Tuesday, June 20, 2017

July Hawks Nest 200K

Once again, to avoid the summer heat the July  22nd Hawk's Nest 200k course will be heading north into Promised Land, where the temperatures are typically several degrees cooler than points south.  Most of the route is shaded, which will also bring some relief from the heat. Fortunately, positive waves have restored the bridge across the Brodhead Creek allowing us to use the classically "fast" Hawks Nest route. Riders typically finish this course about an hour faster than other Eastern   PA 200k's.  Event details are posted at the PA Randonneurs web site:  http://parando.org/2017-07-22-200K.html   

If you would like to join the roster, please use the online registration form http://www.parando.org/RegistrationForm.html , by 5PM Thursday, July 20th.  

*** Start/Finish ***

The start/finish is at the Village Farmer and Bakery, right next to the Apple Pie Cafe (formerly the Water Gap Diner). The Bakery has promised to open early 6:30AM, so you can top off with a good breakfast before the start. Please show your appreciation to the Bakery manager who is getting out of bed extra early to help feed us. At the end of the ride, also consider patronizing the Apple Pie Cafe (same management).

IMPORTANT Note: Do not leave your car at the Cafe or the Bakery. Parking is in an empty lot behind the Cafe -  Directions are posted here: http://parando.org/WaterGapParking.pdf

Course Notes:
If you've never been across the Rt 80 bridge near Water Gap, it's a little bit tricky.  You need to look for a sidewalk/ramp about 50 yards past the Rt 80 underpass which you will cross under. The picture below shows the ramp on the left, which is in between the road you will be traveling (on the right) and Rt 80 (far left):

You will be facing on-coming traffic as you go across the bridge.
Given the hot weather, hydration is key. There are several opportunities for obtaining water and ice along the course in between the controles. Keep a sharp eye out, monitor your water supply, and think ahead!

*** Ride Safely ***
Your safety is the number priority on an Eastern PA event.  While the risks outlined in the event waiver cannot be completely eliminated, the following will hopefully help keep you as safe as possible.

Your responsibility as the rider includes:
- Showing up in reasonable physical condition for the event
- Bringing a reliable bike in good working order
- Complying with all traffic laws along the course 
- Respecting the rights of all other users of the route (including pedestrians)
- Planning for the situation where you can’t finish the ride

Although every effort has been made to provide you with a scenic route that minimizes car traffic and other hazards, the following list highlights some areas to take some extra care:

- Summer weather has arrived with a vengeance with a forecast calling for heat and humidity.  Be mindful of your fluid and electrolyte levels and it might also be a good idea to carry an ice sock with you if you need to cool down.
- With the rough winter we just had you should be extra vigilant for potholes and rough road surfaces.
- One of the most dangerous things you will encounter on the road just might be another cyclist.  Keep a safe following distance when riding with other cyclists you are not familiar with.  Please avoid forming a large bunch at the st
art of the ride.

- Helmets are mandatory.
- Please note that the bike inspection checklist includes redundant lighting for both the front and rear lights.
- Bringing along a cell phone is highly recommended.
- Mechanical assistance is not provided.  
- SPOT trackers will be handed out to selected riders. If you are given one, they have a feature to call for help if you need it and are out of cell phone range -- if you are unfamiliar with how to use this feature, a volunteer will be happy to explain it to you.  If you have a personal unit not already listed on the PA Randonnerus SPOT Tracking webpage:  http://www.parando.org/SPOT_Links.html
please send me a link to your SPOT webpage.

Food / Hydration
- In general, the route heads you into some desolate areas, with limited opportunities for food and water.
- Plan on replenishing supplies at the controle stops.  The controles are typically at a store or restaurant.

- If you feel like abandoning the ride, it may be an indication that you are not eating and drinking enough.  Take a break, eat something, and it's likely that your outlook will improve.  Before you know it, you'll be making that last turn back to the finish.  And remember the golden rule of "… eat before you're hungry and drink before you're thirsty."
If you are still riding past the ride time limit or if you intend to abandon the ride, please contact me on my cell phone: (267) 218-0418
- It is your responsibility to make arrangements for alternate transportation

In case of accident  
Should you become injured, or arrive just after an accident resulting in an injured person (rider, motorist, or passer-by):
- Call 911 for an ambulance, describing where you are and the condition of the injured person(s)
- Contact me along with any other organizers listed on the cuesheet 
- Be sure to carry identification along with your emergency contact information in case you are knocked unconscious

Please mention any safety hazard you might have spotted, or near-miss incident you saw. We value this feedback highly and it will help PA Randonneurs improve the next edition of the event.

