Road biking, dirt road riding on Frankenbike, tandem riding, group riding, time trialing, randonneuring - I love to ride, and I love to write. As I've traveled along on two wheels, I've learned one thing: Expect Adventure. Join me on the journey!

Betty Jean Jordan

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Middle Georgia Epic 2019

It's not called the Middle Georgia Sort-of-Epic.  It's full-blown Epic.  And that's after race organizer Dustin Gaddis gave us the gift of a detour a few days ago.

Smith Road

The Middle Georgia Epic (MGE) route has had a roughly 5-mile section on Smith Road that consists of nearly impassable, sloppy, peanut-buttery mud, even when it hasn't rained in a while.  After just a few rotations, your wheels seize up, and you have to stop to scoop out mud.  Epic, yes, but also painful, especially because this section has been on both the way out and on the return.

Robert and our friend Jake pre-rode the course a couple of weeks ago.  Jake took the photo on the right with the stuck truck.  At first Dustin was reluctant to take out this section because Robert and Jake are primarily roadies, and he thought they were being soft.  However, someone else sent Dustin the photo on the left, taken just a few days before the race, when we had had significant rain.  That convinced Dustin to reroute us for safety concerns.  If someone had a medical emergency in this section, it would be hard to get to him/her.

Whatever the reason for taking out the Smith Road section, I was glad.  When I got the news, I felt like a huge weight lifted off me.  I knew the race still would be hard, but this made it seem much more manageable.

No Barfy

Even so, I still had pre-race jitters yesterday morning.  Logically, I told myself I shouldn't worry.  I ride lots of long rides, and I can ride hard.  My best would simply have to be my best.  If someone beat me, kudos to her.  Still, my nerves were getting to me.  I thought about Cosmo, one of my beloved greyhounds that I had for years.  He always had a sensitive stomach and sometimes barfed for no apparent reason.  He would get a rather green look on his face, and I would tell him, "No barfy, Cosmo!"  It kind of worked.  So, I told myself before the MGE, "No barfy!"

Robert and I left at 0'dark thirty yesterday morning to drive to the Blue Goose bike hostel in Irwinton, the staging area for the race.  I organized my gear, including unwrapping my Clif Bars and sticking them in my jersey pockets for easy access during the race.

Apparently, I was more nervous than I realized.  OK, I was a spaz.  I checked in and got my race number, which I managed to lose within five minutes.  I thought a wind gust picked it up while Robert and I had the car doors open on both sides.  Meekly, I went back for another race number, which Dustin graciously provided.  As soon as I got back to the car, I found my original race number.  Of course.  I had crumpled it up and stuck it with my Clif Bar wrappers into the MGE mug that they gave me at registration.  D'oh!

Early Race

We lined up in front of the Blue Goose just as the sun rose.  A sheriff's deputy gave us a neutral escort through town to the first turn.  Soon we came to the first dirt section, which was about a mile and a half long.  The fastest guys were off the front in no time.  I reminded myself to race my own race, at my own steady pace. 

After that first short dirt section and back on pavement, I caught up to a woman.  A young guy soon joined us.  The three of us rode together for most of the first half.  The woman introduced herself as Nicole.  The young guy turned out to be Joe, whom I had met last year when our mutual friend Graham convinced him to join us on a 200K brevet.

I was grateful for my riding companions Joe and Nicole
Joe took this photo of me.  Although certainly not as bad as Smith Road, the other dirt roads could be kind of sketchy.  He's way more coordinated than I am to be able to take a photo while riding on one!

I was trying to size up Nicole.  I can't deny that I'm competitive.  At a minimum, I wanted to keep up with her and possibly have a sprint to the finish.  Although we didn't talk much during the race, I could tell that she was super friendly.  So I tempered my crushing instinct with the thought that at least I had a new friend.

Oh, who am I kidding?  I saw an opportunity to move ahead, and I took it.  We turned onto Ellington Road, which usually has a very loose sandy section where I have to walk my bike for 100 ft or so.  However, it had rained enough that the road was ridable - difficult, but ridable.  Toward the end of Ellington Road, I pulled ahead of Nicole.  I never saw her again during the race.  Joe went with me.

