Day one actually started the night before the event when the phone rang around 10pm: it was the Hampton Inn wondering where we were?! Uh, oh… I HATE when that happens. As is often the case, we’ll make our hotel reservations for a tandem rally even before we register for a rally and it’s always a coin toss as to whether or not we’ll arrive the Thursday night before the rally officially starts with a Friday AM ride, or if we’ll just get up early and make the drive the morning of the event. Apparently, I got it in my head to make this relatively short trip to Covington the night before and them promptly forgot. Thankfully, Hampton Inn & Suites does not charge guests for no-shows and we simply revised our reservation. Yet another reason that we always enjoy our stays at the Hampton Inns.
So, Friday began pretty for me much like any other workday with a 5:30am wake-up, but a more leisurely tempo as we didn’t need to leave the house until 6:30 or there abouts for the 1 hour drive through Atlanta, just ahead of the rush-hour traffic… at which point it would become a 90 minute drive. For Debbie, it was a bit earlier than she’s used to, but she puts up with my early get-ups as it gives us another evening at home.
We arrived at the hotel around 7:30, registered, met a lot of our friends and then headed off to the remote start from the Blue Willow Inn in Social Circle, GA, about 15 minutes away. A few moments before the ride started a friend of ours from North Carolina realized he’d mis-matched a 10-speed SRAM Speed Dome and 9-speed chain so we did a quick swap-out of their 10 speed cassette for a 9 speed model I had on the spare set of wheels we always take along to rallies. I also ended up being singled-out as one of the ‘celebrities of the day’ during the rider’s meeting, noting that my birthday happened to fall on the first day of the rally. We opted for the 43-mile route while the A-Team riders did the 57-miler… and they still finished before we did. As always, the lightly traveled, rolling to flat rural terrain out in Newton & Walton County, Georgia was ideal for tandems. After the ride we had a casual lunch with friends at Lou’s Soda Fountain along with several other teams while many of the other riders visited the Blue Willow Inn for the all-you-can eat, southern buffet. After lunch we headed back to the hotel where I did a little work before heading down to visit with friends at the hospitality suite and pool before heading off to supper with 20 members of our ‘tandem family’ at a small Cajun restaurant. After dinner we walked to the nearby Covington Square for the annual GTR Friday night social and finished up the night socializing with friends back at the hotel. Jack Goertz was kind enough to secretly collect greetings and signatures on a birthday car from members of the GTR crowd at the social which we presented to me: a very special treat with many very kind sentiments from our friends.
All-in-all, a great day with great weather and great friends. I don’t think there’s any group that I’d rather spend a birthday or any day with than our tandem friends so it was really a special first day of a very great rally.