Driving after the event
If you are very tired when you reach the finish, it may be a good idea to take a nap before a long drive home, so you don't end up with serious injuries like David Nakai did: 

 Keep the rubber side down!

Registered Riders  

Chris Nadovich 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Ride Summary: Water Gap 600 & New Holland 200

Preliminary results for the June brevets have been posted on the website.

600k Results:  http://parando.org/PA600k_Results170610.pdf
200k Results:  http://parando.org/PA200k_Results170611.pdf

Results will be submitted to RUSA in a few days and will become final upon ACP certification.

After a season of below average temperatures and generally bad weather for our SR events, the weather cleared for the final leg of the PA ACP SR series.  Riders enjoyed sunny and dry conditions.  that was the good news.  The weekend also ushered in the first official heatwave of 2017 pushing temperatures toward 90F and beyond.  That was the cost for beautiful skies.

Eleven of the thirteen riders who clipped in for the Water Gap 600k managed two returns to the hostel within time limits.  More impressive is that of the eleven, nine are now Eastern PA Super Randonneurs.  Congratulations to CJ, Arayata, Jimmy Asparas, James Haddad, Guy Harris, Greg Keenan, Rudi Mayr, Bill Olsen, Bob Torres, and Aleksey Vishnyakov for this significant accomplishment.  There are no cakewalks in the Eastern PA brevet series.

First finisher Sean Connelly blazed around the course in his usual fashion, trimming over 2 hours from Don Jagel's long-standing record.  His secret is not just speed, but efficiency.  He arrived at the overnight control just after 8:30 pm on Saturday, ate, freshened up, and was headed toward New Holland by 9:15.

Favorite quote came from Jimmy Asparas who finished his first 600k and thus first SR this weekend.  When asked at the finish about his experience on his first 600, he could only muster the words, "pretty brutal," and headed off for a shower.

The well-oiled organizer crew of Bill Olsen and Guy Harris managed a just-in-time course checkout ride Thursday and Friday before the brevet which necessitated some creative route adjustments to the 600 Day 1 route and a complete cue update for the 600 Day 2/200k route.  The fact that these two got a mere 2 hours of sleep Thursday night, managed to get the riders fed and started at 4am on Saturday, feed all the riders Sunday morning, and cover the finish (which spanned from 6:30am to 7:30pm on Sunday) is truly incredible and shows their dedication to maintaining quality brevets.  Making it all work, Chris Nadovich, after having spent the entire week in his kayak on the Schuylkill River,  made the grocery run and opened the hostel Friday night while Guy & Bill got some sleep.

Special appreciation goes to Len Zawodniak for knowing the 600k route so well that he could locate the secret control just where riders needed him the most.  Most credited Len for their being able to finish the first leg.

As Sunday dawned and some 600k riders were still making their way back to the hostel, nine additional riders showed up for the New Holland 200k which is the Day 2 route for the 600k as well. All nine 200k riders finished for a 100% completion rate.  This format provides an interesting opportunity an intermingling of riders.  Being among the "fresh" riders, I can say with confidence that the 600k riders are a strong bunch.  There were more than a few times when I was pushing my own limits to keep a 600k rider within sight.  Topping it all off, Steve Kraybill joined the ranks of randonneurs as he finished his first brevet.

We will give the hostel a rest for awhile and resume the monthly R-12 brevet series beginning July 22 with Hawk's Nest.  Registration details will be posted once we recover from this past weekend.

Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA

From the riders:

Nigel Greene: Thanks again to you, Len, Bill and Guy, for putting on this event. I enjoyed the route and especially like how the format allows for interaction between the two different rides and the riders. Looking forward to doing the full 600 again at some point in the future.

You will find Nigel's own report on his blog, Iron Rider. Always interesting reading there.

Jimmy Asparas also completed his first 600k and thus conquers the SR with the prestigious Eastern PA SR.  He writes:

I want to give a big shoutout to all of the volunteers for the 600k; you, Bill, Guy, Len, Chris, hope I didn't forget anyone. I'm always impressed that our core group is always willing to devote so much time.

This was my first 600 and the hardest ride I've ever done. I felt that the whole leg after the Snydersville diner was the hardest of the first 400k. Just a constant uphill struggle into the controle. I welcomed the company of Greg, Rudi, Bob, and Mario at the Exxon controle, and we rode together most of the rest of the day and night. The unusually hot weather made for a very difficult day. The heat completely stole away my energy during the day, and then on the way from Bloomsbury to the hostel, saddle sores stole my ability to ride in the saddle comfortably.

