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!

Back to Back Weekend: Two Tandems to Monterey

This last weekend MG and I completed our second overnight tandem touring trip in as many weekends. The goal of our recent riding — and decision not to ride 400K and 600K brevets this year — has been to get our legs in shape for the big mountains of Colorado.

We’re planning an eight-day loop around some of that state’s iconic cycling high points. Think Crested Butte, Leadville, and Trail Ridge Road, among others. I’ll detail more of the route in the coming days.

Anyway, we have been focusing on getting in multiple rides of 150 miles or less, more often. The idea is to get ourselves prepared for the multiple days in the saddle.

Lucky for us in the training department, our tandem randonneur friends John M. and Cindy P. put out a call for company on a mountainous two-day ride out to the picturesque western Virginia Highlands area. It was created by Crista Borras, with whom who we have spent many a happy touring mile.

We were the only takers to their invitation, making it four riders on two Co-Motion tandems.

Two tandems at rest

Two tandems at rest

Day One consists of a 140-mile ride from Middletown, Va. through northeast West Virginia to an overnight stop at in Monterey.

Profile of the Splendor in the Blue Grass 140 mile ride from Strasburg, Va. to Monterey, Va.

Profile of the Splendor in the Blue Grass 140 mile ride from Strasburg, Va. to Monterey, Va.

Day Two is a 120-miler starting with three mountains climbs, then rolling hills on routes that parallel Rt. 11 up the Shenandoah Valley. We ended up at 115 miles because of our hotel start.

Profile of the 115-mile MMMM Ride from Monterey, Va. to Strasburg, Va.

Profile of the 115-mile MMMM Ride from Monterey, Va. to Strasburg, Va.

Crista has made these rides available as self-guided randonneur permanent and populaire events, with time limits. We chose to ride them casually, meaning not for randonneur credit, with a start from a hotel in nearby Strasburg, Va.

They are called Splendor in the Blue Grass and Many Mountains from Monterey to Middletown, or MMMM. One can also ride them in one shot, if you dare: see the 20,000 foot Devil’s Wicked Stepmother 402K permanent. You can see maps of the routes at Crista’s RidewithGPS uploads here and here.

Me at Strasburg

Me at Strasburg

MG in Strasburg

MG in Strasburg

Cindy and John were on their blue-green 650b-wheel custom Speedster that they bought for their Transamerica coast-to-coast trip next month. We were on our new Co-Motion Java with 700c wheels, which we have come to appreciate more and more as we rack up the miles.

See MG’s photos here, mine here and Cindy’s here.

Saturday started out cloudy as we made our way out of the Shenandoah Valley into West Virgina. The skies gradually cleared after a stop at mile 24 in Wardensville and got only brighter after our second stop at the brand new Sheetz in Moorefield at mile 48.

From there we ventured south to the sublime Blue Grass Valley.

Cindy and John over Rt. 55 into West Virginia

Cindy and John over Rt. 55 into West Virginia

The run down CR3/Sweedlin Valley Road was a pure delight, with all shades of green landscape bathed in moderate temperatures of about 80 degrees and light winds. Those are the conditions we wanted after some rainy days in Washington recently.

The view for much of our afternoon.

The view for much of our afternoon.

We also met curiously lost Max, a determined cycletourist from the Ukraine on a mountain bike who was taking a break from his ride from Washington to Denver. He asked us at the Sugar Grove store stop, as he smoked a cigarette, how he might ride around the mountains.

John and I tried to impress on Max that he had to go over them; no other way. “Just look around you,” I said, pointing to the mountain ridges surrounding the store, especially to the west.

John urged him enjoy the spectacular roads and views, and just ride. Max wasn’t so sure.

Us and Max the cyclotourist

Us and Max the cyclotourist

We left him there to ponder his next move. Max: if you read this, let us know how things worked out.

The afternoon was capped by the ride up the lovely, steep Moyers Gap, and then a truly stunning ride along Thorn Creek.

The view from Moyers Gap

The view from Moyers Gap

We finished the day with a stop at the Blue Grass Country Convenience Store (maple candy!) and then the climbs into the too-green-to-be-true Blue Grass Valley and over Monterey Mountain to Monterey for dinner and sleep.

Blue Grass Country Convenience Store

Blue Grass Country Convenience Store

Finally! Dinner in Monterey

Finally! Dinner in Monterey

Sunday came way too early but we got on the bike by 6:15 am for the big climbs out of Monterey and then the rolling hills in the Shenandoah Valley back to Strasburg.

Cindy and John cresting Shenandoah Mountain

Cindy and John cresting Shenandoah Mountain

Rain fell in the afternoon but did not develop into a storm, and by the end of our last rest stop the skies started to clear again.

Lingering rain on Back Road (courtesy MG)

Lingering rain on Back Road (courtesy MG)

By the end we all had 255 miles for the weekend. That’s a 400K, but over two days — and two very enjoyable days.

A good tired, in the Shenandoah Valley

A good tired, in the Shenandoah Valley

Many thanks to Cindy and John, and good luck on your trip! And thanks to my great partner and stoker MG, who kept me going.

Chip and Bill’s 2011 Winter Solstice 200K

Chip Adams of the Severna Park Peloton is a man of many talents, one of them being the ability to ride his bike all night. It’s a handy skill when one is in the middle of a 600K brevet or has to ride a loaner bike, say, at PBP, but he chooses to employ it on the occasional 200K permanent as well.

Case in point: he and Bill Beck ignored forecasts of potential rain and rode a 200K on the night of the 2011 Winter Solstice last month. They chose the Woodbine-Dillsburg via Gettysburg permanent and enjoyed unseasonably warm temperatures and twinkling outdoor holiday lighting along the way.

Read Chip and Bill’s story below, and see Bill’s photoset at Flickr.

2011 Winter Solstice Ride – Woodbine / Dillsburg
by Chip Adams

I’ve always heard that the Winter Solstice, Dec. 21, is the shortest day of the year if you consider the amount of daylight. But I think Bill Beck and I made it one of our longest days of the year if you consider when our day started and when it actually ended.

For Bill, his day started with his normal 2:30 am wake-up and then the trainer. For me, I slept in until 6:45 am, knowing that I would be up all night. But, if you’re going to be up all night, what better way to do it than on your bike, I always like to say.

And, the Winter Solstice Ride was a great reason to do it. The idea was originally bounced around by Kelly Smith who, in the days leading up to it, had to bow out due to his work schedule. Weather was a concern at the start, but ended up being one of the best days, or night to ride a bike.

For about a month after Kelly mentioned the Solstice ride I was planning to do an Arlington start, but after Kelly announced he couldn’t make it, Bill sent out the optional Woodbine – Dillsburg 200K permanent route. Either way, it was going to be a rush-hour event to get there, but I was pretty much committed to riding something on this Winter Solstice.

George Moore was also interested in doing the ride. We were studying the weather pretty closely in the days leading up to it and we were looking at what appeared to be a major rain event. The temperatures looked pretty good, though. I don’t mind riding in the rain as long as the temps don’t dip below the 40’s.

The day before the ride, Bill and I were e-mailing each other about what to do. I sent a response that said I was planning on riding. Unfortunately, Bill didn’t get the response until the next morning so he had scrapped the plan to ride it. I, on the other hand, had committed to riding it, and when I got Bill’s e-mail that he had made other plans since he hadn’t heard from anyone, I thought, “OK, this is going to be a lonely and quiet ride.”

Bill sent the registration and waiver with a note that said, if “I go insane later, I may join you. “ Well, luckily, he did go insane and we planned to start when the rain ended – 7:00 pm Wednesday, 12/21. George Moore found his work schedule to be too much and opted out.

Off we go from Woodbine.

