Coffeeneuring 2014: On the C&O Canal

My lovely spouse MG has again invited the world to participate in the 4th Annual Coffeeneuring Challenge, and I’m excited to be a part of it.

I love bicycles, I love espresso drinks. This challenge is perfect for me. Thanks MG!

This weekend I completed stops 1 and 2 during a bike trip up to Harpers Ferry, W.V. to support MG at the Freedom’s Run Marathon. She rode her bike up the C&O Canal Trail on Friday morning. I followed after work Friday on my Rivendell Atlantis, timing that just happened to coincide with a heavy rain front moving across the region.

I rode the W&OD Trail to Leesburg as night fell and the rain moved in. The downpour was pretty heavy at times; at least there was no lightning. After leaving Leesburg onto local roads, twice drivers asked me if I wanted a ride, but I declined.

Brunswick, almost there. Still raining.

Brunswick, almost there. Still raining.

The rain let up as I pedaled over to Waterford, Va. and then Lovettsville. I got there around 11:45 and saw a group of riders saddling up with lights blazing. They took off into the steady drizzle on a different road and I wondered who they were.

I crossed the Potomac River in Brunswick, then went up the C&O the six miles or so to Harpers Ferry, riding through some good sized puddles, but it wasn’t flooded. That was a relief. After re-crossing the river and climbing up a deserted High Street in Harpers Ferry, the hotel came into view about 12:45 a.m. Being a randonneur, this felt rather early to be indoors from a night ride.

Coffeeneur Stop 1: Lost Dog Coffee, Shepherdstown, W.V.
Oct. 4
Distance: 36 miles

On Saturday MG was out the hotel door early. I got up a little later and chased out on the marathon course up towards quaint Shepherdstown, W.V., about 11 miles away. After finding her on the C&O Canal and taking a few photos, I pointed the bike into Shepherdstown to Lost Dog. Two more river crossings!

MG riding her feet today.

MG riding her feet today.

The shop is pretty hippie but owner Garth makes a superior espresso and I got a quad with a pumpkin muffin. It was nearly 11 and this was my first caffeine of the day. I felt like I had been plugged into a soothing wall outlet. This is the kind of espresso I aspire to make at home.

Lost Dog Coffee. Coffeeneuring has begun!

Lost Dog Coffee. Coffeeneuring has begun!

Rating: Five Stars!

Re-animated, I saw MG finish her marathon — way to go! After visiting with our pals Kirstin (who also ran) and her husband Tom after the finish, MG took the shuttle bus back to Harpers Ferry.

MG finished, she got the medal.

MG finished, she got the medal.

I had lunch and another espresso and cookie at Lost Dog before riding to the hotel on the back roads on the West Virginia side of the river. The day was perfect, cool and sunny, and I even made a friend along the way.

This little horse was very curious!

This little horse was very curious!

Coffeeneur Stop 2: Baked and Wired, Washington, D.C.
Oct. 5
Distance: 67

More sun and cool temperatures greeted us on Sunday for the ride back to D.C., on the C&O Canal Trail. MG and I stopped at Beans in the Belfry in Brunswick. Their espresso isn’t that good but the latte’s are a good alternative. We had a second breakfast there, then made our way in dribs and drabs down the canal trail.

Not much to report. It was a gorgeous day. Until Great Falls we rode as we wished, with just scattered walkers, runners and other riders out on the trail — along with a few puddles, but not much. The usual pedestrian crowds slowed us near Great Falls, but otherwise it was a pleasant ride.

On the trail again.

On the trail again.

We like Baked and Wired when we come into Georgetown, though we’re getting increasingly tired with K Street, which is a mess on Sundays with drivers trying to park and bike riders using the Capital Crescent and C&O trails. After yelling at a cabbie making the obligatory blind U-turn right in front of us, B&W shone lit a beacon.

Espresso. Quiche. Cake. Yum.

Espresso. Quiche. Cake. Yum.

A long line waited for cupcake service but the coffee bar wait was much shorter. Our friend Ryan S. was coming out after his own coffeeneuring stop, but we were desperate for caffeine and calories and said just a quick hello.

B&W is one of those popular places that still lives up to the promise. The espresso is heavenly and we had our favorite treat, the pumpkin ginger cake. Both were just right. Go if you are in the area.

MG at Baked & Wired. Looking not tired.

MG at Baked & Wired. Looking not tired.

Me at Baked & Wired. Looking tired.

Me at Baked & Wired. Looking tired.

Rating: 5 Stars!

Epilogue: MG described our trip as a concept weekend that actually worked. She had a very strong combined trip and I got in some awesome coffeeneuring with her in spectacular early autumn weather. This was a memorable weekend.

DCR Many Rivers 600K Brevet: No two rides are the same

MG and I took a break from the longer brevets last year, but we didn’t think that would make much of a difference when we started the D.C. Randonneurs’ Many Rivers 600K brevet on Saturday in central Virginia.

Early morning over the soft hills toward the Blue Ridge.

Early morning over the soft hills toward the Blue Ridge.

Our approach would be the same as in the past: we’d try to complete the first 241-mile day by 11 p.m. and get back on the road by 3 a.m. for the 136-mile second day. We mostly expected the same results, meaning an early afternoon finish on Sunday.

Well! The good news is that we got around the double-loop course from Warrenton, Va. just fine, with a finish of 36:01. In randonneuring, the only goal that matters is completion within the time limit. For a 600K you get 40 hours, so, all good there.

But, our result is more than two hours slower than in 2012, when we rode the same course in 33:55, in much hotter weather. You’d think we’d maintain the same pace in the perfect springtime weather conditions we experienced on Saturday and Sunday, with moderate temperatures, light winds and dry air.

The difference came down to additional time off the bike, and a little bit slower pace.

In 2012 we rode 24:26 and had a rolling average of 15.5 mph. This year we rode 25:12 and had a rolling average of 15.1 mph.

That’s 46 minutes additional in the saddle and 80 minutes more stopped time — not much over 1 1/2 days. Still, in a pursuit based on time limits, randonneurs tend to think a lot about their time result, and we’re no different.

See all of our data and course tracks at Garmin Connect: Day 1 and Day 2.

I have a full photo set on Flickr as does MG. See mine and hers.

We’re still sorting it out, but we’ve got a couple of theories. In 2012 the ride was on June 9-10, which gave us more time in the spring to get in shape.

As I said, it was much warmer then — I recall Saturday temperatures were in the 90’s that year, compared to the 70’s this year. That made the Sunday predawn hours warmer. This year had a cold start both days in the 40s.

