Note: As photos from GTR begin to appear we will update accordingly. Our apologies for the thin collection of organic photos from our own camera…
We were on the fence several times with regard to this year’s Georgia Tandem Rally for a number of reasons, but when May 21st rolled around the truck was loaded with the tandem in the bed and the triplet on top.
However, I had a small crisis at the house before we left involving a motorcycle with delicate parts that fell-over after being parked a bit off-center in a wheel chock resulting in an unusual amount of damage to the aforementioned delicate parts. The idiot who is to blame appears in my mirror every morning: doh! Adding insult to injury, given how the bike fell and noting that fuel was spilling out of the just topped-off tank, I had to use an unusual technique to stand the 600 lb beast up which caused something in my back to “crack” at one point: yes, it was a gift that kept on giving throughout the weekend.
Despite the back pain, I was able to load the triplet on the truck as noted above and we hit the road at 7:00pm sharp after having dinner at home. The hope was we’d miss the afternoon rush hour traffic going through and south of Atlanta. We had a brief delay about 20 minutes from home due to an accident in I75 south in Marietta and then hit another traffic delay in Atlanta where I75 and I85 merge, but generally made good time and arrived in Macon shortly after 9:00pm. Of course, we both noted that we enjoyed making the trip from Atlanta to Macon more on the motorcycle than we did in the truck: just something about being on a bike!
As we arrived at the hotel we began to see tandem friends coming back from the 7:00pm to 9:30pm social that was held at The Mill in Macon. After getting settled into our room we returned to the lobby / lobby bar to greet more friends, our riding partner for the weekend, Lisa, and have a night-cap with Stephanie & Denny before heading up for the night.
The day began with breakfast in a conference room set aside for the tandem rally with it’s own buffet line. The buffet left a bit to be desired for our tastes and pre-ride needs: no meat, very few carb-rich items aside from cereal and sweet breads, and the center piece — hard scrambled eggs — that just didn’t rock our world. We both made do with the scrambled eggs topped with cheddar cheese and catsup as well as some of the breads. Oh well, some hotels do better than others, especially when trying to come up with the right choices for cyclists with a wide variety of eating preferences.
The ride was a remote start 18 miles from the hotel out in Tripp County. It was an easy drive to the starting point at the Old Marion Baptist Church. After sorting out the triplet’s setups for Debbie and Lisa we rolled up to the rider’s meeting and were off shortly there after.
Friday’s route was billed as the flattest of the three days and it was a great route. Like most triplets, quads and quints, our triplet did a little complaining with drive train noises that didn’t exist the last time we rode it and that eluded diagnosis. Early in the ride it also threw the chain into the granny ring on a hard-to-execute shift from the big to the middle chain ring (most likely being held-up by mega-stoker power) that put us off the side of the road for a few minutes. We quickly made up lost time with a brisk bridge back to our group. True to form, the aforementioned noises disappeared throughout the day such that by the end of the ride the bike was pretty quiet.
We opted to do the 51-mile route given it was billed as having only 1,600’ of climbing. We spent most of our time riding with our friends Eric & Linda and a number of other long-time friends from previous Georgia & Southern Tandem Rallies, often times with a different mix throughout the day. I think we may have over stayed at the first store stop and ended up riding with just Linda & Eric until we hit the second store stop across from the Twigg County Court House where we found most of our riding companions from earlier in the day. I’m pretty sure Debbie was gassed on the last two climbs coming into the second store stop and she confirmed that her legs had turned to rubber once we arrived at the store. We made some adjustments to her saddle – a new Selle Anatomica Titanico – which for some reason had lost tension and was sagging at least a ½ “ lower than it should have been to give Debbie the proper riding position.
After finishing our ride the five of us – me, Debbie, Lisa along with Eric and Linda – headed to lunch at Lee & Eddies BBQ in downtown Macon, a division of and adjacent to the Cherry Street Cyclery. Wow, what a great place. The BBQ was tender and moist, the sauce was a delicious South Carolina mustard sauce that was as good or better than anything like it I’ve ever had. Then there was the shop, which was as much of a museum dedicated to 70’s – 90’s era European racing bikes.
The owner, Damon Allen, served up our pulled pork sandwiches and then gave me a wonderful tour of the shop. Damon and his wife clearly have put their heart and soul into the shop and BBQ restaurant that has a bittersweet history. You can read about it by doing a Google search on “the story of lee and eddies bbq” since the direct link to the article will take you to the wrong article.
After lunch we headed back to the Marriott to cleanup and relax a bit before heading off in search of dinner. We socialized with friends in the lobby and the hospitality suite that doubled as Ric & Marcia Becker’s “House of Tandems East” tandem shop, as they had an endless line of tandems that were in need of their attention or new wheels. It was a nice, relaxing afternoon.
For dinner, our group of 18 headed down to Doughboy’s Pizza on Cherry Street. We were split into a table for 10 and another for 8, but that worked out fine. We had time to catch up with friends and polished off a little Caesar salad and a couple of slices of pizza: it’s so nice to find a place that sells pizza by the slice! Debbie had the lasagna and I had the buffalo: yummy!