So, it was now down to Bill and me. The route we chose to ride was the Woodbine-Dillsburg, I think mainly because we both love Buffalo Road so much!! After working all day, I loaded my bike and joined the rush hour traffic as it made its way up to I-70.

It was raining steadily from the time I left home until I got on I-70 where it had become a drizzle, and by the time I got to Woodbine, it had stopped. But, just to make sure, I brought my raingear.

The conditions were absolutely perfect as we pulled out. We had what felt to be a double-digit southerly wind pushing us on our way to varying degrees all the way to Dillsburg. Traffic up Rt. 94 was pretty busy, but soon we were on back roads and making great time.

We rolled past many beautifully lit-up houses and barns and stopped for the occasional photo.

Holiday Lights in full blaze.

The forecast remained true and provided us a sky full of stars as we approached Gettysburg. Good thing I brought my rain gear! Ha ha. We weren’t sure whether we should work around the Gettysburg Battlefield since the park was closed or just stay the course.

We stayed the course and entered the Gettysburg Battlefield which was enclosed in total darkness. The lights from downtown Gettysburg, in the backdrop, though insignificant, allowed us to see some monuments but as silhouettes and I was lost in the moment just thinking of the hallowed ground we were riding on. We stopped for a couple of times for a few minutes and Bill got some awesome photos.

Gettysburg Battlefield by night. Haunting!

The quiet was deafening. As many times as I’ve been across this battlefield, I’d have to say this was the most memorable. But, soon we were at the famous 7-11 on Washington St. (I wonder how many times I’ve been there?) We rolled in about 10:00 pm.

After enjoying a donut or two and after Bill updated Facebook, we pushed on. The temperature was still very pleasant and though we had a tailwind, it wasn’t as evident as before.

We stopped at one point and Bill showed me this great App called Skymap which located all of the planets and constellations. Great stuff. I’ve since downloaded it on my phone. We found it much darker the farther north we got and as we reached the pheasant fields just below Dillsburg, it became very dark and quiet. My handlebars managed to loosen.

I had replaced the stem a couple of weeks earlier and guess I didn’t tighten it enough. So, instead of bombing down one of the hills and having my bars drop down during hard braking, we decided to stop and adjust.

Adjusting those handlebars.

We got into Dillsburg at 11:45 pm and got dinner, or was it breakfast? Not sure, but we ate it outside in the low-50 degree weather. People were coming and going and looked at us like we were crazy. One guy couldn’t believe we riding that distance at night and were only half-way through.

Living it up, rando-style.

He said he didn’t like traveling that far in the daylight and in a car. It was starting to chill off a little but still very mild considering we were now officially in the 1st day of Winter. We added some layers where they were needed and got back on the road heading south. It was now 12:30 am – the exact time that some say the Solstice occurred. Exciting stuff, eh?

The only way this evening could get any better was for the wind to swing around from the north and push us back to Maryland. Well, believe it or not, that is what happened. It wasn’t entirely out of the north, but close enough. It had been downgraded quite a bit, but at least it was not in our faces.

Many of the Christmas lights had been turned off on our way back home and it was then that we realized we should have called ahead and requested they be left on. We’ll remember that for next year.

We got back into Gettysburg just after 2:00 am. The 7-11 had restocked their donuts since we had been gone and we both opted for the Apple Fritter for its fruit benefits. When we had come through earlier, we both took advantage of the glazed Twist for its donut benefits. I just love donuts and bike rides!

The temperature continued to drop a degree or two at a time as we pushed south to Woodbine, but the descents is where it was most notable.

Between Windsor and Woodine we noticed some very big differences in temperatures; between the bottom of a descent and the top of a climb, we saw as much as 8 degrees change. As much as I wanted to stop and put on another layer, we decided to keep it going since we were so close to the end.

Almost there!

Within a mile of our approach into the final control in Woodbine, we saw the little sliver a moon rising in the east. We finished at 5:35 am just as rush hour was cranking up. So, we saw the end of one rush hour and the beginning of another. Wow, I didn’t see that coming.

That’s that. Now, off to work.

The experts are wrong. The Winter Solstice is actually a very long day when you throw in a 130 mile bike ride that starts and ends in the dark.
We hope to see many more faces out there for the 2012 Winter Solstice ride. Bill informed me it falls on a Friday night.

Until next year,
Chip Adams

Wild & Wonderful 203K Permanent — Ooh La La!

Our plan to ride a lot of miles this month got us out for one great permanent and, this last weekend, a two-day, “515K TuneUp Tour” from Warrenton, Va. to Lexington and back.

Today we start with George Moore’s “Wild and Wonderful 203” Permanent from Columbia Furnance, Va., on July 17th. (Tomorrow we begin two days of reports from MG about the TuneUp Tour).

George’s route starts at the West Virginia border and put us right into the low gears with a climb over Wolf Gap and then four other major climbs. There are many lovely sections, including Lost River State Park in West Virginia and a nice backroads finish. It is based on a popular Mountains of Misery training ride, if that gives any indication of the hills!

The Profile. We measured 10,096 feet of climbing.

See the full route and our GPS data at my Garmin Connect page. See MG’s photos at her Flickr page and mine at my Flickr page.

Carousel horses at the base of Hopkins Gap

A nice thought, we took it for our own!

Ye Olde Barn Shot in W.V.

The weather started cloudy, hot and humid — typical Mid-Atlantic summer weather. Around noon a little front blew through and dumped a brief rain shower, then the skies cleared and we had sunny, hot and slightly less humid weather the rest of the way. We started 20 minutes late and did not go all out, but still managed to finish with two hours to spare. We were glad for the extra hours of summer sunlight!

It was tandem-friendly in that we topped 50 m.p.h. on one downhill and topped a couple of rollers, but there were not many flat sections. Our time was 11:32 overall with about nine hours of riding time. We sat down at all three controls and stopped for photos along the way. That approach allowed us to indulge our touring impulses a little, which always seem to take over when we’re out riding by ourselves.

MG and I learned later that we were the first riders to take on this permanent. It was an honor to inaugurate this lovely route. The roads were almost uniformly quiet, the drivers we encountered gave us plenty of room, and many of the roads were shaded. We also enjoyed the soft, lush valley views that make riding in the Shenandoah Valley area so satisfying. We saw a lot of wildlife, including wild turkeys.

MG has posted a brief report and a link to her photos at her Chasing Mailboxes blog.

We thoroughly enjoyed getting out of the hot city for a day. Thanks George!

Rando Roundup: Over to Dover 200K, Urbana 200K/Populaire

While I’ve been letting my knee heal, the rest of the D.C. Randonneurs have been out and about getting in some new rides and looking ahead to the ACP series starting in Urbana, Md. on March 28 with a standard 200K and a new, free (!) MarLuLu 100K Populaire.

On Saturday, RBA Bill Beck, Jan and Nick Bull, and George Winkert completed Crista Borras’ lastest permanent, the Over to Dover 200K from Frederick, Md. See Bills’ report below and check out photos at his Flickr page and GPS track at MotionBased.

Bill has also announced the details of the Urbana 200K and the MarLuLu populaire at the D.C. Randonneurs site. If you are going to ride the 200K, remember to pre-register to save $5. More Here.

MG and I are planning to start our ACP series at the second DCR 200K on April 18 to allow me to take as much time to get my knee in shape…fingers crossed. We still hope to ride the Last Chance 1200K in Boulder in September. Registration opened today!

Here’s Bill’s story of the Over To Dover Permanent:

Nick and Jan Bull (on tandem), George Winkert, and I did the inaugural ride of Crista’s new “Over to Dover” 200K permanent on Saturday. Crista thinks that this is the flattest (and therefore easiest) 200K permanent in the area, and it is certainly the flatest one that I have ridden. Both Nick and I measured about 5,400 feet of climbing, which is more than the 3,200 feet or so in the Tappahannock 200K, but about the lowest amount of climbing that you could expect in the piedmont of central Maryland and Pennsylvania (7,500 feet is more typical).

