Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Feb-18: Carolina Crossroads 200-km Perm

JohnA needed a February R-ride.  He lives "near" downtown Raleigh and wanted to have a go at the new Carolina Crossroads (CC) perm that MikeD and Dean cooked up for the NC-rando-year-end party this past November (click here for Mike's perspective on the route -- ride-with-gps map seems screwed up).  John asked if I'd do the route / ride with him.  I agreed.  At the time, I had no idea what roads the route traversed.

In exchange for signed waivers, Mike sent the cue sheet and control cards for us to print.  Looking over the cue sheet, I suspected that the entire route would be new roads for John (once out of downtown), but I also noticed that 6 1/2 or 7 miles into the CC route, we would literally ride through the start of the Mule Pull,  AND  follow the Mule Pull route to the Grocery Boy control (which is in the middle of no-where).  I'd done the Mule Pull twice last year; each time I was exhausted from the day before and essentially "just followed", but I had some familiarity.

After the Grocery Boy, CC route diverges from the Mule Pull route to Old Stage Rd (perhaps more on that later), but rejoins the Mule Pull on thumpa-thumpa Piney Grove Ch Rd, and then follows the Mule Pull routing to Benson.  However, CC route sneaks into Benson on a side-road paralleling the Mule Pull route.  Smoother(?), less traffic, more stop-signs.

CC route leaves Benson by crossing over I-95, and then more-or-less paralleling the interstate on FLAT backroads for another 22 or so miles to Crossroads Grocery (also in the middle of no-where).  CC, being an out-and-back course, then reverses itself.
In January, John had done only his third different permanent -- completing the "north Raleigh trifecta" of (west to east) Triple-L, Kerr Lake, and Black Creek.  I.e., John was completely unfamiliar with any of the "south Raleigh" permanents.  I figured that pointing out the starts, overlaps and controls of the Mule Pull, Get 'er Dunn and the Tar Heel 200 would provide some things to talk about.  I did point them all out to John, but there were plenty of other things to talk about.

Because of 7-am open-business realities, we had to ride about a half-mile from our meeting place to the cue-sheeted official start/finish of the course.  That half-mile combined with John forgetting to reset his confuser before we started the ride (he still had the 1.99 miles from his house to the McD's on Peace Street) led to John having to struggle to figure out some of the upcoming turns.  I was useless at helping him -- I had gotten a new battery for my confuser specifically so that I'd be able to get good mileage readings for this unknown CC course -- but the problem turned out to not be the battery, but instead the confuser itself seems non-functional -- except for the time-of-day read-out -- at least I had that; it would prove useful.

John had printed the cue sheet out in LARGE print, taking 4 pages.  I had reformatted and had the entire cue sheet on one side of an "8.5 x 11" piece of paper.  Mistake -- my eyes can't read type that small while in motion on the bike.  But John has younger and better eyes than I do -- and he had that LARGE print and a working confuser.

Given that the two of us usually ride on roads very lightly traveled through rural north-central NC, we each found Garner Rd a bit disconcerting in the morning.  Broken glass on the road AND passing cars running over "junk" in the roadway.  Garner Rd more-or-less parallels the railroad, and is old US-Hwy-70, I think.  At least one gets a glimpse of what car travel may have been like before the modern routing of US-70 and before interstates.

I was quite glad to get to Vandora Springs Rd.  Why?  Because, after crossing over the RR and modern US-70, we would be turning onto Fifth Avenue in Garner and ride through the start of the Benson Mull Pull at Swift Creek Shopping Center.  After that, I knew the route would get progressively more remote and rural.

At the turn onto Rock Service Station Rd, I pointed out to John that Dean's Get 'er Dunn started only about 1.2 miles to the north.  John asked some questions about Get 'er Dunn -- mostly wondering if people cycled or drove to the start.

Eight-tenths of a mile later, we turned onto Barber Bridge Rd, and John finally felt that we were getting away from busy roads.  Everything was going swimmingly as we arrived at about 9 o'clock (an hour-and-a-half after our start) at the control at the Grocery Boy.  Then things took a turn in the wrong direction.  John had lost his card.  Deep-sigh.

I suggested he use mine since I already had my February R-ride.  Then a better idea -- call Mike and see if he had another, better solution.  He did.  We implemented Mike's solution.

John has been learning via the school-of-hard-knocks about some things rando.  He forgot to sign his card after one perm, and had to make a special trip to rectify that.  He's also had one or two other "lessons" that I won't go into.  However, unlike me, he has yet to DNF anything -- give it time.

On to Benson via repeated down-and-ups on Old Stage Rd and Benson-Hardee Rd; in my now-foggy memory, the other roads seem to be essentially flat-ish.  I didn't much notice the down-and-ups on Old Stage Rd in the morning -- there were several cars, though.  We got to the Burger King control in Benson at about 10:35; that BK is slow enough without having to also deal with the breakfast-to-lunch menu change.  We need to talk to Mike about making Benson an "open control" -- that BK is SLOW -- always.

