It was still plenty warm as the low was probably officially somewhere around 75F, but as Mary noted somewhere in Virginia, there were a lot of alternately cool and warm spots. The night was humid – I wrung more sweat from my socks after the all-night ride than I have sometimes wrung rainwater after getting caught in a shower. Warm, humid, sweaty, made the all-night gas station / convenience store across the lake / river from Clarksville feel as if it were a freezer.
Note to the Irregular crew: starting a ride from fire station at New Light / Purnell is MUCH easier than starting from PUE. No Falls Lake to cross … meaning, no climb back up to the level of the plain from the nadir of the New Light Rd. bridge across the “Lake”. Gosh, what a pleasure to be able to ride from the first pedal stroke. My mental calculations of distances were all messed up though, by approximately 7.6 miles. I managed to hang on to the fast pack until nearly Wilton (about 10 miles into the ride); however, I suspect that the fast pack was not really rolling yet.
I had fallen about ¼ mile off the back of the lead pack approaching Wilton, but the fast-pack caught a green light (I think) whereas I caught a red light. I figured I would next see the fast-pack leaving the US-158 control just as I arrived, but that was not to be the case. On Cannady Mill Rd., just before the Philo White corner (just before the quick drop to the Tar River), I came upon Jerry fixing a flat, under careful observation by Mary F., with the rest of the fast-pack spread out along 75 yards of Cannady Mill. I pulled over just behind Geof and Bryan (who were the furthest up the road) just in time for a car or two to pass by and cause Geof to remark that perhaps they ought to move a bit further off the edge of the road. I suggested they ride ahead a further 50 yards and wait at the Philo White corner – I doubt Geof and Bryan paid the suggestion any attention – after all, they didn’t know the numerous times I have used that seldom travelled road and corner to view the flora. Anyway, I decided that if I waited until Jerry completed his repair, I would be dropped within half-a-mile – on the opposite bank of the Tar River. Geof mentioned that Tom F. was the only rider that was up the road, and I replied that I was going to push on because they would all catch me within a few minutes, anyway.
I zipped down to the river and (for me) climbed relatively quickly back up the far side. Tom F. was standing alongside the road, more or less at the crest of the river climb – as I rolled past, I told him that Jerry had had a flat, but that I was riding on. I figured Tom would wait for the pack (which included his “protected rider”, i.e., Mary). But a minute or two later, whoosh-whoosh-whoosh coming from those DEEP Zip rims signaled that it would be 20 mph (or nearly so) for the rest of the run up to the control. Into the control with Tom at about 8:30 (I think my control card shows 8:34). 23.4 miles at an average moving pace of 17.3 mph. I recall thinking “I wonder if I can ride this whole ride at an average pace of 17?” What a foolish thought!!!
All nine of us left the control together. (This seems like a good place to mention the “cast”: Byron, Jerry, Geof, Bryan, Tom F., Mary F., Rob D., John O., me.) Of the nine of us, only one or two possibly fail to qualify as a “tiny-body”; but Rob is clearly a stronger / faster rider than me; it seemed to me that the only thing holding him back Saturday night was a recent lack of miles caused by a recent (still lingering?) respiratory infection (I probably have the specific on that wrong, but he had had some respiratory or sinus problem, I think). Any Irregular can tell you that almost all “tiny-bodies” suffer the same short-coming: they cannot pedal fast enough downhill / downslope / downbump / downripple to keep this fat-gut body from having to sit-up, catch-air, and feather the brakes. I managed to get the flywheel wound up on the ripples on Salem Rd. (headed for Vance County and Dabney Rd.), and on one of the downripples, I went around all four in front of me to take a ceremonial pull. Actually, I was temporarily tired of dealing with “tiny-body-induced-ripple-syndrome”, and decided to solve the issue by going to the front. All Irregulars would have suspected a move to snare the County Line. I did still lead when we passed into Vance County – I thought about making a Rando Fearless Leader-like victory salute, but as I don’t really know any of the rando crew with whom I was riding, decided that that would be a bit … something. Later, I learned from Tom F. that Jerry had made a significant move to take the State Line into Virginia – and I knew I should have made a celebration at the Vance line. By the time we got to Dabney (as opposed to Dabney Rd), order had been restored in the peloton, and I had been sorted to my rightful place … sucking the wheels of the whole of the rest of the peloton.