Nick and Jan, with George, Knocking Off Another Permanent (courtesy Bill Beck)

Nick and Jan, with George, Knocking Off Another Permanent (courtesy Bill Beck)

The route starts at a Roy Rogers in Frederick, Md., and heads northeast to Dover, Pa. We made good progress along the mostly quiet and scenic roads to the lunch stop and turn-around at the Rt. 74 restaurant in Dover, although we could feel an ominous tailwind building behind us as we approached Dover. The Rt. 74 restaurant is the kind of unassuming small place that I wouldn’t usually stop at unless Crista had already discovered it. In fact, I rode right past it on this trip, until backtracking to find it.

Our suspicions about the wind were verified with a vengeance on the return. A stiff 15 m.p.h. wind that was snapping flags straight out lowered our average speed WAY down. At one point I was pedaling downhill at 10 m.p.h. But George found a way of handling wind through the power of mental imagery and positive thinking. See a little video Here.

We finally finished a little after 6 p.m., having beaten the dark monster back to Frederick. “Over to Dover” is a very nice addition to the local stable of permanent routes, and a good choice if you want to have a pleasant and — if you can avoid the wind — fast ride.

MG’s R-12: A Persistent Suitor

 

I have to say the great stories keep on coming from you all, and I encourage you to read this latest tale from MG. See her full account of an unlikely R-12 year Here. She didn’t set out to ride the R-12, and before you know it, she knocked it off without much drama. Well, not that much drama. Way to go, MG!

An R-12 Affair
by Mary Gersema
February 2009

Over the past three years I have incredulously pondered those randonneurs pursuing the R-12. Who wants to be riding 200K’s and more every month for 12 months, I wondered. Who relishes the idea of starting and ending a ride in the dark, cold, and who knows what else in the months of December and January? How fun is it to be glued to the weather forecast 24/7 while you plot the day that will HOPEFULLY best meet your R-12 needs and not have the road covered with snow or ice… or rain on you? What does pursuing and (hopefully) completing the R-12 get you? A medal you have to buy yourself? The appeal of it all eluded me.

My R-12 was a subtle seducer. At first, he was a guy at a party that I didn’t even notice, but my randonneur friends said was cool and I might like him if I met him. I was dubious and put the R-12 out of my mind.

In the meantime I started riding in earnest. Having finished graduate school in January, I was eager to get back out on the bike and reconnect with my cycling friends. In March I completed a fleche. In the succeeding two months, Ed and I rode ACP 200K, 300K, and 400K brevets, and in June we threw in a 600K permanent. Ed organized a 200K ride for the DC Randonneurs in July, and I volunteered with him; we rode the pre-ride together with our good friend Maile Neel. I loved the riding, but the R-12 was not yet a thought in my mind.

August arrived and everybody across the country readied for their RUSA Anniversary 200K. I didn’t want to be the only one who didn’t go to that party so I signed up and rode. This ride was special for me because even though I had ridden fleche rides on my single, it was my first brevet on my single bike. I was nervous, uncertain how the day would go. I hoped and hoped I would finish within the 13.5 hour time limit. As I reached the halfway point of the ride, I realized, hey I can do this. This is a good party. I’ll even finish in daylight. That’s exciting! I looked out from the Food Lion at the miles to come, and I saw the R-12 beckoning by the finishing line pizza, giving me a little wink. Hey, he’s sort of appealing, I thought.

The following month randonneuse and route creator extraordinaire Crista Borras told us during one of her weekend rides that she had a scenic new 200K permanent that she wanted to try out. I saw the R-12 taking a step toward me. Yeah, he might not be so bad. A small group of DC Randonneurs rode through sun, rain, beautiful scenery, a couple tough climbs, sun, and more rain and completed a September permanent. I half-heartedly counted the consecutive months where I had completed R-12-eligible rides, and gave my calendar a glance to see how the next few months were shaping up.

Ed and I had already planned to ride the October 200K DC Randonneurs brevet, since we wanted to take in the fall beauty of the Shenandoah; our path had been laid out for us by another great router, Lynn Kristianson. While the ride started out on a bumpy note stemming from the cold start, nerves, and sleep deprivation Ed and I were treated to exhilarating climbs that showed off the changing foliage of the Shenandoah.

We enjoyed many conversation-filled miles with club introvert Mark Vinette, who said he had been checking on my results (why, I am not sure) and noticed the R-12 and me seemed to be developing a rapport. Ed scoffed at this and later told me, “The R-12 is a harsh mistress.”

You don’t know the half of it, buddy, I thought, but I was becoming too intoxicated by the lure of the R-12. I wanted to get closer to the R-12, come to know it just a little bit more.

DC Randonneurs club president Nick Bull took note of my R-12 infatuation, and the following month asked if I would like to join him on a November 200K permanent. Oh, yes! That sounded so perfect. It would be the R-12 and me, together again. Oh yes, and Ed. Ed too! I convinced him this would be a great way to spend the day, and out riding we went.

By this time, Ed knew that he had some serious competition for my attention. “You R-12 people,” he commented one evening, looking at me. What? Me? An R-12 person? I looked at him coyly, and then returned to calculating my completed rides, refreshing weather.gov every five minutes, and figuring out when the R-12 and I might reunite.

Fortunately for me, RBA Bill Beck organized the Woodbine Wallop 200K for December 13. Ed was going to be out of town that day so I would be alone with my R-12. When I arrived at the start, a bitter chill was in the air and a dusting of snow on the ground. I added an extra layer of wool for my R-12 date and hoped for warmer temps and clear roads. Maile and I left the start together, creeping our way over the snow, not talking or looking at each other for fear we would ditch the R-12 and run for home and our warm safe beds.

In that moment, the R-12 enraged me. How could you let me care for you so much, R-12, and then dump me out here in December to tread over snow patches in the dark? What happened to the sunny, start in daylight, finish in daylight, warm-all-day, R-12 I grew to care so much about? I wanted to commit to my R-12, but the R-12 was getting cold feet and trying to push me away.

After this brief fallout, however, the day warmed up and the snow patches dissipated. My legs felt good on the pedals. Maile and I rode together over the passing miles, talking and sharing in what had become a pleasant and clear day. My R-12 brevet even took me to the Shepherdstown Sweet Shop in West Virginia (the best brevet stop ever), and I knew that the R-12 and I were back on track… for the next sixty miles anyway.

As I clawed my way along the last roads of the Woodbine Wallop brevet amidst the dark night and falling temperatures, resentment boiled in me again. R-12, why? Why? As the finish line (a Pizza Hut) came into view, though, all my ill feelings toward the R-12 vanished, the previous miles’ discomforts were put aside, and I was enveloped in a feeling of accomplishment and the sense that the R-12 and I were meant to be together! Meant to be! Whatever had passed between us before, we had worked through it. The cold and discomfort had been a test of my R-12 devotion… and I had passed! We were going make it together! I was sure of it.

I sustained this feeling until January, when it seemed like every weekend was cold, I had a conflict that left me unable to ride, or bad weather was predicted. Ed and I tentatively scheduled a ride one weekend, only to have foul weather obstruct our plans. The R-12 was playing hard to get. That’s ok, I thought. I’m used to getting the tough ones. Time was running out, though, and Ed, Maile, and I made a last ditch effort to ride Crista’s Roaring Lion 200K permanent out of Poolesville, Maryland on the last Sunday of the month. No matter how you might try, you will not get away from me, R-12!

