So we really went to Dahlonega, GA and its really pronounced Dah-lon-ah-ga but since we were headed deep into the heart of Nascar Country, it seems only fitting that I stick with the title I thought of long before we departed WV.
Originally, I had March 18th circled on my calendar as the anticipated kickoff to the 2012 race season, but that changed in mid January when JR threw out an invite to the team to join him at Southern Cross on February 25th. It was the final installment of the 2011 Ultra Cross Series and the first event of the 2012 series as well. Since I made excuses to not do the Hillybilly Roubaix this past year (and have kicked my own butt for doing so ever since), I knew that I had to make the commitment to take on this challenge or feel even worse about myself for not trying it.
The plan was to depart Thursday, pre-ride Friday, race Saturday, and travel home Sunday. Mike Vanderberg, JR Petsko, and James Braswell were already loading the totally pimp Pathfinder of WV van when I arrived at the meeting place. Im almost 40 and I must admit, I felt like a little kid, beaming with pride as we rolled down the interstate and I would catch other motorists checking out our sweet ride. A huge, I MEAN HUGE, thank-you to the awesome folks at the Pathfinder shop for their generosity. I’ve done other big races in far away places but I was super nervous as we started our trip south. This was my first trip with the new crew and I was so afraid they weren’t going to stop often enough for me to eat. Seriously, I wasn’t concerned about the race or about my performance, I was honestly worried that I was going to be eating nuts and berries and whatever else I could manage to scrape out of the carpet of the van for the 10 hour trip. I begged Amy to bake a double batch of chocolate chip cookies to take along for the ride (and being the best girlfriend in the world, she did…). I had my backpack stuffed with extra Honey Stinger Strawberry Waffles, Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies, a pound of fudge, 5 Chocolate bars, fruit chews, crackers, and whatever else I grabbed on my way out of the kitchen. I was the fat kid at summer camp with a footlocker full of junk food.
The trip south proved to be uneventful. We stopped in Princeton for lunch around 1:30 which made me very happy. I ate 3 crispy chicken sandwiches, 3 cheesy cheddar burgers, a small fry and a Dr. Pepper…. Good to go for about 4 hours I figured. We made a final stop in Bristol for fuel (almost cost as much as my lunch) and we arrived in Dahlonega, Georgia at 7:30 PM to 76* temps. We checked in at the Hiker Hostel and headed out to town for dinner at Caruso's and the bottomless bowl of pasta. Yeah, I officially survived day 1!
Friday morning, hosts Josh and Leigh, started the day with a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs, Belgian waffles, oatmeal, grits (if you chose to partake which I didn’t), OJ, apple juice, and coffee. We shared the tables with a mixed crew of cyclists and hikers and it was interesting to listen to the stories that were being shared. After breakfast, the transport vehicles were shuttling the hikers to various drop offs and when things settled down, it provided the perfect opportunity to have a look around. The Hiker Hostel was a new construction log cabin in a hardwood forest just off the highway. You really could not ask for a nicer location to spend the weekend at. By 10am we were off to the start area to do a little reconnaissance of first part of the course. The cross course was staked out, so we decided to try to figure it out to get the full effect. Less than a mile into the ride, I watched Mike catch a little air off a little lip (and thought “I wish I had those kind of balls”) and proceed to involve himself in an acrobatic aerial crash where rider flew one direction and bike flew in the other direction (and I thought to myself “that’s why I don’t”). He hit the ground hard enough to open the can of coke he had stashed in his back jersey pocket. Later he noted that he crushed his coke but didn’t even bruise his banana in the pocket next to it. Having an up close and personal view of the event, he was very lucky to manage to survive with no real injury or mechanical malformation. We rode an hour out on the course and managed to climb 2500’ in the first 12 miles. We turned around and made it back in just 40 minutes… ahh the benefits of gravity. We headed back to the Hostel and cleaned up and headed back to town for lunch. Smokin' Gold BBQ was, in my opinion, some of the best barbeque I’ve ever eaten. Back to the hostel for a little R&R and bike cleaning and preparation. Dinner that night was at Pueblo's and I think we were all pleasantly surprised at how tasty the food was. I knew going into the restaurant that I was likely giving up any opportunity to have reliable drafting help all day but man do I love Mexican cuisine. We were 4 for 4 with delicious meals so far and I had officially survived my second day on the road.