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9.4.3 PAC tours across the country 94 Part 3


This article is from the Misc Bicycles FAQs, by various authors.

9.4.3 PAC tours across the country 94 Part 3

When we finally found the stop many miles down the road, we discovered
that the reason for the relocation was a cranky cemetery watchman.
Snack stops and lunch stops vary from wide spots in the road to road
side picnic areas, abandoned stores, parking lots, church picnic
areas, etc. We roll in, setup a few small tables with snacks and
drinks, a few benches, and trash bags. We clean up thoroughly and
leave no evidence that we were ever there. Some of the snack stops can
be chosen ahead of time like roadside parks or church picnic areas.
Wide spots in the road are chosen by the crew on the fly.

This particular stop was listed as a church picnic area, but
apparently the cemetery caretaker felt we were trespassing and ordered
people off of the church property, somewhat forcibly, with a gun, and
threats to call the authorities. Victor packed up the snacks and moved
on. Apparently the caretaker called the police and that was his
undoing, since the police seemed almost eager for Victor to press
charges regarding the threats. The police were actually quite friendly
and supportive of us. This served to revive my good impressions of
cycling in Texas.

So we finally started the time trial, a few miles later than planned.
And it was a good thing. Lon had described the course as flat, and it
was anything but. I'm not afraid of hills, but I knew that a tandem
and three singles would have a little trouble staying together on this
terrain. The route flattened a bit, but still had a few good climbs.
Despite averaging almost 30 mph, we still fell off the back on some of
the climbs. But the team worked together to keep us around, since we
were such an assett on the flats and downhill.

I have never ridden so intensely in my life. For the first 4 or 5
miles, I was sure my heart was going to explode through my rib cage at
any moment. I was sure I would not be able to hang on for 27 miles the
way I felt, but suddenly I got into a good rhythm and while I was
still working harder than I ever had, I felt better.

Then we hit construction. We actually had to stop while a bulldozer
pulled out in front of us. We got through after a minute, but what lay
ahead of us was dirt and mud. We hammered right through it and back up
to speed. We passed through several of these mud patches, and soon we
were all covered in mud from the knees down. We kept cranking along.

Near the end, Lon drove by and told us we were doing well, although we
had lost Roger a minute or so before. The timer would stop on the
third bike, so each team could lose one rider. We were really excited
and just kept going at 30+ mph until we finally reached the finish
line, where we all stood and sprinted across the line for a time of 56
minutes, 6 seconds. Apparently I wasn't the only one working harder
than ever before. John discovered a new max. heart rate of 200 bpm at
the end. All this was good enough for third place !

The fourteenth day carried us from Texarkana to Greenfield, Arkansas.
The first order of business was a stop at the local tire shop to
replace the tires on the trailers. A blowout the day before had served
to point out the age of the tires on both trailers, so Lon arranged to
slip into a local Cooper's at opening time. After that, we stopped at
a carwash to hose down the van, trailer, and our bike (up on top) to
wash off all the mud of the day before. Unfortunately I still haven't
gotten it out of my socks !

The highlight of the day was driving through Hope, birthplace of
President Clinton. We knew this because billboards and banners
proclaimed it throughout town.

We counted down the miles on the ride to Helena on Day 15, by reading
all the billboards for the Lady Luck Casino, located just across the
Mississippi River. These were worse than the old South of the Border
signs on I-95. So with the goal of losing money in the casino, we
flew across this gently rolling part of Arkansas. We took it fairly
easy in the morning as we rode along with George, Steve and Muffy. We
earned George's company by loaning him a spanner with which he
adjusted his saddle from being very uncomfortably nose up to a more
children-possible-in-his-future level position. He had apparently
ridden Team RAAM with this setup earlier in the summer and was just
now coming to realize how painful it was. He was forever grateful
after borrowing our tools.

