Kelly Smith’s 2009 Deerfield Dirt Road Randonnee

Intrepid tandem duo Kelly Smith and Mary Crawley took his tandem up to Massachusetts for the Deerfield Dirt Road Randonee, the D2R2, and gave it a shot. Kelly wrote up their experience in a short story.

2009 Deerfield Dirt Road Randonee
by Kelly Smith

(see photos at Kelly’s Photobucket page).

I have mentioned to many in the group that Mary Crawley and I were doing the Deerfield Dirt Road Randonnee: http://www.franklinlandtrust.org/randonee.htm. This sounded like the most unusual and difficult ride of it’s length around, and the pictures linked from the website were fascinating. Mary was up for it so we signed up and I began to plan how to rig the tandem.

I removed the fenders and mounted the largest tires I could fit: 42mm in the front and 40 in the back. I chose smooth centers with side knobs, running 70 psi in front and 90 in back. Comfort was not a problem, and they handled well. I also replaced my granny ring with a 26 tooth to better tackle the unbelievable grades promised.

Last week we met at Michaux State Forest in Pa for a test ride on the dirt forest roads and ATV tracks there. This was a blast and a tough ride on its own, but uncovered a problem. Riding the brakes on a super steep descent resulted in the rear tire blowing with a blast that made our ears ring. Fortunately I’d brought a spare and we were able to finish, and I called around the LBSs to find a drag brake. Larry Black had one, they are out of production, and he generously offered to mail it to me on faith that I’d send a check.

So, set with big tires, low gears, and a drag brake I set out Friday at mid-day. I picked up Mary a little after 4 and we headed up to Deerfield. Naturally, trying to cross the New York metro region in late afternoon and evening didn’t go well – we got in a little after 11.

We often say we a ride is an adventure, but assume we can do it. Well, a real adventure can go either way :-) In a nutshell, the D2R2 170 km course is unbelievably hard. I’ve ridden some rides that claim to be climbing challenges, and some of those on the tandem, but this just puts them all in the shade.

The start was at a big tent in a field on the outskirts of Old Deerfield, a Williamburg type restored area of town filled with beautiful 19th century buildings. The start opened at 6 and we rolled out at the back of a group of a hundred or so bike. An amazing number of people were riding regular road bikes with 23mm tires and standard gears! Also saw many people on cross bikes but using skinny road tires, don’t know why.

We were slow on the climbs, of course, but for the first half we were still among riders who looked like they had it under control. I wasn’t confident enough to descend quickly, which cost us a lot of time. The new drag brake I installed was a godsend for making it down the extremely steep dirt descents, but about 1/2 way into the ride, it began sticking frequently when released. For the rest of the ride, we had to stop many times to release the brake manually.

We also began having chain suck trouble about 1/3 of the way in and had to stop repeatedly to clear jams. By mile 86 the chain was so bent that I had to replace a link; after that, we were not confident to continue riding the steep hills with it. Since we were looking at 1/2 hour or more of night riding and missing the finish cutoff — even assuming that we had no more problems — we decided to cut the ride short.

With the ride back to Deerfield in the valley, we had 96 miles total in just over 12 hours. Without the mechanicals we would have had time to finish, but it would have been very tough, as there were several more hard climbs to go, including a 20% section.

Some details:

There was a fun section of maybe 1/4 – 1/2 mile that was all torn up by heavy logging equipment. They had dumped soil in to fill and then driven over it so you had huge puddles, rocks, branches, steep sided mud holes, etc., wall to wall. It was double track, but so ripped up that it rode like single track. Sometimes you could feel the rear end slip sideways. You had to stand and shift your weight to maneuver. We were pleased with ourselves to clear that section without stopping. At the next intersection we met a group of rides on skinny tire bikes that had ridden it without putting a foot down. Amazing!

We had to walk one climb, about 200-300 yards the organizers described as 27%, and it looked like it. Don’t know if we could have handled the grade, but it was also narrow with deep gravel in the center and on the sides. There were piles of dirt and gravel here and there where cars or trucks had spun out and dug holes. People were walking too. We had to cross the center ridge a couple times, then tried to dodge a walker and came to a stop. No starting back up on that grade!

Amazingly we saw people riding up the hardest bit. Not everybody for sure, but some. We saw a couple walkers on the next one, not as steep but over a mile long. We made that one.

The cue sheet is interesting in its own right. Check out some of my favorite lines:

0.25 9.05 LEFT onto Pine Hill Rd – dirt, ignore Road Closed sign
0.00 9.05 Caution: pigs, dogs, etc. often in road here

0.00 28.80 CAUTION: wicked downhill next mile – steep, rutted, narrow, stony

0.90 34.05 RIGHT onto Mountain Rd – 15% climb next 3/4 mile
1.05 35.10 LEFT onto South Heath Rd – super steep (so what was the 15%?)

