BPB: MG’s Double Middletown 600K Report

You’ll have to read the story to find out the meaning of BPB, though as a hint I will say MG has keenly observed that no long brevet takes place without some gastronomical distress. Hey, anything to set the tandem and mixed tandem record on this brand new route through the Shenandoah Valley.

See MG’s story on our and David Lippke’s Double Middletown 600K Permanent ride this last weekend below.

30 a.m.David, MG and Me, Before

30 p.m.After

Double Middletown 600K Permanent
(a.k.a. BPB-Big Pukin’ Bike ride)

June 14-15,2008
By Mary Gersema

2008 proved to be a patchwork quilt of brevet events for Ed and me. We were able to complete 200K, 300K, and 400K ACP-sanctioned brevets, but our schedules did not mesh with any of the scheduled ACP 600K brevets in our area. However, thanks to some creative thinking by Ed, and some amazing routing by Lynn Kristianson, my lifelong dream of doing a 600K permanent came to fruition this past weekend.

Ed asked Lynn about a 600K permanent route, and she wiled away many hours putting together a great journey for us, eventually submitting it for RUSA’s final approval. At first it looked as though the permanent would not be accepted by the weekend we had planned to ride it. Darn it, I thought. How disappointing- . Thankfully, though, Permanents Coordinator Edward Robinson added the Double Middletown 600K Permanent to the RUSA database in the nick of time, and we were ready to roll. Great!

Ed sent out a note inviting others on our adventure. I was sure that we’d have no takers on our fine opportunity, but surprisingly, David Lippke responded that he would be interested in riding with us. Lynn K. provided us cue sheets, brevet cards, maps, and brownies. Now I am not sure if brownies are standard fare when you ride a Lynn K. permanent, but if so, I highly recommend you all sign up for one of her rides immediately.

Day One

Ed and I drove off from my place Saturday morning at 3:15a.m., and as we made our way along the Waterfront in Southwest DC, we saw that the nightclubs were just closing, and there were lots of people in their clubwear chatting and walking to their cars. Off we were to ride our bikes after four hours of sleeping, and these people had not even been to bed yet. It felt so surreal.

We gathered at the Sheetz in Haymarket, Va. to begin our little 375-mile tour. After bike prep and pre-ride chat we entered the Sheetz to control in. The young woman who signed our control cards thought it was so cool that we were doing this ride and that she got to sign our cards. Her excitement was shocking. We were not prepared for so much enthusiasm at 4:30 a.m. She signed all of our cards with a smiley face, and even added a heart to mine. David said he hoped all the controls would be like this. Tina, David’s wife, memorialized our start with a few pics of us outside the Sheetz in front of the windshield wiper fluid and the three of us rolled out into the dark morning together.

The morning ride was uneventful. The sun rose, we put a few miles on the odometer, and I thought about how much we had to ride the first day. 266 miles. That seemed far to me. Really far. “Mary, don’t freak out. You can do it,” I told myself. Then the Talking Heads song “Road to Nowhere” started looping in my mind.

We’re on a road to nowhere
Come on inside.
Takin’ that ride to nowhere
We’ll take that ride.

I told myself to stop singing that song. That only made the song louder in my mind. Unfortunately, that little bit was the only part of the song I could remember. I started thinking about the song. Did they mean that a road to nowhere was bad or that a road to nowhere was OK? The Talking Heads seemed to think a road to nowhere might not be a bad thing. How can that be? What was the rest of the song? I don’t know! ARGH! This song was pedaling me into psychological ruin. Ed seemed completely unaware of all that was going on back in the stoker zone.

We passed through a couple of controls (the Middletown 7-11 and the Newstar Market, miles 45 and 53, respectively), and then slogged our way down the ever-popular Back Road. The controls took longer than usual for us because, for one, we could not seem to get into a 600K permanent groove. Secondly, we had to make sure to get receipts as well as signatures at each control.

“Road to Nowhere” continued to chorus in and out of my mind, the sun rose, and I began to feel drowsier. This was unusual, as my lethargy tends to fade with the daylight. I wondered if Ed could sense my drowsiness, and a few miles later Ed said he needed to pull over for coffee at Larkin’s Store. Guess Ed was having drowsiness issues of his own.

After that coffee stop, the drowsiness of the day seemed to fade somewhat, and David, Ed, and I happily talked and rode our way up and down the next 50 miles to Singers Glen. As we arrived the sky began to darken. That made for a perfect time to stop and have lunch. Good thing we did because ten minutes later thunder rumbled, the wind kicked up, and the rain POURED down! I looked out the window. The rain was streaming sideways, and the sides of the streets were gushing with water. Yep, we chose a good time to stop.