Shortly before lunch, we took a turn that allowed us to go from a
tough crosswind to an incredible tailwind. All in all, this ride had a
lot of tailwind, and we thoroughly enjoyed every single bit of it. We
flew into lunch at a local gin factory - cotton gin that is.

After reading the billboards all day, we had to cross the river and
check out the casino. We parked the bike out front and got $5 worth of
quarters to feed the slot machines. We left when we ran out of
quarters. It didn't take long !

One of our reasons for crossing the river was to get a few pedal
strokes of riding in Mississippi. The next day was a work day, and we
had planned to traded the day after that, a flat day, for a
mountainous day later in the trip. But Gladys offered to let us ride
to the second snack stop, if we promised to ride really hard. So the
next morning we packed up breakfast and hammered off into the sunrise.
Much to my surprise, Mississippi had a few hills, but they were great
tandem rollers and we just flew along, trying to make good on our
promise. We reached the second stop just as the first riders were
pulling away, loaded the bike and hopped in the van to head off and
set up lunch.

Unfortunately a detour in the route caused us to get lost, and we
drove an extra 20 miles on our way to lunch. We eventually got back on
course and found a good spot to set up, again getting the food out
just as riders rolled in.

Day 17 followed the Natchez Trace for many beautiful miles. The day
was beautiful, sunny and warm. We had been having relatively cool
temperatures since that rainy day in Texas, and the warmth was
welcomed by all. This was another short day, with lunch at the motel,
so John and I were able to slip back out for a short afternoon ride,
where we had a wonderful time getting buzzed by crop dusters.

The next day, we headed back into the mountains. Unfortunately, the
tiny little roads through Tennessee Amish country were too small for
the lunch van, so we took main roads around to the lunch stop. John
and I again tried to sneak in a ride, by setting up lunch and then
heading backwards on the course until we saw riders. We didn't make it
very far before having to turn back.

After three days of not really riding, we finally reaped the rewards
with three days of riding in the mountains, starting in Lewisburg,
Tennessee. We rolled out in the morning in the company of Mike Myers
stoking the tandem with Lon. We played tandem games for a while and
really pushed the pace up some big hills. After three days of rest, we
were like newly freed formerly caged animals. At the first snack stop,
I asked Lon if he couldn't find another victim, uh er stoker, so we
could keep playing. He called Ray over.

Ray is a real hammerhead that we met earlier in the year and rode with
for a few miles of BMB, before he took off and toasted the course. Ray
had been racing, but it was often hard to tell race days from non-race
days, since he hammered along all the time. We surmised that he was
probably one of the strongest riders on the tour, if not the
strongest. With Ray stoking, we'd never see them again, so we decided
to roll out and let them catch us. It took a while, but we began to
feel the ground shake as the pounding of cranks pushed their bike
closer to us. We latched on and played past the second snack stop.
They decided to turn back, but we pressed on toward lunch.

Lon climbed back on his single after lunch and pushed us over Mont
Eagle. By pushed, I mean that he stayed with us and made us ride much
faster than we would have alone. Ray and his roommate, Dean were also
along shaming us into keeping up the pace. We'd ridden with Dean a
fair amount on the trip. Dean does a lot of tandeming with his wife
and understood the dynamics enough to enjoy riding with us. We all
enjoyed the descent off the mountain and the rollers going into

The hills in north Georgia came as a surprise to some. Day 20 included
a race that originally was scheduled to end on top of Burnt Mountain,
but Lon mercifully cut the race short and planned the finish line at
the lunch stop on top of a smaller mountain. The climb up Burnt was
pretty tough, and heat and humidity didn't help. It was the first time
on the trip that I really found myself struggling with the heat. Just
before the top, we met a friend of Ray's who had come out to ride part
of the day with us. We had a pretty good time on the descent, once
passing the obstacle of a guard dog who charged riders just after they
crested the hill.

