Well, this may be a first: a tandem rally report without any “action” photos that prove we actually attended GTR!! Somehow we ended up sneaking our way through the Georgia Tandem Rally in Covington, Georgia without being captured in any photos… or at least any photos that we know about, have on hand and can share. So, here goes….
We planned ahead for our escape from Atlanta such that we could head out directly from work on Thursday afternoon. To do so, I had the triplet loaded on top and the Calfee inside the truck Wednesday night, and did our final pack and go on Wednesday morning. Well, sort of go… I took Debbie to work at 7:00am and then arrived at my office a bit later than usual so that at the end of the work day I could pick up Debbie at her office and we’d then head for Covington, saving an easy 1.5 hours vs. meeting at house and then heading off.
The plan worked well in that I left work a little early, collected Debbie at 5:00pm and we made it to Covington by 6:15pm, despite encountering some major traffic at the I75/I85 merge and then again on I20 East out in Stone Mountain.
As we checked in at the Hampton Inn we ran into long-time friends Rich & Ina — friends from Atlanta who moved to San Diego whom we see once in a blue moon – and Rich immediately asked, “Do you two have dinner plans?” I said no, and without hesitating he then asked, “Would you like to join us?” We said sure!
Before we knew it we were in downtown Covington at RL’s Off the Square with Rich & Ina as well as Conrad & Barbara C. from Florida enjoying a lovely New Orleans style dinner. We also had a chance to visit with several other friends from Atlanta and Florida who were dining at RL’s.
After dinner we headed to the Thursday night GTR mixer at The Mill on Yellow River in Porterdale, Georgia where we had a chance to meet many, many old friends from past GTRs and other rallies. We also caught up with our friends from Atlanta and guest stoker for the weekend, Lisa D., who would be riding tail gunner with Debbie in the middle of our triplet. We had a wonderful time at The Mill, but sometimes there’s just not enough time to visit with everyone. After helping to get the venue cleaned up along with several other guests, we called it a night and headed back to the Hampton Inn for some much needed rest.
The day began with breakfast at the Hampton Inn and then a short drive over to Social Circle, Georgia for a remote start for Friday’s ride to Madison, Georgia. As mentioned, Lisa D. had signed-on to ride the triplet with Debbie and me for Friday and Saturday at GTR and we were thrilled to have her! We really enjoy riding the triplet and Lisa is an awesome stoker, so it’s always great fun when we team up. Friday was no exception.
After pre-ride announcements by GTR Co-Director Roger S. we were off. We’d expected that we’d ride with Team Wood-Good on their triplet and our friends Ryan & Christian, but found ourselves mid-pack after the mass start with the other triplet nowhere in sight. We joined forces with Duncan & Laura and then worked our way to the front of the pack as the roads turned up hill just to get clear of some of the congestion. We settled-in with our friends Denny & Stephanie S. from Chattanooga, TN, and a couple other teams for the trip out to Rutledge, GA, and about 1/3 of the ride along Dixie Highway towards Madison. The really fast teams finally caught back up after taking some wrong turns, and that was the last we saw of them for the day.
Well, I say for the better part of the day: that’s not entirely true. About 10 minutes after the elite teams sped by we found Carl & Missy G. sidelined by a derailed Gates CarbonDrive belt, with Duncan & Laura just a bit further down the road waiting for Carl & Missy. I called out to see if they needed any help and Carl confirmed what I already knew: it was going to take more tools that either he or I had on our tandems to get their Paketa V2R back on the road. Rather than giving my second hand version of the “rest of the story” let me share what Carl wrote in a separate note to me:
Once again Ric and Marsha Becker came all the way from Texas to rescue Team Gruber at GTR 2013, which is not the first time the House of Tandems Team has come to the aid of Team Gruber. As you may recall, we had a minor collision with Team Land at STR 2012 and were only able to finish the ride because Ric did a roadside repair to our damaged rear wheel and tire.As for GTR 2013, just 13 miles into Friday’s ride our Paketa’s Lightning cranks developed an issue that derailed our Gates CarbonDrive belt. After quickly assessing the situation I realized it was going to take a mechanic with more tools than the average cyclist carried with them on a ride to resolve our issues and placed a call to Ric and Marsha who once again were providing SAG support to a tandem event well outside of their home turf. They arrived shortly after I sent out my plea for assistance and after a quick McGyver-esque repair of our timing drive Ric had us back on the road! Thanks to Ric’s quick work we were able to get in a nice 57-mile ride and still make lunch on time. So, let me send out a heartfelt and sincere Thank You to Ric and Marsha Becker from the House of Tandems for all of their assistance to all of the teams throughout the weekend. We look forward to seeing them again at a future with the hope that we won’t actually need any assistance!!
