For some, the pilgrimage taken is along a religious route. For some still, the defining moments of metaphysical nirvana and synchronicity come via a different path. From hardship comes triumph, that is the overwhelming theme for this years trip to Florida.
The drive is grueling, some 14 hours via Rathburn/Burnham/Gridly/Williams airlines. We where transporting 13 of us to the familiar and markedly warmer confines of Northern Florida. Given the pace (warp 80), 3 bikes on the roof (including a tandem), and the fuel capacity of a moped, the Mazda 5 achieved the spectacular mpg achievement of a monster truck. On the other side of the coin, Donn’s Avalanche could have made it on one tank……at 400 gallon tank by estimation of Dustin who filled it once…..The trip down, done through the night actually acts as good Randonneur training, sleep deprivation being a cornerstone of the lunacy which are the 400/600/1000/1200k events….but I digress.
Our goals as a group where somewhat modest, complete a fairly flat 200k in the light, in the warmth of Florida…..without eating a gun on the way back to Ohio seeing the snow return to our lives. Our arrival however was chilling and indeed the locals must have scorned our early arrival, a whole 22 degrees. We drove 900+ miles for 22? What the Fu…..pardon, cycling induced tourets.
The fundamental difference of Florida though is sunshine. Standing in the IHOP parking lot in Lake City (our unofficial Florida Welcome Center), you stand brazen without a coat because, damit it’s Florida and it WILL get warmer. The collective smiles from the group would make you think “Did these folks all drink the Kool-Aide or what?” So much was to be happy for at that moment, the drive down virtually behind us, the expectation of a high of 60…..the fun rides this afternoon and the 200k tomorrow. All is good in the world.
We rolled into to the Quality/Comfort Motel about 10 am to the greeting of beautiful palm trees and comfortable quarters. The extrication of cycling apparatus and gear from the cars took next to nothing compared to what it seemed like to pack. Tired but triumphant, we where here. Time to ride!
It didn’t mater that most of us had about as much sleep as speed addict at a rock concert, no, we where riding, plain and simple. The group split into two, 1 doing a leisurely ride around Gainesville, the other doing a 30 mile warm up on the bike trail. Reports from the leisurely ride group where that things went fine. On the Bike trail group things went well with the exception of the tandem breaking it’s chain and ripping the rear derailleur off. We managed to fix things up, however shifting was not good the rest of the weekend. Also, tell tale sniffling came from the stoker….a harbinger of things to come.
Carboloading was the word for the group for dinner. We where sat at the “family” table at Carraba’s Italian Grill. For those unfamiliar with the “Family” table, it’s about as long as your driveway and seats about 600. Still, our group filled it pretty well. A dental fatality did occur with poor Ross necessitating a visit to an emergency dentist. As it turns out, Olive pits are hard on dental work. Things were looking up though as Ross came back with narcotics for everyone.
The morning of the ride came quickly. Most had slept like the dead. Ride start temps where in the high thirties but temps rose quickly. By 8 am, we where already at 40, Ohio had not seen 40 in, well years. We started out together stong. Apparently though Donn had enough of this pussy-footing and in his rage to take control of the pack, ripped his shift lever off his bike. Donn was not to be defeated, his bike was rigged as a two speed and he completed the nearly 100 miles remaining with an average cadence in the 40’s. Hat’s off.
We split up into a couple of groups after Donn’s mechanical. Todd, Dustin, Ned and the Tandem of Roy and Amanda began a game of “Collect the Randonneurs” while the second group held steady building momentum. The tandem group began bridging up to groups TOSRV style, working together to maintain 20-23. Shortly before the first control, our group had about 25-30 riders in tow. The temps where now approaching 50 with bright sunshine. When the rest of the Ohio group arrived, we where bright with energy like the solar powered creatures that we are. Amanda was sniffling more, but with the brutality of a ruthless dictator, I made her spin on.
This years 200k had a longish first control at 49 miles. The flat terrain of the first half made this ok however as most of us eat on bike regularly. Still, the 49 mile stopping point was a nice relief. The second half of the ride would prove to be more hilly but nothing compared to the terrain of TN and KY (or Ohio for that matter). We rolled into the next section greeted with not only slight inclines, but increasing wind. By mile 70, cross and head winds broke the faster group apart (not to mention losing a timing chain). By mile 81, the tank was empty and I was in need of some calories other than gu packet number 14 on the day. Judging by the cat-puking-up-hairballs sound Amanda was making, the stoker could use a little R&R too. The turn at mile 81 had a convenience store that time forgot. It featured beer, ho-ho’s, fried food and ice cream. A pair of Cookie-whiches hit the spot and we where off to the second control.
We formed up as a group again at one of the 2600 local Kangaroo gas stations that served as the second control (there where also 2 secret controls, controls that are unannounced along the route to keep you honest). By this time in the day, the GPS was telling us it was 71. Let me say that again, 71. It was 71 in Ohio sometime back in the Nixon administration…..Bright sunshine convinced me that I should go in business with Larry Graham running one of these gas stations.
The last leg contained a secret control and the remains of Amanda’s lungs. By this time, Amanda had developed a temp and power output was down. We had both ridden a hard ride and it was showing late in the day. We caught up with Todd and Dustin at the secret control and stayed together to the ride finish. By the time we where rolling into town, every restaurant on the way in sounded good.
As it turned out, we finished with a personal best time of 9:23. Not bad considering we had a few mechanicals and Amanda was sick. We has a great time hammering out this 200k. The second group came in with a respectable time as well. Considering we had at least 3 who had not done a brevet before, not too shabby. Grow the sport I say.
We are all looking forward to the rest of the cycling calendar this year. In our group, several are working on R-12’s. Ross and Amanda are at 4, getting the toughest months done already. For me, this was number 11. Next month I plan to make number 12 in Kentucky. In March, the Ohio series will start and then there is always the Fleche.