DC Randonneurs 300K: Big Flat Looms Large

I’d have to stop and count the number of times I’ve ridden the DC Randonneurs 300K out of Frederick, Md., yet it remains my favorite of that distance.

Why? I have this love of conquering the big monster known as Big Flat Ridge, about a third of the way through the ride. Big Flat is part of the South Mountain extension and rises above the first control in Shippensburg, Pa.

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Signing In

See all of my photos here at Flickr.

A stairstep climb to the top gains more than 1,300 feet over seven miles, starting with a tough grunt up from orchard hills below, then culminating in a grind of about 1.5 miles with sustained grades over 10 percent.

Big Flat isn’t the only tall point on this ride – we also ride over South Mountain from Thurmont up MD 77 at mile 18, about 1,200 feet up over seven miles. The grades are not as bad there, however.

Still, Big Flat caps off about 45 miles of big hills, for a total of about 5,000 feet of elevation gain. If you push too hard to get past Big Flat, it’s hard to recover, especially if the winds pick up.

On the Spectrum tandem we’re way down in our lowest gear often on Big Flat – a 26×34 combination –  and standing on the pedals here and there to get off the saddle.

Saturday was a gorgeous day, but the ride was still as tough as ever. We had the benefit of a slight tailwind, but hauling a tandem over those climbs is always a challenge.

Here’s our route on RidewithGPS, but ignore the total climbing, which I think is a fair bit lower. Garmin corrects it to 8,338 feet.

A Fast Start

Organizer Chris Readinger sent us off at 5 a.m. from the Days Inn, 26 riders in all. Mary and I managed to stay close to the front group to Thurmont and got there in just over an hour, but they rapidly disappeared on the climb up to Cascade. Some riders caught us near the top, including Pat O’Connor, another D.C. resident who we had not seen at a DCR ride in a few years.

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John on his Boulder

After Cascade we were among the riders we’d see the rest of the day: Greg Keenan, Gary Rollman and Scott Franzen of Pennsylvania, Paul Donaldson and John Mazur, who was on his single bike today, a lovely Boulder Bicycles 650b randonneur.

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Cascade!

Chris Readinger was there with his partner at the turnoff on Shippensburg Road to Big Flat with water and encouragement. We got over Big Flat and flew down into Shippensburg around 10 a.m., not bad for us. The sun was bright and warm and we took off layers.

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Gary and John Climbing Shippensburg Road

Headwinds and Bonking

The rest of the day we leapfrogged with the other folks in our riding orbit, which now included Roger Hillas and Mark Mullen. The wind was in our face after the midpoint turn south at Plainfield, and it was warm, well into the 70s.

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Mark in Plainfield

We made it up Whiskey Springs Road to the final tall spot of the ride, and then rode without much pop in our legs over to East Berlin with that annoying headwind. It was not strong enough to really knock us back, but kept us working. Being on a tandem helps, but only so much.

We thought we were the only ones to stop at Rocco’s for pizza, but Roger came in and sat with us while he ate a sandwich. This spot has been crowded in the past but everybody else went to the Rutters store instead.

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Spring Abounds

Arriving famished, I overate pizza and fries and paid for it with slow digestion. Oh well. The next stop was at Thurmont after 40 miles of slow progress over farmlands and the occasional hill and dip on quiet back roads. Here I had my classic final push treat of a Snickers ice cream bar and bottled ice tea. We joked about how the kid on the BMX bike in the parking lot was going to drop us on the way to Frederick.

Mary and I were, thankfully, invigorated for the final 18 miles – helped by some calories and lighter winds – and we arrived back in Frederick at 7:45 p.m. We came in at our normal mid-pack placing, a fair result for us given the winds.

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Pizza Time

Final Thoughts

Chris did a nice job with this ride. He asked riders to text him from Thurmont so that he would have hot pizza on hand, a smart idea. The pull of finishing pizza is strong and there was plenty when we rolled up, along with snacks and treats, including Easter-theme malted milk balls.

With the passing years (for me; Mary is as strong as ever)  this ride is getting harder, but it’s still a rewarding challenge, and I hope it stays on the calender.

Our next ride is the DCR Fleche next Saturday, where we will be riding with Team Once In A Blue Moon. Here’s our fleche route. See you!

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Winding Down

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

 

Kick that Rut, the 2016 Version

At the beginning of the year I don’t make resolutions so much as I try to do something about the ruts I’ve fallen into. This is known in the Felkerino-Gersemalina household as the “kick that rut right in the butt” examination.

Ian, Ted and Me. Courtesy MG.

Ian, Ted and Me. Courtesy MG.

As adulthood continues on (thankfully!), ruts become a problem, it seems, as I try to figure out this living thing. Someone recently told me the trick to aging gracefully is not to die from the neck up.

In 2014 I realized I had spent too many years solely riding the bike as my main form of fitness exercise.  That was entirely justified, I figured, as I loathe gyms and my attempts at swimming are laughable.

I was a runner in high school and college, but had dropped it long ago in favor of cycling. Like, 30 years ago. So last year I decided to buy some running shoes, a GPS watch, and see if I could get my legs back in shape. Plus, MG and my daughter DF were running and I was sort of jealous.

It took a long time of mixed walking and running just to be able to run continuously without knee pain, and then run three miles. I finally got there in early March, finishing a 5K. My next goal was a 10K in the fall, which I accomplished in October.

For the year I managed 353 miles over 101 runs and didn’t ruin my knees.

My goal this year is to stick with it and run a 10-miler or half-marathon by the fall. I’ve enjoyed running again, expecially the contemplative aspect, so I expect to get there.

The other rut last year was planning my cycling life around the quadrennial Paris-Brest-Paris 1200K randonnee. I had gone the last four times dating back to 1999, with MG joining me in 2011 on tandem. It was a lot of fun, if exhausting.

We decided that it was an event we’d sorely miss in 2015 — FOMO, it only comes once every four years, and all that.

Yet we didn’t feel like flying to Paris just for a four-day event that we’d done before, and spending a ton of money and blowing two weeks of vacation in the process.

We took a pass and tandem toured for the third straight year, this time for two weeks in Montana and Idaho. That was right for us, though we really missed being there with all our fellow randonneurs in France.

On the other hand, Missoula was cool and we loved visiting the Adventure Cycling Association HQ.

