MG’s Endless Mountains 1000K: An Experiment in Randonneur Amnesia

It was worth the wait for MG to write her story of the Endless Mountains 1000K story. I always love finding out what MG experienced during long rides — it can be quite different, despite us riding the same bike!

Felkerino and  I set up our 2010 randonneuring season with the Endless Mountains 1000K in Pennsylvania as the pinnacle event. We rode a Super Randonneur series with the D.C. Randonneurs, and then logged various additional rides around the Blue Ridge in order to prep for our big three-day riding extravaganza.

Two weeks prior to the Endless Mountains, I began to worry. I doubted my ability to finish a 1000K.  I had only done one other long brevet (the Cascade 1200K in 2006), and it had been tough. While concerned about my riding abilities over a 1000K distance, I tried to keep my worries to myself, and pored over my activity log for the year. I calculated and recalculated the rides and miles to try to reassure myself that Ed and I were indeed ready.

I knew the Endless Mountains 1000K would be hilly. The route profile showed over 44,000 feet of climbing over 622 miles. That gave me something else to spend my time worrying about. As fellow randonneur Joe Brown says, riding in Pennsylvania is somewhat similar to the D.C. Randonneurs rides, only the hills are steeper.  Felkerino described parts of our ride like riding through terrain where somebody drove a gigantic fork through it, and you claw your way over where the tongs went. Hill after hill after hill. After hill.

Are you getting the sense that the ride was hilly?

While I fretted, Ed readied the bike. In particular, he purchased a set of Velocity Chukker rims for the tandem. According to Velocity, these rims are designed for “the trickster crowd, as well as for the bike polo crowd, and anyone else looking for a bit wider alternative to the tried and true Velocity Deep V.” I guess we fell into the third category, unless randonneurs could somehow be considered tricksters.

We took the Chukkers out for a couple of pre-event test rides and they felt awesome. Stiff and sturdy! We’d had problems with wheels detensioning on us so we wanted to minimize the possibility of that happening again. Those Chukkers gave me confidence in our bike. And as my confidence in the bike grew, so did my belief in our ability to do the ride.

Finally, we arrived at the Weisel Hostel in Quakertown, Pa., to check in with Tom Rosenbauer. What a relief! Our 1000K-day was finally here. No need to look at those log books and fret any more.

Gary Dean, Bob Casciato, Felkerino, and I all grabbed pre-ride dinner together. As we caught up on each others’ summer riding, the topic of why randonneurs do what they do came up.

Me: “I’m not sure why we do these rides.”
Bob: “”When you answer that question is probably the day you stop doing them. Maybe it’s amnesia! We forget how tough they are.”

And with that deep philosophical randonneuring discussion and dinner behind us, we all scurried off for a few hours of sleep prior to the 4 a.m. start.

Day 1. Quakertown to Hallstead, Pa. 218.4 miles.

Sleep came and went, and a few minutes before four a.m., Tom Rosenbauer gave the ride announcements and sent the 24-rider field off. It was a mellow, or perhaps still groggy, group that slowly rolled away from the hostel.

I don’t recall much about the early few miles. We did miss a cue (our only miss on the ride, and our bad, as Tom put together a great cue sheet), but caught it quickly.

A few miles later, I heard sirens. Then I heard more sirens and saw red lights. Oh no. A little later we came upon an accident. One of our fellow riders, George Swain, had been hit from behind. Ambulance lights were going. George was laying on the ground with the paramedics talking to him, about to move him onto a stretcher. Mike Lutz was on the phone with Tom giving him a run-down of the situation. A few other randonneurs were there, too.

George’s beautiful Independent lay in the middle of the road, the rear end crumpled. His water bottles were strewn on the road, ejected from their cages, one in front of the other. The driver of the car that hit him was pacing and smoking a cigarette beside his car. It was awful. We were only 25 miles into the ride, and it was very hard for me not to ride back to the start. I spent a lot of the ride thinking about George, praying that he would be ok.

My next ride recollection is that of approaching and climbing Fox Gap at mile 62. Over this segment, I realized that Ed and I were not coordinating well. That is not a good thing when you are riding a tandem. He wanted to push a bigger gear than I did, and I was riding under the philosophy that I did not want to push too hard. We needed to pace ourselves to be able to ride strong for three days. Ed was determined to stick to his strategy, while I was just as determined to stick to mine.

So that didn’t go very well. Fortunately, we had the Gourmet Gallery control at mile 82 in Blairstown, New Jersey, to give us a nice break. That place made the BEST sandwiches, and we saw a lot of other riders there. We rode out with Vytas Janusauskas, an Ontario randonneur, and spent much of the remaining three days in Vytas’s good company.

The miles continued to pass and we spent the next stretch leapfrogging with Vytas, Mike Lutz, Bill Olsen, and Bob Torres. At one point around the century mark, I saw that Vytas and Mike had stopped at a roadside stand for some fruit. I told Ed, “That looks good,” and Ed kept pedaling. Grrr. Later, I asked Mike how the fruit was. He said it was wonderful. I’m still jealous!

We controlled in at Port Jervis, New York, at mile 120 and kept on pedaling toward Hawk’s Nest on Route 97. Ed and I had ridden this section previously, en route to Niagara Falls. The Delaware River was on our left, and the mountains all around us. I got that great feeling of being “out there,” a million miles away from home and day-to-day life. It was awesome, and I began to settle into the ride.

Ed and I had decided not to eat at Port Jervis and instead, to stop for dinner at the control at mile 147. That was too bad because it was closed. Fortunately, there was a post office nearby. While I couldn’t eat a meal there, I needed water and asked the woman working there if she had a place there where we could fill up our Camelbaks. She responded that she did not, but there was an artesian well right by the stop sign on the corner. Really? That was cool.

“Alright, I said. “Fresh spring water.”
“It’s not spring water,” said another post office patron. “It’s an artesian well.”
“Oh. Right, sorry.” It still sounded great to me.

We refilled, talked with a few other riders, and went in search of food, which didn’t come until Wallenpaupack at mile 160. We ate our convenience store dinner, talked with Gary Dean and Larry Midura, and guess what else. Pedaled onward!

Soon after, we began the climb to Carbondale, Pa. Ed and I had synchronized our paces by this time, and we climbed strongly up the mountain. Ok, we did walk one short steep before the “real climb.” Shhh. Don’t tell anyone!

The sun set, we kept climbing, and then bombed our way into the Carbondale Dunkin Donuts control at mile 185. Guy Harris, one of the great volunteers, was there to greet us and refill our water supply. We talked a little with the other riders; dined on sandwiches, hash browns, and coffee; and watched as more riders showed up. We left the control alone, and then climbed our way out of Carbondale.

I had deluded myself into thinking that the last 35 miles of the day would be smooth sailing. Delusion is a good thing in randonneuring, I think, because if I had really known what the miles out of Carbondale were like I would have been in a really bad mood. We ground along for miles. It wouldn’t have been so bad, except that it was so dark and I was ready to be done for the day. I have decided that night riding is difficult for stokers because you really don’t see ANYTHING, unless you come across a house or a streetlight. And the next 20 miles didn’t seem to have much of either.

Finally, we arrived at New Millford, Pa, mile 213. Ed and I stopped at the Minimart to gather ourselves for the final miles to the overnight. One of the staff came out to say hi to us and to say that she used to have a tandem. For her, it was completely normal that we were out riding our bike through her neighborhood at 11:30 p.m. I asked her what the terrain to Hallstead (our overnight control) was like. She said there was one hill, but that we would hardly notice it. Talking with her and taking a short break renewed my spirits and Ed and I started off again.

Ed said to me, “Mary, I thought you said never to believe what anybody tells you about what the road is like.”
“I know,” I responded. “I just wanted to know if we had anything totally major coming up.”
“Oh I see,” he said. “Like Suicide Mountain or something.”
“Exactly! I want to know if Suicide Mountain is up ahead.”

Suicide Mountain was not up ahead and we had a pleasant final few miles to the control in Hallstead. Guy was there, as were volunteers Jim Logan and Dan Barbasch. It was 12:40 a.m. Sheesh. Oh well, I didn’t care, as long as I got some sleep. I said to no one in particular, “This is one BEEP-kicking ride,” Ed and I grabbed our drop bags, and ran off to shower and sleep for 2.5 hours.

Day 2. Hallstead to Lewisburg, Pa. 218.7 miles.

I was so proud of my bag drop system (and thanks, by the way, to the volunteers for dealing with our drop bags). I had put my outfit for each day in a separate Ziploc bag, and I divided up my pocket food in the same manner. No thinking required. All my brain cells could focus on pedaling and following the cue sheet, not figuring out what jersey to wear.

We took off with a good-sized group at 4:15 a.m., and there we connected with fellow D.C. Randonneurs Scott Gater and Charlie Thomas (who rode the distance with Bob Bruce)… until they dropped the hammer. Ha ha! Do people drop the hammer on 1000K rides? No, they didn’t really drop the hammer. We stopped for gas station breakfast sandwiches and coffee.

Bob Horner stopped with us, and a few minutes later Gary Dean came by. Gary (who was totally efficient at the stops) left after taking a short break, and I didn’t see  Bob and assumed he had left as well. Ed and I did our traditional futzing around, and I went outside to wait for Ed so we could get going again. And there I learned that Bob H. was waiting for us. Thanks, Bob!

Into the morning fog we went. It was a pretty ride to the next control, much of it along the river, and fairly mellow. Our next control was a post office in Tioga Center, New York at mile 261. We arrived, filled out our cards, took a short break, and continued through the quiet roads to the mile 289 control, a Dunkin Donuts in Towanda, New York. Ed and I made this control by 90 minutes or so, and that bothered me. I hate being on the button at controls. I felt like we had been riding well, feeling good, and digging into this ride as much as we could, but it wasn’t yielding the results I wanted. Grr.

I was nervous about our proximity to the edge of the control windows and I talked with Ed about it. He said, “Mary, if we time out, we time out. We are doing the best we can and, at this point, timing out is mostly out of our hands. Until then, let’s keep going.” That was reassuring. No need to freak out yet!

The section from Towanda up to the Heartbreak Hills (around mile 321) were challenging, although I learned a lot about what is going on in this part of the country. It was like being in a Transformers movie. There were big dump trucks and other truck traffic passing us fairly constantly. The roads didn’t have much shoulder, either, so that made it extra tricky. It took a lot of energy to deal with the traffic. We had to be extra vigilant about everything around us.

Ed told me that this area was being heavily affected by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. As a result, there is a lot of exploration being done in the hunt for natural gas. Big trucks that were never meant to ride on these two-lane roads are out and about all the time. I felt bad for the residents of this area, especially those living in the Heartbreak Hills, as it looks like a place where people deliberately choose quiet lives, outside the hustle and bustle. Now they have loud gigantic trucks clawing their way around the area. Yuck.

Speaking of the Heartbreak Hills, that was some mighty tough riding. Grinding ups, followed by twisty downhills that surged back upward at a pitch that didn’t allow us to carry much momentum. The day was beautiful, though, as was the area, which made the climbing more bearable.

After conquering the Heartbreak Hills, or rather, being conquered by them, we began a mighty descent that ultimately took us through Little Pine Creek State Park. At this point, I knew we would not time out at the next control and that the control windows would be more generous from this point until the end of the ride. Relief!

Trees and greenery flanked us, the sun was warm, and the temperatures were perfect. It was a great day to be on the bike. The warmth of the day, combined with the comfort of knowing we would reach the control, relaxed me and made me drowsy. Really. Drowsy.

Ed and I decided to take a 15-minute nap. We paused in a little town, I believe it was English Center, and found perfect napping spots near their community center. I didn’t think I had fallen asleep, until I heard Ed say my name, and I startled awake, disoriented. Oh right, we’re still on this bike ride. Great.

Just then Vytas rode by. We had timed our nap perfectly! We kept each other company through Little Pine Creek State Park and on into the Watersville control at mile 359. I was sure that no one else would be there, but to our surprise we saw Mark Sheehan and Bob Horner. I wandered around the country store, trying to figure out what to eat. Ed had grabbed some potato salad, and it looked so good that Vytas and I copied him.

As I was checking out, I told the cashier that I was sorry I smelled bad. She said, “That’s ok, you’re on a bike ride!” So I did smell bad, but it was an acceptable bad smell? Such is the glamourous life of a randonneur.

Bill Olsen rode up as we were finishing our potato salad, and Vytas, Bill, Ed, and I rode the next 32 miles together. This stretch was beautiful. Water was on our right, and the mountain carved out to our left. It was gorgeous. Overall, the terrain on this section was very forgiving, too, which gave our legs even more recovery miles.

As the sun began to make its big drop for the day, we reached the next control at mile 391 in Lamar, Pa. That was welcome, as Ed and I were both bonking. I didn’t realize how bad my need to eat was until I made my third trip into the bathroom, asking myself, now what did I come in here for? It’s a bathroom, how complicated can it be?

We ate Subway sandwiches, and talked with Mark Sheehan and Guy. Mark put his head down on the table for another catnap, and we readied for the night miles. Our riding posse consisted of Bill O., Vytas, Bob H., Ed, and me. Bill and Ed thought there would be no major climbs in the final 47 miles. They are now corrected, as we had to go over not one, but two climbs before the “day” ended.

The first climb was more gradual than the second, and seemed shorter, too. The full moon kept us company, lighting up enough of our surroundings to make it beautiful. Bill made me laugh because he was telling the group how, if you climbed this mountain during the day, you could hear the water and it was really quite pleasant. In fact, you could still hear the water at night, and I agree with Bill. The sound of it was lovely.

On the second climb I learned a few interesting things. I learned that both Vytas and Bob do cyclocross. I learned that Bob’s wife doesn’t think Super 8’s are very glamorous places. Ha ha! Finally, I learned that sometimes, if you climb up long enough, you may also descend for a very long time. That’s what happened to us. 20 miles of descending, baby! It was like something you experience on the West Coast.

Ed and I were certain that we would hit the overnight stop at 1 a.m., but thanks to that mighty drop, we arrived triumphantly into Lewisburg, Pa., just after midnight. Mostly triumphantly, that is. During the last two climbs, my knees had started to scream at me, especially the right one.

As soon as we entered the hotel, we saw our friend and fellow tandem cyclist, Ron Anderson. Hi, Ron! The man working the overnight shift at the hotel saw us and rushed over to Ed to say, “I saw you ride in, and just wanted to tell you that she’s not pedaling.” Ba dum, Bum! People love those tandem jokes. I have no idea how long that man had held that joke inside of him, waiting and hoping for a tandem to roll into his lobby.

We hung out for a while in the control room, and talked with Ron, Jim, and Guy. Ron gave us an update on George Swain, who had broken 24 bones in his body and was getting surgery while we were riding. I was glad to hear that George’s prognosis was good, but saddened by the extent of his injuries.

After grabbing our drop bags, we made for our room, and repeated our previous day’s routine. Shower, prep for the next day, and a 2.5 hour nap.

Day 3. Lewisburg to Quakertown, Pa. 184.3 miles.

Morning came quickly. Sheesh! Fortunately, Ron had made some strong high-quality coffee to kick off our day, for which I will always think he is awesome. Thank you, Ron Anderson!

At 4:30, Ed and I left the hotel alone and began our final day of riding. The miles to the first control were mostly quiet and had some big rollers. Or maybe they weren’t big, but at this stage of the game, they felt otherwise. The sun rose, bringing us into another perfect day, and we met up with more than ten other riders at the first control. It was a brevet breakfast party.

People seemed in good spirits. I know I was. I was starting to feel that we were inside the finishing stretch of this ride, although it was odd to think of 150 miles left in a bike ride the “finishing stretch.”

After some gas station coffee and breakfast, Ed and I ventured back out on the course. The terrain and warm sun worked its magic on me again, and I started having problems keeping my eyelids open. We stopped at one of the local churches, and I took a catnap on the sidewalk, using my Camelbak as a pillow. Oh yes, this is the life!

Ed said he would wake me up in 15 minutes, but I ended up not needing his alarm services. Bill and Vytas passed by, chatting (and pedaling!) enthusiastically. We hopped back on the tandem, and rode to the next control with them.

Sometimes street names are excellent at telegraphing the next few miles. Our group enjoyed a rather forgiving climb up “Gap Street.” This was followed by Molleystown Road, which was also a climb, and where Ed and I had our first and only tandem team meeting of any significance. I did not agree with the way Ed had pedaled through the intersection. Ed thought that I was telling him to turn right, which was not what the cue sheet indicated.

Looking back on it, this does not seem like anything that would warrant a tandem team meeting, but after riding 488 miles, it’s not just your rear end that gets a little frayed, ha ha! We stopped for a second to regroup and Vytas rolled back and asked, “Is it time to get out the hacksaw?” Ed and I informed Vytas that a hacksaw would not be necessary, as our bike has couplers, and we only need a special wrench. We concluded our meeting and descended to mile 491.5 in Pine Grove.

The Pine Grove stop was full of riders finishing their second breakfast and stashing their reflective gear. We spoke briefly with Christine Newman who said that someone had openly laughed at her outfit in the bathroom. She looked good to me, but I guess not everyone is a fan of randonneur fashion.

As Vytas, Ed, and I readied to leave this control, another rider rolled into the stop. He seemed happy to see us, and wanted to talk. We wondered if there was a randonneur out there who we might have missed. We realized that he was on his own ride, and Vytas informed the rider that he was too clean to be riding with us. Ha ha!

We asked the rider where he was headed and he said he hoped to do around 140 miles or something. Of course, that did not impress us because we were riding 184 miles for the day, after having ridden a kerpillion miles already! We faked being impressed, though (politeness is a randonneur virtue), wished the rider “Bonne route,” and carried on.

The section to the next control had me a little worried because people had mentioned that we would soon “cross the Appalachian Trail.” To me, that is code for “climb your brains out.” However, except for one mighty, but short, steep, the ascent was quite manageable. It also came with a nice payoff, as the view from the Appalachian Trail was excellent. It was another “out there” moment. We were at the highest point in the area, and all around us was blue sky, greenery, and descents. Yay, descents!

We cruised our way in and out of the control in Jonestown, Pa., mile 508. We caught up to Bob Horner, who would ride with us the rest of the day, and a few other riders. The landscape in this section was rolling and the route felt rather drunken sailory, as we meandered down one gently winding road to the next.

This is also the section where Bob discovered the secret power elixir of GU powder and Mountain Dew. He was very excited about this discovery and many of the miles to the post office control were spent discussing Bob’s new drink of choice. Apparently, Bob felt it was unlocking all his energy reserves. Our group thought he was a little crazy, and definitely a risk-taker for going into uncharted fueling waters on a 1000K.

Bob said, “On these rides, it always seems that I try one new thing that doesn’t work, and one thing that does.” He was quite pleased that the GU plus Mountain Dew was so successful. I don’t remember what he tried that had failed.

I thought about what Bob said, and found myself agreeing somewhat. I often will try one new thing on a long ride, even though common sense tells me that a long ride is not the optimal time to do it. For this ride, I had thrown in a pair of cycling shorts that I had never ridden in any longer than 50 miles, and crossed my fingers. They ended up being AWESOME! I only tried one new thing, though, so I lucked out that it went well.

On the other hand, Vytas mentioned that he had varied from his normal routine by deciding to carry lots of Clif bars. He had tried one on a ride recently, thought they tasted good, and added them to his 1000K nutrition plan. By the second day, he was rethinking that decision, and as the third day progressed his disdain for the Clif bar increased dramatically. 1000K changeup fail!

Ed and I spent many of the next 50 miles riding with or around: Christine Newman, Bill Olsen, Mike Anderson, Bob Torres, Bob Olsen, Bob Horner (lots of Bobs on this ride!), Jon Clamp, and Vytas. Scott, Charlie and Bob Bruce were always getting ready to pull out of the control as we were arriving. Pedaling with or near so many other riders helped the miles pass and made the day feel festive.

We stopped at the post office control in Mt. Aetna, Pa., and I can’t remember when I had so much fun in a post office parking lot. It’s one of my favorite memories of the event. Everybody hung out together for several minutes, and no one seemed rushed. We enjoyed a bit of civility by just standing and talking, and then off we all went again, back on this mad crazy adventure.

The next section was a slog. The miles were pleasant, but Ed was drowsy. We pulled over with Vytas, Bob H., and Bob T. I grabbed some potato chips, and Ed napped on the curb.

Closing the eyes for a few minutes helped renew Ed, and our group made its way to the Turkey Hill control at mile 548 in Brownstown, Pa. That stop was even more fun than the post office. It was a 1000K party, as at least 13 riders converged here. Per usual, Charlie, Bob B., and Scott were just getting ready to roll out. This time they were with one other rider, who I believe was Ernest Landry.

I snapped my obligatory control photo of Charlie, Bob, and Scott, and ran inside to see what convenience store delicacies awaited me. I chose a chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich, and snagged a spot on the curb. We must have been quite a sight, all of us scattered along the curb, with our bikes resting against various parts of the convenience store itself. Andrew Mead was there doing a headcount (also looking very clean, compared to all of us, who were beginning to look pretty scruffy) and we enjoyed talking with him and finding out where others were on the course. He took some great shots of the group at this stop, too. Thanks, Andrew!

I spoke with Bob Olsen, who mentioned his neck was starting to give him problems and he was having indications of the onset of Shermer’s Neck. He even bought bungee cords here and that sort of freaked me out. We joked around about us switching places on our bikes. I would ride Bob’s single, and he could just prop his head on Ed’s back in my stoker spot. That would just blow the ACP officials’ minds, we thought.

Ultimately, we did not switch bikes, and we set out pedaling yet again. (Unfortunately, Bob did get Shermer’s Neck, but was able to finish the ride with Bill Olsen and Christine.) Our new riding posse consisted of Vytas, Bob H., Mike A., Jon, and Bob T. Soon after leaving town we ran into a local rider who thought it was just awesome that we were out riding on his regular evening riding loop. He asked us about our route, and talked with us about the area. We were riding through Lancaster County, which is Amish country. Our fellow cyclist told us that if we saw a black horse-drawn buggy, it was Mennonite, and that a gray buggy indicated it was Amish. This was the educational part of my ride, in addition to Bob’s GU plus Mountain Dew portion.

Our local rider ultimately took a left, and we took a right to head toward Morgantown, Pa. This section was full of lots of tobacco. Tobacco may be bad for your health, but it is a beautiful crop, with big green leaves. We passed one white barn where we could see they had hung the leaves to cure. Gorgeous.

As we approached Morgantown via Weaverland Road, the traffic picked up and it got a little crazy. Cars and trucks were making their way to their late-afternoon commitments, and several Amish buggies (gray, see, I remembered) were out and about as well. Throw the cyclists into the mix and it was two-lane highway overload. The cars were impatient with the varying forms of slow-moving traffic and we heard brakes squeal around us a couple of times. Stressful!

I felt a wave of bleariness and my demeanor descended into general poor spirits. Ed wanted to push on past Morgantown without stopping, but I told him I needed a break. He wasn’t thrilled about the idea, but he stopped at a store just outside of Morgantown. The rest of our group stopped with us, which made me feel better about stopping. I went inside, but couldn’t find the potato chips. I walked around looking and looking.

“Ed, I looked all over. I can’t find the potato chips. Where are they?” I was fighting tears.
“They are right behind you, Mary.”
Yes, they were. I had really been bonking!

Our group ate our treats and talked. Vytas noted that Clif bars were like a Swiffer for your mouth, soaking up every last drop of saliva in it. He really had strong feelings about these Clif bars!

Stopping for a non-Clif-bar snack did wonders for my morale and my energy level. I felt so much better. My disposition was a lot like the ride. Sometimes I was thinking this was the best thing ever and I was ascending to new randonneuring heights. Then I would despair and think this was one of the silliest summer plans I had ever made. Still other moments, I rolled contentedly along, not thinking too much about anything. Yes, just as the ride had over 44,000 feet of climbing, I believe I experienced approximately the same number of mood swings.

The miles to the next control were tandem-friendly, and we had an awesome time on this section. We enthusiastically pedaled our way through beautiful rolling terrain along back roads in the afternoon sunset. There were a couple of perfect rollouts where the tandem approached 55 miles per hour. Jon said that we moved “like a rocket.” Yeah, baby!

As we rode and talked, Bob H. said that Ed and I should get special privileges because of our exclusive tandem status. People do love to see tandems. They smile at them. They wave at them. They point and yell cute things at them. “Look! A two-people bike!” “Who does all the pedaling?” You get the idea.

However, while the terrain itself was tandem-friendly, the people were not. Our tandem magic did not work here. Ed and I would pass by people’s houses, I would wave, and no one would even look at us. They did not care about our tandem awesomeness. We all had a good laugh about that, and pedaled our way to the next control, in hopes that the residents of the next town would be more into our tandem and pay attention to us, ha ha!

As the sun was going down for good, we arrived at our penultimate control in Limerick, Pa. Tom Rosenbauer was there to greet us and Charlie, Scott, and Bob were (you guessed it) getting ready to roll out. We had covered 592 miles and, with the exception of my right knee, I felt good. A sandwich and a cup of coffee later, and I felt even better. Bob Torres said that as long as we maintained a 3.1 mile per hour pace, we would make the cutoff for the ride. Hearing that comment exponentially buoyed my confidence about finishing.

I came down with a terrible case of the sleep deprivation randonneur blabs at this control. I could not stop talking! Blah blah blah! Blah blah blah! I told Jon I was sorry I couldn’t stop talking, I just couldn’t help it. Then I kept talking.

I asked Tom what the final miles would be like, and he said they would have little traffic, but it was full of steeps. I was glad to have been forewarned that it would be a slog. It did not disappoint. We twisted, turned, and climbed our way back to Quakertown. My knees were shouting at me, but I tried to ignore them. Be quiet knees, I’m working here!

Ed and I were the lead navigators for the final miles. Fortunately for the group, this helped to quell my sleep deprivation randonneur blabs, since I had to devote all my concentration to the route. Except for the ascending, where we were the slowest of our fellow riders, it made sense for us to lead. Ed had the GPS, and I could focus solely on the cue sheet, given that I had no steering responsibilities. We thought maybe some in our group would want to push on ahead, but they seemed content to ride the final miles in with us. Thanks, guys!

In the last fifteen miles, Bob H. and Jon did ride ahead of us for a little bit. They decided it would be exciting to attack each other on the climb up to the Finland Inn. It was pretty funny to watch, and I loved that even after riding 610 miles, nobody had lost their senses of humor.

After what felt like forever we reached our final control, the Weisel Hostel in Quakertown. It had taken us over 2.5 hours to ride the final 30 miles. We didn’t set any speed records, but our group of six had stuck together and completed the final stretch without missing a cue.

Overall, it took us 67 hours and 37 minutes to traverse 622 miles and pedal right back to the place we started. That’s the brilliance of randonneuring.

Volunteers Christiane and Gilbert Torres were at the finish to cheer us in and make us official ride finishers. Thank you! I was enveloped in euphoria and my sleep deprivation randonneur blabs returned with a vengeance. I’m not sure how I managed to eat my bowl of chili, given all the talking I was doing.

Overall, Ed and I had an excellent ride. I still love him and think he is the best tandem partner ever so I consider that a brevet success! We prepared as well as we could, both mentally and physically, for the terrain we encountered. And even though the course was difficult, it relented in places, and we were able to use that terrain to recover and prepare for the next challenging sections.

The course has some incredibly beautiful parts, and it is evident from the cue sheet to the volunteer support that Tom puts great care into his events.

Services were not as plentiful as I imagined they would be and we subsisted mostly on gas station food. That was OK. It’s a natural outcome of riding in rural countryside. I was glad that I pre-packed a fair amount of pocket food for each day.

The group experience on this ride was outstanding. Ed and I had the chance to ride with many of the other riders at different points on the ride, and I never felt strung out. There were always people around us, and that helped the miles pass. Thanks to everybody who kept us company on the ride.

