So, how was the 2011 Georgia Tandem Rally in Macon, Georgia? Fun, Hot & Hilly!
- Tim Presley on Flickr
- Monica Judd’s Photos on Picasa
- Roger & Eve’s Photopalooza on Shutterfly
- Roger’s ‘GTR in 90-seconds‘ on Vimeo
Well, we’ve now attended our 13th of 13 Georgia Tandem Rallies and as always, we got to see a lot of old friends, got to meet new friends, rode a few miles, and otherwise had a grand time.
Never let it be said that Roger Strauss and wife Eve Kofsky don’t sweat the details, as it’s hard to think of anything that hasn’t been addressed when GTR begins. Their upfront work in scouting locations, then collecting information about the designated host city, identifying local attractions, executing contracts for event venues & support, publishing the most comprehensive Rally Website you’ll ever find, scouting-mapping-GPSing routes, and then attending to all the little details like coming up with a neat T-shirt design (always two-sided), and providing rally goers with all kinds of cool stuff in their goody bags makes me exhausted just thinking about it. Once the event is underway, the non-stop attention to their guests continues as they make sure everyone is provided with everything they need to have a good time (beyond a certain point, it’s up to each couple to make the most of it) as well as capturing photos and providing a nearly continuous stream of information to their guests before every ride and at every event. Like I said, it wears me out just thinking about it, right down to the incredibly detailed pre-event Email that everyone receives a week or so before GTR… now THAT’s effective organization and communication.
Eve & Roger on the job: (Left) Eve capturing photos of the folks at the rally for posterity and future rally attendee photo galleries, (Center) Roger & Eve MC’ing the banquet at Wesley’s magnificent dining hall, and (Right) Roger giving pre-ride instructions to the assembled masses as a Bibb County Commissioner prepares to deliver a proclamation declaring May 20-22nd Tandem Cycling Days in Bibb County.
Friday, 2o May: Day 1
OK, at least for us GTR XIII didn’t get underway until Friday morning at 6:30am when we started out 2-hour drive south to Macon so we’d arrive in time for the remote, mass-start at 9:30am. Several other guests had arrived the night before and met for a group dinner (of sorts) at the Fish & Pig restaurant.
As is often times the norm with the Friday ride at GTR and other rallies in the South — and in an effort to avoid heavy week day traffic in the urban areas where the better host hotels can be found — the ride start locations are moved to a more rural area: in this case, a nice church out in the country. Also the norm with tandem rallies in the South, the Friday ride begins with a mass-start and police escorts who ensure a safe corridor is established for the first few miles of the ride when all 100 or so tandems are on the road at the same time.
IMHO, mass-starts are an essential ingredient to a tandem rally since it gives everyone attending the rally a chance to meet the other riders and find teams who are planning to ride the same length options (e.g., Friday’s ride at this year’s GTR offered options of 23, 35, 45 and 57-miles). Moreover, once the bikes start rolling the natural selection process begins to take place and most teams will quickly find other teams to pair up with such that they don’t need to find themselves in no-man’s land. This type of group behavior is a good thing that can sometimes cause teams to replan their rides as they meet new friends!
Anyway, Friday’s ride at GTR XIII was true-to-form and we found ourselves with many of our friends from all over the middle-eastern and southern states. We were all somewhat surprised by how hilly the road were as GTR is somewhat renown for finding fairly flat terrain… making it a big hit with the large contingent from Florida who come back year-after-year. And, it’s noteworthy that Friday was also the first day that the cool weather we’ve been enjoying all Spring here in the South broke and temperatures quickly jumped into the 90’s!!! Wow. I don’t think any of the folks who we were riding with or talked with at the rally were ready for a 20° jump in temperatures in just one day, but that’s what awaited us.
Weather and hills notwithstanding, the company on our Friday ride was awesome. The stronger riders went off the front will we enjoyed a challenging but still reasonable pace as we made our way over the seemingly endless rolling hills… again, we’d all somewhat expected relatively flat terrain so it was an expectation management issue more than anything else and we adjusted our expectations for Saturday and Sunday’s rides as well.
We did make one tactical error by not stopping for the first store stop just 11-miles into the ride, as no one in our group wa really being attentive to the fact that the next store stop wasn’t until 37 miles, a mere 8-miles from the end of our 45-mile loop. If the temperatures had been in the same 60’s and 70’s we’d been enjoying all Spring, that would have been no bid deal. But, with temps in the 90’s… store stops become a REALLY big deal.
