This year will be the fourth time we've ridden the Horrible Hundred Century ride, but only the third time as paid participants.
The first time was right after we moved to Florida. We had moved here from the Blue Ridge Mountains of northeast Georgia. We loved it not for the climbs but for the wonderful rest stops. Music, scrumptious sweet treats, costumed volunteers. It was fun stuff.
The second time was the time we were not paid riders. We were on an independent bike tour (just us, our folding Bike Friday Llamas, and our trusty Ortlieb suitcases clipped to our rear carriers) riding from Savannah, Georgia, to Lake Placid, Florida. We had taken the train up to Savannah, and we were taking our time riding home. We had picked a bike-friendly route from the east Florida coast to the center of the state. We were surprised to find a bunch of riders on our route. They, in turn, seemed awfully friendly and very surprised to see the two of us tooling up and down the hills with our suitcase-laden bikes. When we passed one of the great Horrible Hundred rest stops, we figured out who the other riders were. (Since we couldn't have their rest stop snacks, we stopped later for a Ben and Jerry's splurge eaten straight from the container while sitting on the curb outside the convenience store where we made the purchase.)
We were doing independent touring and missed the ride for several years. Last year we went again. We were most impressed by the unrelenting cheerfulness of the riders. On one long hill, the string of riders walking their bikes up the hill were cheering madly for those of us that pedalled by them! Now that is enthusiasm.
Today we drove to Clermont. We picked up our registration packet and t-shirts. There were several rides today, but we didn't go on them. Instead we wandered through the large area of vendor displays. Lots of nice bikes and gear. Then we were off to the motel. There are a lot of interesting motels in the area, but we had errands to run. The most convenient motel for all our running about was the local Hampton. It has one of those annoying corded Internet hook-ups in its rooms, but at least it has freshly baked cookies in the afternoon.
Life is all about compromises.