Mark V.’s Paul’s Paradise 200K Permanent

As many of you know, I don’t chase the RUSA R-12 award, in part because I don’t want to have to ride a 200K brevet/permanent in winter. Plus, my schedule is structured so that I would have to miss out on riding with friends to go off and get a solo permanent here and there.

However, there is a dedicated band of R12ers here in the D.C. area who have been riding high and low to keep their streaks alive.

In the spirit of the presidential inaugural, I’ve posted Mark Vinette’s tale of the inaugural Paul’s Paradise 200k Permanent— a route designed by Crista Borras.

The route is an out-and-back from Poolesville, Md. to the turnaround at Paul’s Country Market with substantial climbing and lots of valley views. Mark rode it on Veterans Day, wrote his story on Dec. 31, and now it makes its way to TDR. Thanks for a nice writeup, Mark!

Paul’s Paradise Trip Report
by Mark Vinette
Dec. 31, 2008

This whole adventure started when I asked my R-36/48 buddies George Winkert and Nick Bull if they were interested in a Veterans Day Permanent to get our November ride in. They had the day off and rode mid-week holidays in the past, most notably the inaugural ride of my Bridge to Bridge Permanent on a frigid Martin Luther King Day this past January.

Alas, although we are united in our goal of continuous monthly 200ks until we die, our secondary goals of 2008 RUSA mileage awards and a nearby starting location required us to select different permanents for the day. RUSA does not grant mileage credit for permanent routes repeated in the same year, so when Nick was able to recruit Ed Felker and Mary Gersema with the suggestion of the highly attractive and nearby Mason-Dixon 200k Permanent, I was out of luck, having ridden the M-D back in March.

The Mason-Dixon 200k seemed like the perfect choice for a short November day, with its convenient start and average amount of climbing, particularly since George was flying back from Japan after three solid weeks of sushi and no riding.

Sadly, I am not as smart as Nick and George when it comes to route selection. Route developer extraordinaire Crista Borras had told me about the pending approval of Paul’s Paradise, starting nearby in Poolesville, Md., during one of our mid-summer permanent scheduling/counseling sessions. It had just been approved on Oct. 31. Paul’s promised some serious climbing (“scenic” in Crista speak), but the close-in start was just too good to pass up. Besides, I was still in pretty good shape from my summer riding.

The Paul’s route generally follows the DCR RUSA 10th Anniversary/Roaring Lion Permanent route. It winds north-northwest from Poolesville to Adamstown, then over Marlu Ridge to Middletown, location of one of the estates of “World’s Greatest Randonneur” Paul Donaldson, not the Paul this route is named for.

From Middletown, this route turns scenic. You get Harmony Road and then Harp Hill (the hard way) to the first control in Wolfsville, then take Wolfsville Road (MD17) for an extended low grade climb over South Mountain. From Smithsburg the route goes north to Rouzerville, Pa., and then loops to the north and west just short of the climb back up South Mountain to the turnaround control at Paul’s Market. The return reverses direction to Rouzerville, then climbs back over South Mountain to Cascade and down to MD77 via the reverse of the original D.C. Randonneurs 300k route.

From MD77, the route follows Stottlemeyer Road to Delauter’s Store on MD17 just south of Wolfsville. From Delauter’s the route follows MD17 to Harmony Road to Jefferson. The finish is over Marlu Ridge and through Buckeystown, Urbana, Hyattstown, Peach Tree Road, ala the RUSA 10th/Roaring Lion ride.

It was 28 degrees at the McDonald’s at my 6:30 a.m. start time and both of my computers decided to fail. Since I had ridden the final 40 miles of Roaring Lion with a cracked downtube on my last Crista Borras permanent, I decided the twin computer failure would not be the cause for a DNS. This was my first long ride with all the extra winter clothes on and they noticeably slowed the pace down.

I slogged over to Marlu Ridge and granny geared it over, saving energy for Harp Hill to come. I had a noticeable northwest headwind for the entire day which slowed my morning progress as well. Harp Hill was under construction and down to one lane going up, but traffic was non-existent and I rode alone over the top and down to Harnes Store in Wolfsville. Harnes is famous for being either closed or out of business most of the time, but today it was hopping with several locals hanging in back and shooting the breeze.

I needed a recovery break from all the climbing so I stayed for awhile and ate something. Soon I was climbing the long but not steep grade of Wolfsville Road/MD 17 to the crest of South Mountain. I stopped along the way to check out a corn field and realized I was about to bonk, so I sat for a while more and had a gel and a banana.

The next section was quite flat into Rouzerville, Pa. along roads I had never been on before. The wind was swinging more west of northwest and helping out at times too. From Rouzerville, the route follows Old Forge Road north, a long climb from the epic Pennsylvania 400ks of 2002 and 2003 which are famous for rain, wind, hills and frost warnings. Fortunately for me, Crista diverted west along the base of South Mountain to get to the turnaround control at the aptly named Paul’s Market (mile 55). This section featured a long uphill grade that was also upwind. I spent a little more time than normal at Paul’s, talking to Paul and recovering from the previous section.

The return to Rouzerville was much easier with the tailwind and I was soon on the Old US 16 climb back over South Mountain to Cascade. This climb is never very steep, but it does go on for over a mile. I kept moving, knowing once I crested in Cascade, I had mostly downhill to the control at Delauter’s Store on MD17 in Wolfsville and beyond on MD17. I arrived at Delauter’s (mile 85) at 1:40 p.m. feeling OK but now calculating my ETA at the finish vs. the “dark monster” — sundown — around 5-5:30 p.m. Let’s see, 40 miles + two controls + Marlu Ridge and Old Middletown Road = 3:15. I would arrive around 5:15 p.m., still light enough to go full speed all the way; the final 30 miles from Marlu Ridge were pretty familiar and fairly flat.

I have finished at least six RUSA rides this year on these roads. I made decent time and rolled through Urbana and on to the final control on MD355 in Hyattstown, still on schedule. The final miles back to Poolesville on Peach Tree Road went typically for me on this finish. I either feel bad from riding too hard or eating too little or some critical part of my bike starts acting up. Today was no different. My bike developed a loud squeal at high speed that could be felt as a vibration in the pedals and bars. I traced the source to the rear hub area by eliminating all other possible speed variable sources. Luckily, nothing more than the squeal/vibration developed by the finish.

I rolled into McDonalds at 5:18 p.m., right on schedule, with the remaining daylight fading fast. My total time of 10:48 reflects the greater-than-average climbing on the route. I don’t have an elevation total due to the computer battery failure, but I’ll confirm Crista’s estimate of about 10,000 feet or 20 percent more “scenic” than her typical routes. The climbing is spread through the first two-thirds of the ride, leaving the end fairly flat. The climbs are longer and less steep than average, except for Marlu Ridge (going out). All in all a nice ride — except I never did see the Pair of Dice!


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