Road Dogs Stew Over Norlina Century

A Compilation by Tom Sheffield

bicycle chain

You can take a Road Dog out of the fight, but they’ll still be “full of it”!

October is the time of year when some Road Dogs migrate from the road to the porch. So, even though the NCBC Fall Rally was only a week away, it wasn’t surprising to see a flood of excuses for not participating in the Norlina “Ride Between the Lakes”. We received the typical excuses; “I’m nursing my beer fetus”, “I’m afraid the weather might be (cold, hot, rainy, sunny, dry, humid)”, and of course “I’m not in good form”. But the prize for the Best Excuse goes to Randy “Fat Boy” Murray, who claims he “had to stay home and plant some bushes with his in-laws”.

There was plenty of pre-ride posturing, leading up to the ride on October 7th. At one point, it seemed likely that there would be a whole peloton of tandems joining us, at least for the Metric. This caused a great deal of concern for those of us who wondered whether we were still capable of “climbing with the tandems”, and it brought back painful memories of past rides where we were ritually dropped in the wake of these “bicycles built for two sadists”. Good thing we didn’t lose any sleep over that threat. The double-bike squadron was successfully blocked by the “Leyland Wine Tasting” and only one made it to Norlina. Thanks Bill! The check is in the mail…

Even though many of our “friends” had already been dropped, the Road Dogs were still well represented when we lined-up in front of the Norlina Christian School and were ceremoniously led out of town by the Norlina Fire Truck. Road Dog, “Hero”, and wheel-smith (explained later) Allen “Budman” Walker is a Norlina native. On the way out of town (actually, on this ride you’re out of town before you know it) we said “Hi Rachel” when we rode by Allen’s homestead, with all of Allen’s fans (aka Pit Crew which consisted of his mother, sister, and daughter) in the front yard. A few minutes later, we all said “BYE ALLEN” when he flatted.

Road Dogs have been known to go to great lengths to live up to our motto: “We only drop our friends”. You can’t even trust your own teammate. I know Allen wishes he hadn't. Less than 10 miles into the ride, I heard Allen ask Jon Buckley (who was sitting behind him) "check my back tire, how does it look". Buckley says "Just fine". Moments later, "pssssst" - the tire goes flat. Of course, Buckley's only reaction was to say "Well, at least Allen took his turn at the front before he flatted". As we sped off without a thought of stopping to help him, I tried to talk the other Road Dogs into dedicating the ride to our "hero", but my suggestion was only met with looks that seemed to say: "Why would we want to do that?"

While watching a NASCAR race the following day, Allen provided this account of his ordeal:

”First off, I would like to say that the Saaeco/Specialized/Speedplay/Shimano/Road Dog Cannondale was running good on Saturday and I was just biding my time until the last few laps, eeerrrrrrrrrr miles, when I would make my move to the front. She started out a little tight on me, but she was loosening up good after the first few miles. Around the 10 or 11 mile mark I felt like a tire may have been going down on me, so I called back to my teammate Jon Buckley who said everything looked fine. Not long after that she started getting wicked loose, so I had to get out of the racing groove and shut her down! In my efforts to get back on the track...I mean road in as short a time as possible, I pinched a tube and proceeded to borrow a tube from pit crewman Bill (Performance Bike). We were soon on our way until a mile down the road and that tire started going flat. I told Bill to go and I proceeded to pull over to the side of the road. With the help of a two way communication system (cell phone) I called my support team (sister) who brought me a spare wheel. In no time at all I was on my way!”

By the time Allen was back on the “track”, the lead pack had completed the double-dam flip-flop and was enjoying a breathless journey along some of Warren County’s scenic back-roads, while the Road Dogs were fine-tuning their infamous group-riding techniques. Somewhere before the 50 mile rest stop, someone mustered enough energy to tell anyone who would listen that "Jon Supler's no longer with us". Actually, the same could be said (but curiously wasn’t) for more than 2/3rds of the cyclists who started with us only and hour and a half earlier. The rest of the story is that Supler’s van wasn't in the parking lot when we got back to the start at Norlina Christian School; also half of the 50 gallon pot of Brunswick stew was gone, and everyone at the fire station had an astonished (or shocked) look on their faces. That was sufficient evidence that Supler was OK.

