The Feeling Returns

When inspiration strikes, the feeling is magical. After this weekend, I’m enthused about spending more time out on the open road, now that summer is ending.

How so? Last week Mary and I decided to ride a DC Randonneurs 300K course, the “Contrary Mother of All 300Ks,” as a two-day, no credit tour. We’re randonneurs in the spring, but the rest of the year, we veer more toward touring and centuries, and this one is a beauty.

The West Virginia town of Romney, nestled in the hills, is at mile 102 and has a good hotel and dinner options. The second day would be about 90 miles, just as hilly but not as long. See the routes: Day 1 and Day 2.

We also put out the word on the DC Randonneurs listserv to see if anyone wanted to come along. To our happy surprise, another tandem team joined us – Gordon M. and his wife Kay T., on a lovely black Co-Motion tandem.

Gordon and Kay

Gordon and Kay

 

I’ve known Gordon for 20 years but only recently met Kay, a very active rider who has a successful masters-level bike racing pedigree. They were married just three months ago and are enjoying newlywed bliss.

We met Saturday in Middletown, Va. in the Shenandoah Valley, and pedaled off to the north and west into the rolling hills. Mary and I stuffed the Carradice with a few essentials, while they carried lightly loaded panniers.

The weather cooperated wonderfully with bright skies, low humidity, and moderate temperatures in the 80s. This after forecasts earlier in the week talked about possible rain from a tropical storm moving up the Atlantic coast. For once, the storm moved away and we were left with perfectly clear late summer weather — whoo!

This route is rarely flat and we were a bit quicker up the hills, but Kay and Gordon came on fast on the descents and flats and were rarely far away. We stopped to enjoy the orchard views and lingered at the rest stops, including a well-deserved late lunch in Capon Bridge.

Riding along the Capon River

Riding along the Capon River

 

Dinner at a local place that shall go unnamed in Romney was slow and kind of odd, but it gave us time to get better acquainted and learn more about each other’s bike collections. I’m afraid I took the prize for boring everyone with the nuances of 650b bikes vs. gravel grinders vs. singlespeeds, and so on. (See? I’m doing it now!)

Day 2: Sweet and Scenic

 

Sunday dawned a little overcast and cool. Mary and I rode by ourselves down into town to the Sheetz for a coffee-type drink and breakfast sandwiches, while Gordon and Kay lit out on the course toward Lost River ahead of us. The motorbike guys at the Sheetz asked us about the tandem and I found out a little about Honda Gold Wing touring motorcyles. Word is, the engines last forever. “The Cadillac of motorcycles,” one guy said.

A brief derailleur adjustment and photo stop

A brief derailleur adjustment and photo stop

 

On the way to Lost River we rode over one hill after another on quiet roads, with just the occasional herd of cows and sheep looking on. One little dog came out to chase us, but I was certain the chain would stop it at the road’s edge. Then we noticed the chain wasn’t anchored! It gave a hearty chase, dragging the chain. That pup won the day’s prize for spirit.

Speaking of dragging chains, we kept dropping ours past the small front chainring on uphills, and had to stop a few times to pull the chain up onto the ring and fiddle with the front derailleur. The hills were steep enough – one was 16 percent – that we really needed to use that ring, and were glad when we got things working correctly. Relieved is more accurate, actually.

The Lost River Grill was supposed to stop serving breakfast at 11:30 AM and we arrived right then, trailing Gordan and Kay by 20 minutes. He talked them into keeping the breakfast menu going a little longer for us. I had purchased a little bottle of maple syrup at the South Branch Inn in Romney and was thrilled to order a waffle to justify carrying it over the hills. Unfortunately I left it there by mistake, still half-full. Oh well. It was delicious syrup and worth having it.

We climbed up Wolf Gap and the Garmin GPS unit went haywire trying to route us, beeping madly about a turn that did not exist, and finally just shut down at the top of the climb. No matter, we’ve blasted down that descent a few times and know the drill. The Spectrum tandem handled the sharp turns with aplomb and we got down to the Larkin’s Store in Edinburgh with smiles on our faces.

