Again, because neither MATES nor its parent organization, the not-for-profit Eastern Tandem Rally, Inc. seem to embrace the ‘mass start’ for their ride events — a standard rally feature closer to home at the Southern, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee Tandem Rallies — figuring out which routes to ride, when to start and who to ride with can be something akin to a roll-of-the-dice for folks like ourselves who aren’t reuniting with familiar riding partners. With that in mind, and after studying the route options on Friday evening, we decided that we’d go ahead and ride the 65-mile ‘long’ option to lunch and just keep our fingers crossed that we’d find a few other teams leaving around the same time with similar plans.
Although the MATES recommendation was to start the 65-mile route no later than 7am to ensure you would not miss the 11am – 1pm lunch period, we had a hard time imagining how slow we would have had to ride to stretch the 50-mile pre-lunch ride to consume 4-hours. After doing some conservative math we decided that if we left by 8:30am we’d be in good shape and arrive at lunch right around 11:30am. So, after having some breakfast and getting ourselves dressed, we pulled the tandem out of the truck around 8am and started looking around the parking lot to see who else appeared to be prepping themselves for the 45-mile or 65-mile option. Once again, Bill and Peggy were our hero’s as we found them gearing up for the long-option along with Cliff & Joyce from Richmond, VA, and they graciously allowed us to tag along.
The first 15 miles of the Saturday ride were spectacular! Once again, rolling hills on lightly travelled roads through picturesque horse farms, older residences and an amazing country club and then into somewhat more rural hills. Temperatures were for the first time in nearly a month ONLY in the middle to upper 80’s, which made for perfect riding conditions. For the most part, the roads were all in very good shape and offered a wide variety of terrain and scenery, from agricultural to double-wide trailers, there was a little bit of everything. We stopped briefly at a gas station about 1/2 way to the lunch stop where I opted to switch from water to Gatorade, just as a precaution as I’d struggled with the heat of late. However, by making sure that we stayed on top of our gears throughout the entire ride, fatigue nor cramps never became a problem, which was a good thing.
We rolled into the lunch stop around 11:15am, a bit earlier than we calculated and it appeared as though well over half of the rally attendees had already arrived. Tom & Beryl confirmed this when they noted that even with the 30-mile option and delaying their departure, they’d arrived well before the appointed lunch time and went back out to put in a few additional miles to fill the time gap. The lunch spread was excellent, featuring a wonderful salad with grilled chicken (pretty much all I ate), deli-meats, cheeses, breads, vegie-wraps, pasta salad, chips, cookies and a wide assortment of beverages… to include my favorites: ice cold, carbonated soft drinks! We shared a table with Mel & Barbara Kornbluh, Larry & Linda Black and Jim Pastorick who was riding solo and then make a quiet and somewhat quick exit so that we could knock out the last 15-miles before our legs became too ‘cold’ from sitting. Again, it was a pretty nice ride back to Warrenton that put us back on Old Auburn Road for the gradual climb back out of the river valley. I think we rolled back into the Holiday Inn around 12:30pm and then parked ourselves along side the pool for the next hour or two.
While the water looked tempting, I opted to ‘chill’ in the shade and enjoy the slight breeze that was moving across the pool deck. Slowly but surely we were joined by folks like Larry Black who dove right in with his cycling shorts, and others who took the time to ‘suit-up’. Melissa from Bethesda, MD, joined us in the shade while her husband Andy joined the vast majority of the other folks at the pool IN the pool. We had a delightful afternoon just soaking it all in. Sometime around 2:30 Debbie headed up to the room to get herself ready for the evening’s festivities, followed shortly thereafter by yours truly.
Around 5pm we wandered down to the Hospitality Suite for the pre-dinner wine & cheese social where much to our delight we found our very good and long-time friends Ed & Karen from Reston, VA, whom we’d me at the 2001 ETR in Frederick, MD. We were able to share a table with Bill, Peggy, Cliff, Joyce, Ed and Karen for the social and began catching up on what was new with Ed and Karen while sampling the wines, beers and cheeses provided by the rally organizers. Around 6pm we were joined by Mel and Barbara and then car-pooled over to the dinner venue. The same caterers who provided lunch put out a wonderful dinner that capped off the day quite nicely. One of our primary goals in attending this year’s MATES was to spend some time with both Ed & Karen and the Kornbluhs, so it was a real treat being able to share dinner with them… particularly since their time at MATES was very limited. So, as dinner came to a close after the raffle prizes were handed out we had to bid farewell to both couples as they headed home Saturday evening. However, that was not the end of the evening by a long shot. While I’m not sure how we ended up in the lobby of all places, we did in fact find ourselves with four or five other couples having a lively discussion that covered a wide variety of topics for at least an hour or so, with several other couples popping in and out as they moved about the hotel. It is these chance encounters that always make attending these events so interesting as the diversity of folks who ride tandems becomes apparent, never mind all of the different stories and points of view that those diverse backgrounds and travel histories bring forth. It was also quite interesting to be reminded of how small the tandem cycling world is as Larry Black and I ran down the lists of luminaries whom we both knew from the four corners of the nation.
Sadly, there’s no “Sunday” installment for MATES, as we opted to make an early start for our 9-hour drive back to Atlanta and passed on the 36-mile ride and BBQ lunch. While the ride and lunch were tempting, we felt we’d be better served if we could arrive home by late afternoon and knock-off a few chores vs. stumbling in around 10pm and not getting to bed until after midnight. Well, at least Debbie could get to bed before midnight… as I’m always something of a night owl when I’m at home.
In closing, Kudos to Donna and Ross Glasgow for hosting a wonderful weekend and tending to everyone’s needs… no small task even for a smaller rally like MATES.