We’ll try to go to PBP in 2019.

This year? We’re going to tandem tour again, likely two weeks from Sacramento to Portland via the Adventure Cycling Association’s Sierra Cascades Route. After riding the past summers in Colorado and the northern Rockies, it’s time to see other mountains by bike.

We’ve heard great things about Lake Tahoe, Crater Lake and the whole route. Plus we know some coffeeneurs in Portland and hopefully we can meet up before we return home.

We’re also going to try to put in more winter miles than last year, when circumstances and weather got in the way. To that end, Mary and I signed up for the Bike Arlington (Va.) Freezing Saddles challenge.

It runs from Jan. 1 to the beginning of spring. You get 10 points for each day you ride (1 mile minimum) plus a point per mile. They put you in teams weighted with both high- and low-mileage riders, so there is some friendly competition.

The competition is based on data uploaded to Strava, so we’ve both fired up our dormant accounts and linked our Garmin accounts. Last year I captured every bike ride, run and fitness walk on Garmin via GPS, so I’m in the groove.

MG is going to have to start using her phone or Garmin watch more than she has, but she’s already liking the “kudos!” you get from Strava.

I’d like to get 600 miles a month through March. We’ll see how that goes — my fallback is 150 miles a week when certain events don’t get in the way.

We’re also going to ride the DCR Fleche this year after skipping last year. We’ve glommed onto a new team and plans are being made with a certain English gentleman who loves to draw up routes, so stay tuned for more.

This weekend MG and I rode our first rando ride of the year, the easy RaceYaToRocco’s 102mi/165K RUSA permanent from Frederick, Md. to East Berlin, Pa. and back. Here’s a map and our GPS data.

It was hard to get up early, drive an hour to Frederick, and start out in the cold — I’ll acknowledge that up front. Getting in the base miles now means we’ll have more fun on the spring brevets and the fleche, though. Plus, we like riding in the winter once we warm up. Tandeming is always fun with MG.

Cold and damp, let's ride a century

Cold and damp, let’s ride a century

The weather was dreary to start — cold mist, in the 30s — but dried out mid-day, though the day was quite gray and foggy.

If you're wearing a buff, let it be reflective!

If you’re wearing a buff, let it be reflective!

The ham-and-bean soup at Rocco’s Pizza was a welcome warmup and tasted great. The folks there have been and always are nice to us randonneurs, and Saturday was no exception.

Rocco's, the randonneur destination

Rocco’s, the randonneur destination

We also had a nice visit at Gravel & Grind bike and coffee shop in Frederick before driving home.

We took the Co-Motion Java touring tandem, and it rode like a champ, comfy and confident. Nothing daunts that bike.

One tough randonneur

One tough randonneur

The new go-faster Spectrum tandem rides nicely needs a bit of tweaking next Saturday back at Tom Kellogg’s place in Pennsylvania before we’ll put it to hard use. Once I finish outfitting with the final bits I’ll write up a post with lots of flattering photos.

Today it was unseasonably warm in DC and I got out for a Freezing Saddles ride with Ted N. and we met up with Ian F. on Hains Point. I was tired but it was fun and we saw MG while she was out and her run.

MG, Ian and Ted

MG, Ian and Ted

If you too are riding more this winter, keep up the good work and let us know in the comments how to follow you on the social media.

If you are local to DC, see you out there!

Coffeeneuring 2015 No. 2: Mary and I Go to Baked and Wired, and See Ted

Destination: Baked and Wired Washington, D.C. Oct. 4.

Distance: 11.8 miles. See our route here.

Company: Mary for coffee and cake. Ted for a lap around Hains Point. A kingfisher bird.

Bike Friendly? Not really. There’s a lone rack across the street. We usually lock to the fence along the C&O Canal Lock nearby. A few outside tables and chairs let you watch your bike, but they are usually occupied.

Observation: The espresso here is high-quality. Mary got a gourmet hot chocolate. This is one of our favorite coffee stops — we always go there when we come into D.C. from the C&O Canal Trail or Capital Crescent Trail. Don’t let the line scare you off if you’re just having coffee.

Sunday was another dreary day in D.C., though warmer than Saturday, and the rain stopped. Mary and I finally got ourselves out the door in the afternoon, mostly to get some fresh air, and to snag another coffeeneuring outing.

I’d like to get 14 coffeeneuring rides in seven weeks — the unofficial perfect season — so this would complete the first weekend.

See the line back there?

See the line back there?

The many, many social media postings from the coffeeneurs around the country and overseas also gave us a lot of motivation. Twitter and Instagram have been so busy with all the updates.

We rode our single bikes around the Jefferson Memorial, past the few tour buses and Segway riders, who were sightseeing regardless of the heavy clouds and blustery fall wind.

Instead of riding north to the many hip coffee spots in the city center, we decided to go to one of our favorites over in Georgetown — Baked and Wired. They are known for their gourmet cupcakes, and have a line out the door on weekend afternoons to prove it.

The coffee side of Baked and Wired.

The coffee side of Baked and Wired.

But they also have a high-end coffee bar on the other side of the shop with its own much shorter line. They also sell some baked goods on the coffee side.

Hot chocolate on a cool day.

Hot chocolate on a cool day.

Today we got a soy cappuccino for me and a hot chocolate for Mary. We also got a rare empty table outside, where we enjoyed our drinks and a fabulous piece of mandarin orange coffee cake.

If there is a theme to our 2015 coffeeneuring so far, cake has been a part of both outings so far, so there you go.

Mary and Ted, on Hains Point.

Mary and Ted, on Hains Point.

We rode back towards the Jefferson Monument, and decided to go see how much of Hains Point was underwater from all the rain. Our Friday Coffee Club pal Ted N. was out on his Surly and we rode a lap at conversational pace.

The flooding had receded, so no swamps to report, but Ted pointed out a kingfisher bird that was hunting along the water. That was pretty cool.

Us.

Us.

Ted.

Ted.


 

Until next weekend!

 

Coffeeneuring 2014: The best of Washington & Philly

Let me get something off my chest: I love coffeeneuring! And, not just because it is the creation of my lovely and strong spouse, Ms. Coffeeneur herself, though that certainly helps.

MG created The Coffeeneuring Challenge, but sometimes wonders if she should keep it going. Heck yes, I say!