We ended up spending the better part of our day on the bike riding with Denny & Stephanie and that was great! We made one store stop about the same time that the overcast sky decided to let loose with a little rain, but it wasn’t anything to write home about. However, with the threat of rain looming over us we made haste in our return to Social Circle having picked up Teams Burkett & Talani/Sask along the way.
We opted to skip lunch at the Blue Willow Inn and, instead, headed to a place called Bullrito’s near the Hampton Inn. What a great place that was!!! Five Stars for everything! Clean, delicious food, ample portions, friendly folks, great tunes and free ice cream! We highly recommend it for anyone who finds themselves in Covington looking for something other than fast food or a sit-down & be served dining experience.
After lunch we headed back to the hotel for some socializing around the lobby, pool and makeshift bike shop in the parking lot behind the Hampton Inn. Debbie sunned herself and socialized a bit while I visited with some folks in the lobby, then at the pool before pitching in to help get our friends Duncan & Laura set-up with some Spinergy TX2 demo wheels on their Litespeed tandem for Saturday’s ride. Duncan had recently written to me with some questions about how best to “freshen-up” their Litespeed tandem. After muddling through the typical upgrade scenarios I cut to the chase and suggested they skip the typical upgrade stuff and try the TX2’s since the TX2 distributors — Ric & Marsha Becker from House of Tandems near Houston, Texas – would be at the rally. Given that both Ric and Marsha were up to their eyes in folks looking to have their tandems tweaked – having a proactive tandem dealer at GTR was a first – I simply asked for the wheels and then set about to swap out tires
After getting caught up in all the bike fun, my sweet Debbie found and reminded me we needed to get a move on if we wanted dinner before the ice cream social at 7:30pm. After getting cleaned up I collected Debbie & Lisa and we headed back to downtown Covington where we had a great, casual dinner at Amichi’s. Following dinner it was over to the Alcovy Conservation Center for an outdoor ice cream social. After visiting with many friends we called it a night and heading back to the Hampton Inn lobby for some additional social activities before calling it a night. Yet another great day at GTR.
The day began with what almost looked like it could be a wash-out for the ride. Early morning showers, high humidity and cloud cover left us with wet roads and the weather radar was provided some mixed messages. The radar history and rainfall patterns suggested we would be presented with a rain free window for the 9:00am ride start whereas the future weather models seemed to suggest rain would start again over our ride routes by 9:15am. Given I have a personal rule about not starting a ride when it’s raining or when roads are so wet that it might as well be raining, I decided we’d hold off on starting our ride until at least 9:30am, at which point the near-term rain being predicted by the weather models would have either materialized or proven to be wrong.
I’d guess at least half to 3/5ths of the teams rolled up for Saturday’s mass start, despite the wet roads and threat of rain. As has become the norm, GTR Co-Director Roger had arranged for the host town/county mayor, chairman and chamber of commerce leader to show up and provide a welcome to the rally participants before being led out by the local sheriff’s office. I have to hand it to Roger for being savvy enough to leverage the economic impact of the 200 – 250 people who an event like the Georgia Tandem Rally bring to a community when engaging the local chambers of commerce to secure support for the event. It really makes a big impression when you have the local leaders out there being able to pitch what their communities have to offer as they welcome visitors who, at least for an event like GTR, have come from all over the U.S. to sample our southern hospitality.
