Chip Adams of the Severna Park Peloton is a man of many talents, one of them being the ability to ride his bike all night. It’s a handy skill when one is in the middle of a 600K brevet or has to ride a loaner bike, say, at PBP, but he chooses to employ it on the occasional 200K permanent as well.
Case in point: he and Bill Beck ignored forecasts of potential rain and rode a 200K on the night of the 2011 Winter Solstice last month. They chose the Woodbine-Dillsburg via Gettysburg permanent and enjoyed unseasonably warm temperatures and twinkling outdoor holiday lighting along the way.
Read Chip and Bill’s story below, and see Bill’s photoset at Flickr.
2011 Winter Solstice Ride – Woodbine / Dillsburg
by Chip Adams
I’ve always heard that the Winter Solstice, Dec. 21, is the shortest day of the year if you consider the amount of daylight. But I think Bill Beck and I made it one of our longest days of the year if you consider when our day started and when it actually ended.
For Bill, his day started with his normal 2:30 am wake-up and then the trainer. For me, I slept in until 6:45 am, knowing that I would be up all night. But, if you’re going to be up all night, what better way to do it than on your bike, I always like to say.
And, the Winter Solstice Ride was a great reason to do it. The idea was originally bounced around by Kelly Smith who, in the days leading up to it, had to bow out due to his work schedule. Weather was a concern at the start, but ended up being one of the best days, or night to ride a bike.
For about a month after Kelly mentioned the Solstice ride I was planning to do an Arlington start, but after Kelly announced he couldn’t make it, Bill sent out the optional Woodbine – Dillsburg 200K permanent route. Either way, it was going to be a rush-hour event to get there, but I was pretty much committed to riding something on this Winter Solstice.
George Moore was also interested in doing the ride. We were studying the weather pretty closely in the days leading up to it and we were looking at what appeared to be a major rain event. The temperatures looked pretty good, though. I don’t mind riding in the rain as long as the temps don’t dip below the 40’s.
The day before the ride, Bill and I were e-mailing each other about what to do. I sent a response that said I was planning on riding. Unfortunately, Bill didn’t get the response until the next morning so he had scrapped the plan to ride it. I, on the other hand, had committed to riding it, and when I got Bill’s e-mail that he had made other plans since he hadn’t heard from anyone, I thought, “OK, this is going to be a lonely and quiet ride.”
Bill sent the registration and waiver with a note that said, if “I go insane later, I may join you. “ Well, luckily, he did go insane and we planned to start when the rain ended – 7:00 pm Wednesday, 12/21. George Moore found his work schedule to be too much and opted out.
So, it was now down to Bill and me. The route we chose to ride was the Woodbine-Dillsburg, I think mainly because we both love Buffalo Road so much!! After working all day, I loaded my bike and joined the rush hour traffic as it made its way up to I-70.
It was raining steadily from the time I left home until I got on I-70 where it had become a drizzle, and by the time I got to Woodbine, it had stopped. But, just to make sure, I brought my raingear.
The conditions were absolutely perfect as we pulled out. We had what felt to be a double-digit southerly wind pushing us on our way to varying degrees all the way to Dillsburg. Traffic up Rt. 94 was pretty busy, but soon we were on back roads and making great time.
We rolled past many beautifully lit-up houses and barns and stopped for the occasional photo.
The forecast remained true and provided us a sky full of stars as we approached Gettysburg. Good thing I brought my rain gear! Ha ha. We weren’t sure whether we should work around the Gettysburg Battlefield since the park was closed or just stay the course.
We stayed the course and entered the Gettysburg Battlefield which was enclosed in total darkness. The lights from downtown Gettysburg, in the backdrop, though insignificant, allowed us to see some monuments but as silhouettes and I was lost in the moment just thinking of the hallowed ground we were riding on. We stopped for a couple of times for a few minutes and Bill got some awesome photos.
The quiet was deafening. As many times as I’ve been across this battlefield, I’d have to say this was the most memorable. But, soon we were at the famous 7-11 on Washington St. (I wonder how many times I’ve been there?) We rolled in about 10:00 pm.
After enjoying a donut or two and after Bill updated Facebook, we pushed on. The temperature was still very pleasant and though we had a tailwind, it wasn’t as evident as before.
We stopped at one point and Bill showed me this great App called Skymap which located all of the planets and constellations. Great stuff. I’ve since downloaded it on my phone. We found it much darker the farther north we got and as we reached the pheasant fields just below Dillsburg, it became very dark and quiet. My handlebars managed to loosen.
I had replaced the stem a couple of weeks earlier and guess I didn’t tighten it enough. So, instead of bombing down one of the hills and having my bars drop down during hard braking, we decided to stop and adjust.
We got into Dillsburg at 11:45 pm and got dinner, or was it breakfast? Not sure, but we ate it outside in the low-50 degree weather. People were coming and going and looked at us like we were crazy. One guy couldn’t believe we riding that distance at night and were only half-way through.
He said he didn’t like traveling that far in the daylight and in a car. It was starting to chill off a little but still very mild considering we were now officially in the 1st day of Winter. We added some layers where they were needed and got back on the road heading south. It was now 12:30 am – the exact time that some say the Solstice occurred. Exciting stuff, eh?
The only way this evening could get any better was for the wind to swing around from the north and push us back to Maryland. Well, believe it or not, that is what happened. It wasn’t entirely out of the north, but close enough. It had been downgraded quite a bit, but at least it was not in our faces.
Many of the Christmas lights had been turned off on our way back home and it was then that we realized we should have called ahead and requested they be left on. We’ll remember that for next year.
We got back into Gettysburg just after 2:00 am. The 7-11 had restocked their donuts since we had been gone and we both opted for the Apple Fritter for its fruit benefits. When we had come through earlier, we both took advantage of the glazed Twist for its donut benefits. I just love donuts and bike rides!
The temperature continued to drop a degree or two at a time as we pushed south to Woodbine, but the descents is where it was most notable.
Between Windsor and Woodine we noticed some very big differences in temperatures; between the bottom of a descent and the top of a climb, we saw as much as 8 degrees change. As much as I wanted to stop and put on another layer, we decided to keep it going since we were so close to the end.
Within a mile of our approach into the final control in Woodbine, we saw the little sliver a moon rising in the east. We finished at 5:35 am just as rush hour was cranking up. So, we saw the end of one rush hour and the beginning of another. Wow, I didn’t see that coming.
The experts are wrong. The Winter Solstice is actually a very long day when you throw in a 130 mile bike ride that starts and ends in the dark.
We hope to see many more faces out there for the 2012 Winter Solstice ride. Bill informed me it falls on a Friday night.
Until next year,