At the back, I was able to appreciate the stillness of the night, and the beauty of the just-risen full moon: a glowing orange ball, with zephyrs of thin cloud drifting in front, making for an artist’s dream. I wonder if any of the photo guys got a pic.
NC Bike Route #1 is pretty flat until it gets to Nutbush Creek Rd and Anderson Creek Rd and whatever the road is called on the climb up to Drewry. I had told John O. that I would be able to hold the group until those repeated creek crossings, with their Ups, would spit me off the back. I was pretty much right. Except that by Drewry, Rob was feeling the residuals of his recent health issue and the fast pace, and Mary was feeling the residual of her race last weekend. (I should have asked Tom to confirm which race – but I do know, because Tom was quietly bragging on Mary whenever Mary was out of earshot, that Mary had not only won her age group (and maybe “all women category”), but she had beaten all the males in her age group.) Anyway, I was not the last into Drewry. The fast-pack had discovered that the “store” was still open, and an impromptu raid of almost all the store’s chilled water was in order. I needed to change the batteries in the Fenix, and as a result, I was last into the store. Due to temporary blindness, I didn’t see the water bottles, and was delayed another half-minute making my purchase. I exited the store to see that the entire fast-pack was on the road already, and Mary and Rob were just pushing off. I figured I might be finishing the 200 km solo from that point. I calmly poured the water into my water bottles. Then I mounted. As I pushed off, the clerk was closing the store and called out “they all left you? You must be the fastest in the group and you will catch them all.” I replied “I’m the slowest.” I didn’t catch the exact words of the clerk in response.
On a straight-ish, flattish section of the road just a bit after leaving the store, I spied a tell-tale red cycling tail-light in the distance. At least a quarter mile, maybe more. I had good cadence and form and seemed to be slowly closing on the light. I thought it might be Rob. Eventually, I got close enough to recognize Rob’s dim tail light, and when a bit closer, recognized that Mary was riding with him. How did I recognize Mary? By the silhouette of her calves against the bright spot on the road in front of her.
I did slow my cadence and go to an easier cog as / after I passed Mary and Rob, thinking they might hook onto my wheel. But they didn’t. And they probably thought I was being a jerk as I passed them – I had honestly thanked them for waiting for me (meaning by not going “full speed” on the road) – but I’m confident that my remark almost certainly came off as me being a churlish jerk. When Mary and Rob didn’t catch my wheel, I decided to keep going until I got to the “ice cream place” where I would mix up an eLoad into the recently acquired chilled water. I figured it would be easier to see what I was doing in the bright lights of the ice cream place. There weren’t any bright lights at the ice cream place. But there was adequate light to mix up the eLoad and throw in a Zim.
I got back on the road, once again a quarter-mile or so behind Mary and Rob. I caught them just as the causeway was about to give way to the dam-proper of the Kerr Lake Dam. I reached down to get my eLoad bottle and take a proper drink … only to fumble the bottle and drop it on the road. Being safely lantern rouge, at least I did not have to worry about any other cyclist getting waylaid by my bottle. I stopped, turned the bike around, and instantly saw the bottle highlighted in the light cast by the Fenix. I walked back and retrieved the bottle, took my drink, and remounted – confident that I would once again be a quarter-mile or more behind Mary and Rob.
However, I was not so unlucky. I knew from reading Research Trailer Park, that there is almost always an obligatory “Dam Photo”, but had either forgotten or perhaps I figured the fast-pack had snapped their photo and pushed on long-ago. I had sold them all short. Everyone was gathered on the bridge / dam, waiting for the tail-end. A photo or two was snapped (if Byron or Bryan or Geof happen to read this, and can direct me to one of your photos that I can “rip off”, please do so), and the re-united nine resumed our ride.
Courtesy of "bryanphoto" (behind the camera).
L to R: John O., Jerry, Geof, Mary F., Byron, RobD, me, Tom F.
I need to work on my fake rando smile. (Check Andy's photo link.)
