"A View From A Rear Admiral"
The day of the fall rally actually began a lot earlier than I had anticipated. As the rally was scheduled to start at Sunset Lake shopping center which is only a few miles down the road from our house, I had big dreams of sleeping in late (for once) and still getting to the rally on time. Not to be as Jack had volunteered our services to help with registration that morning. Oh well, registration is always fun as you get to see everybody who's riding and I guess since it also was Jack's birthday, I had to humor him.
The ride began with our club president, Jim Fredley, explaining in excruciating detail the color coding of the road markings for the four routes. Afterwards, I could not tell you what color arrow we were supposed to follow for the century route but I was not too concerned as I had a map and cue sheet. After the fiasco of 4 U-turns in forty miles on the tandem at the Tarwheelers Heritage Ride earlier this summer, I planned on calling out all the turns to Old Captain Jack anyway. He can't read a cue sheet while piloting our flag ship.
Finally, the ride (not a race) began. As we waited at the light at 401, a bunch of young guys in a car asked us how far we were going. They appeared to be quite impressed with of goal of 100+ miles and gave us an enthusiastic send off as we crossed 401. Right off the bat, Jack got us to the front and began to pull the pack as we cruised down Sunset Lake Rd. Prior to the ride, Jack had said that he would like to pace about 19 (rolling) for the entire century. I should have known better as over the thousands of miles that Jack and I have ridden on the tandem, I have lost count of the number of times that I have heard Jack say "We'll ride easy today" and then we would end up pacing 21 or 22!. This day was to be no exception and soon we were clipping along with our average at about 22 to 23 mph. (Remember, humor him, it's his birthday.) We alternated pulling with Smith Doss / Claude Monnier, also on a tandem and there was even a third tandem (Duncan and Laura McCabe) from Wilmington who hung in the third position. The pack appeared content to ride our speed even though we would slow on the hills. For those of you who have never been on or around tandems, hauling 350 lb. up a hill is not a pretty picture! When we were climbing one of the hills on Penny Rd, I made a comment to Jack that I couldn't believe that the pack was still hanging back. No sooner did I say that when one by one they started to pass us after crossing Lake Wheeler on Penny Road. While passing us up the hill, Alan Walker mentioned something about a pee break but I didn't believe him as most of the pack was with him and so we continued on with our steady pace. Jack had not understood Alan's comment and once we were over the top we soon caught and passed them as we cruised down toward Yates Pond. However, once we got to the hills on Lake Wheeler Rd, the Century Dogs (as Jack likes to call them) caught and passed us again. Alan was not happy that we had not slowed for them! Alan, Tom Fissel, Mac Edwards, Jon Buckley and some of the other Six Forks gang accelerated and we never saw them again until the end of the ride. Our gang now consisted of the three tandems teams and about 4 - 5 singles ( Mike Wallace, Monica Hitchcock, and a few others). We all worked together in a pace line and were making good time. Everyone felt good and we were happy. We cruised along until the first sag at about 35 mile and I voted for stopping as the next sag was not until mile 74 and I didn't think I could sit on the tandem for that long. Sixty-five miles (a Metric) is about my max without a butt break. We were off the bike only long enough to fill our bottles and pockets and check out the woods across the road. The McCabe's from Wilmington and one of the singles did not ride out with us. They wanted to slow it down a bit as the pace average was 22 mph. Soon we found ourselves on NC 42 heading towards Corinth and along this stretch we picked up Don Edwards. I guess Don gave up the insane pace the Century Dogs were cranking out. At this point after a strong pull, Smith /Claude had just gone to the back for a rest, but Jack urged them to get behind us up at the front for better draft efficiency as the next 10 miles to Corinth was all downhill and a great cruise for tandems. Captain Jack was feeling good and had the hammer down. Every mile or two, I could hear Smith yelling, "Where's the down in this hill?" Jack was breathing too heavy to answer and just kept hammering away. Well I guess you could say the road is progressively downhill to Corinth toward the Cape Fear River, but it is definitely not all downhill. Anyway, when we finally got to the down in