Despite the flurry of last minute come-ups at the office, I did leave after lunch and packed my gear, got in the car, and drove the 3 1/4 hours to Gulf Shores. I haven't seen a love bug since moving away from FL in 1997, but my windshield was plastered solid with them on this trip, beginning just as I left Montgomery County. Forgotten too was how they make vision impossible when driving into the sun in late afternoon. I found the hotel okay and after checking in for the MS ride and getting my rider packet, I found some dinner in a nearby shopping center. I had baked spaghetti. It was pretty mundane, but the carbs were of the useful variety when a long duration bike ride is in the offing.
Returning to my room, I got out the kit intended to be used and applied the jersey number, got the water bottles filled with Propel, grabbed the socks, helmet liner, shoes. Wait a sec. Shoes? Where ARE they? Back in my closet at home would be the answer. Okay, it's now 7:30 and I have until 9:00 to locate a shoe place. Fortunately, I ride in sandals (old school metal pedals with MTB power grip straps) and these are pretty available anywhere. The Timberlines I just loved were not available in my size, but some Nike ones were. Here they are in a sandal panda. (Click on the pictures to get a larger size)
Phew! I did not relish the prospect of riding in the office shoes. Bikers look goofy to non riders, but we do have our own sense of what is de rigeur. The socks are Amici Veloci (Amechee, Veloshay) which is an online cycling club of charity riders. I have an A-V jersey too, but it fit me once upon a time, but does no longer.
This morning, I was up on time, and grabbed a coffee at the hotel lobby. Then I jumped in the flivver and cruised on over to the MS ride start point. I parked in the wrong place, moved, parked again and got my bike out. Hmm. Water bottles. Where would they be? Back in the hotel room would be the answer. Pack it all back up, go back to the room, get the water bottles, and find a third parking space. There was still time for a snack at the start. If you could find in the dark. Here is a picture of our O'Dark-thirty gathering.
I don't know how many riders there were, but it seemed well attended. There were 2 other Montgomery Club riders that I saw, Darren and Chad. One rides at 25 mph avg for a century, and the other at 17-18. Both are way faster than I ride. I'll see them next tomorrow in the parking lot, I am sure. Darren showed my his newly tricked out Bianchi 928. He was running Token TT wheels today and the bike looked fast just standing still. The thing that really sets it apart for the rest is the autograph from the Solvay Pharmaceutical salesman that Darren got when he was racing this season. (http://www.solvaypharmaceuticals-us.com/newsroom/pressreleases/0,,22038-2-0,00.htm)
Their sales guy is also a decent bike rider. Chad is on a pretty nifty Cervelo, and I was on the fully lugged steel thing that I usually sit on. No carbon or titanium anywhere. A Brass bell, fat tires, and a duffel bag hanging from a leather saddle. It never disappeared into a crowd at the rest stops.
This year, we began the ride with the beach loop, which is a super change. Calm air in the morning makes the beach so pretty. Later in the day, the winds can easily get very strong, as they did last year. About 6 miles out, I fell in with a gal who rides for the Druid City bunch. We are both on BikeJournal and we had some other riders who we knew in common. Our pace was similar. Camille was quicker in the flats, and I was speedier up climbs. We each ended up pulling about 1/2 the time and had a great time chit chatting about being aging Baby Boomers, and bikes. After the beach loop of about 15 miles, we climbed the tallest hill of the day: the Foley Beach Expressway bridge. A couple of pictures:
Both were taken at the top of the climb. The 2 gals had blown past me like I was standing still earlier, and slowed way down on the climb. Here I am in my full wool kit. Hat, jersey and shorts are all merino. I was super comfy all day, over the temperature range. If I look like I am gasping for air, I am.
The ride itself was very nice. The rest stops are NOT as good as ours in Montgomery, but they were more than adequate and staffed by friendly volunteers. At our lunch stop, an MS patient in a wheelchair thanked me for riding for her. That was what happened on my 1st ride in 2003, and which made this an annual fund raiser that I am glad to do. We passed one rider down on the grassy shoulder of a road. There was a crowd around her and my guess is a moment of paceline inattention. If you tag the rear wheel of the bike in front of you, you will fall most of the time.
We made it back okay, taking just at 5 hours of riding time. The "Wharf," where the ride starts this year, is a nice place, with all sorts of upscale opportunities to lighten your wallet. Plenty of boats to see as well. Here is a shot as we passed by.
Finally, we pulled the last 5 miles or so into a stiffening breeze.
I stopped just outside the finish point to get this last shot of the marina flags. They give some idea of the wind.
Banquet dinner tonight, get a good night's sleep and do a different 75 miles tomorrow!
Mostly recaps of two wheeled rambles through the countryside, but sometimes thoughts on other things.
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