I’m glad to be a part of it. I am one of the original coffeeneurs who have completed all four editions, and I don’t want my streak to end.

One of life’s simple pleasures is to ride to a coffee shop — in any season, but especially in the fall after all the year’s big events are done and the temperatures cool down. Good coffee shops are a real oasis among the urban jungle and offer a welcoming respite from the road when we tour.

What made this year special was that the coffeeneuring season coincided with a mostly-warm East Coast autumn, and included our 2nd annual jaunt to the Philadelphia Bike Expo, where we stopped at two of our favorite places in that fine city.

I’ll dispense with the further pleasantries and get down to recapping my final four rides. My great plans to blog each ride were waylaid by my job and my need for sleep, and of course, coffeeneuring outings. My earlier rides are here and here.

Adding the love at Nagadi Roasters.

Adding the love at Nagadi Roasters.

 

Coffeeneur Stop 4: Nagadi Coffee Roasters, 9325 Fraser Ave., Silver Spring, Md.
Oct. 25
Distance: 53 miles
Bike Friendly? Enough. Located in a warehouse complex, there’s no bike racks but plenty of places to lean the bike.

Our touring friends Steve and Lynn invited us up to their neck of the woods to Nagadi, a small roastery that opens its doors in the mornings. The owner has a couple of chairs and a table in the front of their workspace, but not much else.

Steve and Lynn. It was great to see them.

Steve and Lynn. It was great to see them.

 

I rode up from our place in Southwest D.C. solo (MG sat this one out) via the Metropolitan Branch trail and then zig-zagged at the direction of  my GPS computer. It was hard to find, set off in a group of warehouse spaces near Linden Road with no obvious signage. Steve came out to the road and waved me in after I stopped to call him.

After some warm greetings, I ordered espresso, the true test of a high-end coffee roaster. The espresso beans were were carefully ground on a custom machine and weighed before a shot was pulled.

It was about perfect. Strong yet smooth. Tons of flavor and a heart-quickening kick.

 

Seriously good espresso.

Seriously good espresso.

 

I bought a bag of whole beans to take home. It wasn’t cheap, but was worth the trip. I rode back via the Sligo Creek Trail, which was new to me, and treated myself to a bonus stop the The Coffee Bar in Northwest D.C., which was awesome as always.

Rating: Five stars.

 

My Rivendell Atlantis on the Sligo Creek Trail

My Rivendell Atlantis on the Sligo Creek Trail

 

Coffeeneur Stop 5: Compass Coffee, 1535 7th St N.W., Washington, D.C.
Oct. 25
Distance: 8.5 miles
Bike Friendly? Not so much. Typical D.C. urban setup, no dedicated bike parking. I locked to a fence guarding the adjacent property.

Compass Coffee, sparse bike parking.

Compass Coffee, sparse bike parking.

MG got up early to run the Marine Corps Marathon and I was on my own until she came around the course and I had a chance to cheer for her. I rode up 7th Street Northwest in warm weather to check out Compass, a new shop that opened this fall just north of the Washington Convention Center.

Compass Coffee, modern interior.

Compass Coffee, modern interior.

It has a big airy room and modern furniture, and built-in espresso machines at the service bar. A gleaming roasting machine sits in the rear behind glass. There was a lot of thought put into Compass in terms of aesthetics.

I decided to employ the espresso test again and Compass passed handily. The pull was excellent, full of flavor. I didn’t get too much warmth from the staff, but they looked pretty busy trying to get the shop up and running for a busy Sunday morning ahead. Service was fast and efficient.

I wouldn’t hesitate to return, though they do need a bike rack out front. After my stop there I had plenty of get-up-and-go to find MG on the course. She had a great run, as always.

Rating: Four stars.

MG got the finisher's medal!

MG got the finisher’s medal!

 

Coffeeneur Stop 6: Volo Coffeehouse, 4360 Main St., Manayunk, Philadelphia
Nov. 8
Distance: 30 miles
Bike Friendly? Not really. There are some places to lock up on the sidewalk.

For the second year in a row, MG and I took out single bikes by car up to Phoenixville, Pa. and rode the Schuylkill River Trail into the city to attend the Philadelphia Bike Expo.

The trail comes into lively Manayunk just before downtown, and Volo is a regular stop for the recreational and sport riders heading to and fro from the city. The interior is bright and clean, if cramped with lots of tables full of people out and about on a brisk autumn day.

Volo has a line, for a good reason.

Volo has a line, for a good reason.

We got there around the lunch hour and the line was long but their service was very efficient.

Very happy to be here.

Very happy to be here.

I had a soy latte and lo, it was good. They just know what they’re doing there. I like to explore new coffee places by bike, but some, like Volo, will always have a place on our coffeeneuring itinerary if we are passing by.

The show was a lot of fun. We attended both days and stayed overnight at a downtown hotel.

Outside the Philly Bike Expo.

Outside the Philly Bike Expo.

On Sunday we had morning coffee at tony Elixr Coffee with the sweet gang from Velo Orange, who let us tag along to dinner with them the night before. An artist left postcards out that she was to send after you dropped it in a box. I sent one to my daughter, that felt kind of cool.

Rating: Five stars.

 

With the Velo Orange folks at Elixr.

With the Velo Orange folks at Elixr.

 

Coffeeneur Stop 7: The Wydown, 1924 14th St. N.W., Washington, D.C.
Nov. 15
Distance: 8.6 miles
Bike Friendly? Sorta. Planter fencing out front suitable for locking.

MG and I decided to take it easy on the final coffeeneuring weekend, and rode out from home for a fun-odyssey to check out The Wydown, which MG had read about, and Slipstream, an ultra-modern combination coffeeshop and cafe, both on 14th Street Northwest.

We stopped first at Slipstream. No bike parking, but we were able to lock the bikes together outside the expansive front glass doors. The setup was confusing; the front area is a cafe with tables and table service, while there is a takeout coffee bar farther back.

A mixup ensued in figuring how to get served. We ordered at the bar in the front area (I unwisely waved off the menus offered to us), then after awhile with no espresso coming, I motioned to the server that we’d order from the back bar — or so I thought. Then he brought our drinks in fancy glasses, just after I put in our order at the back bar.

The guy at the back bar had not pulled our shots, and was cool about my mistake. He gave us our pastries and an extra macaroon cookie for the trouble.

