Saturday, June 8, 2019

PA R12 Series Continues: A Victory to Remember

The R12 events resume with A Victory to Remember 200k brevet on June 15.  A course checkout was completed on June 8 and the cue sheet has been updated with a few tweaks.  The route is in very good shape with a surprising number of the roads having been repaved within the past year. 

One segment of the route has signs indicating it will be closed for repaving June 13 - 25.  Knowing that paving schedules often change, I am leaving the route alone for now.  In the event that you reach the construction location next Saturday and the road is really closed, then you'll need to take the following detour.  It adds only a few tenths and is downhill almost exclusively.

The decision point occurs at mile 14.9.  You will be on White Oak Road at this point.  If the road is closed, then:

14.9  R onto Stively Rd
15.6  L onto Winter Hill Rd
16.7  TL onto Old Rd
17.0  X PA-222/Beaver Valley Pike onto Main St in New Providence

You can view the detour here:

Registration is open and will remain so until midnight on Thursday June 13. 

Hope to see you there!

Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA

Monday, May 20, 2019

Philly - Pagoda - Pocono 600K Ride Report

Preliminary results for the fourth and final ride in our ACP Super Randonneur series, the Philly - Pagoda - Pocono 600K brevet, have been posted on the PA Rando website.  Although several riders claimed this event was one of the most difficult PA 600K events ever, I think this may be the toughest bunch of randonneurs ever, as 27 of 28 starters finished under the time limit for a 96% completion rate. Congratulations and well done to all. Please review the results and let me know if something doesn't agree with your recollections.  The results will be submitted to RUSA for certification later on and become final at that time.

Sixteen riders completed the full 200/300/400/600 Pennsylvania Super Randonneur series in 2019, seven of them for the first time. The honorees are:
Charles J Arayata (2)
Jimmy Aspras (3)
Iwan Barankay
Gavin Biebuyck (5)
Shawn Bowles
William Fischer (3)
Cecilie Gaffney (4)
Patrick Gaffney (4)
Vadim Gritsus
Greg Keenan (5)
Nicholas Manta
Chris Nadovich (3)
Steven J Schoenfelder
Ryan J Stanis
Gilbert Torres (3)
Nicolaas van Rhede van der Kloot 
Many of these riders are using this early PA SR series completion as a qualifier for Paris-Brest-Paris. There is no doubt that each and every one of these PA Super Randonneurs has what it takes to complete PBP in fine style.

Additional commendations and special accolades go to Jimmy Aspras, who completed the entire PA SR series on a fat bike. Chapeau to Jimmy and his compatriots. When I asked Jimmy whether the fat bike afforded him any advantage on the gravel and dirt sections of the course, he agreed that it did help, but "other times it was just really heavy."

Some riders had trouble with punctures. First finishers Ann and John Jurczynski had six flats on their tandem. By fortunate coincidence they were re-united with their drop bag at the Wind Gap controle and could stock up on tubes. And Joe Ray wins the rim-abuse award, riding a flat tire the last few miles from the Free Bridge to the final controle in an attempt to finish by the cutoff.

Riders take a break at the Wind Gap Controle
Volunteers for the 600K deserve special thanks. With the loss of the Hostel, the organization of this year's PA SR series required entirely new routes and venues. As we were intent on maintaining event quality at the high level established by Tom Rosenbauer in previous years, the daunting reorganizational logistics would not have been possible without the hard work of several volunteers. Pennsylvania Randonneurs owes a debt of gratitude to all those who helped out along the way.

Specifically at this 600K, the volunteer support began early with route auditing/editing/vetting by Gavin Biebuyck, Matt Farrell, and Janice Chernekoff. Pre-rides by Chris Nadovich, Bill Olsen, and Steve Schoenfelder were assisted by volunteer support. Tom Dermody escorted the pre-riders through his home turf near Philly and then all the way to Reading, where he scouted some alternative routes for future events. The pre-riders had staff support at the Rocky statue, including Patrick Gaffney and CJ, who were bearing gifts in the form of iced coffee and brownies -- much appreciated! On event day, Tom and Sue Proulx were staffing the Rocky controle.

The start controle was opened, stocked with groceries, and set up by Matt Farrell with some help by Bill Fischer. Matt's support at the start was critical as the organizer pre-ride was pushed to Thu/Fri, meaning that Matt had to open the start venue all by himself and stand ready to run the event if need be. After setting up the start, when the organizer survived the pre-ride, Matt moved on to staff the Gibraltar controle. An additional good deed for Matt was somehow retrieving a lost document from the women's rest room in Gibraltar and returning the document to it's owner at Fleetwood.

The northern portion of the course, beyond Wind Gap, was staffed by roving purveyor of spring water and bananas, Len Zawodniak. Len clocked 276 miles on the course, supporting and monitoring riders all through the Poconos. I believe that the high completion rate for this difficult event was partly due to Len's volunteering.

The other reason for the high completion rate was the skillful staffing of the overnight controle by Andrew Mead. I heard numerous compliments from finishing riders recounting how Andrew helped them through their struggle to find some replenishment and return to the bike a second day. Andrew also staffed the finish for some hours, and has toiled behind the scenes with me on many different logistical issues, pulling together a totally new SR series in a PBP year.

The finish controle was staffed by Bill Olsen, Eric Keller, Andrew, and myself. Bill assisted with the pre-ride, did a grocery run, and served as the impartial, late finisher arrival umpire -- unbelievably Bill's eyes are so good he can see riders finishing all the way to the Free Bridge.  Myself, Bill, and Greg Keenan did the final clean up and gear packing at the Holiday Inn. 

Yours truly also did a lot of volunteering for the series. No doubt some people will be thanking me in words, in writing, or in beer for my effort. To that, I say: "you're welcome". Thanks enough for me was seeing all the tough bike rider friends who finished a worthy 600K. But to really thank me, to really, really thank me, you (yes, I mean you) should volunteer for a PA Rando event. In fact, we could really use an organizer/start/finish volunteers for the July event (Hawk's Nest).  Contact Andrew or me for more information.
Chris Nadovich, Event Organizer

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Philly - Pagoda - Pocono 600K -- Course Notes

The following are some important notes regarding the course.

mile 36 -- When leaving the bike trail around Lake Galena, the road up from the lake starts immediately as VERY SOFT GRAVEL.  Don't ride on this. DON'T RIDE.  Don't attempt to make the right turn here while riding. Don't! Dismount, turn right, and walk up the gravel road till you reach a surface you can safely ride. I walked all the way to the top (TL Creek Rd) before I remounted, despite the fact that I have super amazing gravel skillz and 38mm tires. You ain't better than me. DON'T RIDE.

mile 37.7 -- You will need to temporarily become a pedestrian again to go straight across US202 using the pedestrian crosswalk.  Then immediately return to the road.  Don't follow the bike trail yet.

mile 39.5 -- After crossing US202, turn right onto the bike trail. To be precise, this is the multi-use trail off US202 to the left while heading south, not the "bike lane" physically on US202. The multi-use trail is generally nice, but it does require you to follow pedestrian rules at every crosswalk. Please use the buttons and follow the signals. Cars are generally sensitive to the presence of bikes at the crossings, but keep your eyes peeled.

mile 53.9 -- OK, pay attention, especially if you don't know this stretch of Germantown Pike, which passes through one of the busiest Interstate Highway interchanges in the country. Traffic should be relatively light early Saturday, but there will be traffic,  fast traffic hostile to bike riders, despite the ludicrous "Share the Road" signs that indicate PENDOT thinks this is a fine route for bikes.

The fun begins with the left turn at the traffic light at the end of Walton Rd. Choose the middle lane here, allowing you to make the left and get immediately onto the right lane/shoulder. Be cautious about cars entering from side streets and driveways, or right hooks by passing cars, but this right lane/shoulder is usable all the way to the controle.  So far so good.

mile 54.4 -- Don't remove your reflective vest at the controle. Keep it on at least another 0.7 miles.  Remaining super visible on the upcoming leg is important. If for some reason you've removed your vest earlier, put it back on.  Also, now would be a good time to review the terms of the waiver you signed before the ride.

There is still somewhat of a shoulder after you exit the controle, but now you want to start establishing yourself visibly in the right lane. By the time you reach the main mall entrance, the shoulder vanishes. Here you really must be fully occupying the right lane and signalling vigorously a desire to move left to the next lane.  At the Dunkin Donuts the road is five lanes wide and maybe you've made it to  lane 2, second from the right, in 5-4-3-2-1. Almost there. You should try to move left again.

When I say try, I mean try. Don't do anything erratic. With those eyes in the back of your head make sure there isn't fast overtaking traffic before you move left. You want the through lane to Germantown Pike East, which is lane 3, third from the right, in 5-4-3-2-1.