The other factor was second-day fatigue. All of our additional time and slower pace came on Sunday’s 136-mile loop to Fredericksburg and back. We returned to the start/finish hotel for the overnight stop at the same time as in 2012, about 11 p.m., but we spent more time in the hotel, and took more stops around the course. I think we re-started at least 30 minutes later, close to 4 a.m.

There was a mild headwind on the second half of the Sunday loop which also added to our time, though I can’t say how much.

So — enough with the data! The upside in all this was that we enjoyed some excellent companionship along with way, especially on Saturday. We teamed up with Brian Rowe, David Givens (both new to randonneuring) and Rick Rodeghier for the Saturday afternoon and evening run back to Warrenton.

Rick, David, Brian. Good folks.

Rick, David, Brian. Good folks.

All three were in good spirits and we enjoyed the fresh perspective of Brian and David. They and Rick were all on randonneuring bikes with 650b wheels and fenders, and held a good steady pace. We had a satisfying sit down dinner in Louisa, Va. at the Roma Italian restaurant (great service!).

What's missing from this bike? A front derailleur.

What’s missing from this bike? A front derailleur.

The night run to Warrenton was spectacular, despite the steady grinding ascent in the final miles, with a blazing sunset and lots of good conversation. Our new generator hub and lighting system (Schmidt front disk hub, Schmidt Edelux 2 and Secula Plus tail light) lit the way.

Mike Martin and John Mazur were also in the vicinity, and we ate dinner and rode some of the way with the ever-debonair Roger Hillas, whose front derailleur had broken. He calmly rode with the chain on his small ring and laughed it off as no big deal.

Waiting on a train.

Waiting on a train.

We joined up with them earlier at the Howardsville Store at mile 122, after tagging along with the fast folks for the first 70 miles until the bigger rolling hills near the Blue Ridge put us off the back. The Big Cat tandem can only do so much when the profile trends upwards.

Away in the distance, the front group rides off.

Away in the distance, the front group rides off.

The event organizer Bill Beck was there at Howardsville, taking photos, and we had fun joking around. Barry Benson, MG’s co-worker, arrived with her cycling gloves, which had fallen out of our rear bag. Barry gets a gold star.

Bill executed a perfect power slide to get the shot.

Bill executed a perfect power slide to get the shot.

It was always nice to see Bill. He makes us feel like rando-celebrities with his flattering shots and all-around good cheer.

Barry found MG's gloves on the course. Thanks Barry!

Barry found MG’s gloves on the course. Thanks Barry!

The other highlight of the morning was the espresso and gourmet sandwiches at the Green House Coffee in little Crozet, Va. where a group of us gathered (the speedy crowd chose other, more expedient establishments).

A welcome stop in Crozet.

A welcome stop in Crozet.

Randonneur yard sale in Crozet.

Randonneur yard sale in Crozet.

Mitch Potter told us a little about his tricked-out flat-bar Pivot 29er bike that he was riding in anticipation of installing big tires and riding the Tour Divide offroad race in the Rockies. It was quite the rig, with the snazzy 1×11 SRAM system, with a single chainring crank and a huge 42-tooth large rear cog.

Mitch on his Pivot.

Mitch on his Pivot.

A better shot of Mitch's bike. By MG.

A better shot of Mitch’s bike. By MG.

Sunday was another story, still a good one, but I was pretty shelled from Saturday and had the hardest time getting up. I finally arose at 2:45 a.m. after three hours sleep. Consequently our planned 3 a.m. departure ended up at 3:55 am, and we arrived in Fredericksburg, mile 288, after 8 a.m. — about four hours to cover 46 miles. I was dragging, and so was MG. We were consuming everything we had to get some energy going.

These espresso beans may have saved our ride.

These espresso beans may have saved our ride.

Mike Martin was again in our orbit. We got caught up at the first control of the day around dawn and talked about how tired our legs felt. After another stop at the second control on the outskirts of Fredericksburg (after something of a struggle to maintain momentum), we rolled into downtown in bright sun and immediately saw the Marine Corps Historic Half marathon taking place.

Historic Half Marathon underway in Fredericksburg, Va.

Historic Half Marathon underway in Fredericksburg, Va.

After cheering the runners for a few minutes I spied Hyperion Espresso, and so yet another half-hour passed off the bike as we revived ourselves with very fine espresso and muffins. This stop got us whole (despite some misgivings about stopping yet again) and back on the road in much better spirits.

The moment that turned our Sunday ride around.

The moment that turned our Sunday ride around.

At that moment Brian, David and John Mazur rolled through town. We caught up to them for the segment through the Fredericksburg Battlefield. Rick had been spied fixing a cable in the hotel parking lot when they left, so he was somewhere behind on the course. Hey Rick, we missed you!

John in the Frederickburg Battleground. Not on tandem this time.

John in the Frederickburg Battleground. Not on tandem this time.

MG and I decided we better get moving if we were ever going to finish without falling asleep on the bike. We pulled away after Spotsylvania, mile 317, to ride solo the rest of the day, tackling the pesky headwind. I had periods of saddle soreness and my left knee would hurt if we pushed too hard, and I started counting down the miles.

Randonneuring high life, in Spotsylvania.

Randonneuring high life, in Spotsylvania.

How far to the finish?

How far to the finish?

Almost there. Just 30 miles to go!

Almost there. Just 30 miles to go!

My eyes. My eyes.

My eyes. My eyes.

The route was intensely lovely, however, and we savored the verdant countryside views and forest lands in the final hilly miles near Warrenton. We again intersected with Mike, who was doggedly riding solo. I thought about how this event has us climbing into the town, a high point in the area, not once but twice. I guess it builds character.

Mike Martin leads us toward Warrenton.

Mike Martin leads us toward Warrenton.

After a somewhat serious push to get in to Warrenton by 4 p.m., we had to settle for a minute after the hour. Oh well! Our pal Lane G. was running the finish control at the Hampton Inn and got us checked in and had pizza waiting, with more arriving quickly — the two most important jobs when tired, hungry riders show up. Thanks Lane!

Lane checks us in. MG's got a pound of pollen in that eye.

Lane checks us in. MG’s got a pound of pollen in that eye.

MG is writing a post on our full randonneur series this year, so stay tuned for that at her fine blog, Chasing Mailboxes.

We made it. Still awake (barely) and still smiling. Photo by Lane G.

We made it. Still awake (barely) and still smiling. Photo by Lane G.

I also want to extend our thanks to DCR brevet administrator Nick Bull for all his work in getting the series organized, to Bill Beck for a well-run 600K, and Mike Binnix for keeping the food going in the overnight control room.

DCR Northern Exposure 400K: Back to the early days

MG and I rode the D.C. Randonneurs 400K brevet last Saturday, May 3 on the new Northern Exposure route from Frederick, Md. into south-central Pennsylvania, returning on the east side of Gettysburg.

