Monday, November 4, 2019

PAR Rusty Rail 200 Ride Report

Nineteen riders clipped-in to brave the challenge that is the Rusty Rail 200.  The autumn day dawned crisp and clear, a hard frost whitening farmers' fields and pastures as randonneurs charged across the valley floor to the foot of Jacks Mountain, the first of four epic ascents.  Yet, in spite of the low temperatures and the strenuousness of the route, all participants who embraced the task prevailed, completing the course within the allotted time.

The Rusty Rail Brewing Company proved to be the ideal reward for our victors where tales and legends were shared, where spirits were consumed and spirits restored, and where woes of the day were soon forgotten.

Kudos to first finishers Tim Creyts and Chris Maglieri who made the route look easy, rolling into the finish in only eight hours and ten minutes.  Additional recognition is due Chris for achieving his 2019 K-Hound distance on this ride.

Chapeau to Mark Caplan for completing his first brevet with an astonishing time of nine hours and thirty-five minutes.  And thanks to Iwan Barankay for introducing Mark to the insanity that is PA randonneuring.
Iwan writes:

Thank you for an outstanding route. I was so happy to have made the long trip out there plus give Mark a proper introduction to the world of randonneuring with his first brevet.

The first hours were stunning but my toes felt positively Siberian. (I ordered new overshoes but they did not arrive in time. Grrr/Brrr).
The route was so beautiful that I did not take pictures as they could not have done the colors justice.

Chris Nadovich writes...

Central PA is a decidedly different cycling experience than the Pocono
plateau and Delaware gorge region we normally ride. Well worth the
trip. In Central PA, it seems the big climbs are combined with long,
easy spins through flat valleys and sojourns alongside meandering
creeks. There are tailwinds, sunshine, and beautiful foliage.  The
four giant climbs in Rusty Rail were seriously painful undertakings
(they seemed equivalent in difficulty to Fox Gap or Millbrook), yet
there was so much beautiful, easy riding in-between that I felt almost
completely recovered (and thawed out from the screaming descent)
before my battle began with the next climb.

Speaking of those painful climbs, in my agony while struggling up some
of those relentless grades I might have called one or both of the
organizers a foul name or two. Out loud. Really loud. I hope they
forgive me because I very much enjoyed their event. What a beautiful
course! Let's ride out there again. Thank you Eric and Steve.

And now...this:

Iwan warming his toes
Bill Fisher spins up Jacks
Greg remembered to wear his shoe covers
Matt fighting cramps
Gary rolling along
Paul has got this!
Tim is first over Ulsh Gap
Chris is next in spite of pausing for cattle photos
Gavin being Gavin
Jeff leads the chase group over the climb
A great day for Joe Ray
George Retseck represents with a classic ride and club colors
Bill Knowles-Kellett cresting Ulsh Gap

First Finisher Chris earns his K-Hound!
First Finisher Tim celebrates
Newly-minted randonneur Mark and bad influence Iwan in with a time of 9:35!
Bill Fisher!
Gavin still smiling in spite of a missing chainring
Joe Ray throws down an awesome ride!
Greg after crushing the course into submission
Nick is in!
Gavin, Gary, and Matt in resuscitation mode
Jeff and Greg: still friends after the hate-drop incident
De'Anna & Rudi triumphant

George and Paul: still smiling after all those miles!
Chris survives!

Let's do this again next year!

-Steve Schoenfelder


A tremendous thank you to first-time organizer Steve Schoenfelder who enthusiastically responded to my request for new event organizers even though he had no idea what all that might entail and to Eric Keller who greeted weary riders with a friendly face and encouraged them the rest of the way home.  Next up we return to the Delaware River with the Beyond Hope to New Hope brevet starting in Blairstown, NJ on December 7.  This out and back route has the distinction of being one of the flatter routes in the PA Rando catalog which should be a welcome relief after the challenges of the central Pennsylvania mountains.  Event details and registration are available on the website.

Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA



Friday, October 25, 2019

November PA R-12 Event: The Rusty Rail

The November R-12 brevet heads west into central Pennsylvania.  New organizer Steve Schoenfelder serves up The Rusty Rail 204 starting and finishing in Mifflinburg, PA.  This route promises to be one not soon forgotten.  Registration is open on the PA Randonneurs website through October 31.

Fall foliage was at its peak during the October 24 pre-ride of the Rusty 204 with the mountains awash with color.  A hard frost awaited me in Buffalo Valley with the temperature dropping to 29 degrees along Penns Creek.  Surprisingly, it was warmer atop Jacks Mountain, probably because it catches the early morning sunlight.  Riders are encouraged to bring along cold weather gear.  I lost feeling in a few of my fingers in spite of wearing insulated winter gloves.