Lane 3 is your best route
At the TFL near Starbucks you will feel like a corpuscle sucked into the atrium of a beating heart that is this interchange. If you've managed to make it safely to lane 3, establish yourself forcibly and visibly. Don't make any quick moves or do anything stupid. Ignore any shouts or horn blasts.   On the other hand, if when passing Starbucks you are still stuck on the right edge of the road by lane 1, perhaps now's the time stop for a salted carmel macchiato, regroup, and try again.

If you are now bravely in lane 3, Germantown Pike East, just hold your line and follow that lane under the three overpass bridges: I-276, I-476, and a railroad bridge.  Should you not be in lane 3, there will be trouble. The two right lanes peel off to the PA Turnpike, and I-476 south.  Not what you want. Even worse is the rumble band that separates exiting/merging traffic between lanes 2 and 3.  It's hidden in the shadows under the middle bridge. B-b-b-b-b-b-bad, bad, bad to ride on. You really want to be in lane 3 all the way.

When you pass under the railroad bridge, you've made it! Make your first right into Metroplex Corporate Center. Phshew! Now you can relax. The next 100K is mostly car-free bike trail. 
mile 66.8 -- There is likely to be a regatta on the river the day of the 600K. They usually close Kelly drive to most traffic beyond the first boathouse (Temple U).  From hereon it make a lot more sense to ride your bike on Kelly Drive than on the trail, as the trail is full of regatta spectators.

mile 126.4 -- Perkiomen Ave has been under construction. It's difficult to know what state it will be in during the 600K. Real Soon Now they will finish the paving. If that happens before the event, you will have a beautiful, smooth Perkiomen Ave to ride on. If not, you will need to figure out where the safest lane is. During the pre-ride, the lanes were in varying states of completion. We chose the light traffic rightmost lane (still unpaved) rather than the paved inner lanes. In some spots we were forced to use the sidewalk to avoid being detoured.

mile 195 -- The section from Wind Gap to the overnight controle will be ridden at night. The roads are dark, twisty, and narrow. Please bank enough time earlier in the brevet so you aren't pressured to ride faster than your guardian angel through this difficult section.  Be especially cautious of the descents, as there are many potholes.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

2019 PA Flèche

The 2019 PA Randonneurs Flèche is complete and soon to be in the books.  Preliminary results are available on the website along with finish line photos.  I expect many postcards to arrive over the coming days and can then complete the assembly and verification of each team's documentation of proof of passage before making everything official.  Results will be submitted to RUSA at that time.  As usual, don't expect your Flèche certificate from the ACP until next spring.  Think of it as your reminder to register for the 2020 Flèche.

Nine teams started. Nine teams finished, each fully intact for an impressive 100% finish rate.  This is quite an accomplishment given that most teams spent much of their time riding in the rain.  A tenth team signed up, but some last-minute scheduling hiccups forced team restructuring of Teams Les Chiens Errants/Lost Pups 2 into a single team.  At least they all got to ride together.

The weather impacted our Velodrome finish venue by precluding hot laps on the track.  The FERPS, not to be denied, circled the track apron for a victory lap to make up for not encountering ANY snow on their adventure this year.

Overall the Velodrome had many positives and generally met the organizer's expectations for a first-time new venue.  We learned a few lessons and identified things to do differently next time.  I welcome your suggestions and feedback to help make a decision on a return next year.

Thanks to volunteers Keith Spangler and Nigel & Joyce Greene for pitching in to take care of the soggy riders on Sunday.  Special thanks to Velodrome manager Kelli Bertoni for working with us to make this possible.  Finally, a big thank you to Chris Nadovich who originally suggested the velodrome as a Flèche finish venue and offered constantly encouragement as I navigated the obstacle course necessary to turn a vision into reality.

Team reports follow and will be updated as they come in.

Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA

Flèche Mob
Flèche Mob had four riders this year-- Geoff Burge, Jeff Lippincott, Gilbert Torres, and me (Rudi Mayr). Mario Claussnitzer was there in spirit as well, though work obligations kept him away (and, presumably, dry).

Jeff took charge this year, designing and checking the route and handling all the paperwork. I must say it was an excellent route, more of a loop than the traditional Flèche point-to-point.

When we started from a Denny's in Bethlehem at 9:30 AM Saturday (9:00 official time), it was not raining. I had had a Philly cheese steak omelette (good!) and coffee (awful!). We were supposed to leave there at 9 AM sharp, but we weren't actually underway until 9:30.

We rode through Bethlehem itself, crossed the Lehigh River, and then over South Mountain, getting our biggest climb out of the way early. Still no rain, a hint of sunlight, warm. But it soon got darker and the rain started. I don't know how long it rained.

At the end of our first hour average speed was 13.0.  Average speed climbed after that, got well over 14 after a few hours, and didn't really start to fall again until dark. 

Jeff had a slow leak in his rear tire, and his pump wasn't much use. We couldn't find the cause of the puncture. Turned out his replacement tube was very skinny and the valve stem was too short to get a presta pump on it.  Rookie error!  We were able to screw a schraeder adapter onto it and I converted my MT Zefal pump to fit, and we got the tire inflated. I patched the old tube while he put his bike back together.  I thought we'd better get Jeff an inner tube that fits, so I got my phone out... then decided to hold off on the googling since we were rolling again and soon to get to a controle in Norristown where I thought we'd find a bike shop anyway.  Went over a bump and heard the distinctive rhythmic sounds of a smart phone bouncing out of my handlbar bag and hitting asphalt.  I immediately stopped and went back for it but it was a busy road and had to watch a half dozen cars go by before I could go out into the road and get it.  I watched in horror as two of the cars ran right over the phone.  I picked it up, saw the screen all shattered, and chased down my team.  

At the Norristown controle I realized my phone was still working (and it turns out only the glad screen protector was shattered -- the actual phone was/is fine (doh!). From there got on the Schuykill River trail. Jeff's tire was still leaking, so we stopped again. Next thing you know an old friend of mine said out of nowhere, odd coincidence, small world. Anyway, this time I turned Jeff's tire (Schwalbe Marathon Plus something, a pretty much indestructible tires) completely inside out, and finally found the little bit of wire stuck all the way through it.  Gilbert had pliers that pulled the wire out. But then the tire wouldn't seat right because I'd turned it inside out-- the wire bead had twisted somewhere, got funky.  But Gilbert got that sorted out as well.  The tube I'd patched previously, with the longer valve, was easier to deal with. Tire inflated, I patched the second tube while Jeff was putting his bike back together.

The party was nice. Crowded, but not bad. Scenic. Easy riding.

At 4 PM we reached the 75 mile point, an hour in the bank. That's good, but not as much as I'd have liked.  Starting to want a longer rest stop, dinner and maybe a beer, but it seemed unwise to stop while it was light; we knew the night would be long and probably rainy, so we kept riding as long as the riding was good. We kept our stops pretty short. A bowl of chili at Rutter's was dinner. It was good.

Just after mailing out first post card controle at Lititz, by now it was quite dark, a car appeared out of nowhere on an intersecting street, going much too fast, unclear at first whether it was stopping (we had right of way).  This caused me to brake and swerve a little --really, a very little, but still a bad move-- Jeff was close behind and I knocked him right off his bike.  Landed on his head.  Helmet smashed.  He sat at the side of the road for a minute or two while Gilbert stuck his helmet back together well enough (the liner snapped back in) and we inspected the bike (no scratch on it!) and Jeff (no road rash, nothing broken) and then he got on his bike and we got underway again.  We were all a bit shaken by that, Jeff more than the rest of us.  Doh!

For an hour or more it kinda felt like it was starting to rain; I'd feel something against my skin, or hear something hitting my helmet, vest, goggles,etc, but it was all gnats. The gnats gradually got mixed with occasional raindrops, and as we were getting into Palmyra there was no doubt, this is rain.  So we stopped for a longer rest. I don't remember what kind of sandwich I ate there, but it was good. Okay, ANYthing would have been good.

Leaving Palmyra we were close to two hours ahead of schedule, but now we rode more slowly due to the rain, dark, and general fatigue.  The roads were covered with saturated earth worms, large frogs bouncing all over the place or just sitting frozen in the headlights.  Trains went by, really loud, really close, and oddly you could rarely see them or know which way they were going.  Just this disembodied sound. Over the hours that two hour 'lead' shrank steadily.  Original plan had been to get to a diner at Leesport PA no later than 5 AM to hang out and burn two hours; we didn't get there until 6:30 and since it wasn't an actual controle we just kept riding.  Final controle was a Turkey Hill in Fleetwood.  The last leg of the ride went smoothly, and we finished at 8:30. Strava says the ride to just 23:00 hours.