The route was certainly new to MG, and most of the club, but for me and some other veterans it was a return to the old, fearsome Doubling Gap 400K from the 1990s. That one was a route to be respected: massive climbs, twisty descents, and lots and lots of short, sharp hills.

It was my first 400K, in 1997. I thought it would never end, but I got back to Frederick with a good group of veterans. Now I’m among the regulars, looking around at all the new folks. It’s always good to see first-timers.

This route would be much the same as the old one, but for the revamp DCR route designer Crista Borras deleted the anxiety-filled climb up Doubling Gap Road and made some other good changes. Doubling Gap was steep, shoulderless and straight with a guardrail, the summit visible the whole way, cars whizzing past. I don’t miss it.

What never gets easier is the middle-of-the-night starts. I’ve done the 4 a.m. start plenty of times, but my work has been particularly stressful this year, and I’ve had little time to think about the brevets. Saturday arrived way too fast and I worried about having a good ride.

Another rando adventure starts at a Waffle House. Courtesy Bill Beck.

Another rando adventure starts at a Waffle House. Courtesy Bill Beck.

Our friend and expert randonneur/photographer Bill Beck got this one of us. We ate at the Waffle House and despite being at once bleary and nervous, I was ready to go. MG was nervous too. That’s the way of the 400K, for most of us it’s the longest one-day ride of the year.

Our goal, generally, is to finish our 400K rides in 20 hours or less, by midnight if not sooner. That gets us off the road before the bars close and I start getting drowsy in the wee hours. To make that goal we have to start strong and keep moving. An honest challenge, as MG likes to say.

We almost beat the midnight hour, getting in at 12:07 am. Our riding time was 16:53, with 3:14 off the bike. That’s about 45 minutes more than our nominal target of an hour of stopping time per century.

See all of our data at my Garmin page. The rest of my photos are at my Flickr page.

The extra stopping time came at a rest stop at McDonald’s near the end of the ride, about 17 miles out in Thurmont, Md., for coffee. Our riding companion Matt H. of Harrisonburg, Va. needed some caffeine to stay awake, and we did too. That stop made for a safe finish, so no regrets there.

I’ll tell the rest of the story in photos.

Gathering at the Days Inn

Gathering at the Days Inn

Here we are, in a parking lot at 4 a.m., with a field of 45 riders. Spectacular weather is expected, but it sure is dark right now.

Leaving Frederick, last time we'd be all together

Leaving Frederick, last time we’d be all together

Rolling through downtown Frederick, Md. A split would quickly form on the way out of town as the faster riders made the most of easy riding until the first big climb at Thurmont, about an hour away.

No brevet is complete in Pennsylvania without a Sheetz stop.

No brevet is complete in Pennsylvania without a Sheetz stop.

We’ve made it over the first two major climbs and most everybody stopped at this Sheetz at mile 62, even though it was not an official control. It was strictly grab-and-go, but I got this photo of Paul D.’s Rivendell Hillborne bike. MG and I had coffee and ate sandwiches, and took a cheese sub with us to eat later in the ride.

Catching up to Mark and Damon

Catching up to Mark and Damon

For most of the day we rode with Matt, who was here without his pal Kurt R. We intersected Mark and Damon but otherwise saw few other participants.

Matt was good riding company and kept us entertained with tales of the bike scene in Harrisonsburg and with some good conversation starters, such “what was your first concert, and your most recent?” Mine were either Olivia Newton-John or the Doobie Brothers (mid-70s) and Kraftwerk (last month).

The grocery store at East Waterford, mile 108. Courtesy MG.

The grocery store at East Waterford, mile 108. Courtesy MG.

Our lunch stop came at mile 108 in East Waterford, Pa. We had a choice of the pizza place or the grocery store. The store had a deli counter, and made wonderful sandwiches on pretzel rolls. They also had free cake samples. Did I mention the free cake?

This little guy wanted to run with us.

This little guy wanted to run with us.

Southern Pennsylvania has fewer unleashed dogs compared to Virginia and West Virginia, but we did get chased hilariously for a few hundred yards.

Later in the afternoon we turned south and started climbing again.

Matt coming down from Sterrets Gap. Courtesy MG.

Matt coming down from Sterrets Gap. Courtesy MG.

This was typical of the day — Sterrets Gap near Carlisle, Pa.

Cameras! Cameras! Cameras! Courtesy MG.

Cameras! Cameras! Cameras! Courtesy MG.

MG got this shot of me and Matt.

Ultimate Obligatory Cow Photo

Ultimate Obligatory Cow Photo

The route was in the heart of dairy country. A few of us on the ride got this same obligatory cow photo shot.

MG was strong and sure all day.

MG was strong and sure all day.

Our teamwork over the years on the tandem has been pretty solid, in large part because MG is a strong finisher and keeps us moving as the day turns toward night. She takes interesting photos too. See her set from the ride at her Flickr page.

Storms blew in late in the afternoon but mostly missed us.

Storms blew in late in the afternoon but mostly missed us.

The predicted showers materialized before sundown. We avoided a soaking, but others did not.

I struggled with concentration, but got down the road in the end.

I struggled with concentration, but got down the road in the end.

Throughout the day I wondered about why we do these rides, especially as my legs and eyelids got heavier. These are typical thoughts during the 400K, which seems so daunting even if you’ve done a few before.

I’m grateful to MG and Matt for making the miles disappear, and by the finish it was all worth it. This is a tough course and I’m proud to say we completed it in good spirits.

My thanks for a successful completion go to MG, Matt and our fellow riders for getting out there with us. An additional and hearty thank-you goes to event organizers (and tandem riders) Cindy and John, and their helpers. They were encouraging, organized and had hot pizza and plenty of snacks at the ready when we arrived.

The 400K is a tough ride to run because of the long hours and overnight duties starting the riders and then waiting for the final finishers. Great job you two!

Next Saturday we cap off the spring randonneur season with the D.C. Randonneurs 600K brevet from Warrenton, Va. a double loop through the central part of the state. See you there?

My 2014 Errandonnee

Hey folks,

being married to MG means I always know about the  fun challenges she runs through her sparkling blog, Chasing Mailboxes.

A side benefit is that I get a front row seat as riders submit their results to MG and she tells me about all the neat stuff you guys are doing out there on your bikes.

That’s more then enough motivation for me to get going and complete them myself. So without further ado, here is my submission to The Great 2014 Errandonnee Challenge.

This year I didn’t get out of the gate very quicky, and had to rally later in the 12-day window to get caught up. It reminded me that I tend to use my bike for just about all my comings and goings in D.C., but I don’t really do that many specific errand runs.

