This month's brevet was a 300K starting in Mt. Vernon, IL. The route was the same as February's 200K except that it went further before turning around. The turnaround point for the 300K is in Metropolis IL (just across the Ohio river from Kentucky). Miles warned us that route between Vienna and Metropolis was hilly—and that it was tougher on the way back.
The weather report called for a high in the 50's but rain in the evening. The snow was not supposed to hit until Sunday. I wasn't too worried about rain. I just wanted to get back to St. Louis before the snow made driving difficult.
There were 5 of us riding. Joe (from the 200K) was doing the 177K. Joining me on the 300K were Bob and Michelle (who rode the 600K with me last year), and Glenn (who was on a fixed gear). I did not get a chance to talk to Glenn much because he and Joe pulled away from us fairly soon after the ride started. We saw the at the first turn when they missed it and had to back track. We also saw them later when the made another navigation error.
Bob, Michelle and I were riding at a comfortable pace. We had a tailwind for the first half of the ride. Since we were feeling good we did not make and stops before the first control in Creal Springs (mile 55). We saw Joe headed back a little before this. At the stop I had a slice of pizza and a coke. We made another brief stop to shed some layers at the Tunnel Hill bike trail.
The Tunnel Hill trail follows an old railroad line. From where we got on the trail to Vienna was about ten miles but was slightly downhill most of the way. The surface was harder than it was last fall but it still slowed us down some. The road between Vienna and Metropolis lived up to its billing. It seemed we were always climbing or descending. I descended faster than Bob or Michelle because I'm the heaviest. We would split and regroup but we stayed mostly together.
We got to Metropolis about 2:30. We hadn't seen Glenn and he had not reached the control. We later found out that he had gone the wrong way on the bike trail and decided to call it quits. He probably would have had a tough time on the hills on a fixed gear. We got back on the road about 3. I estimated that since the first half had taken us about 8 hours, the second half would take about 9. This would have us finishing about midnight.
Miles had warned us about one climb in particular. It was steep enough to make me wish that I had lower gearing to shift into. It was tough, but none of us needed to walk it. A later descent had me coasting at 41.7 mph.
The trail was more difficult when we headed back because the slight downhill was now a slight uphill. I was happy to see be back on some hills when we got off the trail. When we got to Creal Springs it was getting dark so me put on our reflective gear and turned on our lights. Shortly after we the control we had to stop and put on our rain gear. The rain would continue off and on for the rest of the ride. It never rally rained hard so none of us had any complaints. It could have been a lot worse. I was not eating as much as I felt I should but I wasn't feeling hungry. I was not feeling sick but I felt like my body was warning me that if I gave it something that it didn't want it would give it right back.
We made one final stop in Thompsonville. It was not a control but it let us split up the last 55 miles. While we were there a policeman who stopped at the convenience store warned us about shift change at the coal mine. He urged us to be careful. As it turned out, we were on back roads and saw almost no traffic.
It should come as no surprise that we were very tired when we reached the end, but I don't think any of us were totally spent. Bob and Michelle invited me to sleep at their hotel room so that I wouldn't have to drive back sleepy. I gratefully accepted. The snow wasn't supposed to hit St. Louis until the next morning so I figured that I could beat it.
We tried to load the bikes onto my bike carrier but Bob's bike after putting my bike and Bob's bike on there was no room for Michelle's. Miles gave Michelle a ride to the hotel. Bob and I went to Kroger to get some food. I also tried to buy a beer to celebrate but I found out that grocery stores in Jefferson County Illinois can't sell beer.
After some food and a shower we all got about 4 hours of sleep. After a little more food, I thanked Bob and Michelle and headed for home. I was tired but not sleep so I wasn't worried about falling asleep at the wheel. I made it home just about the time the snow started so I didn't have and weather issues. I think that this ride went very well.