The route is entirely paved, so if your are riding over dirt or gravel, you are off course. There is the usual smattering of chip seal well known to PA riders.  The stretch between Coburn and Woodward (mile 102-108) has a lot of loose gravel.  Weiler Road (mile 61) gets my vote for the worst road surface.  Be particularly careful on descents as there are potholes and gravel patches aplenty. 

The route lands on a few highways where riders are encouraged to ride the shoulder or stay as far right as possible.  Be careful on route PA-305 as you climb Stone Mountain (mile 53) where there is not much of a shoulder.  Try to stay in the shoulder as you struggle up Tussey Mountain on PA 26 (mile 67) as cars whiz by at ridiculous speeds.  Ditto for PA-45 as you leave Woodward (mile 109).  Fast descenders usually occupy the lane on the way down as speeds of 45-55 can be easily achieved in an aero tuck.

Rutters at the Milroy control is undergoing a facelift and construction activity limits access.  I elected to use the Subway.  Don’t pass on the homemade chips at Doan’s Bones BBQ in Whipple Dam.  My achievement of the day was keeping down the cheese and pulled pork BBQ sandwich as I ground my way up Tussey Mountain.

There are four epic climbs on the route separated by even more climbing.  I used a 34 in the front and back and wished for a lower gear at times.  I didn’t have to push my bike up any of the grades in spite of my advanced age and mass.

All in all, the Rusty Rail 204 combines a magical mix of beauty and suffering.

Bonne Route!

-Steve


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Ride Report: Fall Classic


Sunrise at Cafe Metzler

It was a near-perfect day for cycling said most of the 13 riders who clipped in for the 14th annual PA Randonneurs Fall Classic brevet & populaire.  All 13 riders completed their chosen routes within time for two 100% completion rates.  Congratulations to all!  Preliminary results are posted on the website (200k and 150k) and will become final once submitted to RUSA.

We haven't ridden the Brandywine route in quite a few years though bits and pieces of the route were used in last year's RUSA 20th Anniversary Brevet.  Everyone enjoyed the routes now that they had a chance to experience it in the daylight.  Cool morning gave way to comfortable cycling temperatures with partly cloudy skies and very light winds to make it pleasant for all.  The always popular Cafe Metzler awaited finishers with a burgers and beverages to cap off great rides.  We even managed to get pictures of the field.

Kathleen C.

Eric K.
Jeff L.
Jeff B.


Tim C.
Paul C.
Tom D.
Pernot H.
Greg K.
Joe R.
George R.
Steve S.
Paul W.
As always I owe much thanks to George and Erin Metzler for hosting this brevet.  This year was the 11th year that George and I have collaborated on a brevet featuring Cafe Metzler.  All have been well received by the riders and all have been great fun to put on.  Thanks George!  We even managed to get out during the day to scope out some new roads that might appear in a future brevet .

Next month we head a little further west to Miflinburg, PA where Steve Schoenfelder is organizing the inagural Rusty Rail brevet on November 2.  Word has it that the Rusty Rail Brewery is home to the largest brewpub in Pennsylvania.  You wont want to miss it.  Registration is open on the website through Halloween.  We plan to return to Easton in December.  Stay tuned for details.

Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA




Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The 14th Annual PA Randonneurs Fall Classic

** October 6 Update **
The course checkouts are finally complete.  Updated cue sheets for the 150 and 200 routes are available on the website.  You'll want to make sure you're using the October 7 update versions.

Course notes:

Both routes are the same until they reach the control in New London (around mile 56).  Here the 200k riders will head south into Maryland while the 150k riders will take a more direct route to a control in "the Buck."  This control is shared with the 200k route so riders may overlap on the approach to the control.  Riders are cautioned that the two routes do NOT follow the same roads leaving that control.  The routes do rejoin for the final miles into the finish at mile 118/88.

The 200k route uses the Enola Low Grade Trail for approximately 8 miles.  This portion of the trail has a very nice compacted stone dust surface that is suitable for even the skinniest of bike tires.  There is an information control as you enter the control.  You'll want to follow cue instructions carefully to make sure you're heading in the correct direction.  Leaving the trail is the tricky part since visual cues are difficult.  There are three spotting cues provided on the cue sheet ahead of the trail head where you'll want to exit.  It is technically possible to continue on the trail past that point, but you'll notice rapidly deteriorating surface conditions.  And unless you're extremely familiar with the trail and surrounding area, finding the little path you'd need to take to get back on course would take lots of luck.  This picture shows the rather nondescript nature of the exit trail head.


Careful review of the cue sheet and route before the brevet is strongly advised.  I don't expect you'll have to deal with foggy conditions in the photo.

