Yes, a foggy start to a day that looked very promising weather-wise. Here, Kevin H, aka Pepe LaPew, is ready and eager to go.
Looks like Roll had a large group and on the far left is Steve O, wandering the parking lot looking for someone to carry a 3rd and 4th water bottle so he could blitz the route. Many of us were curious about why he would want to arrive in Marietta so soon, since he was spending the night. Some speculated he had a woman waiting for him but David Smith disabused us of that idea when later, he confessed he was bunking with Steve. I told David maybe Steve wanted to get down there to get the bed warm for him but David did not think this too funny.
So, at 8:00, around 15 of us departed. I started the week thinking my cycling of long or hilly routes was over, the start of the off-season. I had put in two good trail runs and was preparing for a Saturday of watching lots of college football games but saw my buddy Kenda Janet needed a favor. Being the Clara Barton of the cycling community, what could I do but rouse myself out of seasonal retirement and volunteer to ride the Saturday route, meet her in Marietta, jump in her car while she jumped out and drive back to Sugar Grove so she could spend an evening of marital bliss with Kenda Paul at the elegant Lafyette Hotel and ride the Sunday route back with him.
So, off we rode, hitting the freakin Savage and Chickencoop climbs right off the bat! My legs felt very weird, yes they always feel strange when climbing these brutes but this time was different. At one point, a leg kind of collapsed inward at the knee and I got the sense the legs were "run ready" but not cycling ready and it was many miles before they started to feel kind of normal for cycling. Anyway, no one was pushing the pace too hard and we mostly stayed together on what for me were many new roads, all the way to New Lexington where I hunkered down at a BP gas station while everyone else enjoyed the well provisioned food stop. From there, I rode mostly alone until my buddy Mitch Tallen sped by and was in the "zone" so all he could do was yell a, "hey Mark" as he pulled rapidly away. Then Todd Mullens came by and eased up as we chatted about his visit to GA where he rode up Brasstown Bald, Hogpen Gap and others with Mitch, a couple of weeks ago. It wasn't until another 20 miles went by before Mark C came through from my original group and rode with him for awhile until we pulled in to the outskirts of Mcconnelsville. At the time, I was riding beside Greg Dubois and he recommended a great spot for lunch....
....this very cool place overlooking the mighty Muskingum River! What a view as I sat, ate and pondered the rest of the 190+ cyclists chowing down on cold cuts as I enjoyed well, a cold cut sub at Subway. After about 30 minutes, long enough to check in with Kenda Janet and make sure she was arriving on time via the Kenda mobile in Marietta, I shoved off and then hooked up with Dan and David Smith. For years I have heard of the "Malta Wall" but have never ridden up it. Been through Malta, heard people say how close we were to the Malta Wall but again, not experienced it. After crossing a bridge and arriving in Malta, it suddenly dawned on me we could be approaching the infamous climb and I asked David, "Are we about to go up the Malta Wall?" Not only were we about to climb it, we were on the opening ramp and soon, my front wheel lifted off kind of a gravelly surface and a sinking feeling not unlike that experienced by someone on the deck of a ship watching a torpedo approach must feel. It went on and on and reminded me of Rocky Road only harder but eventually, we reached the top, coasted down and WTF!!!!! Here was "Son of Malta Wall" immediately after. I admit, at some point in here, I began cursing Janet and myself for being such a "Clara Barton". I wondered if this is how the next 50 miles was going to be but thankfully, we got out onto a ridge and enjoyed some great views into an adjoining valley.
Above, the view from the 3rd and final food stop. After descending into yet another small town that struck me as being mostly populated by morbidly obese people (we must look like aliens to them) the route followed the Muskingum River at a slightly descending rate and I thoroughly enjoyed this until suddenly, there was another long climb but eventually got on to Route 60 where Larry P and Todd M passed me and I hopped on, planning to draft these ponies all the way to Marietta. Except, after a mile-ish, the road markings indicated what I surmised to be a very unnecessary turn towards a ridge. I thought about staying on 60, thinking it went into Marietta but after asking Larry, he claimed, "No, this goes into Zanesville."....which it does but way north. Groan, I followed these guys while Todd played me like a fiddle, telling me how the next climb was two Chickencoops on top of each other. So intimidated, I geared way back and soldiered on, plodding to the top, descending, then over I-77 before taking another turn that again appeared to be there only for an opportunity to do another freakin climb. Earlier, Mark Rossi had told me I'd know I was on the final climb when I saw a great, brick mansion at the top. Reaching the top of this climb I came across a trailer on cinder blocks and cursed both Mark and Janet (again), thinking this meant there was another climb to go. Soon though, I began seeing stately brick homes and concluded I was on the final climb.
Reaching the YMCA, I called Janet, cursed her for good measure a few times while discovering she was already on her way. I had estimated I would arrive at 4:00 and did, a few minutes early. As we exited the parking lot, Janet rolled down the window and said hello to Mark V. I noticed other cyclists were exiting the Y with day packs on their back but it seemed Mark needed some help transporting his stuff to the Holiday Inn. We were glad to help but I did tell the uber-social one that if she saw anyone else, she was to keep the window up and drive, as I was running late for a date with my wife. Mark brought out a giant black bag and after putting it in the back of the Kenda mobile, the vehicle immediately dropped to its rear axel. As we drove to the Inn, with the tail pipe rubbing on the asphalt, I wondered what could be in this bag. Upon reaching the Inn, I went inside and got two volunteers to help me drag it into the lobby and advised them they should not look inside. Thereafter, I dropped Janet off at the hotel, sat through instructions on what to do if the check engine light lit, not to turn off the ignition, where the AAA card was, the registration, how to turn the steering wheel, very detailed info before finally being allowed to chug away with a belch of black smoke emanating from the tail pipe..
Finished with 105 miles and 8300' of climbing. I was asked how CFC compared to Mt Mama. You're kidding right? My average was much slower on Mama, more climbing on Mama, no 5+ mile climbs on CFC...not even close but everyone has their own opinion and that's just mine.