The Unintentional Century

On Saturday big crowds were expected in D.C. for the protest march, but I’m in the news business and had no related assignment, so I was looking for an escape from the city. The forecast was for a mostly dry, mild day, and a long bike ride in the country was in order.

Mary graciously agreed to join me and we set off from Marshall, Va. on what was to be an 85-miler, though it ultimately turned into a longer and harder route than we expected. See the final ride at Ridewithgps. The route we intended has a shortcut via the low water bridge over the Shenandoah River that is usually passable – but I should have checked beforehand.

The day was gray, with some light mist, and lots of fog. Temperatures were in the upper 40s, though, so no worries. I always keep the generator front and rear lights running in daytime, but I was doubly glad for them today because of the fog. (Tech nerds: our setup is a Schmidt SON 28/disc 36-hole hub, running a Busch & Muller IQ-X headlight and a B&M Toplight rear light mounted to a Tubus rack).

Wool blend jersey and vest kind of day

Wool jersey and vest kind of day

 

This route features one big climb, Snickers Gap, but otherwise is made up of rolling hills. The temperatures warmed up into the low 50s.

Bluemont Store. Snickers Gap ahead.

Bluemont Store. Snickers Gap ahead.

 

Snickers Gap was shrouded in fog.

The fog on Snickers Gap

The fog on Snickers Gap

 

We had an early lunch a few miles before Snickers Gap in Middleburg, which we thought would allow us to get around the course with just store stops.

Time out at the luxe Millwood store

Time out at the luxe Millwood store

 

All was going well until we got to the low water bridge at Morgan Ford Road, only to find it gone, with a new bridge under construction. This sad turn of events came later in the afternoon, which was a bummer. The only options were to backtrack over Snickers Gap, or go on to Front Royal and cross the Shenandoah River there.

And thus ended our plans to finish in daylight

And thus ended our plans to finish in daylight

 

We opted for the Front Royal option to keep things in a loop. Our thought was initially to take Rt. 55 straight back to Marshall, but that road is pretty scary leaving Front Royal and I talked Mary into taking Rt. 522, which took us over Chester Gap in thick fog and added a few more miles. Traffic was light and gave us plenty of room.

Our generator light did a great job on the descent, supplemented with a Light and Motion battery light, and we got off onto Hume Road without any issues.

From there it was quiet roads all the way back to Marshall, in and out of the fog banks. We never got really cold or wet, but it was still a relief to get back to the car, well after dark at 6:30 p.m.

Today (Sunday) I felt pretty tired but our pal and fleche captain Jerry S. talked me into a 35-miler out on the W&OD Trail out to Caffe Amouri in Vienna and back. The rain held off and it was a pleasant outing, and made an afternoon nap pretty sweet.

Jerry leads the way back to DC

Jerry leads the way back to DC

 

Next week: The DC Randonneurs club has their annual meeting and 68-mile populaire next Saturday, and that’s likely going to be plenty for us. I’ll make my 600-mile goal for January sometime this week and my legs are starting to feel it.

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Winter Riding and Summer Planning

Ah, a three-day weekend. Better yet, on Sunday and Monday the weather was mild and dry. This is the time of year I find myself of multiple minds: trying to keep up the miles on the bike to get ready for the upcoming spring randonneuring brevets, and fretting over our summer tandem tour. A long weekend let me indulge both.

Friday morning started out pleasantly as always at the weekly Friday Coffee Club commuter cyclists gathering. The pre-work meetup is nearing its five-year anniversary, which we’ll celebrate later this month.

I’ve been keeping an eye out for the reopening of our original FCC location at Swing’s Coffee on 17th & G NW by the White House. It now looks like July or later according to the Swing’s site. A Baked Joint at 440 K St. NW has been a welcome temporary spot and we’ll continue there.

Friday Coffee Club Jan. 14

Friday Coffee Club Jan. 14

 

Saturday

A typical cold and rainy January day met us. I got out for a nice midday Freezing Saddles ride for a coffee visit with Jerry and Carolyn at Chinatown Coffee.

Rainy Day in DC

Rainy Day in D.C.

 

The rest of the day I worked on our summer tour. This year we’re returning to Colorado, but starting in Albuquerque and finishing in Boulder! The route is here – we start for Santa Fe on July 1 and finish on the 13th, about 950 miles later.  We haven’t ridden in New Mexico before, and in both states we’ll see some new terrain and towns, notably:

  • Santa Fe, Taos and Chama in New Mexico;
  • the Black Canyon of the Gunnison;
  • Monarch Pass to Gunnison;
  • Independence Pass;
  • Aspen and the Rio Grande Trail to Carbondale.

We’ll also return to some favorites: Durango, Silverton, and Kremmling, and another go at hauling the tandem over the wild & wooly Rollins Pass from Winter Park on the final day. This time, big tires are going on the tandem for that doozy.

The route was already drafted – the real work was making hotel reservations and buying our airline tickets. I always feel a little nervous locking down our July trip in mid-January, but it’s also nice to have everything lined up. I’ll make up cue sheets in the coming weeks and figure out the coffee places, bike shops and restaurants in the new towns.

