Tuesday, November 17, 2020

December R12 Brevet: Little Britain Redeux

Initial plans to introduce newer riders to one of the original Lancaster County brevet routes were scrapped when the new infection rate for COVID-19 took a sharp turn upward following Halloween and Election Day.  The Loop Around Lancaster route was always a crowd favorite, but its large loop architecture is not conducive to fully self-supported events.  Instead the December brevet will use the Little Britain route with its Figure-8 layout that allows riders to visit their vehicles at the midway point.  Instead of the usual northern loop first running, we will ride the southern loop first.  This should provide an opportunity for riders to see the views they were missing in that final stretch from lower Conowingo Rd, often ridden after sunset.  

You will return to the shopping center where the start-finish control and your vehicle is located around mile 71.  You can replenish supplies from a stash in your vehicle or you can take advantage of the food options at the center.  That's up to you.  The control itself will be an information control which does not require entry into any establishment to answer.  The northern control is at a Turkey Hill C-store.  It is an info control, but you can replenish supplies if needed.  Its a short jaunt back to the finish without major climbs (I didn't say flat).

As of mid-November I am still planning to use a group start procedure. This could change based on changes in recommended pandemic protocols or if the field grows appreciably over 10 riders.  I will make an announcement before the event if the free start protocol will be used.  If free start is used, I do NOT anticipate starting anyone prior to 7:00 am.  If you want to refresh yourself on the free start protocol, see Chris' Free Bridge post.  The only change is that there is no bridge separating parking from my start location.  I'll be operating from the back of my van as usual.  Walk up when you're ready to roll, drop off your signed waiver, receive your card and smile for the camera.  There will also be a container of energy bars and bottled water should you wish to grab something for later. 

You can review a summary of our pandemic protocols in the Riding in a Pandemic blog post.  

In addition to the logistical protocol recommendations for brevets, please respect the CDC recommendations for quarantine and isolation in this pandemic.  If you are experiencing symptoms (people I know who've been infected all comment about losing sense of smell and taste), if you have been in close contact with someone who is infected (you'll likely know this though a contact tracing phone call), or if you are confirmed infected and it has been less than 10 days from the onset of symptoms (or whatever the specific isolation guidance you were provided requires), please stay home, relax, and plan for the next brevet.  Your randonneuring friends and I will thank you.

Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA

Monday, November 9, 2020

Hawk Mountain Ride Report

What a difference a week makes.  The weather for Saturday's Hawk Mountain brevet was just about perfect regardless of the season.  Considering this is November, I don't see how it could have been any better.  Clear skies, moderate temperatures, and low winds, what could be better? Fifteen riders clipped in on Saturday and fifteen returned within the allotted time for a 100% completion rate.  Results have been posted on the website and will be submitted to RUSA later this week.  Please let me know if these results don't align with your recollection.

The field consisted of many seasoned randonneurs, some of whom are veterans of the route, and two rookies.  Congratulations go to newly minted PA randonneurs Karl Chen and Christian Mailloux for their accomplishment.  Hawk Mountain is typically Pennsylvania Randonneurs challenging.  It may not have Fox Gap, but near-constant terrain undulation connecting two significant climbs means its no cakewalk.  First finishers Chris Bella and Chris Maglieri blazed around the route just 5 minutes slower that the official course record.  Given the minor variations occurring in the route over the years, 5 minutes is not much difference.  All other finisher arrived well within the time limit with smiling faces and weary legs.  It's really hard not to be happy with 70s and sunshine for a bike ride in November.

Says Joe Ray:

Thanks to you and the crew for such a fine, challenging day yesterday.  This was my first time on this route, and I was ready for it to be over around Lickdale control, but having met up with Rudi a bit earlier we managed to get it done and enjoy some more scenery including a terrific sunset.

Hawk Mountain ahead!
Photo by Joe Ray

Iwan Barankay had these comments:

Thank you for a classic and historic brevet. Classic as it started and finished from the back of a sedan. It was my first time riding this brevet and that climb was loooong. Historic for all of our phones buzzing and ringing at about noon which is why I posted my ride as the Biden Harris 200k. Even for a non-partisan club, it was hard to escape the wide variation in mood between the riders on the road and the customers at the Turkey Hills along the route. It seems like global warming will extend the riding seasons further and further and I look forward to a balmy December ride.

