Signature Ride 2014: What it’s Like
It starts weeks, or months before. Can I do it? Have I trained enough? What if I have to bail? All legitimate questions. This year, weather hampered training. One or two decent rides, maybe. No hills on the Trace. Sign up anyway.
The Friday night meeting brings anticipation. New faces and familiar supporters begin to relax (or rethink their decision) about the ride, as they have a beer and some great food from the Corner Bakery. All kinds of pasta and sweets to fuel their adventure are assembled in the shop warehouse area. There is always talk of weather, and alternate pick-up plans for the riders are made. With seventeen riders from the shop, seat space is at a premium if a storm hits.
Some of us optimistically lather on sunscreen in the dark at 6:30 AM. The quiet excitement is broken by the MHP motorcycles arriving to escort us. It is amazing that we were able to line up for pics, on schedule at 6:55 AM! Riders are ready, bikes are ready, support staff are ready. In an awesome spectacle of yellow jerseys, blinking red, white and blue lights, the sirens let the neighbors know we are off to ride . . . RideSouth!
Doc and Randy, our MHP Officers from the shop were awesome! No one had to unclip as the motorcycles zoomed back and forth to block all intersections, all the way to Florence! Perfect, guys! Thank you Captain Johnny and Captain Shows for organizing all of the excellent MHP support! Slower riders left early at the breaks and faster riders took a little longer. Recumbent riders moved to the right to let lighter, or stronger riders climb the hills, and upright riders obligingly moved to the right at the top of the hills (sometimes) to leave the faster recumbents a lane to do what we do . . . scream down the hills!
Lane was the perfect SAG and moral supporter, as usual! Thank you Lane! She had the RideSouth bus loaded with water, Powerade (no syrupy, blue Romulan Ale this time), and all types of snacks including tasty muffin bites from The Corner Bakery. Pastor Sartin had the Harrisville Baptist Church ready for us with doors open and coffee brewing. Thank you Pastor Sartin! We flew down the hill from the church thinking what could be more fun?
You begin to relax a bit and enjoy the scenery, at that point. Tall-eared mules look at you back. Goat farms, river bridges and tree-canopied roads have you thinking of summertime in the rural South. Short sleeves and shorts help with that image. The weather is overcast and nice for riding! We stop at the Pinola Baptist Church where the good folks there have left the doors open, snacks on the counter and water in the fridge! Thank you Pinola Baptist Church and Captain Johnny & Beth for arranging!
So much for relaxing, as the hills get your attention again. Up and down, through New Hebron and into Prentiss, with only a quick stop in the parking lot of the busy, New Hebron grocery store. Prentiss is a welcome site with Louis Reno offering a man-sized sandwich and fixings, to refuel on and get us on the way to Hattiesburg, ahead of schedule! Thank you to Louis for your great support! The ride could not happen without it! Louis even pulled Leroy’s kayak trailer he had purchased from us on Friday. Leroy and Bruce had ridden the return route up to the shop on Friday! We think Leroy could have pulled the trailer behind his CA-2 :-)! Thanks guys for scouting the return roads for us! Also, thanks to all you Louisiana and Alabama folks for supporting the ride and helping to SAG along the way. Jim Lee helped Louis and Lane as well, and even got to ride to Hattiesburg only weeks after some major surgery. Thank you, Jim!
After a slow start from the huge meal, and cooling off, the trip to Hattiesburg was entertaining and fun. Some good talks and spirited chases made the trip seem fast. Lane and Louis had the excellent reception waiting in the hotel gazebo area, and a cold beer was a nice addition to the wine, sausages, cheese, muffins and left-over sandwiches. Folks took turns showering and we loaded the bus and shuttle vehicles for the trip home, on schedule! Riders making the return trip had no trouble sleeping after a great dinner at Cracker Barrel. Thanks to Laura and Doug for transporting us to dinner and transporting our bags back to the shop on Sunday!
The storm of the weekend, catered to our ride on both days by moving through in the night. The rumble of thunder and sound of rain was a welcome sleeping aid, that cleaned the roads and cleared the pollen. A big breakfast at the hotel, and the fast four, and this rider, were headed back to the shop at 8:30 AM, again in shorts and short sleeves. More great scenery on the return route with lots of local color. “What kind of bike is that, sir?” and other comments were common as we toured many Mississippi towns. This rider managed to miss a turn near Magee and had to ride a few miles on Hwy 49. Not recommended. Lunch at the Subway is recommended, however.
Rejoining the group at the Shell in Magee, we fought the crosswind again this year, and finally got to St. John’s Road where we were met by Lane and the RideSouth Bus. A welcome sight for everyone! We refueled and rode the scenic roads back to the Texaco, where Chad and Mike peeled off and went to Chad’s house. Lane followed us back to the shop through the heavy, Sunday afternoon traffic, where a cool beer waited! Everyone regrouped for cars and luggage and found that waiting beverage, still on schedule at 5:00 PM! A great Signature Ride weekend!
We appreciate everyone supporting the Signature Ride, especially those folks just riding on the Longleaf Trace. It was great seeing so many of our customers out enjoying their RideSouth purchases! We know you enjoy pushing your own envelope to ride longer and faster . . . without the pain, as we do! Maybe we can organize a Trike event from Hattiesburg next year? Whatever you enjoy riding, come join us again next year (the weekend after the time change) and help us to spread the word . . . RideSouth is The Way to Ride!