Is there such a thing as the perfect brevet? Saturday seemed to hold, tantalizingly close, the chance to achieve the mythic, unattainable ride. For MG and I, the perfect brevet means a steady pace. No missed turns. Efficient use of controls, with just the right amount of food and drink and no wasted time. A lot of camraderie with our fellow riders on and off the bike. And tailwinds on the homeward leg.
MG and I enjoyed all those good things except one (can you guess?) at the North Carolina Randonneurs 400K. Mike Dayton, Alan Johnson, Branson Kimball, Jerry Phelps and co. hosted us for our second brevet with them this year and it was a classic.
The start took place under cool, perfectly clear skies at Morrisville and we rode out N.C.-style, with everyone sticking together for the flat miles down to Jordan Lake. I didn’t get an exact total but the group numbered around 20. North Carolina RBA Alan Johnson uses the same out-and-back course, each time longer, for his 200K, 300K and 400K, and it’s well known that the first hills come after the lake. So, everybody takes it easy and chats before the group splits up.
We stopped early at mile 20 to take off layers and the group went on. We rode mostly solo from there to the first control at Siler City and chatted with fellow D.C. Randonneur Lynn Kristianson. She was riding solo this day on her stylish Bike Friday with Gilles Berthoud front panniers.
The day by then was warm, with temperatures in the 60s with bright sun. We avoided the many friendly dogs who scampered out to bark at our wheels and caught up with John M. at the Siler City control. The last of the layers came off and from there it was off over shallow rollers to the 100K control in Seagrove, at the Citgo/Hardees. MG and I wolfed down hot ham and cheese sandwiches and contemplated the next segment, a 60-mile round trip to Ophir, which we were told held the real hills. Chuck, John and Byron were there in high spirits.
We put the tandem into high gear and rode quickly to the turnaround, attacking the downhills. This part of the ride resembled the terrain on DCR brevets and we quickly found our rhythm, while marveling at the lush green North Carolina woods all around us. The main group was just leaving the turnaround near Ophir as we approached. At the control we visited with volunteer Dan Gatti, Jim on his recumbent Bachetta, and John B. on his early 80s Schwinn bike that he found very inexpensively on Craigslist and has put back into service. He told us how he had sewn his own saddlebag and crafted his own bag mount, and we were very impressed.
We began feeling our legs on the return. Odd how that happens after 125 miles! After riding bits with John B. and Jim, we arrived in Seagrove to find Branson, Byron, and the rest of the first two groups having dinner. This time we ordered chicken club sandwiches. I had not been in a Hardees for 30 years, and now I’ve eaten in one three times in the last three weeks. They’ve improved a lot!
We dawdled and let the fast guys go ahead of us by 10 minutes. They planned to stop in Siler City for dinner and we planned to catch them there for the nighttime 100K. Then the captain of the tandem succumbed to “get-there-itis” and took a wrong turn. I had not properly loaded the maps onto my GPS and it would not show the roads we were using, but it still showed our location and the route I plotted.
Curiously, it showed our little location triangle moving away from the purple route line. We talked about how the road felt wrong but didn’t stop until the next intersection, some 3.6 miles off course. Fuming, we made our way back to the route. It takes time to get over 7.2 bonus miles, we discovered –about another 7.2 miles. I kept my computer in place but MG unclicked hers for the same distance we added in an attempt to wipe away the mistake.
At Seagrove we arrived at last light and again found our buddy John M. and Chuck at the control. The Branson and Jerry group, fueled with Mexican dinner, tooled past as we prepared to launch into the night.
A nearly full moon emerged and we enjoyed a tailwind all the way in. We shared the segment with the two Johns, Schwinn and Surly, and made good time. One last brief stop at mile 30 to refuel and put on a jacket and that was it — we mostly solo’d into the finish at 1:36 a.m. for a 19:36 finish and 255 miles completed. RBA Alan, who wisely chose sleep, had us sign and time our cards at his house and leave them in an envelope on his front door. We saw Branson headed home as we arrived and finished with Lin Osborne, who nicely took our photo.
We’ll keep seeking the perfect brevet, but we felt good about our finishing time. It was about right for us compared to our past 400Ks. We were a little extra happy with the result since we did not ride a 400K together last year and wondered how we would fare after a year off.
No doubt our success was aided by Alan and everyone in the NCR bunch, who extended their friendly hospitality on our two brevets with the NCR group this year. We had a lot of fun and hope to get back there soon.