0.20 36.40 Continue straight – road becomes gnarly

Anyway, it was an experience but extremely difficult. Unbelievable displays of strength, skill, and confidence by people riding the dirt on road bikes like it was smooth pavement.

Oh yes, beautiful area, hours without seeing any cars (or pavement). Beautiful Greek Revival houses in the middle of nowhere, friendly people, long drive to and fro.

I think this is a unique event to test yourself on, still small and friendly, but do not underestimate it.

Kelly Smith

Wet here, wetter at the PA 400K

While later finishers on the D.C. Randonneurs 300K last weekend were blasting through driving rain and sheltering from lightning, our randonneuring brethren faced the same conditions, over another 100K, on Tom Rosenbauer’s PA Randonneurs 400K.

DCR members Kelly Smith, on tandem with the unstoppable Mary Crawley, Chip Adams, and New Jersey’s own Bill Olsen were among 23 finishers. Tom reports on his excellent site that later finishers were out in the rain for six hours or more. He calls it “a gritty, character building experience, to say the least,” and who’s to argue?

I like that Tom posts his own report and adds comments and reports, so we can compare the organizer’s view with the experiences of the riders. Invariably, the riders are a lot more descriptive of the hills!

Tom’s doing a great job and it’s worth the drive if you can get to one of his rides.

Here is an excerpt from a story on the ride by John Dennis:

Leaving Pottstown, we still had a tad under 36 miles to cover, which at 12 mph would take us another 3 hours or well after 3am. It was not a happy thought. I was running on fumes and I wrongly assumed that Dan was using the back-up copy of his cue sheets. If I had known, he was still using his first set, I would have asked for his second copy. Dan had programmed the course into his Garmin GPS and he explained that once on a given road, we could ride willy-nilly until the Garmin warned him that the next turn was coming up, whereupon he could then read the details from his Garmin or on his cue sheet or both. It all sounded like technology at its best. But then we arrived at the intersection of Smith Road and Swamp Pike. The cue sheet instructed us to turn left onto Swamp Pike from Smith. The problem was we had reached Smith while already traveling on Swamp Pike. In our fatigued state, we were totally flummoxed by this development. We had no map and the one or two cars that passed us by were clearly not stopping. We dithered and I felt a bone-numbing tiredness start to creep into me. Finally, I mustered up the imagination to pretend we had just reached Swamp Pike from Smith. Duh! I made the indicated left turn, traveled the 0.0 miles indicated and, voila, there was our next road waiting for us, Steinmetz. We could practically have swung a wet dead cat to it from where we had been dithering.

DCR Frederick 300K: The Deluge Cometh

We almost got away with a dry ride at the D.C. Randonneurs 300K ACP brevet from Frederick, Md. on Saturday. The forecast called for late day showers, and boy did the storms hit hard just before 6 p.m. Our little group stopped 17 miles from the finish in Thurmont to get some drinks and when we left the drops started, then turned to rain, then hard rain for the final few miles to Frederick.

Me, Randy and MG: Three Drenched Cats (courtesy Bill Beck)

Me, Randy and MG: Three Drenched Cats (courtesy Bill Beck)

The day itself was partly sunny and warm with a gusty south wind that got us as we turned toward home in the afternoon. All 40 starters finished, with some of the later arrivals sitting in Thurmont while lightning storms passed.

There were a lot of cameras out and about! Check out photosets from Bill Beck, Maile Neel, Bill Smith, Nick and Jan Bull, Rudy Hewitt and yours truly.

See the results at the D.C. Randonneurs web site.

Big Flat. Grab your granny gear.

Big Flat. Grab your granny gear.

Another Saturday at a Sheetz with your riding buddies

Another Saturday at a Sheetz with your riding buddies

Thanks to organizer Chris Mento and all his volunteers for a terrific brevet.

Here is a map of the course. See my GPS track at MotionBased.

DCR Warrenton 300K: The Rain that Stayed Away

UPDATE: Maile N. has posted photos from the finish at the hotel. See yourself eating pizza here.

The forecast for Saturday was certainly gloomy but not ominous. In keeping with a recent post on TDR, I decided not to talk about the weather and instead packed a rain jacket, put the front fender on the tandem and left it at that.

At least there were no lightning bolts.

At least there were no lightning bolts.

The day turned out quite nice after all. We had one decent passing shower that stopped after 20 minutes or so, and after that only some random, threatening raindrops here and there. We enjoyed some spells of sunshine as well, and temperatures stayed in the 60s and 70s. Not bad.