Ed and I drove through the dark to meet Maile for a 7 a.m. start. As I stepped out of the car, the bitter air filled my nostrils. Oh R-12. I will not be daunted by the elements of the day. I will pursue you until you are mine. “I am a complicated and tortured soul,” the R-12 replied. “And difficult to tame.” That may be, I responded, but I’ve dealt with far worse. You will be mine! I repeated.

I did not say these things out loud, of course. This was the nonverbal dialog between my R-12 seducer and me. “Mary, we’re late! We need to go!” Ed said. Oh yes. Ed. Ha! And we all set off together.

The ride was a battle of wills between the R-12 and me. The day began frigid and sunny, and only warmed to just above freezing temperatures. By the afternoon the sun had faded behind the clouds, leaving the landscape brown and gloomy. I was singularly focused on my pursuit, however, and Maile, Ed, and I completed the R-12 permanent in high spirits. Ed even treated me to a McDonald’s hamburger. Perhaps he knew that he had to treat me right since the R-12 was now breathing heavily over his shoulder.

Paul Donaldson hosted my final R-12 brevet in February. Oh R-12, we have gone through good times and bad, I thought. Please, for this final February rendezvous, let us have a good time. I beg you. The R-12 would not answer me, and sent me some very confusing signals through the weather forecast. Tuesday and Wednesday before the brevet, the forecast said rain and a high of 40; Thursday the possibility of rain had decreased; and by Friday the forecast temperatures had risen to high 40’s and the day was to be partly cloudy– which meant partly sunny! Whatever ill will or past resentments the R-12 had harbored toward me were ebbing.

The day of the brevet arrived, and it was spectacular. Mild terrain, warm weather, sun, and high spirits pervaded my last dance with the R-12. Ed and I chatted the day away, and also shared some quiet stretches so that I could have a few contemplative moments with my R-12. I watched the final miles to R-12 nirvana tick away. 44, 43, and so on. The bike rode like a fine stallion, even though I worried that some unforeseen mechanical would rear its head in these final moments. We sailed triumphantly into the finish at Ashland Tea and Coffee (also a great brevet stop!).

We’ve had a good ride together, you and I, I told the R-12. I will never forget you. But we are not meant to be together long term so now that my final brevet card is signed, you must leave me. The fire is gone. Leave me! The R-12 gave me one final wink and did not linger, disappearing from my field of vision to tempt a new randonneur into its web, while I went home to fill out my application, write my medal check to RUSA, and close the book on my R-12 affair.

What a torrid 12 months! Will I miss the R-12? I do not think so. While I loved riding long during the months that were full of warmth and lots of daylight, scheduling in December and January was nerve-wracking. While I relish the feeling of accomplishing the R-12, I am also full of relief. Relief that I was able to stay healthy and keep riding throughout the year, and relief that my bikes performed so well. Relief that I was able to coordinate a 200K+ ride each month, and that the weather cooperated (mostly). Relief that I do not have to worry about when I will work in a permanent or brevet in March, or any month thereafter.

I mistakenly thought that successful completion of the R-12 would immediately transform me into a different rider, a “better” randonneuse, something like Clark Kent when he goes into the phone booth as an ordinary guy and emerges as Superman. It surprised me that I did not experience that transformation. I am not a randonneur super-hero, still just me, but the R-12 pursuit made me feel like someday I might become one.

I finally understand the attraction and lure of the R-12. If a person rides through an ACP series, does brevets or permanents during the summer, and gets out to see the fall foliage, s/he is suddenly eight months or so into an R-12. What may have seemed foolhardy in January suddenly looks really palatable (and achievable) in November. And that is when the R-12 affair begins in earnest.

Chip Adams’ Midnight Ride Around Massanutten

Chip Adams, of the Severna Park group, always looks like he’s barely breaking a sweat. It’s no surprise, then, that Chip saw no problem in taking on the Ride Around Massanutten 200K permanent on Thanksgiving week. To make things extra fun, Chip decided to ride solo and start at 6 p.m. so he could put in a full day at work.

Well, even Chip found the going tough at one point, but he finished in great shape after overcoming a little neck issue. And, he made it to work that same day. So what’s your excuse? Read all of Chip’s story below.

Chip on a Sunnier Day (courtesy Bill Beck)

Chip on a Sunnier Day (courtesy Bill Beck)

Massanutten at Midnight – 200K Permanent
Nov. 25-26, 2008
by Chip Adams

My original plan was to ride this Permanent earlier in the month of November, but my mother-in-law became gravely ill and that delayed all plans. At the start of November, I was sitting with 10 of the 12 Brevets needed for the R12 but as her situation worsened and the hours on the road traveling down to Virginia Beach accumulated, the weekends rolled by and threatened to end my R-12 hope. So on Monday night before Thanksgiving, my wife, Katie, and I were having dinner out and I explained to her that I would attempt the November permanent on Friday, Nov. 28. I knew I was pushing the limit, but what could I have done differently? What an awful feeling to be so close and have possible circumstances beyond my control dash all hopes of completing the R-12 when I
was almost done.

As I developed my plan, Katie suggested that I might want to try to get it done earlier. Earlier? How, earlier? Now, this was Monday night and she thought I should do it sooner? When could I do it? I had to work through Wednesday. So, after going home and giving it considerable thought, it came to me – it had to be a nighttime ride. Wow, I thought, this will be wild! A night time ride around Massanutten – in November. Was I nuts? I believe yes, but I e-mailed Matt Settle, anyway, and he was more than accommodating.

On Tuesday morning, I packed my bike and gear and went to work. Later that afternoon, after work, instead of heading east back to Annapolis, I headed west toward Strasburg, Va. I used my Mom and Dad’s house to change into cycling gear and explained my plan to them. I probably shouldn’t have done that, but I couldn’t hide the fact that I was using their house to launch into some cycling campaign. Needless to say, there was some shock and concern on their part, and admittedly, on mine. I believe it was more like, “you’re doing what?” I think my Dad even offered to follow me all night. Of course I turned him down.

After I assured my Mom everything would be OK and she stopped crying (just kidding), she agreed to let me go. But, she still worried about what might happen out on the road. She reminded me of the spring Fleche and the horrible conditions we rode in when Clint Provenza became hypothermic. She reminded me that that could be me. And, she also worried about me being hit by a car while out on some back road and left in a ditch; or worse, my being accosted out on the road and someone stealing my $500 (!) bike

All very good warnings and advice, but once all that was settled, she fed me and I was safely out the door. I did grab the leftovers to stuff in my jersey. Thanks, Mom! All was good to go, but I sure would have liked to have had my good riding buddy, Clint, with me on this one. We’ve had some great and long rides together.

I got to Matt’s house around 4:45 p.m. with a little light left and wanted to get on the road by 5:00 p.m.,
but Matt had some technical difficulty printing out the Control card, so I left from Matt’s house with the sun already behind the mountain about 5:20pm. I was originally hoping not to have to use a light for a while, that way increasing my chances of having some left at the other end. But, like all good randonneurs, I also planned around that. Besides the lights on my bike, I brought an extra Light & Motion Vega light. I didn’t know what I’d encounter this night but I wanted to go as far as I could on my primary Vega light. I barely made it the four miles into Strasburg before the light went on.

The ride around Massanutten is one of my favorite rides and is a beautiful ride in the daytime, but I had some doubts about seeing much during this ride. The forecast for the evening was a slight chance of snow or rain with temperatures in the mid to low 30’s. No moon. The temperature at the start was 40 degrees, but I dressed for cooler weather knowing it would be cooler very soon. I took back-up layers, glove inserts, arm warmers, toe warmers, and a new untested skull cap, but more on that later.