It had initially been my plan to ride through the night to take advantage of the cool weather and calm winds, but as is often the case with this kind of riding, plans didn't sync up with reality. I dozed off at the hostel for a few minutes - not really sure how long - until the 200k crew came in. The demons in my head made me briefly entertain abandoning the ride in light of the saddle sores, but I collected myself and rolled out with CJ shortly after the 200k riders. It was a rough ride, especially the 27 mile stretch on Route 23, which in retrospect was the most difficult part of the entire 600k to me.

The best view hands down as always was the Delaware River from Hawk's Nest. I'm looking forward to it again on next month's "short" ride.

Congratulations to everyone who tried and/or completed this ride; it wasn't easy for any of them!


CJ Arayata has posted his photo album for the 400 and 600 brevets here.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

PA ACP SR Series Concludes with the PA 600k

*** UPDATE 2 ***
An updated 200k cue sheet has been posted on the website to incorporate the Trumbauersville Rd detour and to correct the departure route from the New Holland Control.  Please be sure you get the revision dated 6/10/2017 (a browser refresh may be necessary).

*** UPDATE 1 ***

A pre-ride was completed on Friday, just in the nick of time for Saturday's start.

Two road construction detours were noted.  The first is along Rt 97 in New York between Hawk's Nest and Port Jervis, roughly mile 144 on the cue.  Riders are advised to follow the car detour signs directing them left onto Bolton Basin Rd, right onto Rt 42 which then rejoins Rt 97 prior to the Port Jervis control.  The second is near the Bloomsbury controle, roughly mile 222.  Again riders are advised to follow the car detour signs and they will be returned to the route.

Additional details will be provided at the pre-ride meeting.

A final change, again due to road construction, was noted near the end of the route.  This change affects both the 600k and 200k riders.

The following changes are noted to the cue (200k mileages in parenthesis):

360.3 (113.2) TR Upper Ridge Road(following car detour)
361.3 (114.2)  L Old Woods Rd (immediately after PA turnpike overpass)
362.0 (114.9)  L Wright Road
362.7 (115.6)  TR Esten Road
365.2 (118.1)  R Rich Hill Rd

The normal cue cue has a QL onto Trumbauersville Rd following the TR onto Upper Ridge Rd, but Trumbauersville is closed.  Old Woods is the first left after going over the turnpike.  You are back on cue after making the TR on Esten.  Mileage will be slightly off.

*** Original Post ***

The 2017 ACP SR series concludes with the PA 600k scheduled for June 10-11 and staged from the Weisel Hostel outside of Quakertown, PA.  The 600k route follows what has become a classic favorite traveling northward through Promised Land State Park to Hawley.  From there the route follows the Lackawaxen River down the Delaware River at the Roebling Aquaduct where we enter New York with controls in Eldred and Port Jervis and the always scenic Hawk's Nest overlook.  From Port Jervis, the route turns south through the Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area and eventually returns to Quakertown.  The second day features an out-and-back loop to New Holland.  A 200k brevet will also be offered on Sunday June 11 covering the same loop as the second day of the 600k.

Ride details have been posted on the website.

The cue sheets are available on the website:
The 600k cue sheet is at:  http://parando.org/PA600K_K_cue.pdf
 The 200k cue sheet is at:  http://parando.org/NewHolland200K_A_cue.pdf

Links to the route maps are also available.

Registered 600k Riders (as of  6/8)
1 Charles J Arayata  + Fr
2 Jimmy Aspras
3 Mario Claussnitzer
4 Sean P Connelly
5 James R Haddad  +Fr
6 Guy Harris  - organizer
7 Greg Keenan  + Fr
8 Eric E. Keller  +Fr, Su
9 Rudi Mayr
10 Lawrence A Midura
11 William Olsen - organizer
12 Bob Torres  + Fr
13 Aleksey M Vishnyakov  + Fr

Registered 200k Riders (as of  6/8)
1 James Bondra  +Sa
2 Paul I Currie
3 Gregory W Forshey
4 Nigel Greene
5 Eric  K Hannon Ford  +Sa
6 Stephen M Kraybill
7 Jeff Lippincott
8 Andrew D Mead
9 Steven J Schoenfelder

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Ride Summary: Blue Mountain 400

Photo by Rudi Mayr
Preliminary results from the 400k brevet have been posted at:

Preliminary results from the 200k brevet are posted at:

Results will be submitted in a couple of days to RUSA, and then become final pending ACP certification.

