I declare Heather the champion rider in Jamaica, not only because she completed the ride from Kingston to Negril in fine style, cruising over the long continuous hill from Alligator Pond to Top Hill (a series of hills which Michael and Howie admitted had defeated them as they had to stop and rest a couple of times) like the energiser bunny, but also, at about 9pm when she reached Savanna la Mar, she took on a road bike which she had never ridden before, to complete the journey. It was actually quite an amusing sight seeing how she hugged up the road bicycle like a lizard on a limb (to steal a line from a popular dancehall tune) as she descended the last hill leading into Negril.
Those other MTR's who completed that challenging ride, arriving at the round about in Negril at five minutes to 1 am, were Damit, Michael and Howie. From the way he performed, Orrel (he also was not defeated by the hill in St. Elizabeth)could have easily completed it, but because he had to go back to Santa Cruz, he turned back at Savanna La Mar.
As to yours truly, my ambition had been to ride to Black River minus riding up the long series of hills from Alligator Pond and I basically achieved my goal, jumping into the support vehicle about 5 miles before we got to Alligator Pond. I have an excuse however, as I had taken quite a spectacular fall in a huge ditch aka pothole and have the souvenirs on my knees, plus pictures to prove it.(Incidentally, at Freetown in Clarendon, we had been joined by Mark aka Wake Early, a professional rider from May Pen. He said he had considered riding to Mount Rosser for exercise as he had been unable to join the professionals the day before on their ride to Negril, but he decided to accompany us to Alligator Pond and ride back by himself on the South Coast road.) He stayed back with me when I resumed the ride after my spill. However, I was not the only one to fall this trip, for although I did not see any, I understand Michael fell twice.
It was really a very enjoyable ,interesting, scenic and challenging outing and the day was beautifully overcast, saving us from the ravages of the sun. However, we arrived some seven hours later than our tour director Howie had calculated but this is because several persons had punctures and the breakfast was so delicious that we lingered at the venue longer than we should have.
To begin with anyway, as far as Fun and Thrills is concerned, we left early since they left out only 5 minutes late!
Charles, Michael Chuck and Michelle came with us saying they would go no further than Black River as they had to get back to Kingston on Sunday, but they turned back at Comma Pen in St. Elizabeth and as Jervis had to study, he went back with them.
It was at Comma Pen that we met one of the nicest Jamaicans that I have ever known. His name is Billy Powell and he operates a liquor store in Junction, St. Elizabeth. He and his girlfriend/wife seemed to have been out on a Sunday afternoon drive when he saw a few of us gathered at a small complex. He started a conversation then out of the blue, pointed to his house nearby and said he would be going home to get a melon for us. He took an inordinately long time to return (so we assumed that he had been gwowing us). Finally he returned with a melon and lots of cucumbers and pears. When he saw our delight, he said he was going to get two more melons for us for a friend. Again he took a long time to return so we left, but we ran into him a short distance away.
He gave us a huge melon and scallions. Then he asked for Mr. Chin. (that’s Chuck for every chiney man is called Mr. Chin!) We told him they had gone back to Kingston. Would you believe he then took off to catch them to give them their melon? According to Michelle he started to blow them from the bottom of Spur Tree Hill, but Chuck thinking he was a carjacker, took off light a light. He however followed them doggedly all the way to the top of Spur Tree Hill where they had made a pit stop and presented them with their melon! What an absolutely wonderful human being and what a way Chuck fraidy fraidy!
Well being STR, after driving to up the steep non-stop hills to Top Hill in cool air-conditioned comfort with great music playing, I remounted my bicycle for the wonderful ride downhill all the way to Newell and along the picturesque St. Elizabeth plains to Black River.
Kevin and Orrell were ahead of me but they passed our food stop so I was the first to arrive and being very hot, immediately took off my shoes and top and jumped into the sea.
For no one told me it was dangerous to swim in the sea, and having spent a number of my youthful days swimming in the sea there, I had never heard of crocodiles swimming from the river side up to the beach.
Apparently they have now started that trend for when I came out of the water, a lady came over and told me it was dangerous to swim in the sea for it is infested with crocodiles! About ten minutes later as I waited on a bench by the sea to get my bammy and fried fish, who swam by but a huge (about 12 feet long) crocodile!
One memorable segment of the outing was breakfast in Race Course, Clarendon. (It was only to that point that Andrew and Barry rode…. Andrew riding all the way from Kingston but Barry only drove down to catch us about four miles away and rode with us to breakfast.)
Talking about Howie, although he completed the ride to Negril easily, he has sworn off riding for two weeks as his butt is sore! Yet he insists that he is going to ride around the island in April next year. Is he a masochist or what? No, just MTR!
We spent the night at Shield's Hotel in Negril and had a wonderful, leisurely frolic in the sea next day. We stopped at Howie's in Middle Quarters for lunch and they were nice enough to warm up some curried chicken that Damit had brought for us.
I thoroughly enjoyed the entire two days of that memorable Hero’s weekend, and have determined that we are the true heroes!