MG and I ended up having a great ride Saturday on Crista Borras’ “No-Name Winter Century” ride to Leesburg from D.C. We had a little crisis at the start courtesy of a balky knee and the biting cold, but a simple re-route onto the C&O Canal made all the difference.
Crista Borras’ “No-Name Winter Century”
by Ed Felker
Nov. 22, 2008
MG and I were thrilled when Crista Borras announced her weekend centuries on Wednesday. Saturday’s ride started a mere four miles from MG’s house! No need to load the tandem and all our gear for a drive to the start. Moreover, her “Winter No-Name Century” ride was going to use a relatively flat route to Leesburg, Va. with a 32-mile return on the easy W&OD Trail.
So why were MG and I sitting in Starbucks after just 18 miles, sipping from big cups of hot coffee and talking of going back home? Frankly, we were stunned by the weather. Bright skies, yes, but we were riding into the teeth of a stiff northwestern wind, made worse by subfreezing temperatures. We were already slogging, and my left knee, which has been giving me problems, was aching again from the easy climbs up to Potomac, Md. The group had completely broken apart and we were loathe to drag ourselves over the familiar, open blustery roads to Poolesville and a late lunch at mile 66.
The day started out so promising. We met the group at Roosevelt Island and found Chris M., Rudy H., Crista and Chuck, Jeff M., and Carl M.
Carl rode over on his 650b converted Fuji Opus III. Carl is car-free and was happy to have a start close to his D.C. home. His conversion looked great.
We rode in good spirits through Georgetown and then the Capitol Crescent Trail out to Potomac, Md. Yet the temperatures dropped and the wind increased as we left the city. My knee started complaining.
Once we got settled at Potomac Starbucks with the wealthy runners and surgically-enhanced moms, MG and I agreed we really didn’t want to just go home. What to do? We decided to keep going if we could get out of the wind and shortcut the ride at the same time, and keep it flat to take the strain off my knee.
The light bulb went on — MG realized we were close to the relatively sheltered and nearly flat, dirt C&O Canal Towpath. We would ride from just north of Great Falls to White’s Ferry, where we would pick up Crista’s shortcut route via the Gen. Jubal A. Early ferry. From there, we would have a short four miles to the lunch stop in Leesburg and then ride home with the group on the W&OD with a tailwind. All in all, a warmer, knee-friendly route. We’d get in a great ride, see part of the C&O that he had not ridden before, and hang out with our friends.
We found the towpath nearly deserted, which let us tool along on the firmer left side. The trail was soft in a few places and MG didn’t like the occasional fishtail when I plowed us through a muddy spot. Our 32mm Panaracer Pasela Tourguard tires worked fine, though 35s or 37s would be nicer for a longer stretches. Even though the leaves had all fallen, the canopy of trees and brush broke up the wind. Yes!
The dirt surface limited our speed to about 13-15 m.p.h., probably about the same as we would carry on the open road. But, we weren’t getting blasted by the wind and my knee felt much better with no hills to climb.
At White’s Ferry the flags were snapping in the wind and we froze waiting for the ferry.
We were glad to get back on the bike after the short ride across the river and made our way into Leesburg. Arriving with 22 fewer miles ridden than the century group, we used the GPS to find a coffee shop, the Coffee Bean of Leesburg. It was right on the route along King Street. We stopped for a truly happy hour to warm up, dry out and wake up.
Trying to time the group’s arrival, we rode to nearby Andy’s Pizza and Subs. We ordered a ham-and-pineapple pizza and waited for the group. They arrived in about a half-hour with just Chuck, Crista and Chris still on the ride. Carl turned back early and Jeff and Rudy also peeled off along the way.
At 2:30 p.m. we remounted and began the ride on the W&OD with a nice strong tailwind. Clouds gathered and temperatures dropped to the lower 30s, but we were fine all the way into D.C. We arrived just after dark, happy with our accomplishment. Hearty good-byes ensured before MG and I zipped back to her place.
The best part of Saturday? MG and I have learned to stop and sort out our options when the going gets tough, and we always end up pleased with the results. Today was proof again that good things come when we don’t give up!
Our route, via MotionBased: