May Day Invitational

Danny Brinkley

bicycle chain

On the morning of May 5, 2001, I awoke at an early hour to drive to Thomasville, NC to pick up my brother and drive south to Gold Hill in southeastern Rowan County.  My brother had invited me to participate with him on a weekend ride that he had done the previous year.  I agreed and he signed me up.  Those who know me will probably think that this is a completely fictional story as I am always late for rides, but this is a true story.  I don’t remember when I woke up, but the ride was scheduled to start at 9:45 a.m. on a Saturday.  Believe it or not, I made it there in time.

We got there with time to spare.  Although the organizers were raising funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, this was a free ride.  Gold Hill is a small community in rural North Carolina between Concord and Albemarle.  As far as I could tell, Gold Hill consists of maybe a dozen buildings lining a small two-lane road.  But my goodness, it was a beautiful community with a country store.  I didn’t research the location (and I am sure Al Johnson can provide the history on this part of the state), but this is the general location of where gold was mined in North Carolina in the 1800’s.  Did you know that there was a US Mint in Charlotte in the 1800’s that minted gold and silver coins?  Well, Gold Hill was where some of the gold (or maybe all of it) came from. 

Traffic was extremely light at Gold Hill.  There were probably about a hundred persons at Gold Hill for the ride.  Tourists, Team DeFeet, and others were lining up for the start.  We got our maps and registered and lined up with the others.  Well, lo and behold, who was behind us?  Richard Lawrence and his son Joel.  Richard was riding a recumbent tricycle with two pivoting wheels in the front.  Joel was on a red Cannondale tandem with his son.  I had not seen Joel since I was in school at NC State in the late 1970’s.  I had read about Richard and Joel and their Brevet escapades, but had not seen them in a while.  (This is another long story related to “it’s a small world after all.”  Joel and I worked at Cummingham Brick Yard as summer laborers for Richard way back when.)

We started.  Some people started very quickly and I watched people pass me as I waited back for my brother.  I had every intention of doing a leisurely ride until Joel and his son came by and said “You’re going to lose the front group…”  I latched onto Joel’s wheel and we made very good progress.  Joel and his son got me up to a group near the front before the hills started.  Most of the DeFeet guys disappeared in the distance and I had no intention of chasing them.  

My brother was talking with the organizer prior to the start about the ride.  The organizer said that this year’s ride was going to be a little more hilly than the previous year.  As a matter of fact, this year’s ride theme was “Bear Creek Crossing.”  I didn’t keep a count of the number of times we crossed Bear Creek or its branches, but we seemed to be constantly descending and climbing.  The roads were very nice compared to most of Wake and surrounding counties’ roads and the scenery was gorgeous farms and small communities.  There was essentially no traffic to speak of on the roads and we were only on a highway (NC 73) for a few hundred yards.  The course was well marked and a number of volunteers were out with refreshments and manning the tricky sections.  It was a tough course and I was lucky that David Racine was not there to punish me.

Upon finishing, there was live music and barbecue in the shade of the large oaks in downtown Gold Hill.  We ate a little and socialized after the ride.  I caught up on a few people back home in Lexington, NC.  One fellow who worked at the Davidson County Community College knew Ross Frank well (another long story).  Although Mr. Frank closed his bicycle shop, he stated that he still rode with Mr. Frank frequently on the weekends.  (Mr. Frank owned a bike shop in Lexington, NC and was the owner of the first really nice bike that I saw as a teenager.  Sometimes I would go down to his shop and “hang-out” on a Saturday afternoon.  It was the beginning of a habit that I have been unable to get rid of.)

I told my brother that I should write an article about this so that the folks back in Raleigh would be aware of this ride.  I am not sure that this ride would be standard NR Road Dog fare or not, but the organizers were extremely hospitable.  I haven’t seen the information on the 2002 ride, but I figure they will do it again.  So come the first weekend in May of this year, give some serious consideration to taking a drive down to Gold Hill in southeastern Rowan County for a change in scenery.  You won’t regret it!

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