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.

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July4thTour Day1 Blue Skies and Quiet Roads to Franklin

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Day one of our July 4th four-day tour was one of those rides where we just rode and enjoyed. We covered 93.5 miles from Strasburg, Va. to Franklin, W.V. under sunny skies with light traffic and mostly moderate heat.

We combined two routes from Crista Borras to get to Wardensville and Moorefield, W.V. via scenic Rt. 55. After lunch at O’Neill’s we used CR7 and CR3 to get to the nasty climb via US33 over Shenandoah Mountain into Franklin.

Winds were light from the northwest, giving us some tailwinds that were great until the climb on US33, where we nearly overheated. Milkshakes and cold drinks at the store at the top saved the day.

Tonight we’re at the cushy Hubbard Inn watching Wimbledon after a big dinner at the Star Hotel restaurant that was great and a great deal.

Tomorrow we head for the Blue Grass Valley, Monterey, Goshen Pass and an overnight at Osceola Mill Inn in Steele’s Tavern.

We hope you are getting in good rides and good times this weekend.

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.