It turns out items ordered from the front bar are pretty expensive — not the $3 espresso posted on a sign when you walk in. That’s for the back bar. The bill for two double espresso shots ($8.50) and two pastries ($4 each) with tax was $17.60. I’m not used to a place with different prices for the same thing.

The espresso was fantastic, I’ll give them that. I mean, it was awesome. But Slipstream got knocked out of my coffeeneuring lineup this year with the funny business.

We did run into a BikeDC acquaintance there, Andrew, who works nearby. He told us the place had grown on him. I’ll give them another try sometime and pay more attention.

Hey it's Andrew at Slipstream.

Hey it’s Andrew at Slipstream.

The Wydown, farther up 14th Street, was a more straightforward high-end coffee experience. Get in line, place your order, pay, wait to hear your name called.

We locked up the bikes to planter fencing outside The Wydown.

We locked up the bikes to planter fencing outside The Wydown.

It’s a small modern place that was filled with folks on their Saturday morning outings. We had more espresso, which came quickly and was just great. It had more of a high-volume feel, space was tight, but you felt kinda cool going in there.

Rating: Four stars.

The Wydown. No surprises. All good.

The Wydown. No surprises. All good.

 

And so ends another fun year of coffeeneuring. Too bad. Can’t wait for 2015.

I’d like to thank my spouse MG, my parents, my teachers, all the gentle people at Friday Coffee Club (Rootchopper! Mr. T in DC! Bilsko!), and everybody else out there who get around by bike and keep these fine coffee establishments in business.

See you on the road and in line for espresso/coffee/tea/and hot chocolate, fellow coffeeneurs!

Coffeeneuring, with Some Tea in the Shenandoah Valley

Coffeneuring this year has been a stop-start affair. My first five stops were on the first, third and fourth weekends of the coffeeneuring season, with the other two taken up with family visits. I enjoy those visits a lot, but I don’t always get on the bike when we’re hosting.

That’s made me appreciate the available coffeeneuring weekends all the more. I really like the coffeeneuring-both-days weekends. It give the weekend some destinations, and of course, the promise of a relaxing cafe visit.

Every year I try to go to new places for all my stops. It’s not always possible, but the goal seems worthy: a new destination, a new experience, a chance to find something great, by bike. This is very definition of coffeeneuring, in my book.

In this, the third of the seven required stops, I even strayed from espresso drinks into the world of gourmet tea, out of necessity.

Bike parking outside Earth and Tea Cafe

Bike parking outside Earth and Tea Cafe

Coffeeneur Stop 3: Earth and Tea Cafe, Harrisonburg, Va.
Oct. 18
Distance: 43 miles
Bike Friendly? Not really. No racks. There was a large sidewalk planter box outside that was big enough to lay the bike down on.
Rating: Three stars.

MG and I went to Harrisonburg last month to check in on some randonneur friends, Matt and Kurt, and get to know more about the bike scene. Harrisonburg is close by a lot of good paved and gravel back roads in the Massanutten Mountain area and toward the West Virginia line, and has an active mountain bike community.

We have always passed through on brevets and tours, so we wanted to go have a closer look around. We ended up taking two very pretty rides, one in the valley on Saturday and another on Sunday up towards the West Virgina line.

A gorgeous Sunday ride.

A gorgeous Sunday ride.

After our arrival on Saturday morning, we intended to have the we-don’t-really-know-much-about-espresso espresso drinks they make at the Artful Dodger, a funky student cafe on the downtown square. We’d been there before, it was OK. There isn’t much else for espresso in Harrisonburg.

It was not happening this time. We were on the tandem, which is always a handful to park. Then we got shoo’d off by one of the smoking-break employees from leaving the bike out front even though there were no customers out there. None.

We decided not to bother and took a chance on Earth and Tea Cafe, just off the town square. The vibe was totally mellow, with none of that nervous energy of coffee shops. There were lots of college town folks in there, all looking and talking groovy.

So, this is how tea works. At least you get a whole pot of the stuff.

So, this is how tea works. At least you get a whole pot of the stuff.

I ordered a slice of cake (I tend to get nauseous if I drink hot tea on an empty stomach) and chose the closest thing they had to espresso: a black tea called Double Chococcino. Their menu description — yes, they had a menu for tea — was simply “with chocolate cappuccino taste.”

What arrived looked like very weak coffee when I poured it out. I could see through it to the bottom of the cup. Warily I took a sip and found it had a sweet chocolatey taste and a bit of bite. With the cake I managed to drink the entire precious little pot.

I should not have underestimated that tea. It had a real caffeine kick. I was buzzing for an hour. The cake was pretty good as well. We ate it all.

Tea. Not Coffee. Hmmm.

Tea. Not Coffee. Hmmm.

Had I not been on the coffeeneuring hunt, I don’t think I would have tried Earth and Tea. But now that we’ve been there, I’ll probably go back. Maybe they will have some bike parking next time.

Riding with Matt H. near Massanutten Mountain

Riding with Matt H. near Massanutten Mountain

DCR Many Rivers 600K Brevet: No two rides are the same

MG and I took a break from the longer brevets last year, but we didn’t think that would make much of a difference when we started the D.C. Randonneurs’ Many Rivers 600K brevet on Saturday in central Virginia.

Early morning over the soft hills toward the Blue Ridge.

Early morning over the soft hills toward the Blue Ridge.

Our approach would be the same as in the past: we’d try to complete the first 241-mile day by 11 p.m. and get back on the road by 3 a.m. for the 136-mile second day. We mostly expected the same results, meaning an early afternoon finish on Sunday.

Well! The good news is that we got around the double-loop course from Warrenton, Va. just fine, with a finish of 36:01. In randonneuring, the only goal that matters is completion within the time limit. For a 600K you get 40 hours, so, all good there.

But, our result is more than two hours slower than in 2012, when we rode the same course in 33:55, in much hotter weather. You’d think we’d maintain the same pace in the perfect springtime weather conditions we experienced on Saturday and Sunday, with moderate temperatures, light winds and dry air.

The difference came down to additional time off the bike, and a little bit slower pace.

In 2012 we rode 24:26 and had a rolling average of 15.5 mph. This year we rode 25:12 and had a rolling average of 15.1 mph.

That’s 46 minutes additional in the saddle and 80 minutes more stopped time — not much over 1 1/2 days. Still, in a pursuit based on time limits, randonneurs tend to think a lot about their time result, and we’re no different.

