Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Ride Report: Fall Classic

Sunrise at Cafe Metzler

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

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

Kathleen C.

Eric K.
Jeff L.
Jeff B.

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

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

Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The 14th Annual PA Randonneurs Fall Classic

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

Course notes:

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Mead
event organizer
Eastern PA RBA

** Original Post **

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Ride Report: Portland-Stillwater 200K

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Mead not suffering.

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

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

Monday, August 26, 2019

September R12: Portland-Stillwater Oldie but Goodie

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

Paulins Kill Viaduct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Entrance to Footbridge Park in Blairstown

Monday, August 5, 2019

Ride Report: YARRR 200K

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 25, 2019

August R12 Event: Yet Another River to River Ride (YARRR)

The R12 event for August is a special edition of the Yet Another River to River Ride (YARRR) 200K that highlights the destructive power of rivers. For full information about the ride, and to register online, see the event web site.

As a result of damage from recent flooding, there were numerous issues on the course that needed to be addressed. The cuesheets and RWGPS route have been updated with detours and important safety notes. Make sure you have at least version 2 of the cues, and GPS route updated on or after 7/25 10:09.

Note that parking at the start of the ride has changed. There are several parking lots on Hugh Moore Island. We gather for the start at the museum parking lot, farthest from the iron bridge. Do not park at the doggy park lot nearest the bridge (where, in previous years, we used to park).

The finish of the ride is at Jimmy's Doggie Stand, just across the Free Bridge from Easton.  This is not where your car is parked. There is a short (3.2 mi) and flat (91 ft) trip back to your car at the Canal Museum. This is a RWGPS route of the return trip to your car.

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

Bike riders generally view "Road Closed" signs with some skepticism. Closed to cars, sure, but to bikes? In most cases, bikes can safely sneak through where our four-wheeled companions fear to tread.  Unfortunately, in this year's version of the YARRR 200K, almost all the road closures meant: closed for everyone. Unless you include rock climbing gear and an inflatable kayak in your rando kit, these closed roads were convincingly closed to bikes.

In addition to the busted-up roadways and bridges, several road segments had patches of sand and gravel deposited by recent flooding. Please keep an eye out for these, especially on turns.  

Mile 6.6 -- The first big obstacle I encountered was on Easton Rd, at what would have been mile 6.6 on last year's route.  Where previously there had been smooth pavement, now there is a 100 foot wide, 50 foot deep gap. Errr... not going that way.   Unfortunately, "that way" led to a smooth, downhill glide into Hellertown. The only reasonable detour turned out to be Apple Rd, which is a climb over the flank of the Kohlberg. Sorry. Although it should be said that Apple Rd is very pretty. It is. Really.

Mile 15.3 -- Most of the crushed stone surface of the Saucon Rail Trail is very firm and easy to ride, but there's a short bit of soft stuff just past the library in the town park. It looks like they very recently put down this junk. It feels more like beach sand than suitable riding surface material. I made it through upright with my 35mm tires. Skinny tire riders might feel more comfortable on foot. It's a very short section. 

Mile 34.1 -- Last Friday the Macoby Creek flooded and corrugated a section of Hoppenville Rd adjacent to the bridge.  Although there are "Road Closed" signs, in this case bike riders should be able to dismount and make it through on foot. The bridge seems intact enough, although I wouldn't go too near the potholes -- some of them are portholes for quick access to the creek below. The detour for this damaged bridge is Reihman Rd, a big climb and a bonus mile. I felt the bridge was worth crossing.  You make up your own mind.

Mile 34.9 -- Immediately after the Macoby Creek ford, you cross PA29, Gravel Pike, and go straight onto the Perkiomen Trail. The trail is unmarked here. It looks like a gravel driveway for the industrial and trucking equipment facility to the right. Soon enough you'll see a Perk Trail sign and cross the creek on a trail bridge, so you'll know you are an the right path.  The Perk trail is nice here, except the last bit approaching Green Lane Park, where the surface becomes a little soft. Pedal steady through it and you should be OK. Taking this piece of the Perk trail avoids a very difficult uphill left turn off PA29 onto Hill Rd, which has been a problem in the past.

Mile 48.3 -- Speaking of dicey bridges, we again cross the defunct Keim St bridge. This may be the last time we cross it, as they have recently constructed a beautiful bike and pedestrian walkway on the new 422 bridge. Unfortunately, although the new bikeway on 422 is beautiful, it's also inaccessible, locked behind tall chain-link fencing. The approach ramps to the bikeway are not yet complete, delayed by (you guessed it) issues caused by flooding in and around the Schuylkill River. This is the last major missing piece of the Schuylkill River Trail. When it is complete (real soon now) you'll be able to ride from Philly to beyond Reading, all on trail.