Both courses are challenging, but very enjoyable.  The cue sheets will guide you well.

Registration remains open for both events through this Thursday, October 10 at midnight. 

Andrew Mead
event organizer
Eastern PA RBA



** Original Post **

The 2019 Edition of the PA Randonneurs Fall Classic 200k Brevet and 150k Populaire is next on our event calendar.  Details for the events are up on the PA Rando website as well as directions to the start-finish.  Registration remains open through midnight October 10.  This year's venue is Cafe Metzler in Atglen, PA.  We've finished quite a few brevets here over the years with great success.  The Fall Classic seemed to be a logical step.  We freshened up good brevet route and incorporated a short cut for the popluaire riders.  The routes are the same for the first 100k which should give everyone time to ride together.

Speaking of schedules and traditions, the 2020 calendar of events to RUSA and  loaded the dates into the PA Rando website.  You can find a convenient calendar-style version HERE.  The RUSA database will soon reflect this schedule along with an initial guess at the proposed route.  The dates are firm; the routes may change as we continue to develop new routes.

There are 16 events on the schedule, including our SR Series, a monthly brevet, the Fall Classic 200/150, and the Flèche.  We're going to try the Velodrome finish again and hope for dryer weather.

There is a populaire scheduled on March 8 (Sunday) for International Women's Day.  Dawn Pietch of Wisconsin Randonneurs is working to  draw a little attention to women in our sport; a commemorative patch is promised to all participants.  It is likely that one or two more populaires will be added to the calendar as the year progresses, but I hope to take advantage of RUSA's short-turnaround event addition policy and cherry pick some good weather dates.  In the meantime, I'm working on several new populaire routes to bolster our capability.

The biggest news for 2020 is that five different organizers will help turn the schedule into reality.  It promises to be a good year.

Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA


Sunday, September 8, 2019

Ride Report: Portland-Stillwater 200K

It was a beautiful day for a bike ride along the Delaware River and through the hills and dales of Northeast New Jersey. All 19 of the 19 riders that clipped in made it to the finish in good time for a 100% completion rate.  Preliminary results for the Portland-Stillwater 200K have been posted on the website.  Please review the results and let me know if they align with your memory.  The results will be submitted to RUSA later in the week and will become official once certified by the ACP.

Although sunny and mild, the weather wasn't entirely perfect, as there were some reports of swirling gusts and destabilizing crosswinds. Perhaps these were remnants of hurricane Dorian, or perhaps  they were the wake of Scotty Steingart who zoomed through the 202.8 km course in six hours and fifty-three minutes.

An interesting fact is that Chris Maglieri, who clipped in to ride the Portland-Stillwater today, also clipped in the last time this course was ridden. That was back in November 2013, when Chris rode this brevet as his first PA event. Back then, he joined fellow riders Tom Matragano and Peter Phillips to set the course record of 7:58. Chris actually broke his old record this go-around with a 7:36, which is a  pretty darn fast time too. 

Several newly minted (and newly re-minted) PBP anciens were in attendance. Riveting stories of glory and woe in France were shared over pizza and beer at Theresa's after the ride. Congratulations and well done to all.

George Retseck and Andrew Mead (on right)
think about riding PBP in 2023.

Steve Schoenfelder writes:  "Thanks for organizing a great ride!  The most memorable aspect was the absence of suffering.  The course was picturesque passing through shaded country roads and the weather was ideal, with bands of clouds keeping the temperatures in the pleasant range.

Andrew Mead not suffering.


Vadim Gritsus writes:  "Thank you for organizing yet another glorious brevet!  PA rocks!     

One of the Lackawanna Tunnels
Whatever the cause of the winds, the approach of Autumn was clearly visible on the trees along the course. In a little more than a month, Fall colors should be here in earnest. That will be just in time for you to enjoy the foliage riding your bike over a new, relocated Fall Classic course, this one starting and finishing at Café Metzler in Atglen, PA. Both a 150K populaire and 200K brevet distance will be offered, along with a post-ride food buffet and selection of re-hydration options. See you there!


Monday, August 26, 2019

September R12: Portland-Stillwater Oldie but Goodie

The R12 event for September revisits a route we haven't ridden in over five years: a loop up to Stillwater Lake that starts/finishes in Portland, PA. You will travel over familiar roads, but at unfamiliar states of fatigue (or lack thereof). It's a beautiful loop with two significant climbs. The finale of the ride passes under the Paulinskill Viaduct and through two Lackawanna tunnels. For full information about the ride, and to register online, see the event web site.