See all of our data and course tracks at Garmin Connect: Day 1 and Day 2.

I have a full photo set on Flickr as does MG. See mine and hers.

We’re still sorting it out, but we’ve got a couple of theories. In 2012 the ride was on June 9-10, which gave us more time in the spring to get in shape.

As I said, it was much warmer then — I recall Saturday temperatures were in the 90’s that year, compared to the 70’s this year. That made the Sunday predawn hours warmer. This year had a cold start both days in the 40s.

The other factor was second-day fatigue. All of our additional time and slower pace came on Sunday’s 136-mile loop to Fredericksburg and back. We returned to the start/finish hotel for the overnight stop at the same time as in 2012, about 11 p.m., but we spent more time in the hotel, and took more stops around the course. I think we re-started at least 30 minutes later, close to 4 a.m.

There was a mild headwind on the second half of the Sunday loop which also added to our time, though I can’t say how much.

So — enough with the data! The upside in all this was that we enjoyed some excellent companionship along with way, especially on Saturday. We teamed up with Brian Rowe, David Givens (both new to randonneuring) and Rick Rodeghier for the Saturday afternoon and evening run back to Warrenton.

Rick, David, Brian. Good folks.

Rick, David, Brian. Good folks.

All three were in good spirits and we enjoyed the fresh perspective of Brian and David. They and Rick were all on randonneuring bikes with 650b wheels and fenders, and held a good steady pace. We had a satisfying sit down dinner in Louisa, Va. at the Roma Italian restaurant (great service!).

What's missing from this bike? A front derailleur.

What’s missing from this bike? A front derailleur.

The night run to Warrenton was spectacular, despite the steady grinding ascent in the final miles, with a blazing sunset and lots of good conversation. Our new generator hub and lighting system (Schmidt front disk hub, Schmidt Edelux 2 and Secula Plus tail light) lit the way.

Mike Martin and John Mazur were also in the vicinity, and we ate dinner and rode some of the way with the ever-debonair Roger Hillas, whose front derailleur had broken. He calmly rode with the chain on his small ring and laughed it off as no big deal.

Waiting on a train.

Waiting on a train.

We joined up with them earlier at the Howardsville Store at mile 122, after tagging along with the fast folks for the first 70 miles until the bigger rolling hills near the Blue Ridge put us off the back. The Big Cat tandem can only do so much when the profile trends upwards.

Away in the distance, the front group rides off.

Away in the distance, the front group rides off.

The event organizer Bill Beck was there at Howardsville, taking photos, and we had fun joking around. Barry Benson, MG’s co-worker, arrived with her cycling gloves, which had fallen out of our rear bag. Barry gets a gold star.

Bill executed a perfect power slide to get the shot.

Bill executed a perfect power slide to get the shot.

It was always nice to see Bill. He makes us feel like rando-celebrities with his flattering shots and all-around good cheer.

Barry found MG's gloves on the course. Thanks Barry!

Barry found MG’s gloves on the course. Thanks Barry!

The other highlight of the morning was the espresso and gourmet sandwiches at the Green House Coffee in little Crozet, Va. where a group of us gathered (the speedy crowd chose other, more expedient establishments).

A welcome stop in Crozet.

A welcome stop in Crozet.

Randonneur yard sale in Crozet.

Randonneur yard sale in Crozet.

Mitch Potter told us a little about his tricked-out flat-bar Pivot 29er bike that he was riding in anticipation of installing big tires and riding the Tour Divide offroad race in the Rockies. It was quite the rig, with the snazzy 1×11 SRAM system, with a single chainring crank and a huge 42-tooth large rear cog.

Mitch on his Pivot.

Mitch on his Pivot.

A better shot of Mitch's bike. By MG.

A better shot of Mitch’s bike. By MG.

Sunday was another story, still a good one, but I was pretty shelled from Saturday and had the hardest time getting up. I finally arose at 2:45 a.m. after three hours sleep. Consequently our planned 3 a.m. departure ended up at 3:55 am, and we arrived in Fredericksburg, mile 288, after 8 a.m. — about four hours to cover 46 miles. I was dragging, and so was MG. We were consuming everything we had to get some energy going.

These espresso beans may have saved our ride.

These espresso beans may have saved our ride.

Mike Martin was again in our orbit. We got caught up at the first control of the day around dawn and talked about how tired our legs felt. After another stop at the second control on the outskirts of Fredericksburg (after something of a struggle to maintain momentum), we rolled into downtown in bright sun and immediately saw the Marine Corps Historic Half marathon taking place.

Historic Half Marathon underway in Fredericksburg, Va.

Historic Half Marathon underway in Fredericksburg, Va.

After cheering the runners for a few minutes I spied Hyperion Espresso, and so yet another half-hour passed off the bike as we revived ourselves with very fine espresso and muffins. This stop got us whole (despite some misgivings about stopping yet again) and back on the road in much better spirits.

The moment that turned our Sunday ride around.

The moment that turned our Sunday ride around.

At that moment Brian, David and John Mazur rolled through town. We caught up to them for the segment through the Fredericksburg Battlefield. Rick had been spied fixing a cable in the hotel parking lot when they left, so he was somewhere behind on the course. Hey Rick, we missed you!

John in the Frederickburg Battleground. Not on tandem this time.

John in the Frederickburg Battleground. Not on tandem this time.

MG and I decided we better get moving if we were ever going to finish without falling asleep on the bike. We pulled away after Spotsylvania, mile 317, to ride solo the rest of the day, tackling the pesky headwind. I had periods of saddle soreness and my left knee would hurt if we pushed too hard, and I started counting down the miles.

Randonneuring high life, in Spotsylvania.

Randonneuring high life, in Spotsylvania.

How far to the finish?

How far to the finish?

Almost there. Just 30 miles to go!

Almost there. Just 30 miles to go!

My eyes. My eyes.

My eyes. My eyes.

The route was intensely lovely, however, and we savored the verdant countryside views and forest lands in the final hilly miles near Warrenton. We again intersected with Mike, who was doggedly riding solo. I thought about how this event has us climbing into the town, a high point in the area, not once but twice. I guess it builds character.

Mike Martin leads us toward Warrenton.

Mike Martin leads us toward Warrenton.