After dinner and on our way to the ice cream social at the Douglass Theater we ran into Ric & Marcia who were having dinner on the patio at the Market City Café. It looks like a great place and one that we’d like to visit.
The ice cream social was nice and the theater was interesting. The special showing of a video history of the Douglass called, “They Played the Douglass” with still photos and video that captured some of the entertainers who performed at the Douglass from the 1920’s to 1972 was a wonderful blast from the past with greats like Cab Callaway, Duke Ellington, Little Richard, James Brown, etc. It was somewhat curious that the introduction still photo showed the Macon Opera House with its three distinctive boxes flanking the stage, whereas the Douglass only has two on each flank.
We retired to the Marriott for the evening where we once again visited with friends in the lobby and spent some time keeping company with Ric & Marcia who ended up working on tandems until 12:30am; yikes! Talk about going above and beyond the call of duty.
For those who aren’t aware, Ric and Marcia attend these rallies on their own dime and donate their time and talents to support riders at the event. Yes, they do a little business – selling wheels and parts as needed to bring tandems that have fallen into mechanical distress back to their full potential – but do a ton of pro-bono work, often times when it’s really not pro-bono, i.e., hey folks, if they put a new tube in your tire out on the road, you really should be paying for at least the tube! Seriously, I think some folks who attend the rallies assume that Ric & Marcia have been brought in by the organizers and are somehow compensated for their efforts. Uh, no… that’s not how it works. So, next time you see them at a rally say thanks! If they fix your tandem, ask ‘em, “How much do we owe you?” or if nothing else, by them a cocktail or perhaps dinner if they’ve make your weekend possible by an unplanned overhaul of your tandem.
After seeing that breakfast was basically the same as Friday – albeit with some fresh fruit added – we opted to visit the Marriott’s restaurant. Debbie did the buffet with a nice assortment of egg specialties, bacon, grits, fruit and breads and I had a wonderful stack of buttermilk pancakes with sausage. It definitely hit the spot and gave us the kinds of calories we were in need of. The wait staff was also really a pleasure, which is what we found of everyone who worked at the Marriott or in the businesses we visited in Macon. Really, they were just the nicest folks who really understood customer service and Southern hospitality.
Saturdays ride started at the Marriott and was led out by the Bibb County Sheriffs and Macon Police; they did a great job of shepherding us through the city to the more rural roads where traffic was no longer an issue. The ride out-of-town had a bit of climbing to it; something we’d get to enjoy throughout the day.
My original plan for the day was the 39-mile option with about 2,000’ of climbing, just based on how we rode on Friday. However, somewhere along the way Miss Debbie got it in her mind that we needed to join our friends for the 52-mile ride with 2,500’ of climbing. As we hit the 15-mile point where the 39 & 52 mile routes split off from each other I suggested that I didn’t “feel a 52-mile ride” in the triplet during the first 15 miles and recommended the 39-mile. However, I was overruled. I predicted that it would be an “I told you so” ride as we pressed ahead on the 52.
No doubt, Bibb & Twigg Counties were great places to ride; just lovely, lightly traveled roads many covered by trees. We had very few if any motorists that gave us any concern, notwithstanding one Chevy Silverado that blasted by us on a two-lane road a bit too fast to be prudent.
We captured Saturday’s ride on one of two GoPro cameras, noting that I may have inadvertently wiped the video off one of the cameras before verifying it downloaded correctly. However, we were saved in that Linda Wood & Eric Osgood shared the video they shot with their GoPro off the front of their tandem. So, between their footage and ours, I was able to come up with a one-minute and 43 second-long collection of clips that gives viewers a pretty good idea of what Saturday’s ride looked like. As a bonus for us, Linda & Eric’s camera caught us riding from a 3rd person perspective, something we’ve not seen except in still photos:
Getting back to the ride, and as I feared, we had to throttle way back around 44-miles into the ride and make our way into town at a touring pace. I’m also to blame in that there were several times that I pushed a hard pace for which we really didn’t have the base mileage. As a result, saddle fatigue, some nasty sore spots and the heat combined to wear down my sweetie — never mind putting a big burden on Lisa and exacerbating my own struggles with back pain — such that at times our ride was bordering on “not fun”. The touring pace did a lot to help with some recovery, as did the generally downhill nature of the last 6 miles that put us into downtown Macon on Cherry Street as our final home stretch to the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame where the catered lunch was being served.
After rolling up to the Hall of Fame and taking a look inside at the buffet offerings and indoor seating, we decided it was just too nice of a day to not take advantage of the patio at Market City Café. We were back on the triplet after just a few minutes at the Hall of Fame and rode the three blocks back west to the Café; it was the right call!
We had a nice table for three in the shade on the patio where a wonderful breeze was blowing. Our hostess / server did a great job of getting us watered and fed and the food was wonderful! I had a California burger and Caesar salad that I washed down with some beer, Debbie had tuna salad on fresh bakery croissants with fresh-made chips, and Lisa had a lovely Asian salad. Again, it was just too nice of a day not to be outside and Macon truly is blessed with a lot of great restaurants.
