool?
As the sun was setting it started to turn chilly, and a bunch of us headed over to a local restaurant for cajun food and big talk. It was the perfect end to another perfect day, and we still had the River Ride itself ahead.
But that's for the next blog ...