See all my photos at my Flickr page and our GPS track at my MotionBased page. Most esteemed RBA Bill Beck also posted his photoset.

A total of 27 riders were sent off by organizer Maile Neel and co-organizer Lane Giardina, and all came home within the time limit. See the times at the D.C. Randonneurs results page.

We rode with the front group until the rollers got to us at mile 30 or so, and after that we rode with Russ Morris the rest of the way. We saw the leaders coming away from the first control at Syria, and talked with Bill Beck as he proved that a Carradice bag can hold the makings of a fine randonneur yard sale.

Somewhere in there was a long-valve inner tube.

Somewhere in there was a long-valve inner tube.

Mary, Russ, and I pressed on through the day with short stops, allowing ourselves a luxurious 40-minute stop at the Dairy Korner in Orange. Mary finally found a turkey sandwich to her liking! We were much improved with an actual meal after munching on convenience store food all day.

Fast and friendly service at the Dairy Korner

Fast and friendly service at the Dairy Korner

Lynn, Russ and Lothar at the Dairy Korner

Lynn, Russ and Lothar at the Dairy Korner

We also encountered a stuffed hamster in the road in Louisa County. What a fortunate fellow he was, unlike the collection of road kill we encountered throughout the day.

Cute, and lucky

Cute, and lucky

We enjoyed the easy run to the finish in fading light. The rain held off and we didn’t rush. All told, quite a nice day’s ride. Thanks to Maile, Lane and all the helpers in making this another successful D.C. Randonneurs brevet.

Almost to Warrenton

Almost to Warrenton

D.C. Randonneurs Old Rag 200K: Magnifique!

I struggle to find the words to adequately describe the warm sunny spring day bestowed upon us for the D.C. Randonneurs Old Rag 200K brevet on Saturday. The controls were as friendly as could be, the 48 riders were in a great mood and rode well, and we had a nice time in the hotel room with pizza and stories afterward. Thanks to Crista, George, and Chuck for all their fine work on Saturday. Well Done DCR!

The photos tell the rest of the story. You can see MG’s and my set Here and the set from esteemed RBA Bill Beck.

We also posted GPS tracks. For the front group experience, see Bill’s. For the perspective of our little chase group of MG, me and Dave G., see mine. Bill has posted results at the D.C. Randonneurs results page.

We are not riding the fleche, but hope to hear from some of the participants next weekend. Our next stop: the DCR 300K on May 2. For a preview of the event, check out the photoset Maile posted from the checkout ride, also on Saturday. Thanks Maile!

MG Thursday: How to Talk about the Weather – Don’t.

(TDR launches a new feature I’ve named MG Thursday, in which our fair MG offers her observations on the randonneur lifestyle. Enjoy!)

How to Talk about the Weather – Don’t.

As a randonneusse and bicycle commuter, the weather consumes a lot of my thoughts. What will I wear in the morning? What will I wear home in the evening? How many layers will fit in my pannier? What will the weather be like for our weekend ride? All of it is dictated by forces over which I have no control so of course that makes me want to spend more time thinking about how I can control them.

What I have come up with are the following strategies:

First, I tune in as frequently as possible to weather websites. When I’m feeling like a bit of narrative with my four seasons, I watch every randonneur’s favorite, The Weather Channel. Twenty-four hours of nonstop weather! WOO! Sometimes I compare the television forecast to that of the website, and always believe the more optimistic prediction.

I also pray, but I try to save prayer only for brevets or long rides. I know God is busy so I don’t want to take advantage. I also do not want to come across as a weather wimp, especially considering my Midwest upbringing, but surely God has a moment for me and my riding territory’s weather patterns.

Finally, I keep quiet. Somewhere along the way, I learned that the the spirit of randonneuring dictates that randonneurs NEVER talk about the weather, except for the weather that is happening right at that moment. If it’s raining while you’re riding, you can comment about that to your buddy. But don’t even think of saying, “I sure hope this clears up.” It only invites trouble. You may also freely discuss what the weather was like during your ride– AFTER you’ve finished. Weather can make a good ride story great! But as I just stated, only after you have finished the ride!

The weekend ride forecast is 65 degrees, sunny, and calm? Great news, tell no one! Definitely do not put it in writing and send it out to any listservs on which you are a member. It just invites trouble, cloudy skies, inappropriate wardrobe choices, and disillusion if things change.

It looks like 70% chance rain? Pray! The day may turn out to be sunny… you just never know. Never give up hope until the moment you are at the ride. Even then, you never know what can happen.

