Well, in my last post I stated that "this time next week, the 2009 AOMM would be history;" and so it is. I, with about 4000 other bikers, left the Spartanburg Auditorium around 0630. The weather was cool and beautiful, an answer to my recent prayers for "optimal weather."
The event was not uneventful, however. Several things happened leading up to the ride that could have ruined it for me, but didn't. I didn't get my new cassette that I needed until the last minute so I really didn't have time to ride it and get it tuned in. My brother and I put it on Saturday morning, AFTER I had worked all night. When I left his house, I went to the ER for a chest x-ray to find out why I had been coughing for two weeks; x-ray inconclusive, doggone it.
Sunday, we took my brother's car to Marion to leave it at the campground so we'd have it after the ride, and it rained the whole afternoon/evening. Fortunately, it quit about 9pm and dried up, leaving a great day to ride. My poor brother was doing yard work several days ago and got into some poison ivy and his arms were beginning to blister. I think he could have put up with that, but turns out it also got around his eyes. He woke up in the middle of the night with both eyes swollen nearly shut! And we had just gotten to sleep, because one of our upstairs neighbors at the hotel wanted to practice his riverdance routine or something late into the evening. Then, another neighbor decided he could shut him up by banging on his ceiling. So much for a good night's rest before the big ride!
Well, when my brother woke up like that and decided he couldn't ride because the skin around his eyes was so irritated (sweat running over it would really have made his day!) we decided we'd just complete the deal and have him go to the ER in Spartanburg. Very nice looking, well-run ER and they took good care of him, though little could be done for him other than a prescription. That all put us back at the hotel about 0130 so I could get a NAP and get back up at 0445. I am not blaming my brother for anything, I was looking forward to us riding together and I am sorry he had to miss it. We had both trained a lot and prepared for the ride.
I had to ride alone (with 4000 others) but I am happy with how I did. Last year I stopped at every rest stop and consumed a lot of time without distance. This year I decided to minimize my stops, only stopping when I needed to take on supplies. I clipped in in Spartanburg and did not unclip until I got to the top of Bill's Mountain, nearly 50 miles later. Leaving there, I did not stop again until the beginning of Hwy 80 on the other side of Marion, another 25 miles, getting to Marion a full hour faster than last year.
The fact that I went past Marion is big for me too, because last year when I got to Marion, I was spent! I was still tired this year but had it in me to continue. Hwy 80 is kind of nice and flat for a couple of miles before it turns skyward. I gave it all I had and was 3 miles from the Parkway entrance when it was announced that no more riders would be allowed on the Parkway. Supposedly, it has always been a rule, but never enforced, that only 750 riders would be allowed on; is there a weight limit on mountains now? I went as far as I could and it was declared to be over for me. I could have been disappointed, (and I am, with the Park Service; the demographics conclude that cyclist are generally of a higher income, making them good contributors to the tax till that pays for the state and national parks and their rangers. Don't bite the hand that feeds you!) but I am happy with all I accomplished. I will begin in soon-coming days to prepare for next year's AOMM, and I WILL get there before they close MY gates.
Quick word about the FreeWheelers and all of the volunteers, caterers, and bus drivers: WELL DONE! Things didn't go perfect, they never do, but this event went VERY well because a lot of people did a lot of hard work and stayed pleasant even when confronted by some unpleasant and ungrateful individuals. God bless you all!
Be blessed, be safe.