So you’ve just ridden 94 hard miles, including a brutal, windy 35 mile stretch that you never fully recovered from, what do you get to look forward to after that? Well, if you’re on the Tour du Rouge, you get to look forward to waking up an hour early so you can set out on a nice century ride into Abbeville!
It was actually a wonderful morning: cool, clear, and weak yet favorable winds. We headed out north, riding through a bit of the neighborhood business area before turning to the east along a slightly less busy road (albeit one with deep ditches along the sides and no shoulder) before turning north so we could cross over the waterways that feed Lake Charles and eventually work our way into Abbeville. It was at this turn towards the north that we had what might be the most excitement of the day.
Shortly after we turned north on Guillory Street, with me sitting towards the back of the group, I heard a cry of “HOLE!” and looked up in time to see what looked like an interpretive dance on wheels where Rick was playing the part of a bowling ball, and Dave, Tracy, Mike, and Donald playing the part of bowling pins. Apparently, what happened was Mike first hit a sunken (and very well hidden) manhole cover, and called out the obstacle just in time for Dave to hit it and redirect his front wheel into Mike’s rear wheel. As we all know what happens in that situation, Dave’s bike went out from under him as Mike wobbled away. This of course set off a chain reaction which sent Tracy down in an very nice controlled slide; Donald doing his damndest to not go over his bike (he pushed down so hard on his handlebars, he pushed his Ergostem down from a rather vertical position to all the way forward and down), still ending up with a bloody knee; and Rick, seeing Dave’s bike shoot left, veering to the right only to wind up rolling right over Dave’s outstretched arm as Dave was launched the opposite direction of his bike (of course if I were Dave, I’d much prefer Rick run over my arm than my pretty, pretty Colnago rig).
Fortunately for Dave he went down in a softer patch of dirt, and not the hard blacktop, and suffered just a bit of road rash, some bruises, and appeared to have the wind knocked out of him. While he was recovering, I stopped traffic while the others hauled all of the gear out of the road and tended to Dave (I’d like to say thanks to all of the drivers who patiently waited for us to clear the street and make sure Dave was out of harms way). Shortly thereafter, Alan and Dana rolled up and surveyed the damage, making sure Dave was OK and calling for the SAG guys to come and get the affected bikes roadworthy again. A bit of wheel truing and stem adjusting later, Dave and the rest of us hopped back on our bikes and headed back out for the day; calling out damn near every crack in the road for the next 15 miles to our first rest stop.
From here on out, the ride consisted primarily of long eastbound stretches with the occasional turn mixed in and nothing particularly exceptional to note. The lunch in Mermentau was quite nice, noshing on Quizno’s subs underneath the Railroad Avenue bridge crossing whatever waterway that was that eventually feeds into Lake Arthur. It was there at lunch where we learned that Dana had been in a spill that day as well, bloodying up his knee and elbow and tearing up his new Tour du Rouge jersey. Fortunately for the entire group those were the two worst accidents of the entire ride and they caused little more than road rash; much better than the previous year where a number of riders found themselves in ambulances on the way to a hospital for repairs. Good riding guys!
After lunch was a quick 10 mile ride to a tailgate stop at a post office in Morse, which was only notable for the heat and lack of shade, as well as a big old snake in a ditch just short of the post office that was chasing after something with a purpose (most likely lunch). From there it was another 22 miles to our last stop of the day at the Kaplan High School stadium parking lot. This is one stop I was most grateful for as my left calf had been threatening to cramp up and my energy was waning quickly for about five miles before we got to the stop. And what a stop it was, those volunteers were great there, offering to fetch us any drinks or snacks or ice cold paper towels that we needed to recover so we could sit and rest. It’s volunteers like that that make rides like the Tour du Rouge such a pleasure to ride. I can’t thank them enough for coming out in the heat to help us recover and have our fun. If it weren’t for them, the last nine miles might have been murder for me to complete. As it was I still managed to drag ass the final three or four miles, slowing down our group, especially as we approached the outskirts of Abbeville. Fortunately for me and the rest of the group, we got caught at a stop light at Park Avenue, just before we had to climb yet another bridge over some more intercostal waters. That brief stop allowed me to catch my wind and stretch out my back enough to get across town and into the Sunbelt Lodge without much more discomfort. Thank heaven for small favors.
After a bit of rest, a bit of beer, and a “shower” in our room (I couldn’t figure out how to get the water to come out of the showerhead and had to keep bending down to get water from the tub faucet — fortunately, my roommate, Keith, another Ohio boy, told me how to do it after the fact, something that will come in handy if we stay here again next year), we packed into the vans and shuttled down to Comeaux’s Cafe for some tasty pork chops, gravy, and bread pudding. After dinner we had a great time listening to all of the riding groups sing a song about themselves (including Dana’s audience participation number that may end up becoming the official theme song of the ride in years hence), and then capped off the evening with a speech from (IIRC) the head of the Lake Charles Red Cross chapter, reminding us all why we’re doing what we’re doing. From there, it was a shuttle back to the Sunbelt Lodge and a night’s sleep before an optional early rise the next morning.
Final numbers: 106.65 miles, Elapsed time 6:10:07, average 16.97 MPH