Soon we approached Montrose.  Starlings were everywhere.  They were quite vocal, too.  Although I don't think I've noticed a correlation between their group calls and rain, it seems like I notice their sound more on overcast days.  Joe commented on how eerie Montrose seemed because of all the starlings.  I chuckled and told him that, ironically, there's a big haunted house there every October (Haunted Montrose).  I'll probably always think of the eerie starlings of Montrose whenever I ride through there in the future.

By the way, I couldn't resist telling Joe one of my favorite words: murmuration.  That's what a group of starlings is called.  Isn't that cool?


Joe and I continued on, taking turns pulling.  Another guy joined us a few miles before the single SAG stop in Eastman, which was approximately at the half-way point.  However, as we got closer to town, I started pulling ahead of them.  I stopped at the SAG only long enough to refill my bottles, and then I immediately got back on the road.  It's not that I wanted to drop them intentionally, but I was in race mode.  I rode the second half by myself.

The weather was actually quite decent for February.  Afternoon temperatures were in the 60s, and the only rain was an intermittent, very light mist.  It was overcast, blanketing the landscape in a winter melancholy.  Still, it was beautiful.  I was working too hard to truly be able to take it all in, but the pastoral scenes seeped into my subconscious.

The whole race I kept telling myself, "Ride steady, steady.  Keep going."  During long, hard rides I use any mental trick I think of.  I thought singing a song in my head might help, but nothing particularly came to mind except when I got to the Allentown city limit sign.  "And we're living here in Allentown..."  (Thanks, Billy Joel!)

Robert recently started using Infinit, a powdered drink mix that's specifically formulated for endurance sports.  It's intended to give you the calories you need while you simultaneously drink.  I decided to try it yesterday.  I had two bottles of Infinit plus three Clif Bars.  Maybe my body adapted well to the Infinit because later in the ride , I felt kind of barfy when I ate a Clif Bar.  It was a different barfy from the nervous barfy before the race started.  This was barfy due to physical stress.

I was almost out of water as I left Danville, the last town on the route.  I considered stopping at a church to refill my bottles, but I didn't want to lose any time.  I estimated that I had about an hour and a half left.  I'd simply make do with the little remaining water I had.

Pushing Through to the End

I was getting really tired toward the end.  Time for more mental tricks.  I thought of Fleetwood, one of my sweet greyhounds.  He's a big ol' sack o' love.  He's also the most energetic greyhound I've ever had, which probably is partially due to him not yet being three.  I talked to him in my mind, "OK, Fleetwood, fill up my tank with some of your energy!  But don't let it out in one of your bursts of activity; I've got to dose it out."

Fleetwood and me
It got tougher and tougher.  Toward the end, I kept telling myself that I need to find a less painful hobby.  Like knitting.  Or stabbing myself with knitting needles.

I kept an eye on my Garmin, watching the miles tick off.  Come on, you can do this.  As I made the return trip on the J.R. Sims Road detour, I took another bit of positive energy from the thought that at least I didn't have to ride on Smith Road.  Smith Road is demoralizing enough only six miles into the race, but having to do it again at the end of the race is even worse.

I made the turn back onto Lavender Road, the last dirt stretch before the end.  Gah!  Where did this big dirt hill come from?  I felt like molasses going up it.

A little more downhill, then back onto pavement,  and up a slight roller to the main highway.  A block later, the traffic light cooperated.  One final, rude climb into downtown Irwinton.  I ground, ground my way up it - if I could just make it to the top, it was and easy half-mile to the finish line.

I wouldn't call it a sprint, but I crossed the finish line with my last bit of strength.  I was the first female finisher!  I was also toast.  I started walking my bike back to the car.  Half way there, it occurred to me that I could have ridden my bike to the car more quickly, but I didn't bother getting back on.