By all accounts the reverse running of the Blue Mountain 400 (dubbed Mountain Blue by some) was a success.  There was a little rain and the winds were never really favorable all day, but all 18 riders who clipped in at Quakertown unclipped after negotiating 400 kilometers of viewing the Blue Mountain from all angles.   Several riders finished in 20 hours or less, always a significant accomplishment, led by ultra-racer speedster Sean Connelly who flew around in 16:21. 

Aleksey Vishnyakov writes:  

Just wanted to thank you and all volunteers, especially Guy H and Bill for such a great brevet. That was my first 400K and first ride west of the Little Gap. An excellent course and scenery. My favorite in the late evening view of Delaware Water Gap from Portland bridge.
Also thanks to Eoghan for towing me from second controle to Wind Gap!
I placed my recap here: http://alwayseasygear.blogspot.com/2017/05/mountain-blue-400k-eastern-pa-brevet.html

Well worth the read as Aleksey had a little more excitement that he lets on.

Rudi Mayr also sent in a note:
I took quite a few photos on Saturday, and uploaded some of them to Flickr.  Please feel free to share as you see fit.
Here's the album: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm1eKQPK
(The photo of me is by Greg Keenan.)

After two separate course checkout rides with three sets of eyes, Rudi managed to find a remaining miscue in the cue sheet which resulted in an additional scaling of Second Mountain (that steep ridge to the north on the return legs).  Sorry about that Rudi.

And Jimmy Asparas writes:
Thanks to you (I understand how monumental of a task it is to rewrite an entire cue sheet) and all of the volunteers that put this ride on. It is definitely a huge sacrifice to donate your time to waiting around for hours for riders to come in.

As was the case with the 300k, the forecast promised no rain and cloudy skies, and mother nature delivered wet roads and drizzling rain, though not enough to soak any of us through. I had the misfortune of breaking a spoke about 20 miles in. Sean gave me some electrical tape to keep the spoke from doing any damage, and I loosened my brake cable. But when we started up again, it was clear that the tire was rubbing the frame, so I told Sean to ride ahead and thanked him for his offer of help. It was nice in a way though because when I was just about done, CJ rolled up, and we had the opportunity to catch up all the way to the first controle.

Sometime after this I caught up to Doug, and we rode about 50 or so miles together. I had initially thought about just trying to breeze through Blondies. Doug kept talking about egg salads and other great food there, and as we got closer, the idea of sitting down for a few minutes grew more and more appealing. I had a great black and white milkshake with sweet potato fries that powered me through the rest of the ride. After the truck stop, I ran into Matt F. & co and briefly rode up ahead before they caught me again and helped me limp back to the hostel.

Two things about the course that I think most people will have a similar opinion on: thank you, thank you, thank you for not taking us down Foul Rift Rd/River Rd after the crossing into Belvidere. Belvidere Rd was a bit more highly trafficked, but my legs were thankful for the gentler climb. Also, I definitely have a better understanding of the animosity that riders have for Gallows Hill Rd. I never thought it was all that bad, but riding on it in the dark after a day of hard riding really adds a whole other element to it.

Finally, thanks to the organizing team of Bill Olsen, Guy Harris, and Chris Nadovich for pulling off yet another successful brevet.  Volunteers Bob Torres and James Haddad also stepped up and pitched in to make sure things went smoothly and provide a little relief to the organizers.  We all should appreciate their dedication to the event:  Bob rode the initial course checkout ride on a cold, rainy day a couple weeks ago.  James and Guy conducted a second check a few days before the brevet in 90+ degree heat.

Next up is the 600k on June 10 with the 200k companion ride scheduled for June 11.  We will be using the traditional 600k route and are currently checking cues and making our usual minor refinements based on lessons learned.  Watch this space for more details.

Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

ACP SR 400k: Mountain Blue 400

Mist in the Valley Along the Blue Mountain
*** UPDATE 1 ***
Two pre-rides have now been completed on the 400k route and one pre-ride of the 200k route.  The cue sheets have been updated and posted on the website.
Please make sure that you have the draft dated 5/19 for the 400 and 5/18 for the 200.

