Since a generation in bike racing is about five years, there are few left who will remember Shotgun Creek. And for those who do, I apologize for stirring your primal fears and inducing nightmares. But I could not ride by without paying my respects.
Today's ride followed the route of a race that hasn't been held in 5 or 6 or maybe even 7 years. It started out nice enough: tailwind through dead flat farmland. I missed a turn, but no worries because I just took the next one instead. The only hard thing about this stretch of the ride was that there was nowhere to stop and pee (the women's peloton used to be quite a spectacle when it would just stop somewhere, hopefully but not always out of sight of the nearest farmhouse). Whereas on Wednesday there was no traffic and a jillion trees, today there was traffic and nowhere to hide. Eventually, you climb out of the valley on Gap Road, which is like a mini pass, a stairsteppy, not too monstrous hill. There's a little town at the bottom on the other side, where I stopped for coffee and a scone (I'm tired of Clif bars, and those Blox taste like paint thinner). The town is just big enough that if you shut down all the streets, you could have a nice little 4-corner crit (me? thinking of crits? hmmm).
More flat farmland with more hat farms. A little crosswind but not bad. Then today's climb. It's never steep, but I think it goes on for about 4 miles. I had resolved to do it twice, to make up for the fact that this was otherwise a pretty flat ride. It seemed to go on forever. Just when I was marveling at how much litter was in the ditch and on the shoulder, I noticed a water bottle. Now, you know how when you're climbing and you want to think about something besides the climbing--well, that bottle stuck in my mind. You wouldn't ditch a bottle on a training ride or out touring, would you? But there aren't any races here any more. And there was a feed zone on this climb those many years ago. But how could a bottle sit there for 5 years and not get grown over or blown away or otherwise fade into the woodwork?
Well, I ended up so curious about that bottle that on my second time up the hill, I had to stop and look at it. I figured I'd just be able to accuse some local team of littering the countryside. I was astounded to discover that, indeed, it must have been sitting there, virtually unscathed, for these last 6 years. So when people tell you NOT to throw your water bottles off the road in a bike race, this is why: they do not go anywhere, they do not disintegrate, and as a general rule I do not go around 6 years after a race to pick up old bottles. Plastic is forever; be careful where you put it.
As I crested the climb and dropped down the other side, I thought "gee, it's steeper from this side; I should turn around and go up this one too." So I did. It was steeper, but there was a tailwind, so it wasn't too bad. I managed to turn a ride with one long climb into one with 3 good climbs.
Just when I thought I must have missed Shotgun Creek, I saw the sign to the "Recreation Area." It is now an OHV ("off highway vehicle") trail area, which seems somewhat more appropriate than the road bike courses we used to have to try to find through this jumble of barely paved forest roads of 10-14%. Curious to know what OHV stood for, I stopped to read an informational display and came across this picture from "back in the day" when we did indeed race on these "roads." The fifth guy in this line could be wearing an old Olympic Sports jersey.
And after Shotgun Creek, I passed the spot that invokes my strongest memories of Larry Kemp. He had flatted out of a break in the cat 3 race and still had not gotten a wheel change by the time I rolled through (OTB, as usual). To say he was pissed would be an understatement. We miss you, Larry. Rest in peace.