After the first rest stop, I connected with Matthew and Harper, and we rode together in a paceline that included Bud, who is 75 years old. After the second rest stop, Harper decided to ride in the van to the last rest stop, and Matthew got to ride with the lead riders and hammer it for the remaining 20 miles.
The last stop was at a visitors center where we planned to gather and ride to the church together in Madison, just outside of Jackson. A police escort was arranged to take us the last 5 miles to the church. Riding together in a group of 30 riders behind a police car with its lights flashing, with two additional police cars alternating ahead to block all the intersections for us, was a great finish to this ride. We were almost a half-block long, occupying a full lane of traffic on a busy street. Our oldest rider, Jack, who is 85, led the group, with his American flag on his bike. Halfway to the church, Jack’s bike threw a chain, and he had to pull over. Nearly before he got off his bike, another rider had pulled next to him and put the chain back on. The group had stopped (which forced the police car to stop) and waited until Jack got back to the front --- a nice touch which showed what kind of people we ride with.
The riders were another great group of people to be riding with and getting to know, at least a little. We very quickly came together as a well-functioning, coordinated unit. We all had our assigned work group leaders for preparing meals, packing the trailer, cleaning the churches, etc. Someone told me the average age of this group was 51 (the oldest, 85, and the youngest, 14) which I find interesting for a spring ride, organized to allowed those still in school to participate in the ride. On a side note, a rider younger than 18 needs an adult sponsor to be riding with, and of course Harper had Matthew (her dad) and me (Gramps) to keep an eye on her.
This ride was particularly difficult for me, mostly because I didn’t prepare with enough saddle time before the ride, so was not in good enough shape to enjoy the actual ride itself. And, of course, not enough miles in before, means a sore butt on the ride! Plus, the weather conditions, not being ideal, took take a big toll on the body. Once I start training for the summer ride I‘ll see how my body reacts.
Sunday: We rented three minivans to get everybody back to Nashville this morning. Each minivan has a driver, three passengers, four bikes, and some luggage. The Fuller van has a driver, nine passengers, the remaining bikes, the remaining luggage, and all the coolers and supplies. So off we go, in a vehicle paceline back to Nashville. Some were taken to the airport to fly home, some were picked up in Madison, and one was even biking home. Oh, yeah, it’s raining again as we drive back to Nashville.
In spite of my struggling with the biking, the trip was a total delight. Having Matthew and especially Harper along was great. Getting to interact with Harper, watching her interact with the other riders, working the build day with her, and especially getting to share my supply of cookies with her -- ah, life is good. One highlight stands out above the others: when the three of us rode past as our photographer was taking our pictures, Harper said, "I hope I didn't have any snot dripping out my nose."
I’ll try to post a link to the Fuller site with pictures, as soon as I get home. And, I’ll post a few here when I get home...hmm, maybe a blog of pictures?