Usually, I pick a route I want to do, and message the crew with the details. This week, I was torn between three basic alternatives: (1) a Johnson Mill hill-fest, but the crew had ridden Johnson Mill while I had been doing a brevet or a permanent, and the week before some of us had essentially circumnavigated the Johnson Mill Rd area, (2) a Mitchener's X-roads tour, but the crew had done essentially the same route two weeks before while I was DNF'ing on the L-L-L permanent, (3) a modifed "Assault on Flat Rock". I asked for input from all crew members that were interested in riding.
Tito quickly responded "any route was good for him".
Smitty responded similary.
Eventually, Robert responded that he preferred "hilly and long".
I had been feeling rather depressed about my cycling the last half of July ... and that had led to a considerable reduction in the pace of mileage accumulation on my part. But I decided that maybe fewer rides / fewer miles might also mean I was somewhat more rested. I decided to break my lethargy (and avoid duplication of recent routes) by doing a much modified "Assault on Flat Rock" (AFR) to include one of my favorite roads, Bold Run Hill Rd (BRH). BRH has a nice (Raleigh-area) climb, especially if one rides it from Mangum Dairy Rd to Purnell Rd; but the thing I really like about BRH is the valley at the bottom -- it almost seems a self-contained little area worth riding at least once in each season of the year. Riding at least once each season of the year also applies to AFR, btw.
So by late Thursday evening, it appeared we woud be four.
Early Friday, Levi indicated he might ride, and bring his better half, or just ride with her. Maybe five? Six?
Mid-Friday, Gary indicated that he and Wendy would likely ride if W returned to Raleigh at a reasonable hour. Eight? Nine if their neighbor Richard came along?
Who showed for the ride? The seven highlighted above, plus me. Levi's better half decided to sleep in.
Just to let those that were not there know ... I was ready five minutes BEFORE wheels-away.
Who brought a cue sheet of the "basic AFR"? Only Robert.
Who brought a copy of the list of turns and roads for the BRH modification? Only Robert.
Even Gary + Wendy had decided "we're depending on you, Martin".
Hmmn. Perhaps that was a plea for more "Shadow Rides"?
The Warm-Up Miles:
This section seems mis-named since I usually need 30 to 40 miles to get properly warmed up. Oh, well.
Road crews were paving the southbound lane of New Light Rd just south of the lake crossing. One lane traffic. Extra pebbles and scree on the northbound lane from the work on the southbound lane; some of us stopped to wipe our rear wheels; some of us are flexible and confident to wipe our own rear wheels in addition to our front wheels while in-motion; one of us was confident enough in his abilities to wipe the rear wheels of others while both were in-motion.
For the third time in about five weeks, Robert was enticed off the correct course by others who did not have even a single cue sheet among them; each time, Robert had the a cue sheet, and he should have been TELLING the others which way to proceed. I pretended to not even look at the misdirected miscreants slowly moving west on Old Weaver Trail, but looking over their shoulders to check on the following riders, as I rode straight past OWT. A short bit later, as we were headed down Lawrence Rd toward BRH, Robert was riding alongside me; I took the opportunity to explain to him that when he had a cue sheet, and the others in a mini-group with which he was riding did not, he should TELL them which way to turn, and not just follow; if he had the only cue sheet, he was effectively the leader. Robert's response: "oh, no, I don't want to be the leader."
Bold Run Hill Rd, Plus:
As mentioned above, I like BRH for two reasons: it has nice climbs, especially on the southeast end, and the valley is quite enticing. However, I was so intent on shaking out the cycling lethargy that I did not even look at the scenery -- instead, I worked the down, the bump, and the flat particularly hard. I also worked the climb hard, but as I am so slow, even when making a serious hard effort to go faster up a steeper climb, no one will have likely noticed; nor are they likely to believe me.
I had requested, urged, demanded that when the leaders got to Powell Rd, that they stop to regroup for the next, surprise, the "plus" section. Every one of the fast crew was dutifully waiting. I zipped to the front to grab the lead across the next flat section because I didn't want to give away the surprise until forced to by the appearance of the "plus" road.