My legs hurt!  That was a different experience for me.  I think it was the result of two things: 1) That was probably the hardest I ever rode the MGE.  2) I likely didn't eat enough during the race.  Fortunately, after a little rest and some food, my legs felt normal again, if fatigued.

Also, I was breathing hard for at least 10 minutes after I finished racing.  I changed clothes, used the facilities, and didn't start breathing normally again until I started eating.

I was glad to chill for a while until time for the podium.  Nicole came in only 12 minutes after I did.  We got a chance to talk while we waited for the third 200K woman to come in.  She was so nice, and we had a lot in common.  I wish we lived close enough to ride together.

After I while, I saw that live race results were being posted online.  I noticed that Nicole wasn't even in my category; she was in Women Under 40, and I was in Women Over 40.  We both got 1st place!

The third woman still hadn't come in.  Dustin asked if Nicole and I wanted to do an overall women't podium or stick with the original categories.  Because she and I were both ready to head home, we opted for a podium with just the two of us in our respective categories.  And I had the perfect spot for it - Banana Pudding Podium!

In addition to occasionally hosting bicycle races, the Blue Goose is also the home of the state Banana Pudding Festival at the end of April.

A big thank you to Dustin for putting on the MGE!  Despite the difficulty, I enjoyed the race.  (Or maybe I can say that now because it's over - ha ha!)  Several aspects of my regular riding make the MGE particularly suited to me.  First, I'm always trying to keep up with the guys on our regular Tuesday Worlds and Peach Peloton rides - great training!  Also, I do a lot of brevets, which are 200K or longer.  Not only that, I'm used to getting in and out of controls quickly on brevets.  I simply went even more quickly at the single SAG stop on the MGE.

"Speed it up a little!"

The PBP Connection

I'm really getting into Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) mode.  The night before the MGE, I dreamed about PBP.  I was at a convenience store and thought, "I've only got 300K to go!"  It wasn't a very restful dream, but then I never sleep very well before a big cycling event.

Although I don't have nearly as structured a training regimen as when I did RAAM a few years ago, I will do a lot of long rides in the coming months.  The MGE fits well into my PBP training plan because like I did with RAAM, I want to train harder than I'll actually go at PBP.  I thought about PBP during the MGE yesterday.  In addition to long rides, some intensity training is also good preparation.  Racing the 200K option of the MGE was like a PBP interval.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Groundhogs, Peaches, and Fried Green Tomatoes

It was an auspicious February weekend of groundhogs, peaches, and fried green tomatoes.

Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day (February 2) is one of my favorite holidays.  Georgia's official meteorological marmot, General Beauregard Lee (Beau to his friends), moved to nearby Dauset Trails Nature Center a little over a year ago.  I got to see him at his inaugural Groundhog Day event last year, and I was psyched to go back again yesterday because of this year's T-shirt:

Jake was in charge of planning yesterday's Peach Peloton.  He and several other guys, including Robert, opted to pre-ride the Middle Georgia Epic route before that race in two weeks.  However, Jake also planned a regular Peach Peloton from Bolingbroke.  That worked great for me for several reasons, primarily because it gave me time to go see Beau before riding yesterday morning.

I arrived at Dauset Trails at about 7:15 AM, shortly before sunrise.  As I approached the gate, I was tickled at how many cars were waiting to get in - all for Beau!  Turns out I had forgotten that there was also a half marathon and 5K that morning at Dauset Trails.  Still, there were over 500 people there to see Beau.  I know this from the button I received as I approached Beau's area:

Button being held by my groundhog puppet Woody (as in woodchuck, another name for a groundhog)
After Beau made his official prognostication, we were instructed to check the backs of our buttons to find our number for the door prize drawings.  My number was 532, which is how I know that there was a substantial crowd!

Alas, Beau predicted six more weeks of winter (insert sad face emoji).  However, I still had fun checking out the festivities:

Hanging out with Beau

With Chopper, mascot of the Gwinnett Stripers, the Triple-A team of the Atlanta Braves.  He's also a groundhog!

