After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast it was time for an early start on the first day of the Gulf Coast Challenge. The first day was to take us a whopping 47 miles from Atlanta toward Columbus.
Starting off we were in a parade formation, with the “low boys” (i.e. recumbents and hand-cycles) in the lead until we’d gathered at City Hall where the mayor gave us a speech about something or another. I confess I didn’t really pay too much attention since he wasn’t going to be riding with us.
Once that was over we moved out, splitting into three groups. The lead group was called “Group 1,” the second was “Group 2,” and the third was “Group Delta,” (also referred to as “Delta Force”. On earlier rides groups were all referred to by letters, and there were four. So the last group’s name was simply a remnant from the earlier rides.
Not having ever done one of these rides and also because I was on an unfamiliar bike I rolled with Group 2. Why over-tax oneself. Right?
As the first half of the ride wore away I came to regret that decision. Group 2 was moving too slowly for my taste. At the lunch break I spoke to one of the guys from Group 1 (“Jordan”) who suggested that I simply switch over. I went to look for someone I’d been riding with, but was unable to find him before Group 1 set off at the end of their lunch break, hence I ended up rolling out with Group 2 again…only to find that “Mitch” (the fellow I’d been riding with) was nowhere to be found. He’d done exactly what I’d been wanting to do, namely switch group.
Lunch complete Group 2 rolled again, and I was joking around with another guy. As I yelled something or another my top denture separated and was ejected. I saw it bouncing in the road, which had a half-dozen or so support vehicles in our lane following us and dozens of vehicles moving along the opposite lane.
Dentures are obviously an integral part of eating anything other than baby food, so I came to a stop as quickly as possible, and dismounted. One of the support riders was yelling, asking why I was stopping. I told him I’d lost my dentures, although I’m pretty sure it wasn’t put very politely.
As I searched for my dentures I saw the van which my Sergeant Major was driving, and stuck head in the passenger window and asked, “Have you seen my dentures?” The look on his face and his passenger’s — a rider who’d fallen out — was priceless…and I heard about this incident for days and days afterwards.
I finally managed to find them as the traffic cleared up. They were laying right, smack-dab in the middle of the road, almost perfectly centered on a stripe. I quickly inspected them, and to my utter amazement found no chips, scrapes or tire tracks on them. I cleaned them off as best I could and popped them back in. A support rider had stayed behind to escort me back to the group. Her name was Amber, and she is a middle-age woman who stands about 5′ 2″ (157 cm) tall. She’s a pretty strong rider, and can lay down the V when she needs to.
“Okay, we’re gonna have to catch up to the group now. Are you ready to kick it?” asked Amber. I gave her the affirmative, and on her signal I started to lay down the V. Not going all-out, because I had no idea how far ahead of us the group was, but definitely letting my leg muscles give some of the effort they’d been begging for the whole ride.
All too quickly we caught up to Group 2 because they’d stopped to wait for us. My legs were disappointed by this, and maybe I should have berated the other riders were cutting my sprint short. Amber latter informed me that according to her Strava we’d been going at least 32 mph (51.5 kph).
This was the shortest ride of the challenge, and we soon were were at…well, I actually don’t remember where the endpoint was, but all too soon we were there, and our bikes were loaded into a truck and were loaded into buses. I slept through most of the two hour bus ride, and then we unloaded at a hotel. The word I got was that dinner was only 12 miles away, so Mitch and I were joking about riding our bikes there because another 24 miles sounded just like more of what we wanted.
The word was incorrect, however. It turned out that we were bused 35 miles to Ft. Benning, where we had dinner at the Infantry Museum. Since I wasn’t told where we were having dinner I didn’t take my camera, which was a pity. I hadn’t been to Ft. Benning since 2006, and what used to be “Home of the Infantry” is now “the Maneuver Center of Excellence.” Lots of changes, that’s for sure. Hell, even the main gate had been revamped with lots of statuary.
Mitch and I found ourselves glad we hadn’t talked our way into another 70 miles of riding. We also vowed to move with Group 1 the next day.
All-in-all an interesting opening day.
Yours in Bikeyness,