I don't know what time we left the BK, but it must have been nearly 11:00 -- my hopes(?) that we might make the turn-around by 12:00 had evaporated.  There was also the headwind to slow us the 22 miles to Crossroads Grocery (in the middle of no-where); but the biggest time-coster was missing the turn onto Massingil Farm Rd.

NC-242 was smooth and flat, and with John leading, the headwind wasn't bothering me too much; and it seemed to have little impact on John.  After enjoying many minutes of the smooth-flat, I asked John about the turn (I had looked over the cue sheet, but not really studied it while in Benson).  John's folding-over of his 4-page-cue-sheet was perfect -- Massingil Farm Rd was unreadable due to being smack dab on the fold, AND the right-hand column of comments was folded inside and hidden completely.  Since we were going up a slight rise, and we could see that there was a cross-road at the crest, we continued to the corner (there wasn't really anywhere else to have pulled over, safely, anyway).  Drag Strip Rd -- not Massingil Farm Rd.

John took his cue-sheet out the plastic protection, and learned that we should have turned after only 0.8 miles on NC-242, AND he grinned at me and read aloud the comment:  "sign may be missing".  I grinned back at him and chuckled.  What to do?  Research after the ride indicates that 1.1-miles west of NC-242, "Drag Strip Rd" has a different name -- "Jonesboro Rd" -- and is part of the CC course.  Apparently Audax-UK permanent rules are about getting from control to control without regard to the actual route ridden; RUSA permanent rules require tracing out the prescribed course.  We U-turned and headed back whence we had come, looking for Massingil Farm Rd; we found it -- 3.0 miles after we turned around.  Sigh.

6-bonus miles:  My previous (admittedly short) career TOTAL bonus-miles was only 4 miles (two miles twice).  At least 20-minutes, likely closer to 24, had ... evaporated.  But at least it had been a good road, smooth, flat, with some interesting topiary and other sights to appreciate (if one is of a mind to do so).

After that, John would call out the distance-to and name-of the next turn.  I would look at the clock on my mostly-useless confuser and make a mental note of the current time and estimate when it would make sense to start looking for the next turn / road.

As noted above, John has younger and better eyes than I do (also younger and more fit legs, and generally is a better athlete than me), but once or twice, I called out the turn to John as he was seemingly about ready to ride past the turn -- outbound James Barefoot Rd comes to mind.

I had earlier told John that I was counting on him to do the lion's share of the leading on the day (see previous paragraph for why), but we shared the work leading on Green Path and Autry Mills roads (not in any systematic way -- just that whichever was behind would come around when they felt rested and the one leading seemed not to be).  Just after turning onto Green Path Rd, John called out "5.3-miles to Autry Mills Rd on the left".  I noted the time was 11:58, and figured to start looking for Autry Mills at around 12:15.  John was leading as we approached Autry Mills, again possibly intent on missing the turn, I saw that it was 12:17 and called out to John "this is probably our turn" -- I couldn't read the words on the little green sign ... John could and announced "6-miles to the turn-around".  I figured to start looking for the turn-around at about 12:37; I also wondered if the store at the control would be open; I was worried that if it wasn't open, we might ride past without realizing.

12:38, right on cue, John called out "I'll bet this is our control."  Open.  Name on store:  "Crossroads Grocery" -- if that wasn't the control ... someone was playing an awful hoax.  Off the bike at 12:40.  Five-hours-and-ten-minutes after our official start.  A sub-10-hour time was not impossible; after all, there would be a nice tailwind for much of the return.
We left Crossroads Grocery at 1:00 precisely.  Perhaps we had taken a bit too long, but I had needed a sit-down to rest my legs.  Anyway, I figured it wouldn't matter ... the southerly breeze was likely to be building and waiting a few minutes might actually not cost any net time ... as the breeze would move us along faster.  The 11-miles to Timothy Rd (the turn off of Green Path) zipped by without effort.  It was so enjoyable that we managed to miss the turn onto Moulton Rd.  As we approached the stop-sign for ??? semi-major back-road, I said, "John, I don't recall this stop-sign."  There is an advantage to out-and-back courses ... if you are paying attention.  Sure enough ... we should have turned ... "back there".  [Post-ride map analysis indicates that we collected another 0.9-miles in the "bonus" category.]

Back on course on Moulton and James Barefoot and ... I don't recall and I'm not going to look it up.  Over I-95 into Benson.  John didn't want to chance getting DNF'd by assuming that Benson was an open control, so I went to BK to get a receipt while he went to the Subway to order a 12-inch sandwich to split, and some drinks.  I'm not sure, but I think it was 2:35 when I got the receipt from BK -- and then I waited ... and waited ... and waited.