Fortunately, the rain showers powered through, and around an hour later we started off again. There was still rain, but we were not getting doused. Not that it really mattered, though, because a few miles up the road a car passed us and made sure to completely drench us with the rooster tails rising up from his car wheels. Yucko! I did not even want to venture a guess as to what was in that water. David was sure the person had soaked us on purpose, and I had my own thoughts about the matter, but I tried to believe it had been an accident.

Oddly enough, the Singers Glen stop marked my transition point. It may have been storming outside, but finally I was feeling alert and in synch with the ride. No more “Road to Nowhere” for me. Good thing we were doing a 600K permanent so that I could take full advantage of the 100-mile warm-up, ha ha!

The day cleared again and we enjoyed some mellow, yet toasty miles to the Stokesville Market control at mile127. Another friendly person signed our cards, and we hung out and rested a little bit as some guys came by and washed up the fish they had caught.

Soon after the Stokesville Market we meandered onto Bunker Hill Road and Jennings Gap Road. These were lovely roads, but the few cars that passed us seemed to have some anger management issues, yelling out their windows, and not giving us much room when passing. Dude, we’re just out for a bike ride; we’re not staging a bicycling revolution out here.

The skies began to darken, the wind began talking to us rather urgently as we hit US250, and Ed decided to ponder our next steps at a closed restaurant that had a nice overhang. David pondered with us a bit, and then ventured out into the drizzle. He gave us his wife’s cell phone number as he pedaled off. How reassuring! We waited a bit more, the drizzle turned to steady rain, we decided there would be no lightning or immediate danger, and continued on our way. It rained for a few miles, and then ebbed.

We caught David at the Deerfield store at mile 150 and went in to buy a treat and get our cards signed. The woman inside told us that we would have some nice downhill ahead. She then added that we’d have some uphill, too. Um… ok. We laughed about that as we started riding again. Ed said, “Yes, it will be downhill except for the parts that are uphill.” And David kept saying whenever there was a rise in the road, “It’s downhill… mostly. Mostly.”

Knowing we had a little over a century left for the day simultaneously buoyed my spirits and depressed me. We’ve come so far, I thought. We have so far to go, I responded to myself. Focus on the former, I thought again.

After the Deerfield store, we were treated to some pretty quiet downhill stretches (except for the uphills, of course), and I felt better. However, I noticed David making intermittent remarks about how ORF-less this stretch of road was. (ORF is one of the many little cue sheet acronynms that have become part of our vocabulary. It stands for outdoor restroom facility).

I started keeping my eyes peeled for some ORF relief. Finally, I spied this old-fashioned outhouse that was painted a pretty russet brown with a black crescent moon and star on the front. “Look there, David!” I shouted. “There’s the perfect ORF for you, but I don’t know how you will get there.” It looked way off in the weeds. David said, “See you later, I’m going back.” Later he reported that was the loveliest outhouse he’d ever visited, with toilet paper and everything. He was disappointed Ed had not taken a picture of it.

Ed and I rode on alone through this beautiful stretch to the midpoint of the ride, Clifton Forge, Va. at mile 193. David caught us, and we all entered the control together. The women working there asked us about our ride and when we told them, one of them remarked on how great our journey was. Wow! I have never experienced so much support from people on a long ride. Most people have just looked at us like we are a little crazy. Not this ride; all the people at the controls thought we were doing something special. That gave me a really good feeling!

Soon after our Clifton Forge stop, night fell, and we began climbing North Mountain toward Goshen. The climb was about five miles, I think, but the grade was quite manageable. Nonetheless the canopied road and darkness of the evening started fooling with my brain. I looked ahead and all I could see was Ed’s Camelbak; I looked to my side and all I could see were trees and leaves.

David’s lights came from behind the tandem and started casting crazy shadows. Images of Ed and me were huge and cast onto the trees. I could not tell if one of the shadows was my head or Ed’s so I decided to wag my head vigorously from side to side to check it out. I’m sure Ed really appreciated that, but I was in another zone. Then I decided that since I could not see anything anyway I would just close my eyes for a bit. A second later I woke up. (Ed told me later he noticed there was one point on the climb where he felt my legs go totally dead. I imagine it was this moment.)

As we came closer to the top of the climb, I was able to see one thing… arrow signs. Lots of them. Arrow sign after arrow sign. I did not find these arrow signs very helpful. They were too yellow and too bright in the darkness. Also, since we were climbing so slowly we had plenty of time to figure out which way the road turned. I thought they were an insult to my intelligence. Duh, we are quite aware the mountain is still going up and that we need to take a right. Thanks. They also seemed interminable. Never had I felt such animosity toward a road sign. I really wished we had been a bit more efficient during the day so that we could have made the climb before nightfall and these arrows would not be reflecting back and mocking my ascent. Oh well. I have to remember to not look back like that on rides. It is not productive and only serves to deflate me.

