Tom and I completed the 2013 July 4 weekend RUSA/ACP 1,000K brevet Saturday night. It was quite an epic and fun ride. Distance total was 632 miles after a 4 mile detour was added. 23.000 feet climbing mainly in the form of rolling terrain, no "true" mountains. My report begins in Greensboro, NC and I'll describe things that happened along the way.
6 am Thursday morning: 9 riders for the 1,000K brevet plus 6 or 7 riders for the 200K, 300K and 400K brevets all started together from the Best Western Airport Inn at Greensboro. All were guys mostly in their 40s and 50s except for me. I'll be glad to see more women get into this venue of riding. It's a lot of fun and you have all sorts of adventures along the way. Riders are usually very nice, will talk to you and are not "cut-throat". Brevets and the longer "Randonnees" are "Pass-Fail" timed events. You must complete the unsupported ride within the time limit or you officially fail or "DNF". Going off course, getting lost and having mechanical problems or injuries are the most common causes of DNFs. Riders often have speed goals or personal records they aim for, but trophies are not given out and there is no podium. Entry fees are very low compared with fees for racing or for charity rides. (no prize money, no marked courses, no trophies, no SAG support=low overhead!).
The first mandatory "Control" checkpoint was at Salem Fork, NC at mile 62. Terrain was rolling, weather overcast and cool. Most of the riders stayed together in a large group in this section. Bikes included lightweight carbon road bikes like mine, steel or titanium frames, one strong rider of the 300K named George rode a fixed gear bike with aerobars. His feet were a blur on the descents! I'm sure his cadence was well over 200 RPM at times. Ken from Indiana rode a recumbent. The majority of men's saddles were Brooks leather. We had to carry plenty of gear for on the road repairs, weather events, lights and reflective gear for night riding, so we were all pretty loaded down. Each rider was allowed one "drop bag", which ride organizer Tony Goodnight carried for us to a hotel in Laurinburg. For navigation I had my new Garmin 800 with the route loaded on it and a set of paper cue sheets mounted on my aerobars.
From Salem Fork back to Greensboro, (mile 126) the group fragmented more. The skies darkened and started looking ominous as we left Greensboro and headed towards Troy (mile 150) in the Uwharries. I wanted to catch up with John, Ken and Joel, who had rolled out ahead of us. When we got into the forested, rolling hills on Flint Hill Road the sky opened up and we were deluged with hard, pelting rain and some hail. There wasn't much point in stopping, though, because there was no good shelter in sight and you sure don't want to get beneath a tree, which could blow down! After the rain stopped we caught up with Ken, who said we had passed him, John and Joel while they were under a carport during the rain! Later we all hooked back up and the 6 of us rode together for the rest of day one and day 2.
Ellerbe, NC at mile 215 was our next "control". We arrived at about 11:30 pm. This gas station was obviously THE PLACE to be in Ellerbe late at night on July 4, even though we had to go out back to pee. The local people were real friendly and curious about us and seemed very impressed or amazed at how far we had ridden and were planning to ride. One real nice lady brought me a flattened paper bag. She asked for my autograph and the autographs of all of us! Then she got the reluctant riders (visualize trying to herd cats) to pose together with her and had her husband take a group photo! I wish I'd asked her name, as I have no doubt we are on her FB page. Next stop was Laurinburg @ mile 250, where Tony had some hot pizza for us in his room. A nice warm bath felt good and I was glad to have dry clothes to change into. Although I had been wearing 2 pair of chamois cycling shorts with chamois butter and talcum powder, the heavy rain had turned it all into a soggy mess and I had gotten some chafing of the skin, which worried me. Tom and I slept in the room next to Tony's for 3 or 4 hours while Ed slept propped up in a chair in our room. The next morning I put on 2 clean dry pairs of shorts and dumped about half a can of talcum powder down my pants in hopes it would prevent more skin abrasion.