Guy Harris provided these notes following his and James Haddad's completion on May 18 in the sweltering heat:

James and I completed our pre-ride at 4:15 for a 24:15 total time.
Surprisingly, we averaged +/- 12.7mph overall when moving. Didn't break it down but controle times were:

C1 - 4:00
C2 - 8:00
C3 - 12:15
C4 - 17:45 (but see Orwigsburg long stop here)
C5 - 10:53
C6 - 4:15 (but see Columbia sleep stop here, didn't leave Columbia until after midnight)

The story for us was the heat. James saw 94 on his Garmin. Only mid-70's at night. We were in a seemingly constant search for water. After Lickdale we just could not go the 50miles between controls without getting refills. I was still 4-5 lbs lighter than normal this morning. James though he went through 15-20 bottles with not much coming out. Same for me, plus a couple ice loaded quart sodas. Our ride time, on the bike, was 19:22 so we spent almost 5 hours off the bike!. The pizza place in Orwigsburg was a major culprit. Nice place, very air conditioned - probably an hour there. Next was > 1hour at Columbia - this is where we turned it into a mini-600 with what amounted to be a sleep stop. Residual effects of the day of heat.

Reverse course - I like it. The section between Lickdale and Columbia is no worse in reverse. In fact, I think it is easier. The backloaded climbing exists mostly on ridewithgps IMHO. Ridewithgps is not a good indicator of the constant little bumps that make a ride like this challenging (again, IMHO). Climbing up to AT at Wind Gap was easy this way. Routing on 519 instead of Foul Rift, etc. from Belvidere a good choice to ease difficulty. But this was weekday at 2:00AM

There were a couple minor confusions on cuesheet. A few notes:

33.8 - (TFL) not (SS)
114.3-114.6 - the direct to go after crossing 443 is a little confusing; straight on is not thinking direction. Need to bear a little left and go down to get to Swatara bridge. Not sure how to cue this. Perhaps we leave it alone, should be obvious a bridge 0.3miles away is downhill?
165.1 - There is a deli in Bowmanstown. It is on left just after left turn onto White St. and before BR at 165.2 He is open until 9 PM Saturday. Minimal but has water, soda, sandwiches, etc.

Finally, Swatara Trail. James had his wide tire 650B and I had 700x23. NO problems. I could ave. 11-12mph. It was dry though. There were some minor horsehoe divets in middle but could avoid all. We only saw two people on whole length but I am sure this changes on Saturday.

The cue sheet has been updated to reflect the change at mile 33.8.  The route at mile 114 is one of those that looks different from the ground.  Once across SR 443 in Pine Grove, the route follows Mill St generally straight toward a bridge crossing the Swatera Creek.  There are several side streets that intersect along the way, some in a bear right sort of way.  Most are not marked.  There is only ONE bridge across the Swatera Creek in this area, so if you've gone much more than a quarter mile after crossing 443 without crossing the creek, you're not on the right street.  You should pass a public park on your right just prior to the bridge.

A 24-hour diner allegedly exists in Bowmanstown (mile 165) as well as the deli.  The diner remains unverified, but is something to keep in mind.  It is noted on the cue sheet. 

Finally, please note that the 400k start time is 04:00 and that the 200k starts 2 hours later at 06:00.

Thankfully, the heat looks like it will break for the weekend and provide near-ideal riding conditions.  Still, if you take one thing from Guy's report, pay careful attention to your food & water.  Options on the return leg are very limited, especially after 9pm.

Bonne route to all!

*** Original Post ***

The 2017 ACP SR series continues with the 400k, scheduled for May 20, 2017.  We are trying something a little different this year in that we will be running the traditional Blue Mountain 400 route in the reverse direction.  This will enable riders to enjoy the sights of French Creek and Lancaster County in the daylight hours and hide all those hills along the Allegheny Front under cover of darkness.  We have dubbed the ride the Mountain Blue 400k.  Event details have been posted on the webpage at:  http://parando.org/2017-PA400K.html
We will also be offering a 200k event for those not wanting to tackle the challenge of a 400k.

Registration details for both rides are on the webpage.

Reverse routes are tricky; it is not as simple and simply transposing a cue sheet.  Road names changes, tee intersections become turns from main roads.  The effort is almost the same as developing a new route from scratch.  Bob Torres completed the first of two planned course checkout rides on May 6th.  He reports:

All in all, a pretty ride for the eyes but a hard ride for the body. With the 4 am start, the roads were pretty empty to deal with Ridge Road, some minor pot holes but nothing to worry about since I had plenty of room to avoid them with hardly any traffic on the road.

Going east towards Lancaster was pretty nice and the further west I rode, I was able to enjoy it more when I got to the open farm lands. Most of the road traffic was in Morgantown but it was not too bad because the route goes back into the back roads to avoid most of the high speed traffic. From Morgantown to Jonestown was the flattest part of the entire ride. Around mile 90 is started to rain and the closer I got to Control #3, it rained the hardest. The roads for the most part was almost traffic free.