The smiles turned to frowns when we discovered the store was closed for repairs from a fire. We read later that a drink cooler caught fire and the owner saved the structure by getting everbody out and closing all the doors to limit oxygen. They’ve promised to re-open, I hope soon. That place is a main stop for the randonneurs and other riders in that part of the valley. We made do with some pocket food and didn’t need water, so all was well enough.

Larkin's is closed, but repairs are underway

Larkin’s is closed, but repairs are underway

 

Back Road never fails to entertain and was lovely and challenging with its many rollers and wide views. I just wish there was a crossing of Rt. 55 without having to ride on it for a few miles first – fast traffic and no shoulder make it a little scary. We got back to Middletown in good shape, and greeted Gordon and Kay who looked fresh and happy as they rolled into town.

Yes, that was fun!

Yes, that was fun!

 

Mary and I went to dinner at Roma Italian at Stephens City, which made for a satisfying end note to the weekend.

Sometimes things just work out well without drama. I took a lot of inspiration from Gordon and Kay, who thoroughly enjoyed themselves – and Mary, who rode strong as always.  This weekend was a great finale to a fun and active summer.

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.

Fleche Training Weekend: Spring is here?

Four of our five-person Team Definite Maybe hit the road on Saturday from Warrenton for a shakedown ride to get our legs in shape for the D.C. Randonners Fleches Velocio on April 6. That would be Lane G. and Bennett M. on single bikes, and me & MG on our tandem. (The fifth Beatle Mike R. could not join us.)

Bennett and Lane headed south

Bennett and Lane headed south

What is a fleche? It is a 24-hour team ride first run by French randonneurs in 1947, culminating in an Easter rally. Teams start from different locations on self-selected routes that converge on a common finish point and time for a celebration.

Being a randonneur event, it has some rules. The ride must be 24 hours in duration with no rest stop longer than two hours. Teams must cover a minimum of 360 kilometers (about 224 miles) with at least 25 kilometers ridden in the final two hours.

Because the D.C. Randonneurs set the finish line at 7 a.m. Sunday at the Key Bridge Marriott hotel in Arlington, this makes for interesting Star Wars cantina-style scenes at area 24-hour establishments.

Teams typically pick an all-night diner or convenience store as a 22-hour stop, where they linger until 5 a.m. This mandatory stop puts them in the mix with the late party crowd and the early Sunday risers.

As you may have realized, we ride all night. Bright bike lights, reflective vests and quiet roads are important. So is coffee!

See more at the Randonnuers USA site here.

A good long ride a couple weeks out from the event helps get the legs, seats and confidence in shape. This year we initially planned a two-day team trip starting with a 155-miler from Sperryville, Va. to Lexington, Va., west of the Blue Ridge Parkway. To our disappointment the weather forecast for the 115-mile Sunday return was terrible, with sleet and snow predicted at higher elevations.

We postponed that ride for another time and went with a terrific standby, the one-day Gordonsville Fleche Tuneup 155-mile loop. It was cued by local route whiz Lynn K. a few years ago and remains a favorite early season jaunt.

Our route to Gordonsville, staying east of the Blue Ridge around Culpeper, Va.

Our route to Gordonsville, staying east of the Blue Ridge around Culpeper, Va.

Our full route details from my GPS are here.
You can see more photos: MG’s, Bennett’s and mine.

The course winds over hilly roads west and south from Warrenton around Culpeper to Gordonsville for lunch. Riders then make a run to Orange and back to Warrenton over flatter terrain.

This plan also meant missing the D.C. Randonneurs 200K brevet out of Urbana, Md., the same day. Our schedules did not allow us to wait until next weekend for a long shakedown ride, so we had to experience it through the photosets of our club mates Bill Beck and Mike Wali.

We did get to see our neighbor Lisa S. leaving at the same time as us as she was driving up to Urbana. That Zipcar ahead of us with the bike in the back at 5 a.m. — her!

Our foursome gathered at 6:30 a.m., at first light. Temperatures hovered around freezing with light winds, and we knew it would get even colder out of town. Lane and Bennett were still assembling when we left on the tandem but they’d be up to us soon enough.

The departure straight downhill from the parking lot was menacingly cold, made worse by my decision to leave my balaclava and helmet cover behind. My sinuses ached so badly that I had to drop my head to shield them, which caused cold air to flow over my glasses. My tear ducts promptly sprayed the inside of my lenses, making vision difficult. MG wailed about her legs because she had worn light tights for the warmer temperatures predicted later in the day.