Chris Nadovich writes:

I believe I've ridden this course 5 times, and although there have been more memorable laps (like that time I chain-ringed a Guinea Foul) no lap around this course has been more pleasant.  The views of the pastoral Autumn countryside were amazing. 

Of interest is that Iwan and Nick Manta decided to ride to the start of the brevet and logged 75 miles before they set out on the brevet.  Chapeau to you both.

Finally, thanks to my willing volunteers George Metzler and Steve Kraybill for staffing the finish control. I could not have done this without them.

We can all hope that the pandemic will be but a memory the next time we use this route so we can gather at the St. Boniface brewery for time of refreshment and the stories of epic adventure.

Next up is another perennial favorite, The Loop Around Lancaster on December 5.  Details are up on the website and registration is open.  I would recommend waiting before downloading the route or cuesheet.  I am investing another variation in the route which I hope to confirm next weekend.  I also plan to conduct a quality assurance visit of the recently reopened Pancake Farm on my course checkout ride.  Check this board and the website for updated details.

Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA

Monday, October 26, 2020

November R12 Brevet: Hawk Mountain 200k

Pre-Ride Update Notes

A Halloween course checkout pre-ride was conducted by George Metzler, Ralph Miller, and yours truly.  The route itself is in good shape not considering all of the scary sights alongside the road.  Some people go all out with their decorations.

The cue sheet has been updated to incorporate a few tweaks.  Make sure you have the version generated on 11/1/2020.  

A few notes:

8.6      This RR crossing is bottle dropping rough.
12.5    Watch for slippery leaves on the road and deer standing in the road.
15.6    This, too, if a very rough RR crossing.
21.3    The risks of the long, open grate bridge cannot be overstated.  Please use caution.
45.7    The Kempton control does not have public restrooms.  The Sheetz at mile 33.8 does.
50.9    There is water available at the Eckville AT Shelter.  The tap is located on the side of a small house next to the porch.  All other facilities at the shelter (including a toilet) are closed. The shelter is easy to miss if you're not looking for it.  The sign announcing the shelter is only viewable by looking back down the hill (the direction wary hikers approach)

52.5    There will likely be lots of leaves on the road.  If not, there will be a lot of ground leave debris on the road.  Both are slick.  This descent features several tricky corners.  Please don't leave your guardian angel behind.

60.3    There is a HUGE pothole encroaching the shoulder just past the Auburn Mini-Mart.  It was water-filled on the pre-ride which masked the its presence.  And its perils.  Depth soundings were inconclusive.

79.0    You will be on the main drag in Pine Grove when you depart the control.  Traffic may be heavy, but everyone is driving slowly.  Just take your time and stay alert here.

85.6    This section features fast traffic.  The shoulder varies from a foot to full-lane.  The fog line is also a rumble strip.  Please be careful in this stretch and look far ahead to anticipate obstructions in the shoulder ahead so you can check behind before moving into the lane.

Hawk Mountain remains one of my personal favorites.  It is challenging but rewards one's efforts with several scenic vistas.  See you Saturday.

Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA

Original Post

The November R12 brevet heads west to Lancaster County for the Hawk Mountain 200k on November 7.  Event details are on the website and registration is open.  As with the 2018 running, the brevet will start in the parking lot of Martin's Country Market on the west side of Ephrata on US322.  Sadly, unlike the 2018 edition, we will NOT be gathering (at least formally) at the St. Boniface Craft Brewery for post-ride festivities.  Current occupancy restrictions on bars make it impractical to occupy their space for such a long time.  That said, all riders are certainly welcome to visit the brew pub with its new expanded food offerings.  We just can't gather there as a group.

Starting protocol will be slightly changed for November.  I hope to return to a group start.  This of course depends on the number of entrants, but winter months typically see smaller groups.  Free starts are useful with larger groups, but if I learned anything from the Fall Classic event it is the value of a pre-ride rider's briefing.  Other aspects of the Free Start protocol remain in effect.  

