I've written before that one of the best things to come from cycling these last few years is all of the new friends I've made along the way. Yesterday I got to know two more friends a bit better and then celebrate the year with a huge group of them.
About 10 pm Friday I found an email from Ed (The Daily Randonneur) and Mary (Chasing Mailboxes) that they were going on a pre-party century ride leaving out of Crofton; just a few miles up the road from home. As I'm still in the hunt to finish the year with 9000 miles, it seemed like a great step towards that goal, the weather forecast was clear and cool, and a day with a small group sounded like a good time. I wrote that I'd meet them at the start. I gathered a few essentials, laid out the clothes and went to bed.
I intentionally arrived at the start at Caribou Coffee early. I love their breakfast sandwich and wanted to be sure I had time to enjoy one. As I came out of the shop Ed and Mary were busy unloading the bike (they were planning to ride a tandem) and getting ready. Then Mary walked over and admitted she'd forgotten her helmet... doh. We contemplated a quick dash to my house to fetch a spare, called a few other club members who lived even closer to see about borrowing one and finally determined that the K-mart 2 miles in to the ride would be the quickest option. I'm not ashamed to admit I took a little too much pleasure at Mary's expense teasing her about the Sponge Bob or other cartoon helmet she might end up with. After the helmet crisis was solved (plain white or grey?, no Fred here) we were on our way.
This was the first time I've ridden with a couple on a tandem and me, no other cyclists along. The first thing I found is my usual group dynamic was reversed. My excess ballast around the waist usually lets me descend a little quicker than my svelte companions and then I struggle to keep up with them on the subsequent climb. With the tandem it's just the opposite, they have the weight and power of two but the aero resistance of one rider and fly down hills. But they climb at a more scenic pace, taking time to see what's around them. So they'd zoom ahead on the descent and I'd slowly reel them back in on the next climb. (But let's be clear, Ed and Mary are both fitter and far more experienced than I am, I have no doubt they could have left me if they were in a hurry and so inclined.)
As the miles rolled by we rode side by side where traffic and room would tolerate it and visited about all sorts of things. A few sea stories from my Navy days, ride plans and goals for next year, holiday and family plans coming up the next few weeks. The virtues of wool clothing on a cool day, hoping the sun would peak through the clouds. I got a lesson in the mechanics and merits of the disc brakes they use on the tandem and we talked about other recent rides and plans for those coming up.
At mile 40 or so we came on a closed road where it dipped to cross a small marshy creek. It appeared it had been washed out during the tropical storms of late summer and early autumn and had yet to be repaired. Ed took advantage of the pause to adjust the rear derailleur on the tandem while Mary and I assessed our chances of fording the stream around the washed out road. We concluded the gap was just a little too wide to get across in bike shoes carrying a large tandem, especially since the garmin showed a detour would only be a couple of miles. It didn't seem it was worth risking a turned ankle or dropping a bike in the creek. I'll put up a link to the pictures, Ed and Mary take lots of great pictures, when they get them up. But pics won't convey the unique aroma of that particular valley. I counted three deer carcasses by the side of the road all right next to that washout. All of them had ribs exposed but also still had some skin and other soft tissue left. I suppose it's possible they drowned in the flood, but I suspect someone dumped them as road kill or left overs from poaching. Either way they were quite ripe. It was the only unpleasant part of the trip.
The cue sheet had lunch built in a little past half way at mile 58. The detour pushed this out another couple of miles. By the time we got to Jerry's subs, I was hungry. An 8" cheese steak sub and fries hit the spot just right. Then the final push to home. We took an option on the cue that cut 9 miles from the total as we lost a few minutes at the start and a few more with the detour. Even so I had 96 miles on the day. About 10 miles from the finish we had to make another detour around a washed out section of Patuxent River Rd. But by this time we were back in familiar territory and I saw it coming before we rode down to the actual washout. So that detour cost little if any distance.
I love that tired, accomplished feeling at the end of a big ride. This one ended at the same coffee shop where we started. A large hot cocoa made with white chocolate REALLY complimented that sensation well. We exchanged high fives and hugs and then parted company while we got ready for the SPP annual Christmas Party a few hours later at Clint's house.
Ed and Mary joined us at the Provenza's home for the party. There were about 60 people in attendance. The club party is always full of great food, great beer and great people. One of the traditions for this affair every year is recognizing one rider for big accomplishments on the bike and contributions to the club and the sport. The 2011 rider of the year was Bryan Nelson. In one year he finished the R-12, the Super Randonneur series and completed the fleche as part of the SPP team. Well deserved.
But we also surprised Clint. He was unanimously acclaimed Tete de Peloton which I'm assured translates as Leader of the Peloton. THAT recognition is well deserved and very long overdue. He was completely surprised.
It was great day with the many friends I've met on the bike the last few years and fun time to get to know two of them a little better.