Mile 48.8 -- After crossing the Keim St bridge and turning left, you'll find that PA724 is under construction. I had to walk my bike through on the sidewalk. I don't know what the state of things will be on Saturday, but I think you should be able to get through somehow.

Mile 49.1 -- This right turn onto Vaughn Rd and subsequent detour bonus miles are courtesy of an obliterated bit of Old Schuylkill Rd. Trust me that I tried to make it through the "Road Closed" segment on Old Schuylkill, but I felt that there was no safe and legal way to do it. Nor would I advise cheating this detour by means of PA724.  That "road of doom" concentrates high speed car traffic and does not have a viable shoulder.

Mile 54.0 -- At the PA724 crossing in Parker Ford we join the Schuylkill River Trail. In the past, the YARRR route used a rolling, zig-zaggy path through Spring City. The new routing on the SRT smooths this all out and brings us into downtown Phoenixville on a mixture of pavement and firm gravel.

Mile 71.0 -- There is water in Evansburg SP to the right down past the pavillion. Pull the well handle up and then reverse it a little bit -- it's cold and very wet.

Mile 76.9 -- It looked like they were getting ready for some re-paving here, but I had no trouble getting through. A detour, if required, should be easy and obvious (probably Morris Rd to Upper Mainland).

Mile 82.7 -- It's not a controle, but there's a WAWA here. My guess is you will be hot and thirsty and in need of a break. You can stop here, or you can ride a little further to the ice cream shop at mile 85.

Mile 110 -- Milford Market. Food, water, ice, and beer.

Mile 122.4 -- Oberly Rd.

Chris Nadovich

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Ride Report: Hawk's Nest 200 (The Bushkill-Lackawaxen Variation)

Preliminary results for the Hawk's Nest 200k have been posted on the website.  Please review the results and let me know if they align with your memory.  What is normally one of the easier routes on the schedule challenged a few riders with only 16 of 19 starters finishing in the allotted time.  At least all were accounted for at the finish.  The results will be submitted to RUSA later in the week and will become official once certified by the ACP.

The inaugural running of the Bushkill Lackawaxen 200k got off to an incredibly inauspicious start when Steve Castellano crashed at mile .1 while crossing the RR tracks just past the PA Welcome Center (this was not welcome).  Steve hit his head and cut his lip but, in true Randonneur style, lobbied hard to continue his ride.  Fortunately intelligence quickly ensued in the form of George Retseck who dissuaded Steve from that questionable decision.   We took Steve back to the start and with a little ice against his upper lip, Steve got home safely after a short stop for coffee.  I suspect we’ll see Steve on the next Pa Rando event, he was still pretty mad that he couldn’t continue the ride…..  Steve’s recount can be seen on his blog here: https://danceswithgears.wordpress.com/2019/07/13/the-shortest-brevet-ever/

After sandbagging the ride organizer with some story about riding “easy”, Scotty Steingart set a blistering pace on the event.  Scotty set this time in spite of (1) talking to me at the Bushkill Post Office for about 5 minutes, (2) assisting Ed Bernasky with his first flat repair and (3) riding his “heavy” bike.

Unfortunately for Ed Bernasky, the “first” flat repair with the assistance of Scotty was not his last.  Ed double flatted on the gravel section of the Port Jervis bypass.  Ed decided that fixing flats wasn’t great training for PBP so elected to take a direct route back to the start.

Lamar Chandler’s GPS sent him left on Towpath Road at mile 43.  I suspect his GPS was attempting to be kind to Lamar as that hard right onto Towpath is a steep little kicker.  Unfortunately taking the left on Towpath has 2 unfortunate consequences:

1.       It’s the wrong direction
2.       Towpath turns into SR 590 (just as it does if you’re proceeding in the correct direction).

These 2 facts, combined with a malfunctioning GPS and fatigue after riding hard for 43 miles with a lot of climbing, resulted in Lamar going a long distance off route (mostly uphill).  After getting turned around and climbing up to Eldred, Lamar performed the technique now known as “the Joe Ray” and returned to the Delaware Water Gap with the assistance of the Uber App.

Otherwise, the inaugural running of the Bushkill Lackawaxen 200k was completed without a hitch.   I must say that assisting with organizing this ride was great fun and I want to encourage all PA Randonneurs to take some of the burden off of Chris and Andrew and volunteer to help run these fabulous events.   It’s worth it just to see the incredible organization of the website – it’s pretty amazing.