After a somewhat serious push to get in to Warrenton by 4 p.m., we had to settle for a minute after the hour. Oh well! Our pal Lane G. was running the finish control at the Hampton Inn and got us checked in and had pizza waiting, with more arriving quickly — the two most important jobs when tired, hungry riders show up. Thanks Lane!

Lane checks us in. MG's got a pound of pollen in that eye.

Lane checks us in. MG’s got a pound of pollen in that eye.

MG is writing a post on our full randonneur series this year, so stay tuned for that at her fine blog, Chasing Mailboxes.

We made it. Still awake (barely) and still smiling. Photo by Lane G.

We made it. Still awake (barely) and still smiling. Photo by Lane G.

I also want to extend our thanks to DCR brevet administrator Nick Bull for all his work in getting the series organized, to Bill Beck for a well-run 600K, and Mike Binnix for keeping the food going in the overnight control room.

DCR Northern Exposure 400K: Back to the early days

MG and I rode the D.C. Randonneurs 400K brevet last Saturday, May 3 on the new Northern Exposure route from Frederick, Md. into south-central Pennsylvania, returning on the east side of Gettysburg.

The route was certainly new to MG, and most of the club, but for me and some other veterans it was a return to the old, fearsome Doubling Gap 400K from the 1990s. That one was a route to be respected: massive climbs, twisty descents, and lots and lots of short, sharp hills.

It was my first 400K, in 1997. I thought it would never end, but I got back to Frederick with a good group of veterans. Now I’m among the regulars, looking around at all the new folks. It’s always good to see first-timers.

This route would be much the same as the old one, but for the revamp DCR route designer Crista Borras deleted the anxiety-filled climb up Doubling Gap Road and made some other good changes. Doubling Gap was steep, shoulderless and straight with a guardrail, the summit visible the whole way, cars whizzing past. I don’t miss it.

What never gets easier is the middle-of-the-night starts. I’ve done the 4 a.m. start plenty of times, but my work has been particularly stressful this year, and I’ve had little time to think about the brevets. Saturday arrived way too fast and I worried about having a good ride.

Another rando adventure starts at a Waffle House. Courtesy Bill Beck.

Another rando adventure starts at a Waffle House. Courtesy Bill Beck.

Our friend and expert randonneur/photographer Bill Beck got this one of us. We ate at the Waffle House and despite being at once bleary and nervous, I was ready to go. MG was nervous too. That’s the way of the 400K, for most of us it’s the longest one-day ride of the year.

Our goal, generally, is to finish our 400K rides in 20 hours or less, by midnight if not sooner. That gets us off the road before the bars close and I start getting drowsy in the wee hours. To make that goal we have to start strong and keep moving. An honest challenge, as MG likes to say.

We almost beat the midnight hour, getting in at 12:07 am. Our riding time was 16:53, with 3:14 off the bike. That’s about 45 minutes more than our nominal target of an hour of stopping time per century.

See all of our data at my Garmin page. The rest of my photos are at my Flickr page.

The extra stopping time came at a rest stop at McDonald’s near the end of the ride, about 17 miles out in Thurmont, Md., for coffee. Our riding companion Matt H. of Harrisonburg, Va. needed some caffeine to stay awake, and we did too. That stop made for a safe finish, so no regrets there.

I’ll tell the rest of the story in photos.

Gathering at the Days Inn

Gathering at the Days Inn

Here we are, in a parking lot at 4 a.m., with a field of 45 riders. Spectacular weather is expected, but it sure is dark right now.

Leaving Frederick, last time we'd be all together

Leaving Frederick, last time we’d be all together

Rolling through downtown Frederick, Md. A split would quickly form on the way out of town as the faster riders made the most of easy riding until the first big climb at Thurmont, about an hour away.

No brevet is complete in Pennsylvania without a Sheetz stop.

No brevet is complete in Pennsylvania without a Sheetz stop.

We’ve made it over the first two major climbs and most everybody stopped at this Sheetz at mile 62, even though it was not an official control. It was strictly grab-and-go, but I got this photo of Paul D.’s Rivendell Hillborne bike. MG and I had coffee and ate sandwiches, and took a cheese sub with us to eat later in the ride.

Catching up to Mark and Damon

Catching up to Mark and Damon

For most of the day we rode with Matt, who was here without his pal Kurt R. We intersected Mark and Damon but otherwise saw few other participants.

Matt was good riding company and kept us entertained with tales of the bike scene in Harrisonsburg and with some good conversation starters, such “what was your first concert, and your most recent?” Mine were either Olivia Newton-John or the Doobie Brothers (mid-70s) and Kraftwerk (last month).

The grocery store at East Waterford, mile 108. Courtesy MG.

The grocery store at East Waterford, mile 108. Courtesy MG.

Our lunch stop came at mile 108 in East Waterford, Pa. We had a choice of the pizza place or the grocery store. The store had a deli counter, and made wonderful sandwiches on pretzel rolls. They also had free cake samples. Did I mention the free cake?

This little guy wanted to run with us.

This little guy wanted to run with us.

Southern Pennsylvania has fewer unleashed dogs compared to Virginia and West Virginia, but we did get chased hilariously for a few hundred yards.

Later in the afternoon we turned south and started climbing again.

Matt coming down from Sterrets Gap. Courtesy MG.

Matt coming down from Sterrets Gap. Courtesy MG.

This was typical of the day — Sterrets Gap near Carlisle, Pa.

Cameras! Cameras! Cameras! Courtesy MG.

Cameras! Cameras! Cameras! Courtesy MG.

MG got this shot of me and Matt.

Ultimate Obligatory Cow Photo

Ultimate Obligatory Cow Photo

The route was in the heart of dairy country. A few of us on the ride got this same obligatory cow photo shot.

MG was strong and sure all day.

MG was strong and sure all day.

Our teamwork over the years on the tandem has been pretty solid, in large part because MG is a strong finisher and keeps us moving as the day turns toward night. She takes interesting photos too. See her set from the ride at her Flickr page.

Storms blew in late in the afternoon but mostly missed us.

Storms blew in late in the afternoon but mostly missed us.

The predicted showers materialized before sundown. We avoided a soaking, but others did not.

I struggled with concentration, but got down the road in the end.

I struggled with concentration, but got down the road in the end.