By the time I got the little snack(s) and walked my bike across the road to the Subway, John had almost completed his sandwich.  I sat down and ate mine at a reasonable pace.  Upon leaving the interior to go back outside to warm up ... yes, it was COLD in the Subway ... John made a real effort to appear to be patient while I put on short-fingers over liners (which I wore all day) ... John wore only short-fingers all day. And, I admit, we were not only "Mutt and Jeff" as far as height goes, we were also "Mutt and Jeff" as far as clothing went.  I kept my knee-warmers on all day; John had only shorts all day.  John had only his short-sleeved jersey with arm-warmers early and late in the day; I had ... twice as much clothing on my top half.  One thing to note, though:  on the homeward bound half of the ride, John was still zipped all the way up the entire 100k; I, on the other hamd, was completely unzipped the entire 100k.

Anyway, by the time I threw my leg over, it was exactly 3:02 according to the clock on my mostly useless confuser.  We had a strong ride from Benson to the Grocery Boy, covering the 19.1-miles in exactly 1-hour-flat elapsed clock time.  Covering that repeating down-and-up section in that 1-hour ... gave us a shot at still getting in under 10-hours for the whole ride.

[HOW we covered that 19.1-miles in one-hour-flat ... I do not understand -- it seems to me entirely likely that Mike and Dean have been secretly contracting with mega-earth-mover types to make the valleys on Benson-Hardee Rd DEEPER, and making the crest of that shallow upslope on Benson-Hardee Rd returning from Benson HIGHER.  And I swear they've added a valley or two on Benson-Hardee that was not there the first time I rode the Mule Pull.  I also KNOW that on Saturday afternoon there were at least five or six DEEP valleys on Old Stage Rd coming back -- yet a Google-earth / terrain type map indicates only two!?]

8-minutes for the stop at the Grocery Boy.  We left still toying with sub-10 in our minds and conversation.  At the turn off Rock Service Station Rd onto Pagan I told John that a sub-10 hour ride was ... problematic.  He asked why.  "It is nearly 10-miles from here to the start / finish of the Mule Pull, and then we will have 7-miles to get to the McD's on Peace Street, and the last 2 or 3 of those will be stop-and-go, stop-and-go through downtown."  We didn't back off our efforts -- although I got awfully slow on two or three or more upslopes -- but ... I was grateful when we turned onto Aversboro Rd because I knew there were no more tough climbs.

Writing of Aversboro Rd reminds me:  as John and I were headed north on said road, "hammering" for Raleigh, I noticed a cyclist paused on the southbound sidewalk, straddling his mount -- too late I realized it was Bryan "Smiley" R.  If we hadn't been racing the dark-monster, if we hadn't already been a minute or two after the expiration of John's "kitchen pass", if I had earlier realized who that bushy-bearded soul was, we might have paused and chatted for a minute.  (Click here for the story of Bryan's most recent rando adventure.)

We did get one incredibly lucky break!  Just as we were crossing the RR tracks at the end of Vandora Springs Rd, next to the turn onto Garner Rd, the RR-crossing-guard signal / alarm started sounding and the gate-arms started to descend a few seconds after that.  We beat the crossing-guard-arms by only a few seconds ... as Garner Rd parallels the RR-tracks for quite a while, we were able to discern that the train was  a LONGGGG one.  We took great pleasure from that small (not-quite-a) victory.

We managed to catch every single stop-light in downtown Raleigh on red.  Downtown traffic lights are designed for rapid north-south traffic; east-west be damned.  We caught EVERY stop-light encountered on RED.

We pulled into the McD's on Peace Street at 5:38 pm.  I don't know what time was on the receipt -- the person/group two people/groups in front of me seemed to have trouble understanding the concept behind ordering the food and paying for it.  John and I are claiming 5:38 pm and a 10h08 200k (plus 6.9-bonus-miles) regardless of what Mike records on the RUSA database.  :-o
We had a great ride on a great day.
I had a great ride partner.
John ... was not quite as lucky on that front as me.
R-8 for John (if he is counting.)
R-19-insurance for me.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

--> Carolina Crossroads 200-km Permanent -->; 139.8 m.; est. 9h26 in-motion; 14.8 mph; official rando time -- 10h08 (for the permanent only).  

Jan tot: __6 rides; __426.2 m.; _28 h, 52 m; 14.8 mph. 
Feb tot: __4 rides; __404.3 m.; _27 h, 05 m; 15.0 mph. 
YTD tot: _10 rides; __830.5 m.; _55 h, 57 m; 14.9 mph.  

Eddington Cycling Number
After this ride:  83. 
Meaning I have ridden at least 83 miles on at least 83 different occasions.  .

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