My heart is still heavy about what happened to George. His accident reminds me of our fragility, as well as our resilience. I hope his recovery continues to go well.

When I finished the 1000K, I told Ed that this would be the last ride over 600K that I would ever do. EVER! Now a little time has passed, my knee pain has ebbed, I’ve caught up on my sleep, and the sense of accomplishment and good memories of the ride have surged to the forefront of my mind. It’s that randonneur amnesia kicking in. Maybe I’ll do another 1000K someday. Just maybe.


Ed’s PA 1000K: The Toughest Randonnee You’ll Ever Love

I’ve written up the story of our Pennsylvania Randonneurs Endless Mountains 1000K. It’s been four years since we undertook a major randonnee on the tandem and it was a good event for us. It certainly felt like the 2006 Cascade 1200 (our other randonnee together) in difficulty, but with steeper climbs and many more of them. In that regard, it was more like Boston-Montreal-Boston.

I’ve also captioned my photos, in case you want to see the names and the places. They’re at my Flickr page.

Finally, after some digging around on the memory card on my Garmin and getting some tips from Garmin-expert Nick Bull, I pulled together a GPS track of the entire ride. It is at my Garmin Connect page.

The basic stats: 44,277 feet of climbing! Top speed of 55 m.p.h.! 47:11 moving, 20:37 stopped!

Today we’re sitting down, still, as our knees continue to recover. The typical “let’s go ride!” impulse we have on sunny three-day weekends is losing out to “let’s heal” common sense.

Endless Mountains 1000K Aug. 26-28, 2010: The Toughest Randonnee You’ll Ever Love

by Edward Felker
Sept. 4, 2010

Photos at my Flickr page. Our GPS track is at Garmin Connect.


My wife MG and I planned our randonneuring program this year around the Pennsylvania Randonneurs Endless Mountains 1000K randonnee. We wanted to see if we, too, could get a tandem around the hilly and occasionally mountainous course designed by RBA Tom Rosenbauer.

We prepared with a fleche, a full brevet series and 1,500K of long, hilly rides in June and July. After a three-week break from hard riding, we arrived at Quakertown on Aug. 25 to begin the event.

MG and I typically have mixed emotions at the start of big events. She gets a case of nerves, while I get all giddy with excitement after the months of planning.

Gradually we exchange places during the ride. MG gets excited about the finish and I gradually start to drag from sleep deprivation and fatigue. It works out fine in the end, but the night before the start, we’re in our own jittery worlds.

After checking in at the Hampton Inn, we met up with our pals Bob Casciato (also nervous) and Gary Dean (who is riding everything this year) at the Weisel Youth Hostel that serves as the home base for Tom’s rides. Tom, ever organized, bounded out of his car and handed out carefully prepared packets of cue sheets, post office control drop cards, and pre-labeled bag drop tags.

He also showed the framed finishers’ medals ready to give us when we returned. Not if, but when. Right. We liked Tom’s optimism!

After a pleasant dinner with Bob and Gary at McCoole’s Red Lion Inn, we retired to our hotel rooms to get our little naps before the 4 a.m. start. MG and I finished our drop bags and turned in around 10 p.m., more than a little aware that the four hours sleep ahead would be our longest until Saturday night.

Day 1 Quakertown-Hallstead, Pa. 218 miles.

We arrived to find randonneurs hustling through the dark grassy parking area at the hostel, unloading bikes and donning reflective gear. Tom put out his usual spread of breakfast snacks and drinks. I hauled our Co-Motion down from the roof rack, attached the front fender and stuffed rain jackets, food and the rest of our gear into the Carradice rear bag.

Tom called us all 24 of us together around 3:50 a.m. and gave us the final pre-ride pep talk under a cloudless, starry sky. I bounded into the restroom only to emerge to find riders rolling out. “Come on Ed, Tom started everyone already,” MG said. I fired up the front Dinotte 200L and B&M Ixon IQ lights, steadied the bike for MG to board, and we took off after the group.

The field was made up of many randonneuring veterans, including Gary and Bob, Larry Midura, Laurent Chambard, Mark Sheehan, Bob Olsen and Bill Olsen (not related). Also attending were our fellow local DC Randonneurs Charlie Thomas and Scott Gater, who finished the EM1240 last year. We saw a number of other faces we would come to know better over the next three days.

The first job at hand was to get past the Bethlehem area before rush hour traffic. Traffic was building after 5 a.m. but all was well until mile 26 on Howertown Road, when we saw the dreaded flashing lights of emergency responders. There we found a bike on the pavement with its rear wheel pretzeled, bottles laying nearby, and a rider stretched out on the grass surrounded by medics.

Mike Lutz told us the rider, George Swain, had been hit. The road was narrow, but most of the traffic was oncoming. The driver was parked nearby, pacing and smoking a cigarette. We would find out later he claimed not to have seen George, and was cited for distracted driving while George was found to have been riding properly and well-lit. He just plowed right into George.

George would sustain two dozen broken bones but, miraculously, no internal injuries. His family has set up a blog site about his recovery. See more at Our best wishes go to him and his family.

We waited for a few minutes, then proceeded reluctantly, deeply disturbed by the accident. We felt the threat of every overtaking car and truck. We talked about returning to the start if our fears did not subside.

The first control at mile 52 was a Sunoco swarmed with car commuters, where the clerks declined to initial our cards. We kept receipts for proof. The fog lifted and with many miles of climbing ahead, everyone quickly left the control.

The climb up Fox Gap to the Appalachian Trail was very hard. We had summited before on a 200K in 2008 and it was every bit as grueling as we remembered. MG and I turned the granny ring for much of the way with little to no shoulder and cars whizzing past. We were still uncertain about what we had gotten ourselves into, but kept pedaling.

Our outlook had brightened by the time we met Vytas Janusauskas of Ottawa, Canada at the pedestrian bridge over the Delaware River. He would ride much of the event with us.

The Gourmet Gallery control at Blairstown, N.J. was heavenly. We bought lunch sandwiches, espresso and other drinks and sat at outdoor picnic tables. The sandwiches were big enough to take leftovers with us for later!

Off came the knee and arm warmers, and we started another serious climb to the top of Millbrook Road. Later we stopped with most everyone at the quaint general store at mile 103 in Layton, where we all ate and bought water.

At the gritty town of Port Jervis, N.Y. at mile 120, we were warm and starting to feel the many hills in our legs. The time was after 2 p.m. and we were a little worried about our progress. The diner control was a basic affair and we decided to sit down at the next control, a pizza cafe along the Lackawaxen River at mile 147.

The shallow, twisting climb up Rt. 97 was familiar to us and we enjoyed the sweeping river valley views. Despite a light headwind, the flat run along the river was a welcome relief and we talked about all the pizza we were going to eat. Yum. Not convenience store food.

The sun was starting to mellow as we arrived with Bob Horner of Powell, Ohio at the control, famished, only to find that it was permanently closed! This was a big disappointment, and there was nothing else nearby for food. The adjacent post office was still open and we bought some stamps to verify our passage.

The folks at the post office helpfully pointed out a drinking water source, a pipe from an artesian well. We filled up, glumly dug out some energy bars and hit the road.