We had a somewhat subdued afternoon back at the Marriott. Debbie’s tookus had a couple of nasty abrasions and she had a pulled muscle in her left leg so a visit to the whirlpool bath was a must. I did a little editing of the GoPro videos while she soaked, unfortunately somewhere along the way I lost all of the data from one of the cameras: that’ll teach me to do editing next to a pool instead of a more quiet place with fewer distractions, i.e., I’m always distracted by my sweetie: can’t take my eyes off of her!!!
We cleaned up and then headed down to the lobby to visit with friends a bit before the Saturday evening banquet at the adjacent convention center. It really is a nice when the host hotel and banquet facilities are within walking distance! We had a great time visiting with long-time friends Ron & Shari, Heidi, Margaret and others before taking the short walk – all indoors – to the banquet room. We shared our table with Denny & Stephanie, Ryan & Christian and another couple whose names escape me: very nice folks to be sure. The meal offerings – themed around Tuscany – were outstanding. Some of the presentations were a bit odd, such as the Caesar and pasta salads being served in Martini glasses: really? But, the quality and selection of foods was outstanding, a great meal!
We were pretty tired and didn’t spend much time socializing back in the hotel lobby bar before heading up to bed around 9:30… 9:30. Yeah, I knew that would be trouble as I only sleep about 4 hours a night. Sure enough, I was wide awake by 12:30 and saw the clock click-through 2am, 3am, 4am and 5am before finally giving in and getting up around 6am.
Given how “chewed-up” Debbie’s saddle contact points were, there was no way that she’d be able to ride on Sunday. Therefore, our options included:
- Set up the tandem for Lisa and leave Debbie back at the hotel to relax while we did the Sunday ride, something we did last fall at the Southern Tandem Rally in Columbus, Georgia.
- Find out if Eric and Linda might be interested in teaming up with Lisa on her Mango triplet for Sunday, noting they’d ridden together on Thursday and would be doing so again on Monday.
After talking through the options at the breakfast room, putting Lisa with Eric & Linda seemed like the best choice. Debbie really needed to get back home where she could truly relax and tend to her sore bits.
With the days riding partnerships sorted out, we opted to head for the hills before the riders went out with the mass start. We had the truck loaded and were on the road by 7:45am that put us home by 9:30am.
Again, it was the right call.
If you thought my write-up was a bit lacking in enthusiasm & detail compared to others, you’re not imagining things. This was a very strange-feeling Georgia Tandem Rally for us. We normally can relax and decompress at tandem rallies, but I believe we may have had a few too many mental distractions to ever “get in the zone” for this weekend.
We’re both struggling with a decision on when to make a major lifestyle change, Debbie has a close family member who is in hospice care which has been weighing heavy on her mind for the past two weeks, and as noted in the intro to this blog I hurt my back on Thursday afternoon. While I tried to wear my best game face and treat the pain with Advil, my back was killing me all weekend long… and still is.
Our pre-rally time on the tandem had also been far less than we’d like, a continuing trend. Between bad weather, other demands for our time and our motorcycling hobby, we’re just not getting in the miles that we need do, and when we do get in miles they’re not high-quality workouts, just fitness rides. The less than stellar cycling fitness and stress combined to create a few rare moments of tension between Debbie and me as well. Add to all of that her saddle sores and, well, it just wasn’t a great weekend for us. Hopefully Lisa’s weekend didn’t suffer because of it; she’s a trooper and we love being able to ride with her at these rallies. If nothing else, we owe it to Lisa to get in better shape for these events so that we can run with the big dogs without making her work so hard all the time. But, I digress.
Being back at home early today was a very good thing, as being “back on home turf” and able to fall back into some familiar routines served us well. It’s also really a blessing that we will have one more day to compose ourselves and recover before facing work on Tuesday.
But, in retrospect, it was great getting out on the tandem (er, triplet) with Lisa and all of our tandem cycling friends. Those are always great times. So, looking forward, we’ll make a point of getting more miles under our belt and may begin to look to the local bicycle charity rides as an outlet for cycling. After all, early on when we were at our best it was chasing the single bikes at local cycling events that kept us working hard all the time. Riding alone and at the occasional tandem group ride just doesn’t work to fill that void.
In closing, we would be remiss if we didn’t thank our long-time friends and co-organizers of the Georgia Tandem Rally, Roger Strauss & Eve Kofsky. Year-after-Year since 1999 they have endeavored to provide tandem enthusiasts with “the perfect tandem rally,” covering all of the bases from catered meals, to local eating tips, porta-potty’s for stops that don’t have adequate facilities, and on-and-on. They truly outdo themselves every year and this year was no exception. Macon, who knew!? We really didn’t get to experience downtown Macon when we first visited in 2011 and were blown away by all that the city has to offer. The riding was exceptional, the residents were bike-friendly and when you factor in beautiful weather it made for an exceptional weekend.