The route climbed out of Warrenton, which warmed us on the uphills. Then we froze again on the downhills and in the forested sections between horse and cow pastures. I knew it was cold because my Camelbak tube froze solid, not unlike my cheeks and nose. Our booties and chemical toe warmer pads helped keep our feet somewhat warm, but after a few miles they started to ache too.

Lane and Bennett reached us near Flint Hill, before our first rest stop at mile 30 at Washington, Va. By then the sun had fully risen.

Yes, I am from the future. It's so cold here!

Yes, I am from the future. It’s so cold here!

We ate and waited awhile to let the sun climb higher. The temperatures were still not anything like warm by the time we had to go, and MG put on most everything she had for the departure. We rolled off toward the sublime Fort Valley Road — or F.T. Valley Road, depending on the road sign you come across.

This road consists of a series of rollers toward the Blue Ridge, culminating in the high point of the day, the climb up Old Rag Mountain via Etlan Road.

Lane makes a friend at Old Rag Mountain

Lane makes a friend at Old Rag Mountain

A friendly puppy charged out to investigate and made friends at the top where we stopped to regroup. On the other side we saw the only other road riders of note today, a group tooling up toward the mountain from the opposite direction.

From here our routes diverged. The long haul to Gordonsville at mile 87 prompted Lane and Bennett to detour to the Yoder’s Store south of Madison while we stayed to the cued course. Light winds made the going easy — other than grinding up hill after hill — and we stopped along the way to take off layers. The hills and valleys teemed with horses, cattle and birds.

The fields are alive under bright sun

The fields are alive under bright sun

Time for a roadside break on Blue Ridge Turnpike

Time for a roadside break on Blue Ridge Turnpike

We reached Gordonsville at 1:40 p.m., after the infamous hard climb into town. This was later than we wanted and there was no sign of Lane and Bennett at our appointed lunch spot at Fabio’s Pizza.

Oh well, how slow we are! They must have given up and left us. Sadness.

Not so, whew! They rolled up about five minutes later and we enjoyed a pleasant hour. Our waitress was super-nice, brought extra water for us and ignored the fact that we brought in our own drinks. For that, we pumped up the tip.

I am always impressed by the courtesy we’re given in these small towns despite our out-of-place obvious appearance. We’re riding our bikes on the roads, for heaven’s sake; not normal. She warned us about the drivers, but we had no problems this day.

The next big question was whether we had time to stop in Orange, Va. in 14 miles for a coffee at the Sheetz convenience store. By the time we arrived the answer was yes. Getting up at 4:30 a.m. leads one to crave caffeine in the late afternoon, though I’m not sure of the science behind this.

Lane and Bennett (courtesy B. Minton)

Lane and Bennett (courtesy B. Minton)

Me and MG in Orange. No jackets! (courtesy B. Minton)

Me and MG in Orange. No jackets! (courtesy B. Minton)

The afternoon sun was bright and by now we had put away our jackets and winter caps. We loved the feeling of spring to come and took photos to celebrate. Loose dogs came out to give us friendly encouragement.

Full Flight! (courtesy MG)

Full Flight! (courtesy MG)

The remainder of the route was over familiar roads, as the route was created from one of the club’s 300K brevets. The goal now was to get back to Warrenton by nightfall around 7:30 p.m., and we almost did it.

The starter raises his pistol for the final leg to the finish. (courtesy B. Minton)

The starter raises his pistol for the final leg to the finish. (courtesy B. Minton)

We rolled the final 54 miles into a slight headwind and took one more rest stop, which got us back to the car at 8 p.m. There was just a sliver of light still in the sky.

MG in fading light

MG in fading light

After a casual dinner in town the day was complete. It was long, but satisfying. Many thanks to Lane and Bennett for the companionship and laughs. By all indications we are set for a good fleche.

Epilogue:

Both MG and I woke up with dehydration headaches on Sunday morning. After puttering around over breakfast and espressos we got out for another 37 miles on a meander-and-eat recovery ride. First we went up to Bethesda via the Capital Crescent Trail and had a muffin. Then we went to Potomac for lunch before rolling back home for afternoon naps.