That's not the whole story by far, but it's all I can remember right now.

Amazing, how everyone was in such good spirits at the end! Everyone I talked to said they'd had a good ride, and I believed it. We too had a good ride. Wet, though (doh!).

I'd like to thank my teammates, the organizers, the volunteers, the Velodrome staff. Everyone was great. I didn't like the rain much, but it didn't ruin our ride, though it kinda ruined the post-ride banquet fur me. I really wanted to hang out and talk to people, but I also wanted a shower and dry clothes... and once I was dry, I didn't want to stand around in the rain. Doh!

Fistful of Xanax 2019
The day began with Vadim Gritus pulling up at 4:45am in a rented Chevy Silverado pick up truck: “Sorry, Mike: I know you wanted the Ford F-250 – but we’ll have to slum it up to Pittsfield in this thing.” Inauspicious beginnings.

Vadim had put together an ad-hoc bike rack in the bed of the truck – and quickly hoisted my bike up. Once secure we were on route for the 2.5 hour drive to the start in Massachusetts – where we would embark on a brand new route, previously untried.

We drop the truck off at the Enterprise depot in Pittsfield just as they open,  leaving a plethora of brand new bungee cords on the counter that we’d used to keep the bikes steady. Then it was onto the start at McDonalds - meeting up with Gil Lebron and Chris Slocum. After a quick breakfast we were on our way – contemplating how long it would take to get out of the city.

Weather is gray and foggy – but temps are relatively warm. Our first break is at mile 13.5 for a photo opp at the New York/Massachusetts border. We would have a relatively long and steady descent for the next 20 miles – so we put our rear lights on – to make sure we were visible to each other if no one else. Our route for the next few miles would also double back on the roads we’d driven to Pittsfield - so there were familiar landmarks.

We cruise to our second official control, Village Pizza in Red Hook NY at mile 57; a few slices, salads and sodas – and we we’re good to go; done in about 30 minutes. At this point we are doing well timewise; things are humming along. This route promises lots of rollers but no serious sustained climbing. We pass Poet’s Walk State Park. All of us note the name.

At mile 62, we cross the Hudson to Ulster County. In Kingston, we pass Jim Glass Corvette on our right. I joke about hooking Vadim up with my buddy Jim – who can get him that 71 fiberglass special. He winces and says apologetically, ‘but, the G-Wagon will get lonely if I start spending time with Jim’s toys. Better to stick with what I have.”

Something about these New York State small towns: passing through was a treat. Lots of churches in Kingston; some amazing graffiti in the back of a gas station – with ebony and ivory, I kid you not, riding a tandem. Some of these towns are a little on the down and out; rougher around the edges. Lots of abandoned houses and others not in the best shape. Still, it’s fun experiencing new neighborhoods we’ve probably passed through at one time or another – but never really seen.

Getting into New Paltz, Gil realizes his 2nd water bottle is empty. At this point it’s warm enough – and it won’t be possible to get to the third control without more water. We see a farmer’s market/stand on our left (Walkill View Farm) and pull in; Chris and Vadim following. This turns out, as many a farmer’s market does, to be a fantastic detour. Vadim goes for the apple cider doughnuts and coffee; Gil the iced tea. I buy everything under the sun trying to capture the energy I’m lacking – from blueberries and pears to a $7.99 apricot bar from Spain. Chris humors us – as we all know the price of an unscheduled stop as enjoyable as it is.

We decide there will be no need for a full meal at the next control 25 to 30 miles away – and we should plan on a touch and go. But upon arrival at El Rancho Mexican in Goshen, we order huge meals – and stay an hour. Vadim and I are disappointed they don’t serve coffee – and cancel desert choices because of this – while Gil and Chris nurse a couple of beers between them. The waiter tells us we are the first people in months to, gasp, ask for coffee – and due to a drop in demand they’d stopped serving it. Goshen.

Lots of pics taken here – because this is another time out of mind stop; quirky small town mixed with decay - but a still interesting energy you can’t ignore.

On to Hackettstown and mile 170. Getting there we pass single runway airports; have trail roads turn into mud and puddles – or just dead end. Gil was the star here: he led the charge on his 32s through dirt trails for miles long stretches, re-routing as necessary – even if it meant some cyclocross time. Yep, the bikes were over our shoulders – as we waded out of impassable rock strewn trails.

We hadn’t meant to trail ride but as this was a brand new course, roads appearing to be paved on google maps turned out not to be. it could have been much worse. As is, we spent maybe 10 miles on less than standard roads.

Another stop at Owen’s Station Crossing at mile 125 or so; putting on reflective gear; taking care of nature’s calling.  

We near the NJ border at mile 130.5 – and we’re in awe. Very pretty back roads as the sun goes down. NJ is/has been a home to all four of us and it’s as if we’ve never seen it before – at least not from this angle. One last re-route as to avoid another gravel pass from possible dead ending.  

We pass through Andover and Whitehall, successfully negotiating gravel in the relative dark. Gil says portentously: ‘the real test is going to come tonight – with the rain.’

The rain starts around 11pm; softly at first but builds steadily. Never gale force, it is moderate and steady. I made the mistake of not donning rain gear right away. As the temperature dropped, the rain gear couldn’t compensate for the already soaked clothes beneath. This heralds in the deepest part of the journey, riding in the dark and rain.

One more unscheduled stop at a Quickchek for about 30 to 45 minutes.  

Air conditioning here is a nightmare because of being water logged; it’s chilly outside and too cold inside; the vestibule between the entrance is the best bet. Gil gets a salad; Vadim some chili. Leaving there the water accumulation in driveway crevices is at least an inch.

Our controls at Hacketstown are closed as we get in around midnight. McDonalds still has the drive through open – and Gil begins to bargain with the manager to let us in. We’re met with an unequivocal ‘No.’ Chris is the voice of reason urging us to move on. We find a Wawa, staple of NJ randonneuring, less than a mile down the road. We do the usual for about 45 minutes and head out - to our secret weapon of choice: a hotel about 30 miles up;

Vadim had booked a hotel approximately 10 miles out from the penultimate control – if only for a quick stop to take a shower. We all laughed when he’d told us earlier. Oh, who would need it. He proved to be the hero for it saved us from having a much worse experience in the rain. At around 2:45 we arrived. It takes forever to sign in – and get the necessary change for the dryer. The woman behind the counter begrudgingly parted with $5.00 of quarters – warning us her manager was going to give her the business for having done so.

We crank the heat in the room; Gil strips the bed for most of the sheets. The plan is to walk around toga style – while wringing our clothes out and taking them to the dryer. We settle in for about 45 minutes of rest. I set the alarm for 4 and use two chairs as a makeshift cot. Gil and Vadim take opposite ends of the bed – while Chris is on the floor near the door.

Leaving there around 4:30 I notice one of my front lights isn’t working. I pop the battery and out comes a stream of water. My Cygolite Expilion 850 had been through worse – and lived to tell the tale. But we all have our breaking points. And the steady, coldish rain has pushed us in the direction of ours. Gil was adamant, leaving the hotel, that this would be one of his last tours of duty; he’d done his bit for queen and country and could look forward to greener pastures whatever they might be. Most likely he’ll change his mind – but it’s never guaranteed.

Travelling down a water logged main road before making a u turn, Chris takes a fall; there is a block of small wood, impossible to see with the cascading water and lack of street lamps. Gil murmers under his breath: ‘This is what I was afraid of.’ Fortunately, Chris and the bike are relatively unscathed - outside of a cracked rearview mirror.

Onto to the penultimate control in Bethlehem at mile 205. We arrive a little after 6am. Vadim, our Captain, is adamant no one gets off their bikes here - while he goes for a receipt. We need to make it to the finish by 8 – and though our momentum is fine, you just never know…..

But we make good time – passing through Allentown – which looks only a little like the Billy Joel song from 30 years ago. Lots of rough edges – but also new residential construction, the kind you grow used to seeing in bigger cities these days; a sign of economic rebirth lacking character and denoting a kind of sterility – ultimately making for a mixed blessing. Still, in that state that comes with travel, I contemplate moving there as an alternative to what I know too well. It would at least be different.

We climb into Trexlertown. Vadim rings his newly installed carbon fiber $70 bell – that allows his bike street legal status in NYC- and we rejoice. The welcoming committee as we enter the velodrome was great to see. (Many, many thanks to the volunteers.) Chris Nadovich takes our picture – and then it’s all you can eat and some socializing with other teams - before the ride back home. No victory laps this rainy morning around the velodrome for us.

