MG’s Roaring Lion 200K Permanent

I never thought I would carry a brevet card around in January, but every streak comes to an end sooner or later. On Sunday MG, me and Maile N. dug deep in our valise of courage and bagged the Roaring Lion 200K Permanent from Poolesville, Md.

All in all it was a pretty good day, given that the temperatures did not rise much above freezing. We had mostly sunny skies and nearly calm winds, making the day actually somewhat pleasant — as long as we kept moving. The roads were perfectly clear of snow and ice. For all the crummy weather this month, it was a nice day on the bike. MG has written up another delightfully offbeat tale of the ride.

I posted a photoset at my Flickr page and uploaded our GPS track at my MotionBased page.

Roaring Lion 200K Permanent
by Mary Gersema
Jan. 26, 2009

The week of Jan. 19, I looked around my apartment and noticed that many household chores had piled up. Vacuuming, dusting, laundry… the weekend to-do list really seemed to be growing. How would I manage it all?

After some quick strategizing, the perfect plan formed. I suggested to Ed that it would be a GREAT idea to ride the Roaring Lion 200K permanent on January 25. This was an ideal way to address my chores–just ride away from them! Plus, Ed really would benefit from some quality time with me… and that’s job number one in my book.

Friend and fellow randonneusse Maile Neel also wanted to ride a 200K on Sunday and decided to join in the fun. Thanks to our friend and Roaring Lion permanent owner Crista Borras, we were quickly set up with cue sheets, control cards, and maps.

Sunday morning Ed, Maile, and I congregated at the McDonald’s in Poolesville, Md. (As you know, ride starts and controls tend to be truly exotic locations.) We took a starting picture and eased out of the control into 19 degree temperatures. My fingers began their initial winter “why-are-you-doing-this-to-me?” throb through my lobster gloves. Ed kept exclaiming, “I need a toe warmer for my forehead!” whenever we would pick up speed on a downhill. My Camelbak was frozen, and our bottles were ice cubes. What a beautiful day for a ride.

This definitely is a great way to feel alive, I thought. I knew Ed was feeling even more alive than I was, since I was reaping the benefit of his draft and he kept yelping about forehead toe warmers.

Fortunately, while the day was chilly, the winds were calm. The sun rose, the sky was empty of clouds, and few cars passed by. We warmed up and our brains were finally able to think about things other than toe warmers and our discomfort. We hadn’t seen Maile for a while so we asked her about her recent adventures. Our chit chat was interrupted by the climb up Marlu Ridge; all other activity stopped as we concentrated on hauling the bikes over the climb. After the downhill we caught the rest of her stories.

Conversations on the ride were often broken up into episodes. “Previously, on Maile’s life… before the climb up Marlu Ridge…”

“In our next episode of Maile’s life… after the Marlu Ridge descent.”

In between the climbs and downhills, “We last left Maile in the middle of last week, on her Costa Rica trip. What will happen to our fearless randonneusse? Tune in when the terrain flattens out… AFTER Marlu Ridge.”

We rolled into the 25.2 mile control in Middletown, Md., frozen but happy. We discussed the state of our water bottles and hoped the day would warm up so that they would thaw out. It was a little daunting to think of going from control to control without water.

Our route next took us up to the lovely Gapland. The morning sun and the work of the ascent warmed me up again. Gapland had a nice downhill payoff and as we rambled our way to lunch I noticed that our bottles were thawing and that I could easily access the water in my Camelbak. That relieved me, and buoyed my spirits about the day. In addition, I felt so good to be out of the city, reenergizing myself with the vistas of the countryside (and avoiding my housework!). Yes, this was much better than anything else I could be doing.

We crossed over the Potomac and arrived just outside of Shepherdstown, W.V. Ed and I looked longingly in the direction of the Shepherdstown Sweet Shop. Alas, our day was not destined to take us there for lunch and instead we made our way out to Hedgesville, W.V. for the midday control at a local pizza joint.

All of us were craving warm food so we decadently stopped for pizza. As we talked, I checked out Maile’s layering system. I decided winter layering systems mimicked that of a Russian doll, where you open up the doll and there is another doll inside; you open the next doll, another doll, etc. Maile took off her balaclava, and there was another balaclava. I took off my wool outer layer, and there were three more wool tops on underneath. Maile and Ed both wore knee warmers underneath their tights. I was wearing socks on top of socks. Ah, the drama and complexities of winter riding.