Because nothing is more all-American than predicting the weather from a ground squirrel

With another Beau groupie

Whistle pig is yet another name for a groundhog

Beau used to live at the Yellow River Game Ranch, which closed a couple of years ago.  I got this button the first time I saw Beau, back in 02/02/02!

Peach Peloton

I had just enough time to drive from Dauset Trails to Bolingbroke for Peach Peloton.  Because a number of the regulars were going to Irwinton for the Middle Georgia Epic pre-ride, I knew it would be a smaller than usual Peach Peloton group.  I was glad for the four others who did show up: Chad M., Doug, Tom (hadn't seen him in ages!), and Tony L.  There was some firepower there, but I figured Chad would keep things under control.  He's good at that.

Over the first 20 miles, we picked up a few more riders: Brock, Stony, and Jeff K.  Brock and Stony in particular could have put a real hurting on the group, but the stronger riders made a point to keep us together.  I certainly had to work harder than the others, but I was OK.  For one thing, I sat on the back during rotations.

Chad, who had turned into our de facto leader, suggested a couple of detours.  One gave us a good store stop option.  The second detour added a few miles at the end so that our total actual mileage (78 miles) wasn't much less than the original plan (84 miles).

I thought I might finally hang with the group until the end this time.  I didn't quite make it.  That second detour at about mile 70 took us on Rumble Road.  It's paved but has a rough surface.  Because of the extra friction, I simply couldn't keep up, particularly as the guys were smelling the barn.  Oh well, I rolled in just a few minutes after them.  I had a good time and certainly a great workout.

After the ride, I treated myself to lunch at Panera Bread (panini and a Greek salad - both excellent).  Panera also fit conveniently into my post-ride quest: finding some Woodchuck Cider for yesterday evening's traditional Groundhog Day dinner.  My local Ingles used to carry Woodchuck Cider but doesn't anymore.  It's a lot harder in general to find it these days.  So, after Panera I went across the road to Kroger.  Although Kroger didn't have Woodchuck, I did get to stock up on Clif Bars.  Kroger has the best selection of Clif Bars flavors and good prices.  Yesterday there was an especially great deal: buy 8 or more Clif Bars for $0.88 each!  I had to go to three other stores before finding Woodchuck Cider, but at least they all were pretty much on my way home.

By the way, yesterday's traditional Groundhog Day dinner was delicious: Woodchuck Cider, Six More Weeks of Winter White Chili (see recipe below), Beau's Cornbread, and Springy Squash and Onions.

Six More Weeks of Winter White Chili

1 large onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup cooked chicken*, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 small cans chopped green chilies
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1-2 teaspoons oregano
Dash chili powder, Tabasco, and pepper (to taste)
2 cups chicken broth*
2 cans white hominy, drained
2 cans black-eyed peas, drained
2 cans chopped tomatoes, drained (same size can as hominy and black-eyed peas)
3-4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Grated Monterrey jack cheese

In a large pot, saute onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent.  Add chicken, chilies, cumin, oregano, chili powder, Tabasco, and pepper.  Saute about 30 seconds.  Add broth, hominy, peas, and tomatoes.  Stir.  Simmer for about one hour, stirring occasionally.

Add cilantro and simmer for 5 minutes.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  Garnish with cheese and serve.

*Cook 1-2 chicken breasts the night before and use the resulting meat and broth.  Skim any fat from the broth before adding to chili.

Yield: 6 servings

Fried Green 50

My friend Monty typically holds the Fried Green 50 (FG50) in early November.  It didn't happen this past November, but he's revamping it for next fall.  In the meantime, he had a chill version of the FG50 today.

By chill, I mean that it didn't have the usual SAG stops or course markings.  That was no problem, though, because we still could get water at the fire tower midway through the ride, and I simply uploaded the route from Strava to my Garmin from a previous edition of the FG50.  Perhaps best of all, today everyone rode the FG50 more recreationally rather than as a race.

I found myself at the front with teammates Allen and Stony as well as a new friend, Haby from Columbus, GA.  Allen and Stony can drop me any day of the week, but they kindly stayed with me, at least for about the first half - ha ha!  That was largely because I was the only one of the three of us who knew the course.  Not that they would have gotten lost, but they didn't know all the many turns.  Haby had the course on his bike computer, too.