The ride up Fort Valley Road was what I expected. Dark. There was more traffic than I had expected, but by the time I got to the first control, it was starting to thin out a bit. The temperature had dropped to about 36 degrees, but I was comfortable. I got to the first Control at 6:40 p.m., 22 miles, and making pretty good time. The elevation at the start of the ride was about 60 feet and it gradually increased as the miles clicked off to about 1,000 feet at the control. I spent only enough time at the control to get my card signed and to buy a cold Starbucks from the cooler, thinking that any caffeine would be good caffeine. There would be plenty of road to keep me awake, but I didn’t want to take any chances.

Back on the bike, the road continued for another 9 miles before it pointed up for a fairly short climb over to Luray. The climb up the mountain was probably the loneliest part of the ride and incredibly dark and quiet. My mind started wandering and soon locked onto the movie, “The Wizard of Oz” and I started repeating over and over in my head, “Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My…,” to a nice cadence that would take me up the 7-8% grade. I had a nice sweat going by the time I got to the top, elevation 1,965 feet. The coldest part of the whole ride was the descent off the mountain.

During the climb, I believe I must have worked up a good layer of sweat and probably should have put a layer on while at the top. By the time I got down, I was having considerable doubts about whether I was properly equipped. The next few miles into Luray were spent planning for the weather for the rest of the night. My thermometer said 34 degrees and the wind was steady from the south at about 10-15 m.p.h. I was moving in that direction and would be for the next 35 miles.

In Luray, at mile 41, 8:40 p.m., I stopped at some outbuilding out of the wind and added another layer, arm warmers, new skull cap, and toe warmers. I grabbed the rest of my dinner, e-caps and Motrin, and got back on the bike. From this point until about mile 55 was the toughest of the whole night.

A few miles out of Luray, I started developing fatigue in my neck. I didn’t think too much about it, the Motrin would kick in and no big deal. But, the Motrin never came. The pain developed gradually until it finally shot up the back of my neck and head like bad cramps. I could hardly look up and pedal at the same time. I was starting to get a little concerned especially since on descents, the road could change pretty quickly and if I was looking down in order to relieve the stress on the neck, I could end up in a ditch and nobody know it – just like my Mom had pointed out.

River Road and Comertown Road have several fairly short and steep climbs and descents. It was during one of these little climbs that the pain was so severe, I almost got off the bike and walked up. I could not recall ever feeling like this and my concern grew deeper. Additionally, due to the neck problem, the slower-than-normal climbs and descents were causing my average speed to fall like a rock. That would mean my estimated 2:30 a.m. arrival time was turning into a much later arrival time. That would also affect available lighting and warmth. The temperature was now at 32 degrees.

Was it going lower? With average speed falling, what would happen to my core temperature? Something had to be done. I would need more Motrin, but what happened to the last one? That one never did anything.

A few miles from the small town of Shenandoah I had a thought as to what the problem may be. Everything was OK up the point where I put on additional layers. It hit me. I had changed out my skull cap for one with thicker material to offset the falling temperatures. I thought that maybe the material in the untested skull cap was too thick and the additional thickness in the material combined with the other layers took more effort to bend the neck, and resulted in muscle stress and cramping. I got to the top of a climb and changed it back out for my original cap – sweat soaked and icy cold. I shoved off and felt a bit better but was not convinced.

Within a couple of miles the pain subsided and I began to feel normal again. What a great thing – to be able to pedal and look at the road at the same time. It was now 9:55 p.m. and only about eight miles from the midway point and the second control. Those miles were uneventful and my average speed was back up and my climbing ability returned to normal.

The next control was at 67 miles and just over halfway. I arrived at 10:35 p.m. with temperatures hovering around freezing and went inside to get my control card signed. My plan was to grab a hot coffee and relax a minute, but due to time lost in average speed, I decided to eat something and hit the road. I did, however, get another Starbucks Energy drink. Again, any caffeine would be good caffeine. I got a sandwich and decided to eat it outside so as to not overheat inside and then come out and freeze.

At one point, I was shivering so badly I could hardly eat it. A few people pulled up in their cars and looked at me like I was some alien life form. A couple of guys asked me what I was doing and how much farther I had to go. I told them what I was doing, how far I’d been, and told them about 60 miles more to go. One of them gestured with a finger in the air, 1-6? No, I said, with finger, 6-0. The look on their faces when I clarified it…! Well, we’ve all seen and know that look!

Literally, 10 minutes after arriving at the control, I was back on my bike, on the road, and starting to feel better. Soon the turn would come that would point me back north to Matt’s house and my car.

Once I made the turn north on the western flank of the Massanutten range, it was pretty good cruising and I started making good time. The wind was now mostly at my back or side. As I traveled farther north, it grew darker and a little bit lonelier. Though there was no moon, the clouds had an interesting pattern that occasionally reflected light from the nearby towns. Where there were no clouds, it just seemed to be a big void in the sky. The temperatures remained around 32 degrees, though it dipped to 31 degrees once or twice.

I picked up a few flurries heading up Mountain Valley Road, but it never collected on the road. Mountain Valley Road has several aspects to it from fairly wide and predictable to very narrow, winding, and unpredictable. I narrowly escaped wiping out on a few 90 degree turns on descent, but managed to stay out of the ditches. The key here was not to go faster than the speed of (my) light.

I came upon a bunch of different animals, including: a cow that was no longer in her pasture, half on and half off the road, a skunk crossing the road, and a cat running down the middle of the road that refused to pull over. This cat was caught in my headlight and just kept running down the middle of the road – running, running – not pulling over. I was afraid he would run so far, he would forget where he lived. We were both chasing my headlight. I didn’t know how much longer he would keep this up, so I backed off a little and let him find the shadows of the roadside trees and brush. It worked.

At 12:30am on the back roads of the Shenandoah Valley, there isn’t a great deal of light anywhere and it’s very quiet. Oh yea, and a lot of rollers with quick turns requiring total concentration. I continued to pick up random flakes, but nothing serious and the temperatures seemed to level out at around freezing. I could see the miles accumulating and knew I was within 2-3 hours of the finish. Soon, I saw the huge lighted sign of the Endless Caverns posted on the mountain and felt like I was making good progress. At 12:55 a.m., I made it out to US11 and I was a little concerned with what I might encounter with traffic.

However, I found the road almost completely empty of traffic. I concluded that most of the north – south trans-valley traffic was using Interstate 81 situated a few miles west. US11 used to be the major highway running north and south, but I guess now it just handles local traffic. But where was the local traffic? Oh yea, in bed. It’s 2 in the morning!

My primary Vega light gave out with about 25 miles to go. I swapped it out and continued on. By the time I made the next turn, 29 miles up the road, perhaps a half-dozen cars had passed me. I’ll never know for sure, but of those half-dozen drivers, I’m thinking at least 6 of them thought I was insane.

Finally, I turned onto Back Road and only five more miles to the finish. I got back to Matt’s house at 3:05 a.m., signed my control card and set off for Severna Park. When I started the bike ride the night before, my goal was to make it back for the 5:45 a.m. group ride, but I’m thinking the two-hour drive back home took it out of me.

I stopped by the rendezvous point and said “Hi” to the group, but I couldn’t bring myself to putting the cold gear back on and doing it again. Besides, I needed to get home for a couple hour nap before going to work. I got home at 6:00 a.m. and slept ‘till 8:00 a.m. I was at my desk by 8:30 a.m. and dead to the world by 7:00 p.m.

Chip Adams

MG’s Roaring Lion 200K Permanent

I never thought I would carry a brevet card around in January, but every streak comes to an end sooner or later. On Sunday MG, me and Maile N. dug deep in our valise of courage and bagged the Roaring Lion 200K Permanent from Poolesville, Md.