We immediately turned off from Virginia Bike Route #1 and onto those narrow, no-fog line, sometimes no center-line Virginia roads that are so popular on a hot, sunny day. Popular not because of the narrowness of the roadway, but because the trees are usually quite close to the roadside (by NC standards) and therefore almost always cast a welcome shadow on the road surface on those hot, sunny days. The peloton was starting to string out and form into separate sub-groupings by the time we turned onto Phyllis Rd. The fast-pack disappeared with barely a trace while on Phyllis Rd. (more on that later), but I could usually see Mary and Rob’s headlights in the distance behind me. There were a LOT of dogs on Phyllis Rd.! The fast-pack seemed to have alerted them, and they were ready for me – but loud, assertive shouts did the trick in all but one or two cases – in those, I found I could sprint faster than the dogs. I probably put the dogs on the super-alert for Mary and Rob, but maybe I had also tired them out a bit; they never mentioned the gauntlet of dogs.
As I neared the court house square in Boydton, there were "Tom and Jerry, standing on on the sidewalk, in Boydton, Virginia" next to the open spigot. (Maybe someone will sing a song about them some day. Or cast a statue.) Oh, good, more water! I asked Jerry what the quote on the existing statue was (info control) as I never would have been able to make it out in the pitch dark. Mary and Rob arrived a minute later. Jerry took off, presumably in pursuit of the rest of the fast-pack. Tom allowed as how it would make no sense for him to finish the ride an hour or two or more before Mary, so he stayed and became the fourth of our loosely grouped and regrouping lantern rouge crew.
The Daytons apparently grew up near Boydton / Skipwith / Clarksville, and Rob was serving as navigator-in-chief as we left Boydton. “Small rollers,” he informed, “from Boydton to Skipwith, with that one wall just before Skipwith.” The “wall” was well-lit by the Full Moon – or rather, the kudzu attempting to encroach on the road from the field and ditch alongside the road was well-lit. The Full Moon did its best throughout the night to provide additional illumination, and sometimes it was excellent on that front; however, if it hadn’t been humid, I am confident that we could have ridden without lights and been able to see everything (cars wouldn’t have been able to see us, though.)
Speaking of cars and seeing, I don’t recall if it was before Skipwith or after, but there was a van lying on its side in the ditch, lights on that made for a strange sight. The lights seemed the right brightness for an auto’s, seemed the right distance apart, but were nearly perfectly vertical. We slowed as we passed, Mary called out asking if everyone / everything was okay; the drunks responded that everything was fine. I couldn’t help but be a bit glad and thankful that the drunks had flipped themselves off the road before we got there, instead of as we were passing.
Rob informed that Skipwith to Clarksville was flat. It was quite nice riding at night, especially if I was trailing and using the brighter headlamps of the others as augmentation to the illumination from my Fenix. Quiet, still, humid, a pool of light moving down the road.
We stopped for a goodly while at the 24/7 store across the lake / river from Clarksville. It was while stopped here that Mary finally asked who I was. I had apparently failed to introduce myself earlier. She said she had hoped to pick up my name from someone else using it, but no such luck. As we prepared to push off, Rob commented that he and brother Tim (?) had attempted to navigate from Clarksville to Stovall once before, they had gotten to Stovall, but not by the proper course – so he was advising that he did not know the course, but that “checkered jersey” did. I did not disabuse him of that idea.
Yes, I had ridden almost every mile of MikeD’s Kerr Lake Loop, not as a single ride, but in portions spread over several rides. Yes, I had been the one to show Mike the way to Peace Mountain (“Stovall Mountain”). Yes, the Irregulars sometimes refer to me as “the hu-man-gee-pee-ess”, but on the one and only time I had ever “looped” Kerr Lake, we had missed the turn onto Williamson Rd. I had a pretty good idea where the turn was, and in the event, I only asked Tom one false time to illuminate the roadsign for an upcoming corner (i.e., the second time I asked Tom to do so, viola, the correct turn). I also thought we would have to make one more turn to get onto Grassy Creek Rd headed for Stovall, but when I spotted the Grassy Creek Community Center, I knew exactly where we were. After all, I had ridden that EXACT stretch of road 6 ½ days earlier as part of the Virginia Border Raid.
Someday, I’ll have to ask MikeD why the course makes that turn onto Williamson Rd. instead of continuing straight on Shiny Rock Rd. all the way to the border, and then make a couple turns and a couple shallow-slope climbs to get onto Grassy Creek Rd. above the climb out of Grassy Creek. My suspicion is that he was just looking for a few extra climbs. On the other hand, there is a store (of sorts) in Grassy Creek, so maybe he is just trying to increase the potential supply of fluids, etc., or maybe he is doing unto the Grassy Creek store as I do unto the Bobbitt store – trying to get it a little extra business in hopes that the little extra is just enough extra … to stay in business.
