Tandems East Tandem Weekend 2005

DateJuly 15-17, 2005
HostsTandems East (Team Kornbluh)
WhereSwedesboro, NJ
Who (else)16 (unnamed) DOGS teams

[Team Wells report]

It's the Humidity!

Because we live in "DOGS Country," we all know the phrase, "It's not the heat, it's the humidity!" While it us usually reserved for visitors, we often repeat it to each other. Well, that pretty much sums up the one variable that Mel and Barbara cannot control--the weather. While the Tandem Weekend has a long history of rainy Sundays, this was the first time in Team Wells experience, (2000 thru 2005, so far), when every day it rained. These weren't those gentle showers that cool you down after a long hot ride, but something approaching the Biblical warnings to Noah. The other NOAA had warned us of an entire weekend of rain.

We were one of the first teams to arrive at the hotel--around 11 AM Friday morning, and snagged a much coveted ground floor room (Room 101). For lunch, we then found a local restaurant--Applebee's, that is very close to the Hampton Inn from where all rides began/ended. When we returned from a delicious lunch, we found that other tandem teams were beginning to arrive, many of whom are our fellow DOGS. 16 DOGS teams (or 25% of the total DOGS membership) attended Mel and Barbara's Tandem Weekend 2005, and of the 62 tandem teams who attended, almost 26% of them were DOGS. We were well represented. And besides that, we have picked up a few new teams during the Weekend. One new team told us that the reason they decided to join the DOGS is because they were inspired by Larry and Brenda, Dave and Susan, and Mark and Cheryl's riding.

At 3 PM on Friday, many of us gathered under the portico of the Hampton and headed out on a 19.7 mile jaunt (Mel and Barbara's Welcome Ride), through the gently rolling terrain of Swedesboro and surrounding towns. This "getting to know the area" ride is always fun. This year's Friday afternoon ride included a lemonade stand (and delicious, freshly baked, warm, homemade, chocolate chip cookies--yum!), being run by one of Barbara's piano students. Barbara supplied all the participants with nickels to purchase the lemonade and cookies. Because of their great planning, we know that it wasn't a coincidence that Barbara's student's lemonade stand was just about halfway on the ride (about ten miles after we left the portico of the Hampton).

It was humid and NOAA was warning of thunderstorms building and a potential for late afternoon storms. So, the lemonade stop was short and Team Wells headed on to complete that ride and get back to the hotel. The return route had a lot of good "Tandem Rollers" where getting into the big ring allowed enough inertia to power over the next rise and down the other side for quite a few miles. However, the sky was telling us that a storm was coming. As we were in the final mile of the journey back, the familiar voice of Mark Cook cried out a strong "on your left" as a train of tandems drove by us. We attempted to hold onto the last wheel but thought better of that strategy because we had many miles planned for Saturday and did not want to blow out our legs. As the paceline pulled ahead, I was looking at about 200 meters of dry pavement that was engulfed by rain in the 201st meter. Needless to say, we became soaked. This was a heavy rain that really stung when it hit. Actually, due to the humidity, we were already pretty wet and our sweat had already soaked our cycling clothing, but now the bike, and shoes got soaked, as well. There were quite a few teams behind us that also got caught, as well as a few late arrivals that had just begun their ride. There were a lot of wet tandems and tandemists. Larry Isherwood was heard to say that if they had only left the lemonade stand five minutes sooner they would not have been in the rain.

Bob and Helen Bird were at the hotel when we arrived (about 4:15 PM), having assessed the weather and opted to stay inside rather than brave the roads and challenge the weather. After Linda and George got a shower and changed into dry clothing, Teams Bird and Wells headed out to test the local fare. The restaurant we chose--Botto's, an Italian Restaurant, was very good (albeit a bit on the pricey side), with excellent portions. Of course we couldn't turn down something from their dessert tray--chocolate, of course. While we were laundering our dirty, wet riding clothes at the Hampton Inn, Mark Cook gave an impromptu performance on his guitar in the hotel lobby.

Saturday morning, NOAA was again calling for more rain and humidity. Teams Bird and Wells decided to ride together throughout the weekend since our riding styles complement each other. They are faster going uphill while we are faster going down. Also, we really like each other's company. Our original plan was to complete Saturday's 60 mile ride (the longest ride of the day), but when we learned of the NOAA forecast, we changed our plans and participated in Mel and Barbara's Medium Ride--31.8 miles to lunch and, after lunch, the short ride back to the hotel (10.5 miles), in case the weather threatened our return--and glad that we did!

All Teams at the Tandem Weekend, began at 8 AM at the portico of the Hampton Inn. We (Teams Bird & Wells) kept a good pace with other tandemists around us. When we got to the cookie and water stop (20 miles into the ride, for Barbara's famous cookies), George was drenched even though it hadn't started to rain yet. We got to the lunch stop at 10:38 AM, almost a half hour before the lunch was to be served--just in time to get a much needed massage from Bob Bird (during the ride we learned that he is also a massage therapist). Teams started arriving as we waited for the lunch line to open. Then the sounds of thunder were heard. Teams Bird and Wells as well as many other teams discussed taking the short ride back to the hotel. I don't know if anyone did the longer route. We were back at the Hampton by 1:15 PM. The rain did come later in the afternoon, so if any Teams were doing the long ride, they became just as wet as we had been Friday afternoon.

