Today I joined two of my bestest cycling buddies, Rozmo and VT, for a "little" bicycle ride on the Silver Comet Trail, an awesome multi-use trail built from a former railroad track. Because it used to be a railroad track, there is very little grade and few hills. [I read somewhere that a railroad couldn't have more than a 3% grade, but I'm not sure of the veracity of that statement. Don't you love words like "veracity"?]
No hills is the good news. The bad news is that you have to pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, and then pedal some more. No coasting here -- at least not much.
The "little" ride turned out to be 75 miles. I say that as if they tricked me into riding that distance, but that is not really accurate. You pretty much know the length of any ride on the Silver Comet Trail -- it's wherever you are multiplied by 2. Because unless you have a chauffeur, your only choice is to ride back from whence you came. At some points on the trail it isn't even POSSIBLE to be picked up by the hypothetical chauffeur.
We rode that far because our objective was to have lunch at Frankie's, a wonderful Italian restaurant in Rockmart, Georgia. It would be wonderful even if it DID have tons of competition -- which it doesn't. Frankie caters to cyclists, because her restaurant is very near where the trail comes out in Rockmart. She doesn't mind that we're sweaty and stinky and generally not very attractive when we get there. She welcomes us warmly, plies us with food and drink, fills up our water bottles and/or camelback reservoirs, and has us sign the wall in her back room. Her food is delicious, and everyone is extremely accommodating. Rozmo didn't care for the garlic bread sticks [WHAT IS WRONG WITH HER?], so they brought her some that didn't have garlic. I had fettucinni alfredo with chicken, and I could easily have curled up in the corner and died from sheer happiness. But I had 37 miles to ride back.
Today was a wonderful ride. I was even in FRONT of the group for a lot of the time. I said I was going to come home and kiss my elliptical, because I'm sure that made a huge difference in my power and stamina today. Other times we were able to ride three abreast, taking up the whole trail. There are long stretches of the trail that are in very remote areas. When you start seeing people with strollers and dogs, you know you're approaching civilization.
The last time I rode the trail was NOT a pleasant experience. I rode with VT and Rozmo that day too, and it was miserable. Looking back now, I think I may have had some symptoms of mild heatstroke. I drank and drank and drank and drank, even when Rozmo did NOT tell me to, and I thought I was well hydrated. When we got to Rockmart, I was about to die to go to the bathroom. But when I got there, I. Could. Not. Pee. That was one of the most miserable experiences in my life, up to and including childbirth.
This happened on a Tuesday. We rode up to Frankie's door, and I was in front. Rozmo shouted, "What time does she open?"
We had ridden 37 miles to eat at a restaurant that wasn't even open that day.
So we went to a sub-par barbecue restaurant, where I still couldn't pee, and when my lunch got there, I couldn't eat. I had ridden 37 miles on my bicycle, and my only choice was to ride 37 miles back, and I could not eat a bite. Rozmo went to the store and got me a Gatorade, and my friends were kind enough to stop frequently and allow me to lie down on the side of the trail. I was never so glad to get to the end of a ride as I was that day.
There was a time when I wouldn't have thought twice before going out to ride the trail alone. It is patrolled by officers on four-wheelers or golf carts in each of the counties it passes through, and most people appear to be friendly and only there for the exercise or to enjoy the scenery. That all changed in July of 2006, however, when Jennifer Ewing was murdered as she rode her bike along the Silver Comet. The animal who killed her recently got the death penalty for her murder, but lethal injection is too good for him. She fought back fiercely, to the point that her attacker wound up going to the hospital and HIS blood was found on her bicycle. She wasn't able to save herself, however.
A memorial stands beside the trail near the spot where her body and bicycle were found.
It is a very sobering reminder of the society in which we live today. Other people have also been attacked on the trail, men as well as women. One man was attacked by a group of four teenagers, so I'm not ENTIRELY sure that the three of us women riding on the trail are safe. Every time I see a woman riding alone, I cringe inside.
When we got back to the parking lot today, my bicycle computer read 74 miles. I wanted to be able to say I rode 75 miles, so I went beyond the 0 mile marker toward a shopping center (where, inexplicably, they evidently have a -1 mile marker -- I don't get it). I thought I'd ride another half mile down the trail and then circle back to my car for a total of 75.
Only when I'd ridden about 3 tenths of a mile, I got to a hill. A fairly big one.
I decided 74.81 miles was far enough. I will say I rode 75 miles if I want to, and you can't stop me.