The Breeze and the Freeze

Mary has written yet another gem of a ride report, this one about the highs and the lows of Crista Borras’ Feb. 18 “Lovely Lovettsville Loop” century ride. As one might expect, with temperatures in the low 30s, northwest winds of 10-20 m.p.h, and (!) snow showers, there were more lows than highs!

First, Crista’s description:

“LOVELY LOVETTSVILLE LOOP,” starting from the VDOT commuter lot in Marshall, Virginia. A very scenic, fairly hilly ride that hits most of the classic Fauquier/Loudoun County horse-country towns and villages, including Airmont, Round Hill, Hillsboro, Lovettsville, Waterford, Purcellville, Middleburg (“if you’re not rich you’re not welcome”), and The Plains. 100 miles, with PLENTY of shorter ptions. Million dollar view thrown in at no extra charge.

Mary’s take:

Ed Felker and I arrived to the Marshall, Virginia VDOT parking lot to greet Chuck and Crista and assemble ourselves for the day’s ride. The parking lot was a fairly large sheet of ice with a loop of cleared pavement on the periphery. As we were getting ready in the February cold, Kelly Smith and Maile Neel rode by in their lobster gloves, booties, and balaclavas to get a little head start.

Chuck, Crista, Ed, and I rode out onto Frost Street together, and began our Sunday outing. The sun was shining, and although the day was cold, it was picturesque. The morning was quiet and sleepy. The snow enveloped the historic wooden houses like a blanket, and the shadows of the wooden fences undulated on the roadside snow palate. A hawk that had been perched on one of the roadside telephone wires took flight to follow alongside the tandems for a few moments. It was beautiful.

Soon my infatuation with the day came to an end, as our little group began encountering an unwelcome visitor on our ride… Mr. Headwind. One minute I was contemplating the beauty of the ride, and the next Mr. Headwind was slapping me in the face reminding me that this was a winter ride and not to get too comfortable.

Ed seemed to think it was great. “Mary, it’s the dead of winter, and we are out here!” “Yes,” I replied. Inside I said, Why, Ed. What is wrong with us? Ed continued to inform me how exciting he thought our ride was. “Mary, this is so dramatic. Wow!” “Yes,” I replied. Inside I thought about who I might know who could refer Ed to the appropriate mental health counselor. The wind and cold were not having the same effect on me. They were making me blue!

As we rode, we would climb little hills, and drop into lower-lying areas. As we traversed the sheltered valleys, I thought about how we had outsmarted Mr. Headwind, but soon enough we would begin to climb again, and I could hear his laughter rising through the trees. “Ha ha, silly bike riders. You thought you could kick me off your ride. Well, not so fast.” Boo, Mr. Wind. Boo to you.

Ed and I began discussing the merits of Bicycle Quarterly, and whether it was a scholarly randonneuring journal. I said I had not read enough to say, but then was captured with the question of whether “scholarly randonneuring” was an oxymoron. I was unable to reach any definitive conclusions.

Mr. Headwind kept on punishing us with powerful gusts, and Chuck, Crista, Ed, and I arrived at the Airmont Store, our mile-24 rest stop, already feeling a little road weary. Well, Ed was not road weary. Where was that headwind? Show Ed the way!

Ed did remark that his fingers were cold, however, and I noticed him over in one of the store aisles pawing through some of the convenience store gloves. He spied some plain black liner gloves, but then passed on them when he discovered the loveliest gloves of all. They were winter-white women’s angora gloves with pastel-colored flowers embroidered on them, and a little pearl bead sewn onto the middle of the flower. Oh Ed. Say it isn’t so! You are not seriously going to buy those gloves! “Yes I am. I am going to out-Rudy Rudy.” “That’s true,” I said. “You will definitely be doing that if you buy those gloves.” Ed showed off his new purchase to Chuck and Crista. Crista said, “It takes a real man to feel comfortable wearing those gloves.” Ed generously offered to give me the gloves at the end of the ride. Um, no thanks Ed. Those high-fashion ladies gloves are all yours!

We all had something warm to drink, a little convenience store sustenance, and discussed where Kelly and Maile might be. We concluded that they had shortcut back to the start. No way, we thought. No way they are still out here on their single bikes. I felt a jealous pang. They are on their way back in the tailwind, and loving life. Boo hoo, not me. I am out here getting beat up by the town bully, Mr. Headwind. Grr!

Fortunately, the woman at the Airmont store was kind enough to tell Ed the direction of Mr. Headwind, so we set off in hot pursuit. The ride was fairly quiet as we battled our way to lunch. As we arrived at our midday stop, I noticed some snow flurries in the air. Perhaps Mr. Headwind was calling in reinforcements!

Chuck, Crista, Ed and I sat down, looked bleary-eyed at each other and recovered ourselves a bit by eating. Someone (I will not mention his or her name, but will simply state that as long as a person rides at least 90 miles he or she will receive UMCA mileage credit) suggested a 6-mile shortcut. That was the best idea I had heard all day, and expressed my full support. My tandem partner seemed a bit reticent at first, but he came around to his senses soon enough .

As we left our lunch stop at mile 63, it began to seriously snow. Crista said, “There were supposed to be flurries in the morning, not now!” Well, I guess the snow was not doing what it was supposed to do and was having a little laugh on us. It was quite apparent to me that the snow was in cahoots with the headwind. Sometimes nature can be so anti-randonneur, I thought.

For the next half hour or so the snow, aided by the wind, pelted and showered us with reduced visibility. Ed kept making little excited outbursts, “WOW!” “The dead of winter, woo hoo!!” “WOO HOO!” Occasionally I noted him shaking his fist for emphasis. A couple of times he added how warm his hands felt thanks to his new angora gloves. It was exciting, I guess, but not only were the snow and wind kicking up, but the day was now gray, and at that moment I would have preferred to be doing something else, like taking a nap where I dreamed I was riding with Ed in a snowstorm while he was wearing women’s gloves.

Eventually, the snow abated except for the occasional “supposed-to-have-been-in-the-morning” flurry, and we reaped the benefits of a tailwind as we pedaled our way through the gray day into the parking lot off of Frost Street. What a fitting street for the end of this ride, I told Ed. Kelly and Maile’s vehicles were still parked in the ice parking lot. 15 minutes later they rode up together. Mr. Headwind had not bullied them into an early retreat. They completed the full ride. Kelly remarked effusively, “Did you guys see that snow?! At one point I looked down and there was snow collecting on my legs and my booties. That was cool!!” Ok, I have my answer to the scholarly randonneur question!

Ultimately, I did not succumb to the pressure of the elements. Thanks to Ed’s optimism, and the fact that we were riding the same bicycle, I did not hightail it back to the parking lot after that first rest stop, and was able to get in a tough 97-mile ride.

As we drove off to dinner, I said, “That was a good ride, Ed!” Ed laughed. “What are you talking about, Mary? You just said that the only good thing about this ride was that it ended!” Oops! Well, Ed, the only way I could have enjoyed the end so much was through suffering and surviving the beginning and the middle!

Thanks for the ride, Crista… I’m looking forward to spring!


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