Consequently, I had to stop and plan out a few multi-errand stops. I also had to take into account our weird weather during the Errandonnee Days, which swung from cold and snow to warm and windy. It all came together in the end.

The Big Pink Errandonnee Card

The Big Pink Errandonnee Card

Here goes!

No. 1
Date: Mar. 7
Place: BicycleSpace DC
Category: Bike Shop
Miles: 7.1
Observation: A good bike shop is like another home. I really didn’t want to leave.

BicycleSpace DC. My bike likes it here.

BicycleSpace DC. My bike likes it here.

No. 2
Date: Mar. 9
Place: Bank
Category: Personal Care
Miles: 23
Observation: I feel so much better about taking out money when it’s not going toward gas or parking.

Let's go spend this money!

Let’s go spend this money!

No. 3
Date: Mar. 9
Place: Caphe Bahn Mi, Alexandria, Va.
Category: Breakfast or lunch
Miles: combination trip with No. 2
Observation: MG, our friend Lane, and a place we had not gone before. Terrific.

Caphe Bahn Mi. Very good.

Caphe Bahn Mi. Very good.

No. 4
Date: Mar. 12
Place: U.S. Capitol
Category: Work
Miles: 3.3
Observation: Going up to the Hill to cover Congress is always more enjoyable by bike. An unseasonably warm day makes it even better.

Warm day work clothes.

Warm day work clothes.

No. 5
Date: Mar. 13
Place: U.S. Capitol
Category: Work
Miles: 3.3
Observation: Another day on the Hill. A lot colder today. I’d still rather go by bike. But it was really cold. Whoa!

So cold I've got a steady snot stream going.

So cold I’ve got a steady snot stream going.

No. 6
Date: Mar. 14
Place: Swing’s Coffee, Washington.
Category: Community Meeting: Friday Coffee Club!
Miles: 5.5
Observation: The most unofficial regularly occurring bike meetup in America. I never get tired of going. Is it a community meeting? Actually, we had a mayoral candidate show up — City Council member Tommy Wells — to talk about bike lanes and city development, giving this one a civic engagement element. So, yeah.

Friday Coffee Club, the candidate drop-in edition.

Friday Coffee Club, the candidate drop-in edition.

No. 7
Date: Mar. 14
Place: Apple Store, Arlington, Va.
Category: Store other than grocery store
Miles: 12
Observation: I had the afternoon off. The Apple store is way less crowded on a weekday afternoon. They need better any bike parking; I had to lock to a parking meter.

Diagnosing my faulty trackpad.

Diagnosing my faulty trackpad.

Nice bike parking, Apple.

Nice bike parking, Apple.

No. 8
Date: Mar. 14
Place: Whole Foods, Arlington, Va.
Category: Grocery Store.
Miles: see No. 7
Observation: A combined trip with the stop at the Apple store. Whole Foods being right across the street made this one easy. Groceries brought home by bike always taste better. Another place in Clarendon without bike parking, except for a lonely rack stuffed in a corner of the parking lot used by the staff. WF, you can do better.

Oh Whole Foods, can you spare some bike parking?

Oh Whole Foods, can you spare some bike parking?

No. 9
Date: Mar. 15
Place: The Coffeebar DC, Washington.
Category: Coffee
Miles: 23
Observation: The first stop of a quad-fer today. MG ran the DC rock music marathon today and I stopped here to await her to come around on the course nearby. I also saw TCB’s own Olympic medalist working behind the counter, so that made it extra-sporty.

The Coffee Bar DC. Good stuff.

The Coffee Bar DC. Good stuff.

No. 10
Date: Mar. 15
Place: RFK Stadium, Washington.
Category: Wild Card!
Miles: 8.8
Observation: I took the tandem to meet MG at the end of her marathon, and we rode to lunch together and then home. Lots of power left in those legs, no surprise there. She’s badass!

She got the medal! I got another randonnee done!

She got the medal! I got another errandonnee done!

Tandem awaiting MG at RFK.

Tandem awaiting MG at RFK.

No. 11
Date: Mar. 15
Place: Tunicliff’s Tavern, Eastern Market, Washington.
Category: Breakfast or lunch.
Miles: see above
Observation: After zooming around on my single bike to cheer MG, then riding the tandem solo to RFK to pick her up, the ride together to lunch and home let us get caught up on her big day.

Document this errandonnee, please!

Document this errandonnee, please!

No. 12
Date: Mar. 15
Place: Apple Store, Arlington, Va.
Category: Store other than grocery store
Miles: 12
Observation: Picked up my repaired laptop. You’d think an Apple store would be crowded on a Saturday, but with the St. Patrick’s Day weekend pub crawl underway around Clarendon and Courthouse by the post-college frat crowd, pickup was a breeze. And, no drunks staggered out in front of me on the way home.

It's working great now.

It’s working great now.

No. 13 BONUS
Date: Mar. 16
Place: Peregrine Espresso, Eastern Market, Washington.
Category: Coffee or dessert
Miles: 56
Observation: Solo ride today so MG could recover from her marathon. I swung by Peregrine after riding out to Potomac, Md. area and then back. I sometimes try to ride past Peregrine without stopping, but I usually go in. The champagne of espresso, if you will.

Peregrine Espresso. The official espresso of the Errandonnee?

Peregrine Espresso. The official espresso of the Errandonnee?

Total rides: 13
Total mileage: 146
Categories filled: 9 of 11

What did I learn from the errandonee? I had none of the frustrations of driving, and all the joys of cycling. There was no sitting in traffic and no looking for parking. I got in a bunch of miles and enjoyed the ride.

In sum — errands aren’t work on a bike. They are just another way to have fun on the bike. And who doesn’t want to have fun on their bike?

Thanks again, MG, for this low-key and rewarding contest. Congratulations to all the finishers and participants. I can’t wait to get my patch!

Wilderness Campaign 200K Brevet. Back in the saddle.

Hello readers!

MG and I took a little breather from the brevet scene last year. We did not ride the longer events and focused on touring and informal rides.

Taking that step back, and additional duties for my job, led me to put TDR on the back burner.

Every good layoff deserves a comeback. So, hello, again.

And, we're back.

And, we’re back.

This year we’ve laid out an ambitious program. Our big randonneur ride will be the D.C. Randonneurs 1000K this fall. We also plan to return to Colorado for two weeks of touring in July, and go back to the Hilly Billy Roubaix gravel race in Morgantown, W.Va.

The goal is to get in great shape for next year, when we want to go again to the Paris-Brest-Paris 1200K in France. I consider it “The Best American 1200K Not Held in America” because nearly 500 U.S. riders go and you get to see everybody at one ride.

With those big rides in mind, we need to get out there and do a complete Super Randonneur series this year. You hardy randonneurs know that means a 200K, 300K, 400K and 600K.

Bring on the sleep deprivation, I say. I love getting up in the middle of the night to ride my bike!

Ha ha, just kidding! (Or am I?)

We got our campaign underway on Saturday with the aptly-named Wilderness Campaign 200K, run by the D.C. Randonneurs from Bristow, Va. The route (see it here) winds south from the Manassas area west of D.C. to Spotsylvania.

Riders take in the forested Wilderness Battlefield where the North and South skirmished in May 1864 over a number of bloody days.

Checking in at the start

Checking in at the start

MG has captured our ride on the Co-Motion “Big Cat” tandem in pithy fashion over at her award-winning blog, Chasing Mailboxes. See it here. See all of my photos here and MG’s here.

Our only game plan for this ride was to draft the stampede of fast folks until the hills and pace put us off the back, hopefully later than sooner.

Starting with the group

Starting with the group

We went with the speedy single bike riders for about 40 miles, until they pulled away after a series of steep rollers through Kelly’s Ford.

The Profile!

The Profile!

Riding the tandem in a group of singles was the usual challenge. Drafting works some of the time, though MG can’t see the gap to the bike ahead and keeps pedaling hard when the group slows down. (That’s a good problem, don’t get me wrong!) I have to keep in good contact with her about when to soft-pedal.

When we get on a real downhill, the tandem bolts forward like a rocket and if the road is clear, we end up out front.  But then we slow and get swarmed on the next uphill. We have to ride like mad to stay with the group over the top.

As you might expect, this goes on for only so long before our legs start to fade.

Seeing the front guys pull away was not a bad thing. Riding on our own, I could take my hands off the brakes and we could spin along and have a nice chat and enjoy the sunny day.

Most everybody figured out how to get food from the 7-11 and the pizza place at the turnaround in Spotslyvania, mile 68, but we were famished and went to the homey Courthouse Cafe. Only two other riders, Kurt and Matt of Harrisonburg, Va. had the audacity to throw away time like us and came in. We had a good talk about rides and tandems as we ate omelettes.

Matt and Kurt at the Courthouse Cafe

Matt and Kurt at the Courthouse Cafe

The return route starts on narrow roads with traffic, which led to spirited riding to get to the quieter sections. The day warmed up fantastically, to the 60s, but also brought a little headwind and sidewinds that made the return slow going.

The profile trends upward, gradually, which made momentum hard to find at times.

We discussed this in a tandem team sort of way, with such phrases as “boy I am feeling it in my legs!” and “it sure is a nice day, no need to rush, right? SIGH.”

Our spirits lifted as we caught up to other riders at the remaining stops, especially when we encountered our pal Eric P., who missed us at the start and was convinced we slept in. Hey — that’s what we thought you did, Eric! Ha ha!

Eric shepherded us back through the spiky rollers back through Kelly’s Ford and to the final rest stop/control at the old-timey Elk Run Store, which provided this ride’s Star Wars Cantina moment.

Taking it easy before the last stretch.

Taking it easy before the last stretch.

That’s when everybody sits outside a store grinning (or grimacing) and generally kicking back for a few minutes. We stuffed the last of our cold weather gear in the Carradice saddle bag, with the overflow longflap extended, and headed back with our luggage to Bristow.

We hoped for a finish before 5 p.m. (sub 10-hours) and pedaled along steadily but without much pop in the legs, wondering why we were so dang slow.

Plus, I had a case of ABB. (For the uninitiated, that’s short for Achy Breaky Butt).

Cockeyed Helmet.

Cockeyed Helmet.

We finished at 4:47 p.m., almost exactly the same time as last year.

So, it must be the course, and maybe the fact that we don’t have a lot of miles in our legs yet in March and maybe started too fast. I lay most of the blame on the course. Verdict: not really all that tandem friendly.

The club’s volunteer organizer for the ride, Hamid A., had the usual DCR pizza, pop and treats waiting for us at the finish, which made everything real good.

Catching up with fellow riders topped off a good day on the bike. Big congrats to the other tandem team today, Cindy P. and John M., and we enjoyed seeing once and future DCR rider Russ M., back from South Korea for a few months before heading off to his new home in Reno.

Russ and Lothar. You may know them as the Korea Randonneurs.

Russ and Lothar. You may know them as the Korea Randonneurs.

Next stop on the brevet train: either the second DCR 200K later this month, or the 300K next month. If we can’t get to the 200K we’ll do something on our own of similar distance to substitute.

Brooks Cambium C17 Saddle: A real Brooks?

The new Brooks non-leather saddle, the Cambium C17, caught my eye recently during a stop at one of my favorite local bike shops, BicycleSpace in downtown Washington.

The off-white woven fabric cover and rubber base was certainly different than the traditional Brooks saddles MG and I use on most of our bikes. The British company is synonymous with leather and has been on a roll in recent years with the growth in urban and non-competitive cycling.

Test model had promotion text by Brooks.

Test model had promotion text by Brooks.

I’m among those who were skeptical when they announced the Cambium line that it would be more than just another uncomfortable racer saddle.

Handling the display model, the quality was higher than I expected. I offhandedly asked if they had a loaner and I was offered a C17 to use for a week. In a few minutes I installed it on my Rivendell SimpleOne singlespeed bike and off we went.

Quick verdict: The C17 is surprisingly comfortable! Brooks managed to get the feel of their mainstay B17 leather model into this saddle, while offering features that should appeal to riders who might not ride leather.

The price is a little steep, however. Would I buy one? Read on.

Cambium atop my Rivendell SimpleOne at the Lincoln Memorial.

Cambium atop my Rivendell SimpleOne at the Lincoln Memorial.

Looks: Let’s address appearance and construction first. I’ve gotten a few questions about what Brooks calls the “organic cotton canvas” cover. It looks coarse but is mostly smooth to the touch and there is nothing noticeable about it when riding. They’ve put a waterproof coating on it, so rain and sweat are not supposed to be an issue.

In any case the cover is bonded to a slightly flexible natural rubber underlayer that can’t be hurt by water, so I’d consider this an all-weather saddle. Brooks includes their signature rivets at the rear and on the nose, and builds in bag loops into the rear frame which I confirmed allow the attachment of a Carradice saddlebag — a nice touch.

Form: Along the top the shape is similar to the leather B17, with a long flat nose and raised rear heel when the nose is level. The widest portion is about 160mm, which is narrower than the 170mm B17 (and equivalent to the Brooks Professional) but the Cambium did not feel much narrower than a B17 when riding.

Brooks B17, left and Cambium C17 right.