All in all it was a pretty good day, given that the temperatures did not rise much above freezing. We had mostly sunny skies and nearly calm winds, making the day actually somewhat pleasant — as long as we kept moving. The roads were perfectly clear of snow and ice. For all the crummy weather this month, it was a nice day on the bike. MG has written up another delightfully offbeat tale of the ride.

I posted a photoset at my Flickr page and uploaded our GPS track at my MotionBased page.

Roaring Lion 200K Permanent
by Mary Gersema
Jan. 26, 2009

The week of Jan. 19, I looked around my apartment and noticed that many household chores had piled up. Vacuuming, dusting, laundry… the weekend to-do list really seemed to be growing. How would I manage it all?

After some quick strategizing, the perfect plan formed. I suggested to Ed that it would be a GREAT idea to ride the Roaring Lion 200K permanent on January 25. This was an ideal way to address my chores–just ride away from them! Plus, Ed really would benefit from some quality time with me… and that’s job number one in my book.

Friend and fellow randonneusse Maile Neel also wanted to ride a 200K on Sunday and decided to join in the fun. Thanks to our friend and Roaring Lion permanent owner Crista Borras, we were quickly set up with cue sheets, control cards, and maps.

Sunday morning Ed, Maile, and I congregated at the McDonald’s in Poolesville, Md. (As you know, ride starts and controls tend to be truly exotic locations.) We took a starting picture and eased out of the control into 19 degree temperatures. My fingers began their initial winter “why-are-you-doing-this-to-me?” throb through my lobster gloves. Ed kept exclaiming, “I need a toe warmer for my forehead!” whenever we would pick up speed on a downhill. My Camelbak was frozen, and our bottles were ice cubes. What a beautiful day for a ride.

This definitely is a great way to feel alive, I thought. I knew Ed was feeling even more alive than I was, since I was reaping the benefit of his draft and he kept yelping about forehead toe warmers.

Fortunately, while the day was chilly, the winds were calm. The sun rose, the sky was empty of clouds, and few cars passed by. We warmed up and our brains were finally able to think about things other than toe warmers and our discomfort. We hadn’t seen Maile for a while so we asked her about her recent adventures. Our chit chat was interrupted by the climb up Marlu Ridge; all other activity stopped as we concentrated on hauling the bikes over the climb. After the downhill we caught the rest of her stories.

Conversations on the ride were often broken up into episodes. “Previously, on Maile’s life… before the climb up Marlu Ridge…”

“In our next episode of Maile’s life… after the Marlu Ridge descent.”

In between the climbs and downhills, “We last left Maile in the middle of last week, on her Costa Rica trip. What will happen to our fearless randonneusse? Tune in when the terrain flattens out… AFTER Marlu Ridge.”

We rolled into the 25.2 mile control in Middletown, Md., frozen but happy. We discussed the state of our water bottles and hoped the day would warm up so that they would thaw out. It was a little daunting to think of going from control to control without water.

Our route next took us up to the lovely Gapland. The morning sun and the work of the ascent warmed me up again. Gapland had a nice downhill payoff and as we rambled our way to lunch I noticed that our bottles were thawing and that I could easily access the water in my Camelbak. That relieved me, and buoyed my spirits about the day. In addition, I felt so good to be out of the city, reenergizing myself with the vistas of the countryside (and avoiding my housework!). Yes, this was much better than anything else I could be doing.

We crossed over the Potomac and arrived just outside of Shepherdstown, W.V. Ed and I looked longingly in the direction of the Shepherdstown Sweet Shop. Alas, our day was not destined to take us there for lunch and instead we made our way out to Hedgesville, W.V. for the midday control at a local pizza joint.

All of us were craving warm food so we decadently stopped for pizza. As we talked, I checked out Maile’s layering system. I decided winter layering systems mimicked that of a Russian doll, where you open up the doll and there is another doll inside; you open the next doll, another doll, etc. Maile took off her balaclava, and there was another balaclava. I took off my wool outer layer, and there were three more wool tops on underneath. Maile and Ed both wore knee warmers underneath their tights. I was wearing socks on top of socks. Ah, the drama and complexities of winter riding.

After lunch the sky clouded over, but the temperatures remained pleasant. We made our way back the way we had come. Ed and I started feeling something strange coming from either the shifting or the chain. (The bike had shifting problems all day and we stopped a couple of times to adjust the cable tension, but this was clearly something to address right away — Ed.) We pulled over to examine what the issue might be, and discovered we had broken half of the SRAM recloseable link and our chain was held together by the other half. Fortunately, the chain had not completely broken while were were pedaling. Ed was very excited about this mechanical and pulled out his camera to photograph it. Then, armed with his spares we were up and running again in no time. My hero!

Maile caught up to us and we meandered our way back to Shepherdstown. Ed again lamented not visiting the Shepherdstown Sweet Shop, but stoically steered the bike along.

After Gapland and around Burkittsville, two very excited and very large German Shepherds ran out in front of us. I was pretty certain they had come out to eat us. They aggressively approached several times, even after we had passed them. I almost lost my voice yelling at them to “STAY AWAY!” “GO HOME!” “GET BACK.” Ed later told me they were just playing and saying hello. I responded that he had not seen how one of them was lowering his snout tantalizingly toward my ankle. Ha!

We decided to wait for Maile and make sure she passed through alright, but we waited a bit up the road away from our four-legged friends. After a few minutes, Ed heard a menacing shout of “GO HOME!” “There’s Maile,” he said. She caught up to us, agreed with me that the dogs were out for more than just a “hey how are you,” and that they had also thought her ankle would make a nice treat. Apparently they had waged a more stealthy attack on her by coming up from behind. Fortunately, we all made it through unscathed, and pedaled onward.

We passed by a beautiful stream along Burnside Bridge Road with little falls interspersed. It was entirely frozen over, and flanked by brown. Without the sun, the day was not as picturesque. I started feeling a little bummed out. Winter riding… a study in the myriad shades of brown. Brown trees, brown grass, dead brown leaves, brown dirt… how many shades of brown are there?

Ed interrupted my thoughts and asked me if “everything was OK back there.” This is his code for “you have dead legs.” I said, “I just want to make it to the control,” and in my mind added “with you doing all the pedaling.” Nevertheless, I tried to get the legs going again for the next few miles and we soon pedaled into the 95.2 mile control in Jefferson, Md.

After taking in the warmth of the lovely Shell gas station and downing some Gatorade and a sandwich I felt refreshed. A gentleman passing through the gas station informed me that he was sure the temperature had only reached 32 degrees today. I told him that was OK — we’d be warming up as we climbed Marlu Ridge. He agreed the climb would get our blood pumping.

We hopped on our bikes and scooted up Marlu RIdge. As we climbed I spied a sundog shimmering in the sky. “Check it out, Ed,” I exclaimed, and pointed the sundog out to him. “What’s a sundog?” he answered. “They’re little rainbows that shine off the freezing cold particles in the sky,” I answered unscientifically. “I used to see them all the time in Iowa (my home state), but I’ve never seen one here because I’ve never been crazy enough to ride my bike 200K in the mountains in these temperatures!”

After admiring the sundog and summiting Marlu, we meandered our way over to Hyattstown. I was happy that the temperatures had stayed steady, the roads quiet, and the winds calm. I drank more Gatorade at the liquor store in Hyattstown, stopped thinking about brown since it was dark, and we all readied for the final 13 miles down Peachtree Road and back to Poolesville.

I looked at all of us in our night riding gear and started laughing. What were we doing, riding a permanent on this cold January day? What kind of lives ARE we randonneurs leading? I guess it was still more fun than doing my home duties, but seriously, was standing out in the dark and cold at the liquor store, decked out in our sashes and ankle bands and geeky cycling clothes, with all the beer displays surrounding us, really the better party? Was this the sexy randonneur lifestyle I had always envisioned? In that moment, I just wasn’t sure.

