The wind was steady 25-30 mph gusting to above 40 (Wow!). We were worried that this would be the conditions on Saturday too. The weather reports were not too promising. As we headed west on 380 we both noticed that the visibility was dropping, the sun was getting obscured, and everything was starting to look dingy. Dust. I could look directly at the sun and see a gray disk against a darker gray sky. This combined with the wind could make the ride very difficult, and unique. We had not ridden in a dust storm before. hmmm...
We got to Graham about 6:45pm and checked into the Gateway Inn. In the past we always stayed at the Rodeway Inn just down the street, but this year we wanted something different. The Gateway was nicer than the Rodeway and had a nice little restaurant with it. They served up a fine Prime Rib dinner for $ 8.95 with home-made pecan pie and wonderfully creamy ice cream. The rooms were larger than typical and had a recliner! We asked them when we checked in whether we could stay late on Saturday and get a shower before we headed home. They suggested we check back in Saturday morning. It all depended on how many people were going to be checking in Saturday.
We drove to the downtown square where the registration desks were setup in the VFW building. We saw this cool dude saving his energy getting ready for a ride. They were getting things setup for the festival on Saturday and we picked up our packets. We'd planned on doing a 40 mile ride, and the closest was 46 miles. That's the maps we got. The ride was the same as the years before. Directly south for about 20 miles, then directly west for about 8 miles, then northeast for about 18 miles (something like that).
Next morning we headed over to the restaurant and had a fine breakfast. The ride didn't start until 9:30am, so we had plenty of time to get things ready. Turns out we could stay until 2pm if we paid a little extra which we gladly agreed to do. The wind had dropped quite a bit (thank god!) and it was blowing at about 15-20 mph out of the south. The temperature was about 65, so the ride was going to be great. Last year it was very, very cold, and the year before it rained like hell and we turned around at the 10 mile rest stop.
We read the newpaper and goofed off until time then drove downtown to the festival grounds in the square and the starting lines. They had the 100 milers setup in front, then the 95, 62, and 46 milers, then the 26 milers last. The organizers had a Kiddie Criterium planned for 10am which we had to miss since we were biking then (bummer!). We'd both like a chance to see one of those sometime. They sound real entertaining.
The town square in Graham is really a large rectangle. They claimed it was the largest town square in the state. It sure had a lot of room for things. They had the courthouse in there, the police station, the VFW post, and plenty of room for the festival food stands and exhibits.
The ride was great. It was gently rolling hills, sunny, crowded at first then trailing off as the 60 and 80 milers turned off. At a few points we were mostly alone except for a few cyclers far off in the distance. We averaged about 10-12 mph during the 1st 20 miles, then on the turn north picked up the speed to maybe 18-20 mph. The breeze stiffened in the afternoon and we made great time on that last leg.
Things we remember the most: