Monday, September 30, 2013

A Gentleman's 400K

Did I ever tell you about the first brevet that I ever rode?

It was 2005. We had just moved up to Nashville, and I had ridden a whole bunch during that summer. There was an email or something that mentioned this thing called "Ride the RAT," where the cyclists would cross the state. I thought it was some kind of big club ride with a t-shirt and rest stops, and it sounded like fun.

After making some calls, I was told to be at the home of Bill and Sametta Glass about 5 am so I could get a ride to the start. Two vehicles went up from there, and I squeezed into a truck with Barb Joffe and her boyfriend to get up to Clarksville. We parked at a convenience store and unloaded our bikes while I looked around for other riders or a table with folks signing people up and handing out t-shirts, and the next thing I know there's just the six of us rolling across the Kentucky state line in front of Fort Campbell, heading south.

The wind was out of the north that day ... not strongly, but hard enough to give us a little push. Someone said that we usually choose which way to run the route -- north or south -- based on the wind forecast. The temperature was pretty good for mid-September in Tennessee, and we moved along briskly on mostly quiet roads for the remainder of the day. I was tired when we got to the Alabama state line just before dark, but had enough fun that I wanted to do more rides like this.

Of course, it took eight years for me to do that ride again. And we did it very differently this time.

Since both RandoGirl and the RandoDaughter were out of town for the weekend, I had two days to do whatever kind of ride that I wanted. Unfortunately, with them out of town there was nobody to drive me to Clarksville to start the ride, nor anybody that could drive down to where the Natchez Trace crosses into Alabama to pick me up.

Barry Meade came up with the solution. He lives near Clarksville, and suggested renting a room in Collinwood, about 15 miles north of the state line end. All we needed to do, then, was get up to the start in Clarksville, do the 250K brevet, then backtrack to Collinwood to sleep. We would then get up Sunday and ride the 80 miles back up to my house, from which Jeff Bauer would drive Barry back home.

It was just under 260 miles of cycling ... or what Jeff called "a gentleman's 400K."

Dave Harris very kindly offered to drive Jeff and I to the start. We found Barry there, and soon the three of us were on our way down US 41 -- fighting a headwind.

Now, this wasn't a strong headwind. It was probably about 10 mph, more or less. But a 10 mph headwind for 150 miles, when you're used to a tailwind and trying to finish a ride in daylight, is a nasty thing.

Fortunately, it's not a hilly route, and the roads are pretty good. Jeff and Barry are strong riders, and they slowed down enough to keep me close. We had a couple of issues with a nagging back wheel on Jeff's bike, which wanted to go flat for no apparent reason, but between the three of us had enough tubes to fix things.

We were tired and ready to eat when we finally got to Hohenwald, 106 miles in. We all had foot-long Subways, chips, and cookies, before we headed out to the Trace.

The wind was starting to ease up when we got to Collinwood. We quickly refueled, and then headed down to the state line. It was dark when we got there, finally finishing the official 250K portion of our day, and we were a little slower going back up the 15-mile gentle climb to town. There, we got to our room (the "hotel" only has two rooms, but each has three beds, a full-size refrigerator, microwave, sofa, and dining table), changed, and went to the restaurant next door. Although they were about to close, they opened back up for us and cooked us hot food.

We were three happy but sore cyclists when we got into our respective beds about 10 pm. I slept fitfully due to some aching legs, but felt better when we got up about 5 am. We went down the street for breakfast, then got dressed and packed and hit the road by 7 am.

The wind was still out of the south, thank goodness, but clouds had rolled in. We made good time throughout the morning, leaving the Trace for a brief break at the store in Fly, TN. There, we ran into Vida and Lynn Greer, who were out marking the route for the Gran Fondo. After a quick snack, we took Leiper's Creek Road up to my house.

I would have thought that my tour would make me ready to easily do a ride like this, but I guess that the slower pace and shorter days were not enough. Nonetheless, it was fun to ride with Jeff and Barry, and good to see that I've got the legs for a 250-mile trip this late in the season.

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