Later in the ride, the three guys rode ahead but waited for me at intersections.  They did ride on at the very end, but I was cool with that.  I really enjoyed being able to take in the scenery more than I usually do on the FG50.

Piedmont Wildlife Refuge

The Ocmulgee River

It was overcast and rather midwinter dreary for most of the ride.  However, the sun came out in the afternoon, and it warmed to around 60 degrees - beautiful for February!

By the way, there were six creek crossings.  Due to recent rains, they were a little higher than they usually are in November, but they were still ridable, particularly those with good technical riding skills.  Unfortunately, I don't have good technical riding skills.  I was 1 for 6 on the creek crossings, meaning I rode through only one of them without putting a foot down midstream.  Oh, well, it didn't faze me because I had on wool socks, and it wasn't a super cold day.

I've been contemplating today's ride.  I wasn't lollygagging, but I wasn't riding breakneck race pace, either.  I probably would have had to ride at my race pace to keep up with the guys at their fairly easy pace.  Especially after a hard workout yesterday, I just didn't want to race today.  These two back-to-back rides, just as I did them, are probably plenty good training for PBP (still a ways off) and just in general.  Still, I'm always second-guessing myself.  If I don't ride hard enough, often enough, will I lose the ability to ride hard?  But on the other hand, sometimes it's good and important to ride just for fun.  How do you balance everything?  I was talking with Robert about this as I cooked dinner tonight, and he assured me that all serious cyclists wrestle with these questions.  He told me to let him know if I figure it out.

At least I know one thing:

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Albany 200K Brevet

Wayne, our new Audax Atlanta Regional Brevet Administrator (RBA), has made a point to create a few new brevet routes for us.  Yesterday we got to do the inaugural Albany 200K brevet.  I thoroughly enjoyed riding in a part of the state that I don't visit very often.

Nine of us started at 7:00 AM.  It was about half an hour before sunrise, and so we had to use front and rear lights and reflective gear for the first bit of the ride.  We began at the Albany Civic Center, adjacent to a trail along the Flint River.  A portion of the trail was flooded; therefore, we took a short detour to enter the trail past the flooded area.  From there it was smooth sailing...er...riding.

We lucked out on the weather.  It was in the upper 40s at the start but quickly warmed up.  We rode in the 50s for most of the day and even hit the low 60s by mid-afternoon.  Additionally, we didn't get a drop of rain.  It doesn't get much better in January in Georgia.

A few of us grouped together toward the front: Chip, Wayne, and me.  Chip lives in Albany and found out about our ride through a Facebook post I made to the Pecan City Pedalers.  We were very glad to have him join us.

Chip was a good source of information about Albany and the surrounding area.  I asked him about all the cotton that hadn't been harvested; normally it's harvested in the fall.  He explained that between Hurricane Michael and more recent heavy rains, many of the cotton fields were too wet to be harvested.  In fact, there was still standing water in several of the unharvested cotton fields.

Chip also described what it was like during the historic flooding of 1994.  Being an Albany native and familiar with the streets, he volunteered to help the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR).  The DNR took boats out to assess the flooded areas, sometimes at night.  Chip rode along in one of them.  He said it was difficult to orient himself in all the black water.

The vast majority of roads on the Albany 200K route had little to no traffic.  In the grey January light, the farms and forests were quiet, meditative, and...


The giant peanut statue in Plains was a highlight of the day.
Chip had dropped back sometime before the peanut.  I rode the rest of the way with Wayne.  I hadn't ridden much with Wayne before, certainly not a whole ride.  I found him to be a quite a pleasant riding companion.  He's not terribly talkative, but when he does talk, it's interesting.  He's also a very strong rider and good to draft behind.

Until we got to Dawson at about mile 70, I didn't notice the wind very much because we had been traveling mostly north and south.  However, once we turned west at Dawson, the wind became a big factor.  It was coming from the east, the opposite direction of Georgia's predominant wind pattern.  At first this was a huge boon; we had a tailwind as we rode the busiest portion of the route, the 10-mile stretch westward from Dawson to Shellman.

