Carpool to VGCC. Security waved to us -- so it seems likely it is okay to park there (in small numbers).
Route: NC BR #1 to Drewry; NC BR #4 to Warrenton; southwest to Vicksboro, Epsom, Bobbitt, Gill, Bearpond; Lynnbank and Community House and Old Watkins roads back to VGCC.
Map not entirely correct as we turned south at Vicksboro, not a long mile later.
"Let's do some new roads" -- the "battle cry" of Lt. Dave. (Well, that, AND "let's do some mountains".)
The road from VGCC to Drewry, on NC BR #1, we knew.
The roads from Drewry to Warrenton, on NC BR #4, I had driven a few years ago.
Tower Rd -- came highly recommended by Iceman.
Largo and Shepard roads I'd driven a couple years ago. I was pretty sure there would be a couple nice valleys to cross.
From Vicksboro back to VGCC, we'd be on previously ridden roads, but some / many of us would not have ridden them, and some (most ?) of those that had probably wouldn't recognze that they'd been there before (at least partially because we'd be riding the opposite direction).
The connection on MLK, Jr. Drive and Stagecoach Rd was grabbed from looking at the map. Those were the only true "risks" of the route.
Well, Smitty found the only true risk of the route -- the pea gravel at the turn off Tower Rd onto Largo from the chip-sealing of Largo Rd some time (probably months) previous was rather deep, esp. given that it was not visible. Normally, one would think that a heaping line that deep would cast a shadow or something, but Smitty's rear wheel sliding sideways was our first hint. The "Evil One" must have been practicing his handling skills, though, because he never seemed to be in any danger. The rest of us followed, coasting through the loose pile.
LT had spent the weekend on firehouse duty, and had gone out on a midnight call. I suspect that he may have been a bit more tired and/or dehydrated than he realized.
My legs were feeling the previous three days.
The "children" (Levi and Scott) seemed completely fresh. Scott in particular, seemed eager during early miles to push the pace -- also during the middle miles -- and I lost track of him during the very late miles -- he was probably still pushing.
Robert is in too good a condition to be phased by the little riding he'd done on Saturday -- he didn't seemed phased from whatever running he had done between the rides, either.
The Duke appeared to do better than usual on the "don't burn it all up too early front."
I think Aggs has plenty of "go", even though he tries to pretend he doesn't.
Smitty, "the Evil One", can go and go and go. I'm not sure he has really tested his limit since remounting a bicycle after his 10-year hiatus.
What did the above translate to?
I was slow and off the back, hoping my legs would loosen up.
Lt. Dave rotated between being near the front and coming back to check on me.
Levi did some of the same. I suspect that he still remembers Johnson Mill Rd from last year.
"The Evil Smitty" also did some rotating between being on the front and coming to far back. Perhaps serving penance for all the CL sprints he would take.
I thought the Warren CL was BEFORE Drewry, so, when I thought I recognized the right stretch of road, I forced the tired and not-yet-loose legs to push me off the front of the group, trying to sneak the CL. It didn't work -- but only because the CL was not there. Ugh. (Note to self: the Warren CL on BR #1 is north of Drewry.)
Prior to the above attack for the non-existant CL, I had gotten to the front when we reached Anderson Creek Rd -- I think because the "crew" was uncertain which way to go -- the cue sheet -- such as it was -- had instruction only to follow BR #1 to Drewry -- it is easy to follow the signs to Drewry, but the "crew" seemed uncertain a couple times. Or maybe they were being diligent regarding Rule #3. Anyway, I was in front with Aggs after we turned onto Anderson Creek Rd; I knew the first down led to a short, poppable up, followed by another down, and a more serious, unpoppable up. As we transitioned from the down/flat to the first up, I hit the pedals hard, and for my effort was rewarded with a chuckle. Aggs was slipping backward as I maintained 28 (and then 25) mph upslope, and I heard John comment "There is that extra gear I've been hearing about." Sometimes, 30 seconds of deeper pain is much better than 3 minutes of regular pain -- "irregular" pain?