After leaving the Speedway mini mart in less than two miles I entered the Swatara rail trail. Now to be honest, I usually love trails and always want to go through all of them but on this one things were okay until getting off the old asphalt road into the second gravel path and here I started not liking this section of the trail. My bike is set up with 650b 38mm wide tires and even with this I felt every bumps created by the horses that has gone through this path. If I was riding a 23 mm tire bike, I do not know if I could ride a bike through it. I ended up riding on the sides as much as possible, it was a bit loose but I managed to keep rolling along. To me it felt like I was putting my bike through a metal fatigue test....

Later while riding on Summer Hill Road and Crossing route 183 use extreme caution while crossing this road. This crossing is easier to do while riding the opposite direction but on this year's route, it is harder to see the oncoming traffic to your left and then to your right. So again use extreme caution.    

The next big crossing was onto route 61, watch out for high speed oncoming traffic to your left before making a right onto route 61 and then crossing over to the left lane. From here I was able to then make a left turn onto S. Liberty Street.

At mile 150 stopping at Blondies to have a burger, fries and vanilla milk shake was a pleasure that I normally try to avoid. I was happy to sit down and enjoy my meal before pressing on for the final 100 miles.

From here I basically just took my time, enjoyed the views, the rain was on and off but it was mostly light. 

Again for the most part of this part of the ride traffic was pretty relaxed and as the day progressed into night not too many cars to worry about.

From Columbia to Quakertown the roads were pretty dead. Since I left Columbia after midnight I pretty much owned the roads.

It is close to 50 miles to the finish from here so I highly recommend to carry an extra bar or two since everything is closed unless at mile 226 a left turn onto Route 173 and head to the Citgo in Bloomsbury might be an option to warm up or get something to eat or drink. This is not part of the route but keep it as a note just in case.

Caution: On the cue sheet, mile 227.2 /T R onto Rt 639 / Warren Glen, the roads were rough, road work in progress. Looks like they are starting to resurface but not yet finished removing the top layer so we'll see what the next group on their preride will see.

When getting ready to cross the Riegelsville Bridge the guard came up to talk and see why I was out so late. I told her of my mission and she really liked the whole madness. I told her that in two weeks she will see a bunch crossing so she is looking forward for that day.

I was pretty happy to finish this ride on my converted 650b Trek 420 that I have owned since 1993. This bike has travelrf to many of the job's journeys in the past and hopefully I will complete the PA SR series this year on it.

It was a blast.  I hope everyone has a safe ride.  Bob

Another checkout ride for the 400k route as well a a checkout of the 200k route is scheduled for May 13.  Check back after that for any updates.  You may also want to spend time reviewing the route map.  Services are rather sparse, especially in the second half of the route.  We have marked services on the RWGPS map and on the cue sheet.

You should also be aware that everyone's favorite family eatery, Blondies in New Ringgold is only open until 8pm on Saturday.  The official control closing time is 8:12, so you may miss out if you're riding on the limit.  We're hoping the relatively easier riding during the first 100 miles of this route will allow all riders to reach Blondies with plenty of time in the bank.  Should you reach Blondies after closing time, make a note of the time on your card and proceed toward the 24-hour diner in Bowmanstown, 15 miles up the road.

Registered 400k Riders (as of May 18)
1 Michael Anderson  +Fr
2 Charles J Arayata  +Fr
3 Jimmy Aspras
4 Eoghan Barry
5 James Bondra  +Fr
6 Joe A Brown
7 Mario Claussnitzer
8 Sean P Connelly
9 Alfred Dolich
10 Matthew Farrell
11 James R Haddad  - volunteer
12 Doug Haluza  +Fr
13 Guy Harris  - organizer
14 Greg Keenan  +Fr
15 Eric E. Keller  +Fr
16 Rudi Mayr
17 Lawrence A Midura
18 William Olsen - organizer
19 Bob Torres - volunteer
20 Aleksey M Vishnyakov  +Fr

Registered 200k Riders (as of May 18)

1 Peter Bakken
2 Jeff Lippincott
3 Chris Nadovich - organizer

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

PA Randos Get Around: Carolina Spring 1200k

James Haddad & Chris Slocum
The Brothers Olsen, Bill & Mark
It is often said that the PA Randonneurs prepares its randonneurs for anything they might encounter in a brevet.  This past weekend was no exception as PA regulars James Haddad, Chris Slocum and Bill Olsen completed the Carolina Spring 1200 Grand Randonnee in North Carolina.  Conditions there were only slightly better than here:  it was a little warmer, but the weekend was filled with lots of rain and lots of wind.  While it was "just another brevet" for Bill, though we are glad to see his return to form, it marks the first 1200k for both James and Chris.  Congratulations to you all!!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Crush the Commonwealth - 2017