Along the way to the mid-part of the ride, and in additional to having missed the store stop, we also lost contact with a few of our friends. So, the balance of our group decided to stop and catch some shade at a church some 24-miles into the ride. Thankfully, the grounds keepers were on-site at this little country church and let us into the church’s kitchen where we were able to top-off our nearly depleted water bottles. I’m not a deeply religious person, but on Friday I was eternally grateful for this blessing of kindness in our moment of need.
After returning to the shade trees, a few of our friends announced that they needed to go on ahead while we waited for the missing triplet that we later learned had suffered a bit of a mechanical issue, thus delaying their arrival. However, they finally arrived and after they were cooled and watered, our somewhat smaller posse — including the two triplets (is that a six-back?) — we were back on our way. As is often the case with Georgia farmland and groves located South of Atlanta, most of the roads were devoid of any tree-cover which presented us with sun-baked roads that exacerbated the already hot air by bumping up the ambient temperature on the road to at or above 100°. Whew…
Before too long we found the store stop at 37-miles as well as many of the other riders who’d passed as at the church taking on fluids and getting a bit cooled off in the shade and A/C of the store. As we sipped our cool drinks and topped off water bottles for the last little dash back to our starting point, we watched the elite teams whiz past the store stop on the 57-mile loop… duly impressed. A short time later we too were back at the church and looking forward to getting some lunch at a nearby Mexican burrito & taco joint. We’d hoped to get a shower in before lunch; however, the hotel staff had been slammed and our room wouldn’t be ready for another few hours so it was off to lunch after a quick whore’s-bath in the hotel lobby restroom: yeah, that’s a bit tacky, but it is what it is.
After lunch opted to hang-out at the hotel for the better part of the afternoon, noting we had a bit of bike maintenance to attend to when the seat post binder bolt head on 3rd seat on one of the triplet’s stripped. Sadly, while I had a lot of tools and parts on hand the one tool I didn’t have with me was a drill + extractors. However, there was a Lowes not 1/4-mile away so the void in my tool kit was quickly filled (I never pass-up an opportunity to enhance my tool kit) and, once back at the stricken triplet it took no more than 15 seconds for my new cordless drill and extractor to remove the damaged bolt from the seat post collar. We replaced the damaged bolt with another bolt I cannibalized from my spare parts kit and crisis resolved while providing my favorite type of entertainment: messin’ with bikes!!!
After getting cleaned-up it was just about time to head to Macon with 9 other couples for dinner at the Downtown Grill. Our friends Tim & Sharon P. from Tennessee had picked the restaurant and we knew we’d be in for a really amazing dinner: we were not disappointed. The 4.5 Star rating for the establishment was well deserved! After dinner, it was a short walk over to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, a neat little museum that is sadly on the brink of being shuttered when state funds to keep the museum open will run-out on June 30th. To date, there is still not a plan forward that keeps the museum open, in Macon or anywhere else in Georgia as bids to take ownership and relocate the museum to cities closer to Atlanta have all been rejected by the state. Brushing that bit of gloomy news aside, our hosts Roger & Eve had arranged for a lovely ice cream social in the museum lobby and we and the rest of the rally goers spent the better part of a couple of hours exploring the museum’s exhibits before calling it a night and heading back to our hotels and some much-needed rest for Saturday’s rides.
Saturday, 21 May: Day 2
Saturday began with a leisurely breakfast in the hotel lobby with the rider’s meeting slated for 8:20 in the hotel parking lot. Today’s weather and terrain would end up being much like Friday: Hot & Hilly. The ride options were a nice mix of moderate to somewhat more challenging 30, 46, 56 and 66-mile routes where the two longer options would take riders out to the little town of Juliette, Georgia. Juliette was used as a set for the movie A Killing Affair in the 80’s and was transformed into “Whistle Stop, Alabama” in the 90’s as the setting for the movie Fried Green Tomatoes.
Again, our day began with an impressive rider’s meeting that filled the hotel parking lot with a tapestry of colorful lycra and tandems of every shape, size, manufacture and color. We also had a number of local dignitaries on hand who came out to thank us for our patronage — as well as to encourage more of it — and to present Roger & Eve / the Georgia Tandem Rally with a proclamation that recognized May 20-22nd, 2011 as Tandem Cycling Days in Bibb County, Georgia: very cool! Again, a police escort provided a safe corridor for the sea of tandems as they headed out onto the main 4-lane road that connected the I-475 Beltway to downtown Macon and we were lucky enough to find the local fire station’s ladder truck stopped at the light that gleefully sounded its air horns as the parade went by. Like I said, nothing beats a mass-start, especially one that’s well-coordinated and supported by the local authorities.
