Well, the first day started out with about a 4.5hr drive. It’s worth noting that it was one of those early fall, cold mornings where it was really tough to get out of bed. I’d neglected to switch the heat on the night before and, as the outside temps dipped into the upper 30’s overnight, the house’s inside temp dropped into the middle 60’s. Once we got our act together we did our last-minute packing, grabbed some breakfast and hit the door about 20 minutes after our targeted departure time of 8am.
Because we were running late, and due to some other factors associated with the “new” garage configuration, I neglected to take both of our Garmin Computer / GPS units and also left my helmet’s rear view mirror behind as I’d “borrowed” it from my helmet while pulling some wire through the ceiling over the breezeway for my IR sensors. Doh! It will be interesting to see how not having any computers or the rear view mirror will alter our riding experience over the weekend.
Getting back to the drive over to Florence, as is often times the case here in the South, the route from our home near Atlanta, Georgia to Florence, Alabama is one of those “you can’t get there from here” destinations… at least using any Interstates. However, it appears as though there are probably a dozen routes using an interesting combination of State Highways. Google Maps wanted us to take a ‘southern route’ across US 278, while our in-car Magellan GPS was bound and determined to take us north to Rome, Georgia and a ‘northern route’ across GA53. We thought we’d finally gotten “Matilda” to follow our wishes to go the southern route, but son of a gun if she didn’t fake us out 1/2 way across Georgia by steering us off of 278 while it was overlapped with GA100… and back on her preferred route using US 53 / US411. At the end of the day, I think any one of the twelve different routes would have placed us in Florence within 15 minutes of each other. The only bonus we found with the northern route was passing by the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama where an SR-71 Blackbird caught my eye even before the space shuttle or Saturn V rocket.
Anyway, we arrived at the Marietta Shoals Resort around 11:20am and were able to check into our room, which was a pleasant surprise as we were expecting we’d have to wait until 4pm. We also ran into most of the “usual suspects” in the hotel lobby — Teams Woodgood, Mohs-LeBlank, Boehm & Davis — and were able to form up a posse for the drive out to the remote start in Oakland, Alabama and lunch at a local cafe. It was a short 12 mile drive to the small crossroads “town” that consisted of what appeared to be the volunteer fire department, a cotton gin and the small gas station/convenience store / cafe. The menu at the cafe was actually pretty impressive, not too expensive, and the food was tasty.
We saddled up and joined the smallish 1pm ride group for the rider’s meeting at 12:45. Two of our normal tandem partners — Teams Woodgood and Mohs-LeBlanc — were both on triplets for the weekend, with Lisa Davis riding tail gunner for Team Woodgood and her daughter Anna ridding 2nd seat with Team Mohs-LeBlanc: no question that with the flat to rolling terrain they’d be going off the front in short order. Most of the folks we normally ride with made plans to ride the 51-mile route, with about 1/2 of the other riders doing the 25-mile option. We decided to split the middle and rode the 40-mile route given we really didn’t have a lot of base miles and my cold was still kicking my butt. As expected, the triplets were off like rockets with some of our other friends who have the lungs and legs to set a brisk pace and we were quite happy to ride at a more leisurely pace. We ended up riding a bit with Team Parker from Tallahassee, Florida, Team Strauss-Kofsky from Atlanta, the Hoss’ from Indiana, and a good bit of our time was spent with Team Kohl from Illinois and a few miles with Team Ratajcak from North Carolina.
The terrain and scenery were really quite nice… for the most part. We had a couple “good” climbs that got our heart rates up, including what seemed to be about a 1/4 mile long, 8% – 14% climb about mid-way through the 40-mile loop: it was one of those climbs where your heart is pounding hard enough that you can hear your heartbeat in your ears… always a bit disconcerting, to say the least. Other than that, the ride was uneventful but enjoyable. Quite a few dogs, but only one that got close enough to be of some concern. We both agreed that 40 miles was a good choice for our first ride of the weekend, as we finished without feeling drained and that’s always nice.
We decided to wait for the other members of our posse to finish their 51-mile route, assuming they’d be about 45 minutes behind given the added miles, a couple store-stops off-set by their faster riding pace. While waiting we ran into Team Precision Tandems — Mark Johnson, his daughters Natalie & Courtney and his designated stoker Julie Reed — and even got to take their ubiquitous pre-ride rally photo before they headed out for a quick, late afternoon loop. As for our friends, they apparently got side-tracked. We finally bailed around 4:45, as we were both a bit tired and starting to get hungry noting our biological clocks were still on Eastern Time.
We opted to join our friends Bob & Jan Thompson from the Villages in Florida plus Team Duncan and I believe it was Team Foster, all of whom are members of Florida’s PANTHERS tandem club for cocktails and dinner at the Marriott. We had a wonderful time, a delicious meal and then car-pooled over to the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in nearby Tuscumbia for the dessert social. The museum was very nice and had quite a few really interesting artifacts in their collection, including Webb Pierce’s outlandish “solid gold” customized Bonneville. After that we called it a night.
All in all, it was a great first day.