This last weekend MG and I completed our second overnight tandem touring trip in as many weekends. The goal of our recent riding — and decision not to ride 400K and 600K brevets this year — has been to get our legs in shape for the big mountains of Colorado.
We’re planning an eight-day loop around some of that state’s iconic cycling high points. Think Crested Butte, Leadville, and Trail Ridge Road, among others. I’ll detail more of the route in the coming days.
Anyway, we have been focusing on getting in multiple rides of 150 miles or less, more often. The idea is to get ourselves prepared for the multiple days in the saddle.
Lucky for us in the training department, our tandem randonneur friends John M. and Cindy P. put out a call for company on a mountainous two-day ride out to the picturesque western Virginia Highlands area. It was created by Crista Borras, with whom who we have spent many a happy touring mile.
We were the only takers to their invitation, making it four riders on two Co-Motion tandems.
Day One consists of a 140-mile ride from Middletown, Va. through northeast West Virginia to an overnight stop at in Monterey.
Day Two is a 120-miler starting with three mountains climbs, then rolling hills on routes that parallel Rt. 11 up the Shenandoah Valley. We ended up at 115 miles because of our hotel start.
Crista has made these rides available as self-guided randonneur permanent and populaire events, with time limits. We chose to ride them casually, meaning not for randonneur credit, with a start from a hotel in nearby Strasburg, Va.
They are called Splendor in the Blue Grass and Many Mountains from Monterey to Middletown, or MMMM. One can also ride them in one shot, if you dare: see the 20,000 foot Devil’s Wicked Stepmother 402K permanent. You can see maps of the routes at Crista’s RidewithGPS uploads here and here.
Cindy and John were on their blue-green 650b-wheel custom Speedster that they bought for their Transamerica coast-to-coast trip next month. We were on our new Co-Motion Java with 700c wheels, which we have come to appreciate more and more as we rack up the miles.
Saturday started out cloudy as we made our way out of the Shenandoah Valley into West Virgina. The skies gradually cleared after a stop at mile 24 in Wardensville and got only brighter after our second stop at the brand new Sheetz in Moorefield at mile 48.
From there we ventured south to the sublime Blue Grass Valley.
The run down CR3/Sweedlin Valley Road was a pure delight, with all shades of green landscape bathed in moderate temperatures of about 80 degrees and light winds. Those are the conditions we wanted after some rainy days in Washington recently.
We also met
curiously lost Max, a determined cycletourist from the Ukraine on a mountain bike who was taking a break from his ride from Washington to Denver. He asked us at the Sugar Grove store stop, as he smoked a cigarette, how he might ride around the mountains.
John and I tried to impress on Max that he had to go over them; no other way. “Just look around you,” I said, pointing to the mountain ridges surrounding the store, especially to the west.
John urged him enjoy the spectacular roads and views, and just ride. Max wasn’t so sure.
We left him there to ponder his next move. Max: if you read this, let us know how things worked out.
The afternoon was capped by the ride up the lovely, steep Moyers Gap, and then a truly stunning ride along Thorn Creek.
We finished the day with a stop at the Blue Grass Country Convenience Store (maple candy!) and then the climbs into the too-green-to-be-true Blue Grass Valley and over Monterey Mountain to Monterey for dinner and sleep.
Sunday came way too early but we got on the bike by 6:15 am for the big climbs out of Monterey and then the rolling hills in the Shenandoah Valley back to Strasburg.
Rain fell in the afternoon but did not develop into a storm, and by the end of our last rest stop the skies started to clear again.
By the end we all had 255 miles for the weekend. That’s a 400K, but over two days — and two very enjoyable days.
Many thanks to Cindy and John, and good luck on your trip! And thanks to my great partner and stoker MG, who kept me going.