CJ in Pittsburgh
Even though the CtC is not a traditional brevet, the skills developed by riding brevets serve randonneurs very well for such events.  C.J. Arayata started riding with PA Randonneurs in 2014 and has been a regular ever since.  C.J. didn't ease into randonneuring, but jumped in with both feet and completed a tough PA R-12 commencing with his very first brevet.  He notched his SR medal in 2016 and has three successful fl├ęches to his credit.  He added CtC to his palmares this year and offered the following report:

Crush the Commonwealth, Friday, April 28th to Sunday, April 30th, 2017.

Was excited and nervous going into Crush the Commonwealth. Odds stacked in our favor: Eastbound = upfront climbing and tailwinds, plus the weather forecasts were calling for nighttime lows of 65 degrees, and mid-70s to 80s during the day. I’ve heard many horror stories from a PHL bike friend Eric G. about relentless rain, freezing temps, and strong winds going Westbound; no thanks.
About 20-30 at the start, including PA Rando / CtC veteran Chris N., but unsure how many were there to “race” vs. how many locals to lead us out and see us off. Fun to mill about and meet some of the other riders; a quick look around indicated that touring/rando-types were in the vast minority, and most everyone were on road or gravel bikes with bikepacking saddle bags, frame bags, etc.

Started shortly after 5am, and the large group immediately stretched out along the various trails leading to the GAP. I told my long-time friend and roommate, Gary W., “This is probably the last we will see of any of those people.” I emphasized our need to just ride our own ride. Crush the Commonwealth would be Gary’s first ride over 150 miles, and I wanted to make sure I could see him through.

The GAP trail was initially nice and scenic. Fog and haze, the sun peeking through, and a small group to while away the miles. Trailside bike repair stands, water fountains, and tons of bathrooms (or at least porta-pottys) had me impressed and not worried about services. We ‘controlled’ at Connellsville Sheetz [mile 60]. Most riders had already been through or were just leaving, but I did get to chat with a rando from NY on a 650b. Finishing out the GAP to get to Rockwood [105] was tough; we had picked up the pace, were gradually climbing upward, and I started developing weird pains in my left leg that I had never felt before. Somewhere in this stretch, a large rock had gotten sucked up into my front fender, but my quick-release fender tabs did their job, and detached the stays without any damage. I managed to wiggle and snap them back into place, and we were rolling with little delay. Could have been ugly with the traditional hardware…

After a few random water stops and getting on pavement(!) in Rockwood to join Bike Route S, our next proper stop was Somerset [115]. Chris N. rode past, but we caught him and eventually passed him on the next fairly hilly stretch to Bedford. At this point, Gary had developed some stomach issues which dictated an emergency CVS stop. Dinner around 6:30 or 7pm at Subway, and we were back on the road, now as a group of 5-6 after linking up with a few PGH-ers, who we subsequently dropped on the first climb and then never saw again.

Night fell and we managed to get to Breezewood [~175; sometime before 9pm]. Really crappy to ride through. We saw 3 riders ahead getting honked at, but luckily it’s not very far to get to the abandoned turnpike. Our new crew of 5 enjoyed the tunnels a lot, but hated the busted pavement sections between. Even with 5 lights, hard to navigate, and we were all thankful that no one flatted during this section. I’ve heard many times that getting to this section in daylight can be crucial if you’re actually racing.

Gary and I stopped at Sideling Hill [185, 9:45pm] before the long push to Chambersburg [225]. I love PA Turnpike rest stops and thoroughly enjoyed the rest time, knowing that a warm shower and a bed were waiting after Cowan’s Gap. It started to drizzle during this leg, but it was warm enough that we didn’t need layers. Gary got pretty quiet and we weren’t feeling that great, but we managed to make it to Rt. 30 and felt much better being back around civilization. A stop at Sheetz to get a few hotel room snacks, and we were checked in, showered, and asleep by 2:45am.

Loose plan was to wake up 5am, eat breakfast at Chambersburg Diner, and start rolling at 7am. That plan went out the window when we woke up at 6:57am. We got dressed and looked outside; apparently a huge storm rolled through and we had managed to miss nearly all of it. We would later find out that groups both ahead and behind us got stuck in torrential storms and would eventually DNF after having to sleep outside or pushing too hard and burning out.

