I”m really, really, really going to try hard to keep this short…
Thursday, 23 October…
We both worked a full day and then left for Columbus, GA, at 7:00pm. It’s about a 2 hour drive so we decided to stop for dinner before we got out-of-town. After a can’t go wrong caesar salad and wild pie at Olde Towne, we were back on the road by about 7:45.
It’s funny how different this drive to Columbus feels vs. the ride we take along the same route to Panama City Beach; frankly, it’s a lot more relaxing and enjoyable on the Harley! I’m not sure why that is.
We arrived in Columbus around 9:30 and spent 15 more minutes negotiating the gauntlet of stoplights that stood between us and the Marriott Columbus along the Chattahoochee. We found quite a few friends in the lobby when we arrived and checked-in… and that’s the real draw for these events: seeing good friends who we’ve met through tandem cycling. We even had a chance to see some friends who lived in Atlanta briefly a few years back before returning to Bend, Oregon, who had made the trip to Columbus.
We hit the sack early knowing that we’d need to be well-rested for Friday’s ride. As much as I had it in my mind that the roads around Columbus would be flat and rolling, the elevation maps for the ride options suggested otherwise.
Friday, 24 October…
We were up around 6:30 and headed down to breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant, Houlihan’s. It was actually a very nice set-up. We were joined at our table by our friends Richard and Shirley from Muncie, Indiana / Naples, Florida. What a joy it is to spend time with them! We had a great time catching up and talking about all kinds of things.
It was a cool morning so we’d definitely be starting out with our legs, arms and hands covered and with wind vests / jackets on. I should probably note, we’d be on the tandem today and then move over to the triplet for Saturday and Sunday. Our guest stoker Lisa would be spending Friday’s ride stoking for our friend Ted from St. Louis, MO, as his wife Sandy wasn’t flying in until Friday afternoon.
The ride began from the hotel and negotiated its way through the aforementioned gauntlet of stop lights with a little help from the Columbus Police Department. Bless their hearts, they did their best but they really didn’t have a good plan for how to marshall a 100 tandems through a heavily traffic-light infested urban area.
As you can see from elevation map, above, it was a pretty steady climb all the way to the half-way point in the ride. We fell into no-mans land for a while as the A teams went off the front and eventually found ourselves riding with our friends Linda & Eric, noting Linda was celebrating her birthday today.
Somewhere along the line we ran across some of our friends from Florida — Greg & Angela — who had been riding with the A teams and punctured their tubeless rear tire to the point where it wouldn’t self-heal. We stopped and lent them a hand in getting the tire booted, a tube inserted and inflated and then rode with them to the store stop located about 4 miles before the 45-mile and 57-mile routes split-off.
Our original plan was to do the 57-mile, but we were really struggling on the ride: apparently doing motorcycle rallies for the past two out of three weekends didn’t do much to improve our cycling fitness. Another couple we know from Ohio who were at the store said they planned to change their plans and do the 45-mile route and we were all-in for that. It was a good call. There were a couple 11%, 12% and 13% climbs on the way back in to Columbus and they really put the burn in our thighs while taking the wind out of our sails.
We finished the ride by passing back through one of Columbus’ public housing projects and then taking a right turn onto a bike path that put us down on a lovely river walk along the redevelopment area that lined the Chattahoochee River; it was an interesting contrast to say the least.
We exited the river walk a mere 100 yards from our hotel which was a pleasant surprise, as I’d expected we’d be tackling the traffic lights again.
It was a good ride, but I must say that while Columbus has secured designation as a bicycle friendly town quite a few motorists we encountered on our ride outside the city limits certainly weren’t. We’ve had similar experiences when cycling up and around Pine Mountain, Georgia as well.
Once we were back at the hotel we made a quick change and headed down Broadway Street on foot in search of lunch. We decided that the Cannon Brew Pub looked inviting and stepped-in to investigate. Definitely a place I’d recommend to anyone looking for a nice meal in Columbus .
They quickly seated us and we had a wonderful lunch with a delightful server. Debbie opted for the crab cakes, I had the Sushi grade ahi tuna ciabatta sandwich and they were wonderful. I also had some of their home-made root beer and it was out of this world. Of course, we also learned from our server that it was loaded with sugar, which explains why it was so darn tasty!
We went back to the hotel to rest and recuperate for a while before heading back out at 5:00pm for dinner at the Loft with Linda, Eric and 30 other friends. I’m still not sure why Friday’s ride seemed to be so hard on us, but it was as I never lay down and rest in the middle of the day… never. But, I definitely needed it today.
We wandered down to the Loft a little early as my sweetie felt the need for a Pina Colada. Sadly, they didn’t do frozen drinks at the Loft but said the Cantina next door did. Great recommendation as the gal working the bar — Christina — was about as nice as could be and did a great job of taking care of our need for a frozen drink fix!
We finally made it back to the Loft around 5:25pm and found our party in the back of the main dining floor. We were able to visit with some dear friends who moved to the west coast about 10 years ago and who we hadn’t seen since then and several other friends that we only get to see at tandem rallies. We had a wonderful time at dinner and then headed upstairs for a desert social and some “cycling olympics”.
The cycling olympics included a “guess the fat-tire tandem weight” contest, a “pump up the tire until it blows” event, a “who can change the tire the fastest” skill test and a “how slow can you go” cruiser bike race.
I entered all four and won one of the heats in the blow-up the tire” event. I was on the fast track to win a tire change heat when my tube blew at 90 psi during the reinflation… apparently I’d pinched the tube in my haste. I threw my heat in the “slow ride” event as I was just too darn tired to play, but I’m pretty sure Tom would have won any way. I cheated on the bike weight contest by checking the web and it backfired on me: the cited weight was overstated by about 7 lbs: when’s the last time you saw a bike manufacturer over state a weight!
It was all in good fun and we had a great time: definitely not something we’d ever seen at a previous tandem rally! I gave my “blow the tire” growler to a friend who truly enjoys craft beers as it would have been a waste for us: Debbie likes frozen drinks and I like tequila.
We headed back to our hotel around 8:30pm as the combination of the hard ride (at least for us), our cocktails at the Cantina and pumping up that darn tire conspired to wear me down earlier than usual. So, here I sit at 9:30 finishing up this first entry recounting our trip down and first day at the 2014 Southern Tandem Rally.
All-in-all, a great start to a great weekend.