We made the turn at Drewry, and Levi being first in line, was first to learn that the CL was only 50 yards or so after the turn. He picked up his pace slightly and took the only CL that the "Evil Smitty" did not get all day. (Note to self: the Warren CL on BR #4 is immediately after the turn at Drewry.)
I particularly liked the part of Drewry-Ridgeway Rd that stayed atop the ridge. LT liked the parts where the road dipped down to a creek and then climbed back up to the ridge, or a new ridge. What did the others prefer? I have no idea, because (other than the Duke, or was it Smitty?) they were too far ahead to see.
Soon the front-runners had developed a new pattern. Get way ahead, then find some shade, and wait. I was feeling fine, just the legs were not yet warmed up. I had predicted at least 40 miles for that, and perhaps influenced by my mental state, that was coming true. I checked my average pace before reaching Warrenton: 15.4 mph.
After Warrenton, we cut back southwest on MLK, Jr. Blvd. and Stagecoach Rd. The hastily hand-scribbled cue sheets (the front-runners had two of the three copies) managed to confuse the front-runners sufficiently at the corner of Stagecoach / US-401 / Tower Rd that they were astride their bikes in the bright sunshine, debating whether to continue straight on US-401 or take the immediate right (the cue sheets indicated 0.1 miles on US-401 before turning onto Tower). No shade. As we approached the corner, LT whispered to me to "pretend there is a CL just after making that turn". We (mostly he) zipped past, made the turn, and faux celebrated. Most chuckled -- it takes so little to amuse us as we get older. Those that didn't laugh were to busy trying to find the CL sign to chuckle, I think.
Did we ever figure out why Tower Rd is so named?
Largo Rd -- loose pea gravel at the turn, and a nice, deepish valley to cross. (See Smitty's garmin link in the comments.)
Shepard Rd -- another nice, deepish valley to cross.
Turn at Vicksboro. Turn before reaching the CL sign only yards away. Levi tried to claim a CL credit by missing the turn. Green jersey points subtracted. I believe I heard that Smitty took the actual CL on Cross Creek Rd.
We must have crossed another CL into Franklin County, because the gas station / convenience store in Epsom was clearly in Franklin County. No idea where the CL was / is -- perhaps it is in a non-contestable location.
The entire crew was ready to roll from Epsom before I even had my helmet back on. I suspect that they may have been beginning to feel the distance and heat. I was finally mostly warmed up, and enjoying the few moments sitting on the bench. I asked them to ride slowly until I caught them since "I don't even have my hat on yet." Leaving Epsom on Epsom-RockyFord Rd is a flat and slightly downslope affair. With legs feeling better, I got into a good cadence, then slowly changed to a "harder"/ faster gear. I didn't intend what happened, but ... what the heck. I was doing 21+ when I passed the first sub-group; I kept going and blasted past the lead sub-group doing 21-23 mph, just in time to make the turn onto Gooch Rd with the lead. I was hoping that the entire crew would be slow to speed up. No luck. I worked the downslope and poppable upslope to reach the crest first, made a grand gesture as if I was a showman presenting the valley vista for their enjoyment, and hit the pedals hard. I have nearly popped the the next upslope, or at least the part to get up to the Vance CL. However, as I started up from the bottom, thinking to use "that gear" that Aggs had mentioned earlier, I realized that the entire crew was hooked on, with the "Evil Smitty" on my wheel. I did the smart thing. I sat up. Made Smitty do his own upslope work.
Some more flattish stuff with LT, Duke and I bring up the rear. A nice little creek valley before Bobbitt. The crew did not know which way to go -- therefore I got in the lead again, headed toward Gill, but I did not push my pace. I was soon back at the back, again with LT and the Duke. A nice gentle slow rise it is from Bobbitt to Gill -- a place to enjoy being on the bike.
