I loved the format of that ride. There were about 100 miles that I thought should be on better roads. I'm told we hit them when there was a shift change at a large chicken packing plant, which made the traffic pretty miserable.
The first day was pretty nice, started out with a large pack riding up to the mountains. I've been climbing a lot, but I still can't climb worth a hoot. I had been doing some construction before the ride and got something in my eyes which made climbing even more of a chore. Anything over about 500 feet, I had to stop and let my eyes clear or I couldn't see. Not the best way to approach a day with so many climbs. The cue sheet has this note: "next 37 miles has a lot of climbing." This is after you have made the 5 mile climb up the Eastern Continental divide. Actually, there is about a 100 mile stretch where you are either climbing or descending. I had trouble keeping my legs in the game, and the last little bit in Virginia were a bit of a whine-fest for me. Fortunately, nobody was around to hear it. The descent down the Eastern Continental Divide was a hoot. There is an uphill in the middle for some reason -- someone put an uphill in my downhill.
Fortunately, some people caught me and navigated me in to the hotel, I was having trouble seeing. Managed to get back at 1am, got 3 hours of sleep and some quiet time before I got up and rode to Laurinburg. Before I left I managed to get whatever it was out of my eyes, so that was a relief. It was pretty hot after the fog burned off. Some really nice roads, but some the commuting traffic was unkind. In general, North Carolina drivers gave more than enough consideration to us. Us northerners aren't used to that. The only thing is they don't stop for stop signs. What's up with that?
Was not really expecting the hills further east, those are some big hills. Apparently they used to be huge. Noticed that Laurinburg closed at 8, didn't know what time it was so I hit the afterburners. Didn't really need to worry, I got there before 5. This is the halfway point on the ride. Ate some dinner and got going again to the beach. I had some traffic again going into Tabor City, probably the most obnoxious drivers on the whole ride. I guess it was ******* football fans, because the ride goes right by the field after the controle. Kinda disappointed since I was riding hard, I saw a sign that said I had only gone 5 miles and it felt like a lot more than that. I am not sure what happened, but I got to the controle pretty quickly after that.
After the controle, I headed out of town. Seemed like it took forever, probably because the highway department decided to save money on route signs. I was a little stressed by that. Most places on the route they had put route signs all over the place, on this 20 mile stretch there was only one. Got down to the beach and saw a bank sign with the time. It was not even midnight, so I was happy about that. Sat around and ate for a while with the lovely volunteers. Talked about the Penn State scandal. Took a shower, went to bed and got another 3+ hours sleep. Volunteers on this ride were great, I simply can't image sitting in Laurinburg for 3 days eating pizza, but they were always in good spirits.
Got back to Laurinburg and got 4 1/2 hours of sleep. Only 200k left. It was an absolutely awesome ride. A bit of climbing, but I was feeling good. Rode with some locals for a while but went a little crazy and rode hard for a while. This is my kind of climbing where you can power up a hill. Met up with some people at lunch and decided to tone it back and ride with them since there were so many turns. We got threatened by thunderstorms, but only got a few welcome drops. It was hot. I only managed to drop one of the group (kidding, what is wrong with me?) Got into Greensboro before 5 and got some beer and taco bell with the famous Olsen brothers and called it a day.
I have learned a lot about 1200k's since last year. The main thing for me is getting my eating dialed in. I didn't have any problems with that on this ride. The first day is worse than anything on PBP by a long shot, and I never got to the point of slowing because I hadn't eaten enough. Something new for me. Not sure how I would fix that on PBP, but I think they will let you bring perpetuum solids into the country, which is my food of choice right now. The other thing I learned is not to waste time sleeping in daylight and don't spend any more time at controles than you want to. I tend to sit around at controles, and this cuts into sleep time. I didn't have any issues with sleepiness on the bike this time around. Every once in a while I would get hit by a blast of hot air, and it would remind me that I was a little sleep deprived, but in general there were no major issues.
"Was not really expecting the hills further east, those are some big hills. Apparently they used to be huge."
Those would be the Uwharries. Ancient mountain chain, now worn down. Interestingly, those "further east" hills are actually due south of Greensboro (and a tiny bit west if someone wants to be a stickler about it). The Uwharries have some steep stuff hidden in them. Tony didn't put you on Flint Hill Rd -- be thankful -- I know at least two of the locals waved at Flint Hill Rd as they rode by on Ophir Rd (one local randonneuse refers to Ophir Rd as "Oh Fear Rd"). Raleigh RBA Alan Johnson told me that when he was scouting roads, in his truck, for the NCBC Raleigh 400 brevet route, he knew he had found a good randonneuring road when his truck could barely make it up Flint Hill Rd. Alan also laments that the DOT replaced the bridge over the creek on Abner Rd with a newer, bigger bridge, that does not goes as deeply into the creek valley as the older, shorter bridge did. (Alan uses the same routes each year -- they become special friends.)
One of those volunteers at Laurinburg was Maria (RUSA #8001 -- you figure it out). She has at least some UMCA background. She apparently rode the 1200, solo, a week or so prior, in 69h34, and then worked that whole time in Laurinburg. Crazy!!
My experience is that most vehicles in most of the country (geographically speaking) tend to roll stop signs. Interestiingly, some of us NC randos are occasionally amazed at the way some randos from other places (some quite close to NC) don't even slow down for stop signs and also appear to not even look. Too many almost-blind corners for me to do that.
Some of the high school football games got moved to Thursday so people would come to the games instead of staying home Friday night to watch the NC State football game.
that's interesting about the football games, I figured it was junior varsity or something. It was nice once the game started, nobody was passing me.
I don't think how impressed we were with how nice most of the drivers were. It was a little disconcerting to have people refusing to pass, and when they did pass it was with more than enough room. Never had one of those drivers get angry. There was one guy in the first morning that had to pass the full 50 riders that had a temper tantrum.
I also am a little surprised at how bad randos are with stop signs. I'm getting more conservative in my old age, I figure I might miss something so I usually stop. I guess it's a double standard, but I expect motorists to at least slow down. I think as bad as stop sign running is around here, NC motorists would probably get pulled over for running stop signs occasionally if they came to visit happy valley.