I know it was killing our guest stoker Lisa to hold back for a later departure, but all-in-all I think it worked out pretty well. As on Friday, we teamed up with Denny & Stephanie and rolled out of the parking lot around 9:45am once we felt sure the threat of a hard rain had subsided. We elected to ride the 33-mile route as a way of making sure we’d show up for lunch around the same time as the folks who participated in the mass start and rode the 47-mile option at a brisk pace, or the ones who did the 33-mile option at a more social pace. We had a very nice ride on damp roads and 33-miles ended up being a good choice as Debbie was struggling with saddle comfort throughout the day. Quite frankly, I’m not sure she would have been able to stand the 47-mile distance if we had attempted it: she was really in a lot of discomfort from 20-miles on…
We got a little off course as we neared the lunch stop as the route took us on roads Debbie and I had ridden at past events. However, the turn for the lunch stop came much earlier than I expected and we missed it while gawking at the lovely old homes. On the bright side, we only added about an extra mile or so to our ride as we quickly realized the error of our ways and were back on course in less than 10 minutes.
The lunch stop was located the beautiful Georgia Piedmont College Conference Center. As we left the lunch stop a local photographer stopped us to grab a photo of our trio resplendent in our matching DrunkCyclist.com jerseys aboard our Precision triplet. I’m hoping we’ll find a copy of one of those photos for posterity and to share with the folks at Voler & DC, but to be honest I’m not quite sure which paper the photographer was associated with.
It was a quick but painful 4-mile trip back to the hotel for Debbie, after which we settled in for a leisurely afternoon hanging out at the hotel. After getting the triplet put back on top of the truck, we headed to the Hampton Inn’s lobby & lounge to visit with various friends and share stories from the day and other recent tandem cycling adventures.
Being mindful that Debbie and I were supposed to ride 65-miles on Sunday at the Tour de Cure and knowing how much discomfort she had been in on today’s 33-mile ride, I headed down the hall to a meeting room where Ric & Marsha had set up shop with various tandems, Spinergy wheels and other goodies with an interest in learning more about the leather Selle An-Atomica Titanico saddles we’d been seeing on several tandems at the rally. Denny had talked with some of the folks who were now using the Selle Titanico saddles and fully endorsed the marketing pitch that they truly were the most comfortable saddles they had ever used. Marsha was one of the adherents, noting she too had been struggling with saddle discomfort and decided to throw caution to the wind and use one for the first time on an 85-mile ride. Frankly, using a new saddle on a long ride is always a high-risk proposition as there’s almost always a transition period where saddle discomfort is expected. However, as others had said, the Selle Titanico saddle delivered an amazing level of comfort throughout the ride. I figured I had nothing to lose by asking Debbie to give one a try, and she agreed to give one a test ride around the parking lot.
I pulled our Calfee out of the truck and with Debbie’s help changed out her Fi’zik saddle for the Selle Titanico and then we took a spin around the parking lot. She was impressed so we decided we’d roll the dice and give it a go for Sunday’s 65-mile Tour de Cure. After her test ride was done she left me to fiddle with the tandem – I needed to adjust the timing chain tension – and returned to the lobby to socialize before heading up to the room to get ready for dinner.
As I went about making adjustments to our Calfee I took it for a spin around the parking lot and stopped to observe Paul K. from Florida doing some non-destructive testing for rim cracks on Art W’s Topolino AX3.0T wheelset. Regular readers may recall from a more recent post that we had a spoke break on our Topolino AX3.0Ts just before GTR and then discovered that our rear wheel’s rim was cracked, so there’s a bit more to this story. Instead of covering it here, I’ll capture those comments in a subsequent blog entry along with some other ‘tech talk’ on the broader subject of wheels, tires, saddles and a few other equipment related topics based on our GTR & Tour de Cure weekend. It suffices to say, I enjoyed my impromptu visit with the folks huddled around Paul and Art’s tandem & wheels as I always look forward to talking about tandems and tandeming!