Then things got tougher.  After Shellman we rode mostly eastward back toward Albany.  Therefore, we had a significant headwind for the last 50 miles.  This portion also included our longest distance between controls: 40 miles between Shellman and the final store stop about 10 miles from the end.  Normally, 40 miles between controls wouldn't be a big deal to me, but that headwind kept beating on me.  I was so glad to get some refreshment at that last store, which gave me the energy boost I needed to finish strong.

Before I headed home, I stopped at the Ray Charles statue at the riverside park near the civic center.

I first saw this statue when Robert and I did the 2007 Georgia Tandem Rally, which was held in Albany.  I had forgotten how the concrete surrounding the raised platform is made to look like piano keys.  On the other hand, I remembered that the platform rotates ever so slowly, almost imperceptibly.  I discovered this in 2007; earlier in the day, Ray was facing one direction, but later he was facing another direction.  Whoa!

The display also plays Ray Charles music continuously.  When I visited yesterday, I was thrilled to catch the tail end of him singing "Georgia on My Mind."  It was the perfect finale to a wonderful ride in my home state.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Laughter: The Best Medicine

It's been said that cycling is about pain management.  Some of the best ways to manage that pain are good nutrition, good friends,....and a good laugh.  Last Saturday I did a 200K, and today I did a century at Peach Peloton.  Both were tough.  Both had a funny moment that buoyed me the rest of the ride.

Athens 200K Brevet

I've done this route a number of times.  Last Saturday I rode it with some of my best rando buddies: Andrew, Chad, Dick, Graham, Ian, and Julie.  We weren't lollygagging; it was one of my faster times on this route.

At one of the controls, Andrew and I were discussing various drink mixes for endurance athletes (Infinit, Skratch Labs, etc.). He said Hammer products upset his stomach because they have too much whey.
Me: “No whey!”
Andrew: “Whey!”

Peach Peloton

We had a store stop at about mile 54.  
Jeff K. got some kind of pink, fluffy snack cake thing. I said, “That looks like something Zsa Zsa Gabor would eat.”Jake said, “You mean that character from Star Wars?” Jake’s confusion is understandable; I get Zsa Zsa Gabor and Jar Jar Binks mixed up all the time.

Later I found out that the pink, fluffy thing was a Sno Ball.  OK, so cycling isn't always about good nutrition...

But I can always count on good friends.

Riding through the Auchumpkee Covered Bridge

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Hoot Owl 200K Brevet

The Hoot Owl 200K Brevet was last July.  It was a hoot to provide ride support!  I wrote an article about it for American Randonneur magazine.  I promised the editor that I wouldn't make a blog entry until the article came out.  It just did!  Not only is it a fun article about a fun ride, it's also great to remember the summertime warmth during these cold winter days.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Peach Peloton - The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Today was my first Peach Peloton of the season.  Chad Madan, the official organizer this year, didn't want to start until December.  We got rained out the first two Saturdays of December, and then last week I did the Chops & Hops Populaire with my rando buddies.  So, I've been looking forward to finally riding Peach Peloton today.

We rode from East Macon toward kaolin country.  Some of our Macon cyclopeeps don't like to venture that far to start, and so today it was just my Georgia Neuro teammates, i.e., the hardcore riders: Allen, Bill, Cal, Cody, Robert, Stoney, Van, and me.  It promised to be a tough ride, but I was up for it.  Not only was it a great ride, it was like an early Christmas!  Check out all the cool gifts I got:

1) Van brought our new 2019 team kits, which just came in.  Robert also ordered mini jerseys for our main team sponsors.  The mini jerseys are about six inches long, and you can hang them on a window:

The spine is back this year!
2) The guys waited for me at the end of the first attack zone.  It was a long, downhill stretch on Myricks Mill Road.  I have a hard time keeping up on the downhills anyway, and so I didn't stand a chance with it being an attack zone.