Brooks B17, left and Cambium C17 right.

Side skirts are cut away, however, giving this saddle a racy look.

Silver rivets, cut-away skirts, longer rails, rubber base.

Silver rivets, cut-away skirts, longer rails, rubber base.

Comfort: The other similarity to a B17 is flexibility. With a firm downward push, the C17 flexes vertically the same way as a B17. Tooling around downtown urban streets, I found it felt like I was on a nicely broken-in leather Brooks. I think they worked hard to get this right because unlike leather you can’t turn an adjusting bolt to tighten the saddle tension.

Big differences: Besides overall appearance, and the lack of side skirts, the biggest change for current B17 owners is that the saddle is not as tall and the rails are slightly longer and set farther forward.

Different rails: B17 on left, C17 on right.

Different rails: B17 on left, C17 on right.

That means you have to raise your seatpost about a half-inch, and can push the saddle back more than a B17. There is at least 5 mm more rail length, but Brooks appears to have positioned the usable rail length closer to the nose, which allows a little extra rearward positioning.

Finally, the Cambium weighs in well under the B17. I did not weigh mine, but Brooks claims 415 grams for the men’s C17 and 405 grams for the shorter-nose, slightly-wider women’s C17 S. Those weights compare to the B17’s 540g listed weight.

Purpose: Who is this saddle for?

Do you wear form-fitting jersies from a certain apparel maker based in England and ride a spotless racing bike? On appearance alone, the Cambium line should fit your aesthetic. Brooks also makes the Cambium line in a dark slate gray that is more sober if you are into the bike-ninja look.

More seriously, if you don’t use fenders and worry about a Brooks getting destroyed from wheel spray, there is no such concern with the Cambium. On any bike you can still ride in the rain or soak it in sweat without worrying about covering the top.

If you have a hard time getting a B17 or other Brooks far enough back on a given bike, this saddle may also offer a solution.

And, if you don’t want to break in a leather Brooks, the Cambium is ready to go out of the box.

Fears about breaking-in can be overblown, however — Brooks are generally comfortable for us from the first ride and get nicer over time.

We are more likely to encounter our Brooks saddles getting stretched out too much from hot summer rides, brevets and multi-day touring. The Cambium presumably won’t get scooped like our B17 models after a few seasons.

Conclusion: Will I buy a Cambium C17? Probably. I’m put off by the $160 pricetag, but the value of a saddle with the same comfort as a B17, rear bag loops, longer rails and weatherproofing has its attractions.

If Brooks runs a promotion that gets the price down I’ll probably take the leap.

I like that they are trying to create a new saddle that expands the Brooks line and replicates the comfort of leather without some of the care considerations and weight. At last they tried to resolve the issues that come with the short-ish rails on the leather models.

The C17 may find a home on my Ritchey Road Logic racing bike where saddle setback has always been an issue.

See more photos of my test saddle at my Flickr page. Please leave comments on your experience if you have purchased a Cambium.

I want to extend my thanks to BicycleSpace for loaning me the saddle to test. They have an extensive range of Brooks saddles and other fine urban riding gear and a solid service department. If you are in the D.C. area they are definitely worth a stop.

This is my last minute 2013 Coffeeneuring Challenge post

I waited too long, as usual, to post the details of my Coffeenering Challenge trips this year. I planned to write each one as a captivating little story.

However, tonight is the deadline to submit my results to MG to qualify as an official coffeeneur. I want keep up my streak as one of the original coffeeneurs who have completed the challenge in all three years.

I blame work and bike riding for having to cover the final five coffeeneur rides in one post. Someday I’ll be a proper blogger and post in those spare moments.

Anyway, the clock is ticking down to midnight. Here we go:

No. 3:
Date: Oct. 19
Shop: Caffe Amouri, Vienna, Va.
Drink: Soy Latte
Mileage: 33

Caffe Amouri. Some construction, great latte.

Caffe Amouri. Some construction, great latte.

I was coming down with a cold but this didn’t stop us from getting out on this sunny day for a little ride to Vienna on the W&OD Trail. Caffe Amouri is a little gem off the trail that just happens to be a couple of blocks from Bikes@Vienna, where owner Tim F. specializes in folders and recumbents.

Latte, coffee cake, cheesy grin, beans.

Latte, coffee cake, cheesy grin, beans.

The soy latte was large and delicious. I bought a pound of espresso beans to take home. We spent an hour hanging around with Tim and test riding bikes, departing with visions of small wheels dancing in our heads.

MG takes out a Moulton.

MG takes out a Moulton.

No. 4:
Date: Oct. 26
Shop: Baked and Wired, Georgetown, Washington, D.C.
Drink: Espresso
Mileage: 84

Baked & Wired is known for gourmet cupcakes, but we go there for the espresso. They pull a spectacular shot, full of flavor and that smooth oomph that defines the best.

MG was taking the day off the bike to rest for the Marine Corps marathon the next day. This turn of events gave me the opportunity to take my latest project bike out for a good long ride: a black and red 1987 Bianchi racing bike I picked up at my apartment building’s bike auction. I converted it to a smooth and fast randonneur bike (of sorts) with wide 650b tires and new parts.

The Bianchi "Super Bee" 650b bike crosses the Potomac.

The Bianchi “Super Bee” 650b bike crosses the Potomac.

After riding past Vienna to Leesburg on the W&OD Trail, the Gen. Jubal A. Early Ferry deposited me on the Maryland side of the Potomac River for the ride home over familiar roads. MG came to meet me at B&W for a late day treat.

I was thinking about this stop for miles.

I was thinking about this stop for miles.

I crave espresso about this time of day, and it was a good one. One triple shot was enough; a good way to end a ride on a fun “new” bike.

No. 5
Date: Nov. 2
Shop: The Coffee Bar, Washington, D.C.
Drink: Espresso
Distance: 10.3 miles

My daughter DF was again in town and we went out at mid-day for coffee and lunch. The Coffee Bar opened less than a year ago in what looks like an old mansion in the up-and-coming (read: gentrified) Logan Circle area of Northwest D.C.

DF and I rode the Lead Sled tandem and MG rode her single bike. TCB exudes a high-end connoisseur experience, so in the hopes being deemed worthy to be among their clientele, I asked the friendly barista at the counter about the espresso choices.

Inside TCB. Laptops, coffee, cool.

Inside TCB. Laptops, coffee, cool.

She admitted she didn’t really know how to describe them. With that, I got the house blend.

And it was…fantastic. Wow. My taste buds were singing. Next time I won’t bother asking, I’ll just order.

MG enjoys the cardemom latte.

MG enjoys the cardemom latte.

