No, this won’t be as long as my Saint Augustine weekend write-up… but it ain’t all that short either (1,780 words). Not sure why that is… as in why I’m suddenly recalling a bit too much detail. Cest la vie.
Although the weather was a little gloomy and cool today, about 13 tandem teams made the journey about an hour east of Atlanta to the little town of Rutledge, Georgia for the March PEACHES Ride. For those who may be new here, PEACHES is the nickname of the unofficial tandem club of Georgia. It’s actually an acronym, but is best left alone as a cute nickname.
Anyway, a recent newbie team to the PEACHES — Vernon & Betty B. formerly of the Washington D.C., area — were kind enough to host the March PEACHES ride. For us, Rutledge is about an 80-mile one-way trip from our home on the northwest side of Atlanta. It’s not a bad drive so long as traffic isn’t heavy and we can go through downtown Atlanta, but it still takes the better part of 90 – 105 minutes to get there. Therefore, to get there by 10:15 for the rider’s meeting we’d need to leave by NLT 8:45.
Our Pre-Ride Morning Didn’t Go So Well:
I tried to plan ahead by loading the tandem on Saturday night to save about 20 minutes on Sunday morning. We also woke up in plenty of time on Sunday, but I made the mistake of checking my Blackberry and, son-of-a-gun.. I had a work-related issue that I needed to address!! As often times happens when I’m working, I lose all track of time and the next thing I know I’ve got Debbie telling me: “Honey, it’s 9 o’clock!” Dagnabit!! So, in the next 10 minutes I get into my cycling clothes, brush my teeth, throw arm warmers, some vests, shoes, and a clean post-ride shirt into my kit bag and head downstairs to grab a steak sandwich and Diet Coke out of the fridge, grab the water bottles off the counter, and starting throwing stuff into the truck so we can be on our way.
In my haste I made two mistakes, perhaps three. The first was, I’d made the mistake on Friday of putting my helmet in the upstairs closet instead of on the workbench in the garage… I never put my helmet in the closet. The second was, I had three pair of Sidi cycling shoes sitting side by side, where two out of three pair were MTB Dominators with Speedplay Frog cleats and the other was a pair of Sidi Genius sporting Campy ProFit cleats. I never put my Sidi Genius’ in between my Dominators. The third was thinking I could somehow make a 90 minute trip that should really be a 105 minute trip in 75 minutes.
About 10 minutes from the house I realized I’d made some kind of a mistake, but wasn’t sure what it was. I thought about the bike equipment: tire, check; pump, check; tandem, check; shoes…??? Which ones did I throw in the bag! At the next red light I ran to the back of the truck, checked my bag and thankfully saw that I had my re-born Sidi Dominators with the right cleats. I jumped back in the driver’s seat and we were off. Despite some construction traffic and slower moving traffic along I20, we actually made the trip in 75 minutes and arrived at 10:28 as the rider’s meeting was underway. Now, to be on the safe side I’d called ahead to our friend Linda to let her know we were on our way, but running late and according to our GPS would arrive at 10:28.
Finding a parking spot was no easy chore as there was a bigger than usual turn-out for the PEACHES ride. But, we finally got parked, I darted to the back of the truck and threw our gear bags on the curb so Debbie could get her shoes, helmet and vest on while I got the tandem out and ready to roll. As soon as I had the bike ready to roll, I grabbed my bag and realized I’d forgotten my helmet. Doh! It’s not that I really get all that worked up over not having a helmet, but so many folks who ride bikes nowadays have unwittingly bought into the notion that riding without a helmet is just, well, bad! Never mind for anyone else born in the 50’s and 60’s we somehow survived cycling for some 20-25 years without one… So, I girded myself up for all 13 teams to observe, “where’s your helmet?!” Thankfully, only about 6 folks actually asked the question, but I’m sure all 13 thought about it. Turns out what I really missed was my mirror!! Really, it was riding without the mirror that made be feel exposed, more so than without my skid lid. But, as always, I digress.
Our large group pulled out of Rutledge a little later than planned — most likely due to yours truly’s late arrival — and I’ve got to tell you… we had yet another great time! Other than those days when you need some alone time to clear your head, there’s just no better way to enjoy riding a bike than to ride a tandem bike with someone you enjoy being with, and to do that with a group of like-minded folks enjoying the ride with their family or friends on tandems is simply sublime.
