Elite Tour 2013 Summary
It has been a week since I completed the 2013 PACTour Elite Tour. After we arrived in Tybee Island on Tuesday, I drove a rental car up to High Point, North Carolina to visit my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter for a few days. This was absolutely the best way to unwind after an event like this – spending time with an adoring 3 year old who loves to talk and have you play with her. She seemed to sense my mood too, laying out pillows and suggested nap times for the two of us a couple of times. Here we are at the zoo:
My next stop was to see Aunt Minnie, who is 92 and was tracking my Elite Tour blog with the help of her physical therapist at a facility in Cuyahoga Falls in Ohio. I posted a note to her on this blog letting her know I would be visiting. This is Aunt Minnie, wearing my bike helmet.
I made a few more stops on the way back to Minnesota to see a biking friend I hadn’t seen for more than 30 years, cousins and an uncle, all great to visit with and talk to and gradually help me to reintegrate into normal life.
This year’s trip was very satisfying and enjoyable and had more of a rhythm to it than the 2010 Elite Tour. Steve Reed and I talked about how different a second transcontinental ride felt from the first. Steve did the PACTour Northern Transcon last year. We agreed that you aren’t as stressed about whether you can make it, you know what the routine is and, generally you are pretty good at keeping yourself in the right place each day as far as food, water and mental attitude is concerned. While we kept up a good pace most of the time, it wasn’t forced or draining. We knew what we had to do and took pleasure in spinning through the days.
This didn’t prevent both of us and Clay Griffin, my roommate, from each having a rough day early on. Crossing the Sonoran desert was very hot, with temps peaking at 109. On a ‘rest day’ heading into Springerville, AZ, I didn’t pay attention to my nutrition and hit a low spot pretty hard after a long stretch into the wind. Fortunately Clay and Steve were there to drag me in through the last couple of rest stops. Each of them had their own issues earlier that we worked through together so we built a bond of mutual support early on that helped us meld more closely later on.
Will Oberton really got me going in the right direction when he held back from the faster group to ride with me leaving Roswell, NM on Day 8. I knew I was getting fitter but I still dogged along for most of the day, even with a tail wind. He had a hard time riding at my slower pace but had a lot of patience. The last 20 miles into Hereford, TX, though we picked up Jacki and Rick at the ice cream rest stop and Will stepped up the pace to 30 mph. It was a great way for all of us to finish and helped me realize I was actually getting into better shape.
The next day Clay and Steve joined us, along with Brian for a while and we started to cruise along pretty well, aided by a nice tailwind and a flat, not-much-to-see-out-there route. Our average was 22 mph for the day as we cruised through Texas and into Oklahoma.
A few, including Joe Avoiles, just kept rolling along, completing each day, usually near the back of the group, but still smiling.
When we got to Oklahoma, our group of five stuck together through the wind and some long flat days. We worked well together and it was particularly helpful on the long stormy day across Oklahoma, where we had plenty of quartering headwind. We did a lot of echeloning and that made battling the wind a lot easier and kept our attention too, as the scenery wasn’t special except for the rain clouds and thunderstorms that kept us company that day.
The Talimena Scenic Parkway in eastern Oklahoma was a break from the pace line way of riding, after we had ridden 120 miles that day to get to the start of it. I have never averaged 10 mph for 5 hours before, nor had I spent so much time in my lowest granny gear, grunting up the long, double digit grades. It was a beautiful ride, with lots of wonderful vistas, but no one was happier than me to roar down the last hill into Mena, Arkansas and to the hotel. Will said ‘one and done’ for the Parkway and that was enough for all of us that day.
The next day our group of five came back together for a 180 mile recovery day across Arkansas. We were pretty mellow (beat up) from the Parkway, but good weather and flatter roads (after 30 miles of Ozark leftover hills) kept at a good pace throughout the day. The next day, heading into Mississippi, Tom and Jeremiah joined our group and we were now seven riders strong all working together to roll through the delta and across the deep southern states.
A couple of days later, in Alabama, Lon suggested for safety reasons that we break into two groups. This worked out really well as Steve, Clay and I (and Brian for part of this) found that we had a similar mentality – keep up a good pace, work together and help each other out. The other group, with Will, Tom and Jeremiah also did well. They usually rode in front but we were almost always within a few minutes of them at each stop and the hotel.
There was a cadre of strong solo riders that continued to slog along on their own every day, including Brad Haslam, Wayne Riley, Little John Downham (from the UK), Big John Newton (from Pennsylvania), Nicco Frias and Bruce Boehm, our amazing recumbent rider who got faster and faster as the roads flattened out and was usually waiting for us at the hotel.
My personal perspective, as you can undoubtedly tell, is that these kinds of rides are a lot easier and more fun in a faster pace line group, if you can do it, but I was surprised at the number of riders that spent a lot of time on their own each day. This takes a different style of riding, with a lot of personal determination and focus to keep turning the miles, especially when the weather wasn’t the best (i.e. winds). Overall we were pretty fortunate with favorable winds but had a few long stretches with brisk winds in our faces.
Clay, Steve and I, with some help from Brian, rolled across Alabama and Georgia together. Steve Marshall joined us for a few legs in the last day or so. The roads generally got smoother and flatter so we cruised along at a pretty good pace.
While we didn’t get to meet many local people along the way, Mayor Billy T. of Metter, Georgia took the time to talk to us in the City Park and tell us about his beautiful town. The local press showed up quickly (I checked and Mayor Billy has been re-elected three times) so pictures were taken and probably showed up in the Metter newspaper later in the week. I asked Billy if he would pose by my bike and pretend he had been riding it across the country.
The end of the ride seemed to come quickly. On the last day we were knocking off 20-30 mile legs then we were already at lunch, near Savannah. We stopped for ice cream at Leonard’s before rolling out to the gathering place just outside of Tybee Island. It was nice to take a little time before we hit the beach to talk to and congratulate each other before joining in a parade group into town, with lots of cheering and waving, down to the beach for photos and wading in the Atlantic Ocean. Joe Avoiles made it – good for him.
Rick Robinson rode with Jacki on many days and on his own – he made every mile too.
Brett Ellet cramped on day 1, was in an accident a few days later but kept up a good pace every day and completed every mile. Brett also has the neatest paint job, with inscriptions, on his bike that I have seen.
Several other riders didn’t ride every mile, but they did well, gaining strength and experience. Jacki couldn’t ride the last day due to knee problems, except for the last few miles, and she was disappointed about this, but she impressed everyone with her strong riding and undeniable spirit.
Alan had to miss a few days after being clipped by a car, but he was there too.
Clay’s parents met us at the lunch stop. They were thrilled to see Clay complete the ride - they have been active cyclists for a long time and are heading to Europe for some barge bicycle touring in a couple of weeks.
So, the adventure is over again. It was a great way to get focused and work myself into good shape - watch out if you see me rolling down the road after you this summer! The PACTour experience was wonderful, as usual – Lon and Susan know how to do this well and they had a great crew. The best part was riding well and finishing with friends, knowing we had enjoyed many good miles together.