“We had a couple of hotel rooms booked in Tallahassee for Friday night with the plan to get a good nights rest and blast of on Saturday morning with the rest of the riders embarking on the 2017 edition of the Tallahassee Tango. By Wednesday hurricane Nate was forecast to make landfall on the Gulf coast somewhere west of there. We were either going to ride through a hurricane or lose out on the hotel reservation made months before.
I got a call on Wednesday evening from one of the guys and he had a plan. The suggestion was to keep the hotel room, but do the ride before the booking, sleep and drive home before the storm arrived. 15 minutes later we had all agreed and it was on!. We would drive up Thursday after work – 5 hour road trip – and get on the bikes as soon as we got there. Pasta was consumed on the way north and we got rolling at 1am on Friday morning.
We were a group of 2 veterans and 2 newbies for this event, and the excitement was high. Right out of the gate it is rooty singletrack that wakes you up pretty quick. The first sign of things to come was at mile 10, which should have been a knee-deep water crossing, but was not even ankle deep. We skirted it easily and everyone was happy that their socks would be dry in the coming miles, but there was a price to be paid.
Sunrise came after only 40-odd miles and that showed how slow the going really was. I was starting to doubt our estimated finish time, but it was still early with many miles to come. After a rather uneventful morning we stopped and got lunch and some supplies at the 60 mile mark. Our progress was slow and it finally dawned on me that the dry water crossing was a sign of a very dry course overall. The sand was fierce and we spent a good amount of time walking our bikes.
Dinner came at Sopchoppy pizza and we were a little early for them to open, so we had a good rest. A couple of guys napped on the ground till the hot pie came out. Food and Coke made life much better and we set off north heading back. It was torture. The sand was a mile deep in places and you had to carry the bike over your head to get through. Maybe not quite that bad, but it felt like it.
Around 11pm we rolled up to a short section of connector trail running next to US19. A meeting followed that included lots of math, and the decision was made to ride the hour-and-a-half back into town on the highway versus following the route back into the woods for 40 more miles of singletrack. At our current pace we would finish just before lunch on Sunday and that was pretty much a no-go all around. Spinning into town along pavement was a welcome respite, but the DNF will always sting, at least a little. We finished up with 143 miles at 1am, after going off-course at mile 125 of the full 168. A week or so later we would learn that 23 out of 70 starters finished and only 3 or 4 went under 30 hours. Needless to say, it was a tough year, but we all have something to go back for.”