As mentioned in several prior blog entries, the 2016 Southern Tandem Rally (STR) in Cookeville, Tennessee would be our first of what are now just two long-weekend events we’d be attending in October. The second long-weekend event will be the fall edition of Thunder Beach in Panama City Beach the weekend after next.
As regular readers may recall, we were originally planning on a third long-weekend trip to Daytona Beach for Biketoberfest in between STR and Thunder Beach that we decided to cancel back in mid-September as it seemed just a bit too ambitious. In light of the havoc that hurricane Matthew wreaked from West Palm Beach, Florida, to the North Carolina’s during this past weekend, I’m really glad we changed our plans as I’d definitely be conflicted as to whether or not we’d still make the trip.
I’ve been keeping tabs on the various venues and overall conditions in Daytona and while most of the businesses that depend on events like Bike Week and Spring Break are all saying, “Come on down, we’ll have a great time” I’m not sure that’s universally the case.
As an example, I see where the hotel we were booked at remains without power and data as it tries to clean up and be ready for guests to arrive as soon as the power comes back on. That tells me Daytona and the surrounding beach areas are far from being at 100% and many of the folks down there will be trying to recover for quite some time to come. Case in point, Route A1A between Ormond and Flagler Beach has been washed away and there’s no quick fix for that!
Therefore, had we still be planning on making the trip part of me says we would have owed it to the folks in Daytona who depend on tourist revenues for their livelihood to come on down and make the best of it. At the same time, it would be hard to spend our days having a good time while residents continued to assess the damage to their homes, businesses and well-being. As I said, definitely a conundrum I’m glad we no longer have to deal with. So, in retrospect, as much as I’d REALLY like to be headed to Daytona on Thursday morning, I’m now glad that we’ll simply be able to enjoy a weekend closer to home and be fully rested and ready to go to Panama City Beach in nine more days.
A TANDEM RALLY IN THE HILLS OF TENNESSEE
The drive up to Cookeville, Tennessee, was about 3 hours and because traffic around Atlanta remains a mess until 6:30pm or 7:00pm, we had just enough time to get home from work on Thursday, throw our bags in the truck and then head north such that we’d arrive before 11:00pm. It was a relatively easy drive up I75 to I24 around Chattanooga and then north on Route 27 to Route 111. We arrived at the Country Suites in Cookeville, TN, around 10:30pm. Well, I say 10:30pm. Turns out, Cookeville is on Central Time so it really was only 9:30pm, not that you could tell by the empty lobby.
It wasn’t until Friday morning that I realized we were on Central Time: we’d gone to bed assuming we were on Eastern Time only to discover when we headed down to the near empty breakfast area at what we assumed was 6:45am and realized it was actually 5:45am. Oh well… better early than late.
We opted to do the 44 mile “medium” distance for Friday’s ride as our base miles and riding tempo were well off the mark from what we’d need to chase the A Teams at the rally. In fact, we were curious if we’d even be able to hang with the B Teams. The weather was nearly perfect with temps in the high 70’s to low 80’s, low humidity and lots of sunshine. After an amazing decent where Miss Debbie urged restraint on my part we came to a collection of other tandem teams that had taken a break on what appeared to be a fairly rough side road.
Little did we realize this was the road we’d be on for the next several miles! After a nice break and after adding several more tandems to our group we made our way around the valley and began a gradual climb that suddenly became far less than gradual in a very short time (see below for the “bathtub” effect of the descent and subsequent climb).
As much as we cuss and fuss during those climbs, there’s always a pretty good sense of accomplishment once you get to the top! The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful for us. Our only “mechanical” was a persistent clicking sound that was coming from the rear bottom bracket that I dealt with after our ride.
Lunch was an on-your-own affair and acting on a recommendation from the fantastic Country Suites Inn staff, we headed to Father Tom’s in downtown Cookeville for lunch. Let’s just say we found the Cookeville equivalent of Loco Willy’s, sans any TVs. It was a pub with amazing food, a loyal and attentive staff and just the right vibe. Debbie and I split their version of a Reuben (the Neuben) and the house salad, which was equally amazing. Looking up and down the table there wasn’t a meal that didn’t look wonderful or that wasn’t enjoyed immensely.
Dinner that evening was also “own your own” and you know exactly where we went: Father Tom’s! We split “The Jack” which was described on the menu as a deconstructed shepherd’s pie with thinly sliced tenderloin topped by pea encrusted mashed potatoes and an au jus that was out of this world with the same delicious side salad from lunch.
The ice cream social was a nice affair but after leaving we and several friends headed back to Father Tom’s yet again for a night-cap before calling it a night and returning to the hotel.
On the bright side, at least we knew what time it really was when we woke up on Saturday morning. Instead of a warm sunny morning like we enjoyed on Friday, we had temps in the upper 60’s with a blustery wind and overcast skies as we headed out on the medium length 57-mile route with pretty much the same group from Friday, plus a few others such as Greg & Angela from Tallahassee, FL.
We had a good ride out to lunch, again with many hills and a stiff wind often times hitting us in the face but mostly at our backs. While the tail wind was appreciated in the morning, we were not looking forward to the ride back into that same wind later after having lunch.
