The Unintentional Century

On Saturday big crowds were expected in D.C. for the protest march, but I’m in the news business and had no related assignment, so I was looking for an escape from the city. The forecast was for a mostly dry, mild day, and a long bike ride in the country was in order.

Mary graciously agreed to join me and we set off from Marshall, Va. on what was to be an 85-miler, though it ultimately turned into a longer and harder route than we expected. See the final ride at Ridewithgps. The route we intended has a shortcut via the low water bridge over the Shenandoah River that is usually passable – but I should have checked beforehand.

The day was gray, with some light mist, and lots of fog. Temperatures were in the upper 40s, though, so no worries. I always keep the generator front and rear lights running in daytime, but I was doubly glad for them today because of the fog. (Tech nerds: our setup is a Schmidt SON 28/disc 36-hole hub, running a Busch & Muller IQ-X headlight and a B&M Toplight rear light mounted to a Tubus rack).

Wool blend jersey and vest kind of day

Wool jersey and vest kind of day

 

This route features one big climb, Snickers Gap, but otherwise is made up of rolling hills. The temperatures warmed up into the low 50s.

Bluemont Store. Snickers Gap ahead.

Bluemont Store. Snickers Gap ahead.

 

Snickers Gap was shrouded in fog.

The fog on Snickers Gap

The fog on Snickers Gap

 

We had an early lunch a few miles before Snickers Gap in Middleburg, which we thought would allow us to get around the course with just store stops.

Time out at the luxe Millwood store

Time out at the luxe Millwood store

 

All was going well until we got to the low water bridge at Morgan Ford Road, only to find it gone, with a new bridge under construction. This sad turn of events came later in the afternoon, which was a bummer. The only options were to backtrack over Snickers Gap, or go on to Front Royal and cross the Shenandoah River there.

And thus ended our plans to finish in daylight

And thus ended our plans to finish in daylight

 

We opted for the Front Royal option to keep things in a loop. Our thought was initially to take Rt. 55 straight back to Marshall, but that road is pretty scary leaving Front Royal and I talked Mary into taking Rt. 522, which took us over Chester Gap in thick fog and added a few more miles. Traffic was light and gave us plenty of room.

Our generator light did a great job on the descent, supplemented with a Light and Motion battery light, and we got off onto Hume Road without any issues.

From there it was quiet roads all the way back to Marshall, in and out of the fog banks. We never got really cold or wet, but it was still a relief to get back to the car, well after dark at 6:30 p.m.

Today (Sunday) I felt pretty tired but our pal and fleche captain Jerry S. talked me into a 35-miler out on the W&OD Trail out to Caffe Amouri in Vienna and back. The rain held off and it was a pleasant outing, and made an afternoon nap pretty sweet.

Jerry leads the way back to DC

Jerry leads the way back to DC

 

Next week: The DC Randonneurs club has their annual meeting and 68-mile populaire next Saturday, and that’s likely going to be plenty for us. I’ll make my 600-mile goal for January sometime this week and my legs are starting to feel it.

Happy Thanksgiving to All

I hope you all had as nice a Thanksgiving as the one MG and I enjoyed. We missed our beloved relatives — including daughter DF — that’s to be noted first. But we otherwise made the most of a quiet day together here in Washington, with a nice bike ride out to Potomac, Md. for coffee and sweets, before cooking a little turkey feast for ourselves.

With no traffic to be seen, we rode right through downtown and then took Massachusetts Avenue NW out to Glen Echo, Md.

Cruising Through Downtown D.C. With No Cars!

Cruising Through Downtown D.C. With No Cars!

We got to Starbucks in Potomac before the Bethesda Turkey Trot runners arrived. I snagged a table and coffee while MG bought croissants from Vie de France. This is a good stop for two or three riders, but it’s too small for a bigger group unless it’s warm enough to sit outside.

Strawberry and Cream Cheese. Suprisingly, Not That Good.

