I met Kevin on the road outside my house on Saturday morning for the 15-mile ride to Little Creek. We left early enough with the promise of free breakfast before the day’s event. A blustery headwind greeted us as we headed north along the Atlantic Ocean. Even with the wind, it was close to my quickest time for the route.
Jeff from the USO did not let us down. When we walked into the gym, there was a nice spread of chow waiting. With an hour to kill, we mingled and waited for all of the riders to file in. Riders of all ability levels began arriving for registration. Half dozen Marines from Yorktown were given full kits and borrowed bicycles from R2R. None of the Marines had ridden any real distance in their lives [they did 60]. On Monday, learned that my buddy Jimmy actually built them at Contes. Thanks Jimmy!
After some introductions and the standard safety brief [something regarding speed and spacing] we headed towards the VB Oceanfront and down to the Contes at Redmill. This leg of the ride was enjoyable as the winds were in our favor. It actually felt like sailing, I’m not sure I did too much peddling. I knew that we would eventually have to earn our lunch.
We took a break at Contes and were off for a tour of the Pungo farmland in Virginia Beach. Winding around the creeks and farms we eventually reached Creeds and began heading north to the Pungo Ferry Bridge. This is where the ride started getting difficult for many riders.
A pattern of riding and slowing to pick up stragglers began shortly after the bridge. We would ride then the motor escorts would slow us to a crawl for a ½ mile or so keeping the group together. This routine would continue for the next 30 miles.
We finally reached NAS Oceana and the chili cook off. NO, we didn’t have any chili but they only give out Dixie cups any way. We were offered our choice of chow from one of the vendors. I devoured a chicken wrap and some nachos. WOW, there is no shortage of chow on this tour.
The number of riders began thinning at Oceana. The Marines and several other riders were dun. I bailed out as the ride passed near my house. Overall, the ride took us 80 miles.
Sunday began very similar. I rode by Kevin’s house and we once again rode hard to breakfast. We mingled and awaited our safety brief. The day’s route would take us 40 miles through downtown Norfolk, on to the Naval Station for lunch and return to Little Creek.
I decided to ride the COHO today and that brought some good conversation. I talked to USA Today reprter Sal Rubial about cycling in Virginia and France. He has ridden several tour routes and has covered the tour several times. We discussed Paris-Breast-Paris and both of us have the desire to ride it in the future. I’m sure I’ll see Sal on one or two brevets in the next few years. There’s less than 3 years until the next PBP.
Sunday also brought out another newbie cyclist, John. He dawned a kit, was fitted for a bicycle and we were off. John finished the ride. He mentioned at lunch that he had never hit the wall as bad as he did on Sunday AM. He also mentioned that he was helped with some pushing from other riders over more than 1 bridge. Good job John!
Actor Mike Vogel lead the way for the first leg of the ride and screamed his best rendition of Axel Rose for the first few miles. Look out Axel!
Once back on Little Creek, JW, decided to showcase a little speed. With around 1 mile to the finish, Sal and another rider had about a ½ mile lead on the pack. Our pace began picking up and JW clicked his shifter twice. Here we go. I shifted a couple times and was surprised I was able to hang. We rounded the final corner and JW put down the hammer. The acceleration was quick. I felt like I was watching from a stand still. FUN!
The R2R is a class act. It gets the wounded warriors out of the hospital and on the street. It gives them a purpose and a goal. The project also introduces cycling to active duty military that might not have the means to try the sport of cycling. I talked to a few of the Marines that were on the ride and they were planning to purchase bicycles in the very near future.
A huge thanks to John Wordin (JW) from R2R and Jeff Hill from the USO for putting together a class ‘experiment.’