Speaking of lunch, it was hosted in a church near downtown Sparta, TN, and the meal was actually quite good.
The ride back to Cookeville was as expected: hilly and into a stiff headwind for nearly all of the 20 mile journey: that would be the right 1/3d of the image below.
After getting back to the hotel and cleaned-up Debbie and I headed off to a nearby Buffalo Wild Wings to see if we could find a seat at the bar and watch the college games. We lucked out and had a wonderful afternoon with Zakysha, a lovely gal from Atlanta! We snacked on some soft pretzels as well as some spinach and artichoke dip to see if we couldn’t get our sodium levels back up to snuff! BTW, if you ever wondered why everyone working at Buffalo’s wear’s a jersey with the number 82, that’s the year Buffalo’s first store opened.
As much as we wanted to just stay and have dinner at the bar, we pulled ourselves away and headed back to downtown Cookeville where the ubiquitous Saturday evening banquet was being held about 50 yards from Father Tom’s: yet another temptation.
I probably need to send out apology cards to our friends as I was quite restless and in a strange mood when we arrived. Adding to my woes, our table somehow ended up being the last one called to go through the buffet line. Debbie had some of the pasta with a marinara sauce and I passed as I had no real appetite anyway. As Debbie finished her dinner I invited her to leave before the announcements began as I still in a strange mood and not exactly adding to the enjoyment of the evening for our table mates. While our friends probably assumed we went back to Father Tom’s for dinner after making our exit from the banquet hall, we instead returned to the hotel, checked out and headed for home. Now, I should note that we’d already advised our friends we wouldn’t be riding on Sunday as Debbie’s backside was a bit sore and chaffed from Friday & Saturday’s ride. So, at this point, spending the night just to wake up and then face a four-hour (three hours + time zone change) back to Atlanta where we’d have a full day of chores waiting for us didn’t seem as attractive as an option of heading home at 8:00pm and arriving shortly before midnight so we could sleep in our own beds.
We had a bit of a surprise when I stopped for gas near Rocky Face, Georgia and found nearly all the stations closed or with their pump handles bagged. Thankfully, the BP station had Premium. But, despite those few notable mentions, we were both glad to be home and in our own beds at the end of the day.
All-in-all, it was great to see and spend time with our cycling friends. We enjoyed the two days of cycling that we participated in, the host hotel and staff was excellent and we really enjoyed our visits to Father Tom’s and even Buffalo’s. I do think that we may have to re-evaluate our future rally plans and give up on Thursday evenings and the Friday mass starts to better suit our schedule. We’ll see…
BACK HOME IN GEORGIA FOR SUNDAY & A TRIP TO LOCO’S
As we began to work down our “to do” list at home on Sunday morning we once again realized that leaving the tandem rally early was the right call for us. We had more than enough to do from laundry to trouble-shooting my malfunctioning MacBook Pro and yard work but, more importantly, we’d be carving out a portion of the afternoon for a return visit to Loco’s that for the first time in seven weeks would be able to include adult beverages!
Therefore, after the aforementioned inside chores and cutting the lawn the lion’s share of the late morning and early afternoon was spent trimming shrubs and other greenery away from the house before the painting crew arrived on Tuesday. Yes, I decided to go ahead and pay the professionals to power wash, repair trim, caulk and repaint the exterior of the house this time around. I did a partial repaint of the most weather-beaten south-facing side and front of the house several years back and even did a touch up a couple of years back about the same time that I built our shed and had the veranda installed. However, it had faded again and it’s just time… but I’m not doing it this time.
It must have been close to 1:30pm before we swung our legs over the Harley and headed over to Loco Willy’s to get some frozen margaritas and Ahi Poke for lunch while catching the early afternoon football games. We couldn’t find a seat at the inside bar – not unusual for the fall when football draws in non-regulars for games on Saturday and Sunday – and ended up camping out on the back porch bar. It was so good to have Loco’s back!!! We had a great time enjoying our Ahi and then headed back to the house so we could finish up our chores.
I think Debbie had a shorter list than I did as she kept me company while I removed the window boxes and three wall pergolas from over the three garage bay doors so they’d be out of the painter’s way as well. With that task accomplished we enjoyed a little late afternoon down time.
It must have been around 6:00pm when our motorcycling friends sent out a note to say they’d be stopping at Rocco’s bar & grill up in Jasper on their way back from a day ride into Tennessee. It was about a 50 minute ride from the house, but we decided to go and join them just the same. It was a bit cooler than we were used so we broke out the leather jackets, jacket liners, gloves and neck gators for the ride back home.
It was about 7:15 when we arrive to find about 22 friends all told at Rocco’s. It was good to see the gang and we got to meet some folks who they ran into during their late July trip to Jamaica from Rhode Island who were down visiting. After some soft drinks and a little Chili Pie we made our way back south towards home with the rest of the gang and were back at the house by 9:45pm.
Again, all things considered a good weekend if I set aside my behaviour on Saturday night at the tandem rally banquet.