We motored east towards Madison into a headwind on the Dixie Highway that parallels the train tracks: a mostly flat but sometimes mildly rolling 9-mile stretch of road. We were quickly cruising along at 18 – 20 mph depending on who was pulling and if we were rising or falling 1% – 2% in grade. Our host with his guest stoker Charlotte — noting Vernon’s wife Betty is on the mend and has yet to ride with the group — went out of the gates and off the front early, pulling the group along with great gusto, and for a while Team Straussky’s triplet with their ringer (Teresa?) in the tail gunner position had us cranked up to about 23/24 mph. We motored off the front on a 3% climb at one point but drifted back and pulled for a while… noting we had quite a menagerie in the drafting line of tandems.
In addition to the triplet with three adults, we also had Team Graves (Sylvester-Graves?) on two tandems with mom and dad captaining for their stokids. I seem to recall something along the lines of “Mommy, let’s go faster” being called out at some point. I’m not sure if it was the wee-one on the back of mom’s Co-Motion Periscope or someone channelling the wee-one’s thoughts as the train starting getting up to speed along the Dixie Highway. We also had a couple single bike riders tagging along, which is also nice when they ride well with tandems as the folks did today.
At some point a group of five or six of us — including the triplet — went off the front for the 30 mile long route as we hit the rollers. It was all great fun jostling to and fro. We were fortunate to have the back wheel of Team Osgood for most of the day, as I was feeling a bit puny for some reason as I watched my HRM hit the 190’s on a couple spirited climbs. The rest of the time it seemed to hang in the 170’s to low 180’s when were were occasionally riding out in the wind, taking a pull, or just trying to bridge back up after letting the triplet and their wheel suckers gap us on the upside of a long descent where momentum played to their favor (never wait for a triplet or quad to catch up on a descent… they’ll get there on their own). Not to worry, I redline at 198 bpm and that’s as high as the ticker goes. Interestingly enough, my resting HR is about 50, but it jumps up to the 90’s and low 100’s rather quickly just getting ready to ride and typically hangs in the 150’s while just motoring along.
At about the 18 mile mark we pulled into an abandoned gas station and had an impromptu stop for some snackage while a few riders went to see a man about a dog off in the woods. Debbie was smart enough to stuff a few Fig Newtons in our jersey pockets, so we were in good shape and fueled-up for the last blast back to Rutledge on the Dixie Highway. We collected Vernon and Charlotte a few hundred yards out from our pseudo store stop just before we hit the Dixie Highway. Once on the Dixie Highway, we now had the benefit of a slight tailwind and Team Osgood was clearly feeling frisky, down in the aero bars and cranking out 90 rpm while cruising along at a steady 23-24 mph for nearly 8 of the 9 miles back to town with a couple of 29 mph slight downhill surges. We just sucked wheel the whole way…
After getting back to town we discovered a cycling friend from long ago had joined the ride on her single bike. It had easily been over 8 years since we last saw Kay! We hope to cross paths with her again in the not to distant future as we had many great rides with her and our other single-bike riding friends back in the day! In fact, we got to see a lot of folks at this ride whom we hadn’t seen over the winter: Team Martin, Team Borer and Team Bullard plus some of the ‘next generation’ of usual suspects: Team Bireley, Team von Neumann. Lots of new faces or relatively new faces in the crowd as well (we really need to get around more often).
After that it was over to Yesterday’s Cafe for lunch, where we essentially commandeered our own room as we pulled 6 tables together for 1/2 of the group and had another collection of tables for the other 1/2. Vernon’s wife Betty joined us for lunch as well. It was a grand and noisy time with great friends, great food and lively conversations. I think we arrived a little before 1pm and didn’t leave until shortly after 2pm.
Kudo’s to Vernon for a very nice March PEACHES Ride. Again, all-in-all a great day and a great ride that seemed to offer the right type of terrain and distances for a mid-March ride as lots of folks were still riding on winter legs. We can’t wait for the next outings… but I’m not looking forward to the heat!