I’ve never experienced an ‘easy’ Fleche; some have been more drama free than others. We muddled through with rain on this one – and tried to keep our mutual spirits up – because it was, truly, a beautiful ride on new roads. Watching the water cascade down the streets reflecting any light it could was transcendental in that way sleep deprivation and heightened senses allow for. Still, this ride was work: struggling to scan the road always revealing itself too slowly; riding brakes on even the mildest of descents due to the very limited visibility – and the fear of catching a pot hole and going down.

Much like life, the Fleche is about getting through – and trying to have some fun in the process. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Fleche Logistics and Notes ** Updated **

Some notes regarding the fleche...

*** Update 1 ***

We will have a limited supply of soap and some towels available, but if you plan on using the shower at the velodrome, it's best that you put some toiletries in your car to be sure.

The parking area in front of the barns is actually taped off, not coned off. You will need to move the post with the American flag to let your car into the PA Rando Parking Paddock.

To be admitted to the Velo Fair on Saturday without having to pay for a wrist band, just say to the security guards that you are with PA RANDONNEURS, that you've just parked your car, and you'd like to get in to use the bathrooms.

No riding on the track is allowed on Saturday. Also, no riding on Sunday if the track surface is wet.

*** Original Post ***

There will be very limited sleeping space at the velodrome (two cots) Sunday. If you think you'll need to sleep a bit after the ride, put a sleeping pad and bag in your parked car, or book a room at a nearby hotel. Be sure the hotel understands your arrival time. 

There will be an area marked off with cones/caution tape in front of the the barns for Fleche overnight parking.  Because the Velo Fair Flea Market is on Saturday, it will be FAR simpler for teams to  park their cars on Friday (or earlier) compared to Saturday.

Park by these barns. There should be yellow tape marking the area.
If you need to park on Saturday, let PA Rando know when you will be arriving so that we can have someone there to facilitate your access through the Velo Fair crowds.

The parking by the barns is to the right of the track, as viewed from the road. But the finish of your fleche ride is the entrance to the left of the track, as viewed from the road. Arriving teams should take the left side entrance and follow the path to the left of the concessions. The tent covered area near turn 4 is where finish refreshments will be set up, and where you can enter the track itself for a victory lap.

ALL FLECHE RIDERS must provide a signed RUSA and Velodrome waiver to the RBA before Teams will be permitted to start.  

Sunday, April 14, 2019

New Blue Redeux Ride Report

Preliminary results for the third ride in our ACP Super Randonneur series, the New Blue Redeux 400K brevet, have been posted on the PA Rando website.  Despite the challenging ride, 28 of the 31 starters finished under the time limit for a 90% completion rate. Congratulations and well done to all. Please review the results and let me know if something doesn't agree with your recollections.  The results will be submitted to RUSA for certification later on and become final at that time.

CJ Arayata writes...

On paper, the 400k should have been a smooth day: A rolling course vs. the extended climbs of the 200 and 300, just a bit of rain but otherwise favorable weather, quiet roads for the outbound leg, and a shifting tailwind assist for the entire second half to finish it out. But it ended up being a particular tough day for me, mainly due to the long stretches early in the day without real food available. I ended up in a hole I never  fully dug myself out of for the rest of the ride. I sat and watched as our crew (Nick, Ryan, Jimmy, Paul W., and guest star Steve S.) happily devoured sandwiches, hoagies, pizza, and ice cream, while I was struggling to eat half of what I bought at each stop. Ouch. 

On the Road

That being said, the course tweaks and the nice weather made the daytime riding pretty nice. I enjoyed the fog over the Blue Mountain ridge in the morning, we saw a family on an S&S tandem climbing with a baby trailer, and we happily whiled away the miles on the rail trails free from cars. Riding along the super-nice Warwick-Ephrata trail made me wish I was just on a short afternoon ride! The Foodery in Phoenixville was an excellent choice (thanks, Steve!) and we had a much-needed recharge of our mental batteries, which at this point was much more important than the physical refueling.

The Philly Gang
Paul's rear hub was making some bad, bad noises through the ride, which  Nick tried to calm down with some freehub oil, but unfortunately Level Rd. was where his hub/drivetrain met its fate. Lamenting the loss of our fallen comrade, we rode slowly through the night to Quakertown, where we met the nicest convenience store clerk in history... I think we proved ourselves much more personable than the usual clientele at 2 AM. We picked up Vadim here and cruised to a FINISH. To the riders who find my cycling form impeccable but my finishing times "disappointing", I would like to offer my  most sarcastic and insincere apologies.

Pictures here. See you for the 600k!

Pat and Cece Gaffney write...

Hi Andrew and Chris. Thanks to you guys and all the volunteers for your work on the 400 this past weekend. It was a great course and the stretch from Bowman’s Town to Blondies was not nearly as bad as we remembered. Fresh legs and cooler temperatures can really flatten out some hills.  Thanks again, see you at the 600.

Vadim Gritsus writes...

Thank you for a great event!  It was, no doubt, one of the most difficult rides for me. The scenery was beautiful and the route was planned very safely. Having a ride this difficult this early in the year can truly test one”s limits. Looking forward to the 600k, now that the bar has been set!

Fort Indiantown Gap Military Base
Iwan Barankay, writes...

I wanted to thank you for putting together another memorable event.  Just briefly some thoughts...
  • Favorite stretch: Evansburg StatePark
  • Most envious moment: seeing happy people sitting for a leisurely dinner in Phoenixville.
  • Insight: Next time take chain lube (thank you Anton) and a tubeless patch kit (thank you Anton again) 
Looking forward to the 600K!  -----------

Coming up next are the Eastern PA Fleche ending at the T-Town Velodrome. After that, it's the final event in our ACP Super Randonneur Series, the epic Philly - Pagoda - Pocono 600K. See you there!
Chris N

Monday, April 8, 2019

New Blue Redeux 400K -- Pre-Ride Course Notes (Updated!)

*** Update 1

The revised cue sheet and RWGPS route have been posted. Be sure you have version R1.

The major change was from mile 182 through 195. The use of the harrowing PA724 and PA23 (a.k.a roads of doom) has been eliminated in favor of Wall St through Spring City. Better I hope. Also, the Phoenixville controle is now an open controle on Bridge St in downtown Phoenixville. There are no traditional convenience stores on that street, but many establishments (of all sorts) are sure to be open. There's an ATM if you can find it. An "interesting" experience is nearly a certainty as you attempt to have your controle card signed or stamped someplace amidst the Phoenixville nightlife on a Saturday night. Tattoos need to have the date, time, and brevet name, or they don't count. Wild stories aren't sufficient; photos or it didn't happen.

-- Chris N

*** Original Post

On Saturday, 6 March,  Bill Olsen and I  conducted a pre-ride of the New Blue Redeux 400K course. As a result of information gathered on this ride, there are some course changes. Expect a revised cue sheet and RWGPS to be published soon. Watch this space for updates.

PreRide Course notes:

It was a most excellent cool-nice-cool Spring sandwich of a pre-ride. We started out in chilly drizzly fog, ended in the clear and chilly early morning hours, and caught some sunburn from the many pleasant hours of warm sunshine during the mild daytime temperatures. We can only hope that the day-of-event weather is just as agreeable.

Flowers and trees are definitely in bloom. Both of us had some trouble with alergies. Consider adding some non-drowsy antihistamine to your kit. 

The course itself, similar in structure to Blue Mountain 400's of yesteryear, seemed somewhat easier to me than those past versions. There are some tough climbs, of course, but they aren't as frequent or relentless as the climbs incorporated into the 200K and 300K this year. If old-farts like Bill and I could finish this 400K with ample time in the bank, then I think most anybody can.

Mile 2.1 -- We found the wooden bridges on the Two Rivers trailway to be quite slippery when wet. As the group will still be together at this point, please be careful to hold your line on the bridges, especially if it's been raining, and to go through the chicanes and bollards with ample space between riders.

Mile 7.9 -- By now most riders should be familiar with the trail entrance here. As the cue says, it's just past the electrical substation, which is lit up. The paved parking lot at the trail entrance is not lit. There are several trail like paths here.  The real trail is the middle one: a paved path that doesn't have a private drive or do not enter sign.

Mile 52.6 -- The controle at Blondies is an old favorite for a sit-down meal. The food is great, but many riders might feel it's too early in a 400K to be sitting down for a meal. No worries. Bill and I didn't sit down. We did, however, use the convenient outdoor seating area (with bathroom access) to strip layers and refill water bottles.

Mile 68.7 -- Instead of Blondies, consider the Boyer's Food Mart at Orwigsburg. It's a little hard to spot on the left (by the Santander bank), but it's a great place to grab something to eat. Juices by the entrance, fruits and baked goods just beyond. Bill bought 5 fruit pies for $1. There's a bathroom immediately after the checkout.  Girl Scouts selling cookies. Jersey barriers for drying clothes.