Strawberry and Cream Cheese. Suprisingly, Not That Good.

We turned back towards D.C. and rode down MacArthur Boulevard before getting on the Capitol Crescent Trail. We stopped when the front wheel kicked up a twig right into MG’s stoker crank which promptly derailed the timing chain.

Dumped Timing Chain. Bummer!

Dumped Timing Chain. Bummer!

We got that little mechanical sorted out and I made a note to tighten the chain at home. We capped off the ride with a lap around Hains Point, including pulling a fixed gear rider into the wind.

Everybody Likes to Draft a Tandem

Everybody Likes to Draft a Tandem

Little did he know we were bringing three potatoes and stuffing mix home from the store in our Carradice bag. Once we got back to MG’s place, a convenient 1.4 miles from Hains Point, we fired up the coffee pot and started making dinner. Now, that’s a good day. We hope you all had the same.

Thanksgiving Dinner!

Next Stop: Thanksgiving Dinner!

Here’s our route. I posted a photoset at my Flickr page.

Frozen Lemons? Chilly Lemonade!

MG and I ended up having a great ride Saturday on Crista Borras’ “No-Name Winter Century” ride to Leesburg from D.C. We had a little crisis at the start courtesy of a balky knee and the biting cold, but a simple re-route onto the C&O Canal made all the difference.

Good Times on the C&O

Good Times on the C&O

See my story below. I’ve also uploaded a photoset at my Flickr page or see the Slideshow. Our route is at my MotionBased page.

Loving that Tailwind on the W&OD

Loving that Tailwind on the W&OD

Crista Borras’ “No-Name Winter Century”
by Ed Felker
Nov. 22, 2008

(See my photoset from the ride at my Flickr page or see the Slideshow. I’ve uploaded our altered shortcut route to my MotionBased page.)

MG and I were thrilled when Crista Borras announced her weekend centuries on Wednesday. Saturday’s ride started a mere four miles from MG’s house! No need to load the tandem and all our gear for a drive to the start. Moreover, her “Winter No-Name Century” ride was going to use a relatively flat route to Leesburg, Va. with a 32-mile return on the easy W&OD Trail.

So why were MG and I sitting in Starbucks after just 18 miles, sipping from big cups of hot coffee and talking of going back home? Frankly, we were stunned by the weather. Bright skies, yes, but we were riding into the teeth of a stiff northwestern wind, made worse by subfreezing temperatures. We were already slogging, and my left knee, which has been giving me problems, was aching again from the easy climbs up to Potomac, Md. The group had completely broken apart and we were loathe to drag ourselves over the familiar, open blustery roads to Poolesville and a late lunch at mile 66.

The day started out so promising. We met the group at Roosevelt Island and found Chris M., Rudy H., Crista and Chuck, Jeff M., and Carl M.

Carl and Crista, Feeling the Chill

Carl and Crista, Feeling the Chill

Chris and Jeff at Roosevelt Island

Chris and Jeff at Roosevelt Island

Carl rode over on his 650b converted Fuji Opus III. Carl is car-free and was happy to have a start close to his D.C. home. His conversion looked great.

Carl and his Fuji Opus III, with 650b Wheels

Carl and his Fuji Opus III, with 650b Wheels

We rode in good spirits through Georgetown and then the Capitol Crescent Trail out to Potomac, Md. Yet the temperatures dropped and the wind increased as we left the city. My knee started complaining.

Once we got settled at Potomac Starbucks with the wealthy runners and surgically-enhanced moms, MG and I agreed we really didn’t want to just go home. What to do? We decided to keep going if we could get out of the wind and shortcut the ride at the same time, and keep it flat to take the strain off my knee.

