It rained all day Saturday. The forecast for Sunday was not much better. Depending upon which station you looked at rain was predicted early morning for Jackson and all afternoon for H'burg. I was not looking forward to riding in the rain, but only Dianne bowed out.
I drove to Jim's at 7:00 for an 8:00 start. Jim was not there when I arrived so I started getting ready in a light mist. I had on a short sleeve jersey, leg warmers and Davids rain jacket. I was pretty cold and I was guessing it would not warm up very fast so I decided to add my wool undershirt. It was probably 48 degress at this time. Jim still had not shown up and I thought about calling him and going home. Little did I know, he was doing the same thing. I am glad we did not call each other as the day would improve later in the afternoon. Jim showed up just before 8 and we left at 8:10. Doug was going to meet us at the Home Depot on the route. His wife drove his truck to H'burg so we would have a way to get home, so he did not have a vehicle.
This was a new route for me and the first new route that I had been on since last September. Interestingly, the Sept route was with Doug and Jim to Natchez. I had a cue sheet but would only refer to it once or twice since I was riding with Jim and Doug. I quickly realized that the wool undershirt was too much, but could not do anything about it. I was staying up w/Jim pretty good for the first few miles until we hit a long incline. I thought I was going to die. I was burning up and sweating - not good for 48 degrees. I stopped and pulled off David's jacket. Now, I was too cold, but since I don't normally ride with Jim, I wasn't going to mess around with different layers. We pick up Doug on his Giro about 10 miles into the ride at the Home Depot. He is waiting for us just off of the street and so we don't stop in the parking lot to adjust clothing.
The traffic is heavier in this area - as I thought it would be. Jim will have a police escort when they do this ride at the end of the month. I don't know how comfortable I would be riding alone here on a Saturday. There is some church traffic, but I think it is lighter that what we would see on a Saturday. Fortunately, the first rest stop is at about mile 15. I was able to stop for a bio and adjust clothes. I have a hard time all day being comfortable. I do not have the right combination - I am either uncomfortably cold or hot all day. At this point I add my vest and take off my buff and ear warmers.
Some cars really pass us close, but this stretch is pretty fun. There are a lot of rollers that allow you to pick up speed and shoot right up and over the next hill. We pick up a good bit of speed here are are averaging close to 15 mph at the next stop. Doug and Jim eat a biscuit and I grab a drag of gel. This stop is in Florence. I am pretty sure that I had been here several times before - the Casting Crowns concert and taking Meagan to see Daniel - I wondered if we would ride by his old house. After a while, we do ride right past the house! Not long after that we would turn into the hilly part of the ride. We have a really long hill up to a rest stop at a church. It is a winding climbing hill, not too steep, but pretty long. I am able to get into a good rhythem and although slow, I don't have a problem getting up it. The stretch to the next rest stop is just a few miles. The guys have figured out that the store on the route is closed for good, so we stop accross at a church and Jim inquires if we can stop for water and restrooms there in the future.
I did not realize it at the time, but we have 20 or more miles before we can get water now - I will probably be really low by the time we reach the next stop, but I don't worry about it. My speed drops considerably at this point. The hills are pretty constant. Doug warns me that we have a real steep hill coming up. Complicating the hill is the fact that right below it is a small wood plank bridge. So as you are coming down the hill in front of it you have to make sure you hit the plank right or you will be tossed. So, picking up speed on the preceeding downhill is not wise. Matter of fact, Doug said to make sure we were in our granny gear as we hit the bottom. He was so right. I really worried about this bridge and hill for a few miles. In all actuallity, the bridge is plenty wide as to not be too scary when crossing it. The first part of the hill is really steep - probably more than Shiloh. I got lucky and was in the right gear when I hit it making the hill much easier than I thought it would be. However, this was just the begining - the hill is really 4 hills - similar to yogi hill. It was pretty challenging by the time we hit the apex. I did not have to walk, but I was as slow as Christmas. The guys laughed at me since I said it was easier than I had imagined. I really did enjoy this section a lot.
We stopped in New Hebron for the next rest stop at a grocery store. I bought a full gallon of water and filled up all my bottles. By this time I was finally getting comfortable. The sun was peaking out from the clouds on occasion, but I don't think the temp ever got as high as predicted.
Since we had passed the "bad hill" I thought the worst of the hills were gone. Alas, I was wrong. The road leading out of New Hebron to Prentiss was very hilly. Long 2% hills with decent traffic. I really slowed down here. The hills persisted until about 5 miles before Prentiss and then they were rollers with more of a downhill than uphill.
Finally, we reached the Long Leaf. I knew though that the first 5-7 miles were a long slow grade. I was only averaging 8 mph or so at this point. We had averaged 13 to Prentiss. What a hill slug. The guys were waiting on me at Carson and I was able to stay with them more on this stretch to Sumrall.