Mile 87.5 -- There's a Turkey Hill just off course to the right. This has been the controle in the past. It's the last service you'll see for quite a while. If you haven't stopped at Blondies or Boyers, you pretty much have to stop here for something. That said, since you'll soon be bumping along on the rail trail, maybe you shouldn't fill your belly too much.

Mile 93.4 -- Who's riding a fat bike? They'll be happy with this horse trail. Everybody else will have a saddle sore 911 bumping along a few miles on the pock-marked gravel and dirt surface. Hang in there. When you reach the "No Horses" sign things get much better. Until they don't. There's a short stretch of soft gravel at the very end from the AT iron bridge (99.1) to route 72.  Keep pedalling steady through the soft stuff and you should be OK. But riding a fat bike on a 400K doesn't seem so silly now, does it?  Nevertheless, Bill was on 23mm tires and he says: "I had no trouble".

Mile 117.8 -- There are at least five pizza joints in Palmyra. Take your pick.

Mile 143.1 -- Follow the cue directions to get through on the left side of the parking lot. After this bit of confusion the Warwick/Ephrata opens up to a very, very nice multi-use trail.  The whole thing is quite pretty with trees and other interesting touches. Most of it has a wide, very smooth, crushed stone surface. If you have any of those pies left over from Boyer's, this is the place maybe you'd want to picnic for a while. Maybe take a nap.

Mile 173.4 -- I think it's easy to miss this right turn onto Harmonyville Rd, especially in the dark, but beyond here there's no excuse for missing any turn.  Until the unmistakable tee left onto Laurelwood (181.8), you pretty much remain on Harmonyville Rd, which is marked as such.  There are lots of twists and turns and crossings, but it's really just still Harmonyville Rd. Even after you reach the town of Harmonyville, you still want Harmonyville Rd.

Mile 191.2 -- We didn't like riding on PA724/23. Didn't like it at all. This section of course will be changed. Make sure you use the new version of the route soon to be posted.

Mile 195.5 -- Downtown Phoenixville is hoppin' on a Saturday night.  What a hoot. Look out for drunks on foot and drunks in cars.

Mile 201.8 - 202.1 -- Germantown Pike road surface is terrible. Take the lane and be on the lookout for potholes, rapid-fire, on this descent. Hold on to the bars firmly with both hands, yet somehow signal a left turn. The beginning of Skippack Creek Rd after the left is even worse (if that's possible). Very bad surface.  Even worse than the Swatara Horse Trail.  Take your time to pick through it and then suddenly, poof! ... beautiful, smooth pavement begins again.  There are a few potholes on the park roads (204.5), but not nearly as bad as the beginning of Skippack Creek.

Mile 224.6 -- We had trouble finding the Speedway Controle. Part of the problem is that you will approach it from the back, so you can't really see it till you are right there. And the roads are more like shopping center driveways than actual roads. The cues and GPS will guide you correctly. Trust them. Be aware that you do NOT cross route 309. Once you pass the St Luke Bone and Joint place on your left, you'll see the Ciocca Service Center lit up. The Speedway is just to the right of Ciocca.

Like this, but at night.
Mile 233.4 -- You've been on the Saucon Rail Trail for a while (a wide, fenced-in path through the woods that is a little rougher than the Ephrata, but a lot smoother than the Swatara) when you'll see, straight ahead, an uncompleted trail section that's blocked off. The detour takes you left into the parking lot of Saucon TWP park and library. Keep in mind that you're trying to find the far end of that straight, uncompleted section, so you generally want to keep the woods close to your right. GPS and Cues are good, but there are so many confusing paths and it will be dark. Your first goal is to make it through the tunnel by the library. Once you get through that, keep the woods close to your right and don't miss that right turn back into the woods at the soccer field.

Mile 243 -- Countryside Lane. The final big climb. The erudite Bill was reminded of Ulysses, Episode Two, “Nestor”, where Mr. Deasy pays Stephen his wages and shows off his savings box. Deasy lectures Stephen on the satisfaction of money earned and the importance of keeping money carefully and of saving it. Deasy remarks that an Englishman’s greatest pride is the ability to claim he has paid his own way and owes nothing. Stephen mentally tallies up  his own abundant debts.   Bill says, "Chris and my greatest pride on this ride was we rode every climb! (Couldn’t say this about the 300K ...or probably the 600K!) "

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Hawk's Nest 300K Ride Report

Preliminary results for the second ride in our ACP Super Randonneur series, the Hawk's Nest 300K brevet, have been posted on the PA Rando website.  Please review the results and let me know if something doesn't agree with your recollections.  The results will be submitted to RUSA for certification later on and become final at that time.

Temperatures were very comfortable, reaching into the mid 70's for the first time this year. Some headwinds added to the difficulty factor, but signs of Spring have begun to appear everywhere. In these moderate conditions, a brave bunch of randonneurs tackled an expanded 300K Hawk's Nest course, a route that included the infamous Milbrook Climb as well as many other difficult hills.  

Despite the challenging ride, 29 of the 31 starters finished under the time limit for a 94% completion rate. Congratulations and well done to all.

This was the first event run by PA Randonneurs out of the Holiday Inn Express in Easton. The event would not have been possible without volunteer help. Seasoned veterans ran things at the Start/Finish: Patrick Gaffney at the Start Controle, and Janice Chernekoff the Finish.  Susan Proulx, a new volunteer, helped with food and other operations. A big round of applause for these helpers! The high quality of PA Rando events is directly related to the high quality of our volunteers.

CJ, Nick and Ryan the morning after the cruel and inhuman 300k!

Iwan Barankay writes...  

Arguably the defining quality of randonneuring is that compared to any other cycling type (or sport in general) the ratio of time you spend cycling compared to thinking about cycling is the highest. That was on full display yesterday again. 300K is the real all days work type of event and this being my first time doing this distance it was a deep, memorable, and wonderful experience.  I went out too hard (again...) and paid for it but Sean and Chris were exemplary in pacing me for most of the day.  Deep gratitude to them for getting me through the brevet.  The scenery filled with thawing lakes and gushing streams and even riding side by side a marathon was testament to the great work you have put into routing this brevet.  A real treat to be at the hands of such experienced organizers. Thanks also goes to the volunteers at the final control for welcoming us back to reality.
-- Iwan                                                                                 

Bill Olsen writes...

Thanks, Chris for your great job in organizing another “value brevet.” All that climbing was great for those of us who might be ‘timid’ including this feature in our regular training, and I have to admit, I’m not as stiff as I was following the 300K where we previously incuded the Old Mine/Millbrook Grades in succession.                                                                                      
The highlight of my day was, after making that LHT onto Bushkill Falls Road and doing that 11.7 mile leg of that segment, and then making that TRT onto Highway 402 where we continued climbing, FINALLY about 5 miles in, seeing the sign that stated “Now leaving the Bushmill Creek Watershed.”  It was as grand of event as crossing the Continental Divide, and as expected, we were ‘treated’ with (essentially) a 31. mile descent all the way to Barryville, to begin the climb up El Dred                                                                                       
...and Andrew, THANKS(!!!) for the great course.  You’ve learned from the ‘master’ taking one of Tom’s most challenging courses and really making it a doozy!
...but in saying this, all who attempted today’s brevet, including the DNF’s will admit, it will help to ensure their success on future events this season.

Eric Keller writes...

That was a really nice course.  The changes made it much better than  previous editions.  I was really surprised the road up past Bushkill and  408 had such nice pavement.  Climbing out of Millbrook Village sucked. I  enjoyed the alternate route back avoiding Columbia/River road. Except maybe    
for the potholes.


Join us again in two short weeks for the continuation  of the SR series, the New Blue Redux 400K. This event starts and finishes at the Holiday Inn Express, next to Cask, and will include a food buffet at the start and finish. 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Hawk's Nest 300K -- PreRide Course Notes (Updated!)

**** Update 1

Course updates based on the 24 March Pre-Ride scouting have been incorporated into the Cue Sheet and RWGPS route. Be sure you are using R1 of the route, available from the event info page. There have been some important changes.

Mile 73.8 -- It's now near certain the 402 Cafe will be closed.This has been converted to an information controle. There is no food for about 45 miles after the Winona Turkey Hill. Plan accordingly.

Mile 113 -- Soon after the Hawks Nest, the route through Port Jervis has been significantly altered. Long time PA Rando riders should turn off their auto-pilot and pay attention to the cues or GPS. The route leaves 42/97 onto Sleepy Hollow Rd before town and follows the edge of the river to the Matamoras bridge. After the controle, the route continues along the river using Railroad Ave, which becomes a gravel road, suitable for most tires.

NOTE: The route contains several miles of rail trail. Since this is encountered early in the ride, riders still will be concentrated in one tight group. Be aware that the trail can be narrow at times, especially at road crossings through chicanes and bollards. Please spread out and ride single file through the tight spots.