After lunch the sky clouded over, but the temperatures remained pleasant. We made our way back the way we had come. Ed and I started feeling something strange coming from either the shifting or the chain. (The bike had shifting problems all day and we stopped a couple of times to adjust the cable tension, but this was clearly something to address right away — Ed.) We pulled over to examine what the issue might be, and discovered we had broken half of the SRAM recloseable link and our chain was held together by the other half. Fortunately, the chain had not completely broken while were were pedaling. Ed was very excited about this mechanical and pulled out his camera to photograph it. Then, armed with his spares we were up and running again in no time. My hero!

Maile caught up to us and we meandered our way back to Shepherdstown. Ed again lamented not visiting the Shepherdstown Sweet Shop, but stoically steered the bike along.

After Gapland and around Burkittsville, two very excited and very large German Shepherds ran out in front of us. I was pretty certain they had come out to eat us. They aggressively approached several times, even after we had passed them. I almost lost my voice yelling at them to “STAY AWAY!” “GO HOME!” “GET BACK.” Ed later told me they were just playing and saying hello. I responded that he had not seen how one of them was lowering his snout tantalizingly toward my ankle. Ha!

We decided to wait for Maile and make sure she passed through alright, but we waited a bit up the road away from our four-legged friends. After a few minutes, Ed heard a menacing shout of “GO HOME!” “There’s Maile,” he said. She caught up to us, agreed with me that the dogs were out for more than just a “hey how are you,” and that they had also thought her ankle would make a nice treat. Apparently they had waged a more stealthy attack on her by coming up from behind. Fortunately, we all made it through unscathed, and pedaled onward.

We passed by a beautiful stream along Burnside Bridge Road with little falls interspersed. It was entirely frozen over, and flanked by brown. Without the sun, the day was not as picturesque. I started feeling a little bummed out. Winter riding… a study in the myriad shades of brown. Brown trees, brown grass, dead brown leaves, brown dirt… how many shades of brown are there?

Ed interrupted my thoughts and asked me if “everything was OK back there.” This is his code for “you have dead legs.” I said, “I just want to make it to the control,” and in my mind added “with you doing all the pedaling.” Nevertheless, I tried to get the legs going again for the next few miles and we soon pedaled into the 95.2 mile control in Jefferson, Md.

After taking in the warmth of the lovely Shell gas station and downing some Gatorade and a sandwich I felt refreshed. A gentleman passing through the gas station informed me that he was sure the temperature had only reached 32 degrees today. I told him that was OK — we’d be warming up as we climbed Marlu Ridge. He agreed the climb would get our blood pumping.

We hopped on our bikes and scooted up Marlu RIdge. As we climbed I spied a sundog shimmering in the sky. “Check it out, Ed,” I exclaimed, and pointed the sundog out to him. “What’s a sundog?” he answered. “They’re little rainbows that shine off the freezing cold particles in the sky,” I answered unscientifically. “I used to see them all the time in Iowa (my home state), but I’ve never seen one here because I’ve never been crazy enough to ride my bike 200K in the mountains in these temperatures!”

After admiring the sundog and summiting Marlu, we meandered our way over to Hyattstown. I was happy that the temperatures had stayed steady, the roads quiet, and the winds calm. I drank more Gatorade at the liquor store in Hyattstown, stopped thinking about brown since it was dark, and we all readied for the final 13 miles down Peachtree Road and back to Poolesville.

I looked at all of us in our night riding gear and started laughing. What were we doing, riding a permanent on this cold January day? What kind of lives ARE we randonneurs leading? I guess it was still more fun than doing my home duties, but seriously, was standing out in the dark and cold at the liquor store, decked out in our sashes and ankle bands and geeky cycling clothes, with all the beer displays surrounding us, really the better party? Was this the sexy randonneur lifestyle I had always envisioned? In that moment, I just wasn’t sure.

We laughed our way out of the parking lot and toodled our way along the final miles. The sky was clear and full of stars. I loved looking at them through the treetops.

An intense discussion about the Shepherdstown Sweet Shop ensued and swung me out of my stargazing reverie. Ed was still bumming that the ride had taken us SO CLOSE, but not to, the Sweet Shop. After commiserating, I countered that it was good that not all rides went to places like the Sweet Shop because we might get spoiled. Maile disagreed and thought all rides would be just fine if they stopped at places like the Shepherdstown Sweet Shop. I said that I thought it was a good thing today’s ride had not taken us there because we might have gotten too cozy, abandoned the ride, and tried to wrangle one of our friends into picking us up.

That discussion took us to the end of the ride, where a McDonald’s hamburger awaited me– my finishing prize. The control cards were signed, hugs exchanged, and french fries purchased. We all loaded up our bikes and headed home to shower. When Ed and I returned to my place, I added to my dirty laundry pile, and updated my to-do list for the week. At least now I could cross “riding my bike” and “spending time with Ed” off my list… until next weekend!

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