the hill ( the descent to Buckhorn Creek), it was exciting as always for the tandems as we plunged toward the bridge, but our buddies on the singles were out of gears and struggling to keep up with the two tandems as we coasted through 40+ mph. No problem though as the singles soon caught us on the up in the hill on the other side of the bridge. After climbing into Corinth, the pace became more friendly as we headed toward US1. We continued on without incident over Pea Ridge Hill towards Jordan Lake and eventually ended up on Tody Goodwin Rd where Claude and I on our respective tandems had a lot to say about those Tody hills. We passed through the 60 mile point here and the average was still just over 21 mph. The group agreed to slow it down a little as most were starting to tire a little and we wanted to keep the group together. At the end of Tody Goodwin, the cue sheet said to turn left but I saw that there were arrows also pointing to the right. That's when it dawned on me that we had to do all those Tody hills again later on in the ride. Not a happy thought! At 74 miles, we stopped at the second sag by Lake Jordan. I was glad that I had stocked up at the earlier sag as there was not much to eat or drink at this sag. Mike Wallace quickly expedited us to get back on our bikes before we cooled down . We gave up only five minutes and soon we were on the road again. Monica Hitchcock said she was not continuing with us as she need some rest and a slower pace. We had all been impressed as to how strong she had ridden today. We were still averaging over 20 mph. The group now consisted of Smith/Claude team, Don Edwards, Mike Wallace , good looking young guy in a white jersey and Jack and I. After climbing those hills on Tody Goodwin again, we finally entered into the home stretch heading back to Fuquay with less than 25 miles to go! I kept hearing the miles to go being called out by someone as we rolled along and I knew then that I was not the only one getting tired and counting the miles. After we passed Harris Lake and turned onto Avent Ferry Rd., I became painfully aware of my feet. My left foot suddenly felt like it was a size 10 crammed into a size 7 shoe. Be fore the ride, Jack had changed his clipless pedals to his old toe strap pedals so that he could wear his comfortable old faithful touring shoes. I was regretting now that I had not done the same. We had been doing a lot of pulling today and I was tiring fast at 95 miles. Then just before the long up hill on Avent Ferry, a rider coming down the hill approached us. I was so out of it at this time that I did not even recognize my boss as he passed by on his Cannonade nor did I hear him when he called out "H i Donna". Needless to say, I heard about it the next day at work. After we finally got up that Avent Ferry hill, I thought that we were home free as far as the hills were concerned. Then I heard Don say that he thought there was a hill on Wilburn-Duncan, but Captain Jack kept calling for more speed. Sure enough Don was right. Just as we were approaching the 99 mile mark on our computer, we hit that darned hill and slowed down to a crawl. Our time at 100 miles ended up being 5 hours 4 minutes which was a P R for Captain Jack and I, so we should be happy, but Captain Jack was sad because he did not break the elusive 5 hour mark for a century. Now I just wanted to be back at that shopping center off the bike and I was wishing that this had been a true century and not a 107 mile ride. When we turned on Burt Rd, we passed the first sag that we had stopped at earlier in the morning. Captain Jack wanted to stop as he was now all burnt out, but I didn't and this is were riding on a tandem gets interesting. We had quite a discussion about stopping/not stopping but in the end decided the Rear Admiral was right and continued on with our group. (Forget humoring the birthday boy anymore.) We were feeling bad now and had to let Mike, Don and Smith /Claude do most of the work up front. Those last 7 bonus miles were killing us. At last we all finally rolled into the shopping center together and were warmly greeted by the Century Dogs who had arrived around 10 minutes earlier. Monica showed up a few minutes later and had a good time considering she rode the last 30 miles solo. Henri had plenty of soft drinks and pizza waiting for all and we did enjoy. This ride was the first NCBC century where Jack and I did not finish in no- mans -land. We had company for the entire ride and it was a delightful and fun experience. It ended up being a great rolling birthday party for Captain Jack!
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revised on Monday, November 24, 1997.
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