After putting the Calfee back in the truck and getting cleaned up, Debbie and I ventured back to the GTR hospitality suite to visit with other rally participants before going in search of a Pina Colada for Debbie. We attempted to procure Debbie a frozen Pina Colada on Thursday at RL’s and again on Friday at Amichi’s with no success. So, Lisa reminded me our mission tonight was to find a place where we could secure Debbie’s frozen treat on our way to the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers for the GTR banquet. As we headed west on I20 towards Conyers we found the perfect place: Applebee’s!
With a hasty exit and two left turns we arrived to a somewhat amazed collection of hosts, waiters and guests as they gawked at the 10’ long, 3 seat bicycle sprawled across the roof of our truck when I dropped Debbie & Lisa at the entrance before finding a place to park. As we’ve come to expect, Applebee’s had all of the fixings and equipment to spin up a nice frozen Pina Colada for Debbie which made her very happy. I enjoyed a nice cold draft and we all shared some chicken wonton wraps while enjoying our cocktails. Around 6pm we headed off for the Horse Park, found some parking and then secured our seats at a table with the Wood-Goods, Christen, Ryan & Audrey, Denny & Stephanie, Carl & Missy and David L. & his stoker…… We scored big time when our status as GTR Originals – one of five remaining teams who had been to all 15 Georgia Tandem Rallies – enabled us and our table guests to make the first trips through the buffet lines.
The food was excellent, we had a great time with our dining partners and it was really a wonderful affair. I must say, hats off to Roger & Eve for always doing such a great job at finding some of the best facilities to host their GTR banquets and for making wonderful menu selections.
As we left the banquet hall a light rain started to fall, so we quickly found the truck and headed back to the Hampton Inn. I believe we may have spent a few minutes in the hotel lobby before heading to bed, but not much more than that as we had to be up early and pack since we’d be headed to the Tour de Cure promptly at 7:00am on Sunday morning.
Most of our Sunday activities were captured in our Tour de Cure post-ride blog entry, which you can find here. However, I would be remiss if I did not offer a final summary of our 2013 Georgia Tandem Rally experience.
In short, it was excellent! It was unusual not to ride with the “usual suspects” as we have at most of the previous GTRs, never mind really being part of a larger group of teams on either the Friday or Saturday rides. But, we still had a great time with Lisa aboard and really enjoyed our time with Denny & Stephanie.
We didn’t put in big miles on either day, but that was probably a good thing. Like so many of our friends, the weather in 2013 had not been kind to us and seemed to thwart many of our weekend rides which meant we had very few base miles in our legs. Moreover, we knew we had a 65-mile ride on Sunday and needed to conserve some endurance for that. Add to that the unstable weather on Friday and Saturday and the shorter 41-mile and 33-mile rides just seemed to be what the Dr. ordered. I’m sure Denny, Stephanie and Lisa would have all preferred to go the 47-miles on Saturday’s ride, but in retrospect I’m thankful that we stuck to our original 33-mile route given Debbie’s struggle with her saddle on Saturday.
We never seem to have enough time to visit with everyone we’d like to both on and off the road, but certainly were thankful to have gotten to visit with as many of our friends as we did… even if it was a brief “hello, how are you!”
Our tandem cycling friends and folks who ride tandems in general are simply some of the best folks you’ll ever meet. And, quite frankly, that makes perfect sense since the folks who have an interest in attending rallies clearly get along with their riding partner and have an interest in meeting other, like-minded people who enjoy cycling. What could be better?
It’s a shame that the weather became a disruptor on Saturday and brought an early end to the rally on Sunday. But, to be honest, I think that may have been only the 2nd or 3rd time rain has been an issue at the 15 GTRs and the first time in 45 scheduled days of riding that a ride had to be cancelled due to rain. I seem to recall a Sunday ride at one of the Athens GTRs where rain sent a lot of us back to the hotel for an early finish, but that was about it in terms of rain interruptions.
We’re already looking forward to next year’s return to Athens, Georgia for GTR XVI! And, as a bonus, it looks like it won’t be on the same weekend as the Tour de Cure!!!