Somehow, I've found myself working towards another R-12. That's an award RUSA gives you for riding a permanent or brevet every month for 12 straight months -- basically a year of regular ultracycling. The year, for me, began back in September, so I needed to stretch the streak up to a big "three" by doing a permanent this past weekend.
There was a group going up to Cadiz, KY, to do a permanent there, but Jeff Bauer and I needed to stay closer to home on Saturday. We opted, instead, for the Jack Daniels permanent. This was kind of karmic, since it had been exactly three years and two days since we had last ridden this route.
It had been warmer, then, and Jeff had been riding his tandem with our dear departed friend, Peter Lee. Jeff Sammons had also been with us, along with Mike and Patty Willman on their tandem. In spite of not having the extra horsepower of a big group, however, Mr. Bauer and I moved fairly well south down TN-272, through Lewisburg, and into the country beyond.
As we began heading east on TN-129, we could see that there was still some fall foliage desperately clinging to the tired Tennessee hardwoods. This is quiet, unspoiled farm country, redolent of natural and homegrown fertilizer, where the cows still spook from the insistent clack of a spinning free-hub.
The fierce winds left behind by Super Storm Sandy's passing had finally played out, leaving blue skies and a gentle breeze ghosting over cleared fields. We could have worked together faster in a two-man paceline, but Jeff and I primarily rode side-by-side and had deep discussions about nothing.
Here's Jeff turning off of busy Hwy 231. You're only on this for about a quarter of a mile, of course. Like I said: It's a nice, quiet route.
Things get lumpy again the closer you get to Lynchburg, and you soon find yourself passing the few cottage industries prevalent there.
It is heartening to see that there is still a place for a cooperage in today's world.
After getting cards signed at the distillery itself, Jeff and I scarfed a quick Subway sandwich and began the route back. Thanks to a somewhat later than intended start and a missed turn that gave us four "bonus miles," we were forced to hurry a bit in order to make the most of the remaining daylight.
By the time we got back to Lewisburg, the long shadows were making it clear that we would need to use lights for the last few miles.
We both had tail lights and reflective gear, but had to stop at a "dollar store" for flashlights and duct tape. By the time we were on the very quiet canopied lanes just south of Bethesda, we were slowly picking our lines in the thin beams of our "three-dollar specials" and the evening chill was setting in with a vengeance. I meant to take a picture of our Rube Goldberg setups, but forgot in my foggy frosty exhaustion.
Next time, we'll bring headlights ... or start on time and try not to get lost. Hopefully, that next time won't be three years away.