Day 2: Sunny with Floods and Feral Pigs--- Ed, John, Ken, Joel, Tom and I left the hotel at 6:30 am, ate at Burger King and headed towards Rowland, NC (mile 270). Not far from Rowland, in Robeson County, there was a group of 3 feral pigs rooting around on the shoulder of the road. One was large, dirty white with black markings. Two others were smaller. They didn't move or run away until we got close and the front rider yelled at them. The pigs moved very quickly and quietly down into the high grass of the ditch and were out of sight immediately. I have heard there are a lot of feral pigs in NC but they are not often seen, kind of like bears. We have so many bears in Eastern NC that we have a bear hunting season. I've never seen one, but my friend Ian saw a bear near a road in eastern NC in the middle of the night during a long brevet. We rode across the Lumber River bridge at Fair Bluff (mile 293) and the river was so high it was almost up to the bridge. This was the highest I've seen the river here, and I used to do a lot of kayaking in this area. River was out of its banks and was swiftly running through the swamp for miles. Not a safe day to kayak down the Lumber River! Next stop was Tabor City, SC at mile 310. Weather was beautiful and sunny between Fair Bluff and Tabor City. All was going well until we came to an unexpected "Road Closed" barricade across NC 904! There was not even a detour sign. 904 is pretty much the only way to get to Tabor City from where we were. What to do? We saw some trucks which had gone around the barricade and drivers yelled to us that the road was flooded. Well, they had obviously gotten through, so we went down to check it out. There was a long flat area with a low dip. River water was rushing over the road. Regular size cars were getting through, but the water was up to their doors and they made wakes. Tom just kept on riding. The rest of us watched, expecting him to fall but he didn't. No way I was going to do that to my bike--get the cable housing and everything else all cruddy with dirty water. I put my bike on my shoulder and started walking through. It wasn't all that bad, as the footing was firm and not slippery and you could see the pavement. Ed, Ken, John and I carried our bikes. I heard a truck coming up behind, about to pass on our left. Someone was yelling from it and I thought, "Oh, great, NOW we'll get harassed by REDNECKS!" As the truck passed, I saw Joel and his bike in the back of the truck, riding high and dry and looking like a king, smiling and drinking from his water bottle. Turns out HE was the one yelling from the truck! There was a second flooded section which was not as deep.
Sunset Beach (mile 345) was the next control. We ate at McDonald's after crossing the bridge, going to the pier and returning over the bridge again. This bridge over the Intercoastal Waterway is very high. The former bridge was a low pivoting wooden single lane drawbridge. We used to have to stop, wait for the bridge to turn and then for the light to turn green for us to cross. I sort of miss that old bridge, as we could see boats pass very close, some of them very nice. Now the boats are so far below we don't even notice them.
On the way back to Tabor City (mile 380) we crossed the flooded parts of NC 904 again, only this time the water was a few inches higher. When vehicles approached, their wakes came well above my knees. Again, Tom rode his bike through and Joel hitched another ride in a pick up truck,this time its occupants were women. Joel is very good at getting picked up. I bet the ladies would have taken him on down to Myrtle Beach if he'd asked.
"5 Boys on Bikes, Goin' all the Way!!" After getting past the flood waters again, we passed by a house with a nice yard and lawn furniture on our left. An elderly lady was sitting there. As we passed, she jumped up, smiled, walked toward the road, waved and urged us on, sort of like fans do on the Tour de France. Then she yelled out, "5 Boys on Bikes, Goin' all the Way!!" I thought, "Isn't that nice, we have another fan!" Then I counted noses and realized Ken was not riding with us, as he had stopped at a pharmacy for sunscreen and we had gotten split from him there. Hmm, that meant there were only 5 of us. Hey, that gal called me a "Boy!" Well, I won't fault her for that little mistake----she LOVED us, that's what counts, right?
Friday night stop at Rowland (mile 420): Our group of 6 got back together again for pizza and refreshments at the BP Station, which is very nice and has booths where you can sit. One very friendly local man who had possibly had a bit too much wine to drink enthusiastically admired Ken's recumbent bike. He said, "Now, That's a mighty fine Low-Rider you've got there!" So, our entourage was made more cool by including Ken on his "Low-Rider!"