Finally, finally, we reached the top of North Mountain, and we began to pick up some serious speed on the descent. We had great lights and the descent was smooth and fairly straight. It was AWESOME! You should ride this permanent just to relish this downhill. It was one great payoff that lasted around eight miles. Yahoo! Any cars that passed gave us plenty of space and acted like it was totally normal to have cyclists out on the road at 10:30 at night or whatever time it was.

We eventually reached the end of the delightful descent, and rolled along to an intersection where Ed and David remarked it would be a good place to flip the cue sheet. We stopped, and then Ed started feeling bad. He went over to the side of the road and I told David quietly that Ed was probably going to throw up. “Oh really? Oh!” David replied quietly. What would a RUSA ride be without “occasional vomiting?”

Ed returned to our tandem, reporting that he felt better. David pointed up at the sign that was on the corner. It read “BPB Lumber Corp.” “Hey,” David said. “We didn’t do PBP, we’re doing BPB… a Big Pukin’ Bike ride.” That made me laugh so hard that I could not get on the bike, and then I laughed about it for the next ten miles.

It was a beautiful evening in Goshen, and there was a group on an outside stage at the still-open Cozy Restaurant playing bluegrass music. It sounded great, and if we had not been on a 600K permanent, I would have demanded that we stop to enjoy the music. Alas, we had 50 more miles of riding to go and we pedaled onwards.

Lynn, genius router that she is, put us on VA42 for most of the remaining miles to the control. That was perfect because we did not have to worry about missing a cue, and the road was undulating and pleasant. As we rode we could see fireflies around all the trees. A train passed just to the right of us. Cars gave us plenty of room when passing.

I told Ed that this 600K permanent was one of the weirdest rides I had ever done. There was not the seriousness that I often feel on a brevet, but at the same time the distance was a serious distance. I kept thinking, “Hey I’m just on a permanent,” and the next minute I would freak out and think, “I’m on a 600K permanent! Pedal pedal pedal!!!” Also, we were doing the permanent as a group ride. In this respect, it felt like a fleche… a fleche that never ends. Good thing we were all enjoying each other’s company (at least, as far as I knew!).

We made another climb through the George Washington National Forest, and as we descended to mile 245, Ed noticed David getting very quiet. David asked about taking a little stop in Churchville. Ed and I thought that sounded good. We stopped on a corner of some local store that had a nice overhang and comfy cement steps. David walked across the street to grab a couple pops. Ed and I watched him, both of us feeling a bit drowsy but good. Either my sense of time was really skewed or David was having problems with the pop machine because it seemed to take him forever to get his Coke. I told Ed I thought I should go and help him, but my legs wouldn’t move. So we just watched. Eventually he returned and said the machine wasn’t liking his money. Maybe so, but it is funny how simple things take on a new complexity after you’ve been riding for more than 20 hours.

We drank our pops and then made off to the Village Inn Motel at mile 266 in Harrisonburg. After we turned onto US11, Ed tried to convince David and me that a big farmhouse was the motel. “No, Ed,” I said. “I just don’t think this is it. Are you sure?” Ed said he was going to go up and ask. Fortunately David saved us by calling Tina and getting assurance from her that the motel would be clearly marked. Sure enough, after a couple tenths of a mile, a gigantic and brightly lit Village Inn Motel sign greeted us. We checked in for the evening, picked up the drop bags Tina had so kindly brought forward for us, and arranged to meet at 7 a.m. the following morning.

BPB-Big Pukin’ Bike ride, Day 2

Three hours of sleep later I awoke feeling pretty good. Just 110 miles to go, I thought. I can do this!

Ed and I met up with David, rode four miles together to the day’s first control (mile 270, Bridgewater) and promptly stopped for breakfast and coffee. Our legs were feeling pretty heavy as we left town and Ed and I watched David climb away from us. As we approached the control at mile 288 in Broadway, I decided I was going to have an orange Pushup and Fritos. Yummy! I had seen Nick Bull eating Fritos on a recent brevet, and they looked so tasty I had decided I would have some on my next brevet. Unfortunately, there were no regular Fritos to be had, only barbecue flavor. That was heartbreaking, but at least they had the orange Pushup! I ate my Pushup and watched David ride away again.

Ed and I left Broadway and made our way to Middle Road. This was another one of the gorgeous stretches. The weather was perfect, the terrain rolling, but not killer, and the views of the valley and mountains were spectacular. I could tell Ed and I were feeling awesome about the brevet. “I love you so much, Mary!” “I love you, Ed! It’s amazing we get to do this together!” We are so lucky, I thought! I told Ed that I didn’t care that we wouldn’t be validated by the French on this ride. I felt good just doing the ride! I was a super randonneur in my own mind, ha ha! And I did not even have to sell myself a medal to award the distinction.