Throughout the day I wondered about why we do these rides, especially as my legs and eyelids got heavier. These are typical thoughts during the 400K, which seems so daunting even if you’ve done a few before.

I’m grateful to MG and Matt for making the miles disappear, and by the finish it was all worth it. This is a tough course and I’m proud to say we completed it in good spirits.

My thanks for a successful completion go to MG, Matt and our fellow riders for getting out there with us. An additional and hearty thank-you goes to event organizers (and tandem riders) Cindy and John, and their helpers. They were encouraging, organized and had hot pizza and plenty of snacks at the ready when we arrived.

The 400K is a tough ride to run because of the long hours and overnight duties starting the riders and then waiting for the final finishers. Great job you two!

Next Saturday we cap off the spring randonneur season with the D.C. Randonneurs 600K brevet from Warrenton, Va. a double loop through the central part of the state. See you there?

My 2014 Errandonnee

Hey folks,

being married to MG means I always know about the  fun challenges she runs through her sparkling blog, Chasing Mailboxes.

A side benefit is that I get a front row seat as riders submit their results to MG and she tells me about all the neat stuff you guys are doing out there on your bikes.

That’s more then enough motivation for me to get going and complete them myself. So without further ado, here is my submission to The Great 2014 Errandonnee Challenge.

This year I didn’t get out of the gate very quicky, and had to rally later in the 12-day window to get caught up. It reminded me that I tend to use my bike for just about all my comings and goings in D.C., but I don’t really do that many specific errand runs.

Consequently, I had to stop and plan out a few multi-errand stops. I also had to take into account our weird weather during the Errandonnee Days, which swung from cold and snow to warm and windy. It all came together in the end.

The Big Pink Errandonnee Card

The Big Pink Errandonnee Card

Here goes!

No. 1
Date: Mar. 7
Place: BicycleSpace DC
Category: Bike Shop
Miles: 7.1
Observation: A good bike shop is like another home. I really didn’t want to leave.

BicycleSpace DC. My bike likes it here.

BicycleSpace DC. My bike likes it here.

No. 2
Date: Mar. 9
Place: Bank
Category: Personal Care
Miles: 23
Observation: I feel so much better about taking out money when it’s not going toward gas or parking.

Let's go spend this money!

Let’s go spend this money!

No. 3
Date: Mar. 9
Place: Caphe Bahn Mi, Alexandria, Va.
Category: Breakfast or lunch
Miles: combination trip with No. 2
Observation: MG, our friend Lane, and a place we had not gone before. Terrific.

Caphe Bahn Mi. Very good.

Caphe Bahn Mi. Very good.

No. 4
Date: Mar. 12
Place: U.S. Capitol
Category: Work
Miles: 3.3
Observation: Going up to the Hill to cover Congress is always more enjoyable by bike. An unseasonably warm day makes it even better.

Warm day work clothes.

Warm day work clothes.

No. 5
Date: Mar. 13
Place: U.S. Capitol
Category: Work
Miles: 3.3
Observation: Another day on the Hill. A lot colder today. I’d still rather go by bike. But it was really cold. Whoa!

So cold I've got a steady snot stream going.

So cold I’ve got a steady snot stream going.

No. 6
Date: Mar. 14
Place: Swing’s Coffee, Washington.
Category: Community Meeting: Friday Coffee Club!
Miles: 5.5
Observation: The most unofficial regularly occurring bike meetup in America. I never get tired of going. Is it a community meeting? Actually, we had a mayoral candidate show up — City Council member Tommy Wells — to talk about bike lanes and city development, giving this one a civic engagement element. So, yeah.

Friday Coffee Club, the candidate drop-in edition.

Friday Coffee Club, the candidate drop-in edition.

No. 7
Date: Mar. 14
Place: Apple Store, Arlington, Va.
Category: Store other than grocery store
Miles: 12
Observation: I had the afternoon off. The Apple store is way less crowded on a weekday afternoon. They need better any bike parking; I had to lock to a parking meter.

Diagnosing my faulty trackpad.

Diagnosing my faulty trackpad.

Nice bike parking, Apple.

Nice bike parking, Apple.

No. 8
Date: Mar. 14
Place: Whole Foods, Arlington, Va.
Category: Grocery Store.
Miles: see No. 7
Observation: A combined trip with the stop at the Apple store. Whole Foods being right across the street made this one easy. Groceries brought home by bike always taste better. Another place in Clarendon without bike parking, except for a lonely rack stuffed in a corner of the parking lot used by the staff. WF, you can do better.

Oh Whole Foods, can you spare some bike parking?

Oh Whole Foods, can you spare some bike parking?

No. 9
Date: Mar. 15
Place: The Coffeebar DC, Washington.
Category: Coffee
Miles: 23
Observation: The first stop of a quad-fer today. MG ran the DC rock music marathon today and I stopped here to await her to come around on the course nearby. I also saw TCB’s own Olympic medalist working behind the counter, so that made it extra-sporty.

The Coffee Bar DC. Good stuff.

The Coffee Bar DC. Good stuff.

No. 10
Date: Mar. 15
Place: RFK Stadium, Washington.
Category: Wild Card!
Miles: 8.8
Observation: I took the tandem to meet MG at the end of her marathon, and we rode to lunch together and then home. Lots of power left in those legs, no surprise there. She’s badass!

She got the medal! I got another randonnee done!

She got the medal! I got another errandonnee done!

Tandem awaiting MG at RFK.

Tandem awaiting MG at RFK.

No. 11
Date: Mar. 15
Place: Tunicliff’s Tavern, Eastern Market, Washington.
Category: Breakfast or lunch.
Miles: see above
Observation: After zooming around on my single bike to cheer MG, then riding the tandem solo to RFK to pick her up, the ride together to lunch and home let us get caught up on her big day.

Document this errandonnee, please!

Document this errandonnee, please!

No. 12
Date: Mar. 15
Place: Apple Store, Arlington, Va.
Category: Store other than grocery store
Miles: 12
Observation: Picked up my repaired laptop. You’d think an Apple store would be crowded on a Saturday, but with the St. Patrick’s Day weekend pub crawl underway around Clarendon and Courthouse by the post-college frat crowd, pickup was a breeze. And, no drunks staggered out in front of me on the way home.

It's working great now.

It’s working great now.

