This is absolutely the last BRAG-related post you will have to read.
Until the next one.
This one, though, is about what makes us return to BRAG over and over again (me for the 19th consecutive time this year....what is WRONG with me?).
It's the people.
Sadly, I don't have pictures of everyone I would like to include. Either I didn't run into them when it was convenient, I had an inexplicable bout of shyness and didn't ask permission to take their pictures, or we were at a rest stop and the bike (with the camera) was waaaaaaaaaaaaaay over there.
First off is my stoker, Katydid. She powers the tandem and signals turns....when I remember to tell her one is coming up. She agrees to stop (not that she has much choice) when I simply need to take a break, and she doesn't mind stopping just a half mile further down the road because I have a bug in my eye.
Walt is the gentleman on the right in the picture below. He used to be the assistant ride director, but he gave up that position and now he just rides. I have my theories as to why he gave up being assistant ride director, but I'll keep them to myself. He and his wife ride a tandem, but she won't ride in months that don't have an "R" in them. He has always been good to both Katydid and me, even the time we went to him in tears because we couldn't find the shuttle to the hotels.
In the picture below, the gentleman on the left is named Clyde. I see him every year, and every year he blushes and apologizes because he can't remember my name. By the end of the week he's got it, but it won't stick. Next year he won't remember again. I'm going to ask him what his daughter's name is and then just tell him that's my name too. He bought me dinner on BRAG one time after I piled into a Jeep with Linda, Clyde, Wayne, and Fred. This photo was taken at Rest Stop #2 on a very tough day. We had ridden almost 20 miles in complete and total desolation, and then we TURNED AROUND at this spot and rode the same terrain back. Yuck. I didn't see Clyde after this rest stop, and he explained later that he did the U-turn, rode 4.5 miles, realized he had left his water bottle (did I mention desolation?), and had to turn around and go back. Those were NOT 9 miles you would want to repeat.
I posted about the gentleman below last week. His name is Bob, and he's the one from Australia who had his country written upside down on his license plate. He said he was originally from about 10 miles outside Melbourne, but he moved to Brisbane after he retired. He referred to Brisbane as "God's waiting room." I'm not familiar with that expression, so I don't know if he meant that it's a wonderful place to live (as in "God's country") or if that's just where people go to die. Bob's rider number was 200, a fairly early number, so it seems that he came over here from Australia just to ride in BRAG. I find that pretty amazing.
Below is Miles, our favorite photographer. He has been a fixture on BRAG for as long as I can remember. In the old days, he positioned himself by the road and snapped pictures of riders as they came by, then he drove (or biked) into town to find a one-hour photo service, went back to camp and hung his pictures up, charging $4.00 (I think it's up to $6.00 now) for a single 4x6 print. Some of his methods are still the same, but he has gone digital, and he allows cyclists to sit down at his computer and see if they can find themselves. He still has many of them printed out and hanging, because seeing the actual picture is obviously a quicker sale. Miles is a grumpy sort, and you sort of have to baby him. Katydid and I have always gone out of our way to be nice to him. When I was riding alone, I would often stop my bike when I saw Miles, just to chat for a couple of minutes. It cost me very little in terms of time, and it went a long way in making Miles a little less grumpy. One day last week when we rode by, Miles yelled, "I've got a surprise for you two!" We went to see him in camp, and he gave us an 8x10 print of us on the tandem. For free. And all we have ever done is be nice to him, sit and chat with him, and occasionally help him put 200-300 photos in clear plastic sleeves.
The picture below is further proof that it's a small world. Not long after she went into the Navy, Sweet Girl was in a terrible automobile accident in South Georgia. She was mercifully not severely injured, but she did have some scrapes and cuts, so they took her to a hospital in Savannah because that's where my mother lived at the time. The nurse who took care of her asked where she was from, and when Sweet Girl told her, the nurse replied that she had gone through our town on BRAG. She has been riding BRAG since it was called GASBE, more than thirty years ago. When I found out how many times she had ridden BRAG, I included her in my dissertation research and went to Savannah to interview her. She told Katydid and me last week that she thought last year's BRAG would be her "grand finale," but she did so well that she decided to continue this year. At the age of 72. Granted she didn't ride every single mile, but she did some long 12-14 mile legs of ups and downs in some brutal heat. And I have never seen her be anything but pleasant. She's my inspiration.
Finally, one of my best buds, Rozmo. Roz has been working part-time for BRAG for the last several years, and I really miss riding with her. She drove the RV for us last week, and there is no way I can express my gratitude for that. But I'm going to try. Rozmo has a wonderful way with people and is a very calm influence. She is rational when others are emotional and has a knack for saying what people need to hear. She makes a point to compliment parents when their children are well-behaved because she knows that is what parents like to hear. She's not always exactly subtle, though. The very first time I ever captained a tandem, she willingly jumped on the back, completely trusting (or blissfully unaware that I had no clue as to what I was doing). When she wanted me to change gears, she smacked me on top of my helmet. I tried everything in my power to figure out what gear she wanted BEFORE she could smack me on the helmet. It kind of hurt. Rozmo is simply awesome. And she's NOT going to love me for posting this picture of her. This picture was made after the laundry debacle.
Speaking of the laundry debacle, I lied when I told the nice gentleman that I was only taking pictures for my own personal benefit. My plan all along was to post them on this blog to illustrate some of the ways that good intentions can go very wrong.
In our layover town, some organization offered a laundry service. They provided a laundry bag, and cyclists put their dirty, smelly, sweaty clothes in the bag. The bags were then dumped into (I'm guessing here) a huge industrial-sized washing machine and dryer, the bag keeping the clothes all together in one place.
Only one problem.
The bags didn't stay closed.
Cyclists had to come into a big warehouse-type room and pick through the laundry piece by piece to claim theirs.
The last night of BRAG, there were still two tables full of unclaimed laundry. Some of it was nice biking clothes too. A good cycling jersey runs in the neighborhood of $75, and people didn't claim them? Cycling shorts .... at LEAST $50.
How embarrassing. I'm sure this wouldn't be nearly as funny if some of that laundry happened to be mine.