1. All riders must wear a mask at registration check-in.  You will need to take it with you as all Pennsylvania stores require patrons to wear a mask in order to enter.  Hand sanitizer is up to you, but remember hand sanitizer and paper stock brevet cards don't mix well.  Just sayin'.

2. Please print, sign, and bring that signed event waiver with you to the rider check-in.  I'll have an envelope to collect these.

3. Bring your bike and your reflective gear with you to rider check-in. Do this promptly when you arrive and unload to avoid a crush at T -15 minutes.

4. A successful step 1 and 2 will result in receipt of your brevet card.

5.  Hang around in a socially distanced manner until 5 minutes before the start for the pre-ride briefing.  

6.  Gather in a socially spaced apart manner so you can hear my spell-binding pre-ride chat.  I'll talk loud so everyone can hear.

7.  Depart when released, but try to space yourselves apart a bit.  Most important is to be aware of other rider proximity when launching snot rockets and the like.  This really shouldn't be a COVID thing; you should always drop to the back to do this.  

All of the intermediate controls have been changed to info controls to avoid passing brevet cards with store clerks along the way (pro tip:  bring a pencil or pen).  However, there is no intermediate staffed control planned.  If you have reservations about entering a store to obtain supplies along the route, please plan accordingly and carry enough with you.  Veterans of the route will know that stores in Schuylkill, Berks and Lebanon Counties are few and far between anyway so plan accordingly.  Stores are marked on the cue sheet and I will be investigating an additional self-service water source along the route on the check-out ride.

When you arrive at the finish, check your card to make sure you've added all the info control answers.  Look for the finish volunteer (it might not be me) and show the volunteer the inside of your card so s/he can verify you've scribbled something in each control.  Don't forget to mask up when you go see the volunteer.  Then sign your card and deposit it in the envelope with the volunteer.  If you arrived with a small group, step away so the others can check out.  The volunteer will have a log sheet which indicates your finish time and is the primary means for me to determine finish time. 

Stay safe and have a great ride.

Andrew Mead, Eastern PA RBA

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Chamounix Classic 2020 Report

Preliminary results for the Chamounix Classic events have been posted for the 200k and the Populaire 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 for RUSA certification later on and become final at that time.  

A gorgeous sunny Saturday

October 17 was a gorgeous, sunny Saturday for two PA Randonneur events, the 107km Populaire and a 200k brevet. It was also a day of many firsts.  

We inaugurated a new location, the Chamounix Hostel, as our start and finish control, a beautiful location in north-west Fairmount Park, which made for a pleasant spot to hang out and share stories at the end of the ride – socially distanced and outdoors of course! One nice feature was the porch on the front where we could see rides approach from afar so we could welcome each of them with applause. We hope to use the Hostel again as a base for events in 2021.


Woody readies the tandem as cat watches joggers.

Another first is that we drew a lot of new riders from the area, indeed across both events 55% of participants came from Philadelphia many of which participated in their first ever brevet leading to a late surge in RUSA memberships!

Finally, we had the first ever minor participating in an event as part of a father-daughter tandem:  Esme and Glenn Ammons finished their Populaire to roaring applause something made possible by a recent rule change at RUSA allowing minors to ride in the company of a randonneuring parent or guardian.  We had a total of three tandems at the Populaire the others were CJ Arayata with Woody Felice and George Retseck with Beverly Rickles, the latter finished her first ever randonneuring event.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Chamounix Fall Classic Populaire - Pre-ride notes

A pre-ride of the 107km Populaire was conducted on Oct 7 by Iwan Barankay. Event informatin is available here. The route is beautiful and very scenic and will be a great experience for first-timers and returning randonneurs alike. 

Parking is very easy on Chamounix Drive just before you reach the Carriage House which is on the left in the eyelet at the end of the road. 

Here is a list of items to bring and prepare:

One note upfront is to be aware of fallen leaves on the road as they can be slippery and, more importantly, they can hide potholes especially in the beginning on MLK Jr Drive.  Please take good care so you don’t lose a water bottle there like the pre-rider did.  

There are multiple constructions which made it necessary to change the route.  In the beginning soon after Falls Bridge we now turn onto the Wissahickon Trail and then Forbidden Drive to reach the first info control from the East.  