Sunday

The skies cleared and we rode the Spectrum tandem to Frederick, Md. to one of our favorite area shops, the enchanting Gravel & Grind. Mel and James have created something really special and we always enjoy ourselves there. Everything is good (the coffee, food, bikes, stuff, and scene), but especially their welcoming vibe.

James, Mel and Mary

James, Mel and Mary

 

Books for Sale at Gravel & Grind

Books for Sale at Gravel & Grind

 

Mary, James and Me

Mary, James and Me

 

A randonneuring friend of ours has been talking to James about staging a fall randonneur brevet from the shop, so everybody could get some food and drinks and hang out afterwards. I hope it comes true.

The ride was a good one for us, at 117 miles without any extended climbs – perfect for winter when the wind isn’t blowing. Here’s the route on Garmin Connect or you can check it out at Strava.

The ride home was uneventful except for this very cool hawk on the side of River Road, near dusk. It calmly let us take photos. Thanks hawk!

A Hawk Surveys Its Domain

Hawk Surveys Its Domain

 

Monday

Mary and I each had dentist appointments and the skies were gray. I rode my Rivendell Bleriot, which sees far too little use these days, up to Clarendon in Arlington to turn in a very old Mac Mini for recycling (the PowerPC generation, if that rings a bell). The bike, unlike that old Mac, is just as good as ever, though it needs better fenders.

My coupled and repainted Rivendell Bleriot, still in 2007 PBP trim

My coupled and repainted Rivendell Bleriot, still in 2007 PBP trim

 

From there I rode down to the Mall and went to the Martin Luther King Jr. monument, which was busy with visitors — appropriately so on this day.

Twilight at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

Twilight at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

 

Spiraling Into 2017

When one gets obsessive about annual cycling mileage, Jan. 1 marks the abrupt end of one quest and the start of another.

Looking Out Over the Potomac

Looking Out Over the Potomac

 

I made it a goal around Thanksgiving to get to 8,000 miles in 2016, and dubbed the effort Project 8K on my Twitter & Instagram feed to motivate myself.

It seemed doable, with about 350 miles to go in December, my records told me. Then I found a big mistake in my log — I had uploaded a century twice by running two Garmin GPS units on a ride. Why? I was debugging a problem with my Edge 810 bike unit and rode with my GPS watch as a backup, and forgot that it uploaded the miles on the next sync some days later.

Taking that ride out was the only honorable thing to do. But it made my goal jump to 450 miles, no small amount in December with iffy weather and holiday time with family. I started putting in a few extra miles on the weekdays and rode a 200k with the DC Randonneurs with Mary on Dec. 3, which got me closer. But then I got sick and lost four days mid-month, including a weekend.

Things looked tight, but I got some miles at the Hains Point 100 and managed a solo century on the Dec. 23, which did most of the job. Along the way I got some very nice online and in-person cheering from the BikeDC gang as I posted my progress. Thanks all!

I made it to 8K on Dec. 29, fittingly riding around Hains Point after work with Mary and our mega-miler pal Judd joining in.

Me and Judd (courtesy Mary G)

Me and Judd (courtesy Mary G.)

 

Then, barely 48 hours later, I’m back at zero miles on Jan. 1. Geez! At least all the other mile/kilometer chasers were in the same boat. It was our good luck then that we had mild, dry weather on Sunday, and we took the tandem out to Adamstown, Md. for a long ride west to Shepherdstown, W.Va. and back.

Quiet Winter Roads

Quiet Winter Roads

 

I modified the Century of the Spiral Staircase to start in Adamstown to an 88-mile version that let us start a little later in the morning, and meet a local furniture dealer after the ride.

Glad to Be Out Riding

Glad to Be Out Riding

 

This century was one cued by tandem riders John Fauerby and Lynne Rosenbusch, whose death caused by a drunk driver on Halloween in 2015 remains hard to accept. Here’s a link to a memorial fund set up in their honor to promote the work of Bike Maryland to make the roads safer for all users.

Here’s their full 1o1.5-mile route, (input by our riding buddy Eric P.), and our shorter route.

Gapland, a Familiar Sight

Gapland, a Familiar Sight

 

To celebrate New Year’s Day I counted our firsts of 2017 along the way. Here are a few:

  • first tandem ride of the year;
  • first summit of iconic high point Gapland;
  • first lunch at Blue Moon Cafe, a Shepherdstown favorite;
  • first espressos at Lost Dog Espresso, another Shepherdstown favorite;
  • first hauling of the tandem down the spiral staircase to the C&O Canal Towpath in Harper’s Ferry;
  • first “she’s not pedaling” jibe by yet another smartaleck old guy;
  • first sunset together on the bike!

On the final miles we caught up to a group of randonneurs riding a 200K permanent. They had 30 miles to go with the sun going down and were happy as clams. Check out these smiles.

 

Randonneurs Katie, Emily, Mike, Steve and Nick

Randonneurs Katie, Emily, Mike, Steve and Nick

 

Our ride also got us going in the annual Bike Arlington Freezing Saddles winter riding challenge. This is my second year and I’m again shooting for perfect attendance. This is my chance to make up for never getting the attendance ribbon in elementary school, I always stayed home sick at least once.

Good luck and tailwinds this year, readers. We’ll be looking for you!