Gappity Gap is Well Fed

The western Virginia mountains stand ready to devour randonneurs at any time, as Mike Dayton of North Carolina discovered this last weekend riding the infamous Gappity Gap permanent from Sperryville, VA. Read all about it at his blog, Research Trailer Park. He rode with our own randonneurs Nick Bull and Tom Reeder. Also along for the slogfest was Texas randonneur Edward Robinson, who somehow thought this permanent was a good way to burn off the Thanksgiving calories.

GG is hard enough, it sounds. Add in temperatures that barely got into the 40s and November’s short days, and a confrontation with the The Dark Monster — nightfall, plus plunging temperatures — was inevitable. Mike was the only one of the four to complete the ride. Well done, Mike! (Truth Squad: I’ve yet to ride GG. One of these days.)

An excerpt: “As the ride date neared, we picked up another rider, Nick. The route was also announced: Gappity Gap. I looked it up on RUSA’s Web site. 11,000 feet of climbing. Yikes! That’s Parkway Painful. A friendly ride? Were these guys trying to kill me? I couldn’t be sure, but just in case I decided to pack the Kevlar wind vest.”

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One thought on “Gappity Gap is Well Fed

  1. How did GG eat 3 out of 4? It happened like this: First problem, we got a late start, owing to difficulties with the start control. Next time we’ll leave more time before starting a permanent. So from the start, it was a challenge to get to the first control before it closed, and of course that means you’re behind the 8-ball all day, and don’t have time to rest at the controls at all.

    Second problem, we were using a cue sheet from the August brevet (6:30 am start), and the control closing times had not been updated to be consistent with the permanent start (7:30 am). As a result, Edward completely thrashed himself trying to get to Edinburg by 4:30, failed to do so, and then phoned his wife to come pick him up. Later he realized that the control actually closes at 5:30, but it was too late. Meanwhile, Nick came in at 5:25 and was tempted to get a ride with Edward but decided not to, and after about 20 minutes of eating, putting on another layer of warm clothes, etc. was just about to leave when Tom came up. (Tom had been adding an hour and a half to the cue sheet through the turnaround control, thinking that the brevet had been a 6 am start!)

    Tom controlled quickly and left, and just as Nick started to leave, Tom came back. There was some discussion about whether to continue or not — by this time, it was 6:00, and with 35 miles and climbs over Edinburg Gap (the hard way), Edith Gap (the easy way), and Thornton Gap (the hard way) coming up, it was pretty clear that we wouldn’t finish by 9:00.

    Third mistake: We actually had until 9:20, because the permanent has different closing times than the brevet. So we might still have made it. Nevertheless, we decided to finish GG, figuring we’d just come in a little while after the end. Meanwhile, Tom had heard on the radio that heavy rain and high winds were forecast for the mountain passes after midnight — but mountain weather is unpredictable, and the sky looked ominous, and we had not brought raingear, so we checked that Edward would be driving the brevet route and could pick us up if the weather turned. Half a mile down the road, we realised that Edward could come with us if he called his wife and re-routed her to Sperryville. Tom tried to call Edward, but somehow dialed Matt Settle, instead.

    Turned out Matt was driving the route looking for us. Somehow — we’re still not sure how — this made us decide to ride back to the control with the intention of getting a ride with Edward’s wife, since we expected Matt was just on his way home from somewhere and wouldn’t be able to give us a ride. It all seemed to make sense at the time.

    As it turns out, Matt was driving to the final control so he could check us in. Tom and I got a ride with Matt, met Mike at the final control, and then Edward and his wife joined us and we all had pizza.

    So that’s how GG ate three out of four. Perhaps underlying all this — GG is a really tough ride, we were all somewhat sleep deprived, and the combination of fatigue, dehydration, hours of riding in near-freezing temperatures, and the gloomy prospects all probably contributed to making mistakes in reading/interpreting the cue sheet and in subsequent decision-making. Good thing we didn’t have to make any actual life or death decisions!

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