There was some doubt about whether this weekend's Bicycle For Life brevet was even going to happen. With a winter weather system moving in and snow in the forecast overnight on Friday a 7:30am start on Saturday morning wasn't looking good. Once I got the call from RBA Tony Goodnight on Friday saying he was going to delay the start until 10:30 to let some of the ice on the roads melt I was even more unsure about it. A 3 hour delayed start means about 3 hours more riding in the dark at the end, and it gets cold when the Sun goes down! Instead of driving to Winston-Salem Friday night to stay the night at my Mom's house I elected to stay in Raleigh and make my decision in the morning based on how much snow was on the ground.
I awoke to no snow whatsoever, so I got on the road and made the 2 hour drive to Salisbury where 5 other intrepid randonneurs were ready for a cold day in the saddle. Branson, Jerry, Mike, and myself were doing the 200K, while Joel and Chris were doing the 300K :-0 The roads were just fine, barely damp and no ice since the temps at the start were about 40 degrees. I was a bit worried that I had over dressed, but that worry went away once it started snowing:
I was having a great ride and feeling strong all the way to Mt Gilead, almost the halfway point. Here is where we bid farewell to Joel and Chris, off to ride 100K further than us on this bitterly cold day- chapeau! Branson had flown up the road on his fixie, and we'd see him leaving the controles as we arrived. Just before rolling out of Mt. Gilead Branson commented that he wasn't looking forward to the headwinds on the way back. Uh-oh. It was then I realized why I'd been feeling so strong. We'd been going mostly downhill with a tailwind! Mike and I set off together and soon we were moving painfully slowly, fighting both the climbs and the strong wind. Jerry caught us at the next stop, and I learned a new trick observing his controle regimen. I noticed he removed his jacket while he was in the store, and realized why once I was back on the road. If I'd taken my jacket off I would've given some of my sweat a chance to evaporate. This moisture is a big part of what makes it so cold to get restarted after a stop on a winter ride. Jerry left the controle just before Mike and I did, and we could see him up ahead all the way to the last controle, by this time it was dark and the lights and blinkies were deployed.
They told me the last controle was a convenience store with a McDonald's, but when we got there we found out the Mickey D's had been replaced by a BBQ restaurant. I had planned to short-stop all the controles to minimize the bitterly cold night riding at the end, but by this time the wind, hills, and cold had taken their toll and I needed to take some time off the bike. Branson was there and we all were planning a sit-down stop. I took off my jacket a la JP and ate a BBQ sandwich and a side of tater salad. Mike had some shivering issues, so he and I both got hot chocolates at the c-store next door. Branson and Jerry were ready to go, and we told them to go ahead without us but they wouldn't have it. Much safer to stick together as a group in the dark, they said.
It was obvious I was going to be the lanterne rouge, falling behind every time the road took a tilt upward (which it seemed to do constantly!) Luckily everyone seemed to be having trouble reading their cue sheets in the dark, and since my headlamp was working and I could (mostly) read my cue sheets I became navigator. That's a position I gladly accepted, since it meant the guys were even more hesitant to leave me behind!! When we finally got back to Salisbury we were greeted by Tony with hot coffee and a helping hand. My fingers were frozen, and I needed help untying my front bag before putting my bike on the car.