As we headed out from the hotel we faced the first climb of the day, right over the Interstate: it foreshadowed much of what was to come! Now, don’t get me wrong, we actually like hills. But, we are ever mindful that there are many folks that attend GTR who live in relatively flat terrain who may or may not have been prepared for the 2,500 – 3,500′ of climbing that awaited them on the two longer Saturday routes.
Despite being provided with enough information to plan every detail and possible option for our Saturday ride, we really didn’t know what route we were going to ride or with whom. Our indecision caused us to double-back to look for friends at the 7-mile mark where the route split and one direction would yield a 46 or 66-mile option and the other a 30 or 56-mile option. However, by that point we’d fallen into no-mans land by falling back from one group and then losing the other while we were doubling back. So, we ended up riding most of the way to the first store stop alone, other than passing a few teams on the 56-mile loop who we’d seen while doubling back earlier in the ride. We found quite a few teams at the store stop but, again, without a clear plan for our ride we ended up heading off alone for a short ride to Juliette where we spent all of 5 minutes (you’ll recall from my Santana report that we’re not really the tourist type), and then pressed-on ahead when we saw one of the other teams in Juliette leaving. We traded wheels over the next several miles as we made our way up, over and then down through the Hitchiti Experimental Forest and its very Texas-like chip-seal road. After that, the roads all felt incredibly smooth, and on one very smooth downhill the three A-list teams of the weekend went blazing past us and quickly disappeared over the next steep rise… awe-inspiring, to say the least.
We found our lunch spot at a local church just 4-miles from the host hotel and after sucking down a quart of Lemonade and some of the lunch offerings, we regrouped with the two triples and two other teams for that all-down-hill (well, almost) ride back to the hotel. It was a fun and spirited ride and a great end to a hot, hilly but good day of riding.
Back at the hotel, we eagerly awaited 2:30pm, as that was the appointed time for when this year’s very special “Macon Margarita Madness” would kick-off, concurrent with the our libations reaching the appropriate temperature and slushiness in the Taylor Machines that were brought in for the event. I heard told that we collectively consumed 26 gallons of the frozen delights… yum! Roger & Eve know that I’m a sucker for a maggie, so this was the PERFECT afternoon for me. We spent the better part of the afternoon relaxing and shooting the breeze in the lobby with our friends until it was time to head over to Saturday’s banquet at Wesleyan College’s Anderson Dining Hall. It suffices to say, a picture is worth a thousand words: what a grand hall (and a magnificent dinner) it was!
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that two different Tim P’s caught me with cameras while I was “resting my eyes” during some of the awards; bad form on my part. But, in my own defense, I sure look relaxed!!
After all was said and done at the Dining Hall, we all motored back to the hotel and gathered in the lobby for a little while before everyone headed off for the night after yet another great day with friends.
Sunday, 22 May: Day 3
Sunday began in much the same way that Saturday did; however, quite a few teams decided to head out early so they could finish their ride and get on the road for their long-trips back home, noting teams came from 15 different states, and as far away as Michigan and Texas.
We were a bit more careful in planning our ride today, and had already decided that 28-miles at a reasonable pace would be just fine, noting we’ve been known to skip town on Sundays instead of riding. However, we both felt pretty good and didn’t really have any pressing issues brewing at home or work, so we were good to go for one more day on the bike!!
We headed-off and filtered through the pack until we were once again hooked-up with the two triplets and four other tandems, with a few miles thrown in riding en mass with Roger & Eve + their posse as they headed off to do the 40-mile loop.
Sunday’s ride was actually quite nice. There were still some rolling hills — including quite few that’s we’d ridden on Saturday — but there was also some really nice less hill sections where we rode along a ridge and then down to a lake that made for a very scenic and somewhat easier ride that the past two days. It also helped that the first 1/3 of the ride was on shady roads and the temperatures were in the low-80s under those trees… and that was really nice.
We did a pretty good job of staying together all the way to the store stop, but found our legs were starting to squawk a bit after standing around too long and saddled-up for a departure. We had just one of our other friends close in tow, with a couple of others sitting back about 1/2 a mile or so. We had a pretty nice ride in from that point on.
Back at the hotel we quickly got cleaned-up, packed-up, loaded-up and then waited for the rest of the gang to arrive in the lobby one last time before helping to load up Roger & Eve’s Odyssey with all of the left-over rally equipment and supplies. After that, it would be on to lunch.
It’s always tough to say goodbye to all of our friends at these rallies and while most of those goodbyes come at the hotel, several of our friends will always stretch the weekend into just one more group gathering for lunch before heading our separate ways. Sunday was no different.
It was a great end to a great weekend.