We zoomed downhill to a stop sign. Too bad there wasn't any traffic on the road where the traffic did not have to stop. We turned left, and Robert commented "hey, I remember this road; first we do this climb, and then there is a serious climb." "Sorry, Robert" said I, "this is the serious climb." On the way up, BobH, who usually climbs like a mountain goat, but apparently was having "one of those no-go days for no apparent reason" asked "where did this come from?" I chuckled and told him that we had ridden the road / climb for the first time a few weeks earlier, when he had been out-of-town. I added that I had learned something about Norris that day. \: wink-wink :\
I assume that everyone enjoyed the extra diversion to the "plus" road. No one complained.
We circled back on Purnell to Powell and rejoined BRH where we had originally turned off it. That little mis-direction is actually flat, and avoids the "cork-screw" on Purnell. So, think of it as a planned bit of road for recovery and an opportunity for casual conversation.
After less than half-a-mile on Purnell (which included a quick down-and-up -- perhaps better described as a pointless down-and-up), we turned onto Camp Kanata Rd to climb the flat road to the highest elevation of the day ... which I think is on Camp Kanata just before reaching Woodland Church Rd. (There is a lot of construction going on at Woodland Church, btw. At the church -- not on the road.)
Jonah Davis Rd becomes Holden Rd. No one bothered to chase me as I scooted away to the Franklin County Line. A valley and ... OMG ... I climbed up from the creek staying with the climbers. Maybe that climb is not all that steep.
Left onto Sid Mitchell and then soon a right onto Green Rd. And ... OMG x 2 ... I was staying with the climbers until I needed to pass Smitty in order to keep my cadence, but he was hanging out next to the double-yellow (as usual), and I decided to back off the cadence rather than cross the double-yellow going uphill. Gave up one or two strokes, and ... there's no getting it back.
Left onto Long Mill Rd. Much closer to the front-running climbers than I usually am. Across the flat to NC-96. Robert turned into the gas station / convenience store (which was a listed alternative / emergency refueling depot) to wait for me ... only to find I was already there. Ha!
Straight across NC-96. Across the non-descript part of Long Mill -- there is a bit of a valley -- to Pokomoke Rd and the "Llama House". (I thought I'd put in a link to the "google-yellow-man" photo of the "Llama House" and some llamas, but the little yellow-man has not been down either Pokomoke or Long Mill Rd. Strange.) I don't think anyone bothered to look for any llamas.
Straight across Pokomoke Rd and down into what is sometimes a nice looking valley with that dam and small lake. I recall nothing. I took my time climbing up from the little lake to the next road / stop-sign. I was surprised to find everyone milling about and confused about which way to turn. Something seemed amiss -- even to me. Then I realized. I had forgotten to note Fred Wilder Rd as the connection between Long Mill Rd and NC-56. It simply slipped my mind since there isn't really any choice to be made there -- if one understands where one is. However, most of the crew is lost most of the time, I think.
Assault on Flat Rock. Well, Assault on Wes Sandling and Grove Hill Rd:
Sometimes I am starting to take things for granted. For example, I didn't mention that one should probably hammer the first 100 or so yards on NC-56 after turning off Fred Wilder; I know that traffic coming out of Franklinton can suddenly pop over the bump to the east on 56, and traffic can suddenly pop over the bump to the west on 56; I mentioned that one's "bailout" (the right turn lane for Wes Sandling Rd) began right at the crest of the bump to the west, but I forgot to mention why that might be important, AND I also forgot to mention that it would be a good idea to get out of that little "bowl" as quickly as possible. Guess I was too busy riding my butt off, trying to eradicate lethargy, to be a good leader. We turned onto NC-56, and were promptly putzing at about 12 mph -- I realized my instruction mistake, and recitified the situation by hitting the pedals hard and zipping to the front (or near the front) by the time we got to the turn-off lane.
Right onto Wes Sandling Rd. Zoom the first down. Pop the little up. Zoom the next down. Ride the real UP at a normal (i.e., that means I was my usual SLOW self) pace. Levi, who had stolen the CL earlier as Lawrence Rd became Mangum Dairy Rd, probably saw the CL near the top of the second climb (since he had previously told me that he and his better half had ridden AFR the previous weekend, he may have already known where the CL was) and took the honor. I'm pretty sure that Smitty knows where that CL is, but Smitty was having a hard day after a hard night out at the Wake County Speedway, so I doubt he showed any interest in the CL.