Luckily we found a good Turkey Hill convenience store about 12 miles later at Lake Wallenpaupack, where we visited with Gary Dean and other riders. Next came the steady ascent over rollers and then a major climb to the highest point on the route at 2,159 feet. We were the last riders on the course at this point. Sigh.

We chatted with Chris Nadovich on his lovely Rivendell Atlantis, and saw Laurent on the way up. Route sweep Guy Harris drove by and offered encouragement, and we felt pretty good despite our position in the field.

The descent was fast and brief to the Dunkin Donuts control in Carbondale, which is quite the popular place on a Thursday evening. The DD was filled with riders and local folks. Guy topped off bottles in the parking lot and skateboarder kids hung out, looking at the bike weirdos in their night gear.

We ate sandwiches, drank coffee and made a couple of phone calls before hauling ourselves out into the night for the run to Hallstead. Little did we know we were in for another cruel granny ring climb out of Carbondale.

We got up the hill with a fair bit of complaining, and tried to settle in for the miles to New Milford. We struggled to stay alert, despite the bright full moon. I chewed on Clif Shot blocks and MG got out Accelerade gel, both with caffeine.

At the store at New Milford we stopped to turn over our cue sheets. The cashier came out and a customer at the gas pumps both asked us where we were going — without expressing any surprise that it was close to midnight! “I had a bicycle for two when I was a kid, and rode it with my mother,” she said.

I asked about the terrain to Hallstead, only seven miles away.

“Just one little rise!” she said cheerfully, and of course we did not believe her. Thankfully she was right, and we arrived at the hotel at 12:40 without another major climb. The control room food was a little meager but we got some cold lasagna, chips and drinks and bee-lined it for showers and sleep. Volunteer Jim Logan was helpful and got someone to take our bags to our room. He also took our 3:30 a.m. wakeup request.

We found out that Bob Casciato, leading the field, had withdrawn because of a medical issue. We expected him to ride through the event without any hiccups, but were glad to know he had made a prudent decision.

MG and I turned in, somewhat exhausted, and wondered how we’d get through the next day. After more than 20 hours riding we were still well short of the 400K mark.

We had hoped to get three hours sleep, but that was not to be if we were to make the morning controls. I counted on the fact that some shut-eye makes everything better, and we happily succumbed to sleep’s welcome embrace.

Day 2: Hallstead, Pa. to Lewisburg, Pa. 219 miles

The wakeup knock came far too early for civilized people, but not for randonneurs!

Neither of us were very hungry and we left without eating around 4:15 with Scott, Charlie, Bob Horner, Mike Lutz, Mike Anderson and Bob Bruce.

The fog was thick and around 5:30 a.m. we stopped for coffee and breakfast sandwiches with Bob H. and Gary Dean, while the rest went on. Gary had gone down when a car brushed him and he slowed until we rolled by. He bruised his elbow and lost his computer magnet, but was otherwise OK — and remarkably calm about it all. He told us he fell, but failed to tell us a car was the cause!

The stop was just what we all needed to keep us awake during the grey, foggy ride over easy terrain through Owego to the postcard control at Tioga Center, N.Y.

The next segment to Towanda, Pa., featured lots of little rollers, some quite steep, and river views. The fog lifted and we arrived warm and hungry with about 70 minutes to spare — very close for comfort.

Our pal Maile N., who checked out the EM 1240K last fall, told us on the phone the night before to keep eating, and she was so right.

We were starting to bonk by the time we arrived at each control. MG and I bought some Dunkin Donuts’ surprisingly good panini sandwiches and more coffee. The local customers didn’t bat an eye at the rather large group of cyclo-nuts in line. We left under brilliant skies and temperatures in the upper 70s.

Towanda is certainly pretty, with beautiful homes, but was showing the stress of the natural gas drilling rush going on in northern Pennsylvania. Heavy trucks were everywhere. Bob H. later told us he was run off the narrow uphill road leaving town, along a curb that he had to hop to get out of the way of a big truck. He banged his big chainring on the curb and it would later give him shifting problems.

Tom later told us he had to send us on the main road, Rt. 414, to Canton, Pa., because the quieter side road he used in past editions was too damaged by trucks. The truck traffic is all part of the hydro-fracturing drilling process that has swept through the Marcellus Shale region. This controversial practice is detailed in more depth here:

We saw a steady stream of 18-wheel tankers and giant dump trucks as we pedaled along, but most were going the other way. This section featured shallow rollers and we enjoyed the clear day and moderate temperatures, though we had to contend with another slight westerly headwind. Still, MG and I were starting to suffer from sleep deprivation and saddle soreness. We stopped at a shaded drive to take ibuprofen and slather on some chamois creme.

Our eyes were on the clock. We faced another tight control window at Canton. We decided that if we timed out, we would agree that we did our best. It was a sobering realization that we were on the verge of DNQ’ing.

With relief, we made it to the Acorn Store control at mile 315, with about 80 minutes to spare. We had actually put another 10 minutes in the bank! We had about five hours to make the next control at mile 358, and felt the pressure lift a bit.

The drama was only beginning, though. A few miles later we began tackling the 15-mile segment of increasingly steep ridge rollers on Rt. 414 dubbed the “Heartbreak Hills” by our friends Crista Borras and Chuck Wood. They were the first tandem team to complete the EM1K, in 2008, and still hold the low tandem time of 65:35.

None of the hills were long, but they were tall enough that we had to drop to the granny. There was little payoff: the descents were twisty and I had to brake to stay in our lane.

Not helping were the dump trucks on the road barreling to a natural gas construction site. Fortunately our low gear of 26×34 was easy enough for us to get over all but one rise, where we hopped off and walked a short stretch rather than serpentine our way to the top.

Finally the road turned off the ridge at Liberty and we gratefully began the long descent into the forested, notched Pine Creek Gorge area. With the big effort behind us, MG and I began to again feel the weight of sleep deprivation.

It’s amazing how descents can bring out the yawns. We surrendered to the urge and parked for a 15-minute nap at a community center near the metal bridge before Little Pine Creek State Park.

Despite the occasional dump truck rumbling past, we had no problem drifting off, and felt much refreshed for it. Vytas rolled up and joined us for the forested creekside rollers to McConnell’s Country Store control at mile 358. There we rested and ate with Mark Sheehan, Laurent, Bob H. and Bill Olsen.

The staff was very nice and sold me some terrific potato salad, which filled my craving for something not made of sugar or in chip form.

We rolled out with Vytas and Bill, and pedaled over moderate hills to Lamar, Pa. with a stop to admire one of the Goodyear blimps at an airport near Lock Haven. Again, MG and I were sleepy — she emerged from the Pilot Truck Stop control restroom having forgotten why she went in!

We lingered over caffeinated drinks, ate Subway sandwiches and tried to get our wits collected. Guy was there as was Christine, who had ridden through the night before. We left in a main group of us, Vytas, Bob H., and Bill.

The night ride to the hotel in Lewisburg was initially familiar to me because it skirted the State College area, where I have ridden previously.