I used to fear the steep climb out of Grassy Creek on Grassy Creek Rd. The last two Saturdays, once in the daylight, once in the Full Moon, I have recast my opinion – what steep climb was I worried about?
Into Stovall. No pizza. No turkey breast sub. No sitting in the gazebo. I did walk the block-and-a-half from the post office to Oxford Rd., to assure myself that that was the correct turn to head toward Stovall Mountain. (Rob’s comment that I knew the way still hung in the air – I didn’t want to make a mistake.)
Just before Stovall, and especially after, I was suddenly quite drowsy. I didn’t trust myself to drink and drive – so I stopped several times on the flatter parts of Mountain Rd. to take a drink, hoping that the caffeine in the Zim would start to have an impact. Ha. At one point I warned Tom that I was falling asleep on the bike, and maybe it would be safer if he were either ahead or behind me. He assured me that he would keep an eye on me, and give me a good shove if needed. Uh … thanks.
After the mountain, I told Mary and Rob that I was going to try pushing the pace to see if that would generate some adrenaline and help keep me awake. Soon, we were all riding a bit faster than we had been. Somewhere, probably before getting the control at US-158, I also started blabbering to Tom a lot, figuring that talking, and the thinking that went with it, might also help to keep me awake. I have almost no idea what I blabbered on about – I imagine that Tom must have been bored to near tears. However, I do recall that I mentioned that I had had fantasies about doing Tony’s 1000 km over Labor Day, but luckily my DNF at Alan’s 600 km had put the kibosh on that – which is lucky because I’m riding the full length of the Blue Ridge Parkway just a week later and … “you don’t want any mishap from Tony’s ride to endanger your Parkway ride” finished Tom. Tom mentioned that Mary wants to do Tony’s 1000 km, so he wouldn’t do the Midwest 24-Hour race which is the same weekend. I enthusiastically responded that I knew of that Midwest race from the Junior High outside Port Byron, Illinois, and that the large loop went right past my high school within about four blocks of my mother’s house. I had looked at the map and I already knew most every road of the large loop, the middle loop, and the small loop. I failed to mention that I participated in either 8th grade athletic contests, or high school athletic contests at that very Junior High. (I need to ask my brother Tom if the Port Byron Junior High used to be the Riverdale High School – my brother Tom would know – either way, I participated in athletic contests at that race host site. By then, either from the caffeine in the Zim (I doubt it), or the increased pace (I doubt it, because I was REALLY slow re-warming the leg muscles after the US-158 control), or the jabbering (maybe), or the approaching dawn (probably), I was no longer trying to doze off while riding.
This sentence / paragraph is mostly for the Irregulars: I found out that the steep on Lawrence Rd. is not nearly so awesome if one’s ride finishes BEFORE having to re-cross Falls Lake (no Ghoston, no Peed, no MVC). It was like a picnic to finish at the fire station.
There are many, more interesting moments from the ride that would make for a better story than that which is above, but … today, we get a factual story without much humor … that’s just the way the cookie crumbled.
Full Moon Kerr Lake Loop; 130.3 m.; 8hrs, 29min in-motion; 11hrs, 34min elapsed clock time; 15.3 mph.
Q-1 tot: 16 rides; __938.2 m.; _60 hrs, 39 min; 15.5 mph.
Apr tot: 10 rides; __717.9 m.; _45 hrs, 27 min; 15.1 mph.
May tot: 10 rides; __837.2 m.: _58 hrs, 42 min; 14.3 mph.
Jun tot: 10 rides; __675.4 m.; _43 hrs, 24 min; 15.5 mph.
YTD tot: 46 rides; 3,168.7 m.; 210 hrs, 16 min; 15.1 mph.
5000+ kms for the year so far.
The humidty and fog seem to have conspired against my Cateye once again. At least, I think it was condensation pooling on the contacts of the Cateye that caused the malfunction -- again. I had to estimate the time and pace-in-motion. Luckily, I already have a near fool-proof algorithm for doing just that. You believe that it is "near fool-proof", don't you?