Been a long time since I wrote a ride report, and this was the first time I've ridden in South Carolina, so here goes!
This was quite the adventure. Everyone knows that leaving Ohio in January to go somewhere warm is always going to be an adventure, but leaving Ohio in the middle of a snowstorm was only the beginning. We had a lot of things thrown at us on this trip, the snowstorm being one of them. I had heard that the snow, about 1-2 inches, was supposed to arrive after Midnight. Good, I thought, we will be about two to three hours South at that point, away from any snow. Boy was I wrong. It started snowing at 8pm, with light dusting and pretty high winds. Frans picked me up and we headed over to the bike shop to meet Mike S, Dustin, Jamie, Doug, Bob, Bill and those new to doing brevets to caravan down to South Carolina. Everyone was shivering, and we bid farewell to Ric after he repaired a flat tire on my front wheel. More on that flat later..
So we take off in the snow, which is quickly accumulating as Ohio snow does, and stop at the gas station for a quick fill up. Cars are quickly becoming victims of the slick roads. We witness two fender benders as we leave, but we are all okay. The drive on route 33 and through West Virginia/Virginia was quite cumbersome. Frans was great at handling the car in the snow, and checked brakes, to find that they worked great. We had to be careful as some of the roads would be salted, but other parts would not be, so driving did not really improve until around midnight. I believe I chose to take a nap then, as I'd had quite a long work week.
We arrived in Florence at around 8am and checked into the hotel just fine. Turns out they had rooms available, as January is not the busy tourist season that Florida is. We all agree that a nap is in order, and decide to crash until we wake up. This happened to be around noon, as my friend Marc decided to call me and wake me up. Not 5 minutes later, Dustin called and asked if we'd like to go to lunch, then drive part of the route. We decided on a place called Moes, which is like Chipotle but with more options and free toppings. Free chips and salsa with your order too. It was way too much food, but really good. We also stopped to get a card for Ric, who lost his best friend and dog Bailey this weekend. If you know him, please take some time to stop by his page and offer condolences, as we all know a pet such as the great Bailey will surely be missed.
We then headed off to drive the route, most of all because we wanted to see what the hills were like. The organizer had said it was 2200 feet of climbing, so we wanted to see just how flat it was, plus we had a little time to kill. We head out and make it to the first control, most of which is flat. The hills after are not too bad, just rollers. After deciding that the hills shouldn't be too bad, we decide to head back to the hotel for showers. By this time it is around 4:30pm. We later discover those hills to be quite challenging...
Calls are made and our group meets up with those scheduled to arrive Friday afternoon/evening. We decide to meet at the Southern Hops microbrewery, a place with really good bar food, but not so fantastic service. Not only did they bring out our food at different intervals, but were lacking on bringing us checks as well. The pulled pork pizza I shared with Frans was quite good. We shared a small, while Roy, aka "Pizza", decided to put away all but one piece of a 16 inch pie. The amazing part was that day of ride, he really kicked our butts. He told us later that he had been on his trainer every day for an hour or two and had lost 7 pounds, but I think he just wanted to eat pizza after watching his diet....ha ha. Roy went over the logistics and answered questions about permanent riding from the newbies. The ride organizer also joined us to go over the route.
Well, 5:30am came pretty early for me and others who chose to drink to being able to join in on this adventure. I was pretty tired the whole day, not sure if this was from the half of beer I had or just lack of sleep, although I slept pretty good. It is only 30 degrees and we head over to the start with all of our biking clothing we can possibly manage as we are pretty much all freezing our butts off. The newbies were a little nervous, but the ride leader, Tom, calmed them down.I was really happy I had remembered toe warmers and even lent a pair to John later in the ride.
Off we all go, down a pretty flat road, grateful for the little rise that took us out of the first control to warm us up. Immediately I notice something is up with my front tire as it is making a thunmp-thump-thump sound as it goes around the rim. I don't notice anything really unsual, but I know this is probably a bulge in the tire. I stop at the first stop sign and sure enough, there is a bulge. Scott deflates the tire and plays with it, stating that sometimes tubes get mushed up in there. He then pumps up the tire and voila! Instantly fixed. My computer has also decided to start working, but I had to add about 5 miles to each stop we arrived at.
The ride itself was pretty routine after that, the more seasoned riders waiting on the slower group to catch up at the controls, making sure everyone is okay. We are all really cold and it is fun riding with different people. I ended up spending most of the day with Scott Connelly, a local who had done the ride about 7 times and knew the route very well, as well as where all the dogs were. I didn't really need my cue sheet thanks to him, and I also had someone to pace me on the hills as I still have Kayla's bike. I also rode with Roy, Ross, Doug, Dustin, Frans, Jamie and later on Tom, the organizer rode with us on his fixie. He also rode with us on the way out as well. We get to the third control and oh my goooosh the hills are killing us. I think to myself, wow, this has to be more than 2200 feet. Well, hmm, it was actually almost double that according to Garmins by the end of the ride. Total ascent: 4200 whopping feet. If you've ever ridden a 200K in January and you're from Ohio, you know this is challenging. The majority of us, unlike Roy, had been on trainers maybe once or twice a week and eaten badly during the holidays (myself included!)
We decide to tough it out, but learn that others have turned in the towel and ridden 72 miles. Dustin's legs cramped up and he decided to call it a day as well. Dave toughed it out and completed his first permanent. Also I should note that while Jamie was concerned that there would be someone to ride with, she was bound and determined to finish and rode by herself after the last control, insisting that she wanted to finish. She came very close, probably only 10 miles to go, but had headlight issues. She was convinced by Doug to have the ride organizer pick her up, so she would not be lost and riding hills alone in the dark. So I have to say, everyone finished with a good effort and while Jamie will most likely do another 200k, some have had opposite thoughts. I have to say that the climbing really challenged me, but I loved the route, the scenery was amazing and I had a great time talking to Scott C. He told me some little known facts about South Carolina, such that it produces more peaches than Georgia!
So that about wraps it up, another 200K under the belt. I am starting to make new randonneuring goals for this year, one including getting another R-12 medal in October. I plan to ride with Scott Ebbing, also known as captain Rando, next month out of Loveland on one of Toshi's permanents. More about brevet riding can be found at www.rusa.org and about the Ohio schedule at www.ohiorand.org.