No. 13 BONUS
Date: Mar. 16
Place: Peregrine Espresso, Eastern Market, Washington.
Category: Coffee or dessert
Miles: 56
Observation: Solo ride today so MG could recover from her marathon. I swung by Peregrine after riding out to Potomac, Md. area and then back. I sometimes try to ride past Peregrine without stopping, but I usually go in. The champagne of espresso, if you will.

Peregrine Espresso. The official espresso of the Errandonnee?

Peregrine Espresso. The official espresso of the Errandonnee?

Total rides: 13
Total mileage: 146
Categories filled: 9 of 11

What did I learn from the errandonee? I had none of the frustrations of driving, and all the joys of cycling. There was no sitting in traffic and no looking for parking. I got in a bunch of miles and enjoyed the ride.

In sum — errands aren’t work on a bike. They are just another way to have fun on the bike. And who doesn’t want to have fun on their bike?

Thanks again, MG, for this low-key and rewarding contest. Congratulations to all the finishers and participants. I can’t wait to get my patch!

Wilderness Campaign 200K Brevet. Back in the saddle.

Hello readers!

MG and I took a little breather from the brevet scene last year. We did not ride the longer events and focused on touring and informal rides.

Taking that step back, and additional duties for my job, led me to put TDR on the back burner.

Every good layoff deserves a comeback. So, hello, again.

And, we're back.

And, we’re back.

This year we’ve laid out an ambitious program. Our big randonneur ride will be the D.C. Randonneurs 1000K this fall. We also plan to return to Colorado for two weeks of touring in July, and go back to the Hilly Billy Roubaix gravel race in Morgantown, W.Va.

The goal is to get in great shape for next year, when we want to go again to the Paris-Brest-Paris 1200K in France. I consider it “The Best American 1200K Not Held in America” because nearly 500 U.S. riders go and you get to see everybody at one ride.

With those big rides in mind, we need to get out there and do a complete Super Randonneur series this year. You hardy randonneurs know that means a 200K, 300K, 400K and 600K.

Bring on the sleep deprivation, I say. I love getting up in the middle of the night to ride my bike!

Ha ha, just kidding! (Or am I?)

We got our campaign underway on Saturday with the aptly-named Wilderness Campaign 200K, run by the D.C. Randonneurs from Bristow, Va. The route (see it here) winds south from the Manassas area west of D.C. to Spotsylvania.

Riders take in the forested Wilderness Battlefield where the North and South skirmished in May 1864 over a number of bloody days.

Checking in at the start

Checking in at the start

MG has captured our ride on the Co-Motion “Big Cat” tandem in pithy fashion over at her award-winning blog, Chasing Mailboxes. See it here. See all of my photos here and MG’s here.

Our only game plan for this ride was to draft the stampede of fast folks until the hills and pace put us off the back, hopefully later than sooner.

Starting with the group

Starting with the group

We went with the speedy single bike riders for about 40 miles, until they pulled away after a series of steep rollers through Kelly’s Ford.

The Profile!

The Profile!

Riding the tandem in a group of singles was the usual challenge. Drafting works some of the time, though MG can’t see the gap to the bike ahead and keeps pedaling hard when the group slows down. (That’s a good problem, don’t get me wrong!) I have to keep in good contact with her about when to soft-pedal.

When we get on a real downhill, the tandem bolts forward like a rocket and if the road is clear, we end up out front.  But then we slow and get swarmed on the next uphill. We have to ride like mad to stay with the group over the top.

As you might expect, this goes on for only so long before our legs start to fade.

Seeing the front guys pull away was not a bad thing. Riding on our own, I could take my hands off the brakes and we could spin along and have a nice chat and enjoy the sunny day.

Most everybody figured out how to get food from the 7-11 and the pizza place at the turnaround in Spotslyvania, mile 68, but we were famished and went to the homey Courthouse Cafe. Only two other riders, Kurt and Matt of Harrisonburg, Va. had the audacity to throw away time like us and came in. We had a good talk about rides and tandems as we ate omelettes.

Matt and Kurt at the Courthouse Cafe

Matt and Kurt at the Courthouse Cafe

The return route starts on narrow roads with traffic, which led to spirited riding to get to the quieter sections. The day warmed up fantastically, to the 60s, but also brought a little headwind and sidewinds that made the return slow going.

The profile trends upward, gradually, which made momentum hard to find at times.

We discussed this in a tandem team sort of way, with such phrases as “boy I am feeling it in my legs!” and “it sure is a nice day, no need to rush, right? SIGH.”

Our spirits lifted as we caught up to other riders at the remaining stops, especially when we encountered our pal Eric P., who missed us at the start and was convinced we slept in. Hey — that’s what we thought you did, Eric! Ha ha!

Eric shepherded us back through the spiky rollers back through Kelly’s Ford and to the final rest stop/control at the old-timey Elk Run Store, which provided this ride’s Star Wars Cantina moment.

Taking it easy before the last stretch.

Taking it easy before the last stretch.

That’s when everybody sits outside a store grinning (or grimacing) and generally kicking back for a few minutes. We stuffed the last of our cold weather gear in the Carradice saddle bag, with the overflow longflap extended, and headed back with our luggage to Bristow.

We hoped for a finish before 5 p.m. (sub 10-hours) and pedaled along steadily but without much pop in the legs, wondering why we were so dang slow.

Plus, I had a case of ABB. (For the uninitiated, that’s short for Achy Breaky Butt).

Cockeyed Helmet.

Cockeyed Helmet.

We finished at 4:47 p.m., almost exactly the same time as last year.

So, it must be the course, and maybe the fact that we don’t have a lot of miles in our legs yet in March and maybe started too fast. I lay most of the blame on the course. Verdict: not really all that tandem friendly.

The club’s volunteer organizer for the ride, Hamid A., had the usual DCR pizza, pop and treats waiting for us at the finish, which made everything real good.

Catching up with fellow riders topped off a good day on the bike. Big congrats to the other tandem team today, Cindy P. and John M., and we enjoyed seeing once and future DCR rider Russ M., back from South Korea for a few months before heading off to his new home in Reno.

Russ and Lothar. You may know them as the Korea Randonneurs.

Russ and Lothar. You may know them as the Korea Randonneurs.

Next stop on the brevet train: either the second DCR 200K later this month, or the 300K next month. If we can’t get to the 200K we’ll do something on our own of similar distance to substitute.