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February Gran Fondo

Today I am reminded of why I love cycling: being outdoors, enjoying the (finally) beautiful weather (it was around 70±5 degrees today) on the ~5 hour jaunt. I rode from near Crabtree Valley Mall through NC State campus, through Dorthea Dix, over to Walnut Creek Trail to Neuse River Trail and then down to near the Clayton parking lot. Total mileage 63 miles. That's enough for a 100k ride, or a Gran least as far as Strava is concerned...and that's part of the fun, too, right? To earn those badges.
I wasn't going out for a fast ride. I was going out for a ride, regardless of speed; just ride what I feel while listening to Matthew McConaughey's Greenlights memoir audiobook. I am really enjoying listening to that. In fact, on this ride, Connie and I have decided that the hardcover version will be in our future library.
It's been raining a lot here, so the trails were still a bit muddy in places. Surprisingly the tunnel under I40 on Walnut Creek was just simply wet: no mud to speak of, so that was nice. 
However, the Neuse River was overflowing onto the trail in places I had not seen before. Some of the deepest water I've ridden through - almost to the top of a 700x38 wheel/tire combo. And at a little over 20 miles in, my feet were, of course, wet for the rest of the ride. Just about the time they dried out a little it was time to ride back through that section. That's the choice I made going through it, so it's all good. The weather was perfect and I just wanted to ride, inconveniences be damned. I was going to earn that badge and earn the post-ride beer. Why is it that post-ride beers taste so much better? Perhaps I need more data to make sure that's truly the case. 10+ years may not be enough.

One more deep section. How many more are there?
I haven't seen it this high here before

On the ride, a fellow rider was walking his totally-flat-front-tire bike. I stopped to ask if he needed any help. He told me about the slow leak and I offered up a CO2 cartridge. He pumped his tire up and I asked where he was headed and he said essentially the same place I was headed, so we rode together for a couple miles before he needed more air. We stopped, used another cartridge and got him rolling again. The third stop wasn't so good as the cartridge/pump connection was not cooperating, so he was left to hoof it back. Good news is he only had 6 miles to go rather than 12. Yay?
Steve on the third and final cartridge right before it gave up the ghost

I didn't have any more cartridges and the spare tubes I carried weren't going to work with his road bike: I was no longer of help, so I kept riding. Through a couple more flooded areas that weren't near as deep as the earlier ones. Out-and-back rides are great for when you want to ride a certain distance. I turned around to head back at 31.5 to make it a 63 mile total. As I was heading back, I noticed that Steve found someone that had a spare tube. Looked like he had a little over 5 miles left, so hopefully he made it back home before it got dark - probably had about 2 hours of sunlight by that time, so even if he had to walk, I suspect he made it back fine.
On the way back, I was enjoying the audiobook in my earholes and caught up with a solo rider. I didn't really want to push and pass, so I just hung back, enjoying the weather, the scenery. Even with the flood, the scenery on the Neuse River Trail is quite lovely. The deep-water crossing was coming up and I was going to let the lady in front of me know about it. When we got to the flooded section, she stopped. I pulled up and said, "this part is pretty deep, but the next part is deeper." An older lady (in her 60s maybe?), she said she had just moved here from somewhere overseas (she had a German accent, but I didn't catch what country she said she moved from) and that her daughter was going to pick her up further north on the Neuse River Trail. I didn't know another route to get around this part of the trail, so I explained how to ride through these deep sections. We both made it fine through the first section and we stopped. Then I explained how deep it was for the next section and to put the bikes in the lowest gear and just keep pedaling. She made it about half way before she had to dismount, but got back on with about 20 yards left to forge through. She carried on north, I split on the Walnut Creek Trail connector.
20 miles later, I arrive home, soaked, muddy, feeling accomplished and ready for that Mango Tango Foxtrot that I (try to) reserve for 40+ mile rides. I sat on the patio, enjoyed the beer, enjoyed chatting with Connie (as always) and enjoyed the weather. A glorious day, indeed!

Dirty Gunnar Hyper X
The Gunnar, once again, provided a joyous ride


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