I have three weeks left to get ready for RAGBRAI, and I feel woefully unprepared. I am far away from my goal and don't feel as if I have built up the strength and stamina that I wanted. Nonetheless, I am moving ahead with plans and am prepared to tackle whatever I may face.
Yesterday I went out on one of my favorite rides. This is a 52 mile route that is very popular with the local cyclists and is one of the routes for the "Beautiful Backroads Century" ride in the fall. Anheuser Busch has a plant in Cartersville, GA and has graciously allowed riders to use their parking lot on the weekends as the starting point for this route. The route includes rural Georgia towns like White, Sonoraville, and Cash. Chances are you've never heard of these towns, and that's kind of the point. Auto traffic on the route is very low, and it isn't uncommon to see more bicycles than cars on a Saturday or Sunday morning.
I arrived at the parking lot a bit later than I wanted. My plan was to avoid the heat of the day, but I didn't get moving early enough and had to settle for an 8:30 start. As I was getting the bike and myself ready, I picked up my sunglasses only to have the nose bridge fall off. Close inspection revealed that the bridge is held in place with a screw that's about 5 angstroms wide (if you don't know what an angstrom is ... well, it's really really small). I tried putting things back together but since my fingers were about 100 times larger than the screw, the endeavor was quite hopeless. Fortunately several of my fellow cyclists were also getting ready, and one happened to have a set of tiny screwdrivers and was quite happy to share.
With the sunglasses crisis out of the way I set out on my ride. These backroads really are beautiful, with pleasant countryside and even some wildlife. At various points along the ride I met up with a rabbit along the side of the road, and watched deer cross the road in front of me. As I was toiling along in the hot sun I saw cows resting in the shade, and considered that perhaps they were a bit wiser than me.
I also met some great fellow riders. 17 miles in to the route is the Glade Baptist Church. It is a great stopping point and is also a decision point. Turn left to ride 15 miles back to the parking lot (for a total of 32 miles) or go straight to keep riding on the 52 mile route. I pulled over to take a breather and to contemplate these options. Along came a very friendly group of three riders, all from my hometown. We chatted for awhile and one of them mentioned a Tuesday evening ride near my house which I will have to consider joining occasionally. The group was eager to press on and they departed for the longer route. I decided that I really needed the miles, so I followed.
At the midway point in a town called Cash there's a little convenience store. It is a great place to take a "nature break" and to refuel on water and sports drink. Given my generally slow pace I was surprised to pull in to the parking lot and meet up with the group of three again. We chatted some more, shared a large jug of cold water, and then off they went. While I was still replenishing, another couple rolled in. They were probably in their late 60s or early 70s. In my conversation with them I learned that they had just finished 60 of their planned 105 mile route. Amazing! I guess there is hope for me yet.
We parted company and I began the long ride back to the car. The second half of the ride always seems harder. Eventually even the wonderful views didn't seem like enough to make up for the heat and the pain. But on I went, dreaming of air conditioning and a nice long shower. What a relief it was to crest the last big hill and enjoy the long downhill ride. 2 miles later, and around 1:30 in the afternoon, I was finally pulling up to my car.
As I was loading up to go, another cyclist walked over to me and said "you're Bill, right?" Turned out we had met before on a different ride and he recognized my car. He, too, was from my hometown. Cyclists are a great bunch of folks, eager to help each other, to encourage each other, and just to have a friendly chat.