pea gravel ...
Sunday's ride almost didn't happen. I drove out to scenic downtown Hodges to find Campbell standing outside his vehicle, his bike still safely stored inside it, as he pondered the sky. I said hello and got out of my truck and followed his example.
There were large dark clouds, moving swiftly across the sky. Hmmm, I thought. Campbell and I talked a bit, while Young Bradley arrived and we waited for Jim. Strawhorne's truck was there, but he wasn't. Jim drove up and we conferred.
It looked like it would pass without incident. The big black clouds were whipping along above us, and it looked like there were clear skies beyond them. Heh.
"Let's wait a little bit and see if this clears up," Jim said.
Moments later, Andrew Douglas drove up with his Serotta in the back of his truck. Jim took it as a sign.
"Mr. Andrew Douglas has arrived," Jim intoned. "Surely we will ride today."
Less than a minute later, Strawhorne rode up with the wind at his back. "It's brutal
out there," he said as he passed.
About that time the raindrops started falling.
I tried to come up with something to cover the B17 saddle on Belle, then gave up as the rain started falling heavily. Everyone ducked into their vehicles and the bottom dropped out. The rain was just pounding away, but the wind was pushing it so wildly that I could open the offside window of the truck and no water came in. I looked back and saw trees swaying behind me - but when I opened the back window to take pictures they couldn't capture the wildness of the weather.
During a lull, I slipped out and hopped into the passenger seat of Andrew's truck and we talked, hanging out and listening to the rain batter the truck roof. Things finally tapered off, and we all hopped out and started prepping our bikes. I wiped the saddle off, grateful that I'd proofided it in the recent past.
We set off, going down 185 to the intersection with Pickens Creek Road instead of taking the usual cut-through on Blue Jay Road. Bradley launched an attack for the sign, but that's normal, right? Campbell and I talked about the pea gravel Abbeville County was putting on its roads, and we both shook our heads and clucked our tongues when we crossed the old Abbeville-Hodges road. It looked like it was covered in jagged marbles and tar.
Bradley went raging on ahead, but Campbell, Andrew and I wound up following Jim down onto Dungannon to David Knecht's place. It's a tradition with Jim - if you ride anywhere near the home of someone who should be riding with us but isn't, you ride past their place and harass them by calling them out to go ride.
Since the Knechts live back off the road, we got to ride down a long gravel driveway. We wound up simultaneously bringing Gini Knecht out from the backyard and awakening David from a nap. After a few minutes of chatting, we set off again, climbing back up to the top of the hill and heading on towards Old Abbeville Highway. From there we cut over onto Clem Road, going from there to Deadfall before returning to Hodges via Dixie Drive. Somewhere along Dixie, the wind reappeared, and I tucked in behind Jim and Campbell and drafted shamelessly the rest of the way in. I had 21.04 miles at the end of the day.
Today I got errands run on my afternoon off, grabbed a great snack, and got Belle ready for another ride. The usual crowd was gathering at the Y, including Paul Velky, Aaron, Todd, Josh, and a bunch of guys that I say hi to that I see for the first mile or two of the ride before they take off. S'all right.
There were several conversations about Abbeville County and pea gravel. Apparently, in addition to Blue Jay and Old Abbeville-Hodges Road, they've also paved the entire length of Stevenson Road - which could make for an interesting Callaham Challenge come Thursday evening. There was concern that other roads have also been treated with this nasty stuff, including the routes for Saturday's Tour de Abbeville.
I wound up riding with Jim and Landon the Silent, tucking in behind Jim down the length of Dixie. I kept thinking, man, I wish Jim would bring this pace down a notch, but he didn't. I dropped off the back a time or two, then did the same on 185. I caught back up with them when we turned onto Pickens Creek, and sat in at the back.
I watched Landon. After a certain point, I saw him crane his head up and around to look past Jim at the county line sign. I thought about it for a minute and watched the distance to the sign shrink. At about 100 yards or so, I reached down and shifted Belle up and went for it. Seconds later I heard Jim yell, "Go, Landon!" I put my head down and my hands in the hooks and tried to spin as fast as humanly possible. Turning my head, I could see Landon's shadow and pushed just a touch harder.
For once, just once, timing was on my side. Landon ran out of road before we got to the sign. I let out a guttural "Ha!" as I took the sign by something between half a whe
el and a tire's width.
Coasting along for a moment, I looked over at him and grinned. "Won't be able to do that again, will I?" I said.
He just smiled.
The rest of the ride went pretty quietly. They dropped me on the climbs, but not too badly. I made it up the nasty short hill on the 38x19, and got up the other hills without too much trouble. By the time we got onto Old Abbeville, I was feeling pretty well used up - but not enough to not contend for the last sign on the way in. I took it, but it was inconclusive - we both pulled up on our sprints and went neutral when a car came by in the other lane.
A good ride, all in all, and I had another 21.1 miles at the end of it. It was even better when I got home and found Ana had made tuna patties, broccoli and homemade cornbread for supper.