Beautiful Backroads Century

A Little Background

Aside from “The Rally in the Valley” one-day ride back in May where we teamed up with our friend from the Clemson, South Carolina, area on our triplet it’s been a very long time since Debbie and I signed up for a non-tandem cycling event.  In fact, I hard to think long and hard about when we last did any kind of charity ride event.

It turns out that the last time we “planned” to do a charity cycling event where less than one out of 200 bikes might be a tandem was the Beautiful Backroads Century (BBC) up in Cartersville, Georgia in Sept 2013.  I say planned, as after doing a weather check at 5:00am  on the morning of the ride I concluded it would be a wet ride and made the command decision that we’d blow-off the ride and sleep-in.  We knew we’d made the right call when the rain started falling around 8:00am… about the same time as the BBC ride start. Looking at the weather radar, it looked like it was rather wet up in Cartersville so it was nice being all toasty, warm and dry doing some things around the house.

Well, four years later we decided it was time to give it another try and a couple of weeks back I went ahead and registered us for the event.  It was actually a co-worker who mentioned the ride to me and that got the entire process started.  We’d actually talked about inviting her to join us on the triplet for the ride, but Debbie’s enthusiasm for that arrangement waned a bit so we never extended the invite.

The Weekend Before Our Ride

However, we definitely knew that we’d be riding it on the tandem and before heading out in a large group like that I knew the tandem’s shifting woes would need to be resolved.  So, about two Saturday’s back, after I’d finished doing some work on a new-to-us motorcycle’s suspension we carved out a couple of hours so we could get out on the Calfee tandem for the first of at least two rides over the 3 day weekend. This would also give me a chance to see how well the new front derailleur would work.

The weather was a bit cooler than when we’d last ridden on Friday the 8th, but the sun was shining and it made for perfect cycling weather. Sadly, the shifting on the tandem quickly became problematic and I’ll be darned if I know why, other than thinking that I’d simply not tightened-down the pinch bolts on the cable ends enough. However, the bigger problem was that I’d left the tool I’d need to make any adjustments at home so we had to nurse the mis-shifting bike home. Things really got screwed up when the chain jumped off the big chainring and got wrapped around the rear derailleur. I got that sorted out but could tell that the shifting had been made even worse by that little incident. That said, while the shifting was an annoyance it was an otherwise delightful ride.

Our second ride came on Saturday morning, September 9th.  Before getting out on the tandem we first had to run over to Harley-Davidson of Atlanta so we could pick up our 2013 Road King, which was having some issues and needed the brake and clutch fluids changed. Kelly had called around 3:00pm on Friday to tell us it was ready for pick-up, but not wanting to get stuck in traffic trying to get back home we deferred the pick-up to Saturday morning.

Back at the house we swapped the Harley for our tandem bicycle and headed out for a somewhat shorter than normal but more spirited ride on what was another lovely day. We were riding about 1-2 miles per hour faster than usual and that was a good thing given we were only working a little harder than normal and not killing ourselves to go fast. And, the adjustments I’d made to the shifting were all spot-on and nothing “changed” during the ride.

The Day of our Ride

This past Saturday morning we were vividly reminded of at least one reason we began to shy away from these types of organized rides: you gotta get up early on a weekend !  Really, I’m up at 5:00am and in the office by 6:10am five days a week, do I really need to be getting up at 5:30 on the weekends??    Well, yeah… if you want to go out and ride with a few hundred other people and the start time is 8:00am at a location that will take you a little time to drive to.

Thankfully, the ride starting point was a mere 30 minute drive from the house in light traffic so we didn’t have to leave the house until 6:45am as Debbie had picked up our registration packets on Friday.  I think I was up around 4:00am and Debbie finally stirred around 6:15am.  It didn’t take us long to get ready, noting I’d packed the tandem in the truck on Friday night.

After arriving at the Budweiser Brewery in Cartersville which served as ride central for the event, we made our way over the starting area so we could locate and visit with some of the other folks from Lockheed Martin’s cycling team.  No, Debbie and I didn’t have matching Lockheed jerseys so we went with our compliment-garnering Hawaiian print jerseys from Voler & Blacktop Cyclery in Bakersfield, California.

We’d forgotten how much fun it was to be at a large, non-tandem cycling event with all of the various different levels and types of riders on hand.  We actually missed getting out with single bike riders for an event like this.  Just hanging out a shooting the breeze at the gathering area around the start / finish point was really enjoyable.

One of the other Lockheed Martin riders had some type of camera on his bicycle and I was later advised by our cycling club captain that Debbie and I had been caught on his bike cam just before the start….… and then just before we decided to go off the front of a large group of cyclists to get into some cleaner air.  Yes, yes… i know.  Center line rule violation.  Hey, they don’t call it the Beautiful Backroads Century for nothing as the roads are nearly void of any vehicles on Saturday mornings at 8:00am.

We also snapped a selfie our ourselves around the 40-mile mark so we could see if we were still having fun or looking a bit fatigued as we’d ridden the first 36 miles pretty hard and really didn’t have too many 50 mile rides under our belts.

Thankfully, we were still feeling fresh and the temps never really made it out of the low 80’s by the time we finished our ride at 10:30.  We found one of our team mates enjoying some of Budweiser’s product in the big lunch tent after the ride and joined him for a short while as we ate our very nice event-provided lunch. It think it was around 11:15 when we finally packed up and headed for home, arriving in the driveway just before noon: about perfect timing!

We’ve both decided that we enjoyed the event so much that we’re going to search out the ride calendar and begin to do more of these.  After all, it was on these very types of rides in and around the Atlanta area that Debbie and I first started to log miles on the tandem some 20 years ago this past August 2nd.  Hard to believe that 20 of our 24 years as a married couple have been spent out riding our tandem bicycles.  It’s a beautiful thing!!


About TG

I've been around a bit and done a few things, have a couple kids and a few grandkids. I tend to be curmudgeonly, matter-of-fact and not predisposed to self-serving chit-chat. Thankfully, my wife's as nice as can be otherwise we'd have no friends. My interests are somewhat eclectic, but whose aren't?
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