Before long a small, but intelligent, group managed to drop a pack of hammers off-the-front (another Road Dog ride tactic). Unfortunately we didn’t know the route well enough to time this move perfectly, because shortly after they were “out of site and out of mind”, we “found” them at the 50 mile rest stop. The short break was a typical scene of uncoordinated confusion, AND the scene of yet another dastardly Road Dog deed. In our haste to get back on course (and headed toward our ultimate rendezvous with Brunswick Stew) we UNINTENTIONALLY left without Jon Buckley. Jon provided the following, biased account of the event:

“They tried to pull a "road dog" on me. We stopped at the 50 mile rest stop to refill bottles, get some food, pee, etc. Well, it was getting kind of warm and I had my tights on and a thin layer underneath my long sleeve jersey. After I saw Smith & Claude pulling off their tights, I thought I should do the same. I was in the bathroom performing this task and when I came out, the only people there were the two people manning the rest stop. Well, I was quite pissed that they left me in the bathroom at the 50 mile mark (average at that time was 23 MPH). But I was determined to do a century. I've ridden 50 miles by myself before. So as I was going down the road, indignation and thoughts of revenge kept me going. During extremely long straight sections, I could see the group. But they were at least ½ mile ahead. I was not going to catch them. Then something amazing happened. At the intersection right before the BP, the group got caught in traffic. I was actually closing. And then the miracle. Somebody looked back. And then another miracle. They actually waited for me. I then began to wonder about them waiting for me, were they getting soft and sentimental or did they just want another body in the small group to help work against the head winds that we were going to experience. I think I know the answer to that one. Anyway, they waited at the BP for me. They feigned ignorance regarding me getting left in the bathroom and we continued on our way. All was well with the world once again.”

While Buckley was “steaming” up behind us, a wave of concern for his well-being swept over the pack. Due to Buckley's reputation for fast starts, the last thought that entered anyone's mind was that he would be left behind. After the break, when Smith&Claude rejoined the pack (which was riding SLOWLY to allow everyone to regroup), Smith said that Jon had been ahead of him in the line for the bathroom. We knew that it was Jon's anniversary and that he was in a hurry to get home, so we all just figured that he was disappointed with the slow pace and had decided to ride on ahead of us, since there were only about 50 miles to the finish and the wind wasn't blowing that hard. By the time we got to the Metric/Century split, Smith&Claude had dropped off the back a little bit while we were on a road that had recently been "sanded" (must be a Warren County thing), so we were expecting them to come up behind us. While we looking back we saw a bike in the distance and figured it was the tandem, so we decided to wait. Much to our disappointment, it was Buckley. Modesty won’t allow us to repeat the words he used to express his appreciation to us for being kind enough to wait for him.

Upon hearing of this unprecedented display of Road Dog compassion, Bob Wolfrom had the following reaction: “Oh the shame! The beloved Road Dog credo sullied through the mud like a losing lottery ticket. I hope that next week finds all of the Dogs back at their snarling "leave 'em in the bathroom" best. Common guys - start treating Jon like a TRUE Road Dog friend.”

The remainder of the ride for the “lead pack”, which now consisted of 7 Road Dogs, is accurately described by Jon Buckley: “All was well with the world once again. And then Kurt Massey, at around mile 70, decided to break away. We actually went after him. Well, the sustained speeds of 27-30 MPH for the next 5-7 miles toasted everyone, except for Kurt and Sean Dinges. So when Kurt made another move with 15 miles left, no one went with him except Sean and they finished in 4h30m. I'm not sure about anyone else, but the last 8-10 miles were a real death march for me. The main group (of 5) finished in 4h35m. Fastest century of the year for me. I still don't feel quite right this morning (2 days later).”

After carefully studying our account of the ride Randy Murray made the following astute observation:

“I'll be ready for (the Fall Rally) next weekend!
Let me see if I've got the rules down:
Pee quick at the break
Stay behind Kurt and Sean
Don't wait on Walker
Let Buckley catch up
Keep tabs on Supler

Got it!”


Thanks to John Buckley, Randy Murray, Allen Walker, and Bob Wolfram for their contributions to this article.

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