As I reached the stop sign at the top of the Wes Sandling climb, I urged Gary to call Richard back from his wrong turn. Richard had followed Levi and Robert into making a left onto Grove Hill Rd. The cue sheet clearly calls for one to continue STRAIGHT onto Grove Hill Rd. Robert had a cue sheet with him, and I'd already admonished him once about proper cue sheet useage. Levi had supposedly ridden the AFR the previous weekend, and I know that Levi did the AFR (which no modifications) once last year with me. Levi should have known the course; I wondered what he had actually ridden with Cathryn the previous weekend. I barely looked to the left as I continued STRAIGHT onto Grove Hill Rd. I was intent on riding down the next valley with gusto, and then I planned to work the next UP H-A-R-D. So intent was I on riding hard, I failed to notice the scenes at the bottom of the valley; I don't even recall slowing or making the hard left onto the bridge. At the bridge. Hmmn. What's the point of doing scenic routes if one pays the scenery no attention? Riding hard, I guess.
Six of us gathered at the next stop sign -- after completing the Grove Hill climb. A couple people thought they saw some interesting flora (or was it fauna) behind an old shed. We began discussing the next section of the ride (another add-on / modification) to the standard AFR so that we would get in at least a 100 km ride. Suddenly, or so it appeared, two lost souls (Levi and Robert) joined us. Somebody said something about being confused at the previous stop sign (the corner of Wes Sandling becomes Grove Hill and John Sandling becomes Grove Hill roads). I asked Robert to let me see the cue sheet.
Just as I suspected. Wes Sandling for 2 miles. Then STRAIGHT onto Grove Hill Rd. NOT left onto Grove Hill Rd. Wes Sandling meets Grove Hill. Sheesh!
I did acknowledge that some / most AFR cue sheets mentioned the need to make a left turn at the stop sign where we were currently milling about. But as I pointed out, "would anyone really think the route should go to the right, on a gravel road, with a sign noting 'Dead End'?"
An Extra Loop:
To get in the extra mileage to make a 100 km ride, we did not follow the standard AFR route by turning left off Grove Hill Rd onto Flat Rock Rd. Instead we continued straight to Philo White Rd, where we turned left and rode all the way to NC-96. At 96, we turned right, heading northward toward Oxford. Tito is reticent to pick up the pace when he finds himself in the lead on a flat or gentle downslope; I attribute this to his desire to NOT break the group apart. However, 14 mph did NOT fit my plans. So, around I went to take the lead and up the pace to somewhere around 18 mph (I'm guessing). Btw, did anyone notice the Methodist Church on the right (east) side of 96, and in particular the year that the church was founded? would make a really good rando-informational-control-question, if the church was located at a corner.
Right onto Cannady Mill Rd with the continuing general gentle downslope (we were headed for the Tar River, after all). Tito came up alongside me to discuss next week's Morrisville 200 km Brevet. We were covering the finer points of breveting and the likely pace of the lead group(s) -- rando readers, just to make sure you understand, me writing that I was discussing the finer points of randonneuring: it is a joke, because I certainly don't know what I'm doing -- when suddenly the turn onto Philo White was only about 25 yards ahead! I yelled "turning right" hoping everyone would contol their machines in time; I think Wendy shouted "gravel" almost on top of my yell for the "right". From my position in front -- where I could see no one -- it appeared that we all made graceful turns onto Philo White.
And immediately descended to the bottom of whatever is the name of that creek. (As a side note: some people don't like to ride Philo White if they are heading southbound because just as one completes the steep of the climb up from the Tar River, one descends to almost the same low elevation, and then climbs up again. I had decided earlier that I have been wimping out avoiding Philo White and Flat Rock roads this year. Part of the plan for the ride was to rectify that training mistake.) I learned something about myself on this ride: I can zip up that Philo White climb if I put my mind to it. I had previously ALWAYS slogged my up that climb. Hmmn.
After the steep up, Philo White continues with a false flat up for a mile or more, all the way to Flat Rock Rd. A small gap had opened in the group, and I asked Gary if could bridge the gap and let the lead riders know to turn at the next left. Whether Gary informed them of the left, or whether someone else among the lead riders knew to turn left onto Flat Rock Rd, I don't know -- but every turned smoothly onto Flat Rock. After we crossed Grove Hill Rd, we were back on the standard AFR route -- and it was intended we would stay on the standard route.
