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  • Timothy Bruce

Back in saddle again

Having self-isolated for 10 days to recover from Covid, I rejoined the cyclists in Taylor, Mississippi on Tuesday evening (7th June) and was warmly welcomed back although facemasks were required to reduce any risk of transmission. However, that said, another three people tested positive for Covid on Tuesday and so began a rather sad story of further positive tests over the following days or people leaving due to worries about catching the virus. This may have rather ripped some of the fun out the ride but those of us remaining are determined to see the ride through and enjoy ourselves on the way.

On Wednesday, I therefore climbed back on my bike and 4 consecutive days of cycling commenced. This first ride was a 72 mile distance from Taylor to Saltillo, Mississippi but all I could manage was 30 miles and then my ride ended. I made it to the first rest stop feeling great and ready for the next part of the ride but I needed to be rescued and picked up between rest stops as my energy levels just simply evaporated in the heat. As I promised I would do, I listened to me body and when I reached the end of my energy capacity, I stopped riding and climbed in the support vehicle, placing my bike in one of the 4 racks on the front of the vehicle. There was a massive thunderstorm whilst we were in Saltillo with the heavens throwing down enough water to make a storm in England look like light drizzle and then lightning and thunder that took out all the lights. We started our meal under torchlight but eventually the electrics came back on.

Thursday - The second ride was 96 miles in distance from Saltillo to Collinwood, Tennesee, with a short section through Alabama and good part of this was on the Natchez Trace National Park. I managed to reach the second rest stop at mile 43, but again that was that for the day and I climbed into the support vehicle. Some of the riders clocked up the additional miles to complete century rides including Tim DeClue who had never ridden that far before. Great job!!

Friday - The ride was 55 miles long from Collinwood to Shady Grove, Tennesee and again I rode into the second rest stop feeling tired but determined to finish the ride off. Thus began my favourite part of the ride so far as I led people out of the rest stop for the final part of the ride. This started with quite a long climb, followed by a series of undulations and shorter climbs and dips. To my surprise I seemed to be pulling away from everyone and soon I was pushing out the miles with increasing power and confidence. As I was at the front of the ride, everytime I can to a turn or junction where we changed direction, I had to stop and chalk the road so that subsequent riders knew when to change direction. Each time I stopped to do this, I half anticipated that other riders would catch up but this never happened. As a result I pulled into Shady Grove and arrived first at the church. I felt wonderful that I had put the disappointment of missed rides and build days behind me and that I was back to near full fitness. I felt I had looked Covid in the face and told it that I was not going to be limited by it.

As a leader of one of the chore groups, I had to coordinate the washing of the laundry and we did this with the help of washing and drying machines offered by a church member. In total this represented about 6 or 7 loads which we started early afternoon and finished in the evening.

This was after we were invited up to a fabulous farm by another member of the church and we saw humming birds, deer, red cardinals and bluebirds enjoying being fed and I saw a wild turkey flying. The setting was just beautiful but, unfortunately, I left my camera behind!

Finally on the Saturday - I offered to ‘sweep’ on the next ride where myself and Sandie Remson rode at the back of the group to make sure that everyone remained safe or was picked up by the support vehicle. This ride would take up from Shady Grove to Nashville - some 60 miles. We were still on the Natchez Trace but we had the joy of a gradual down hill towards to Nashville. That said, it was a tough ride. Everything was going well until we hit downtown Nashville and our arrival happened to coincide with the National Country & Western Music Awards. Cowboy boots and ‘yeehaws’ were everywhere and trying to avoid running over pedestrians was resolved by walking our bikes at times. Eventually, we made our way through downtown and after ‘Tim getting lost’ from the group for a short time, we all made our way to the church where we would be staying for the rest of the weekend. Part of the agreement with the church was that we would all test before entering the church and one again this threw up a disappointing result when someone who had just joined the ride tested positive and had to leave the group. Aaaagh!

So far this ride has been a combination of fun and frustration, joy and sadness, tiredness and exhilaration but is this not what life is about but only in compressed timeframe?? I am determined not to lose heart and the rest of the team are with me on wanting to see this adventure through. Sure, we are having to adapt to the circumstances, do things differently to keep people safe and take each day as it comes, nevertheless, we will see our bikes reach the lakes in Ohio even if it is not as straight forward as we had hoped.

Take care everyone!

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