Big Nellie Naked

]I had intended to go for a monster ride today, drive out into the country, take Big Nellie off her leash and let her rip. I stupidly didn’t get my butt in gear until 10 so the opportunity for  a century an hour drive away was lost. Instead I went into my basement looking for a cue sheet for the Southern Maryland Century, which starts in Indian Head MD, only 20 minutes from my house. During my search I found a cue sheet for a metric century (64 miles) in eastern Prince Georges County MD 30 minutes from my house.

So I took off Big Nellie’s fairing (a windshield made of Lexan) and plopped my long wheel base recumbent on my bike rack. And off I drove.

When I pulled into the park where the ride began, I saw a couple hundred cars parked. What are the odds that I would randomly pick this cue sheet on the day of this year’s ride? I felt a bit like a gate crasher. Riders on fast bikes were finishing as I was getting my bike ready, so it was unlikely that my ride would overlap with anyone’s in today’s event.

As I went to put Big Nellie’s fairing back on, the Lexan around one of the mounting holes snapped off. I have literally had this fairing duct taped for a couple of years so this wasn’t really a surprise. It has taken an incredible beating for ten years and nearly 30,000  miles.  So we rode naked. (Good thing, too, because halfway through the ride the mounting hardware broke!)


The fairing helps a lot when riding in windy conditions. It adds a couple of miles per hour on descents. And it weighs down the front wheel, balancing the weight distribution of the bike. Riding without it, however, makes the bike feel completely different. The front end feels lighter. The bike climbs a little better because it is lighter. On a warm day, the breeze across my body feels great. The biggest benefit was entirely unexpected: I could see the road. The fairing had been scratched so badly that I could no longer see through it. I have been compensating by braking a lot and leaning to the side to get a better view of the road surface ahead of me. No more.

The ride does a big figure eight along the Patuxent River, which separates PG County from Calvert County. I doubt the terrain gets more than 200 feet above sea level. Never the less there is quite a bit of climbing because the rest areas are the banks of the river. Every rest is rewarded with honest work.

The first twenty miles were a blast. My legs were fresh and I was trucking. I had fun waving to the event riders coming my way. I did quite a bit of hill hopping, screaming down one hill and using my momentum to blast up the next. I knew I’d pay for my early speed later in the ride but I didn’t care. I was zipping along at over 20 miles per hour, something I never get to do during the workweek.

The first rest stop was deserted so I took a quick look at the river. A park employee commented on my bike. We chatted and she told me about kayak and canoe rentals. The river looked inviting but I had riding to do.

I kept trucking, perhaps a bit slower than before. I chalked it up to bigger hills and headwinds. About a mile before the next rest stop,  a car pulled along side me and the driver asked me if I was okay. Weird. Then it dawned on me that he was the sag wagon, looking for stragglers from the event. At the next rest stop, the volunteers were loading all the food and drinks into cars. I parked a discrete distance away. One of the volunteers came over and offered me some food and drink. Don’t mind if I do.

The ride up from the river was considerably harder than before. I was slightly over half way. No problemo. It was, however, getting hotter and the humidity was rising too. Pedal, pedal.

A guy on a fast looking road bike blew by me on a hill. He stopped at the top. I later found out that he was waiting for a friend. The two of them volunteered at a rest stop and were getting some miles in after their good works. We talked a bit at the next rest stop. His friend gave me some pretzels and I took some pictures of them with their camera. They loaded their bikes on two cars and I rode off. Uphill. Ugh.

The route diverted into Charles County for a few miles. I saw a vulture in the middle of the road. Do I look that bad? No, he was busy with some road kill.

The last few miles back to the start were flat or downhill. I finished strong but was plenty pooped. 64 miles. Naked. Big Nellie didn’t blush once.

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