We realized we had not consumed enough liquid on Saturday. MG and I find it a challenge to drink enough on cold days.

On the positive side, getting out on Sunday was a sign that our legs are getting stronger, just in time for the big ride in two weeks.

Out to the Blue Ridge for a Big Day in the Hills

The warm winter continues here in Washington, D.C. — today the temperatures reached the upper 50s. Are we complaining? Um, no.

Rather, we tackled our first big hill ride of the year — a 112-mile doozy out at the north end of the Shenandoah Valley near Front Royal, Va. that featured three extended climbs and many, many, many rollers. I guess the bridges at the bottom of the hills were flat but that was about it.

The top of Edith Gap: Lane, MG, Bennett. See all that sun?

Friends Lane G. and Bennett M. joined us on their single bikes, which let them glide away from us on the ascents. That phenomenon has something to do with their climbing skills and the tandem’s pokey 5 m.p.h. pace in the lowest gear. Yes, we went to Grannyville — a lot! Hey, it’s still February.

We used the tandem’s superior downhill speed to close the gaps and managed to stick together the entire day.

My photoset for the day. Click to see them at Flickr.

See Bennett’s photos here and MG’s here. Great shots you two!

Our route was a shortened version of Crista Borras’ “We Can See Clearly Now” 200K RUSA permanent brevet that starts in rural Marshall, Va. Early on we climbed over the ridge to Front Royal, Va., stopped there for coffee, then turned south for a long segment through the rolling Fort Valley, on the west side of famous Skyline Drive.

At the southern end of the valley we crawled up twisty/cruel Edith Gap and then down into Luray, Va. for lunch at mile 63. From there a new-to-us back way out of town led to a short dirt road that connected us to the long, meandering climb over Thornton Gap.

We crossed Skyline Drive at the top and after an exhilarating switchback descent rode through Sperryville, “Little” Washington and Flint Hill before returning to Marshall.

We plugged along but not quite fast enough to beat the sunset, and had a sweet little 45 minute night ride, also the first of the season. We all brought lights and reflective gear, so we were safe.

No jackets, a little goofing around. Spring fever in February!

The first mountainous ride of the year is always tough, and we felt this one in our legs as the day went on. Our knees and lower backs started to stiffen but we didn’t suffer anything more than a little soreness and general fatigue toward the very end.

Certainly it was unusual to ride in the Skyline Drive area this time of year — normally the temperatures would be very cold and we’d freeze on the descents, not to mention finding icy sections. None of that today. We also enjoyed the lower level of auto traffic than we’d see in the spring and summer.

As we plan to ride the Colorado High Country 1200K this July, the chance to start logging the climbing miles was too good to pass up. We’ll need to get in great shape for the long slogs over the Rockies.

Tomorrow we expect rain and maybe some wet snow — allowing us to rest our legs and sleep in! Ahh, the joys of completing a big ride, and the relaxation that follows, can’t be understated.

July4thTour Day 3: A Long Day on The Parkway, and Skyline Drive

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When we planned 96 miles from Steele’s Tavern to Skyland hotel via the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive, it all sounded so fun.

Well, it was, but the BRP and Skyline are anything but easy. It didn’t help that we started with the crazy hard climb from Vesuvius, Va., which ranks among the toughest we’ve done on the tandem.

We were soaked from sweat by the top and had to take a rest break after only five miles. We did not walk on the climb, but only because we had fresh legs!

The rest of the day’s ride was better, of course, as we tucked on the swooping descents and ground up the challenging climbs to the lunch stop at the Loft Mountain rest area, Mile 57 to us.

A brief rain shower broke the heat and humidity that returned with gusto today. We ventured out onto damp roads and exchanged waves with the steady stream of motorcyclists who for some reason think tandems are cool. Hey, we agree.

A nice dinner at Skyland completed the day.

Tomorrow we complete our little tour with 42 miles to Front Royal and then 18 more to our car. Time to get home and set for our next adventure!

July4thTour Day 2: Hills and Sun to Steele’s Tavern

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Today we made the turn toward the east but not after a sweet morning ride through Thorn Creek Road, Moyer’s Gap and up Wimer Mountain Road to the Blue Grass Valley store.