We laughed our way out of the parking lot and toodled our way along the final miles. The sky was clear and full of stars. I loved looking at them through the treetops.

An intense discussion about the Shepherdstown Sweet Shop ensued and swung me out of my stargazing reverie. Ed was still bumming that the ride had taken us SO CLOSE, but not to, the Sweet Shop. After commiserating, I countered that it was good that not all rides went to places like the Sweet Shop because we might get spoiled. Maile disagreed and thought all rides would be just fine if they stopped at places like the Shepherdstown Sweet Shop. I said that I thought it was a good thing today’s ride had not taken us there because we might have gotten too cozy, abandoned the ride, and tried to wrangle one of our friends into picking us up.

That discussion took us to the end of the ride, where a McDonald’s hamburger awaited me– my finishing prize. The control cards were signed, hugs exchanged, and french fries purchased. We all loaded up our bikes and headed home to shower. When Ed and I returned to my place, I added to my dirty laundry pile, and updated my to-do list for the week. At least now I could cross “riding my bike” and “spending time with Ed” off my list… until next weekend!

An Icy Tale: David Goodwin’s Gappity Gap 200K Permanent

David Goodwin last month rode the Gappity Gap 200K Permanent and posted his incredible story to the DCRand list. And what a tale it was, as bad weather rolled in early and forced him into an after-dark, icy descent down Thornton Gap from Skyline Drive. David nicely agreed to let me republish it on TDR: click Here.

Gappity Gap 200k
Dec. 20, 2008

by David Goodwin

Deciding I’d take the initiative to ride the Gappity Gap “Extreme Winter Solstice Version” 200K Permanent, I headed out Saturday morning to meet Matt Settle to pick up the obligatory cue sheet and brevet card. We agreed to meet at the Gainesville IHOP at 5:30 a.m. After a few words I was on my way to the start in Sperryville, at the base Thornton Gap, the first of the route’s five passes. I couldn’t even imagine what I would later experience some 12 hours later on my return across and back down Thornton’s. Every cyclist knows that one of the most key pieces of winter riding gear is the correct base layer-and I’d forgotten mine!

I decided to improvise by using the long sleeved, thin wool sweater I was wearing to the start. I placed this over my sleeveless polypro t-shirt and under my winter cycling jacket figuring problem solved and started off. Winter riding in mountains has its special challenges. I produced a huge volume of sweat in the first 30 minutes of the climb. Overdressed? Incorrect base layer? In what would be a crucial good decision, given that I’d be repeating this nine more times over the course of the day, I pulled to the side of the road and attempted to fix the problem now, early in the ride. I came up with the solution of removing the wool sweater and riding with only the sleeveless undershirt, bib shorts, bib tights, and cycling jacket as top layers. PERFECT! This was working–breathing on the climbs and keeping the wind from freezing my chest on the decent.

Shenandoah Valley exhibited its stark winter beauty with extraordinarily lonely views quite different from my previous excursions around Skyline Drive. I rode through Luray started up Edith Gap taking in some of the best views of the day-the town of Luray, Shenandoah River, and fields of hay rolls. Edith was making me work and even in my 34×29 I was still hitting the lever looking for a little extra gear. Note to self-go easy on the Christmas cookies. Before I knew it I had descended Edith, climbed Edinburgh Gap, controlled at Bo’s, passed Larkin’s in Columbia Furnace, and was headed up Wolf’s Gap to West Virginia.

The ride to the turnaround in Lost River was hard as always. The temperature was at least five degrees cooler in West Virginia but my layering system was working fine. I made it to the famous Lost River Grill in about 5:30, looking and feeling like a Popsicle. Did you ever try the soups here? They are AWESOME — cream of mushroom was my pick. I spent about 15 minutes there and asked about the weather forecast. Speaking of which…I’d been looking at the forecast for several days and knew that there was some weather forecast for the valley for LATE Saturday night/early Sunday morning. Folks in Lost River said don’t worry, it’s not supposed to be bad until 11 tonight or so. “But you better pedal fast anyway!”

I thought this was good advice and headed out to climb the hard side of Miller’s Gap, then up and over Wolf Gap back to the control in Edinburgh. A half mile from the top of Wolf Gap I started feeling more and more moisture in the air — like a fine mist. Crossing the gap to the east side was a completely different scene — fog and light but cold rain and very wet roads. Seems like the forecast was about seven hours off! Have I said lately how much I love full fenders and a mud flap?

The epic-ness of the day really started after leaving the Edinburgh control. I had this sickening feeling in my stomach about the final 30 some miles and having to ride all of it in the dark and wet. I changed the batteries in my rear blinky, donned my rain jacket over my winter jacket, attached a second blinky to the back of my rain jacket and headed out. The climb over Edinburgh gap was OK and I had no problems or issues with any drivers the entire day. Descending Edinburgh Gap to Kings Crossing was OK with the cars being patient behind me. Schmidt lights are so bomb proof, BTW.

I’m thinking to myself, “just two more climbs and I’m back to the car”. Dry clothes, heat, and food await! I also realized that if I even stopped for a moment there would be no way I’d be able to continue. Something about that feeling of being totally committed to a course of action! Things truly began to go “full on” near the summit of Edith Gap with freezing rain and fog so thick my light could only illuminate the next 10 feet. My rear derailleur was beginning to freeze as well — at least I could use the 27 and 29! Upon spending at least 2mm of my brake pads on the steep decent of Edith Gap I rolled into Luray to start the final climb, Thornton’s Gap. I was about 15 miles from my car at this point.

As I rolled through Luray, a bit of joy began to creep into my tired, wet, body — dry roads! Edith Gap was blocking the rain and wind. The misery was over. I started to formulate how I could call Papa John’s Pizza and have some kind of salty pizza ready for me to pick up in Warrenton. Half way up the final climb I was experiencing perfect conditions — bone dry roads, completely clear, light and courteous traffic. When I hit 1,000 feet or so I noticed a much similar feeling to my second ascent of Wolf Gap. Moisture and wind! All the cars coming down the mountain had their blinkers on. One driver actually stopped and told me that “the top was kind of slick”. Uh Oh!

This time the climb up Thornton’s never seemed to end. Switchback after switchback and more freezing mist and wind. After another 20 minutes I reached a straight section that just had to be near the top and was completely socked in with fog. I was distracted by flashing emergency vehicle lights a half mile ahead before realizing that I had just ridden my bike up on a sheet of solid ice. Just as I started to slip, I was able to unclip my right foot and get it down on the ground.

Folks, I had to just flat out walk the next mile, pushing my bike pathetically under the overpass of the Blue Ridge Parkway and down the other side. I walked up to the emergency vehicle that had stopped to help a stranded vehicle and knocked on the window. I said, “How are the roads further down the mountain?” He says, “The sand truck just went down. I reckin’ you can ride it.” I just started laughing at this point. I was only five miles from my car. Gappity Gap would still not let me go and was punishing me most severely for the audacity (stupidity?) of trying to ride this permanent in winter. I walked another quarter mile off the top and decided the prospect of walking the rest of the way back to the car was just not going to work.

I mounted the bike, clipped one foot in and balanced the other on the pedal and started rolling down. Staying in the sand and being really light on the brakes seemed to work — I was able to make a dozen miles per hour or so descending. If the weather on Edith had been a 10, the decent of Thornton’s Gap would be, in Spinal Tap lingo, an “11”. It was full-on raining those last five miles back to Sperryville and I froze solid! My cork bar tape was completely encased in ice. Even more comically, my canvas handlebar bag that was soaked from the day’s ride had frozen solid as well. I flicked the map case on top to remove the ice that was blocking my view. My face and eye sockets were frozen in some kind of twisted grin as I pedaled furiously back to the car. At that point I would have killed for some of Ed’s special randonneur Tiger Balm. (Ed. note: David means Kiehl’s All-Sport Non-Freeze Face Protector.)