**** Original Post

On Wednesday, 20 March, I (Chris N) conducted a pre-ride of the Hawk's Nest 300K course. As a result of information gathered on this ride, there are some course changes that are being tested on a second pre-ride 24 March by the Patrick and Cecilie G. Expect a revised cue sheet and RWGPS to be published soon. Watch this space for updates.

PreRide Course notes:

Who knew there was so much new-growth PA State Forest land? Although I saw some immanent budding down near Easton, there was no bud swell visible in the Poconos -- the trees up there don't yet know it's Spring.  I saw a lot of snow still in the glens, ice on the cliffs, and some lakes still part frozen over. Maybe by event date this will be gone.

Mile 8 -- Returning to the rail trail, it may be difficult to spot the entrance. As the cue says, it's just past the electrical substation, which is lit up. The paved parking lot at the trail entrance is not lit. There are several trail like paths here.  The real trail is the middle one: a paved path that doesn't have a private drive or do not enter sign.

Mile 27.1 -- National Park Drive. This is a gravel road. There is some steep, windy descending on it. Please control your speed. If you aren't familiar with descending gravel roads, the way I do it is primarily with rear brake only applied against gentle pedaling (gotta keep the wheels spinning, especially the front one). Only about half the descent is gravel. The second half is paved, so you and your guardian angel might consider going a little faster on the solid ground. Or not. Be aware the descent ends in a T-stop with PA611.  

Mile 44.7 -- The Winona Falls Turkey Hill Controle is almost the last store you'll see for the next 50 miles. There are a few general stores open near Bushkill Falls, but then nothing, I mean nothing for the next 50 miles other than (maybe) the 402 Cafe. 

Mile 73.8 -- It's unclear if the 402 Cafe will be open. I hope you stocked up at  the Winona Falls Turkey Hill.

Mile 116.4 -- The routing through Port Jervis / Matamoras is being revised. The new cues will be published after the second pre-ride verifies the new route. 

Mile 147.1 -- This is the beginning of the big climb up Millbrook Rd, immediately following the big climb up Old Mine Rd.  If you've not climbed Millbrook from this side, it's worse than you've heard. If you have climbed it, it's worse than you remember. Fortunately it's smoothly paved and followed by almost 6 miles of descent.

Mile 155.7 -- Heller Hill Rd. You thought the climbing was done when you summited Millbrook?

Mile 165.9 -- This right turn TRO Upper Sarepta Rd needs, like, a million warning asterisks. It come out of nowhere on a rare bit of downhill. It's abrupt, turns sharply uphill, is covered with gravel, and if you're slow like me, you'll encounter it in the dark. The way you know this turn is coming is the 15MPH warning sign with the squiggly arrow about a quarter mile before.

Mile 184.3 -- Riding Northampton St through the center of Easton isn't that bad, not considering the two moderate hills it crosses. If there's any traffic, it will be calmed by the plethora of traffic lights. The one thing to remember is to stay away from the parked cars. The street is pretty wide. If you hold your line, you should be able to keep away from those scary car doors without causing any traffic too much concern.  


Sunday, March 17, 2019

Ride Report: Pagoda 200K

Preliminary results for the first ride in our ACP Super Randonneur series, the Pagoda 200K brevet, have been posted on the PA Rando website.  Please review the results and let me know if something doesn't agree with your recollections.  The results will be submitted to RUSA for certification later on and become final at that time.

The largest group of 200K brevet riders in PA Randonneuring history rode on a blustery late winter day to complete a hilly course with six major climbs. The national weather service says that West winds reached 38 MPH with gusts to 48.  Riders reported their GPS units measured roughly 10,000 feet of climbing for the course.

Despite the challenging ride, 40 of the 41 starters finished under the time limit. Unfortunately, the wind reached out and absconded with Gerry M's brevet card, so there were 39 official finishers, a 95% completion rate. Congratulations and well done to all, especially our first time riders and guests. Welcome to PA Randonneuring!

NOTE: Somehow at the finish I ended up with a lost pair of gloves and two lost helmets. Does anyone know who they belong to? -- Chris N

First Finisher Iwan writes...

Just wanted to thank you for organizing yesterday's brevet.  I had some technical problems at the start with affixing my device and then my rear wheel rubbed delaying me by some minutes (You to me: "Don't you want to ride with the group?") so I had to catch up with the group. Then for the rest of  the day I kept chasing what I thought was another fast group slipstreaming  in front of me which lead me to solo the entire ride.  Your additional notes on the route were spot on and very helpful (especially about the fallen tree on Skyline). Nice surprise to see you at Pagoda for a chat! I think the best part was miles 90-100 through some stunning, memorable scenery.  The final hills were a little nasty and my lowest gear (39-29) wasn't low enough for spinning so I ended up riding serpentines up those hills.  I had no other problems and I was glad I chose to ride tubeless given the abundance of gravel on the road.     


Join us again in two short weeks for the continuation  of the SR series, the Hawks Nest 300K. This event starts and finishes at the Holiday Inn Express, next to Cask, and will include a food buffet at the start and finish.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Pagoda 200K Pre Ride Course Notes

*** UPDATE 1 ***

On 14 March, another pre-ride was conducted by yours truly, Chris N, checking out  some of the tweeks proposed by Monday's pre riders and verifying the cue sheet.

As did the pre-riders, I found this scenic course to be challenging.
Here are some detailed course notes.

mile 12.8 -- The sign says Sedersville 1 (trivial cue typo -- not a big issue).

mile 26 -- Bad storm drain at corner

mile 54.7 -- There is a "well intentioned" bike lane on Skyline Drive. Unfortunately, this lane is covered with debris in many spots, especially at the beginning and at the end. It reminded me of the crap found on the Fox Gap shoulder. There are also annoying rumble strips separating the path from the road. The most hazardous section seemed to be the descent just past the fire tower. There is a large fallen tree in the bike lane that might be hard to spot in time. Climbing on the clear sections of bike path should be fine, but be wary of the Skyline bike path on the descent.

mile 57.4, 58.5 -- there are three switchback triangles on the Duryea Drive descent. You make turns at the first triangle near the top and the third triangle (1.1 miles later), and there are cues for these turns. You don't turn at the second switchback triangle (just past the first) and there is no cue to indicate this lack of turning. I found that situation a little confusing as these first two turns come quick, so I slowed down. Should you mistakenly turn at the second triangle you'll be sorry as you could end up 500 feet down the mountain in a jiffy and you won't be anywhere near the course. Pro tip: take your time going down those switchbacks and put a priority on navigating correctly.

mile 58.6 -- Clymer Rd is after the switchbacks. Clymer is a pretty steep descent too. Unlike the Duryea switchbacks, which are wide and clear, Clymer has lots of parked cars. Take the lane, be alert, and control your speed.

mile 59.1 -- Perkiomen Ave is a key part of the route change that avoids the Schuylkill River Trail. Ironically, the road surface on Perkiomen/bus422 is pretty bad. Not quite Old Mine Rd bad, but pretty bad. The irony is that we switched the course to this "paved" road to avoid some issues on the unpaved SRT. So, when you are bumping along, climbing up Perkiomen Ave, console yourself with the thought that at least there's pavement to bump along on.

mile 61.6 -- I totally missed Hearthstone Dr. Try not to do this, but should you make the same mistake I did, at the bottom of the steep hill that you really don't want to climb back up, you'll see a "Closed" tunnel under the RR tracks on your left. Go through that short tunnel if possible (it was easy when I did it) and you'll find yourself back on course at mile 63.1

mile 77.9 -- I had no trouble crossing the dam. Can't say the same about climbing Hemlock.

mile 84.0 -- The street sign for Lane Rd is blocked by a tree. As you are probably descending fast on Weisstown, it's pretty easy to miss this turn.

mile 87.2 -- In truth, Hemlock isn't all that bad in itself, but it's one of many climbs that are all bunched up between Danial Boone and Longacres.  When you make it to Longacres, I assure you, you will deserve that  ice cream.

mile 110.1 -- I hit PA412 at weekday rush hour. It was very, very busy. My hope is that on Saturday traffic won't be nearly as bad.  If I'm wrong, I recommend you use your best city traffic bike skilz to make sure the cars see you and take you into consideration.  That's what I did. It's only a 1.2 mile segment. I didn't piss off too many of them.

mile 122.0 -- The endgame cues from the 25th St bridge onward are all designed to avoid climbing up 25th street, which is always busy. Still, there's a 600 ft section of 25th street that you must climb to make a Left onto the bike trail. The way I do it is to wait patiently at the stop sign at the end of Front St till there's a big gap in uphill traffic. A BIG gap -- as in no cars coming at all. If you do that, you'll have no trouble safely climbing and getting set up for the left turn. 