Assault on Flat Rock:
The downhill on Flat Rock is one of my favorites. You might ask "Why?" Because I can coast down it faster than the Mallet can pedal down it. There are some advantages to being uphill gravity disadvantaged -- namely, being downhill gravity advantaged. I decided to catch and pass everyone on the downhill; I had to "go" some to do so, but I managed to pass everyone. Several tacked on. At the bottom, Tito and another (I forget who) got a little revenge on me. I started losing speed across the short flat bit at the bottom, even before crossing the bridge, and Tito called out "don't slow down". I chuckled, or would have, if I hadn't been intent on pushing the steep bit hard. I think I wimped out, though. And lost a lot of distance to most everyone on the steep. I managed to pass BobH when the slope slackened, and was working on Smitty when the slope re-steepened. Even an "off" Smitty can outclimb me on steep (doesn't have to be that steep either). Ditto, BobH. They each pulled away.
The crew re-grouped at the right turn onto Grove Hill Rd. (For those not familiar: Grove Hill Rd is a big U-shape. Flat Rock Rd essentially crosses the U. So the standard AFR involves turning left off Grove Hill onto Flat Rock, and 2.8 miles later turning right off Flat Rock onto Grove Hill. Combined with the opportunity to either continue straight off Wes Sandling onto Grove Hill, or turn left off Wes Sandling onto Grove Hill, there is plenty of opportunity to confuse people -- even when not trying to.)
We rode nicely across a bit of Grove Hill and the two unconnected parts of Suitt's Store Rd to the Western Wear Store. Wendy can never again claim to not know where that store is located. Seven of us stopped at the store. BobH decided that the best plan for him was to just keep riding and get the misery of his "no-go" day over with as soon as possible. I'm confident that next time I see Bob, he will have "too-much-go".
Friends Are Everywhere:
The stop at the store was only intended to be for 5 or 10 minutes. It turned into at least 25 minutes.
One of Gary's Simple Green clients rode up and Gary spent most of the time at the store talking with his Simple Green friend.
Dr. Phil (an "Irregular" when he wants to be) suddenly appeared at the store, too. Levi has known Dr. Phil since their professor-student days at NC State. I've known Dr. Phil since ... last year. It can be a small, inter-connected cycling world.
We finally got back onto the road. I was looking forward to the Bruce Garner --> New Light section of the ride.
"Friends", Too, Are Everywhere:
We were settling in for the "rush home" on Bruce Garner and New Light as we approached Grissom.
Levi was setting a very handsome pace. Then we noticed the large horde of people riding bicycles that were leaving the Grissom store. At first, we thought nothing of it. Then as we got quite close, singletons and doubles continued to pull out in front of us. We had to use considerable brake. Then there was a car coming from the opposite direction. The horde continued to pull out in front of that traffic in addition to pulling out in front of us; one guy even rode 20 or 30 yards in the middle of the wrong lane directly at the oncoming car. Apparently there was no regard to traffic laws, courtesy, respect for others, nor even regard for their own lives. We all make mistakes. But a whole horde all making the same decision / mistake? Something is amiss there.
I was silently trying to figure out how we could get out of the middle of the horde. Too many strung out too far for us to try to pass them all. Too many strung out too far behind us to "fall back" behind them all. Levi suddenly voiced the solution: whichever way the Horde goes at that Rock Springs corner, let's go the other direction. Well done, Levi.
We all enjoyed a fast ride down Rock Srings Ch Rd --> Beaver Dam Rd. I tried to entice Levi into a little CL action by jumping a bit early. But unfortunately, Gary decided to chase me down. He easily beat me to the CL. But I informed him that was disqualified for "racing" in the wrong category. He is Cat-2; the rest of us are Cat-6. (Yes, I know that it only goes down to Cat-5 -- I exaggerate to make the point.)
When I arrived at PUE, Levi and one or two others asked me what is "Irregulars" record for "bottom of Ghoston to the top of MVC". I dunno. No one other than me is silly enough to time the last 4.7 miles. And I time (if I remember) from the "bottom of Ghoston to my car". Levi reported 15 minutes. Hmmn. According to my calcualtions 15 minutes to cover that 4.6 miles translates to 18.4 mph. Not sure that I believe "15 minutes, flat", unless more sample points are added to the data-base.
PUE: AFR, w/ BRH and Mangum Dairy, etc. on the way out; 68.3 m.; 4 hrs, 16 min in-motion time; 16.0 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: 13 rides; __786.9 m.; _52 hrs, 36 min; 15.0 mph.
Aug tot: _1 rides; ___68.3 m.; __4 hrs, 16 min; 16.0 mph.
YTD tot: 61 rides; 4,056.7 m.; 269 hrs, 00 min; 15.1 mph.