While this ride was quite the adventure in and of itself, it was especially meaningful to me because it completed the circle (or in this case 1,128 mile “triangle”) that started two and a half years ago with the inaugural Nashville to Natchez ride put on by Tim Hall to raise money for Team Red, White, and Blue as indicated by the map above.
Nashville,TN to Natchez, MS – JULY 2013
Tim Hall invited me to ride in this charity event during the summer of 2013. In addition to raising funds for Team Red, White, and Blue, I thought it would be a great test run on the Race Across America. My reasoning is if I couldn’t handle seven high mileage days in a row, there would be no way I could complete the Race Across America. Here’s a link to the blog post with all the details and pics, but here is a quick summary: my wife drove me up to Nashville with the kids where we had dinner with our cousins and then I raced the LP Field Wednesday night crit. The next morning, Kristine and the kids cheered our group on as we left from the north end of the parkway on a 4-day ride south to Natchez.
Natchez, MS to Birmingham, AL – JULY 2013
This was the real test for RAAM as I had just finished riding 444 miles with the team, and then needed to ride nearly the same amount again to get back home to Birmingham. This time I picked the most rural roads I could find and struggled to find water frequently. Here’s a video toward the end of the last day when I had run out of water again.
Nashville, TN to Birmingham, AL 1.0 – DECEMBER 2013
The ride down to Natchez was amazing, and it was really great to get to know the guys on the trip better during the long days on the bike. One of those guys was Philip Martindale, who was getting into the wheel design business. He asked me a few months later if I would be willing to durability test an early prototype of his Martindale 6.0 wheels (60mm deep and 25mm wide rims). I was excited to test the wheels and offered to pick them up when we went up to Nashville to watch the Andrew Peterson concert at the Ryman. The plan was for me to ride the wheels home to Birmingham the next day, but Nashville was having unusually cold weather, and I spent several hours of the ride heading south in 10-12 degF temps leading to the formation of these icicles on my beard outside of Lewisburg, TN.
I stopped in Lewisburg for a while to warm up my feet, and ended up being way behind schedule so Kristine bailed me out near Hayden, Alabama with over 60 miles still left to ride to get home.
Birmingham, AL to Nashville, TN 2.0 – DECEMBER 2015
All of this finally leads us to my ride on Monday from Birmingham up to Nashville on the same set of wheels Philip had given me to durability test well over 30,000 miles later. It started out dry with a super strong 20-25 mph tailwind on Hwy 31 north. Right as I hit AL-160, I felt the temperature plummet and a few minutes later a torrential downpour. I stopped underneath a shed on the side of the road and put on all my rain gear and soldiered on, absolutely freezing in the downpour with just shorts and short sleeves. Thankfully, I did have a sleeveless rain vest which I zipped all the way up and this kept my core at least a little bit warm. I rode hard and still had a bit of a tailwind, but not quite as strong. Eventually, I made it to Decatur where I found a waffle house where I could dry out and wait for the worst of the rain to pass over. I had brought a second set of shorts in my backpack and switched to those as the rain had about ended by the time I had drunk enough coffee and hot chocolate to warm back up.
By the time I crossed the Tennessee River, the rain had mostly stopped, and it turned into a beautiful hot day with the tailwind still blowing up from the south even after the storm passed over. Eventually, the wind turned more from the west at about the time my route also veered west – so I had some sections with a strong headwind for a bit. But since I was climbing and weaving through all the hollows, the headwind sections were never more than a few minutes. Southern Tennessee is just so amazing. Here was my favorite two pictures from that part of the ride: