The day started much like Friday with a very nice breakfast buffet around 7:30. What should have been a relatively easy “get ready to go” became a bit more complex when a special photo-op was planned by one of our friends as a way of capturing all of the “Pennywise Cycle Tours” alumni in a group shot. Although my dear Debbie gave me clear instructions to be ready by 8:20 for the photo and I dutifully was where I was supposed to be at 8:20; however, Debbie was no where to be found. She was apparently on time, but in the wrong place and eventually toddled over when she realized where we were. So, she did make it into the final photo.
Saturday was advertised as a great day to enjoy long drafting lines and perhaps even a pace line. Well, both of those characterizations were true; however, neither really materialized for us. We definitely had a good head of steam going early on and were enjoying double drafting lines for the first part of the ride. However, when someone tried to get a pace line started they were undone by too many folks that didn’t have a hot clue how to ride in a pace line. It’s not a difficult concept, but it takes a little discipline and a basic understanding of the concept and both were lacking. The typical failures were in full evidence: Teams would…..
- pull off to the left in the “rest line” but wouldn’t ease off,
- get to the front of the “work line” as a team pulled off and then up the tempo, or
- get to the front of the “work line” and just stay there instead of pulling off.
In fact, here’s a pretty good video of some club riders doing a pretty good job of managing a pace line:
So, that was pretty much a failure. It’s also worthwhile to note that riding a triplet in a group of tandems is on par with riding a tandem in a group of singles: you have more power and momentum than the bikes around you and it takes a lot more attention and effort to keep your speed in sync with the tandems. So, that also added a certain dynamic that didn’t make the pace line attempt all that much fun.
Having resigned ourselves to the drafting lines — which was fine — we then reached a SAG stop at 12 miles where the rally routes also split in three different directions: 60 miles going one way, 52/43 going another and the shorter routes going yet another way. I guess I should have been more patient, but I have a hard time with taking long breaks after just getting warmed up and putting in a moderate effort as my legs cramp up and this turned into a long stop as folks queued up for the two porta-potties that were placed at the feed store & mini-mart.
I thought I saw a group forming that was ready to head out, but no seemed to be moving. So, I decided we’d take the initiative and head out… alas, no one followed our lead. So, we ended up hammering along at 21+ mph for the next 16 miles by ourselves, which isn’t all that bad when you’re riding a triplet: you’re not really alone by any stretch. We passed several teams who were on the same 52 mile route but enjoying a more social pace. We eventually found ourselves merging back in with the 43 mile and then the shorter routes as we approached the 2nd SAG stop along the St. James River located at a picnic area adjacent to a boat launch. We decided to hold up there until some of our friends caught up so we could ride the final leg with them to the lunch stop at the Outback Crab Shack.
The ride to lunch was spirited, which felt pretty good and definitely helped get us ready for lunch. The Outback Crab Shack’s patio area and indoor dining area were pretty-well filled with folks who’d ridden the shorter routes as we looked for a place to sit and put in our orders for lunch. Once seated we were handed menu slips to check off what we wanted for lunch. I opted for a chicken sandwich, as did Debbie… and about 20-30 minutes later we were served: they were really slammed given the meals were all being prepared fresh in their kitchen, one order at a time.
The wait time gave me a few moments to visit with our friends Ken & Mary B. from Florida & Richard & Shirley D. from Indiana, as well our friends from Gainsville, Georgia — Carl & Missy G. — who had gone off the front with a couple of strong teams from Florida (Bob & Deb from Jacksonville) and North Carolina. It was while visiting with Carl & Missy we learned they’d had a bit of a shunt on the long route, where the team from North Carolina ended up running up on their rear wheel when Carl over braked going into a corner. Sadly, the couple from North Carolina (a pair of very strong riders in their late 60’s/early 70’s) went down hard and had to be SAG’d to the local ER for abrasions and deep bruising. Carl & Missy limped their way to lunch on a damaged rear wheel. Yes, cycling involves a certain amount of risk… and sometimes events occur that prove the point.
The ride back to the hotel after lunch was uneventful, but delightful. Just can’t express how nice the weather was throughout the weekend. Beautiful sunny skies, mild temperatures, low humidity and light winds….
After getting cleaned up a bit, we hit the hotel’s bar for some cocktails and then paid a visit to the hospitality suite to visit with other guests for while. We found our friends Bob & Jan T. from The Villages and got a complete update on their ’34 Ford restoration project and plans to send off a mid-60’s Corvette “survivor” for restoration once the Ford is done. I have lobbied on behalf of keeping the “survivor” a survivor but to no avail. Bob & Jan like their cars and enjoy the restoration process. After visiting for a while, we headed over to Murray Brother’s Caddy Shack’s bar as they had a lot more TV screens to watch college football and their cocktails were better tasting and less expensive. We found our friend Paul B. at the bar watching Navy playing Indiana and had a nice time watching Florida beat up Tennessee, not that seeing Tennessee beaten up was any fun: we like Tennessee, but sure wish they’d get their act together. Not sure how much time they’ll give Dooley to put his stamp of authority on that program.
