A recap from Marshall:
The riders and support folks started arriving around 9:30. What a scene they made as Sparks were secured, and drank, bags were arranged, Glow Sticks were added to bodies and bikes, friends pitched in to get things together, and everyone watched in amazement as Jeff S. rolled up on a single speed mountain bike complete with fat knobbies. Basil arrived with the SAG complete with water, food, and a pump as Whitney negotiated the "Who rides next?" with him. What a welcomed sight the white Jeep was during the next 127 miles.
The appointed 10 PM rolled around and 21 "Dynamites" rolled out for the traditional lap around Court Square. Lights shone, blinkies blinked, and glow sticks dazzled as the group headed down 42S toward the fabled Reddish Knob. Strength in numbers prevailed as cars gave this weird gaggle wide berth for fear of becoming infected with whatever disease makes people ride their bikes at night. After a couple of turns the group headed up the road, straight for the Branch Gap. Appreciative whoops and hollers came from the houses lining the approach to the climb. A "Star Moment" at the dam revealed quadrillions of stars and the Milky Way poised above us. WOW! Let the climb begin.
Arrival at the Gap and the Jeep. Refreshment, food, Sparks for those who dared, another "Star Moment", a warning about the dark side decent and off again. Sketchy dirt piled inched deep on the turns, a lost Sparks, a couple of flats, numerous screams of agony as hands and forearms locked up on the brakes, abandoned riders with no lights ("The bastards left me!"), and everyone arrived at the Reddish Knob Grocery. Good natured banter about being dropped, whose Sparks was on the road, Whitney's first big downhill, the flats, Basil's getting ready to ride, and where in the hell do we go from here?
A group ride to Sugar Grove then off on CR 21/Cow Pasture River Road. One deer moment greeted with cowboy like whoops from the front riders. Some low fog made every stretch of road seem uphill. For those whose lights were sketchy there were good friends who provided guidance. Almost asleep, Rt 250 loomed and passed under the wheels as the Jeep appeared. Another recharging while the riders discussed the calm road behind not expecting what lay ahead. Off down Cow Pasture River Road South and cries of dismay as the pavement turned to gravel. The narrow, winding gravel sucked at the will to hang-on or even attempt a Sparks and forced the sleepy peleton awake. A massive chain suck stopped Andy in his tracks and presented a daunting task to amateur mechanics. No problem for a Power Link.
Williamsville, "Oh thank G—for Williamsville". Another Star Moment, this time deep in the boughs of mountains on either side, with no human light pollution, every star that ever existed shown on the group. Paced to Scotchtown Draft in record time, another turn to find gravel waiting, and the exit climb back to the east of the Shenandoah Mountain. One more flat, abandoned riders without light enough to proceed and arrival at RT 629 for the road ride back home, albeit another 50 miles. The sighting as the valley opened up. The Smiling Moon looked down above the eastern horizon with Mercury to its upper right like a beauty mark. The quadrillion stars became a googol (look it up) as dawn was only an hour or so away, and none to soon.
West Augusta and Carpenter's Store came into view. It was getting damp and a bit cold compared to the earlier hours. Magically as the last rider pulled in the store opened up. Hot coffee became the replacement for Sparks.
Saddled back up for the ride out of the mountains and a return to the Valley the group paced up Dividing Ridge, over Leading Ridge and to Stokesville. A miss step to Staunton Dam led a rider and the SAG on a 2 mile detour. "How much more?" was the common question while waiting for everyone to arrive. There are seven miles to Sangeville, and six miles to Bridgewater then how many miles to Harrisonburg? Sunshine perked everyone up for the controlled ride back home and breakfast. One or two sketchy moments as riders were not on top of their game riding in a group again. Chalk that up to the fact everyone had been riding for ten or more hours and awake for 24-27 hours from the day before. Light banter and "unauthorized" sprint points sprinkled in while the miles zoomed under the wheels.
Ah, Harrisonburg, and a parade down Main Street past the starting point, straight to the Little Grill. "What, full?" NO!!! BREAKFAST! BEER! No worry, sandwiched in with the "normal" folks having "normal" breakfasts were the crazy "Dynamites" their pitchers and buckets of Pabst added to the hot cakes and groovy gravy. Talk of the ride, the night, the stars, the magic, energizer legs Jeff, the Wo show, Sparks, not more gravel, Reddish, Reddish descent, Whitney's first group ride, Julian's first century, Basil's support, and another Dynamo is done.
"Where is the SAG, back at the shop? No, I just want to go home, I don't want to ride back to the shop. My butt hurts."
See everyone next year.