There is considerable gravel and grit on many turns.

-- Chris Nadovich

*** Original Post ***

On Monday, 11 March, a pre-ride of the Pagoda 200K course was conducted by volunteers Janice Chernekoff, Cecilie Gaffney, and Patrick Gaffney. As a result of their observations, there has been a significant route change for the Pagoda 200K.

Because of lingering deep snow and the possibility of flooding, all the rail trail segments in the Pagoda 200K have been bypassed with paved routing. Specifically, the Schuylkill River Trail segment out of Reading, and the Saucon Rail Trail segment out of Coopersburg have been bypassed.

Cue sheets and RWGPS routes have been updated. Be sure you use the R3 route. See the event page for all the latest details.

Pre-riders report conditions on the route are fine otherwise. Be alert for grit and gravel on many turns, remains of winter maintenance. Most of the roads are low traffic, but there are a few crossings of busy streets without the assistance of a traffic light. Take your time and pick a safe moment to cross -- walk your bike if necessary.

Although construction equipment was present on the Trout Run Reservoir spillway (mi 78), no construction activity was seen. If at all safe to do so, cross the reservoir here and climb Hemlock Rd. Hemlock is steep, but the detour is longer and just as steep.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The ACP SR Series Begins: Pagoda 200k

PA Randonneurs moves in to the ACP sanctioned events beginning in March with the Pagoda 200k Brevet scheduled for March 16.  Event details are posted on the PA Randonneurs website.  This brevet will be staged from the Holiday Inn Express/Cask Restaurant near the 25th St exit off of Route 22 in Easton that was used for last year's Fall Classic events, but the route is all new.  Chris Nadovich will be handing the organizer responsibilities.  As with all PA Randonneurs brevets, pre-registration is required.  Registration will remain open until March 14.

The route has been slightly refined since it was originally posted, so be sure to check back if you downloaded a map and cue sheet prior to February 18.

Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Ride Report: Little Britain 200k

Preliminary results for the February PA R12 brevet have been posted on the PA Rando website.  Please review the results and let me know if something doesn't agree with your recollections.  The results will be submitted to RUSA for certification later in the week and become final at that time.

The roller coaster weather continues.  A week ago saw a postponement resulting from a 3-inch "dusting" of snow and single digit temperatures.  By Friday temperatures were back into the 50s, but didn't stay there long.  It was a brisk 20 degrees when 17 riders clipped in to start the Little Britain brevet.  Fifteen riders finished which is not bad under the circumstances.  Unlike the last running of this route which also saw temperatures around 20 degrees with little wind, riders this time faced a stiff wind out of the northwest for most of the day making the first leg up to the Wommelsdorf control a real struggle.  The winds generally helped everyone for the next 50 miles, but at a cost of once again facing the winds for the final push home from Little Britain.  Combined with temperatures that never rose much above freezing all day made for challenging conditions.

The field had quite the international mix in addition to well-known regulars.  Ultra racers Anton Lindberg (Sweden) and Amy Lippe, both veterans of the Trans America Bike Race (4200 miles across the US) and the Transcontinental (4000 kilometers across Europe), were looking for some early season training miles and decided to join us.  They write:
Thank you for making us feel very welcomed! We really enjoyed the ride. Great ride, great people and a perfect place to finish with beers and pizza! Everyone was super welcoming, and we hope to join you guys again in March! 

Also of interest was Iwan Barankay (Germany) who, prior to this event had only posted a RUSA finish on a 600k.  I didn't get a chance to ask Iwan how this 200 compared.   Iwan had this to say:
Just wanted to drop a line to thank you for putting together an stunningly scenic route yesterday.
I was glad that I installed the arm rests (not the bars) from my tri-bars as that way I could stay low and out of the wind by leaning on my bars. Nevertheless the wind really drained me. I was first at the first control but then struggled with cramps despite copious hydration and nutrition. So I had to ease off the pace and things went better. I was “stuck” between the first rider and the next group so I was quite proud of myself of having completed the entire ride without being able to hide behind someone’s wheel.  I was happy to finish second just after sunset.
This being but my second brevet I noticed that previewing the route and the details of each control could have helped. I got confused about what to do at the first control (I thought it would be staffed) and wasted time figuring that out (Chris helped me). Then I got lost on my way out from control one. Oh well, lesson learned. In terms of equipment I was so happy I bought Barmitts (inaugural ride!), brought my ski goggles, and wore my snow boots. I never really felt cold but I think the chill really froze my thighs especially on the way up to the first control.
The sandwich bar at the Little Britain store really hit the spot. My tuna sandwich thoroughly re-lubricated all my joints from the inside.  
I can’t wait to come out again for the next ride in March.

The conditions didn't seem to phase first finisher Tim Creyts all that much as he blazed around the route at an only slightly slower than normal pace (for him).  Tim writes:

Thanks to you and all the volunteers for making yesterday's brevet a success.  
The wind was a friend and a foe.  The tailwind in the middle seemed largely unnoticed except in the gain in speed relative to effort. I think the wind caused more mental stress than physical. I think we were all pedaling but felt like we were not moving fast enough. The covered bridges were a nice touch.  I'm glad they weren't listed on the cue, as they were a welcome surprise.  A couple highlights included the long, long line of cars parking for Witmer Fire Co ox roast near the at the Mt. Sidney--Stumptown intersection.  There was also a large group (more than 20) turkey vultures early in the last segment.  A few were soaring, but mainly they were on a fence staying warm.  Then, there was the Red Caboose Motel, which I had never ridden near --- so weird but friendly. 
Thanks for a great ride.

The organizer had forgotten about the Witmer Fire Company Ox Roast (over 3,000 served yesterday) and might have thought to detour that intersection if he had.  As it was, riders could get around the long lines of stopped cars waiting to park.   

Thanks Patrick & Cecilie Gaffney for completing the final course checkout a couple weeks earlier and to Steve Kraybill for staffing the finish control for ~4 hours while the organizer crawled around the course.  Steve filled in for Patrick who couldn't make it out for the rescheduled event.  Teamwork!

With winter somewhat behind us (hopefully), we move into the ACP events.  Next up is the first of the SR Series events on a totally new route:  the Pagoda 200 on March 16.  Event details and registration information for the Pagoda 200 as well as the other SR Series events is active on the web site. 

Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA

Friday, February 1, 2019

February R12: Little Britain 200

*** February 1 Update ***
The Little Britain Brevet is postponed until February 9 due to unsafe road conditions on the route.  Registered riders have been automatically transferred to the new date.  Contact the RBA if you cannot make the new date.  If you were not registered for tomorrow's brevet, you now have until Thursday, Feb 7 to register.

*** January 30 Update ***
Winter weather is nothing new on our January and February brevets.  Each year at least one of these brevets causes a few headaches for the RBA.  I am monitoring weather and road conditions on the Little Britain brevet route and will make a final decision on whether to hold the brevet on Saturday as scheduled no later than noon on Friday, February 1.  An announcement will be posted on this message board regardless of the call.

*** January 28 Update ***
A pre-ride and course checkout ride was completed this past weekend.  Minor edits to the cue sheet have been incorporated and the updated cue sheet posted on the website.  Thanks to Pat & Cecilie Gaffney for a wheels-on-the-ground check and to Bill Fischer for his eagle-eyed check from afar.  Make sure you have the revision dated 190128.

Forecasters promise the coldest temperatures so far this winter in the coming week.  The weekend should moderate a bit, but it will still be quite cold.  Live by the rando creed:  there is no bad weather, only bad gear.

The brevet starts at 7:30 am on Saturday.  Registration remains open through this Thursday.

*** Original Post ***
Event details for the Little Britain 200k to be held on February 2, 2019 are available on the PA Randonneurs website.  In case you haven't visited the website in a while, you can (and should) register on the website.  You can even pay on-line now.

For those that have already registered or checked out the route and/or cue sheet, please return and look at the UPDATED route and cue.  In light of the long-range forecasts indicating winter may have finally arrived and the tendency for this particular route to harbor icy patches on certain roads long after the skies have cleared, I've adjusted the route a bit to bypass the worst.  This re-route along with a required adjustment to bypass a long-term bridge construction project should result in a noticeably easier route. Riders should thank Matt Farrell for reminding me that this route has many options.  Be sure you are looking at the Rev. 1A cue sheet with a 190116 date code.

I look forward to seeing a good crowd for what has historically been a fun ride.

Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA

Friday, January 18, 2019

PA Randonneurs Fleche Registration

Greetings PA Randonneur Flèche Teams!

