I left work after lunch on Friday and drove (4+ hrs) to Jackson without a problem. Who knew that your phone works like GPS? Not me, until a coworker showed me earlier in the day. Even plugged in to my dash though, it wears down the phone battery quickly. I also could not switch between a playlist, a phone call, and the GPS well. Bear in mind that I am just now getting the hang of a handsfree corded phone set. Forget Bluetooth for at least 5 years. I'd better just get a regular GPS and use it.
I went over to the early check in for the ride and picked up my packet. A little shy of the donation level for a free jersey this year, I'd kicked in the extra myself on Thursday. This would be my 10th year straight and I wanted the memento. The jersey is a nice design, and they gave me a 10th anniversary pin as well. I rode with it attached to the saddlebag over the weekend. It was good to shake hands with some of the event staff I'd met before, and meet new ones. All of the staffers were great and this is certainly a good event to take part in. There was a Mexican place on the way back to my hotel and I stopped there for dinner. It was outstanding, with several veggie offerings.
It was cold and overcast on Saturday morning, and breezy. When I got up, I checked the local weather on my Kindle and saw 67 degrees. Bzzzzz. When you do not refresh the display..... SO, it was like 53 and I was under dressed. I pulled a wind jacket on over the 2003 DOW team jersey from year 1 of my rides, and hoped it would get warmer. No worries, the first stiff climb got sweat going.
The ONLY guy I recognized from a prior ride ("Hey, I know you! We rode all day in the rain in Moorseville! he shouted at me) was going to ride "slow" so I offered to tootle along in the back together. That lasted a mile, and he was gone. Cyclists are notorious liars when they talk about how slow they're going to be, or how bad on the hills they are. I don't think it's intentional, but there you go. I was by myself for a while, then started to pass a number of riders on the hills. We'd leapfrog when they came by me on the flats. Maybe 10 or 15 miles out, a nice gal who was doing just that and I decided to sort of stay together. She had a brake problem and I was able to fix it, so we started to talk some. Her name is Jody and she works on an offshore oil rig. "I'm not a girlie girl" she said. I guess not in that line of work. I liked her and we yakked all the way to the end. Here we are at a rest stop.
Rest stops were spaced pretty well and lunch came at about noon. The volunteers were super, and SAG was always around for those who needed it. I saw several bikes drop out from broken spokes and other maladies along the way. It got a little warmer during the day and the jacket finally came off for the last 20 miles or so. I had a wool base tee on and it was enough. The back roads between Jackson and Vicksburg were not too pretty, and there was plenty of climb. The hardest was a mile section at about 10% grade. Over rough roads. Vicksburg was much prettier with large antebellum homes and pretty fields. We ended the day on a looongggg 4% climb and were happy to see the hotel when we pulled in at 3:30. Great room, HOT SHOWERS!!, nice place and we were fed a filling pasta dinner. OUTSIDE in the cold. Brrrrrrr. Obviously planned before the weather turned, and shortened so we didn't need to stay out overlong. Going to sleep was not difficult.
I was up early Sunday and enjoyed the usual coffee ritual. CAREFULLY eyeballing the actual weather conditions, I wore a long sleeve wool baselayer and tights along with thick wool socks and full finger wool gloves. None of it came off while riding. Not a stitch. It was colder and windier on Sunday than the day prior. Good news: delightful roads. Bad news: tougher headwinds most of the day. I looked for Jody at breakfast and didn't see her. Obviously she had enough of dragging along in the back with me. Some tall skinny whippet looking dude shared a toaster with me, and later they told me, "Hey, he's from Montgomery too." We never did actually meet, but his name is Craig. I sat alone with my bagel and apple butter, when a gal asked if the next seat was taken. Her name is Lenise and she's a full time nursing student from Hattiesburg. She has a lovely Trek Madone, but is a newish rider. The hills on Saturday were tough for her, but she finished. We rode together from the start and I noticed that she never used her small chainring (compact double) so following that suggestion and getting her cadence up from about 46 to 72, she seemed happier on the hills. Lenise was afraid she was slowing me down, but the social part of riding is what I love. Also, since I wasn't having to work hard, I was sitting up IN A HEADWIND and really enjoying looking around at deer, hawks, cows, whatever. Much prettier scenery on day 2 and more than 1/2 the day was spent on the Natchez Trace. I definitely would like to do more of that. Eventually, Lenice was walking up 2% grades and we parted company, as a SAG vehicle stayed with her and followed her all the way in. I would have waited at the end for her, had I not been facing the 4 1/2hr drive home. She was determined to finish and I am sure she did. She has gotten serious about diet and exercise and is enjoying the feeling of being able to do a lot more than before.
At the last rest stop, Robin Rae, (http://2012bikemsbiketothebattlefield.shutterfly.com/506) our fearless leader, mentioned that SAG service was very popular. Many folks had enough of the headwinds on the Trace, or had mechanicals, or just had pedaled as many miles as they cared to. I pulled in to the finish at the same time as the day before, and was fresh and ready for more. No problem!
The MS Society will post pictures eventually and I'll link them here. (Jody & Lenise: http://2012bikemsbiketothebattlefield.shutterfly.com/258) I didn't ride with a camera this trip.Since Sharon's June surgery (and then August 2d surgery) my riding has been a little less, so I was unsure how back to back long rides would go. They went fine and I'm pumped about doing more. Just at my relaxed pace, that's all. It's hard to believe that 10 years ago a very kind rider in Midland MI invited me on my 1st MS 150. "Ride 150 miles? You're nuts!" was my reply, or close to it. I emailed Ed this week to express my appreciation for that invite and to wish him and his family well. Ed sent back a note that he was excited that I'm still plugging away at it. There are many good causes out there, and none of us can work for all of them. But all of us can do something, and raise our children to understand that doing for others is a GOOD thing that also makes us feel good. Sharon and I have worked on Relay For Life and I do the MSBike. I thought 10 years might be all for me, time to find something new. But, ahhh, maybe not :)
And finally this great shot of Jody expressing our common feeling about finishing the ride and working to finish the fight against MS.