After enjoying some pretty good Tex-Mex at Fiesta Tapatia in Cheraw, SC, the Beautiful Redhead and I headed back to the hotel. We ended up going to bed around 10 PM.Of course, I had to write the Ride For Windell Day One Recap first.
I had good intentions of getting up at around 6 AM in hopes that we could get going by no later than 7:30 AM. The alarm went off and I awakened. Getting out of the bed was another matter.
I got some waffles yogurt, and juice — oh and plenty of coffee — from the hotel breakfast and then started to load up the truck. We were going to have to drive me back to the point in Ruby, SC where I had stopped the day before.
It is a nerve-wracking feeling when you are driving in a car the opposite direction that you are supposed to be going in on the bicycle. The ride to the hotel didn’t seem so far when we covered this ground on Friday! Watching the rolling terrain didn’t help either.
Finally, we came to the small “station” where I had pulled the plug the day before. I unload the bicycle and we were off. On the way to the start, I noticed there were a number of cyclists on the road. I would be awesome if I could come upon some and pace along with them.
I only saw one cyclist as I crested one incline after another. I kept telling myself that the climbing would stop on the other side of Cheraw. This business of pushing out watts on cold, tired legs was not enjoyable!
The good news was that Annette was with me this time. Just knowing she was there and hearing her voice over the radio was an encouragement. It was like going back in time to the Memphis-Raleigh and Greenville-Charleston rides. It made me feel warm inside on an otherwise chilly morning — even at 8:30 AM.
Cheraw came faster than I anticipated. For a good amount of the time, I was averaging over 20 mph. However, that average got wiped out as I neared town. There are some pretty long grades and I simply could not power up them without my legs starting to get that expanding feeling.
In Cheraw, we took our turn off of Highway 9. We were going through some residential roads and then turned onto a street lined with businesses. In the distance, I could see the bridge over the Great Pee Dee river. I knew for certain the terrain would begin to change on the other side.
It did. It just wasn’t as much as I hoped. When I was on flat roads or descending, I felt great. I could even get some power down. However, as soon as I hit any sort of grade my power dropped. It wasn’t that I felt sore or anything. It was just that my legs wouldn’t produce it.
This became my existence for the next hour or so. I got a reprieve right at the North Carolina state line when my sister and her daughters drove up from Florence to cheer me on. Thanks, Suzanne, Grace, Melinda, and Stephanie!
Buoyed by the visit, I climbed up from the line and then started to descend to the next intersection. As I neared it, I could see the road I was supposed to take on the other side. There were orange signs plastered on either side: No through traffic. Detour.
I could think of no option but to follow the detour. Even if I could make it through the obstacle, Annette couldn’t. The question was how far out of the way would this take us? I figured it couldn’t be too far since this was a local detour.
As it turned out, it wasn’t that bad. Maybe we went a mile out of our way. The best thing was it was a distraction to my mind and gave me something to think about other than my legs, back, and neck.
We reached Laurinburg, NC and I loaded the bicycle in the truck as we went in search of something to eat. I always have to remind myself that these rides are not a race. It is okay to eat at a restaurant along the way. There is no rule that says I have to eat on the bicycle!
Ahhhhh, here were the flat roads I was looking for. It took 50 miles, but this is what I hoped for back near Cheraw. I was able to keep a pretty good pace through the landscape becoming more and more numerous with pine trees. I knew I was heading in the right direction.
Then the wind came. It started as a headwind. I saw the flags along the route waving toward me. A particularly disheartening scene was a small balloon on a mailbox. It was out straight to the right of the mailbox straining on the nylon ribbon as though it was trying to escape.
Wind changes, though. It swung to a cross wind from my right to left. I wondered if I could use my upper body as a sail. Maybe if I moved my right shoulder forward and my left shoulder back I could turn it into a bit of a tailwind. Can you tell I was starting to get a little warm under the afternoon sun? Now it was just settling in for the long haul.
As I neared Lumberton, NC, the wind seemed to die down. I looked for flags and found them gently swaying. Now I had another battle. It was with my body. I found more and more that my head was hanging and I had to remind myself to look up and not get mesmerized by the white line along the shoulder.
Then Annette came over the radio. “Why don’t you draft off the truck for a bit?” That was not something she would normally offer! I was willing to give it a go.
So, for periods of time I would slot in behind the Pilot and Annette would hold a speed around 24 mph. Then she would radio back to me that a car was approaching us and I would go off to the right while she would drive ahead, pull over, let the car pass, and then move up to be my shield again.
It helped. I’m not so sure that it made me that much faster, but it certainly was an awesome emotional lift. In some ways, it was an effort as I accelerated to get in position and then had to stick my nose back in the wind. All I know is that before I knew it, we were at the Welcome to Lumberton sign.
Wow! I was almost home! I knew from this point on I would recognize all the landmarks. I started through the city streets with a renewed energy. Still, by the time I reached the intersection that would put my on Highway 211 — and just two turns from home — I was needing to find some shade.
We pulled over and I got new water bottles from the cooler. I poured one of them over my head. I was now 17 miles to the finish. That was exciting, but also a realization that I was going to have to spend another hour on the saddle. There was nothing to do, but to do it.
211 is a pretty flat road. It is also a pretty straight one. Once again, I started to find myself staring down at the computer screen. Annette offered to draft again and I took the offer. As it turned out, I didn’t get to enjoy it for long because we were closer than I thought.
We stopped to take a photograph near the Welcome to Bladenboro sign. Then I started to roll over the next five miles to my parents’ house. Now I was feeling great! I’ve ridden this road many, many times.
As we turned onto the road to my childhood home, Annette came over the radio to tell me that my mom had called to say that my dad was looking at his watch and trying to communicate the question, “When will Jonathan get here?” I was happy that it would be less than a minute!
The whole trip was worth it when my dad stood up from his porch swing and came over to hug me. Of course, I didn’t let him! I didn’t want to kill him with the sweat and smell! I’d get the shower out of the way and then we could spend more time together.
And so, the 2016 Ride For Mike comes to an end. I was glad to honor my father in the process.