Tom and I, plus about a dozen other hearty souls signed up for Tony Goodnight's Salisbury RUSA/ACP June 30/July 1 600K brevet. When we arrived for the 4:00 am start, we learned that ALL the riders except for Tom, Ed Boltz and myself had changed their minds and were riding either the 200K or the 300K. "Hmm", I thought. "These randonneurs are generally a pretty savvy, tough group of cyclists. Why did they switch to shorter rides? Did they suddenly become wimps? No, I doubt that. Are they concerned about the forecast temps of over 100 degrees? No, surely not." Several told me they didn't really need another 600K because they had completed Alan's recently, also, some cited family obligations, July 4 related get-togethers and so on. The old expression "Fools Rush in, Where Angels Fear to Tread", might be appropriate here.
A large group of us began--around 20 or so. I was glad to see the sun come up after a couple of hours. Our first control stop was Union Grove. The weather was still cool and pleasant. At about mile 40 or 50 Tony G and I had completed a pull on the front and rotated off. I noticed a gap had developed behind the front group. I started to tuck in behind the 4th or 5th rider, but the people who had rotated to the front were from out of state and they were picking up the pace. From experience, I've learned that it is real easy to get lost when blindly following the wheel in front of me, and I figured the chances of missing a turn would be high in this situation. I rotated further back, staying near enough to Tony that I could hear him call out turns. Good thing for me! Within a mile or so, Tony yelled out "Right Turn, Right Turn!!" -- but the riders in front did not hear and kept on going. After awhile I became concerned that they might be lost forever, and BTW, my husband Tom was with them, but he caught up with us before the next control and then the others showed up. I think they got extra credit for "bonus miles". The 200K riders were still with us but their route split from ours around mile 60-64.
At mile 70.2 we 600K and 400K riders turned onto Oklahoma Road, which includes the featured climb of the "Hurt, Pain and Agony" ride. It lived up to its reputation. We crossed into VA around mile 90 and headed towards the New River and Austinville. After we crossed the New River Bridge at about mile 128 there was a climb of 11-14% grade, which was steeper (but shorter) than the Oklahoma climb was, if I'm correct. The weather was hot by then and alot of sweating, as well as perhaps some cussing, happened on that little surprise of a climb. We bid goodbye to the 400K riders at the Austinville, VA control, at mile 132. At that point, Ed's GPS said we had already climbed 12,000 feet.
We rode on through some very scenic and mountainous areas, on into the night. As we began a descent which had all sorts of warning signs saying "WARNING, next 6 miles are 9% grade!", etc, there was some thunder. As we continued, it started to rain and the wind picked up. By the time we reached the bottom, it was raining hard, cold rain. Then the pea-size hail began to pelt us. Thank goodness, a gas station provided shelter for us. Although it was closed, there was a porch/shed attached to it and some hay and tarps were inside. We sat on a hay bale, leaned back against a wall, covered ourselves with tarps and sat out the storm. Hail continued pelting the roof and windows. Cars pulled in under the awning at the pumps for protection. I was glad the wind was no higher, because it could have torn off the roof or broken the windows if it had been. From their breathing sounds, I don't believe Tom or Ed were very worried, as they were asleep.
Finally the storm stopped and we rode on. We found a little roadside grill open and got some breakfast. One of the customers good naturedly teased me, complimenting my "purse", which is a ziplock bag with yellow duct tape on it. I proudly told him, "I made it myself, can you tell?"
At a store after Greensboro, it got hot early and we stopped at a store for drinks. As we were about to leave, a scowling woman with a scowling child in tow said, as she passed me on the steps to enter the store, "It's too hot for all of THAT!", in a disapproving tone. After she'd gone inside I told Ed what she'd said to me and he replied, "She's right!"
Tony G was a welcome face at the Salem Fork Dairy Queen/Subway control @ mile 305. After getting some food and cold things to drink we headed for Jonesville. We missed the turn onto Greenhill Road (mile 350.2) and ended up going almost 5 extra miles because of it. The turn was well marked, we just were not being attentive enough and missed it.
There were no more storms and no more drama on the ride and we were very thankful for that! Tom and Ed were great riding companions and I'm grateful that our guardian angels were riding with us too, especially during the hailstorm. The location of the place where we found shelter could not have been better!
Although I was not using my Garmin and Tom's ran out of batteries before the ride was complete, from what we can tell, it looks like there was about 24,000 feet of climbing, total on the 600K, but that is an estimate. My computer says I rode 380.2 miles, which is enough, I think. The next 2 days Tom and I did some fun, easy recovery type activities in the Blowing Rock area. We did the zipline at Hawksnest and then did a little hike off the Blue Ridge Parkway. I'll see if I can attach the photos taken at Hawksnest. No photos were taken of the hot, sweaty ride or under the shed during the hailstorm, wrapped in plastic and covered with tarps. (I don't need THAT kind of stuff out circulating on the internet!)