We hit Route 11, a.k.a. the Great Fleche Highway, and pedaled into Woodstock for lunch. We saw David hanging out on the sidewalk at the Sheetz, and I told Ed how ridiculous that looked. For some reason, when we sit on the gas station curb it seems completely normal, but when I see someone else do it, it looks funny. We enjoyed our first real sit-down meal of the ride at the Woodstock Café… great coffee, great food. (And fast service, always a plus for the randonneur!)

After lunch, we slogged our way to Middletown. We saw the same cashier who had been there yesterday and Ed commented on it. “I live here,” he replied, and signed our cards. He also told us David had taken off ten minutes prior to our arrival. Outside the 7-11, a couple of locals talked to us quite a bit about our tandem and told us how we should use reflective gear, lights, and a flag so that they could see us bicyclists better. Ed and I were down with the first two, but there is no flag going on our tandem, thank you very much.

Back on the route, Reliance Road took us down toward the low water bridge outside of Front Royal. We spied a tandem with a “For Sale” sign on it, and could not resist stopping. It turned out to be a gorgeous orange 1978 Schwinn Paramount tandem with Phil Wood front and rear hubs and Phil Wood pedals. It was the oddest treasure to find by the roadside during a 600K permanent. Our ride was charmed, I thought! Ed marked the spot on his GPS unit so if anyone wants to go back and purchase it, let us know!

I started feeling the hills and the fatigue in my legs after we left the Schwinn tandem behind, and then I started crying just as we made the turn up onto Dismal Hollow Road. Ed was surprised by this turn of events. I guess the charm and awesomeness had faded for the moment. Actually, I was just tired and feeling out of synch with Ed, which can make things sort of frustrating on a tandem. After a short shade break, though, I recovered and told Ed I was having a pedal stroke. “One pedal stroke after another,” he said. That gave me the giggles and we kept riding.

Things brightened up for us after Dismal Hollow Road, partly because we got to take in some nice tailwind and downhill on Route 55 going into Marshall, and because I knew we were going to be successful in our RUSA 600K permanent endeavor. In Marshall, we ran into David, who had waited for us, and we rode the final miles in together. We spied a mileage sign that indicated Haymarket (our final destination) was three miles away. “Surely you’ve ridden three miles before?” we said to each other, quoting Lynn K. from one of her brevet descriptions.

“I see a Sheetz!” David said a few minutes later. It felt so good to see the finish line. We parked the bikes and went in to make a final convenience store purchase and get our brevet cards signed. We went outside and stood in front of the windshield wiper fluid again so Tina could take a finishing picture of us. (Nothing but glamour shots for the randonneurs.) Woohoo! Complete elation. We had so much fun, I thought! The first 100-mile warm-up and Dismal Hollow crying moment were but distant memories to me now.

I was so proud of us for doing the ride. Even though we took more breaks Saturday morning than I would have liked, it helped us manage our sleep deprivation and we eventually fell into a good riding groove. David was excellent company, had a great sense of humor, and possessed a keen sense of the momentum of the tandem. I was amazed by how well he descended with us! Everybody kept their cool, rode within themselves, and we all looked out for each other.

Also, it felt satisfying to be able to work in a 600K. Last year, competing priorities did not allow for me to do much riding, let alone a 600K. The French may not validate me, but Lynn Kristianson will, and that works for me! And guess what? Lynn K. even gave us 600K finishing brownies when we turned in our brevet cards! I may not be a Super Randonneur, but with rides like this, company like David, and my favorite tandem rider Ed Felker I feel super to be one!

BPB Postscript

After the ride I listened to Talking Heads’ “Road to Nowhere.” I discovered it is a perfect randonneuring song. Check out some of the lyrics below.

We’re on a road to nowhere
Come on inside
Takin’ that ride to nowhere
We’ll take that ride

I’m feelin’ okay this mornin’
And you know,
We’re on the road to paradise
Here we go, here we go

We’re on a ride to nowhere
Come on inside
Takin’ that ride to nowhere
We’ll take that ride

Maybe you wonder where you are
I don’t care
Here is where time is on our side
Take you there…take you there

We’re on a road to nowhere
We’re on a road to nowhere
We’re on a road to nowhere

There’s a city in my mind
Come along and take that ride
And it’s all right, baby, it’s all right

And it’s very far away
But it’s growing day by day
And it’s all right, baby, it’s all right

3 thoughts on “BPB: MG’s Double Middletown 600K Report

  1. Nice story Mary and congrats on bagging a 600k. Oh, and thanks for getting that song stuck in my head for the rest of the . . . . growing day by day, yeah it’s allright, baby it’s allright!!

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