I knew we were in for a stair-step climb up Long Run Road, but was taken by surprise by the tough, 3.6 mile twisty grinder up Bull Run Road. We were overtaken by an 18-wheeler just as we began the descent down to Rt. 192, it’s taillights showing the way down the steep switchbacks.

After a short ascent on Rt. 192, the 20-mile descent to Lewisburg began. We knew a downhill was ahead, but had not idea that it kept going, and going!

MG and I took the lead and bombed over the sections where the surface had been milled for repaving. There’s something about an 8-foot long bike with 32mm tires to smooth out the road, and I kept my hands off the brakes. Ominously, however, MG’s knee began to ache as we coasted for long stretches.

We caught up Christine as we rolled into Lewisburg at 12:10 a.m. where we were warmly greeted by control captain Ron Anderson and Jim Logan, who got us fed and into our room quickly. Another 3:30 a.m. wakeup call, showers and sleep. One day to go. We were beginning to think we’d make it!

Day 3: Lewisburg-Quakertown, Pa. 184 miles.

MG and I were dragging this morning, no doubt about it. Randonneur zombies!

I woke up famished and ate another bowl of lasagna in the control room, along with my latest doses of Pepcid AC and ibuprofen. Ron thoughtfully brewed Starbucks coffee. I wanted to hug him. Coffee snobs unite!

There was more than a little concern for Ron that Laurent had not come in yet. Word was that he had stopped to sleep by the side of the road before the descent to Lewisburg. (Laurent eventually got picked up after waking up too late to get to Lewisburg).

MG and I groggily re-mounted and made our way along rail lines to the first control at a gas station store at Herndon. Yet another convenience store stop. Nothing looked good.

I bought a big cup of half coffee-half hot chocolate — the only way I can drink gas station coffee — and downed the “half-pounder” breakfast burrito. Whoa.

The two Olsens, Christine, Mark S., Vytas, Bob Bruce, Scott and Charlie were there, looking a little worse for wear but in good spirits. We took heart from the fact that we were still showing up at controls before everyone else left.

MG and I made our way as far as the quiet, bucolic Rt. 3016 before she began nodding off. The little Emmanuel Chapel offered a serene wayside for another 15-minute nap in the warming morning sun. We were getting set to go when we heard Bill Olsen and Vytas talking on their way up the hill.

More climbs led us to the control at Pine Grove. We gnawed on little personal pizzas. Christine came out of the restrooms and told MG that someone had laughed at her cycling outfit. Imagine that!

Under clear skis, we rode with Vytas toward the next control, 16 miles away at Jonestown. This stretch featured more hills, including the Swatara Gap, and the sun was hot as we arrived. The good news was that we were now only about 115 miles from the finish. What could be easier, right? HAHAHA!

By the time we got to Mt. Aetna, all of us were dragging. A small crowd of riders were hanging out in the parking lot. A few miles previous I had rolled into an intersection too fast and had to take evasive action to avoid a car coming from our right. This was my second errant moment at the helm today and was a wake-up call that my reaction time was slowing.

A bunch of us stopped again in about six miles, where I took a little catnap of 10 minutes. It was enough to sharpen my focus a little, but I was still wary of making another mistake.

The run through Amish and Mennonite farm lands was slow-slow-slow. We saw a number of club cyclists out for their rides looking remarkably clean and fresh, and I envied their snappy legs. MG and I were suffering by this time, from sore butts, achy knees and general sluggishness.

The miles seemed to drag but we finally arrived at Brownstown, where everyone hung out on the curb eating, drinking and talking. And, most importantly, sitting. Bob Olsen bought bungee cords to deal with Shermer’s Neck. Andrew Mead came by on his bike, took a head count for Tom and gave us all some kind words. Thanks Andrew.

Bob H. joked that the sidewalk ramp to the store was the perfect take-off incline for the randonneur bikes. The “Randonneur Ramp” may have been officially borne there and then!

With 75 miles to go, MG and I were confident of finishing, but knew it would take awhile. I tried not to look at my watch and just ride.

With Bob H., Vytas, Jon Clamp and Michael Anderson, we got through the heavy traffic at Morgantown and took another stop at a store at Mile 571.

A nice downhill section on pleasant Harmonyville Road gave us a chance to spread our wings before we got back to work over the bridge over the Schuylkill River and the narrow, traffic-y climb to the last control at mile 592.

Tom was there to urge us to take care on the final segment to the finish, which was composed of many turns and back roads — and lots more climbing. He said “a couple of steeps,” or something like that.

MG and I gobbled sandwiches, took pictures and waited for Bob Torres, who arrived a little after us, to reset and head out with the group.

The next 2.5 hours were fun and horrible at the same time.

We certainly enjoyed our little group of Vytas, Bob H., Jon, Mike and Bob T. as we crawled up the hills and flew down the few descents. It was completely dark and MG called the cues to me, while I double-checked our route against our GPS.

The bad part was that our knees were in near constant pain by now and it was hard to sit. We were pedaling squares! Adding insult, my shifting skills fell apart. I kept choosing the wrong gear for standing climbing, which only made our knees worse.

I dared not look at the clock — I didn’t want to know how slowly we were progressing. I asked Vytas to take the group ahead, but he only yelled out, “Anyone unhappy with the pace?!” Bob H. yelled back, “can we slow down some more?” and with that we trudged onward.

All that said, the miles piled up, we had nearly perfectly quiet roads, and at 11:37 the hostel showed appeared around the corner.

I was floored to find out we had finished before midnight — for once we made better time than I perceived, rather than slower. MG and I shared a grateful hug to be done after so many long hours in the saddle.

We were met by volunteers Gilbert and Christiane Torres and their post-ride spread of snacks and vegetarian chili. Food not in wrappers! Thank guys!

And, of course, we claimed that framed medal we had seen more than 67 hours before.


Our GPS track showed us climbing more than 44,000 feet. That explains why we were so trashed at the end. OK, now we don’t feel so bad.

We learned a lot on this ride.

First, Tom calls this a “not-tandem friendly” course and we would agree, but it was do-able. The toughest day was the second, though MG thinks it was the first. We had to stay focused to make the second-day controls, and then to get through the toughest hills of the three days.

This course demands respect. Push too hard and you’ll blow up. Tarry too long and you will time out. Keep moving.

We loved the scenic sections and were also entirely relieved to be done. That’s randonneuring, I guess.

Second, we pushed too hard on the first day, mostly at my urging. It came back to haunt us with sore knees later in the ride. We would have done better to cut our rest stops shorter and ride slightly slower. LEARN.

Lastly, the help of volunteers and fellow riders makes all the difference. We are so grateful for the company of those who rode with us and helped keep our spirits high. We were impressed by the skills and patience of our fellow randonneurs.

To them and to our superb volunteers Tom, Guy, Ron, Jim, Gilbert, Christiane and everyone else who contributed to our success: THANK YOU ALL!

Tapering for the Endless Mountains 1000K

As you can see, I’ve put TDR on a little hiatus for the past two weeks — but I have a good reason. MG and I are currently in the middle of a good solid block of rest before tackling the Endless Mountains 1000K next Thursday.

That not only means scaling back our rides to commuting and coffee jaunts, but also trying to get a lot of sleep, eat well, and get caught up on home and family time.