As previously announced, PA Randonneurs has secured use of the Trexlertown Velodrome (officially the Valley Preferred Cycling Center) near Trexlertown,PA as a finish venue for the 2019 PA Flèche. We are very excited by the possibilities this new venue offers.  To participate in this new edition of the PA Randonneurs Flèche, your first step is to register. 

Along with the many other enhancements to the PA Randonneurs website, the capability for Flèche Team registration is now available. You'll find registration links on the Flèche event page, and on the main PA Randonneurs web page.

Registering for the Flèche requires many adjustments from the relatively straightforward brevet registration.  Teams must be created by captains. Team members aren't people, but bikes.  There are limits to the number of team members.  And since each team rides it's own route with specific requirements, the registration system must also know whether a given team has an approved route, all riders have paid, and whether I have completed release paperwork from all riders on the team.

The basic process is as follows:

1. The Captain must register first.  The Captain creates the Team by opting to "Create New Team" and then completing the requested information about the route on the screen that appears.  The information Captains enter, like the team name and team description, will be published on the public web site. Be proud of them. Think carefully about your start time. Preferred start time is 8-9 AM on Saturday so as to finish in time for the breakfast buffet on Sunday.

Part of registration is to specify an on-line link to a map.  Captains should enter the link to the map of the actual route that the team intends to ride so that your team riders can access your ride plan and spectators can be in awe of your audacious journey.  I keep all the map links for initial submittals and control distance checks safely sequestered elsewhere.  Confirm your data entry. As the Team is created, the Captain is also automatically registered through that process. Captains don't need to return again to register themselves.

2.  Once the Captain has formed the team and registered, additional riders can now register.  Each additional rider should opt to "Join Existing Team" which then allows choosing from the list of teams that have already been created.  Hint:  If you do not see your team name with your captain listed, stop and come back later.  That means your Captain hasn't finished the critical first tasks.

3. All riders must select whether riding a solo or tandem bike and list their intended tandem partner. Our system assumes all tandems are two-rider affairs. If anybody is riding a three or greater, let us know. After selecting solo or tandem, the registration process is the same as for brevets and easy to follow.

We have tried to make the process as simple as possible while gathering the necessary information.  The system has been tested to remove most of the bugs.  If you run into problems, drop a line to webmaster Chris Nadovich or to me.  Sometimes a code error screen simply means that Chris was tweaking code at the time you happened by.  Closing the session and trying again in half an hour will usually work.

As registrations proceed, Captains and Team riders will be able to check on the status from the Team Page linked from the main Flèche event page.  All teams are identified, complete with a roster.  Team status is given in real time. There is even a way for riders in search of a team to contact the captains directly with their inquiry, taking the RBA out of the middle of things.

Registration status includes four hurdles:  1) Route approval, 2) Member count (3-5 bikes),  3) receipt of payment, and 4) receipt of release paperwork.  Complete all four and you will be given a green light to ride shortly after rider registration closes.

Outside of the PA Randonneurs website, there are a few other refinements to the process.

I am requesting that the list of controls be submitted in the form of a Flèche card prepared in Jake Kassen's Card-O-Matic application.  If you've never used this system, it's easy and well explained.  I suspect that most of you have used the system before,  If not, now is the perfect time to learn.  Captains so far have been identifying controls on the initial GPS maps they submit for review or in a separate spreadsheet list.  These methods are fine for the initial submittals.  Typical route reviews often require minor adjustments.  Captains can take the final agreed-upon list of controls accomplaying route approval and enter them into the CoM system.  When you complete the card, use the CoM program to "copy" the card to my user account (RUSA ID 3981) which creates a nice record of the approved controls.  Plus you now have your card.

Current guidance from RUSA dictates that I have hard-copy waiver for EVERY RIDER prior to the start.  As the Captains register I will email waiver forms to them which can then be distributed to the team riders.  Captains are responsible to obtain signed waivers from team riders and mail them to me at the earliest possible opportunity.  Even if a rider is not 100% certain they can ride, I can always toss an extra waiver, but I cannot allow riders to start without one.  My only option for any rider arriving at the finish for whom I do not have a signed waiver is to DNS the rider.   

In addition to the RUSA waiver, Captains will receive a copy of the waiver from Valley Preferred Cycling Center, operator of the Velodrome.  Riders wishing to take a victory lap(s) on the Velodrome are required to sign this waiver as well.  I'm asking for these in advance as well so the package of waivers covering the entire field can simply be delivered to VCC representatives and we don't have to concern ourselves with whether one is or isn't permitted to take a few laps.

While it looks like a lot, teams have been taking these same steps for the past 11 years. Get your teams created and routes approved early. The final deadline for team creation is 4 April. That date will be upon us soon. Don't delay, Captains! Our hope is that this will be easier to execute and provide more direct indication of interim status.  Suggestions for improvement are welcomed.  Follow the PA Randonneurs website, email list and Facebook page for updates.

I am looking forward to a very fun Flèche this year.  I hope you are, too!

Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA

Monday, January 7, 2019

January R12 Ride Report: Morgantown-Middletown 200

Preliminary results for the first PA R12 brevet of 2019 have been posted on the PA Rando website.  Please review the results and let me know if something doesn't agree with your recollections.  The results will be submitted to RUSA for certification later in the week and become final at that time.

The weather was unseasonably warm for a January brevet.  It was also characteristically (at least for this past year) WET.  Still, all six of the riders who clipped in on Saturday morning finished within the time limit.  A perfect completion record was messed up by the pre-rider who re-learned an important lesson about checking equipment BEFORE the ride.  Changing a tube along the route is NOT a good time to discover that one's pump doesn't work.  There's much more to the story; you'll have to coax it out of me.

Always looking for a silver lining in the situation, Saturday's ride had the following going for it:
- temperatures were in the 40s, not the teens
- the weather forecasters overstated the rain chances.  Instead of non-stop rain, riders faced mostly damp conditions with a scattered shower or two.
- the winds shifted during the day to remain generally at riders' backs all day, a rarity on a loop route.
- it was a great way to test rain gear

Hearty souls gather in the cold drizzle at the start.

Chris Nadovich had this to say:
With the weather forecast predicting a cold, rainy day, some might have worried that the Morgantown-Middletown 200K would be too much of a "character building" experience. Yet it turned out to be a fine ride. How often do you experience the luxury of a tailwind for an
entire 200K loop? Yes, it was a wee bit rainy at times, but the temperatures in the mid 40s kept my raingear from feeling too hot grinding up the endless rollers in Lancaster County. I was comfortable
and happy all day, and when the skies cleared and the morning tailwind turned to remain at my back at the Middletown controle, it was all rainbows and unicorns...

Well, maybe just rainbows, and just till sunset.  After sunset, it was Castor and Pollux on the horizon guiding me back to Morgantown. 

Thanks, Andrew, for yet another excellent tour of Amish country. The Amish in their buggies and bicycles were out in force, especially after dark. I'm very impressed with their lighting systems. The Amish may eschew other tech, but the lights they use on their bikes are as up-to-date as anything a randonneur employs. 

And thanks, Andrew, for hanging out with me, waiting for AAA to come to fix the dead battery on my car. Pro tip for other randonneurs: check to be sure  your lights are off and doors not ajar before leaving your car all day.

At 7 events, Chris is well on his way to a second consecutive PA R-12 event with this brevet.  He is currently the only PA Randonneur with a streak of more than a few rides.

Joe Ray commented,  We had a great brevet yesterday!  Despite the rain it was not a washout, though it was a good test of gear selection.  My hands found their brand new showers pass gloves to be ineffective, but the rest of me was quite happy to spend a day out in the wet.  Anyone have a pair of favorite winter/wet gloves?

The route was quite nice - I had only been thru Cornwall Furnace one prior time and that one did not involve the rail-trail which was quite nice.  Bill, Jan & I passed the pubs along the river around lunch time and I thought for a moment of ducking in for a bite but we were moving along so well it probably would have cost a significant amount of time.  Rutters at the penultimate control may have lacked the ambience of one of those pubs, but I needed some extra carbs and sat for a few minutes after Bill and Jan headed for the finish. 

The sun came out soon after I departed that control around 3:30, along with the wind.  I got a little, er, disoriented in Intercourse but an Intercourse woman helped get me back on track.  Really pleased with finishing the route just as it was getting dark.  The pizzeria had great food and the discussion at the table with Patrick, Jan and Andrew was fun, sharing stories of prior adventures and goals for the year - all in all a super start to 2019. 

Special thanks to volunteer Pat Gaffney who staffed the finish control for the early arrivals.  Even though his plans to conduct a course-checkout pre-ride fell through, he offered a friendly face at the finish until the organizer arrived.

Next up is the Little Britain Brevet on February 2 (Groundhog Day).  Registration is open.  You may notice that the on-line payment option is now live. 

Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA