Sometimes a change of scenery makes all the difference. MG and I have been riding familiar roads around Washington these last few weeks after our summer Colorado tour and thought it might be good to ride somewhere else within driving distance.
That led us to the Pennsylvania Randonneurs Silver Spring 200K brevet from Christiana, Pa. This loop tour takes in the rolling farm hills of southern Pennsylvania in Lancaster County, with a run into northeast Maryland.
The start was just close enough, about 110 miles, to drive up and back the same day. It was an early start — leaving home at 4:15 a.m. — but we got there in plenty of time to get ourselves organized and the tandem ready. Organizers Andrew Mead and George Metzler got our group of about 20 out on the road right on time at 7 a.m.
We wanted to finish in 10 hours but also knew this was a very hilly route, with more than 9,000 feet of climbing over short, steep rises all day. The toughest hills were in the first half, including the wall that is Douts Hill Road, but the second half was only rarely flat.
Our approach to keep moving was one we picked up from our cycling friend Josh S. and his wife Doreen: don’t sit down at the stops. It works well, in that standing around reminds one to depart soon enough.
The weather was just about perfect. We were treated to bright sunny skies, light breezes, low humidity and highs in the low 80s.
As for the ride itself, the first five miles trended down and we rode away from the group but were caught before the first control at Port Deposit, mile 31, by the faster riders. From there we spent the rest of the day leapfrogging with Bill Olsen, Clair Beiler, first time rider C.J. Arayata and Eric Dahl.
Bill just completed the Granite Anvil 1200K randonnee on Aug. 25 and is headed to Colorado this week for the Last Chance 1200K. He was in full get-there brevet mode and left us at the next-to-last stop at Mount Joy, mile 85, while we ate sandwiches in the warm afternoon sun.
As is typical being on the tandem, we’d fly away on the downhills. Our riding companions would catch us on the uphills. We’d all ride together on the flats.
During all this MG took photos of the barns with tobacco leaves drying and Amish farm families working the fields. We rode around the occasional horse-drawn carriage and shared the Sheetz convenience store patio with a number of Amish teenagers who ate pizza before piling back into a van.
Except for a couple of short stretches, the roads were not busy. That’s a testament to a well-designed route.
Andrew came out to meet us at the second control, a gas station that had closed, with some drinks and snacks. Thanks Andrew! We love roadside oasis support. The Coke was just what we needed.
We finished right before 5 p.m., and made our 10-hour goal. The hills took it out of our legs, so we were more than happy to be done. George Metzler generously grilled hamburgers and sausages for the returning riders at his house near the start.
We had a very nice time visiting with George and his family, and our fellow riders, before the drive home. Sleeping in our own bed was much nicer than a hotel.
Thanks to all the Pennsylvania Randonneurs for hosting us so graciously. We hope to see one and all here in D.C. soon.