My First Century Ride

With all this talk about asking locals for directions reminds me of the time when I was at a 7-ELEVEN camp in Bonham, Texas. A Tour de France rider by the name of Bob Roll was the leader of the "Wimps and Women" group mainly because he had broken his collar bone and was wearing a figure eight sling. Even so, he could easily out ride any of us.

The routes for the day were announced. The racers would do 130 miles, the wannabes 80 and the W&W group 50. We were to meet at noon under a bridge across the Red River for lunch. The distance before lunch for the W&W would be 35 miles with 15 back to the hotel.

We were working on single and double pacelines on the spider web of paved but unmarked rural roads in that part of the state. After a while, I noticed that Bob was doing a lot of studying of his map. When he finally wadded it up and stuffed it in a pocket of his jersey, I knew we were in trouble, especially since we were already over 50 miles into the day and obviously lost.

We came to a guy sitting next to a mailbox in a rocking chair so Bob waved us to a most welcomed stop. "Where does this road go?" he asked the guy in the rocker.

"Over the hill," was his reply.

"What's over the hill?" Bob asked.

"'Nuther hill."

It was obvious that Bob was getting nowhere with that line of questions so he tried a different tact. "Which way to Bonham?" he asked.

"I don't know but the mail man comes from there and he will be here in about an hour," replied the rocker man.

"You don't know much, do you?" said Bob in desperation.

"Well, I'm not lost on a bicycle."

We rode for a few more miles and a water tower began to creep above the trees ahead. It was a one-store town with the strange name of Telephone. Bob talked with the owner of the store who drew a map of the shortest route to the bridge where we were to meet for lunch.

He told us, "We have 13 miles to ride in 30 minutes. It's mostly down hill so get on my wheel and I'll pull us there. Yell out if you can't hold the pace."

That was the fastest 13 miles I've ever ridden and when we arrived, about half of us were so trashed that we simply fell over in the middle of the road, unable to even hold ourselves up.

We had a good lunch and after a swim in the river, and even though we already had almost 80 miles in, we were ready to whip off the 15 miles back to the hotel. Only problem was that there had been one small mistake, it was 25 miles back. That was my first century ride.

Suits from the Southland Corporation that owned 7-11 showed up the last day of the camp to let them know that the company had declared bankruptcy and there was no longer a 7-11 team. They sold much of their equipment for money to get them home and I was able to buy Eric Heiden's bike.

That's me on the right with Tom Schuler, 1986 USAFA road race winner.

Me again with Bob Roll.


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Copyright 2000 by Jim Foreman