Tuesday, June 17, 2008

We "Won"

Jeff and Kevin won RAAM ... or at least the two-man fixed gear division. How about instead saying, "Jeff and Kevin were the first riders across the 'finish line' at 2008 RAAM." Of course, they haven't yet gone over the finish line, so is that really right? Hmmm ... OK, how about I just recap and you can figure it out from there.
When last we blogged our intrepid explorers, they were in Mt. Airy at the bike shop. Jeff came in and Kevin headed out. Jeff was immediately mobbed by loyal supporters who had come in (including the now infamous really a person Maille Neel), RAAM fans, and the folks at the bike shop (bike shop people love a great bike like the Salsa Casserrol, particularly when it has been kept simple like a fixie, and they loved Jeff and Kevin's basic approach to cycling in general). It was like being with Julia on the red carpet on Oscar night. I was holding an umbrella over Jeff's head to keep the rain off, trying to let him get cleaned up from his ride and ready to go back out, while fending off people with cameras (ah, those paparazzi!) and everyone trying to shake his hand or just touch the sleeve of his raimant (keep your hands off the raimant -- it's got to go back to the shop!).
Eventually, we got him changed and back in the van and Mary and I headed down the road with Jeff to the next rider swap at mile 30. At this point we're on a busy interchange between Baltimore and Annapolis, hanging out at a gas station, with Jeff ready to roll and street people chatting him up about why he has two bicycles. It could have been the exhaustion setting in, but things now seemed a trifle surreal. Kevin comes in and Jeff is about to go out when we find out that RAAM only wants one rider on the road at a time here. We decide to let Kevin finish it up, then, and let Jeff stay dry (the rain had stopped by the roads were nasty). So, load up the bike and rider and back into the van.
We're then heading to the mall where the "finish" line is. Now, let me explain: Yes, it's not quite at the coast, but this is where riders are supposed to "finish" the ride. RAAM then calls ahead and gets a big shebang set up so that, when the rider rolls up to the pier in Annapolis the band can be struck up and officials can present the rider this laurel and hardy handshake and yadda-yada. That's the finish line everybody sees in the movies.
The real finish line is the mall parking lot outside of Pottery Barn. Which makes sense, in a way, as Pottery Barn is heaven in a number of lesser known pantheons. Buy me a couple of glasses of single-malt scotch one day and I'll explain how it works.
En route to this heaven/finish line, Jeff and Mary and I get another call: Come back -- RAAM says you two can both ride in together. U-Turn, drive back, get Jeff out and bike off, and then Kevin shows up with the other van (did I mention we named it the RAAM-a-lam-a-ding-dong somewhere during this trip?) and Doyce and Allen and Don and off they go. Mary and I then jump back in the van and zip down to heaven/finish line.
Don, Brenda, Gary, Chris, and David are there with the pursuit van, as well as Terry Zmrhal and other RAAM officials and many of the fans from Mt. Airy and still other fans and friends who had driven over. We get ready and Jeff and Kevin come rolling in while we cheer and film and shoot pictures. Then it's lots of congratulations and back-slapping and about the level of euphoria that you would expect after an eight-day long roller coaster of frantic activity like this. Okay, so you may have to use LOTS of imagination.
From there we head to a nearby hotel where we dump stuff and kind of change, then back into the van to drive down to the pier where they have a bunch of people who have been waiting to see Kevin and Jeff come in. More cheering, back-slapping, people touching raimants (okay, touch away for all I care -- but if you break it you've bought it!). Then we went to a local pub for dinner and a little champagne. There would have been lots of champagne, as well as a few other imbibements, but I knew I had to somehow navigate back to the hotel later, and we were all so exhausted we just did not yet trust ourselves to partake of anything that would lessen our abilities to function. Perhaps some other day ...
Instead, we all got to enjoy something precious that few people really appreciate any more: EIGHT HOURS OF UNINTERRUPTED SLEEP. That is bliss. If they would let you go into Pottery Barn and lay on one of their beds for eight hours ... well, now you know why it's one version of heaven.
It's now almost 9:15 and we soon expect Jure Robic -- the Slovenian soldier that left with us from Oceanside, CA, a week ago Saturday and who looks to be the one who will "win" the solo RAAM division -- to come in. After that, Jeff and Kevin can jump on their bikes and partake in the parade finish down to the pier in Annapolis for the formal end of the race, complete with the speeches and the officials with the laurel and hardy handshake (you can't use that joke too much). I will blog again after that. Jeff and I then plan to throw everything into the back of the RAAMinator and start driving back to Nashville.
Meanwhile, attached are pictures from the finish line (sorry I didn't get heaven in the picture) and the banner at the other finish line at the pier. They were just putting the finishing touches on this, because Jeff and Kevin rode so fast that things were quite ready.
Robert Hendry
The opinions expressed in this missive are my own and in no way reflect the views of Gran Fondo, RAAM, or any of my compatriots. If you have been offended by my less-than-reverent verbiage, I would apologize if I cared about your feelings. Get over it.

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