3) I'm grateful for old man bladders.  A couple of guys were taking a nature break when I caught up at the end of the Myricks Mill attack zone.  I kind of had to go myself, but I didn't want to delay the others any longer than I already had.  I figured I could wait a while, stopping by myself if I had to.  Fortunately, Bill, who didn't go at the end of Myricks Mill, called for a pee break a few miles later.

4) I was able to hang on during rotations by sitting on the back.

5) The second attack zone wasn't super attack-y.  Cody and Van opted not to participate, and so I rode on their wheel until we regrouped.

6) I didn't get dropped until mile 68!  That left only 19 miles I had to ride by myself.  I was so glad to last that long.  I'll admit that it was also nice to ride at a less insane pace for the remaining miles.

7) It was encouraging to learn that I still can do a long, intense effort.  I haven't had a hard group ride since Tuesday Worlds ended for the season a few months ago, and Tuesday Worlds is less than half the distance of today's Peach Peloton.  We'll see how the other Peach Peloton rides go this winter training season.  Even if I get dropped, though, I'm glad for the challenge.

Merry Christmas!

View of a kaolin plant from the store stop in Gordon

Friday, December 21, 2018

Chops & Hops Populaire

Sometimes it's good to put aside the power data, speed, and competition and simply ride bikes with your friends.  That's exactly what I did last Saturday at the Chops & Hops Populaire.  Wayne, our new Audax Atlanta Regional Brevet Administrator (RBA), wants to offer some social rides to our group, and he's getting us off to an excellent start.

A populaire is a 100K event.  This was only my second one.  Both times the group rode it audax style, meaning that everyone purposely stays together.  Maybe I didn't ride Chops & Hops as fast as I could have, but the camaraderie more than made up for it.

The ride was scheduled to start at 8:00 AM in Watkinsville.  It had rained all day the previous day and overnight, but the clouds were supposed to clear fairly close to ride time.  We checked the radar as we gathered in the parking lot.  If we waited an hour, we just might miss the rain.  So, we headed down the road a few blocks to a coffee shop.

It was great to get caught up with everyone, especially Robert N.  This was his first ride back since a serious hand and wrist injury in a crash a couple of months ago.  I was so glad he was feeling up to the day's ride.  After coffee, tea, and muffins, we all were well fortified for the ride.

Thirteen of us rolled out:

Wayne was taking the picture; someone else was off taking a nature break
Just a few miles into the ride, we came to an intersection blocked by a sheriff's deputy.  A running race was underway, and this was the turnaround point.  Fortunately, we were allowed to proceed on our route.  It was a unique adventure to ride among the runners.

I would be on my bicycle much longer than the runners were running.  We all probably thought we were getting the better end of that deal.

Later that day, I looked up the race online and discovered that it was the 20th Annual Will Chamberlin Memorial Santa Stroll 8K.  Will helped us in Monticello for many years with the Deer Dash 5K.  It was particularly meaningful to me to learn that that's what this race was.

It turned into a beautiful day for riding.  I reveled in the sparkling December sunshine and great companionship.

Andy sporting a cool Audax Atlanta jersey
I enjoyed the opportunity to ride with Neil.  Neil might not be fast, but he's amazing.  He's nearly 75 and keeps on keeping on despite several broken bones in recent years.  Brian gave multiple pushes to Neil to help him up the climbs.  Wayne joked that it was like Neil had an e-bike.  Actually, he had a B-bike!

I get by with a little help from my friends.
When I was mapping the route ahead of time to upload to my Garmin, I was pleased to see that we would be going down the steep hill at Hard Labor Creek state park, opposite of the direction I usually ride.  As I continued mapping, however, I realized that the route was out and back to Rutledge.  We got to make the big climb after all.

We cruised the remaining 18 miles or so back to our starting point.  Afterwards, everyone gathered at Chops & Hops.  Good food, good beer, and good friends - a high point of my holiday season!

Me, Andy, and Neil
Jim, Tim, Brad, and David B.

Beer connoisseurs Brian and Robert N. enjoy a flight