In conclusion, when discussing the weather, DO NOT mention anything about the weather.

Brevet Week!

Looking past the fact that D.C. Randonneurs has already staged its first ACP 200K, this weekend’s Old Rag 200K in Warrenton, Va. marks the beginning of the ACP season for MG and me.

This route was my first 200K, way back in 1996. These days, I get a nostalgic feeling when I think of the Old Rag 200K. (It is named for Old Rag Mountain. For more information click Here.) Back then we were not a formal club, just a group of riders organized under the Potomac Pedalers Touring Club. We rode just the four Super Randonneur brevets, making each one extra special. It helped that they were perfectly organized by then-RBA Jim Keuhn.

I was the new guy among seasoned, hardy randonneurs who had ridden PBP as far back as 1987, and I am still riding with most of them today.

I rode that first 200K with absolutely no idea of what I was doing. I had never ridden that many hills in my life. I bonked with five miles to go and could barely sit on the tiny, hard racing saddle by the end. I finished, somehow, fully exhausted and massively saddle-sore. I didn’t ride another brevet that year, but I thought about the brevets all summer and winter and came back for more in 1997.

I’ve ridden at least one ACP 200K a year since, usually this route. The rides are even more fun now that MG and I are seeing them together by tandem. The Old Rag 200K is best run in mid-April when the dogwood and redbud are in bloom. They make The Three Kings, The Meanies and Piney “Pukin” Mountain Road — tough, steep hills in the second half of the ride — practically enjoyable.

MG and I, with Maile N., organized this ride last summer as a RUSA brevet, but we’re really looking forward to seeing it in its spring glory. Plus, we expect conditions to be s—ny and w–m! (No jinxes.) If you want to see some pictures of the route, Maile joined Crista and Chuck, Lane and George W. for the volunteers checkout ride in rain and wind last Saturday. See her photoset Here.

See you Saturday!

DCR Urbana 200K, and a special Cherry Blossoms Report

D.C. Randonneurs held its first ACP brevet in two years on Saturday, following a reorganization year in which Bill Beck was named the new Regional Brevet Administrator and the club staged RUSA brevets. The club had a terrific day despite wet conditions. Some 47 riders undertook the Urbana 200K and another nine went out on the 100K Populaire. There were more than a few sporting the new Woolistic DCR wool jersey. (Well done Michael Scholten!)

Chuck and Crista, sporting those new jersies (Courtesy Maile Neel)

Chuck and Crista, sporting those new jersies (Courtesy Maile Neel)

Ron and Barb Anderson came south for another fun day on the tandem. (Courtesy Bill Beck)

Ron and Barb Anderson came south for another fun day on the tandem. (Courtesy Bill Beck)

Bill has posted photos and preliminary results. See his recap of the ride below. Maile “24” Neel has also posted photos at her Flickr page.

Congratulations to everyone who rode, and to DCR for coming back with a full ACP schedule this spring!

MG and I could not be there, and certainly missed the excitement of the beginning of the ACP season. (Why do French-certified brevets mean more than RUSA brevets? Beyond their status as qualifiers for PBP and some other 1200K randonnees, there is still something that makes them special. That’s a topic for another time.)

My excuse? My daughter DF was in town. On Sunday the sun came out and she and I grabbed the tandem and met MG down at the National Mall to check out the Cherry Blossoms around the Tidal Basin and Hains Point. It was crowded with cars and tourists, but the bikes made it all manageable. See a set of photos from our jaunt at my Flickr page.

DF takes in the beautiful cherry trees.

DF takes in the beautiful cherry trees.

Here’s Bill’s recount of Saturday’s brevet:

What an impressive bunch showed up in the rain at Urbana on Saturday: 47 riders for the 200K ACP brevet, and 10 for the 100K populaire! The riders pedaled a challenging route through light rain for pretty much the whole day. But there seemed to be nothing but smiles around the course.

The populaire riders went half the distance of the brevet, but they had some bragging rights of their own because they rode over MarLu ridge and South Mountain in the hard direction (as well as the easier direction). All of the populaire riders finished the course, five with official finishes. All but one of the 47 who started the 200K brevet completed the full course, 44 within the time limit. Everyone who showed up gets credit as being certifiably hard-core.

Special congratulations to Erik Ewald who completed his first brevet and Maile Neel who completed her second consecutive R-12 award (which we have been calling R-24). Maile’s streak started with her very first brevet! If there were any other notable firsts that I didn’t hear about, please let me know. And thanks to Bill Arcieri and Maile Neel for volunteering to help at registration, and to Jan and Nick Bull for volunteering at the finish.

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!

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!