MG has written about what I call the “quiet period” before a major randonnee over at her blog, Chasing Mailboxes.

The idea is to calm down, bank energy and build motivation. It’s not all that easy, but I’ve found that taking it easy for a three weeks or so pays big dividends in terms of fresh legs and a more positive attitude when the event begins.

We also have put College Park Bicycles to work helping us get the tandem in order. The bike was ready for help after we completed 1,500K of hilly riding between the D.C. Randonneurs 600K back in early June and our last long outing in late July. Something about all that standing climbing puts a real hurt on our wheels, despite riding big 700×32 Paselas and staying on good pavement.

Anyway, more about the maintenance side tomorrow! For now, we’ll leave you with the fact that we managed to again force a Phil Wood product into noisy complaint and send one of Velocity’s toughest rims to an early demise.

Right now I’m in southern Illinois with daughter DF visiting my mom and sister for a week. Life in a town of a few hundred people, with no traffic lights, no grocery store, and corn stretching in every direction certainly forces one to slow down. That’s a good thing. We came to visit two years ago before PBP and it was very restful before that whopper of a trip.

At Cave In Rock State Park, Ill., overlooking the Ohio River and Kentucky.

We send our best wishes to TDR buddy Nick Bull, who starts the Seattle International Randonneurs 1000K on Thursday! Plus, a belated “we missed you” to the DCR’s who rode and volunteered at the club’s ACP 200K in Warrenton, Va. last Saturday. RBA Bill Beck’s report is below.

17 riders showed up in Warrenton for the summer running of the Old Rag 200K. The weather was about the best that could be hoped for in Virginia in August – overcast with temperatures mostly in the 70s. The route is one of the prettiest that DC Randonneurs rides, and it was nice to see it in summer since we usually see it only in April. Every one of the starters finished, and all in less than 11 hours.

Thanks to Roger Hillas for organizing the ride and providing a yummy selection of food at the start and finish. Thanks also to Kelly Smith who helped with rider checkin at the finish. And a special thanks to Chip Adams for volunteering at the start, finish, AND secret control on his wedding anniversary!

Preliminary results are now posted at A GPS track is at My photos are posted at

Our next ride is the Civil War Tour on September 18. (

Good luck to all of the DC Randonneurs riding 1000Ks over the next couple of weeks! It looks like that includes:

Nick Bull at the Seattle Summer 1000K on August 19.

Dan Blumenfeld, Bob Casciato, Gary Dean, Ed Felker, Scott Gater, Mary Gersema, Lane Giardina, and Bill Olsen at the PA 1000K on August 26.

John and Nancy Guth and George Moore at the NC 1000K on Sept 3.


All In at the Central Coast 1000K, Roger Hillas reports

Roger Hillas posted this report on the results of the Santa Cruz Randonneurs Central Coast 1000K . Congratulations to Roger, Lothar Hennighausen and Mike Dayton on their successful rides. Mike also posted a number of reports and some pictures at his Research Trailer Park blog. Way to go, guys! And, an extra attaboy to Jack Holmgren, our buddy from rides past. — Ed

By Roger Hillas
June 27, 2010

Lothar finished at 6:20 this morning. I was fortunate to finish a few hours before dark last night. Mike Dayton finished a bit after me, and Joel Lawrence, also from NC, a few hours after that. That’s the entirety of the East Coast contingent.

What a stunning ride Lois and Bill have created! They did it in the self-reliant fashion they both advocate for riders, designing the route and handling the essential logistics themselves. The result is both beautiful and enlightening. The iconic section down the Pacific Coast Highway from Carmel to Ragged Point is balanced by the trip inland to King City, the vast fruit and vegetable fields of the Salinas Valley and the thousands of people out working in those fields as we pushed off before sunlight, the barren dunes down by Vandenburg Air Force Base, and the Sideways country on Foxen Canyon Road north of Solvang.

The route is tough but fair. Climbing sections are balanced by flatter sections, although the strong winds off the coast meant that the latter were not always easier than the former. The toughest day was Friday, when we warmed up for the Pacific Coast Highway (basically the Skyline Drive with an ocean view) by riding the sixty miles up the Salinas Valley from King City to Carmel into a stiff headwind. But just when it seemed that none of us would get to San Luis Obispo until the wee hours of Saturday, the wind swung around to our backs at Ragged Point and we were riding at 22 mph on the flats for the final 50 miles of the stage.

Lois and Bill keep the pre-ride publicity low-key, and they drew a field of strong, experienced randonneurs, including two five-time PBP anciennes (and Lois, the organizer makes three). We all rode the first fifteen miles up Silicon Valley to the first climb at a parade pace that allowed everyone, fast and slow, to meet and greet each other. Several groups rode much or all of the route together. The ride had a very friendly, warm feel.

I had pretty much a perfect ride: no mechanical problems, only three hours total riding in the dark, and eleven hours of sleep the two nights. Sometimes, even what seem like setbacks turn out well. As I was cleaning up my bike before the ride, I noticed some hairline cracks in the rim of my rear wheel. This meant that I would be unable to ride the tubular tires that I had ridden with enjoyment and no flats for our brevet series this year. But it turns out that a lot of the CC1000 course runs along the sort of road margin that attracts a lot of glass shards and other debris. Now this routing decision was definitely worth it for the views, but I ended up glad that I was riding clincher rims and the Michelin Krylion tires that I have found so bulletproof over the years. The rear tire has at least 50 flint or glass nicks in it, but not a single puncture. This would definitely not be a good route for light, supple tires, which would be chewed up in no time.

I also impressed my ultra marathon running friends by finishing 10 minutes behind Carl Andersen and Ann Trason, who are new to randonneuring, but are legendary runners.

On a personal note, Jack Holmgren says hello to his buddies Ed and Mary.

PA 1000K Riders Hanging Tough

Tom Rosenbauer reports this evening that just one rider has dropped out of the 19 entrants on his Endless Mountains PA 1000K. Everyone is doing really well as Day 2 continues, including all nine D.C.R.’s and celeb fixed gear rider Emily O’Brien and celeb recumbent rider Dan “RanDanneuring” Blumenfeld.

We’re pulling for all of you guys and looking forward to hearing the stories.

Back here in D.C., an old friend rejoined the bike stable. On Thursday evening I picked up my renovated ’95 Ritchey Logic road bike, the one I took to my first PBP in 1999, from College Park Bicycles. CPB manager Charles P., bless his heart, ably took care of all the details, and there were many. I asked for a conversion to long reach 57mm brakes, which meant a new fork and moving the rear brake bridge. I also wanted a repaint and installation of fender eyelets. Franklin Frame in Ohio did the frame work and repaint, while Bilenky Cycle Works provided a new fork with a classy Pacenti flat crown.

After all these years, I can finally install 700x28s with fenders! My first ride on it today was heavenly. Bilenky’s fork puts the pads at the bottom of the slots and, if anything, improves the handling. Plus, it’s lovely with a nice bend. Franklin’s work is invisible and the paint is an exact match to the original Imron deep red.

Pics to come after I photograph it in the sunlight tomorrow.