Perfect blue skies and temperatures starting in the 60’s made for comfortable climbing, which occupied the bulk of the first 37 miles to Monterey and lunch at The Highland diner. Yes, it took us nearly four hours but we were in no rush to see this area behind us.

From there we tackled Wilson Mountain on the way to Warm Springs, then Warm Springs Mountain and Goshen Pass. By Goshen it was hot, low 90’s, but the humidity stayed low and not too bad.

The climb to Raphine took us onto Rt. 606 to Steele’s Tavern, a road we always climb from the otherness direction at night during the DCR 600K brevet. It’s actually a nice road, even better descending! We racked up 114 miles today. As MG put it, “it’s so nice to be here not grinding your way into Raphine!”

Tonight another B&B, The Osceola Mill, with it’s own restaurant. Very quaint and our room ceiling fan is drying out our handwashing quickly. How did they anticipate our laundry needs?

Tomorrow we hit the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive to Skyland for our final overnight. These trips go by so fast. Thanks for reading and happy rides this weekend!

PBP Prep: Hitting the road for a few touring days

The PBP edition of RUSA’s American Randonneur magazine, just published, has a lot of useful information, including a refreshing article from Bill Bryant titled “PBP Training – Between the 600K and PBP.”

Bill’s advice includes avoiding lots of long rides during the period between the ACP qualifiers and PBP. Rather, he suggests back-to-back centuries and 200K rides, with maybe a couple of 300Ks or a 400K ride thrown in. (D.C. Randonneurs has an 8 p.m. 400K on July 8 if you are interested. See more here.)

Bill also reminds us that we need to fully recover from the 600K qualifier, no small event by itself, before we can peak again for PBP.

Bill offers a fine suggestion for long miles that matches our approach: “Touring is good.”

MG on Skyline Drive, Fall 2010

We couldn’t agree more. The strength gains from multiple days in the saddle with a few extra pounds of gear on the bike can’t be underestimated. Bill recommends a full week, which we would like, but can’t arrange the time away from work on top of vacation time needed for PBP.

MG and I have managed to put together a hilly four-day tour on the tandem this coming weekend, though, that we think will be a big help physically and mentally.

We’ll cover about 600K in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, heading south about 200 miles along the western side of the Blue Ridge over two days to Steele’s Tavern, Va. We then ride a century north on the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive to the Skyland rest area on the drive. We’ll finish with about 100K on July 4th over the remaining miles on Skyline to Front Royal, Va. and then to our car near Strasburg, Va.

We love multi-day touring, with no time pressures and a chance to enjoy the simple pleasure of riding on long summer days in the country. We also hope the days will get our legs in shape for some more focused riding later in July before tapering to PBP.

Thanks for the article, Bill!

Fall Leaf Tour Epilogue

We made it back to the car yesterday in Harpers Ferry with gratitude for a nice, and at times, excitingly dramatic week on the road. We had a lovely, 50-mile ride with a tailwind. Crista B. and Chuck W. rode out with us on their tandem to the swanky gourmet country store in Millwood for treats and espresso before they went back to Middletown.

There is something sad and satisfying about finishing a tour. Yes, it was nice to get off the bike, but we’ll miss the carefree days of tooling along and taking lots of photos.

The reasons you go on vacation — getting away from life’s little curveballs — came back to us quickly. You may recall we had trouble leaving town on our first day. We had to turn back home after 40 miles when the freehub body started to fail on our rear Phil Wood tandem hub, freshly serviced by Phil Wood themselves.

After swapping the wheel with another one built on a Phil hub (which worked perfectly throughout the tour), we drove the bike to our first planned overnight in Harpers Ferry and left the car. We adjusted our return plans to go back there and drive home.

A tandem, on a car, on a tow truck. Next time we'll just ride home.

All was well until we stopped for dinner Sunday in Frederick, Md. The car refused to go any further. A helpful AAA technician determined the car had to be towed to a garage for more service than he could provide, and we ended up calling for a ride home from Chuck (hi again, it’s us!), who dropped us at a Metro subway station for the last leg of our journey. We arrived home on foot late Sunday evening with our panniers but no bike (Chuck is holding it for us) and no car.

