Note: There are very few pictures when one has to ride so far. All you can think about is getting there!
Robin and I reluctantly left the beautiful grounds of the Butler Greenwood Plantation to ride 105 miles to Franklinton. For the first 5 miles we were on US 61, a busy highway at morning rush hour. At least it had wide shoulders. Finally, we turned onto a beautiful country road, where the birds were singing and the morning sun was filtering through the green branches of trees. As we rode, I thought that 105 miles would be a piece of cake. Wrong! With the sun shining through the trees and making shadows on the road, it was a bit hard to see the potholes lurking in those shadows. And, as we made turns from one road to another, the surface would change drastically. At one point, deep in the woods, we crossed a bridge, where the road suddenly changed to gravel for about ½ mile. That was a challenge for a road bike, but we all made it safely through the obstacles.
I had been looking for a mailbox since we left the plantation so that I could mail a birthday card to Polly, who turns 60 on Saturday! When I reached the little town of Norwood (about the size of Aline), I saw a box and dropped the card inside, only to realize it was a drop box for water payments or something else. A very kind lady walked out, assured me she would retrieve the card, and take it to the post office. So, Polly, I hope you get the card!
One way I survive riding so many miles it to break up the journey into SAG stops (usually every 20 miles). It is easier to think about 20 than 100! So after the second stop at 40 miles, I began to think I would be able to make it if I could just get some lunch. Alas, all we could find was a convenience store where I bought some orange juice and a sandwich. As I was enjoying this gourmet lunch outside, a man began asking us questions and giving directions on how to get to Franklinton. I realized that he had already been into adult beverages for a while that day! So we quickly made an exit hoping he would not be going our way in his condition.
Slowly but surely I clicked off the miles, mostly riding alone. At about 3 miles from our hotel, I turned on to a busy highway. I had not gone very far when I heard a sudden pssst! My rear tire was flat (only the second one of this whole trip). I had really wanted to make it all the way. But, I called the SAG to come pick me up. Just as I hung up the phone, Michelle, one of the guides rode up on her bicycle. I told her I had called the SAG. Sensing my disappointment in not being able to finish, she offered to fix the flat. We realized that there was a big cut in the tire. She “booted” the tire (put a patch on it), inserted the tube, pumped it up, and assured me that I could make it. I did!
I was the last person in to the hotel, but I didn’t really care. It was all I could do to stay awake for dinner. As I closed my eyes, I felt pleased that I had made it and felt confident that I could do a century again, just not any time soon!
As much as you will miss your newly found buddies, I suspect that deep down inside you look forward to standing in the quiet of your kitchen, with Bill and the TV going in the living room, making a big juicy ham sandwich–back home.
I have enjoyed your adventure.