JV and I were up pretty early for our last shift of the race. We were just outside of Hancock, MD. A quick check of the race results showed that we were now an hour and a half behind doc2doc. The likelihood of us catching them at this point was pretty slim, but we still put together our race plan for the shift. JV was having some real back issues from (a) trying to sleep on a trampoline and (b) lifting bikes on and off the roof of the van. He wasn’t sure how he was going to do. On the other hand, I was feeling great! So, much to my surprise (and that of everyone who knows me), I became the designated climber! Now I’m not trying to belittle myself here, but you know things are bad when I become the designated climber…
First pull gets me across the state line into southern PA and I get to climb the infamous Orchard St. hill. We were warned about this hill by a friendly Bacchetta rider in PA, but despite his warnings, I didn’t have to walk up the 17% grade 1/2 mile climb. As we approached the top, Bill and Lee were cheering me on and I noticed an officials vehicle right behind them. Guess I can’t blow the stop sign at the top! Do you know how hard it is to do a track stance on a recumbent after climbing a 17% grade? Well, I pulled it off and continued along through the rolling countryside for another 3.5 miles.
My next pull continued through the rollers. I recall that official vehicle was still on the road and we were having a hard time finding a turnout that worked well for an exchange. We finally found something at the top of a small grade, JV and I crossed wheels and I was off. The rollers weren’t tall, but they were steep. So steep that my average speed for 5.5 miles was only 14.5mph! We finally did a hand-off outside of a campground area. The campground was quite busy with kids playing in the river and families BBQing a variety of non-vegetarian stuff!
JV got the remainder of the climb up Hwy 456, and then down into Mercerburg. The small town was rather busy, which explained why it took him so long. We parked outside of a church where Lee and I chatted while Bill talked with one of the members and played with a dog. I finally hit the road, realizing that at this point, we were probably losing more time on doc2doc. In fact, about halfway through the 9.9 mile pull, I took the computer off the bike and stuck it in my back pocket, and just enjoyed a beautiful afternoon ride through the rolling PA countryside. I still managed an 18mph pace, and really enjoyed the beautiful scenery. I remember a sign off to the side of the road “A father is someone you look up to, no matter how old you are.” Now it was right outside of a church, so the less-than-subtle religious overtones were not lost on me, but it got me thinking about my kids…always a good thing…
JV took over outside of Greencastle, and we drove forward to Waynesboro to wait for him. We arrived pretty quickly, and I spent about 10 minutes chatting with a family about the race, recumbents and all things cycling. They were very friendly and curious about what was going on, and were particularly intrigued by my recumbent and the fact that 6 days ago, I was in Oceanside, CA! As JV was pulling up, I told my crew to let JV know that I would take BOTH of the climbs that were coming up.
There were two climbs out of Waynesboro. The first was long and steep – about 2.3 miles and in the 6-10% range of grade. The road was cool and shady as we were just approaching sundown. Up over the top at 195w average was no problem. I cruised along the top and then bombed down the other side, hitting 50mph. By now, I was so used to riding this speed that I didn’t even give it a second though. As you can see by the profile, the descent gradually flattens out, then hits a short, steep descent before immediately starting up the next grade.
As I start up the next grade, I fly by JV and his van, parked in a driveway to set up for an exchange. They were far enough off the road that I had no warning, and went blowing by them. No problem, I figure. If JV wants the climb, it’s his and I can just use the next turnout. Well, there were a few problems here. First, there were no turnouts! The rules are very specific that you cannot stop in the middle of the road to load a bike, you cannot use turnouts on the left side, and you cannot ride backwards on the course. So, I was hammering away in my lowest gear and I had to keep climbing! The funny part was that JV was in the same predicament 50 feet behind me.
The absolute absurdity of this logistical blunder was not lost on me. I was laughing so hard that I could barely stay upright. On top of that, I was actually accelerating away from JV! We finally reached the top where my crew look at me like I am insane (I continued to laugh heartily for another 5 minutes), and JV continues on down the road (once he caught up). Yep, folks, I actually outclimbed JV!!!! I bet I will never get to say that again!
We pulled out to wait for JV just outside of Gettysburg. I’ve never been to Gettysburg, and was thoroughly enjoying the view from the plateau where we sat. I commented to Ron Bobb that I was disappointed that I never got to see a sunset during the race. Well, here I was at Gettysburg at sunset about to ride my last leg of the race (yes, I rode a little later on, but this was really the end, for all intents and purposes).
JV pulls in and off I go. The sun was setting off the back of my left shoulder, and I kept trying to ride while facing the other direction to watch the sun set. Naturally, I was all teary-eyed and happy…the roads were nice and monuments that I saw as we rode through the battlefields were intensely moving. I had just spent six days enjoying our beautiful country, and now I was riding through the battlefields of the most bloody war in the history of our country…a war that re-shaped the economic, social and political landscape of our country. It was truly moving and inspirational.
Of course, a last pull wouldn’t be appropriate without some bonus miles…I rode an extra mile before my van pulled me over, we threw the bike onto the back and drove back to where we had missed our turn. As I continued on through the hills, I started noticing flashing lights out of the corners of my eyes. I thought I was having a stroke until I realized they were lightning bugs! I couldn’t wait to call Shira, my daughter, and let her know I had found Leo! As I approached the RV, everyone was outside making a terrible noise…what was going on? Did I miss something? Apparently, this was standard procedure, but since I was never the last rider into the RV, I never got to experience this daily ritual…funny… I pulled over and Willie was off. There were hugs all around, and Travis Prebbles got it all on video.