Day 4 on the STIHL Tour des Trees – Country roads and rolling hills

Day 4. Wednesday. Hump Day. The day you can no longer tell your clean clothes from your dirty clothes by the Smell Test alone.

Getting out of Raleigh had a few challenges, namely morning rush hour traffic and road shoulders that were not built with cycling arborists in mind. Our intrepid guide, Paul, let us know that we were looking at about 8-10 miles of sketchy 2 lane highways, which after you multiply whatever he says by the Paul Wood Understatement Coefficient, came out to an accurate 17 miles of sketchy 2 lane highways.

The plan for getting everyone out of town safely was to have our 100 riders go out in groups of 8-10 two minutes apart in hopes the spacing would make it easier for motorists to get around us and keep the road rage to a minimum. While the spacing plans predictably broke down almost immediately, we were able to get all riders to the first rest spot unscathed.

Our first break was sponsored by the good folks at Snell Tree Care. A tree planting and dedication was planned but fell through as the tree was unavailable. Enter Guy Meilleur, local arborist and friend of the Tour, who casually mentions that he has 2 trees in his truck right now that he’d be happy to donate. Gotta love tree people. Rolling around with extra trees, you know, just in case.

The ride to lunch was everything one would want from a touring bike ride. Country roads, rolling hills, no traffic, and beautiful weather.

Our host for lunch, First Presbyterian Church in Sanford, NC, was adjacent to a library where we dedicated our next tree of the day. This crepe myrtle was planted in honor of Marc Sherrod, a pastor at the church and a supporter of trees. Marc’s wife, Melanie, along with her sister, Bethany, are riding on the Tour this year. The good vibes infused into this young plant from all the riders and supporters guarantee its success as a living memorial to Pastor Sherrod.

We continued rolling on through the Carolina countryside. Tall pines, fresh air, and smooth roads.

The final rest stop of the day brought us to Hill Priest Presbyterian Church were the very sweet parishioners treated us to homemade desserts, fresh fruit, and in return we helped (to the fullest extent of the laws of Nature) to give their newly planted swamp white oak the best start it could hope for.

The home stretch brought us to Southern Pines, a historic golf community and an evening of putting debauchery hosted by Vermeer at Mid-Pines County Club.

Tomorrow brings a new challenge with the longest ride of the Tour, but everyone is getting in such great shape that I wouldn’t be surprised if every rider finishes strong.

Here’s to the trees and to the crazy people dedicated to caring for them. Prost!

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Written by Tour rider, Brandon Gallagher Watson.

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