Back in 2004, my big thing was gardening. I had just starting to get into bicycling seriously, and my weekend time was beginning to become a scarce resource. I was collecting daylilies, hostas and roses. I had even joined the Middle Tennessee Daylily Society. The first River Ride I had ever heard of was that year, and it fell on the same day I had volunteered to be a daylily show judge assistant. The whole time I wanted to be at that ride. The next year, I volunteered to work registration. I did that, then I took off and rode the metric. Years after that, I either drove Support and Gear (SAG), or I rode with an adaptive athlete on the tandem.
This year my volunteer opportunity got screwed up (long story), so I actually was just a participant this year. I had always preached what a great ride it was, but I was mostly just pushing it to get people to sign up. This year I got a different perspective.
This year I joined my fellow employees from HCA. The idea was to raise some money for the Hope Fund. We all donated to get a really cool jersey. I’m most excited because our Wellness Team, led by Matt Coleman, has embraced bicycling at the corporate level. We probably had 25-30 riders – not bad for the first year! Good things will come as we continue to grow that effort.
The metric century was my distance this year, which was my longest ride of the year. I rode out with Chuck Faulkner from the Jeff Roth Cycling Foundation. Chuck and I have known each other from advocacy circles for several years. It was fun to ride along and talk with him. If you haven’t gotten your license plate, you should. But I digress….
Since HBC partnered with Nissan, they’ve had a spectacular starting line. Sound systems, stages and the vendor expo create a carnival-like atmosphere, well lit by the morning sun reflecting off the big shiny Nissan Headquarters building. Leaving HQ, we meandered through downtown Franklin (slowly – 62/100 riders shared the route through there.) I’m sure the drivers running late were quite annoyed that they had to wait for 1000+ riders to pass at 5mph.
Police had all the right corners blocked, but unfortunately we had two injuries. A 17-year-old girl pulled out and ran into two of the Radio Shack pros, one being Ben King (who is supposed to be a contender some day for the yellow jersey in Tour de France.) Luckily he was bruised and scraped, and the HBC SAG crew got his bike repaired and back riding again. I’m glad Tennessee didn’t make the headline “Stupid Tennessee Driver Runs Over Ben King, Shattering Chances for a Yellow Jersey.”
As usual, the route was scenic, rolling hills, steep terrain framing beautiful fields. It’s hay bailing time, so the swaths of green mowed grass was dotted with big round hay bails. We cruised around the west side of I-65, Carters Creek, eventually circling around to the old start at Thompson’s Station Church. From there, we crossed to the east of I-65, through Bethesda (cycling central) and up Pulltight Hill. This year they had the King of the Mountain contest, with timing chips and everything. I didn’t participate in the timing thing – I was just glad to get to the top without stopping to catch my breath.
I want to make a quick note, since I’m one of the route painters for Tour de Nash. The HRR used routearrows.com, a different color arrow for each route. They were very easy to see and follow. The route markers did a great job. Heck, I didn’t even take a cue sheet, and I rode by myself for much of the ride.
The Harpeth River Ride has always been famed for excellent homemade rest stop food. This year was no exception, though not so much of it was homemade this year. Every rest stop had cold water and Gatorade (watered down, which is good), watermelon, pickles, salty chips and PBJ’s, plus some homemade goods. I never saw a rest stop that was out of food. Some of the rest stops had themes, like Margaritaville (I tried to get a real one, but they didn’t have them), and the SNL Characters (some of the volunteers had rubber coneheads on!) Oooooh weee! Whaddup with dat? Whaddup with dat?
Support was always around, but not too pesky. That’s usually my gig, and I know it’s hard to keep everyone covered, but not run anyone over in the process. I always felt like the SAG drivers would be along if I needed them. Thank goodness it was a cool day. The SAG teams are busier when it’s really hot.
When I returned to the finish line, I was handed a nice medal and an ice cream sandwich. How’s that for a finish line? I discovered a nice spread of BBQ (which I don’t eat.) But they also had GOOD REAL vegetarian food – Israeli Cous Cous, Hummus and pita, plus some other stuff, which is quite a surprise! We all finished with ice cream.
Just a note – Ben King and his teammates finished while I was eating. Their handlers from Nissan offered up a room in the Nissan Headquarters. They said no thanks, that they wanted BBQ instead. They actually sat down at my table and hung out with the riders. It’s nice to see professional athletes being normal nice people. It wasn’t exactly a mob scene. I think Nashville is used to seeing famous music people in public, and they really don’t get that crazy.
I’m also proud of my friends as part of the Adaptive Athlete programs. We spend a lot of time on Tuesday nights training with the blind folks. Dan Dillon, one of my usual stokers, and an inspiration to many, rode with Robert Hendry on the metric route. Dan spent a lot of time coasting to rest his butt, but they did a great job and finished pretty strong. I’m really proud to be a friend of theirs.
Long story short, I’ll probably be volunteering again next year. But it was great to just ride it clean, be a participant for once. Even though I’m a huge supporter of Harpeth Bike Club, I can say as a bicyclist – it’s a damn good ride. Kudos to the ride committee and volunteers. And thanks to the sponsors for making it happen. Give it a try.
PS – I’ll try to get some pictures up later to make this a little more interesting.