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One Long Day in New England

by Pamela Blalock


OLDINE stands for One Long Day in New England. It's a double century that starts in Lebanon Maine and goes to Pascoag, Rhode Island, passing through Brattleboro Vermont on the way. For not those familiar with the area, or not in possession of an atlas, this is not the most direct route. The reason for this indirect route is to ride in all 6 New England States in the 200 miles. The ride has been run for several years by a small group of riders out of the Williamstown Massachusetts area.

17 riders started the event at 4 o'clock Saturday morning in Lebanon, Maine, a few hundred yards across the border from Rochester, NH, where we had all spent Friday night. It was a bit chilly, so I started out the day in arm and leg warmers. I knew I wouldn't need them for long. Highs of 90+ were predicted.

I heard Charlie ask about the course record, and after hearing it was a leisurely 15 hours, I knew I wouldn't see Charlie or Lindy again the rest of the day. Keith, Robert and Mark went with them when they bolted. They finished in less than 13 hours, refreshed and feeling no pain, and in posession of the new course record.

Scott, the ride leader and Barb were riding a tandem that they've had a few months. I tried riding with the them. I figured I'd have some hope of hanging with them on the hills, but I just couldn't hold my new Merlin back. so after the first 50 miles I ventured out on my own. Yes, I did say Merlin. My dear Vitus was forcibly retired by a German Shepherd a few weeks ago, and the only bike worthy of replacing her was the Merlin that I picked up on Wednesday. I had it out for a few shorter rides, during the week, but Saturday was the big test, and she passed. I had lots of people ask if I liked the new toy and if it was worth it. I love the new bike, but it absolutely, possitively was not worth it. (I would much rather pay with cash than with skin and bruises!)

My first headsoaking came at around mile 65, when I spotted a Laundramat. These places usually have bathrooms and are open lots of hours. (you can also get a good nap on a folding table, in case you are ever doing a brevet and need one!)

I came upon the second group of riders, three Ricks and Beth (who started calling herself Rick too) at the 90 mile checkpoint. They had been stopped for a while. I downed two Susticals and headed out with them. They were missing one of the Rick's. He had ridden up to the bike shop to get a new rear derailleur (sound familiar? Didn't I have to do this last week on the tandem?). I rode to the bike shop with them, but he wasn't ready yet. We had a good climb out of Keene coming up, and the sun was bearing down hard, so I wanted to get going. Rick Leblanc, Beth and I headed out, figuring they would catch us soon.

All the euporia I had felt about outclimbing Scott and Barb disappeared as these two riders easily pulled away from me on the big climb. I think my lack of riding during the weeks since the accident has taken a little out of me.

Beth and I rode together and chatted a little on the downhill side going into Brattleboro. We crossed the border and found Rick waiting in the shade by the side of the road. I asked where our sodas were, but he didn't understand the tradition that the first rider to the top of major climbs has to buy drinks for everyone! I, of course, have never had to pay!

I continued on and stopped up the road for a soda, bathroom break, and head soaking. I got my summer hair cut last week, but even an inch of hair gets hot! While I was sitting outside drinking my orangina, a guy came out of the store carrying a cup of coffee, got on his clunker bike and rode away. A couple of minutes later, the clerk came out, saying he had to see a $3000 bike. I asked who told him it that, and he said the guy from the bike shop (apparently the fellow with the coffee).

Now, no one ever made a comment about my vitus (which had the same components as the new bike), so I think I may have to remove the decals from the Merlin. I have never been nervous about leaving a bike unattended while I went in for a soda, but now I may have to be more cautious, since the bike says steal me all over it! Of course as soon as the thief tries to pick it up with all the stuff I carry (lights, jackets, food, etc), he will decide it's too heavy to steal!

We had been riding into the wind for sometime, so I hoped that we would have a tailwind leaving Brattleboro. (We were making a big U- turn there), but no such luck. It just became a stonger headwind. Before climbing Mt Grace, I realized I had about an ounce of water left, so I stopped at the store and bought some more. I figured I needed the handicap of carrying a full Camelbak up the mountain.

When I reached the top, and the next checkpoint, I found Beth and a different Rick. I changed into fresh shorts, downed more Sustical, and took off with them. That didn't last long. I guess I'm still a little gun-shy about bombing down hills, and took it easy. I decided to take the alternate way into Barre, since 122 is still not finished and West Street has lots more shade. I took a break at the store in Petersham and talked with the owner of the store. He was planning to do his first mountain bike race the next day. He wanted to know what the two kids that worked for him were doing for fun. The heat was really getting to me. I soaked my head again, and took some alka seltzer.

The next checkpoint was at mile 168. I had started to feel bad at mile 160. I knew I needed more calories, but I could not chew the cliff bar I had with me. It took too much energy. It was sort of down hill from Barre to Paxton, but the little ups took their toll. I looked pretty bad when I rolled in, but then I looked around and noticed I was not the only one. Rick Leblanc was sitting in the shade wrapped in damp towels. I accepted a damp towel over the shoulders from the crew running the checkpoint. They asked if I wanted a banana, and I said yes. It wouldn't take so much effort to chew. I held onto the banana for a few seconds and must have looked like I had less functioning brain cells than a chimpanzee, because they took it back, peeeled it and gave it back again. I ate the banana, a PB&J, two Susticals, and some fruit. Then I felt better.

I had about 7700 feet of climbing on the computer. The ride was advertised as 8000. I knew it was either mostly downhill, or someone had lied. Looking ahead at the cue sheet, I saw Buck Hill Road, and I knew someone had lied. Buck Hill is the highest point in Rhode Island.

Fortunately, that was the last climb. (I showed 8200 for the trip) The rest of the route was downhill or level. I stopped one more time for a head soaking. It seemed to get a little cooler, and I started feeling stronger. When I reached the fire tower at the top of Buck Hill, I hit the airhorn and raised my hands in victory. The rangers looked at me like I had less functioning brain cells than a chimpanzee! I sprinted the remaining 5 miles to make it in in 15:41, 10 miinutes behind two of the Rick's and 20 minutes ahead of Beth and the 3rd Rick, who had to stop every few minutes to pump up a slow leak. He came in on a flat tire.

Scott and Barb, who were riding the tandem dropped out at the final checkpoint. Apparently Scott was falling asleep on the bike. He organized the ride, and spent a little too much time in the preceeding week organizing and too little time sleeping.

The 5 remaining riders came in over the next two hours. A few of us headed across the street for Pizza, before heading home.

I loved the Merlin. No, it was not worth crashing to get it, but it is a great bike. I think I'll ride it across the country in a few weeks.