As you approach Evansburg State Park please dismount your bike to get onto the Skippack Creek Trail Bridge as a flash-flood in late summer swelled up and washed away some of the tarmac.

On the way back before Manayunk please watch the cues to get back onto the Schuylkill River Trail as River Road is under construction and impassable due to a huge pool of water and no sidewalk. Finally, we approach the finish from MLK Jr Drive which is much safer than via Belmont Mansion Drive but will necessitate a last climb effort before the finish.  Rest assured that grazing horses and curious cats at Chamounix are awaiting you as are boxed lunches and refreshments and many riders including some 200k finishers whom you can impress with your stories and adventures.

Start Logistics

As we are under COVID 19 protocol we won't have a group but rather a free start.

Here is how it works:

1) Park your car or come to Chamounix by bike. Most people will want to park on the left in front of the stables just before you get to the Carriage House. Let's assume this is what you do.

2) Get ready. 

3) Coffee, water, juice and packaged goodies will be set out by the Carriage House. Help yourself (but don't bunch as you munch). Take the food back to your car or elsewhere in the park.

3) Sometime between 8:30 and 9:30 AM casually walk by yourself with your bike and your signed event waiver to the start line.  The idea is that people should come over to start gradually, in onezie-twozies. Not in a bunch. 

4) Drop your signed waiver in the container on the ground. If you forget your waiver, you'll need to ask a Chamounix Cat for forgiveness. If the cat forgives you, go retrieve a blank waiver fill it out, and try again.

5) After you drop your waiver, the starter will record your time on the log and on your card. The starter will then give you your brevet card. Hold it up with your name facing forward. Someone will take a picture of you. You are now started.  A few people will also be given satellite trackers. If you get one of these, put it someplace where it can "see" the sky. It can be in a bag or pocket, just don't pile stuff on top of it.

6) Ride your bike!  And don't go faster than your guardian Angel!

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Chamounix Fall Classic 200K -- Course Notes (updated)

*** Update 1

An additional pre-ride was conducted 11 October by Andrew Mead and Nick Manta. This resulted in a few small adjustments to the cues and the route. The latest cuesheet is Version 4,  from RWGPS route last modified 2020-10-12 17:55:30 EDT.

 *** Original Post

The Chamounix Classic randonneuring events in Philadelphia are almost upon us. For full details on these events, refer to the event pages for the 200K brevet and the 107K populaire.  Check back here at the PA Rando blog for any last minute announcements.

These events will be run with a Free Start procedure under the Covid safety plan. Here's how free starts work:

1) Park your car. Most people will want to park on the left in front of the stables just before you get to the Carriage House. Let's assume this is what you do.

2) Get ready. Since it will technically still be night when we start, you should have reflective gear on.

3) Coffee, water, juice and packaged goodies will be set out by the Carriage House. Help yourself (but don't bunch as you munch). Take the food back to your car or elsewhere in the park.

3) Sometime between 6:30 and 7:30 AM for the 200K (8:30 -- 9:30 for the 107K) casually walk by yourself with your bike and your signed event waiver to the start line.  The idea is that people should come over to start gradually, in onezie-twozies. Not in a bunch. 

4) Drop your signed waiver in the container on the ground. If you forget your waiver, you'll need to ask a Chamounix Cat for forgiveness. If the cat forgives you, go retrieve a blank waiver from somewhere, fill it out, and try again.

5) After you drop your waiver, the starter will record your time on the log and on your card. The starter will then give you your brevet card. Hold it up with your name facing forward. Someone will take a picture of you. You are now started.  A few people will also be given satellite trackers. If you get one of these, put it someplace where it can "see" the sky. It can be in a bag or pocket, just don't pile stuff on top of it.

6) Ride your bike!  And don't go faster than your guardian Angel!

Pre Ride Notes

An official pre-ride of the new Chamounix Classic 200K brevet course was conducted on Saturday 3 October by Iwan Barankay and Chris Nadovich. There were several major course changes that resulted from lessons learned by this pre-ride. At this time, all these changes have been incorporated in our online route data. Make sure you have the latest Cue Sheet (version 3) or GPS route last modified 2020-10-6 12:42:21 EDT. 