After a relaxed breakfast at the diner, we rolled out into light drizzle around 8:45am for 40 miles to East Berlin. The sun came out, we had a tailwind, and we were on smooth pavement. Everything was going swimmingly, until I realized I had dropped Gary, hard. After getting him back, he dropped the bomb that he was going to abandon, about 35 miles into Day 2. I tried to talk him into pressing on, but he was steadfast. It didn’t help that we were at Rutter’s, which is MUCH nicer than Sheetz, and definitely wins my vote for “best not-Wawa convenience store”. A super-nice dining area, upscale finishes, a shower stall in the spacious bathroom…. All in the size not much larger than a Super Wawa. A++!! But I digress. I refueled, we said our goodbyes, and I pressed on. Noon and 200k left to go for me.

The early stop threw off my planned segments the rest of the day. The sun was also beating hard, so I stopped early at Roburrito’s York, force fed a burrito and tons of ice water, and laid down for awhile in a booth, much to the dismay of the staff and maybe some of the other diners. Burnt up and my skin hurt; the sunscreen I had bought and had been reapplying all day had just been sweating off, or terribly ineffective, or both. After an hour of collecting myself, continued around 3pm.
Section through York, Columbia, and Lancaster wasn’t great. At least there’s a shoulder? But as I got through familiar territory/undergraduate stomping grounds, a bit of a morale boost. However, after checking the internet, I found out that the one person I knew behind me has leapfrogged me at York, and I was now lanterne rouge (for the two-day riders at least). I decided to ride past Lancaster and stop at the Turkey Hill at Jct. 340. 5:45pm, and I had about 2 hours of daylight to make the next ~25mi stretch to Morgantown, my last planned stop before Philly.

Was enjoying Lancaster County farmlands, but eventually this section got pretty demoralizing, as it felt like everything just looked the same. A car passed me and then pulled over to flag me down. It’s Clair Beiler! He recognized my PA jersey and figured there was a very good likelihood he’d know who it was. He was my assigned-by-Tom riding partner for my very first brevet in 2013. It was great to catch up and inform him of what exactly I was doing in his neck of the… farms since seeing him so long ago. A much-needed boost, as I had only been talking to convenience store employees all day.
Morgantown Sheetz at 8pm on Saturday. Was determined to make it different this time around: On the 400k, I crawled back the 50 miles to the hostel on what was (and still is) the hardest ride I’ve ever done; on the 600k, I was again bonking and barely made it to the Blue Ball turnaround by closing time. But this time, I relaxed, making sure to eat as much as I could comfortably to get me to Valley Forge. Back on the road at 9pm. No cut-off time = no pressure.

Quick work of Rt. 23 and was so glad to be getting closer. However, some missing Bike Route signs near VF had me second-guessing my GPS and consulting my phone. Eventually, I found my way on Pawlings Road, and laughed at fact I was semi-lost maybe only a quarter-mile from the SRT, my red-carpet home.

Weird things on the trail late at night, especially around Norristown and Conshohocken, but otherwise was in the drops hammering away all alone. Made the mistake of thinking it would be better to ride on road through Manayunk….. at midnight. D’oh. One block of that quickly set me back on the towpath as far as it goes. The Parkway was closed due to the NFL Draft, so I ended up hopping off at Race St., then onto Market for a “proper” ride around City Hall and then to Independence Mall. Arrived at 12:57am Sunday [43:57], snapped a few pictures, and then sat down reeling. Did I really just ride from Pittsburgh to about a mile from my house in 44 hours?

Really glad to have finished Crush the Commonwealth. Experienced so much of my home state by bike, and met a ton of new and interesting people that might never come out for an official brevet. Also something to be said about the straightforwardness of the ride: Outsiders can grasp the distance between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, vs. telling friends and co-workers “400km” or “600km”. After scouring around, found out there were basically 3 groups: the one-day racers (sub-30), the two-day randos (35 – 45hrs), and a few three-day tourists (60hrs) including Chris N., who had decided to break off at Morgantown to get to Easton. I don’t blame him at all for riding straight to his house; that’s exactly what I did.

Thanks for lending the SPOT! It was great to be able to link family and friends, and receive so much support on so many different communcation streams. The PA Series was great preparation, and now I'm thinking Westbound doesn't sound *that* bad...

CJ's pictures are here:  https://goo.gl/photos/dWNAM4Cqt9T7SULZ6

Congratulations CJ, and thanks for the story.