I couldn't believe they felt responsible for my stupidity. It seems they thought I wouldn't remember the turns, assumed I missed them, and doubled back looking for the newby after they finished their ride. But, I had already heard the first two turn road names in our conversation. I had asked for the road names during the ride. They had named the two turns I later took, but hadn't been certain about the names. They said they remembered them on sight, not by name. By the time they got to their cars, and drove the route looking for me, I would have been back out on Hwy 27, because I didn't take the last small road turn they took before the big highway. I'm not really a landmark driver, but I remember street names. And, I will take major highways to avoid getting lost on a cowpath if I don't know where I am, rather than choose any random back road... eenie, meenie, miney, moe.
They had been so friendly, and even described the terrain while we had been riding, so later I recognized the long hill Andrea had earlier referred to affectionately as "Chicken Coop Hill." (She called it that because of the smell. Kurt and the guys called it "Die Hill" because it was the longest hill on the route.) I was glad they were still willing to let me ride with them. But, as it turned out, the standard plan was that the first half is no-drop. After that, it's every man for himself as they let loose the inner beast and ride like the wind. It is assumed you will get dropped, until you get faster. Shame makes you all the more determined to kick butt and take names. And, it made the pleasure all the more immense when I was later able to keep with the pack.
But, despite the fact that I felt so crummy about my speed on the hills that first day, it felt really great after I recovered, feeling all the kinks worked out of my arms and leg muscles. There is something about the really big rides... the ones that push you beyond your most recent rides... that gets you in higher form and ready to go. Now, my goal was to work on the jersey "style" problem. I just had to lose more weight, which was easier said than done.
I had three women's jerseys, with meaningful name-brand labels matching the name on my gloves, but "form-fitting" didn't look the same on me as it did on the slim, trim, six-pack crowd. So, I wore a teeshirt to hang over my belly flab, instead of a jersey. Of course, I felt like I had been busted by the fashion police, when I saw the attention they gave their jerseys. I realized before long that they did not care how fat you were. They just expected you to be honest about your fat, let it all hang out in a tight jersey, and swallow your pride. Everybody knew you were fat, and you should just be yourself and wear a stylish jersey. And, of course, you had to learn to keep up or get dropped. But, that was beside the point.