Of course, the annual Tandem Weekend is always in July, as it the Tour de France. This particular Hampton Inn does not have OLN on its list of cable channels. Thanks to Don and Connie Engleke, a satellite dish, converter and all the equipment were brought to the hotel and set up, and we got to watch the Tour de France under the tents set up for our outdoor meals. As we watched the stage unfold, the clouds got thicker and thicker, there were sounds of thunder in the distance as the replay of Lance and his rivals climbed up the last two mountains as Saturday's stage unfolded. Like I said, the rains approached Biblical proportion. Then, just as Lance was about to launch an attack on Ivan Basso, we lost the signal! The groans sounded like that of Noah's neighbors who thought his predictions of rain were just so much nonsense. Meanwhile, the rains beat on our tent caps and we all huddled a bit closer and farther away from the sides of the tent caps. In short order, the ground became mud-soaked and many of the folding chairs sank into the mud. Of course, the signal returned after the finish of the race. Besides Saturday's stage of the Tour de France, we were "entertained" by the caterers who were dodging raindrops setting up for our dinner. Then, as we went back into the hotel, the rains stopped almost as suddenly as they had started.

By the time dinner was served (6 PM), the humidity had returned and the mud remained. The entertainment (The Snake Brothers--a Bluegrass band) was setting up in the hotel lobby. I guess that the mix of instruments, electricity, etcetera, favored an indoor venue. So, after dinner, we all piled in the sitting room/breakfast nook area of the hotel for an excellent performance that had all kinds of music, predominantly Bluegrass, mixed with some Jazz and even an Irish Jig! During the Snake Brothers program, Teams Bird and Wells did a load of laundry since all the clothes we had worn on Saturday was really in need of a wash). Barbara and Mel did some dancing to some of the Snake Brothers' songs. While the Snake Brothers were performing an Irish folk song, Mel and Trish Troike danced an Irish Jig. (We DOGS are a talented bunch!) The final bit of "entertainment" on Saturday came after many of us had said good night. The hotel fire alarms went off just before 9 PM. So, with whatever we were wearing at that time, everyone made their way out of the hotel while the Swedesboro Fire Department checked out the hotel. Glad it was a hot (but not rainy night) to have to be standing outside until we were permitted back into our hotel rooms, which was around 10:15 PM.

Sunday morning and, even though it wasn't raining, the roads were still wet from the rain that occurred while we all had been sleeping. Linda and I went back and forth over the decision to ride or not to ride and figured that we'd already been rained on once (Friday afternoon), so why not go for the gusto and tackle the 40 mile ride Mel and Barbara had planned for Sunday. It was even more humid than it had been on either Friday or Saturday. At 8 AM, when the Sunday ride began, we linked up with Team Bird, they, being like "Triki" on the upgrades, and we, their "Hincapie," on the down grades. It was fun, but the humidity was taking its toll. To a chorus of "YUCK" from Linda, Bob, and Helen, George managed to wring more than a few tablespoons of sweat from each of his gloves when we reached the cookie stop (24 miles in to our 40 mile ride). As we left the cookie stop, the air felt a little drier for a few miles, and we thought that we'd do the full 20 mile return, rather than the shorter ten mile option. Unfortunately, the dry air did not last and the sweat continued to pour off of us. We never could get dry. As we came into the last seven miles, George had to put his feet on the ground for a break--I was getting too hot because the sweat was not evaporating and my core temperature was getting too high. At that point we looked over the cue sheet and found that, if we continued, we'd be adding a two mile loop back to the same place where we were at the moment, so we opted to ditch the loop and head back to the hotel.

With Team Bird in the lead, providing a much needed draft to Team Wells's flagging energy, we took on the last five miles of road and got back to the hotel at 11:15 AM. We racked the tandem, showered, and had lunch. Linda was really whipped from the heat so Teams Bird and Wells opted to eat our lunches inside the hotel where it was cooler and dryer than outside. You may ask, just how humid was it? My socks were soaked, along with every other part of my body. While we were eating lunch with Bob and Helen, Bob told us that he noticed the same thing while riding those last miles. Team Wells ended the weekend with 100 miles logged. As we left the hotel, the sky opened up again, as if on cue--a fitting end to Tandem Weekend 2005.

Due to the traffic and accidents on Route 287 North, our trip home took us four hours, but Team Wells and "The Enterprise" arrived home safely. Tomorrow (Monday, 18 July), will be a day of non-tandeming and cleaning up a really dirty bike (not to mention draining all the tubes).

Still, it was a good weekend and Mel and Barbara, along with their support team, put together a great weekend for all of us. Nobody expected rain every day this weekend and definitely, nobody expected that we'd be rousted from our rooms at 9 PM because of "the fire that wasn't." Team Wells and many DOGS can all look forward to Tandem Weekend 2006!

Linda & George Wells
Leaders - Doubles Of the Garden State (DOGS)

DOGS Home Page

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Copyright © 2005, George Wells (text), Dave Snope (photos)