Dirt Sweat and Gears – the details

Its 8:50 on Thursday morning and we’re about 30 – 40 miles from the exit where we’re supposed to meet Shari and Robin at 9:00.  I decide its time to give them a call.  When I grab my phone, I see that I’d missed a call just 2 minutes prior, from Shari.

my friends, the scurrsYou know you’re traveling with the right people when you call to tell them you’re going to be late, and they cheer loudly upon hearing the news.  Not only were they also running late – they were only a few miles further along than we were.  Apparently, we were all so excited to go on vacation that we forgot it was a weekday – forgot about rush hour entirely.  uh .. oops 🙂

We’d decided earlier in the week to make a stop in Nashville on the way down for an exclusive, one-night-only, This American Life event.  We made it there in perfect time for a good dinner before the show.  The whole thing was worth the detour.

We finally reached our hotel in Fayetteville and decided that we didn’t need to get moving too early the next day since the SSUSA part of the race didn’t get started until noon – there was no real rush to get there since we were just going to be spectators anyway.  Sometime around 10:00 on Friday, we made our way to Rachel’s – a very greasy restaurant next door to the hotel.  They had a breakfast buffet with all of your southern breakfast favorites – we couldn’t resist.  The biscuits were fabulous 🙂

We got to the venue a little before noon, found a spot to set up our tent for the next day, picked up our registration packets and watched the start of the SSUSA race.  In true singlespeeder fashion, there were costumes and beer chugging.

The SSUSA race was broken into 3 stages – a trail ride, a jeep road climb, and a gladiator style duel.  We missed the 3rd stage since we wanted to get a ride in before the rain came.  We were lucky enough to take our time on the ride and miss the rain entirely.  In fact, it didn’t start raining until after we’d eaten dinner and settled back in at that hotel.

This was the first time I rode the Bandersnatch since I’d swapped out the cranks, switched handlebars, changed stem and added the Ergon grips.  I was delighted with how well everything fit together.

So, the course was tough – the first 4.5 miles or so had the longest of the climbs – long and rocky.  But once we made our way to the “top”, the course changed character to more short, steep, technical climbs.  Rocks everywhere – big flat ones, round babyhead ones, pointy square ones.  Have I mentioned how much I really love riding over rocks?  Really.  I do.  And riding over rocks on a steel 29er?  Well, lets just say that I’ve jumped ship and my bike woes might just be over.

After our ride, we decided against the $10 pasta dinner and took the recommendation of the hotel receptionist to have steaks at “The Barn”.  And boy did we have steaks!

We decided on a 7:15 start to head to the race course on Saturday.  Included with our entry was a free pancake breakfast and there’s just NO WAY I’m going to pass up free pancakes.  It rained all night long, but stopped as we were loading up the Jeep on Saturday morning.  We’d already decided that Robin was going first, but now we realized that it was a good decision since he was riding a SS and had the lefty fork – bikes out preriding the course that morning were coming back crazy mud covered.

Robin’s lap was long.  He’s a fast dude, but it took him nearly 2 hours to finish his lap.  We watched as racers ran through the finish area carrying bikes with broken derailures hangers and covered in big thick heavy mud.  Robin offered to do a second lap while it dried up, but Shari was geared up and ready to do.  We decided to meet her at “the top” to hand of a water bottle if she needed.  When she got there, she was mud-free and smiling.  She was having a good ride, and she was having fun.

Nick took the 3rd lap and made great time.  We waited for him toward the end of the lap at the “whoop de doo” section for a photo op.  When he came through the section, he had his jersey unzipped as far as it would go – the sun was out and it was HUMID in those woods.  Nick finished his lap in about an hour and a half.

My lap started off slow, but I was making great time in the first section where all the climbing was.  I walked my fair share, but I rode as much as I could (and more than I’d expected).  I made it to the “top”, kind of expecting to see the crew up there, but was feeling good, so I didn’t mind when they weren’t.  The next 3 miles were brutal though.  That’s where all the short, steep, rocky climbs are.  And that’s when my bike started to get a little flaky.  I think it had to do with the chain being long enough for the old crankset – but when I was in the top 2 cogs of my cassette and put too much pressure on the cranks (as in – climbing a steep hill full of rocks), my chain would drop all the way to the small cog, making a horrible noise and causing me to swear loudly.  I found myself walking much more than I did on Friday, but it worked out as most of the time I was being passed by a pro rider anyway.

I was surprised when I didn’t see the crew at the “whoop de doo” section – I thought for sure I’d see them there.  But as I rode by, I figured they were kicking back, eating BBQ – and I couldn’t blame them.  Imagine my surprise when there was no one in our tent when I rode by at the finish.  After exiting the shoot and coming back around to the tent, though, Robin was there getting ready to ride.

“When did you get back?” he asked.

“I just got in, right now”

“Well, call Nick – they’ve been at the whoop de doos waiting for you!” he responded.

I told him the course was in perfect shape and it seemed he couldn’t get on his bike fast enough.  He was excited about getting in a good lap.

I decided to walk over to the whoop de doos, since it wasn’t far from our tent site and it would be fun to see the looks on their faces when I came walking up – I wasn’t dissapointed.  They said they waited for me at the top for a long time before they realized that I must have already come through.  Being in this for nothing but fun, no one was really paying attention to the clock, and I think there was a trip to the fried pies vendor that got things confused.  I understood completely – we were on vacation!

Robin’s second lap came in around an hour and twenty some minutes.  He came in smiling and ready to be done for the day.  We quickly moved on to the free BBQ dinner portion of the race.  And let me tell you what – it was wonderful.

post script – I have more to tell about the festival itself, the weekend, the pros, etc.. but I’ve blathered on enough for one post.  I also intended on posting more pictures but am fighting with a wordpress/theme issue an its not been going well.  One day, I hope to put all of my pictures up on my smugmug account, and make an imovie of our weekend.  Today is not that day.

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