Today we’re headed back to work, with good memories and a nice heavy feeling in our legs from 706 miles of fall color and good times, including seeing many of our randonneur buddies at the D.C. Randonneurs Cacapon 200K on Saturday.

RBA Bill Beck managed the event perfectly and took awesome photos. His writeup with links is below. Thanks Bill!

36 riders showed up in Middletown, VA for the Cacapon 200K, and everyone of these hardy DC Randonneurs finished under the time limit. Lynn couldn’t be there this year, but everyone enjoyed her beautiful route that passes along the peaceful Cacapon River as well as soaring up to high apple orchards and over Wolf Gap. Fall colors were very nice, especially in the second half of the route. The temperature started at around 50F and rose into the 60s, but an enthusiastic breeze kept up all day. Fortunately the breeze seemed to be mainly from behind for the final leg along Back Road.

Thanks to Charlie Thomas, and his wife Katrin for coming out dark and early to check in all of the riders at the start. That was a big help.

Congratulations to Mark Parascandola and Andrew Mazur for completing their first brevets. And bonus points to Matt Kisner who managed to complete the ride, including the climb over Wolf Gap, with a barely shifting rear derailleur. The hard-core awards go to Ed Felker and Mary Gersema, who did the brevet at the end of their 706 mile bike tour, and Maile Neel who had just completed the Perth-Albany-Perth 1200K a week before.

Preliminary results are now posted at http://www.dcrand.org/dcr/results.php?page=display-results&year=2010. My photos are posted at http://www.flickr.com/photos/wabeck/sets/72157625059937053/. Maile’s are at http://www.flickr.com/photos/mcn7/sets/72157625186486542/with/5091321427/.

Thanks to Maile for loaning me her SLR camera while my daughter used mine to shoot a wedding. (My pictures start at the Siler control since it took me that long to figure out that the autofocus was turned off. Doh!)

Our next ride is the Eastern Shore Flatbread 200K on November 13. See organizer Chip Adams’s description at http://dcrand.org/blog/2010/09/27/eastern-shore-flatbread-200k-nov-13-2010/. Hopefully, we won’t have a hurricane this year and will be able to ride the full route to the ocean!

Bill

Fall Leaf Tour Day 9: Tailwinds to the finish

We’re tired and our legs are not great after yesterday’s brevet, but we’re happy. We have a tailwind and bright sun today as we head to Harpers Ferry, about 50 easy miles– we hope.

It has been a great tour. Time to rest up for more fun adventures to come. Thanks for reading. We’ll have photos, routes and a story or two about our trip in the next few days.

Fall Leaf Tour Days 7 & 8: Skyline Drive and a 200K Brevet Kicker

Our fall tour is in the home stretch now, with just one last ride to our car in Harpers Ferry tomorrow. We’ll be sorry to wrap up our journey, but after today’s D.C. Randonneurs 200K brevet, a break will be much appreciated.

Backing up, we left Skyland Resort on Skyline Drive Friday morning under sunny, cold skies with west winds gusting strongly. The ride was trending downhill from the high point at 3,680 feet, but included plenty of uphills. The colors were, as they had been in previous days, spectacular. We love the views and the smooth roads, but were glad to exit the drive as we saw car after car driving up as we rolled down.

We met our friends Crista and Joel in Front Royal for lunch and then went to the Super 8 hotel in Middletown, Va. for the night. Dinner with them and Maile N. made for a nice evening.

Today we shed our panniers and joined the DCRs for the Cacapon 200K brevet, a real quad-burner through orchards and then Wolf Gap before returning to Middletown via our old friend Back Road. Gusty northwest winds slowed us in the morning but came around to the southwest by afternoon and gave us a solid tailwind to finish.

MG and I learned a pretty obvious lesson today: 525 miles of hilly touring do not make one faster at a brevet. We watched our buddies sail off into the distance as we plodded along with our heavy legs. It was fine. We enjoyed the blue skies and lovely leaf colors at our own pace and finished just after 6 p.m. Throw another 128 miles on the tally.

Tomorrow, we wrap with about 50 miles up to Harpers Ferry. Our legs are pretty much done and we are ready to get home and savor the best of the fall In the mid-Atlantic.