We rode on through Red Springs and on to Hope Mills (mile461), where our control was at the Kangaroo Station with a Subway on Chickenfoot Road. It was maybe midnight. The 6 of us were sweaty, disheveled and dirty, wearing reflective belts and vests as we sat eating our food like hungry dogs. A young man with a nice physique, resembling Eric Estrada in his youth, approached our table. He had the style I might think of as "Off Duty, Reno 911"-- tight jeans, tight gray tee shirt with black official looking writing of on it, black leather belt with a utility pouch or holster hanging from it. I thought, "Uh, oh, he's going to tell us we have to leave because we are breaking some rule about stinking too much or something". But I was wrong! He said he was from Florida and was passing through and was curious about our ride. One rider told him we'd ridden 460 miles since Thursday morning (this was Friday night) and would complete 632 miles by Saturday night. We had a new fan! The man immediately took out his camera phone and asked if he could take our picture. I asked "Why?" but he had already aimed and shot our "group portrait." I mean, this fellow looked like a movie star and he was taking OUR picture! Oh, my, I can only imagine who all has seen that post and whatever comments may have been made about us!
Rode on to Laurinburg (mile 501) and got 4 or 5 hours sleep. Saturday we only had 200K (actually 131 miles) to the finish in Greensboro but it was a pretty hard ride with lots of hills. From Laurinburg we passed by the Rockingham Speedway, ate pizza at Mama Nois in Ellerbe (mile 533), went to Troy (mile 559), and back to Sea Grove (mile 576). There is a Hardees in the Shell Station there, and we all ordered food. When I went to sit down I noticed Tom was sitting and holding court with about 10 very nice retired people who live in the area. Every time I have ever stopped at that store some of them have been present and I usually talk with them. I suspect they may have gone to high school together. One of the men is quite friendly and jocular. He told off color jokes and the ladies would giggle. I took my food to a different table, away from the happy, talkative group, propped up my legs and ate my sandwich and milkshake in peace. Ed did the same thing, only at a different booth. It was really sort of funny, thinking how we must have behaved like a dysfunctional family. We all were obviously together, yet we sat separately and didn't talk with each other during our meal!
Only 56 more miles to go! I like to think of Sea Grove as a high point and of Greensboro as a lower point, so the riding will be mostly downhill the rest of the way, right? Well, I am not sure what the elevation is at each place, but I can tell you that we rode up and over every single rolling hill there was between Sea Grove and Greensboro! 25 miles from the end of the ride, our RBA Tony Goodnight showed up on his bike! He had ridden out from Greensboro to meet us and ride in with us. Having him with us for that last section was very nice.--he added some pleasant energy to our group, caught us up of what the other riders were doing, where they were, what times he projected they would finish, etc..
The Finish!---Yeah! Tom, Ed and I finished the 632 mile ride at 10:45 Saturday night. We bathed and changed clothes at the Best Western, where we had a room for the night. Then Ed drove the 4 of us over to Ruby Tuesday in his nice, comfortable Lincoln with leather seats. It was raining hard and it felt quite luxurious to ride inside a car for the short distance across the road to the restaurant!
The riders who were still on the course finished Sunday morning, well within the 75 hour limit. Several of us ate breakfast in the lobby around 10 am and recounted the adventures. Excitement was not over, however! A boiled egg exploded in the microwave, making the door fly open and egg mush fly all around. The woman who did it was pretty embarrassed, but the staff was accustomed to that drama, as they said it happens often.
Well, that's a lot more than I intended to write and I'm sure it was more than you intended to read! A lot of fun with good folks, (riders and non-riders). Not one flat tire amongst all the riders. Only one crash, a low speed fall by a rider who hit a pothole at night but was not injured and didn't have to fix his bike. The skin chafing I got the first day after the hard rain actually improved as the ride went on. After the first day I bought talcum powder at convenience stores (3 cans in all!) and generously used it every time I went to the restroom. Used up all 3 cans of it by the end of the ride but it saved my skin.Mary Florian
Usually, I say or write something similar to the following: "who, upon first meeting Tom & Mary would think that Tom is the less crazy of the two?" However, after reading about Tom riding through the floods, I may have to reconsider.