Paulins Kill Viaduct


The old route out of Portland has held up pretty well over the years. The start controle, once a diner, then a bagel shop, is now a Dunkin'.  Nevertheless, some issues on the course needed to be addressed. The cuesheets and RWGPS route have been updated with detours and important safety notes. Make sure you have at least version 3 of the cues, and GPS route updated on or after 26 August 13:17 EDT.

Note that parking at the start of the ride in not at the Dunkin' Donuts. Rather, please park at the Portand Park-N-Ride lot just south of the toll plaza and the railroad tracks crossing River Rd. Speaking of those tracks, you'll likely cross them three times: too and from the Dunkin' and then after the finish. They are angled a bit, and might be slippery, so be careful when you cross them.

The finish of the ride is at Theresa's Pizza.  This is not where your car is parked. There is a very short, all downhill coast back to your car at the Park-N-Ride.




Organizer Chris Nadovich conducted a course check-out pre-ride on August 24th. Here are some course notes:

I lucked out for my pre-ride. It was ideal weather: high 50s at the start moving to low 70s by mid-day. I hope the day of event has equally nice weather so everyone can appreciate this beautiful course.

There was very little of concern on the course, roadway wise. Most of the pavement was in good to excellent condition. Mind the railroad tracks near the start/finish. Stay alert for the occasional gravel patch, pothole or storm grate, and take care riding on or crossing busy roads. Otherwise, enjoy the ride.

mile 40.8 -- Originally, Bridge St bagel was listed as the controle stop in Milford, and this is an excellent place for breakfast. Unfortunately, later in the day I found it quite busy. When I was there (10 AM) the line was out the door. To mitigate against this problem, the Milford controle is now listed as an open controle. If the bagel shop is too busy, good alternatives are the Milford Market and the Citgo. 

mile 70.7 -- This Shell station is the last controle with services sure to be available. Please replenish here, as there are slim pickens for the next 45 miles. The RDJ deli at this Shell makes a decent sandwich.  When I arrived there was only one person minding the store (the woman owner who's kids are named R, D, and J). She was very nice. I had no trouble getting my order quickly, there were few customers, but be sensitive to the possibility of delay if the place is busy.

mile 95 -- Slower riders may not reach the  Millside Cafe (mi 95) before the kitchen closes (3PM). And the Geo. D. Garris General Store in Stillwater (mi 109) closed years ago.  If you're desperate for provisions and Millside is closed, there are services in either direction on Rt 15 about a mile off course. Also, if Millside is closed so you can't get a signature for your card, please answer the info question.

mile 115 -- The Rt 94 bridge in Blairstown is still under construction. There was only one lane open and a traffic light meters one-way traffic through in alternating directions. Instead of waiting your turn and braving the highway traffic, the cues have been revised to take you over the Paulins Kill via the Footbridge in "Footbridge Park". It adds a little distance but is a much more pleasant way to cross the creek. Note too that the Paulins Kill is the same creek crossed by the Paulins Kill Viaduct (121.2), and you will re-cross the Paulins Kill on the Station Rd bridge (121.6).

Entrance to Footbridge Park in Blairstown


Monday, August 5, 2019

Ride Report: YARRR 200K

The relatively small field make quick work of a the challenging course through the Philly suburbs. All 5 of the 5 riders that clipped in made it to the finish in good time for a 100% completion rate.  Preliminary results for the 2019 edition of the Yet Another River to River Ride (YARRR) 200K have been posted on the website.  Please review the results and let me know if they align with your memory.  The results will be submitted to RUSA later in the week and will become official once certified by the ACP.

The YARRR route is challenging both for the climbing and for the hot summer weather that usally accompanies it. Route detours to avoid  flood damaged roads added some to the climbing, but the weather was better than usual. A threat of storms (that never arrived) kept temperatures in the tolerable range.

One of the highlights of the YARRR route (especially in the warm weather) is the Sundae School ice cream shop. They run their air conditioning at full blast, have good places to sit down, and serve a wide variety of flavors. Joe Ray opted for some  salted-something-smores confection in a shake. "It was delicious," he reported, "but the chunks of graham cracker kept getting stuck in the straw." Ahh, the hardships we randonneurs face.

A few of the "hardships" at Sundae School
With PBP only a couple weeks away, most riders are tapering their miles and getting ready for travel to Paris. Nevertheless, three of the five riders that clipped in for YARRR are bound for France: Greg Keenan, Joe Ray, and Paul Weaver. All three seemed most prepared for that grand randonnee. Bonne route to all three of you, and to all Pennsylvania Randonneurs and rando friends throughout the rando community!



Coming up next, the September event is the final ACP brevet on the calendar, a very old 200K route out of Portland, PA that we haven't run in a long time. Visit the event web page for all the details.