We weren't far behind when we got to Gill, but apparently were just far enough behind that the front-runners had had time to huddle in the shade of a building at Gill. I could smell the barn -- or at least Community House Rd -- and saw no reason to stop. I did pick it up slightly on the the mile run on Raleigh Rd (US-1-Bus.) up to Bearpond. I think everyone was back together by the end of that mile. If not, surely they were back on as we waited for the stoplight to change. Smitty and Robert and I took good pulls across Lynnbank Rd. When I was in front, I had a flashback to the Kerr Lake Loop from Jul-03 last year. I called back to those behind me asking if we were all together, was everyone with us, I think I had to use a third way of asking the question before I got an answer. The answer: we are all here. I pulled out leaving the lead to Aggs (must have been his one and only pull of the day from the razzing he was taking from the front-runners), told him it was a short mile to Community House Rd, and started drifting to the back of the line -- counting cyclists. There should have been seven -- there were only FIVE. Aargh!!
I immediately went to soft-pedaling. I had been looking forward to the reactions of the others when we turned onto Community House Rd -- I had also been looking forward to bombing down to Ruin Creek. Some things are more important. I pulled over into the shade at the corner (Floytan Crossroads, btw). Levi and Scott had slowed some before the turn, and when they realized I had stopped and gotten off my bike back at the corner, they turned around and rode back UP to meet me. Good thing, too (read on for why).
Just as Levi and Scott got to me, I spied the Duke coming on Lynnbank Rd. Then came Lt. Dave. Dave had apparently started bonking near Bobbitt, and the ensuing 5 or 6 miles had not been fun for him. Levi had various kinds of "cyclist food", and pushed a fair range of stuff onto Dave, who readily accepted and ate. After a few minutes, Dave remounted and pushed off, followed by Levi and Scott, then the Duke, then me.
Levi, Scott and Dave were out of sight almost immediately. They pulled further ahead on the climb back out of the valley -- the bottom part of that climb is rather steep, but it doesn't last very long. After the climb shallowed out, I slowly closed up to the Duke and we rode on enjoying the mostly flat terrain now presenting itself on Community House Rd, and the even flatter stuff on Old Watkins Rd. I checked my avg pace when I got to Old Watkins -- 15.5 mph. I was ready to go "all out" the last few miles to try to get to 15.6 mph.
But then Bob and I realized that we were slowly -- then not-so-slowly -- catching Dave; we made a plan to sandwich him and try to help him on the last few flat miles to VGCC. 14 was too fast -- 12 was too fast -- maybe 10 was too fast part of the time. I tried to convince Dave that it was flat the rest of the way, but he was convinced we were approaching VGCC from the north, not the south, and was convinced there was another tough climb to negotiate. As Dave will say, after 35 years of riding, he knows what he needs to do to finish, but in this case he was over-estimating the challenge of the terrain. It was probably just as well he was over-estimating the terrain because he had a dizzy and chilly spell just after turning onto Poplar Creek. Dave might kick my butt for writing the above, but it was clearly the turn for Bob and I to help him home; he has certainly helped each of us home often enough. (Not to mention driving 70+ miles to fetch me from the midst of my "Chuck Berry" episode on my failed 600k some six weeks ago.)
Watermelon must have super recuperative powers. Soon after arriving at VGCC, Dave cleaned up a bit and brought a water melon out of his ice cold cooler, and a knife, and soon served each of us a nice, cold, wet piece of watermelon.
I had been wondering what a "watermelon ride" was.
VGCC: Dabney-Drewry-Warrenton-Vicksboro-Epsom-Bobbitt-Bearpond-CommunityHouseRd; 73.0 m.; 4hrs, 43min; 15.4 mph.
Q-1 tot: 16 rides; __938.2 m.; _60 hrs, 39 min; 15.5 mph.
Q-2 tot: 31 rides; 2,263.3 m.; 151 hrs, 29 min; 14.9 mph.
Ju1 tot: _4 rides; __246.6 m.; _15 hrs, 35 min; 15.8 mph.
YTD tot: 51 rides; 3,448.1 m.; 227 hrs, 43 min; 15.1 mph.