The light bulb went on — MG realized we were close to the relatively sheltered and nearly flat, dirt C&O Canal Towpath. We would ride from just north of Great Falls to White’s Ferry, where we would pick up Crista’s shortcut route via the Gen. Jubal A. Early ferry. From there, we would have a short four miles to the lunch stop in Leesburg and then ride home with the group on the W&OD with a tailwind. All in all, a warmer, knee-friendly route. We’d get in a great ride, see part of the C&O that he had not ridden before, and hang out with our friends.

We found the towpath nearly deserted, which let us tool along on the firmer left side. The trail was soft in a few places and MG didn’t like the occasional fishtail when I plowed us through a muddy spot. Our 32mm Panaracer Pasela Tourguard tires worked fine, though 35s or 37s would be nicer for a longer stretches. Even though the leaves had all fallen, the canopy of trees and brush broke up the wind. Yes!

A Rest Break on the C&O Trail

A Rest Break on the C&O Trail

The dirt surface limited our speed to about 13-15 m.p.h., probably about the same as we would carry on the open road. But, we weren’t getting blasted by the wind and my knee felt much better with no hills to climb.

At White’s Ferry the flags were snapping in the wind and we froze waiting for the ferry.

On the Ferry. Notice the Flag in the Background. SNAP!

On the Ferry. Notice the Flag in the Background. SNAP!

We were glad to get back on the bike after the short ride across the river and made our way into Leesburg. Arriving with 22 fewer miles ridden than the century group, we used the GPS to find a coffee shop, the Coffee Bean of Leesburg. It was right on the route along King Street. We stopped for a truly happy hour to warm up, dry out and wake up.

All Good at The Coffee Bean of Leesburg

All Good at The Coffee Bean of Leesburg

Trying to time the group’s arrival, we rode to nearby Andy’s Pizza and Subs. We ordered a ham-and-pineapple pizza and waited for the group. They arrived in about a half-hour with just Chuck, Crista and Chris still on the ride. Carl turned back early and Jeff and Rudy also peeled off along the way.

A Winning Combination

A Winning Combination

At 2:30 p.m. we remounted and began the ride on the W&OD with a nice strong tailwind. Clouds gathered and temperatures dropped to the lower 30s, but we were fine all the way into D.C. We arrived just after dark, happy with our accomplishment. Hearty good-byes ensured before MG and I zipped back to her place.

Headed Home on the W&OD Trail

Headed Home on the W&OD Trail

The best part of Saturday? MG and I have learned to stop and sort out our options when the going gets tough, and we always end up pleased with the results. Today was proof again that good things come when we don’t give up!

Our route, via MotionBased:

Lights: Because The Night Belongs To Us

Those in North America were struck by the return of standard time over the weekend. Those of us in fair Britain have already been oppressed by its tyranny for more than a week. Because of our northerly latitude I’ve been riding with lights quite a bit for a month now–and with the return to Greenwich Mean Time, our sunsets are almost as early as the earliest sunset in the Lower 48 states–affording me a chance to try out some new purchases.

For a taillight these days, I’m sticking with the DiNotte taillight that has served me well so far. On the front, for simplicity’s sake, I’ve put aside the DiNottes–which require me to faff about with recharging AA batteries all the time–and have gone to the NiteFlux Vision Stick Photon 4 Enduro. It’s a fairly ingenious design. The rechargeable lithium-ion stick battery attaches to the frame with a bracket that screws into your water-bottle bosses, like a mini-pump. The bracket can hold two of the stick batteries, one on either side of your water-bottle cage. A partially-coiled cord then runs up the downtube to your light on the handlebars. And if you need it, you can screw the stick battery directly into the light, making it a very useful flashlight.

At its brightest, the four-watt LED lamp has a claimed runtime of six hours. With a second battery, that would be easily enough to get a rider through a full night of riding, making it a useful light for events up to 600K. I plan on using it in the 250-mile ultras-sportive I’m entered in next July, when the night hours will number only seven.

It’s a sad fact that winter nights curtail our riding so much. The good news is that we get to test out theproducts that make summer playtime so much fun.