Iwan and I started almost exactly at dawn from the Chamounix Carriage house. The weather was cool but not excessively cold. The area at the end of Chamounix Drive was almost completely deserted of people, but there were several cats wandering about the stables. A few of these cats visited us as we were clipping in, curious about the unusual "horses" we were riding. 

Unforgiving Chamounix cat

The first 50 miles of the course is scenic, meandering through the suburban side-streets that give way to country roads in the spectacular countryside West of Valley Forge. There are several classics, like Yellow Springs Rd and Goshen Rd. Be alert at the end of Goshen for the info control, a white cottage house behind a fence on the right just before the turn.

Scenic is also cyclist code for hilly. Slower riders should expect to reach the Morgantown control with only a small amount of time in the bank. Of course, given that all controls are info-controls under the Covid rules, there is no official closing time in Morgantown. Nevertheless, be aware of the front-loaded climbing and don't worry too much if you arrive in Morgantown a little later than you might have expected.  Riders should also be prepared with enough food and water to make it through this tough 50 (although there is no official replenishment along this segment, there are a few Wawas noted on the cue sheet if you are willing to go a bit off course and enter a convenience store).

At Morgantown the course passes several fast food joints and a Sheetz on the left side of 23, but after considering these during the pre-ride, and disliking their high-traffic and the need for a double-left turn to access them across the busy road, the control location was finally set at the more isolated Joanna Store Sunoco. This is on the right at the end of Joanna Rd. It's a relatively quiet location. We hope to have a volunteer at this spot to distribute water to those unwilling to enter the convenience store. Of course those who do decide to enter should wear a mask, even if this store is relatively low-traffic compared to the businesses on the main PA23 corridor.  

After Morgantown the course returns to a familiar route through French Creek that long time PA Rando riders will know well from many 400Ks and 600Ks.  There are a few minor climbs, but most of the route is flat or downward. I found this section to be quite relaxing after the 50 miles of slogging up hills we had just completed. And it was daytime for a change!

Upon reaching the Perkiomen, instead of beginning the climb up to Quakertown as we have done so many times before, the hard work of the ride is now almost completely over as the route joins the Perkiomen Trail to follow creeks and rivers all the way back to Philadelphia. There is a control here as the route joins the Perk trail (smooth crushed stone, mostly firm, suitable for most tires), an info question answered by the wooden signboard at the Crusher Rd trailhead. 

When reaching the Perk Trail control at Crusher, instead of turning right and following the course South, if you turn left and follow the Perk trail North (off course) you'll soon reach Green Lane Park with water and bathrooms. You can then U-turn around, get back on a southbound course, and brag to your friends that you rode the whole Perk trail to the SRT (not just a mere 99.5% of it). 

Chris Nadovich finds the answer he seeks

There are a few spots on the Perk trail where the gravel is a bit soft, so keep pedaling if you hit any this "non Newtonian fluid". Generally speaking, the trail is well marked and easy to follow. Although most of the Perk is through the woods along the creek,  there are a few busy road crossings with traffic signals. Please use the pedestrian call buttons at the traffic signals and wait till the pedestrian sign lights up, white, signalling that it's safe to cross the road.

The Perk trail eventually becomes paved, and then joins the Schuylkill River Trail at an info control (a park bench just after the trail junction). The route is then all paved through Valley Forge and Norristown. At Conshohocken, the route leaves the Schuylkill for a significant climb up Barren Hill away from the Schuylkill, over to the Wissahickon watershed and the renowned Forbidden Drive trail through the gorge.  Again the route is crushed stone, perhaps a little better in quality than the Perk trail surface. Forbidden Drive is one of the most spectacular city park trails in the world. No matter how many times I go through there, I'm always amazed that Philly has such a wonderful resource.

At the base of the Wissahickon gorge, the route Tees left at Ridge. You are now returning to busy car traffic so wake up! But it's not much further. Just over the Falls Bridge, and then one last little grunt up to Chamounix.

There was also a Pre, pre-ride of this course, previously conducted by Iwan and the "Rat Pack". Please refer to those notes as well.  

