Life works in perverse ways, usually of our own making. Maybe that’s a metaphor for randonneuring: pushing onwards despite bad decisions along the way!
I took the day off Friday from work to get everything prepared for the ride. The plan was to drive to Warrenton early that evening for a good night’s sleep. I chose the Comfort Inn, thinking it would be more, well, comfortable, than the run-down Howard Johnsons. (By the way, check out the reviews of the HoJo at Tripadvisor.com if you want to read what travelers think of this hotel. They are not kind.)
One thing led to another, and I didn’t get to Warrenton until 10 p.m. Then I had to change rooms because the neighbors were noisy, and the new room was much nicer but still subject to the pickup truck crowd having a good old Friday evening at the adjacent nightclub and parking lot.
Bottom line: it’s a party hotel on Friday nights! Justin Castillo rolled in late after tending to family duties, and it wasn’t until after midnight that I drifted off. Up at the last minute at 3:45, we bolted to the HoJo’s, where I was bleary at best and unfed save for some coffee and an apple. I was grateful for the pre-ride routine I’ve honed over the years, it served me well under the circumstances..
I got out on the road with the big group in reasonably good stead and figured I could get some kind of breakfast on the road and wake up with coffee I stashed in a little mini-Thermos in my Carradice bag. I worked my way to the front and sat in with the speedy folks until the secret control, just before mile 13, but once there decided to take off a couple of layers. The front group would have to go on without me.
The sun was beginning to rise and unveil a perfect, cloudless warm spring day. The dips were still pretty cold, upper 30s maybe, I tried to pedal steadily to stay warm. Along the way I talked with Tim Laseter, Linda Gaudette, Nick and Lynn K. on tandem, and Dave Gaudette. I also saw Bill Beck fixing his tire, none the worse for wear. (He would somehow get past me later that morning and I never knew it — Bill did I see you?)
I stopped at the store at mile 32 and bought two turkey sandwiches, ate one for my breakfast, and took a cup of coffee that I put in my little handlebar cup holder. By now the day was in full bloom and I was feeling much more interested in the ride.
I pedaled solo up Old Rag and marveled at the amazing views from the side we never see when coming the other direction on the Warrenton 200K. I was in awe of the beauty so close to our homes. At the top I came upon Chris Burkhardt, smiling as always, and Max Prola, who I’ve come to know on PBP years. We swooped on down to the Syria Mercantile where Dave, Lynn, Nick and a few other riders were peeling off layers and getting themselves ready for the next segment.
The passage to Mountain View featured one stunning — you guessed it — mountain view after another. I saw Joel helping Mike and James Houck on the roadside, then caught up to Chris Mento and Carol Bell, and we rolled into the nursing home control together. It was the neatest control I’ve ever experienced! The women were as nice as could be and suggested we stop at Yoder’s Store if we had the chance. It was off route, but it’s nice to know we all enjoy that store, both city and country folks.
I was so sleepy, still, that I joked about getting a room! Carol, Chris and I shared my coffee stash and I perked right up. I was set for at least a couple more hours, but now I faced the rest of the ride with no more of my turbo Swing’s coffee. Booooo.
Chris, Carol and I rolled out and kept in proximity until I peeled off in Gordonsville and bought a 12″ turkey sandwich at Subway. It was on the route and I had no idea what food might be available ahead. I crammed it into my now-full Carradice and wondered whether I really needed all that cold-weather gear earlier in the day. It was now dead weight on the bike.
At Cismont’s I wandered around for awhile in a daze. There were lots of riders there but most were saddling up to leave. Chris and Carol came in and sat down, as did Joel. Andrea Matney told me they had wonderful sandwiches!
I thought I better actually eat the Subway sub, so I settled for a coffee, bananas and some Gatorade and beat it out of there, solo again. I munched part of my sandwich while trying to steer and shift with my other hand, not so well, but I didn’t fall over! Up ahead I ran up to Lothar on his shiny new coupled Seven, wow way to go Lothar. It is truly a stunning bike.
I still felt pretty good and made my way to Orange with Clint Provenza and Chip Adams after we stopped for the information control at the Civil War attraction. This territory was pure Louisa County, with rough roads, though they sure were quiet. In Orange we turned into the Dairy Korner and found lots of riders, including Crista and Chuck, Lowell Grubbs and Randi Mouri.
Crista informed me that the milkshakes were just great there, and who am I to argue with Crista? So I bought one to go. I ran out and put it in my coffee cup holder to drink while I rode. At the time it seemed to make sense. Really! I was feeling drowsy and knew if I stopped for very long I might end up napping in a booth, and I also had a strong craving for about 1,000 calories in a cup.
I latched on with C&C until the descent out of town. They shot away from me while I kept a finger on my cup lest it fly out on a bump. This was precious cargo to me and nobody wants to see a grown man cry over spilled milkshake.
They slowed for me after awhile and with a few pedal strokes and some big pulls on the straw I was back on their wheel. My body absorbed the shake without any ill effect, so I must have been pretty hungry. I had the taste of milkshake for the rest of the ride, no matter how much water or Gatorade or diluted apple juice I drank, but it was worth it.
We rolled as a mini-group, which helped me stay awake. We got to the Inn at Kelly’s Ford to find Tim Laseter looking for anyone to sign his control card. I winced as we clomped around on the fine wood floors in our cycling shoes, with nobody to be found. Finally we encountered a nice employee who was visiting with co-workers on the side porch. She signed our cards and warned us that it was technically not good to drink the tap water. Tim had already filled his bottles and left so we hoped for the best for him!
That left us to run into the Citgo at Remington for drinks. I bought a bag of ice to counter the heat and persistent dehydration. Tim was there but left ahead of us, and we three pulled out again for the final run to Warrenton. Chuck and I were both less than sharp but we managed to keep ourselves engaged enough not to miss any turns or end up in the ditch. My plan to stay on the bike had me finishing with a low time, but I didn’t eat enough early in the ride and felt it at the end.
Crista made sure to ask us about the new route through Warrenton on this ride. I said if it didn’t include the bike path, I was all for it! It was quiet and pretty and I liked it all on its own merits. The ascent up Meetze was, as usual, a drag, but the descent down Waterloo was pure heaven! We arrived at 5:50 p.m., with Clint and Chip walking in a couple of minutes after us. I stopped for only 72 minutes, which is probably too little.
The Warrenton 300K was one of my most enjoyable brevets ever. The weather was perfect, the route spectacular, and I got to visit with lots of the riders. I’ll be back for this one next year with Mary, and we’ll have a proper lunch along the way! Thanks to Roger and all the volunteers who made this ride a complete success.