The weather was warm and we lingered outside with the young crowd. MG had a delicious cardamom latte and Dagny had a hot chocolate. I put The Coffee Bar on my list as a place worth visiting again.

DF and the hot chocolate.

DF and the hot chocolate.

No. 6
Date: Nov. 9
Shop: Volo Coffeehouse, Manayunk, Pa.
Drink: Hot cider, espresso
Distance: 72.7 miles

As they say in Soviet Russia, sometimes the road rides you!

MG and I drove up to the Philadelphia suburbs and left the car at the end of the Schuylkill River Trail, where we were to ride about 30 miles into town for an overnighter with friends and a visit to the Philly Bike Expo.

I had no idea that we were to turn after six miles to stay on the trail and I had us ride an extra 18 miles away from Philadelphia on the Perkiomen Trail before realizing the error. The trail was lovely with fall color everywhere, so it wasn’t the worst thing in the world.

We're lost, but it sure is pretty.

We’re lost, but it sure is pretty.

Anyway, by the time we got to Manayunk, outside Philadelphia, it was dark and we were famished. Volo served a mean espresso and a flavorful cider, both of which raised my spirits. Our friends rode out from downtown to guide us back in for dinner.

Cold, tired, and about to feel much better.

Cold, tired, and about to feel much better.

Volo has a high-end feel and the quality to match. We liked it enough that all of us stopped on the way out of Philadelphia the next day.

I have to mention, also, that we really liked Elixr Coffee in downtown Philadelphia, where we met the Velo Orange folks for a pre-show coffee on Sunday morning. This was a backup coffeeneur stop for me in case we didn’t get out the next weekend.

Igor at the Velo Orange booth. Nice bikes, nice folks.

Igor at the Velo Orange booth. Nice bikes, nice folks.

No. 7
Date: Nov. 16
Shop: Beans in the Belfry, Brunswick, Md.
Drink: Soy Latte
Distance: 128 miles

We had all day to ride and picked Brunswick as our destination. Brunswick is a railroad town off the C&O Canal Trail, just south of Harpers Ferry on the Potomac River.

MG and the Big Cat tandem on gravel Old Waterford Road. MG and the Big Cat tandem on gravel Old Waterford Road.

At about 62 miles away, Brunswick is about the farthest we go from home and back in one day. We crossed the Potomac into town famished after taking the long way via Whites Ferry, Leesburg and historic Waterford. Beans is in a big former church and features live music in addition to drinks and sandwiches.

MG does her best Civil War pose outside Beans in the Belfry.

MG does her best Civil War pose outside Beans in the Belfry.

I can’t say I’m a fan of their espresso, but in a big cup of soy milk, it’s fine. The food was good and we were back on the road with smiles on our faces.

And so we concluded my coffeeneuring challenge for 2013.

Lessons learned? Good coffee shops are sprouting up all over; there’s never been a better time to be a coffeeneur!

Portrait of a coffeeneur.

Portrait of a coffeeneur.

Coffeeneuring No. 2: Loco Joe in Purcellville, Va. Oct. 13.

Sometimes the need to get out for a long ride in the country becomes impossible to ignore. After a few weekends tooling around the city, MG and I started feeling cooped up and realized we had to go on a century jaunt away from the D.C. traffic lights and tourists.

The forecast on Sunday Oct. 13 called for a cool day and periods of showers. Whatever. I talked her into going out on the tandem on the Purcellville Prance, a pretty and hilly 100-mile ride by Crista Borras from Warrenton, Va. to Purcellville, where the Washington & Old Dominion Trail ends.

It was raining when we got to the start, about an hour’s drive west of D.C.

Me, the tandem and the rain. (Courtesy MG)

Me, the tandem and the rain. (Courtesy MG)

MG waited in the car while I got the bike ready. Being the tandem captain sometimes is less than glamorous.

On the Road, in the Rain. (Courtesy MG)

On the Road, in the Rain. (Courtesy MG)

The rain kept up for the first segment to Middleburg, Va., where I intended to make my coffeeneur stop. We stopped at Middleburg Common Grounds and had passable soy latte drinks and snacks. I’m not a fan of their drinks here because they like that strong burnt coffee flavor, but the soy covered up most of it.

The rain finally let up at Purcellville, and we had lunch at Subway. Purcellville is a busy place but not exactly wealthy, and I didn’t even think of looking for coffee. McDonald’s is usually the only place to get a decent coffee-type drink.

Loco Joe, in Purcellville. (Courtesy MG)

Loco Joe, in Purcellville. (Courtesy MG)

To my great surprise we rode right past the new Loco Joe Coffee, which MG recognized through the coffeeneur post of Purcellville resident Robert Edwards. He writes the Classic Three Speeds blog. See his post responding to MG’s coffeeneuring Q&A here.

LJ’s sits inside what appears to be a large old country home that has been renovated into commercial space. I got a good vibe as we walked in, when I saw that they sold coffee from our M.E. Swings, our home coffee shop in D.C.

I forgot all about our earlier stop in Middleburg.

Coffeeneur Stop No. 2: Me and MG at Loco Joe.

Coffeeneur Stop No. 2: Me and MG at Loco Joe.

I ordered a double espresso. If they make a good double shot, the rest is probably going to be pretty good. And it was very good. The real thing, as I like to say.

I hope Loco Joe is a longlasting success in Purcellville. I’m a little wary of the town, which has something of a love-hate relationship with the trail and cyclists, but Loco Joe is definitely a plus.

The rest of the ride was more dry than wet. We enjoyed the time away from home on roads made quiet by the dreary skies. Coffeeneuring along the way was an added bonus.

Total miles: 100.

Living the Coffeeneuring Dream: The Cinematic Outing

When your spouse is the originator of The Coffeeneuring Challenge, the coffeeneuring season arrives with a flurry of excitement. As many of you know I am the spouse of, and tandem partner with, the inimitable MG, A.K.A. “Coffeeneuse Prime,” Twitter’s own @coffeeneur. I get regular updates on all the interesting coffee places you coffeeneurs seek out, not unlike a front row seat at NASA flight control.

The good news is that I LOVE coffeeneuring. We’ve combined cycling and coffee stops on our randonneuring brevets and touring rides since, like, forever, so I’m all over this one.

In case you haven’t heard of this particular challenge, the objective is simple: ride a bicycle to seven different coffee shops over seven weekends (starting on Oct. 2) for a coffee or other hot drink. But wait, there’s more: document your adventure with a photo and submit the particulars to MG directly or via links to social media.

The distance is fairly easy. One merely has to ride at least two miles round trip. Read all about it at MG’s Chasing Mailboxes blog.

For 2013, my goal has been to do something mildly interesting on every coffeeneuring ride, and try to rack up some long-distance miles (that’s the -euring part for me) in the process.

