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Blake's Athens to Atlanta A2A 2006 Journal 4 of 5

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After the Pack Crash to Silver Hill Road

Back on the road just the two of us for awhile, we knew we had been part of a sweet couple of hours of roadskating life. We picked up Michael somehow, somewhere before the downhill to a small two-lane doubletree-lined bridge. Michael seemed pleased to stick with us and we were companions for many miles on this day, with much fun and a warm feeling of new friendship by the end. What a nice guy!

We hit the ups and downs with red barns right before the left onto Old Auburn Road, and we knew it was pretty much uphill into Dacula from there. We slogged on as best we could, seeing the Detroit trio up ahead but never collecting them. When we saw the school we made a minipush for the left, quick right and down sweeping into Dacula's finish and slowly blasted our way to the 38 stop just beyond. This is were we saw the Detroit 3 and I somewhat stupidly announced to all at that stop: “Hey I have a quart of Gatorade I'm not going to drink if anyone wants it!” Well nobody wanted to drink after the skateypig it seems!

We swapped out our gatorpack bladders and I made a brief search for a porta, giving up. I took a photo or two, then heard Katherine say something like, “we might as well do it as talk about it,” or similar, then I saw the 3 go back toward the 38 finish just when I was going to see if they were ready to roll again. Maybe they had a portavision, too.

It was at this point, after sitting beside him sitting beside Elizabeth, I then took a photo of the nice fellow who seemed vaguely familiar at stop 3, and also matched the color of the water bottle packaging beside him, Danny's dad, Martin! He was a 2005 T2Ter and I simply didn't recognize him except in some fog covered across the lake way. Sorry, Martin! I had a weak brain, and I was distracted by one of our heroes, the guy with two huge leg braces who was obviously going for 87!

Oh, and Secret Agent 7 and a lady friend were there at 3 as Elizabeth and I were ready to bark, and he explained the mystery: he was feeling great on the uphills, but cautious on the downhills. They seemed like nice folk so I felt lots better knowing why we couldn't entice engine 7 into our team. I never thought to ask his name, or if I did, I forgot, but as we rolled out I heard (in me noggin), “Bond. James Bond.”

On the rollout from Dacula, we passed a group by the side who were contemplating something. Hours later one person said they were about to quit and they didn't because we invited them to jump in, I think it was. These guys were not with us long because they were stronger and faster, at least at the time. We heard that 2 of their 7 finished, I think it was, so it was a tough day for lots on the road. We were hearing “cramps” from many, and I was cramping some as well on the way into Dacula. It was clear that we were going to have a sunny and hot afternoon by A2A standards.

Once we were out of Dacula and in some of the still nice part of Gwinnett, we happened upon Peter, who was looking a bit overheated but not going to let us go by without joining. We invited him on and he had some extra time to recuperate, since my one minute beeper had died (the skating world cheers, yay, Blake's beeper died! I thought he was having a heart attack!).

Annoying as that beep is, it helps us keep from staying up too long in the wind, and rotations also help the slower skaters, since when they get up front they can tell the others, without saying it, that a slower pace works a bit better. In fact, the whole group can settle in on a reasonable pace for a long day this way, or they'll simply take off. And if they're going to leave, we want them to leave as soon as possible, without sheltering but one rotation if they're not wanting to participate.

So Elizabeth, Michael, Peter and myself slogged out some miles, and at one brief stop we each took our own kind of respite, variously sitting, stretching, lacing or visiting nature for a minibreak. We cruised along Lebanon Road and right onto Duluth Highway (GA 20), caught the light easily at the CVS where Sugarloaf Parkway crosses and we face the climb up to Atkinson Road (Discover Mills).

We've had an escort up that hill in past years, but there was curiously no enforcement! As we made the left, we saw the Gwinnett policeman not stopping traffic for us but himself running across the street with two icy cold 20 ounce Mountain Dews held vaguely aloft, and for a moment I thought, “For me? How nice!”

Alas it was not to be, and he never showed any sign of stopping anyone for us, instead racing back to his rendezvous with fellow shield, perhaps for a doughnut which had warming on the dash for some time, my melting brain conjured. Mmm. Doughnuts!

Stop 4 (oh yeah, we skipped 1 and 2) was only yards away so we cruised along there, and I found a chair and a Red Bull about which ownership I inquired, to be told I should drink it if I wanted it. I probably should not have done without more explicit details as to whose it really was, but sitting there drinking a drink that cost half as much as the chair in which I sat amused me.

I remember Marc SP lying back behind the tent, and Elizabeth fruiting it up with the oranges, giving me some too methinks. I was thinking cantaloupe! T2T had cantaloupe almost all summer before the tour when it must have gone out of style, but it rocked hugely and I had visions of cantaloupe floating in a desert heat wave. And bananas. A2A can cure you of liking bananas if you're not careful.

So at stop 4, 56 miles into 87, I realized there was pain where the right boot's front bolt or the thread insert or both were driving into my foot. Oh but you know, why fix it now.

Most problems go away if you ignore them sufficiently, right?