I must say I was caught a bit off guard by the climbs going into
Gainesville. Ray had warned us about them, but I couldn't really trust
anyone who ALWAYS used his BIG chainring. We had noticed this on BMB,
and PAC Tour. Ray claimed he had used the small one a few times, but
we hadn't witnessed it.

We rolled into Gainesville pretty beat after a good workout on all the
climbs, and I tried to slip in a massage before the lunch van arrived
and we started back to work. A couple of local riders came out to meet
the group, and even went to pick of food for the crew, and help us
with laundry. John and I desperately needed to stay up and wash
clothes, but when Scott and Melinda offered to take them home and do
them for us, it was hard to say no.

They delivered freshly laundered clothes the next morning and joined
us for the first part of our ride toward Greenwood, South Carolina. I
believe we recruited Melinda for next year's southern crossing, and
almost managed to recruit both of them for the final two days of
riding. But responsibilities called and they turned back.

Day 22 from Greenwood to Orangeburg was to include a flat time trial
for the final day of racing. John and I were back to work after three
days of riding, so we couldn't exactly sneak in another and do the
time trial, especially since it finished at lunch. After riding
together a little the day before, Muffy and Susan decided to try the
time trial on Susan's tandem. Driving along the course we started to
wonder exactly what Lon considered flat as the route rolled up and
down some pretty steep hills. I couldn't wait to hear the comments
from the racers about the flat route. The best came from Mike Rourke,
who said that if Lon's sister were as flat as that course that he'd
still go out with her !

The weather for this trip had been absolutely amazing, with the
exception of that one cold rainy day in Texas. But our good luck
wouldn't hold, and a light drizzle started during the race. I had
talked with Ray about trying the tandem in the afternoon, and decided
to get some use out of my raingear after all. Ray had stoked with Lon,
and I'd watched him ride his single long enough to have the confidence
to get him on the front and go. He'd started to think about getting a
big bike to ride with his wife, and I figured I could help encourage
him to take the plunge. We had a great ride. I tried to explain the
concept of changing gears to him. He explained to me that in north
Georgia, you either change gears constantly or just stand and deal
with the constantly changing terrain. He was in the stand and deal
with it school. But we got along great anyway.

At the last snack stop of the day, a playful puppy and some killer
ants teamed up to chew on my ankle and steal my socks. While I was
trying to kill the ants that were feasting on my flesh, I pulled off
my socks and the playful little pup took off with them. I eventually
got help from all the folks standing around laughing uncontrollably
and we rolled out for the end of the day.

The final day from Orangeburg to Folly Beach was a blast, despite the
steady downpour we faced all day. Susan and Gladys found a great
church with a large covered porch for lunch. The hot soup was again a
great hit with wet riders. Most riders were so excited to be on the
final day of their cross country trek that they hardly noticed the
rain anyway.

Karen accomplished a PAC Tour first, by riding her first century ever
on PAC Tour. As a crew member, she had been riding partial days every
day, and built up the strength and courage to do that first century.

I remember the emotion I felt last year when we reached the coast in
Virginia, and I looked around and saw this incredible sense of
accomplishment on riders faces as we rode the final miles together.
The hike down to the beach was great. Since everyone was already
soaked, most simply walked right in. This was the hardest part about
crewing for us, missing that great emotional high at the end. We had a
fabulous trip, and got in quite a few miles, but didn't quite have
that same sense of accomplishment of riding all the way coast to
coast. But the gratitude that the riders showed to the crew did help
make up for it. I remember last year how it was the positive attitude
of the crew that often got me through, and I tried to share that same
thing with riders this year. At least I hope I did.

Well, we are doing it again next year, as full time riders again, this
time not from coast to coast, but from border to border as we travel
through the Rockies from Mexico to Canada on PAC Tour's Ridge of the
Rockies. It does seem to be becoming an annual trip for us, and with
good reason. Lon and Susan put on a marvelous ride. Maybe we'll see
you next time.

Copyright 1994 by Pamela Blalock


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