D.C. Randonneurs Frederick 400K

I put this last weekend’s D.C. Randonneurs 400K among the most enjoyable, if challenging, brevets I’ve done since my first foray into randonneuring in 1996. The only thing lacking was the lovely MG riding the brevet with me on our tandem. I made the most of it on my new Rivendell Bleriot 650b steed, which continues to feel so good that it makes me wonder if, indeed, the 650b evangelists are right about the 650b advantages for long-distance riding. It’s an academic exercise for the most part but still fun to ponder.

I rode the first segment with the front group, but I let them go just before Brunswick, knowing the real work lay ahead from Shepherdstown, W.V. to Mercersburg, Pa. I saw George Winkert before the bridge into Virginia and then Dave Gaudette and I rode for awhile after Brunswick up to Airmont, where we got a chance to chat with Crista and Chuck manning the control.

Along the way to Shepherdstown the State College Six caught me and I had a chance to meet Branson Kimball from Durham and see Ben Bassett riding his geared bike.

A sizable group was gathered at the Shepherstown Sweet Shop just before 9 a.m. The shop may be the world’s best store control, and I got some good pictures, a double espresso, and two turkey pannini sandwiches. See my photos at this stop and elsewhere on the ride Here

The day by now was clear and warm. I rode out solo as I ate one of the sandwiches. From here to Hancock I spent time with Roger Hillas and Kelly Smith and Mary Crawley riding their tandem. This section seemed to climb, climb, climb, without any big passes, just always rising, through lovely valley rollers, bursting with spring’s green and purple vistas. Kelly, Mary and I rode into Hancock around noon, just behind the State College riders and Roger, and just ahead of Mark Thomas from the Seattle International Randonneurs, who was visiting family in D.C. and joined us for this brevet.

(Mark and I rode a fleche together two weeks ago with the Oregon Randonneurs and got to know each other when I rode the Seattle 600K last fall and the Cascade 1200 last June with MG).

After getting a little turned around trying to follow the trail out of Hancock, Mark and I headed toward Mercersburg. I went forward alone and caught Mike Martin and Michael Scholten at the camp store. Roger rolled past and the State College guys stopped for water and kept going. After a 20-minute rest stop I rode out with Mike and we pushed on to the Rt. 26 downhill and beyond for awhile. From there I started seeing the State College gang off in the distance, but once we turned towards Edenville they motored away and I poked along solo, until I found them pulled over at a yard sale.

The family there gave them water, Gatorade and a couple of beers. Needless to say, they were in good spirits as they left and they pulled me almost to the 18th Century Inn.

My plan to stay on the bike flew out the window at the luxurious inn. I found Bill Beck, Jeff Magnuson, and John and Nancy Guth (!), who were taking it easy due to a busted front derailleur on her bike and some digestion problems for John. Mark Thomas followed. He found me taking a 10-minute snooze on the living room couch.

Finally I hauled myself out and felt tremendously better. I saw Mark and John and Nancy on the way up and over South Mountain to Arendtsville. I love that climb over Rt. 233 and Shippensburg Road, because it’s shallow enough to carry speed and it goes quickly. At Gettysburg night was falling as I found Roger and Bill Beck preparing to ride out. I left town with them, but stopped to tend to some roadside business on the way to Thurmont and joined Mark Thomas and Curtis Palmer from Lancaster, Pa. for the run into the finish.

We took our time, expending a lot of energy into the headwinds and then backing off when we turned away. I had my traditional lighting problems in this section — this time I managed to put some old, discharged lithium batteries into my fancy new Ixon front light and couldn’t figure out why it kept turning off. I had other lights and we had no problems as we ticked off the miles under clear, windy skies illuminated by a bright sliver of moonlight. We stayed together and had some good talks along the way.

We arrived at 11:26 p.m. and for once my legs were not trashed from driving myself hard all the way to the end. Gordon and Bob Sheldon had the pizza and pop all laid out, and pizza tastes best after 250 miles of riding, right?

The route was a real treat, with lots of good changes from last year’s version. Thanks Lynn K. for a great route and event, to all the volunteers, and especially Ray Skinner and family for treating us so kindly at the Inn.

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