As the official cocktail hour approached for Saturday’s banquet we made our way back over to the hotel where we found our friends Richard & Shirley D., and Ken & Mary B. and invited them to share a table with us for dinner. We then went and staked out our table on the back patio area where we’d be enjoying our dinner.
It was a very nice treat being outside vs. inside a ballroom, restaurant or other enclosed facility. I was able to get out and visit with a number of different folks, including Ric Becker from House of Tandems: we talked as much about motorcycle as we did anything else. Dinner with our friends Richard, Shirley, Ken & Mary as well as Mary & Rick D. from Indiana was an absolute pleasure. Some of the announcements while entertaining seem to run a bit long, but all-in-all it was an excellent banquet: to borrow a quote our friend Tim P. it was one of “the best ever!”
Photos below, left to right: Mark, Shirley D., Debbie, Richard D., Mary B.,
Photos below, left to right: Mary B., Ken B., Mary D., & Rick D.
After a long day, we called it a night and I apparently crashed the minute my head hit the pillow.
Once again, breakfast was a lovely buffet in the Villagio, where Ericka — our server from Saturday morning — greeted us by name, which was really special. We made a point of sitting at one of her tables and amazingly, she also remembered what we’d had as beverages from the day before. That level of courtesy and service underscores just how well the entire staff at the Marriott Renaissance treated us all weekend long.
We had ourselves all set to go for the Sunday start, but somehow our stoker Lisa was enlisted to shoot a video of a four-seat tandem team riding around the parking lot. While that would have normally been a non-issue, they didn’t get their act together until all of our fellow rally goers had headed out for the start of the ride. Why they didn’t enlist a non-rider is beyond me. So, by the time Lisa had fulfilled her duties we were easily several minutes behind the lead group that we should have been riding with. Therefore, we spent the first 6 miles of our ride time-trialing past many of the other tandems (which really is poor form) to bridge our way back up to the lead group. The hard effort made it worth our while for the next leg along Dixie Highway as we were able to sit in and draft for several miles before we moved onto the secondary and back roads. Unfortunately, our group got a little confused on one of the back roads and we missed a key turn. By the time we got turned around and headed back on route we found ourselves having to time trial another 3 miles to bridge back up to the front group that now included several of our friends. They had apparently been chasing us and did not miss the turn, which is why we found ourselves chasing them.
We followed our group to the SAG stop back at the same feed store as Saturday. We should have probably just continued on to the end of the ride as my legs began to cramp when we got back on the bikes after another somewhat longish break. I would describ emy recollections of the last leg of our 46 mile Sunday ride as “painful” & “hanging on for dear life”. Adding insult to injury was a bit of a headwind. We had a weak pull leaving the store and then sat-in enjoying the draft for the next few miles before we found ourselves sitting on the front again. However, that last pull was awful and I’m sure I was causing us to to the slinky thing out (surging and slowing) as I struggled to keep a constant level of effort. I was really glad to get off the front after doing a short stint, but probably not has happy as the poor folks who were following us and simply wishing I’d pull off and go to the back.
Once we returned to the hotel Debbie and I decided we’d just grab a Subway sandwich and hit the road vs. staying for a post rally lunch. As it was, we wouldn’t be back home until around 7pm, and we both had to go to work on Monday. If we’d have stayed for lunch we probably wouldn’t have made it home until after 9pm, and that just wasn’t attractive.
We had a bit of trouble trying to navigate our way home on the backroads route and found ourselves on I75 after our GPS sent us west instead of north at Waycross, Georgia. Again, it really doesn’t change how much time we spent on the road getting to and from St. Augustine, but I just prefer the state highways to the freeway. And, as is almost always the case, we found ourselves in a traffic back-up just south of Atlanta and opted to bail off I75 and use an alternate route programmed by our GPS.
Before getting home, we decided to stop at Olde Towne Grill and Tavern to enjoy a nice dinner while watching the two afternoon football games that were on the tele, which was a nice finish to the weekend. Once back at home, we got everything off the truck and unpacked so we’d be ready to return to the real world on Monday morning. Oh to have been able to head on down to The Villages for the Florida Tandem Rally… some day.
Note: Photos shown here are a collection of images taken by other STR guests and/or found on the internet when a photo taken by someone at the event could not be found to fit the purpose. Someday we’ll actually use the camera that we haul everywhere.