About two miles from the end I realized that I had a car following me closely but not passing. When I turned into the parking lot I realized that it was RBA Matt Settle out to check on me! I got my card stamped at 8:21 p.m. (due to a 7:23 a.m. start, my total time was 12:58.) I warmed up in Matt’s car to the point where I could actually speak. After recounting the day and complementing Matt on his permanent, I stowed my gear in my own car and headed back home.

I only wish I had taken a photo of that frozen solid Bertoud canvas bag — that really said it all. Randonneuring is always such an adventure!

Dave Goodwin

Mark V.’s Paul’s Paradise 200K Permanent

As many of you know, I don’t chase the RUSA R-12 award, in part because I don’t want to have to ride a 200K brevet/permanent in winter. Plus, my schedule is structured so that I would have to miss out on riding with friends to go off and get a solo permanent here and there.

However, there is a dedicated band of R12ers here in the D.C. area who have been riding high and low to keep their streaks alive.

In the spirit of the presidential inaugural, I’ve posted Mark Vinette’s tale of the inaugural Paul’s Paradise 200k Permanent— a route designed by Crista Borras.

The route is an out-and-back from Poolesville, Md. to the turnaround at Paul’s Country Market with substantial climbing and lots of valley views. Mark rode it on Veterans Day, wrote his story on Dec. 31, and now it makes its way to TDR. Thanks for a nice writeup, Mark!

Paul’s Paradise Trip Report
by Mark Vinette
Dec. 31, 2008

This whole adventure started when I asked my R-36/48 buddies George Winkert and Nick Bull if they were interested in a Veterans Day Permanent to get our November ride in. They had the day off and rode mid-week holidays in the past, most notably the inaugural ride of my Bridge to Bridge Permanent on a frigid Martin Luther King Day this past January.

Alas, although we are united in our goal of continuous monthly 200ks until we die, our secondary goals of 2008 RUSA mileage awards and a nearby starting location required us to select different permanents for the day. RUSA does not grant mileage credit for permanent routes repeated in the same year, so when Nick was able to recruit Ed Felker and Mary Gersema with the suggestion of the highly attractive and nearby Mason-Dixon 200k Permanent, I was out of luck, having ridden the M-D back in March.

The Mason-Dixon 200k seemed like the perfect choice for a short November day, with its convenient start and average amount of climbing, particularly since George was flying back from Japan after three solid weeks of sushi and no riding.

Sadly, I am not as smart as Nick and George when it comes to route selection. Route developer extraordinaire Crista Borras had told me about the pending approval of Paul’s Paradise, starting nearby in Poolesville, Md., during one of our mid-summer permanent scheduling/counseling sessions. It had just been approved on Oct. 31. Paul’s promised some serious climbing (“scenic” in Crista speak), but the close-in start was just too good to pass up. Besides, I was still in pretty good shape from my summer riding.

The Paul’s route generally follows the DCR RUSA 10th Anniversary/Roaring Lion Permanent route. It winds north-northwest from Poolesville to Adamstown, then over Marlu Ridge to Middletown, location of one of the estates of “World’s Greatest Randonneur” Paul Donaldson, not the Paul this route is named for.

From Middletown, this route turns scenic. You get Harmony Road and then Harp Hill (the hard way) to the first control in Wolfsville, then take Wolfsville Road (MD17) for an extended low grade climb over South Mountain. From Smithsburg the route goes north to Rouzerville, Pa., and then loops to the north and west just short of the climb back up South Mountain to the turnaround control at Paul’s Market. The return reverses direction to Rouzerville, then climbs back over South Mountain to Cascade and down to MD77 via the reverse of the original D.C. Randonneurs 300k route.

From MD77, the route follows Stottlemeyer Road to Delauter’s Store on MD17 just south of Wolfsville. From Delauter’s the route follows MD17 to Harmony Road to Jefferson. The finish is over Marlu Ridge and through Buckeystown, Urbana, Hyattstown, Peach Tree Road, ala the RUSA 10th/Roaring Lion ride.

It was 28 degrees at the McDonald’s at my 6:30 a.m. start time and both of my computers decided to fail. Since I had ridden the final 40 miles of Roaring Lion with a cracked downtube on my last Crista Borras permanent, I decided the twin computer failure would not be the cause for a DNS. This was my first long ride with all the extra winter clothes on and they noticeably slowed the pace down.

I slogged over to Marlu Ridge and granny geared it over, saving energy for Harp Hill to come. I had a noticeable northwest headwind for the entire day which slowed my morning progress as well. Harp Hill was under construction and down to one lane going up, but traffic was non-existent and I rode alone over the top and down to Harnes Store in Wolfsville. Harnes is famous for being either closed or out of business most of the time, but today it was hopping with several locals hanging in back and shooting the breeze.

I needed a recovery break from all the climbing so I stayed for awhile and ate something. Soon I was climbing the long but not steep grade of Wolfsville Road/MD 17 to the crest of South Mountain. I stopped along the way to check out a corn field and realized I was about to bonk, so I sat for a while more and had a gel and a banana.

The next section was quite flat into Rouzerville, Pa. along roads I had never been on before. The wind was swinging more west of northwest and helping out at times too. From Rouzerville, the route follows Old Forge Road north, a long climb from the epic Pennsylvania 400ks of 2002 and 2003 which are famous for rain, wind, hills and frost warnings. Fortunately for me, Crista diverted west along the base of South Mountain to get to the turnaround control at the aptly named Paul’s Market (mile 55). This section featured a long uphill grade that was also upwind. I spent a little more time than normal at Paul’s, talking to Paul and recovering from the previous section.

The return to Rouzerville was much easier with the tailwind and I was soon on the Old US 16 climb back over South Mountain to Cascade. This climb is never very steep, but it does go on for over a mile. I kept moving, knowing once I crested in Cascade, I had mostly downhill to the control at Delauter’s Store on MD17 in Wolfsville and beyond on MD17. I arrived at Delauter’s (mile 85) at 1:40 p.m. feeling OK but now calculating my ETA at the finish vs. the “dark monster” — sundown — around 5-5:30 p.m. Let’s see, 40 miles + two controls + Marlu Ridge and Old Middletown Road = 3:15. I would arrive around 5:15 p.m., still light enough to go full speed all the way; the final 30 miles from Marlu Ridge were pretty familiar and fairly flat.

I have finished at least six RUSA rides this year on these roads. I made decent time and rolled through Urbana and on to the final control on MD355 in Hyattstown, still on schedule. The final miles back to Poolesville on Peach Tree Road went typically for me on this finish. I either feel bad from riding too hard or eating too little or some critical part of my bike starts acting up. Today was no different. My bike developed a loud squeal at high speed that could be felt as a vibration in the pedals and bars. I traced the source to the rear hub area by eliminating all other possible speed variable sources. Luckily, nothing more than the squeal/vibration developed by the finish.

I rolled into McDonalds at 5:18 p.m., right on schedule, with the remaining daylight fading fast. My total time of 10:48 reflects the greater-than-average climbing on the route. I don’t have an elevation total due to the computer battery failure, but I’ll confirm Crista’s estimate of about 10,000 feet or 20 percent more “scenic” than her typical routes. The climbing is spread through the first two-thirds of the ride, leaving the end fairly flat. The climbs are longer and less steep than average, except for Marlu Ridge (going out). All in all a nice ride — except I never did see the Pair of Dice!