Lasting impressions of the Lumberton 600Km ride: the long dark night (11 hours of night riding the first night); friendly and curious people at every controle wanting to know what we were doing and wishing us a safe journey; lots of BAD dogs but mostly during the daylight hours so we could see their teeth and the whites of their eyes; fields of corn, cotton, soy beans, and sweet potatoes; strong cold headwinds for the last 26 miles; long stretches of road, long enough that it’s your head not the terrain that challenges you the most….
5 NJ randos showed up for the Lumberton challenge. Paul Shapiro, Jonathan Levitt, and Joe Fillip constituted the A Team and Chris Newman and I took the Lantern Rouge role for the event. Chris and I were fast enough to see our NJ buddies at a few points along the ride, but the guys pulled into the overnight stop the first night, and the finish line the second night, well before us. We met at the Outback Steakhouse the night before the ride and picked Paul’s brain on route strategies because he had done the ride before. The best recommendation was to change our overnight stop from the official location to one just 11 miles earlier. The advantages would be that we’d have one less hour of night riding, we would be able to get a hot meal at a 24-hour Waffle House and the Comfort Inn would be just that–comfortable.
Food, one of the favorite topics of randos, so, we fueled this ride with some interesting vittles. At the first controle I ate a pimento cheese (spread?) sandwich, fig newtons and an extra slab of cheese for good measure. In the heat of the afternoon we stopped at a Burger King, mostly because we needed a break but also because we needed food. The BK Fish sandwich tasted like a gourmet meal at that point. And later, something that claimed to be a cheese danish kept me going for the last two or three hours on the way to Shallotte, where we were stopping for the night. On Sunday, the Subway sandwiches that we downed before doing the very last stretch actually put us in good moods as we headed out into the headwinds. Food, for a rando, is more than fuel. It’s part of why we ride, it’s what we sometimes think about while riding, and it’s part of our reward for doing these long events. I savored a really excellent cheese danish from a bakery on the drive home on Sunday…enjoyed every bite…can’t wait to have another.
How, you ask, did we keep ourselves going through the 11 hours of night riding on the long, long stretches of road during which the biggest challenge was deciding whether that barking dog was coming after us, or just warning us from its cozy perch on the front porch? Here’s an example of how we got through the night:
Me: So Chris, do you know any rando ditties? (Since Chris has done more long rides than me, I figured that she must have learned a few ditties along the way. How else does she keep herself going on the back roads of PA?)
Chris: No. I don’t know any ditties.
Me: Come on Chris, you must know some ditties. Won’t you sing one?
Me: Well then, how about a story? You’ve got to know some stories.
Chris: I have no stories.
As you can see, I was trying to liven things up, but I wasn’t getting much help.
At one point, when I was getting dizzy just from being in motion for so many consecutive hours and at a time when I would have normally been asleep, I suggested a very brief stop. I asked if we pull off the road at the next church that we passed, and just lie down on the front step for 10 minutes. “Only for 10 minutes,” responded my cheerful companion. “Right,” I said, “just 10 minutes.”
My favorite image of the ride (no photos unfortunately): we found the church, leaned our bikes against the building, climbed the steps and lay down on the red carpet in front of the door. We both took off our shoes and put our legs up against the door; two riders, legs up the door, at 2 or 3am in the morning. And we were outta there in 10, well ok, 15 minutes.
Tony Goodnight is a wonderful host. He greeted us warmly Saturday morning, and offered some tips about the roads ahead as we were leaving the first controle. He also dropped off our bags at the Comfort Inn on his way to the official stop. At the end, he thanked us for driving down to do this ride and encouraged us to return for other events. And he seems to offer all of these events largely on his own. That’s an amazing commitment, and I want to thank him for making it possible for me to do a 600km ride this year.
Finally, so how did the rando duet, the lanterne rouge team, do out there for 37 hours and 40 minutes. I guess you’ll get two different responses to this question. For my part, I was extremely grateful for the company and companionship that made the ride possible. In my mind, this is not a ride to do alone. You need company out there in the sweet potato patches. (I kept wondering how bad the puns were getting in the A Team on those very long stretches of road.) And although our paces are not evenly matched–Chris is much faster than I–we do each have our strengths. I’m better with the cue sheet, and I typically keep a steady head even when things are not going particularly well. Chris is strong so she pulled us around most of the course. She is also great at being supportive and helping a riding companion through a rough patch. At a couple of points in the ride, I needed to slow down because i was experiencing some nausea due to fatigue and our pace. No questions asked. We slowed down until I felt better. We had some long silences but most of those were ok. We probably both spent a little more time in our heads calculating the time/distance to the next stop than we wanted to, but that was part of the challenge this time. We are pretty evenly matched, though, when it comes to deciding how much time to spend at stops and that is really good. I never felt frustrated that we were taking too much time off the bike. We’re both pretty efficient users of the allotted time.
Ultimately, I keep relearning the lesson that even though each randonneur must complete the event himself or herself, the kinds of help and support that we give and get makes any ride a much better experience. At 5:30 on Sunday morning I got a text from Katie asking how we were doing. Paul, Joe, and Jonathan texted us at one point to reroute us around a closed bridge. In response to each progress report that I sent Jayne, I got encouragement back. I’m not sure if we choose this sport to show ourselves that we can do these rides or because the rides give us an excuse to be good to each other. I suppose both are good enough reasons.