Beau, Georgia's official weather prognosticator, predicted six more weeks of winter on Groundhog Day a few days ago.
I was sad but not surprised about Beau's prediction. We've had a colder than usual winter. Yesterday's West Side Ramble 200K permanent was yet another cold ride of this long winter. However, the camaraderie was warm. I got to ride with some of my best rando buddies: Andrew, Brian, Dick, Ian, Julie, and Wayne.
A brevet is scheduled for the 24th of this month, but because of a work commitment, I won't be able to do that ride. So, I was glad when others started asking about doing a permanent yesterday. After a fair amount of discussion, we settled on the route, the West Side Ramble. It starts in Stockbridge and makes a counterclockwise loop to the southwest.
When I got to the Kroger parking lot in Stockbridge, our starting point, I was pleased to meet Charlie, a randonneur I didn't know. He was leaving at the same time as the rest of us but doing a populaire (100K ride). He's from California and has a goal of riding a populaire in every state. Georgia is his first one east of the Mississippi River. Bonne route, Charlie!
We seven doing the permanent began at 8:00 AM, a rather late start time among our Audax Atlanta group. I wasn't complaining, though; it allowed me to get up at a slightly less uncivilized hour than I do for most of my randonnees. On the other hand, it was also about the coldest part of the day. It was only about 30 degrees when we started. However, the forecast called for a high of 50 and sunshine.
Several times early in the ride, we saw beautiful murmurations of starlings. Starlings are a non-native, invasive species, but they still look glorious in their shimmering waves of flight. Isn't murmuration a cool word? Ian and I thought it might be the word of the day. However, the word of the day turned out to be much less dignified...
Our first control was in Senoia, a small town that recently has gained renown as the filming location of The Walking Dead. I've never seen an episode, but it was still interesting to see the gated off section of town where the apocalyptic scenes are staged.
We went to Crook's Hit-n-Run, an unfortunate name for a control:
As we sat on the curb in front of the store having some refreshment, we chatted among ourselves. Someone asked me if I had brought my usual sardines. Why, yes, I had. They are a great protein source on long rides, but I was saving them for later.
My sardines reminded Andrew of a story. Several years ago he and his wife were on vacation in Spain. He really wanted to get some grilled sardines, supposedly a local specialty. However, they had a hard time finding a restaurant that served them. After an Internet search on their phones, they finally found one restaurant that had grilled sardines. There was only one way to get to the restaurant, though: through a nude beach. So, we all laughed as Andrew described having to get his grilled sardines by walking through all these people who were starkers. Isn't "starkers" a great word? Andrew and Ian are both originally from England. Sometimes they use the most marvelous British English words.
Several others also had nude beach stories. It seems they all were presented with opportunities to partake but declined. They also commented that a lot of people who do partake would be better off keeping their clothes on.
I have a sort-of experience in this genre. When I was about 14, my family took one of its usual vacations, probably to see my grandmother. While we were gone, our neighbors got our mail and kept an eye on the house. When we got back, Mr. Neighbor asked my mother where we had gone. She told him we went to a nudist camp. When she later told me about her joke, I was mortified! Of course, just about everything mortified me when I was that age. By the way, when my mother told Mr. Neighbor about the nudist camp, he said, "You know, I've always wanted to go to one of those."
Thus, "starkers" became our word of the day.
It turned out to be a fortuitous choice. Because Wayne is the route owner of the the West Side Ramble, he is familiar with the roads and a few nearby points of interest. He asked if we wanted to ride about an extra mile so that we could see Barbie Beach. Well, of course!
Barbie Beach is in Turin, GA. Coincidentally, the Barbies are all starkers. To the far left in the picture is the Egyptian god Set. We thought it might be Osiris, but after I did a little research later, I discovered that it's actually Set, Osiris's brother. Set appears to be the bouncer at Mort's Bar. By the way, the drink special at Mort's Bar is Sex on the Beach.
The owners of Barbie Beach graciously set out a Ziploc bag full of information sheets about Barbie Beach. I took one to read later:
Any locals who don't like Barbie Beach are just totally un-fun. I am a little confused, though; the 2006 Turin Olympics was a winter Olympics. Beach volleyball is a summer Olympics sport. Whatever - that doesn't detract from the kitschy coolness of Barbie Beach.
Tour guide Wayne pointed out another oddity along the route. Near the square in Greenville, GA is a house that used to be a jail. We didn't stop for a picture, but it's pretty interesting. It even has bars over some of the windows. And if you'd like to have it for your very own, you're in luck - it's for sale!
Over the next few miles, Brian started feeling pretty badly. He's usually about the strongest rider in the group, but he told us not to wait for him. Several people in his office have been sick, and so maybe he picked up their germs. That's rough. A 200K is hard enough when you're feeling well. I'm sorry he had to struggle through the rest of the ride, and I hope he's feeling better.
We got back comfortably before sunset. Also, Brian rolled in just a few minutes after the rest of us - yea!
Even though it's missing a few letters, it's ironic that I drover through here on my way home:
When I got I home, I took a nice, warm shower and then started cooking dinner for Robert and me. He put on some music as he always does in the evenings. Usually, I don't have a particular request - whatever he picks usually suits me quite well - but last night I did have one: Barenaked Ladies. Or, for the time being, Starkers Ladies. I enjoy old and new music of many types. I had heard of Barenaked Ladies but had never listened to them. I like their music! So, as a bonus after a thoroughly enjoyable ride, I discovered a great new-to-me rock group.
I'll be glad when the weather is more conducive to going starkers. In the meantime, I'll still ride on!