Thursday, July 24, 2008

NC-DC, A Gourmet Fleche well done

Team NC-DC enjoying their Gourmet Fleche. Somehow “Team NC-DC”, made up of a lawyer, a librarian, a software engineer and three federal employees, lacked critical skills of time management as the day progressed. Lynn, our esteemed librarian, had meticulously planned the Fleche, including the locations of controls with exact arrival and departure times.

Team NC-DC route. We departed Raleigh, NC at 0800 hours on March 21, 2008 heading towards Ocean Isle Beach. However, efforts to stay within the time frame established by Lynn were futile. Mike (Dayton) and Jerry (Phelps), living either off Hammer gels or genuine molassas from Big Ed’s, constantly pushed the pace, leaving Byron and I struggling at the end of the pack. Our desperate “SLOW DOWN” frequently died in the headwind. Well, this fast pace placed us many hours ahead of schedule.

Mike is just too big for a PO Box.According to ACP Fleche rules, no more than two hours are allowed at each individual control. This quirky fact dawned on us as we raced through the night entering the town of Atkinson (zip code 28421). The Post Office turned out to be the right place to burn off some of those extra hours.

Jerry ready to mail his letter. Special thanks to the US Postal Service for keeping an open door policy for homeless cyclists. After years of supporting Lance and his fellow riders, the USPS serves the Randonneurs.

Team NC-DC: Bob, Lynn, Jerry, Byron, Lothar and Mike. Tony, the RBA sent us off, sharply at 0700 hours on Good Friday. But let me track back to the beginning. Thanks to Lynn (Kristianson) I was added to the NC-DC team a few days before the ride. I accepted on the spot and there were no regrets. After I told Bill Beck, the captain of my other Fleche team (“Fleche in the Penn”) about this event he labeled me a “promiscuous flesher”.

The DC half of Team NC-DC drove down to Raleigh in Bob’s (Sheldon) car with a single and a tandem on the roof. Of notice, Bob’s car is 10 years old with only 60,000 miles on the odometer – a testimony to a bicycle commuter. While Bob, Lynne and Gordon stayed with Gordon’s son Adam, I took refuge with my NIH colleague Jerry, his wife Beth and two dogs in their “cabin” in the woods outside Raleigh.

Gordon loading carbs. Breakfast was served in “Big Ed’s”, caloric heaven of Raleigh. It seems to be the place to go if you do manual labor, but for lawyers, computer geeks and federal workers the food serves would certainly clog up their arteries, unless .... Gordon had opted not to ride but rather drive to Ocean Beach Isle to meet us at the finish in 24 hours. According to my father: "those who don’t work should at least eat!" After wolfing down enough calories to feed the entire city of Raleigh we were ready to roll ....

Mike and his bike = cool square It’s so rewarding to cycle into the sunrise, while others go to work. The morning was uneventful, a cool breeze, rolling hills and moving from an urban setting to the Hinterland of NC. As we progressed the dogs became faster and more vicious but there were moments when we rolled on.

Lunch was served at Janice’s Country Kitchen in Walstonburg, a town with a population of 240 and a per capita income of $ 19,500 (Wikipedia). We did our part to support the local economy and ate well.

Lynn crying/laughing when reading the lunch menu. After a quiet lunch, most of us endulged in a southerb BBQ pork sandwich with cole slaw, we continued on flat and monotonous country roads featuring little traffic and the dreaded headwind never materialized. Somehow it was the ideal Fleche and the opposite of what I experienced a week later in the Pennsylvania Fleche (to be posted soon). We could have asked for more ...

Jerry: living in style! Since this was a genuine Fleche, Lynn had decided on a French restaurant for dinner - the "Stone Leaf Cafe". This etablisament featured French and NC cuisine and Jerry endulged in wine, after all he is a single speed guy. Look: the jersey also gives him away as genuine french. Needless to say that we worked our way through numerous baskets of dinner rolls and butter.

Lynn and Mike engaged in a sophisticated debate on the role of art and french cuisine in a North Carolina Fleche. I think the consensus was that we should bring more appropriate attire along on our 2009 Fleche.

After a leasurely five course - two hour - dinner, we mounted our bikes and cycled into the night. 100 miles of flat road in 10 hours - a true challenge for the NC-DC Randonneurs and our leaders moved imediately into a big gear leaving Byron and I struggeling after this feast.

Another 2 hour stop We arrived at the next control sometimes around midnight, ready for more food and another nap.
Mr. Bicycle Bob eating his soup ....
...and then falling asleep

I guess big ash trays are in style in NC

Another 2 hour stop. We arrived in the wee hours at our mandatory 22 hour control. Lynn had picked a unique one - the Office of the County Sherrif. Everybdy picked their favorite activity, Lynn reading a good book - remember she is a librarian, Byron catching up on his sleep and Mike writing a letter home.

View from the bridge that links the mainland from our destination, Ocean Isle Beach

Finally, after an exhausting 24 hours with almost no headwind and no hills and endless hours hanging out at controls we arrived in Ocean Isle Beach. Jerry had a surprise for us - our very own NC-DC shirts to remind us for years to come of this wonderful event.

I shall return

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