I had cut up an old wallet a few days earlier when about to throw it away, so I HAD LEATHER available for repairs in my Camelbak, and swiss smarmy knife scissors too. But I decided A2A is not hard enough, or one would think I must have thought that.

My feet weren't numb yet, and I had done 2 quarts of Gator by 38, now was about a quart into the second pack, and I was feeling a bit bloated from what must have been the copious amounts of fizz in the Electromix. Skaters were not the only thing I had been passing on my way from Athens to Atlanta.

Thus, mile 56 was ominous to the Blakester. A sign of pain to come and challenges to face. When I got around to that. Meanwhile I was dumbing myself into hitting the sixties with the big hills to mile 72 or so with an already painful foot, with no repair, and without taking any ibuprofin (Vitamin I, as Mark calls it).

After 4 we got onto Harrington Road and that's nice stuff until it suddenly goes from countryside to cityscrape in a hurry at Old Norcross. This is all good, but gets a bit more challenging after the right onto Cruse Road at Kroger, which leads down to the most dangerous uncovered spot on the course, where there's a quick light as Club Drive comes into Cruse on a short moderate downhill.

I took the front with my whistle and we made it along the six-lane ironically-named Pleasant Hill with Don D and others in a group of 9; I kept the front since I knew the road and turn lanes and such, and Elizabeth was at the block taking the lane boldly as needed when we got to Reagan where the 2 right lanes can turn right but we need to go straight. At the next turn onto Burns Rd I got out of the front, and not long after, a group went off the front, feeling more spry than the rest of us.

Not long after this we got to what I call the wall: the intersection of Burns and Indian Trail-Lilburn Rd. This is just mean. It's steep and curves a bit up into a busy intersection.

Shortly after that there's a place where Dickens intersects with Burns, and I can't resist saying my quads they Burns like the Dickens. Stupid 60-plus mile joke.

Dickens has a decent climb to it up to Candlewick and around a bend to the right beyond into a tricky downhill left quick right off Rockbridge to John Carroll, then a right onto US 29 briefly (Big Lots) and a left onto Harmony Grove (not the earlier Harmony Grove Church Road). There's another nice climb up by the church, then the swift downhill to the RR Tracks, which is always a challenge since cars love to pass but then chicken out crossing the tracks and brake in front of you.

Now we were into the start of about four miles of climbing, starting at the rail tracks, with a right up Old Rosser (very similar to the later Silver Hill first climb).

The design of the course can lead to mild insanity of the Escher etching sort. There are sequences you would swear you have done before the same day, and there are several of them! A left at Harmony Grove Church is scarily similar to one in Clarksville. Crossings of busy roads that go left down a lane, right busy big road, quick left onto a lane, then right up and left onto a moderately busy road. It can be maddening! But it's glorious therefore of course.

At the right at Old Rosser, some guys needed to stop, and Elizabeth continued her theme of warning me that she was losing it a bit brainwise. I took this with a grain of Electromix since she sometimes doesn't feel well then kicks my spandex a few minutes later. But at Old Rosser she was showing signs of leaving her helmet on and sitting in the sun instead of crossing over to sit in the shade with helmet off, and signs of let's just go ahead when she just said she felt bad, leaving these others who are hurting too to slog off alone. I was as yet still feeling good, except for the fizz factor, which I sometimes discreetly could relieve, and others I was simply an animal from The Canterbury Tales, specifically a springtime buck.

So we shaded a bit, and on the rollout I said “Hey how about a PowerGel; I know it's not on your diet and all that.” She said, “If I can have a raspberry one, shoa.” So she got that and ate it with no problems, but as we climbed it was clear Peter and Michael were better off. And at one point, Elizabeth rolled of in the lush green grass and made some statements about no way finishing can't do it or some such madness and this is not her by any means talking but the alien left within when the real Elizabeth was abducted somewhere after Stop 4.

Then Elizabeth simply lay down in the grass at about a thirty degree angle, and it was lush greenery, and she said she wanted a nap, and closed her eyes with a none too happy aspect of defeat, as the carbs were still trying to get back to where they once belonged.

Peter and Michael were at the crest and I waved them but I don't think they left, having decided we at least knew all the turns and what to expect, perhaps.

After cresting on Rosser, down to the left at Rosser Place is nice, then a good place to stop for a bit is the left onto Leather Stocking Lane. It is a really fast and fun but watch out for cars backing out sweeping right with a good rollout before one of those up right, then left, repeats.

At Leather Stocking we saw some of the earlier group that had set out ahead, and we frogleapt a few times as we settled into what our muscles could do. I couldn't tell if these guys were tired, concerned about missing a turn, or being polite in waiting, especially those we had left after waiting post-crash for a resumption of packitude. I could tell they felt loyalty to our attempts on the day but also self-preservation, which is entirely proper of course.

After Leather Stocking, it's not far over to the first Silver Hill climb, a relatively easy one if you're not in your 68th mile. Our ever-changing group took a break somewhere before the crest to gather whatever we needed for the three-tiered descent of Silver Hill Road.



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