Thanks for a great route, Iwan. Enjoy the ride everyone. 


Chris N

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The October Fall Classic: Chamounix 200K Brevet and 107K Populaire

Recognizing the number of Pennsylvania Randonneurs that hail from Philadelphia, we are returning to Philadelphia for a newly designed Fall Classic event on October 17.  The starting point is Chamounix Mansion, located in Fairmont Park overlooking the Schuylkill River.  We are running both a traditional Fall Classic 200K Brevet, and a 107K Populaire.  Details for both the 200K event and 107K event are on the web, including links for online registration.

A RUSA membership is required to participate in these events.  Membership in Pennsylvania Randonneurs, while encouraged, is not required to participate.  If you already have a RUSA membership for 2020 you're set.  If not, you should wait a bit.  RUSA memberships paid on or after October 1 will be valid through the end of 2021.  If you apply for RUSA membership in now, it will only be valid through the end of 2020.  Yes, this differs from the approach that Pennsylvania Randonneurs is taking, but we don't make the rules for RUSA.  

These events are being run under RUSA "soft start" COVID-19 rules. The route passes convenience stores, including the iconic Sheetz in Morgantown, but all controles are optionally info controles (bring a pencil); riders are not required to enter any businesses.  That said, all riders must bring a pre-completed waiver to the start, and must have masks at the start and finish. Masks are required if you do choose to enter any of the businesses.

The 107K route is substantially identical to the International Women's Day 107 K held this Spring. The main difference is that the start/finish is now Chamounix rather than the Art Museum area. You can read the pre-ride notes and  ride report from the Spring edition of the IWD Populaire to get some sense of what this populaire route is like.

The 200K is a totally new route. A pre-pre ride of the 200K was conducted by organizer Iwan Barankay and the "Rat Pack". Here are the preliminary notes from their first-ever check-out of this new 200K.

200K Pre-pre-ride

Though not a control, there is a WAWA of to the left at mile 26.5 as we cross US 30. Be very careful as you cross this highway.  Fortunately, US 202 and I-75 will both be crossed more safely via bridges.

A non-negotiable feature of a PA brevet that reaches this far West is a Sheetz control. Be very careful as you enter the control as it is on the left side of a busy road. (Pro tip: to refill water bottles press the unlabeled bottom-right button at the self-service fountain bar).

You continue on Hopewell and then the full length of Harmonyville Rd. The road surface on both of these roads switches arbitrarily between brand new and rumbustious with some steep technical descents.

Continuing north it is advisable to refuel at the CVS as you reach West Ridge Pike at mile 74.9 since there won’t be another easy option like this for quite some time.                                                                      
We cross the Schuylkill River via Linfield Bridge, a rare example of a surviving, 1930s, 3-span Warren-pony-truss bridge with polygonal top chord, which for us translates into a narrow bridge with no hard shoulder or bike path – be alert and make yourself seen when on the bridge.

On the Schuylkill River and Perkiomen trails, be courteous and always announce yourself when passing.  At times your GPS might complain but you always want to stay on the Perk trail.  Be alert in turns as depending on the weather the deep gravel can turn into a non-Newtonian fluid and spare a happy thought for the route planner as you go up a rather unexpected, brief 12% climb at mile 88.1.

There is an expanded 17.8 mile gravel experience (suitable for most tires) on the Perkiomen Trail (PT). You stay on Perkiomen until you reach the Schuylkill River Trail (SRT) at mile 101.2. Don’t miss the turn to go up the bridge as otherwise you end up in Phoenixville which is a different brevet altogether.

Sometimes the SRT is a time-trial fest interspersed with some more inexperienced riders exhibiting artistic sudden turns.  Stay alert and consider refreshments at the Conshohocken Brewery (mile 112.8) or carefully navigate around its patrons. Shortly after the brewery we leave the SRT turning left and go past Riverbend Cycles and then up steep Barren Hill Rd named after what it does to your virility.  As you then scream down the hill towards Manayunk make sure not to miss the left-turn into a small road misnamed “High Street” after the traffic light but before the bridge - listen to the custom cues! – to reach a pleasing former railroad bridge turned now into the Manayunk Bridge Trail to join Cynwyd Trail.