I’m going to work through my first five coffeeneur trips over the next few days. Here’s the first.

My daughter DF was in D.C. on the weekend of Oct. 5, the day after the opening of the space disaster movie Gravity. This is surely the the best high-concept remake of The Poseidon Adventure yet.

It seemed like an apt connection to coffeeneuring:

1. You leave home to visit a beautiful yet unforgiving environment: the Washington urban grid on a weekend day with distracted tourists and errand-runners.
2. You encounter threatening space junk: Metro buses and drivers making sudden moves while trolling for parking.
3. You undergo a stunning rebirth that arms you with the steely will to get home: the rush to the head and heart brought on by delicious espresso and the great outdoors!

Espresso at Tryst. Very Good.

Espresso at Tryst. Very Good.

We rode to lunch at The Diner in Adams Morgan before continuing to the historic, single big-screen Uptown Theater in Cleveland Park. The Uptown is simply the best venue in the city to see blockbuster movies, with sumptuous sound, a balcony, and a massive curved screen. DF and I rode the “Lead Sled” Cannondale tandem and MG rode her trusty Rivendell Quickbeam singlespeed bike.

Upon arriving at The Diner, I ducked next door into Tryst next door for my coffeeneuring stop. A self-titled “Coffee house/Bar/Lounge,” Tryst is a cavernous student and college grads-with-laptops-and-scarves hangout and was packed on this warm day. I ordered a triple espresso and took it back to the diner to drink while we awaited our food. It was delicious. They make really good espresso here.

Tryst. Espresso. Style.

Tryst. Espresso. Style.

Back on the street we met up with local resident and Friday Coffee Club regular Ryan S., who was finishing his morning bike ride. Here’s a photo to prove it!

Ryan, me & MG. Additional show added! (Photo courtesy DF. )

Ryan, me & MG. Additional show added! (Photo courtesy DF. )

The movie was scary and visually amazing, if a little simplistic in the character development department. But good for Sandra Bullock, though, who at age 49 looks not that much different than the young-and-beautiful people in Tryst.

The ride home from Cleveland Park is fun because it is mostly downhill toward our co-op building on the Potomac River in Southwest D.C. We saw our friend Mike’s daughter Claire on her Soma and chatted — that was fun. When you see a Soma Saga ridden by a stylish woman with rack, fenders and a generator light, say hi for us.

Total miles: 13. Total multi-billion dollar Space Shuttle and space stations destroyed: Zero. Mission accomplished.

Back home, safe and sound.

Back home, safe and sound.

A Brevet in Amish country

Sometimes a change of scenery makes all the difference. MG and I have been riding familiar roads around Washington these last few weeks after our summer Colorado tour and thought it might be good to ride somewhere else within driving distance.

That led us to the Pennsylvania Randonneurs Silver Spring 200K brevet from Christiana, Pa. This loop tour takes in the rolling farm hills of southern Pennsylvania in Lancaster County, with a run into northeast Maryland.

Our route. We rode clockwise.

Our route. We rode clockwise.

See my photos here and MG’s here. The route and our performance statistics can be seen at my Garmin page.

Tom Rosenbauer and me. Tom was riding with us today.

Tom Rosenbauer and me. Tom was riding with us today.

Andrew gives pre-ride comments. Cool enough for warmers.

Andrew gives pre-ride comments. Cool enough for warmers.

The start was just close enough, about 110 miles, to drive up and back the same day. It was an early start — leaving home at 4:15 a.m. — but we got there in plenty of time to get ourselves organized and the tandem ready. Organizers Andrew Mead and George Metzler got our group of about 20 out on the road right on time at 7 a.m.

We wanted to finish in 10 hours but also knew this was a very hilly route, with more than 9,000 feet of climbing over short, steep rises all day. The toughest hills were in the first half, including the wall that is Douts Hill Road, but the second half was only rarely flat.

Our approach to keep moving was one we picked up from our cycling friend Josh S. and his wife Doreen: don’t sit down at the stops. It works well, in that standing around reminds one to depart soon enough.

C.J., Clair and those obligatory cows.

C.J., Clair and those obligatory cows.

The weather was just about perfect. We were treated to bright sunny skies, light breezes, low humidity and highs in the low 80s.

Just past the Conowingo Dam, not a cloud in the sky.

Just past the Conowingo Dam, not a cloud in the sky.

As for the ride itself, the first five miles trended down and we rode away from the group but were caught before the first control at Port Deposit, mile 31, by the faster riders. From there we spent the rest of the day leapfrogging with Bill Olsen, Clair Beiler, first time rider C.J. Arayata and Eric Dahl.

The randonneur lifestyle. Eric, C.J. and Clair.

The randonneur lifestyle. Eric, C.J. and Clair.

Bill just completed the Granite Anvil 1200K randonnee on Aug. 25 and is headed to Colorado this week for the Last Chance 1200K. He was in full get-there brevet mode and left us at the next-to-last stop at Mount Joy, mile 85, while we ate sandwiches in the warm afternoon sun.

As is typical being on the tandem, we’d fly away on the downhills. Our riding companions would catch us on the uphills. We’d all ride together on the flats.

C.J. and Clair on another quiet road.

C.J. and Clair on another quiet road.

During all this MG took photos of the barns with tobacco leaves drying and Amish farm families working the fields. We rode around the occasional horse-drawn carriage and shared the Sheetz convenience store patio with a number of Amish teenagers who ate pizza before piling back into a van.

Except for a couple of short stretches, the roads were not busy. That’s a testament to a well-designed route.

Cutting the grass, the old-fashioned way. Courtesy MG.

Cutting the grass, the old-fashioned way. Courtesy MG.

Tobacco drying. Courtesy MG.

Tobacco drying. Courtesy MG.

Andrew came out to meet us at the second control, a gas station that had closed, with some drinks and snacks. Thanks Andrew! We love roadside oasis support. The Coke was just what we needed.

Andrew and this cooler of cold drinks.

Andrew and this cooler of cold drinks.

We finished right before 5 p.m., and made our 10-hour goal. The hills took it out of our legs, so we were more than happy to be done. George Metzler generously grilled hamburgers and sausages for the returning riders at his house near the start.

We had a very nice time visiting with George and his family, and our fellow riders, before the drive home. Sleeping in our own bed was much nicer than a hotel.

Tom R. finishes at dusk.

Tom R. finishes at dusk.

One of the best post-ride dinners you could ask for. Courtesy MG.

One of the best post-ride dinners you could ask for. Courtesy MG.

Thanks to all the Pennsylvania Randonneurs for hosting us so graciously. We hope to see one and all here in D.C. soon.