Bridge was going to be different this year. The four Ramblers attending hatched a plan to ride together this year.
The pre-ride dinner was prepared at Chum’s mother-in-law’s home with the assistance of Pinky and the Brain (Leslie). The salad, pasta, bread, and brownies were quickly consumed by Tail-lights, Chum, and Doc. Thanks to the ladies for a fine night of carbohydrate loading! Shortly after dinner the three of us drove up to McCrae Meadows to drop off Doc’s car. The 747 was straining as we were heading up Hwy 181 and it seemed like a longer ride in the car than I remembered. Ugh. By the time we got back to the hotel, Der Jan was waiting for us. Chum left to make final preparations and those of us left at the hotel continued to carbohydrate load with some beverages.
The fab four assembled around 0815 in the parking lot of the hotel and proceeded to ride to the starting line. The temperature was in the mid-fifties and it was quite different to ride to the start in actual daylight. We took our position near the front of the peleton and listened while Scott Bush’s widow gave a moving tribute to her husband who had died the previous year on his ‘ride of a lifetime’.
We started at 0900 and stayed together until we hit the first hill on 321-A. That hill separated the group a little and we had to search a bit to get back together. We managed to come back together and hang with one of the groups that splintered off the lead pack early on. Our merry band stayed in a paceline with several folks for about the first hour. On a rather fast descent, Doc came up on a crash, and, in a strange turn of events, stopped to help those hurt rather than being the subject of the calamity. He waived the Ramblers on, intent on catching them later. Doc invited one of the crash victims to sit on his wheel as he attempted to catch up to his buddies and Ted joined him for the next several miles. The first Ramblers to be found were Chum and Tail-lights sitting up looking for Doc. We rode together for a few minutes trying to figure out where Der Jan could be. Chum and TL hadn’t been passed and Doc didn’t see him while catching up. Where’s Waldo, er, Der Jan???? Doc and Ted pressed on while Chum and TL hung back. Doc slowed up on Hwy 181 and Chum/TL passed him without Der Jan. Doc pulled over at a rest stop and to his surprise, he watched Der Jan pass him. Doc pulled up to Der Jan just about the time the 747 pulled up with Pinky and the Brain graciously offering SAG support. It was a long slog up 181. Chum and TL went ahead at their pace and Der Jan and Doc followed as best they could. A small bit of levity occurred as Pigman (Greg Wilson) came up and Doc introduced himself. Pigman responded “VinPaysDoc? I thought you were faster than that.” Hmmm, how does one respond to that? No matter. Anything to give you momentary relief from the pain. Doc and Der Jan entered the Blue Ridge Parkway to find TL waiting for them. Chum, it seems, had given up on the plan (some might even say ‘abandoned’ his pals) and forged ahead. The three would not see ‘Speedy’ again until the finish.
Once on the BRP, the three remaining Ramblers kept a comfortable pace, enjoying the beautiful scenery as they rode. The Linn Cove Viaduct was as beautiful as remembered and the climb up from Julian Price park as wicked as ever. We took our time on Hwy 221 and pulled up to the gates of Grandfather ready for the finish. Once through the gates, TL had to climb at his own pace. His 39×27 gearing would push him up faster than Doc and Der Jan’s 34×27 would. Even though we couldn’t see it, we hear TL finished STRONG. The last two Ramblers made it up without dismount and were happy to have finished.
At McCrae Meadows we made plans for dinner at Canyon’s in Blowing Rock where we were joined by a host of significant others. Much merriment was made and some of the slower Ramblers even consented to speak with ‘Speedy’ during dinner……….;-)
As fun as it was, the fab four sorely missed Red’s company