Friday, Go Jim Go day three, a big day on every level, big group, big mileage, big buffet and a big donation from big hearted rider.
We rolled out of the Olive Branch YMCA at around 0745 with perfect temps, but under overcast skies and the general consensus from the many amateur meteorologists and the one professional was that it “smelled like rain”.
Biggest pack thus far as we were joined by a large group from the Hernando Bike Club, a great crew of jovial guys and strong riders. They have been big supporters of Jim since the early years. Riding today from the HBC was Captain and peleton DJ Bo McAninch, Kevin and Roy McCarty, Mike Smith, Jody Akins and Kevin Bouchard. Other riders today, Karen Lamport from the Methodist Le Bonheur corporate office, Aida Wiese, Mark Underwood, Matt “Fighter Pilot” Wengler and returning from Brown Baptist was Eric White and Vance Smith. As always, Wayne “The Brain”, “Little Steven” Kuhar, Donna, myself and of course the “King of the Cold Fronts”, Mr. Jaggers.
A large group of riders always makes any ride more fun and enjoyable, but very dicey fair when you have such a large group navigating at times some of the heaviest traveled streets in DeSoto County where under any other circumstances no sane bike rider would dare to go. This is all made possible by the thankless efforts of the support team in the pace car and follow vehicles.
Holly Ford, Channel 3 project manager, aka GJG pace car driver not only has to drive the lead car, but has to work with Wayne to navigate the route, constantly keep a safe distance from the lead riders, work the phones with schools and sponsors, keep track of fundraising totals, make sure we are where we need to be in adequate time to meet all the live broadcast details, keep a brand new 2013 Ford Escape sponsor’s donated vehicle safe and not run over any elementary kids. Tough gig, to say the least, but she gets it done and all the riders owe her great thanks.
Karen Malagorski follows in the Bikes Plus maintenance vehicle bringing up the rear of our semi-safe traffic cocoon. Ready to deploy at a moments notice to deal with whatever cycling malfunction that may and does occur with the speed of a NASCAR pit crew.
And shout out to our man Keith who is driving our massive RV from Southaven RV! The thing is huge and he often has to navigate what seems like a barge in a wading pool. Places where you wouldn’t expect to see an RV. Baby got back. These generous and accommodating people have to keep focus and diligence all day long making this event possible and keeping us safe. Thanks so much to all.
I was really impressed with the Friday pack of riders. A sometimes down side to a large group of bike riders coming together for the first time is the many different levels of experience, skills and fitness. A group of cyclists is safer and faster when the basics of pack riding are utilized by the group. Formation riding is not something that just happens; it requires skill, focus and awareness. Failure to respect many things like the distance between wheels, riding smooth, predictable lines or announcing the never ending conveyor belt of road hazards, can instantly result in the high speed introduction of bare skin to hard asphalt or worse – destroyed carbon fiber bike parts. Our group was very conscientious and despite a very minor spill resulting in nothing more than a few expletives, everybody did great on a long, challenging ride. Una punta del cappuccio di ciclismo! (a tip of the cycling cap)
I would like to offer a sincere thanks to the team at Country Ford for the tremendous lunch spread they had waiting for us hungry riders. Energy bars, trail mix and sports drinks can only get you so far. Really appreciate your hospitality and real (healthy) food!
So it ends, after my four straight years of absolutely perfect, dry Go Jim Go weather, Friday delivered on the earlier prognosticated precipitation. Shortly after lunch, the northwest sky turned a very sour shade of grey, but despite looking like we would be slapped with an angry fall thundershower, we were treated to about a 45 minute gentle, cooling shower. We all got doused and the road got a little sketchy, but honestly it was rather pleasant. And oh yeah, my bike is dirty again.
It is so adorable to see the little ones with their colorful signs and the team was blown away by the reception at Whitehaven High School. Said WHHS happens to be the alma mater of none other than GJG Team Navigator, Wayne Lichliter. In a move almost as dangerous as riding a bike on Goodman Road, we hurriedly traveled the mirror polished tile floors of the high school hallway wearing our slippery, wet cleated cycling shoes in hopes to locate one photo on the presumably long lost senior class picture of WHHS Class of 1970. A difficult mission considering the tight schedule we were on. Once again, thank you to all the students, teachers and administrators for your efforts for Le Bonheur and the warm welcome we got at every stop.
We found ourselves back at the YMCA where we started at around 1530 with a total of 153.3 miles logged this week. It was there that I found out that today’s rider Michael Smith individually raised over $3000 for the cause. Wow! Mike, had I known you were such a Le Bonheur golden boy, I would have given you full access to the wet bar in my RV dressing room. Guess you’ll have to repeat next year. Seriously, thank you Mike. You can suck my wheel* anytime. (*Note: “Sucking wheel” is not a borderline vulgar insult; it is cycling terminology for one rider to ride closely to the rear wheel of another rider. The second rider travels in the draft created by the lead rider. Since the lead rider is pushing through the air or headwind like a wedge the second rider is doing 30-50% less effort to travel at the same speed. Unless you are held in high regard in the pack such as Mike or Jim, sucking too much wheel can lead to ire and disdain from your fellow riders.)
A sincere acknowledgement to DeSoto County for your incredible hospitality. I still cannot get over how much love we got from all the North Mississippi motorists. The reality of a cyclist is that on any other day, never are the honks a friendly salutation, but quite the opposite, so thank you for your tolerance, smiles, waves, toot-toots and passing safely. Jim really deserves it.
Grey as the skies on Friday afternoon has my mood been since seeing the forecast for the Forrest City ride Monday. We have been on an incredible good weather run, but it looks as if Monday will be a harsh end to our Cinderella weather. Looks like a long, soggy day at the office. Checking eBay now for a scuba suit with chamois pad.