Bill Fischer

Special thanks to Bill Fischer for organizing the July brevet assisted by Matt Farrell.  Winter and spring were especially busy this year; it was nice to have a month off.  Next up we will return to Easton for Chris Nadovich's popular Yet Another River to River Ride on August 3.  Registration is open now.

Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA
Andrew Mead

Sunday, July 7, 2019

July R12 Event: Back to the Mountains

Event details for the Bushkill-Lackawaxen 200k have been up on the website for a while and registration remains open through Thursday July 11.  Many of you will recognize this as mostly our favorite summer route, Hawk's Nest.  Variety is the spice of life.

Organizer Bill Fischer conducted a course check-out pre-ride on the 6th.  The cue sheet has been updated on the website.  Make sure the version you download is the July 7 update.  Bill's notes follow:

The course is in excellent shape with plenty of new pavement and, other than our favorite climb on Old Mine Road, very few potholes.

A few minor issues to keep in mind:

Mile 38.8 – Control 2/402 Café – We warned the owner that a gaggle of hungry cyclists will be descending on their establishment Saturday.  The staff is friendly and hospitable but warned us that they are typically busy during the time of our arrival and we shouldn’t expect ultra fast service.  We ordered 2 breakfast sandwiches to go and they took about 15 minutes (they were excellent!).  If you are in a hurry, they have a nice selection of muffins and bottled water/Gatorade that will get you in and out in a jiffy.  If you’re not in a hurry, this is a great place to spend a little time and enjoy a great breakfast.

Mile 55.6 – The shoulder of Rte.  97 is under construction at the right turn after crossing the Roebling Aqueduct.   Take extra caution to scan for traffic when making this turn as it’s easy to move into the lane while avoiding the construction.

Mile 59.7 – There is a farmers market starting at 10:00 Saturday in Barryville.   We passed by before it was open but the proprietor was already placing cones in the road.  If you see a backup of traffic next week it may be prudent to take the lane as you approach Barryville to pass stopped traffic and prepare for the Left turn onto Rte. 55 toward Eldred.

Mile 63.7 – The Corner Store in Eldred does not open until 11:00.  Fast riders may arrive before opening.  If you are there early, make the Right hand turn on to Rte 32 and control at Peck’s Market Grocery Store on the left.

Mile 78.2 - Long-time riders of the Hawk's Nest route will want to pay attention as the route takes a quieter, more scenic path through Port Jervis.  While Port Jervis remains an open control, there is a nice ice cream shop along Water St that is recommended.

Mile 81.9 – The Neversink River bridge (after you control in Port Jervis) is still under construction.   Although there is a pedestrian walk on the East side of the bridge, I would recommend that you take the lane and cross the bridge in the traffic lane.  The right turn onto Maple Ave occurs very quickly after crossing the bridge and you won’t want to be crossing both traffic lanes after crossing the bridge in the pedestrian lane.

Mile 109.9 – The pavement on the Old Mine climb is as bad as you remember.

Mile 123.4 – The single lane section of River Rd. aka “the mine field” has been paved Yippee!

Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Ride Summary: A Victory to Remember

Preliminary results have been posted on the website.  Please review the results and let me know if they align with your memory.  15 of 15 starters finished in the allotted time for another 100% finish rate.  Among them were three freshly minted randonneurs who complete their first-ever brevets.  Congratulations to all finishers.  The results will be submitted to RUSA later in the week and will become official once certified by the ACP.

The weather was ideal for a bike ride.  Clear skies in the morning helped to knock off the overnight chill and afforded excellent viewing from atop White Oak Road.  Some clouds developed as the day progressed which helped to keep the temperatures comfortable. 

We congratulate Bob Hallinger, Will Mahler, and Jeff Pyle for finishing their first brevet and becoming official randonneurs.  Bob is no stranger to the sport; he earned a P-12 award in 2018.  This was the first exposure for Will and Jeff.  Both are strong cyclists.  Their equipment of choice was gravel bikes, Jeff even shod with 50mm tires.  These surely came in handy in around Cornwall where some last minute roadwork removed the pavement leaving a couple gravel pits about 100 yards long. 

First finisher Tim Creyts sped around the route in typical fashion, even beating finish line volunteers CJ Arayata and Nick Manta to the brewery by about 10 minutes.  Many thanks to CJ and Nick for stepping up to help which allowed me to ride.  Their finish procedure was top notch.

Next up is the Hawks Nest brevet starting at the Park & Ride lot in Delaware Water Gap on July 13.  Bill Fischer will be organizing.  Current plans are to unveil a new twist on an old favorite route.  I'm still waiting for RUSA approval of the route.

Andrew Mead
event organizer
Eastern PA RBA

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.