Friday, March 20, 2020


Pennsylvania Randonneurs is suspending all of its events effective immediately.  We find it impossible to offer randonneuring events of the high quality our members and guests have come to expect from Pennsylvania Randonneurs.  It is time to accept the inevitable realization that proceeding with our schedule is not socially responsible behavior and might constitute prohibited behavior under current mandates.  We will continue to monitor conditions and make an announcement when we believe resuming brevets is legal, feasible, and responsible.

Obviously a resumption of activities depends upon current mandates requiring closure of "non-life sustaining businesses" and directing individuals to shelter in place or practice social isolation to be lifted.  Our routes are not limited to Pennsylvania, so we must also consider the surrounding states, specifically New Jersey and New York.  If these restrictions are lifted, our hope is to reschedule the SR events and the Fleche in the late summer or early fall.  If these restrictions remain through summer, the ACP events will likely be cancelled altogether.  Much depends on the availability of the resources needed to host such events.  It may take quite a bit of time for the services we rely on (hotels, stores, restaurants) to return to normal and be able to accommodate us once restrictions are lifted.

Please be patient as we work through the details.  We are doing all that we can to resume randonneuring activities as soon as conditions permit and to keep you advised in ample time to make plans.

Thank you for your understanding.  Stay safe!

Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Pagoda 200K Ride Report

Miles, Joe, Greg and Elias
celebrating at the Pagoda (photo by Matt)
With the growing concern about the Corona virus pandemic casting a shadow of uncertainty over future events, a brave group of 24 randonneurs clipped in to attempt one of the most difficult 200K routes in the PA Rando menu, the Pagoda 200K brevet. Despite the anxious context and difficult course, 23 of the 24 starters finished under the time limit for  a 96% completion rate. Congratulations and well done to all, especially our first time riders Matthew Harman and Miles PowellWelcome to PA Randonneuring! I can promise you that it will get easier.

Preliminary results for this first event in our ACP Super Randonneur series, 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 for ACP certification later on and become final at that time.

The weather was clear and cool, climbing into the 50s mid day with plenty of sunshine. Several of the riders finished in shorts --- some even in short sleeves. There was enough wind to be annoying, but not the gale force winds that stole the brevet card from Gerry Montague's hand in 2019. This year the wind was weaker. Gerry held tightly to his brevet card and finished in great style.

Difficult climbs can move riders to poetry, it seems. The muse of rando inspired Iwan Barankay to compose this haiku...
Social full distance
We swallowed hills like Hemlock
Pinchflat spring ice-cream
I see what you did there, Iwan, with swallowing Hemlock. Some of those hills do indeed promote thoughts of self harm.  And "pinchflat  spring" refers to a possible flavor available at the Longacres Modern Dairy controle?

Joe Ray had this to say about the day and the quality of the food offerings...
Thanks for putting on a great brevet yesterday!  There were a number of sections on this one that I had completely forgotten from last year, notably the climb to reach the dam [Powder Mill] and the knee-breaker after crossing it [Hemlock]. It was really good to share the suffering with Greg and Miles for the whole route and have Matt join us for the  second half and finish as a group. The views on this route are terrific, with quite a few very noble-looking farms on top of the overlook on skyline/pagoda and other mountain vistas. The banana milkshake at Longacre was fantastic (as expected), but this was my first Wawa waffle egg sausage and cheese sandwich and I’ll give it a “pretty good” (better than the turkey hill thing a couple hours later).  
The difficult course with near 10,000 feet of climbing and an unfair lack of easy descending roll-outs pushed several riders close to the time limit.  I say any finish is a solid finish on this 200K. On this topic Bill Olsen writes...
Thanks for scheduling the challenging PA SR Series again this year. The 200K Included just the right amount of climbing.  Enough to quickly get me back into shape, but not too much that I exceeded the allowable 13.5 hours. 
The Pagoda 200K course has many high points. There are six major climbs and many stunning vistas. In contrast to these scenic wonders, considering the 2020 version avoids traffic and reaches the SRT by routing directly through some squalid sections of downtown Reading, there are also some low points on the course. The lowest of these low-points is Little Wunder Street (really an alley) where riders must get down into the gutter.

Little Wunder riders go down into the gutter

Fortunately there were no punctures or other unpleasantness reported by riders transiting this "interesting" thoroughfare.

Perhaps the biggest surprise  of the day was the peloton of cigarette-smoking, Big Wheel riders descending from the Pagoda on Duryea Drive.  They must've been at it for a long time as many of the passing brevet riders reported seeing them descending and being hauled back up top by pickup truck.

Big Wheelers descending Duryea drive in high gear
And they say randonneurs are crazy!?

One disappointing aspect to the 2020 edition of the Pagoda 200K was the closure of the Cask Taphouse and Grill at the start/finish. The closure appears to be permanent, a consequence of economic factors, not related to the pandemic.  There are other nice pubs and restaurants nearby, but nothing so close and congenial as was the Cask.  Because Cask was closed, PA Rando was unable to provide the finish food we had in the past: a variety of excellent flatbread pizzas from the Cask menu. Instead, we had more typical bike rider food: fruit and pre-packaged snacks.

As things stand at the moment of this writing, the remaining ACP Super Randonneur events are still going ahead as scheduled. It may be necessary to modify the start/finish and overnight accommodations  in order to comply with prudent safety requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Because of the extra requirements, we'll likely need more volunteers than usual. Please contact the RBA or myself if you can help day-of-event (and thereby qualify for a social distanced pre-ride). 

Prudent restrictions and required actions or prohibitions are being considered.  We have no crystal ball and must make decisions based on what is known at the time.  Our current plan is to hold events as scheduled.  We will continue this approach until circumstances dictate otherwise.  We are evaluating each event individually.  Should cancellation become necessary, we will do our best to assure that information is quickly communicated.  Pay attention to this website.  Follow the Facebook group.  Follow our blog.  
Stay safe.
Chris  Nadovich
Brevet Organizer

Monday, March 16, 2020

Coronavirus & COVID-19

The impact of coronavirus and COVID-19 on brevet and fleche events is under active discussion among the RBA community.   Prudent restrictions and required actions or prohibitions are being considered.  We have no crystal ball and must make decisions based on what is known at the time.  Our current plan is to hold events as scheduled.  We will continue this approach until circumstances dictate otherwise.  We are evaluating each event individually.  Should cancellation become necessary, we will do our best to assure that information is quickly communicated.  Pay attention to the website.  Follow the Facebook group.  Follow this blog.  All will be updated as soon as any decisions are made.

Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Ride Report: International Women's Day Popualire

Riders gather at the Joan of Arc Statue
The weather roller-coaster of 2020 reached a high point on Sunday March 8 and provided a day filled with sunny skies, mild temperatures, and gentle breezes.  All 37 riders who clipped in for the International Women's Day 107k completed the route within time for a 100% completion rate.  This is all the more impressive when one considers that nearly half of the field had never participated in a randonneuring event before.  You will find the preliminary results on the website.  Results will become official once submitted to RUSA later this week.

The group consisted of a good mix of both veteran and first time randonneurs, who braved the chilly early morning temperatures as they headed out from the Joan of Arc statue near the Philadelphia Museum of Art into the north western suburbs.  By the time riders returned to the finish at the Stone Age in America statue most of those early morning layers had been shed, as temperatures became much more mild throughout the day.

The "new to PA Randonneurs" course provided a very good introduction to the many new randonneurs in attendance. With staffed, information, post card, and even a secret control, the riders got to experience every type of control they will come across in longer brevets.  Judging by the smiles and comments of the finishers as they rolled in, the course was well received.  Observant riders might have noticed a continuation of the honoring women theme though careful examination of the post cards mailed at the West Point Post Office controle.

Post ride festivities were graciously hosted by CJ Arayata and Natalie Felice, who live near the finish.  All of those who could make to their house had a great time recapping the day and making plans for future brevets.  A few have already signed up for next weekend's Pagoda 200k.

CJ Arayata has posted a shared photo album where you can stash any additional pictures from the event.

Rider Jim Moore produced a nice video that allows you to relive the experience.

PA Rando veteran Shawn Boyles had this to say of the day:  Thanks again for organizing a ride here in Philadelphia. It was great to ride familiar roads with the PA Rando crew. I hope everyone enjoyed the event. Many thanks to all the volunteers along with CJ and Woody for opening their home up to us.  Shawn had a hand in the route as he was one of the early voices asking for an event starting in the city.

First-time randonneuse Andrea Mules had this to say about the day:  The PA Rando crew is so incredibly warm and welcoming and it was very exciting to join a local ~100k! The route was top notch, and the section between Evansburg and Ambler was probably my favorite section of rollers all day. Perfect weather and great riding companions. Biggest of ups to the folks at the Secret Controle. Those cookies really brought me home to the finish. A cold beer never tasted as good as the one at the afterparty hosted by CJ and Woody. Stoked to do another one of the shorter rando rides with everyone!

Another first-time, Matt Harman writes:  Thank y'all for doing what y'all do. What a wonderful ride, website and company. Thanks for hosting a ride leaving and returning to Philly. I recognize from conversations yesterday this starting location can be limiting. The route was a wonderful way to become acquainted with PA R. 

Matt, like many other of the Philadelphia-based riders, lives car-free. which makes starts in Easton or Lancaster difficult.  Carpools anyone?

Thanks to many people who made this event possible:  To CJ Arayata who became a one-man cheerleader for the event and, along with Woody Felice,  generously opened their home to the post-ride gathering.  To Pat and Cece Gaffney who helped to refine the route and staffed the start and finish controle.
Pat Gaffney at the finish.
To Jim Bondra who staffed the Evansburg controle.  To Sue Proulx and Sue Dasen for staffing a secret controle AND providing tasty treats to energize riders to the finish. 

Secret Sues at the Cemetery
And finally to Chris Nadovich for getting the route ready for RUSA use, organizing the event, and putting up with me through the whole process.  Be sure to thank these people the next time you see them.  They make Pennsylvania Randonneurs' events happen.

Next up is the beginning of the ACP SR Series, the Pagoda 200 on March 14.

Chris Nadovich
- Event Organizer
Andrew Mead
- Eastern PA RBA

Monday, March 9, 2020

Pagoda 200K -- 2020 Edition -- Course Notes

PA Randonneurs moves in to the ACP sanctioned events beginning in March with the challenging Pagoda 200k Brevet scheduled for March 14.  Event details are posted on the PA Randonneurs website.  This brevet will be staged from the Holiday Inn Express/Cask Restaurant near the 25th St exit off of Route 22 in Easton that was used for last year's SR events. As with all PA Randonneurs brevets, pre-registration is required.  Online Registration will remain open until midnight Wednesday, March 11th. No late registrations will be accepted. RUSA membership required.

The RWGPS route and cues have been changed since originally posted.  Please be sure you have the latest, cuesheet version 6, created 2020-03-09 21:19 EDT.

A course pre-ride was conducted by Andrew Mead and Chris Nadovich on 7 March. An additional ride was conducted 9 March by Jim Bondra. The following are their course notes.

It was lightly snowing when Andrew and I set off from the Cask parking lot for our pre-ride. The temperature was around freezing with a chilly North wind of about 15 mph that would be across our faces most of the day. On the bright side,  there was already some daylight on the horizon.  By 2 PM there was little sign of any snow. Temperatures had risen to the 40s and we had several hours of glorious sun to enjoy the spectacular scenery this ride offers.

The main change to the 2019 route is the elimination of the horrible hump of busy (and often under construction) Perkiomen Ave on the edge of Reading. Instead the 2020 route makes a bee-line across the center of Reading on generally low-traffic, downhill Cherry St to join the Schuylkill River Trail.

The route reaches Cherry through Little Wunder St, which is a teeny, tiny alley on the left, just in front of a brick building (Bella's Sweets) at mile 59. After the right on Perkiomen, immediately turn left into the Wunder alley. A key spotting cue is the working pay phone (sic) on the wall of the building. Turn in front of the phone and zig-zag down the narrow path. There's a shallow curved gutter in the center of the alley.  If it rains this week, I expect the water will flush most of the trash and broken glass out of that gutter, so you should be good on Saturday. But in case the gutter isn't clear, make your own decision whether the alley is rideable by bike. Andrew and I both rode through the alley, but if you aren't as familiar with living in the gutter as us, please be cautious and walk your bike through.

Andrew points the way to Little Wunder St
and the last working payphone in America
Once you zig-zag through the Little Wunder, take Cherry for nine blocks till it T's at RACC. Look out for cross traffic at the intersections. At RACC you will do a TL+QR onto Riverfront Dr. After crossing the tracks look for the painted bridges. Walk your bike up the grass berm to the SRT (why is there no paved ramp?) and cross those painted bridges. The SRT is paved here, but once over the Schuylkill bridge it will become a mixture of dirt, gravel, and broken pavement (suitable for most tires) till you reach the Gibraltar controle (look for the RR tracks to your left).

At mile  88.6 is the Longacres Modern Dairy controle. If you don't feel like eating ice cream (sic) there is a Redner's Quick Mart ahead on the route 0.2 miles on the right as an alternative controle. Even though it was about 20F, considering wind chill, Andrew and I both went for scoops. I shivered my way through some excellent rum raisin. Tough work but, heck, rule 5. I believe they also have sandwiches and some hot drinks at Longacres, but I saw no sign of pie a-la-mode being served. I tried to put a bug in their ear about 3.14 day -- we'll see next week.

Another interesting navigational challenge is the detour in the Saucon Rail Trail. The trail needs to cross Preston Lane, but there's no bridge. So as a workaround they route you left, off the trail, around a ball field, and down through a tunnel (sic) under Preston Lane at the Library. Then around some more ball fields. Finally you turn right back into the woods at soccer field 5. Don't miss that right turn into the woods or you'll be doomed to wander. Here's a diagram:

Saucon Park trail detour
Other navigational challenges and road hazards are noted on the cue sheet. Please study the cues carefully and be alert for unexpected hazards.

A note from the 2019 pre-ride is still relevant:
mile 57.4, 58.5 -- there are three switchback triangles on the Duryea Drive descent. You make turns at the first triangle near the top and the third triangle (1.1 miles later), and there are cues for these turns. You don't turn at the second switchback triangle (just past the first) and there is no cue to indicate this lack of turning. I found that situation a little confusing as these first two turns come quick, so I slowed down. Should you mistakenly turn at the second triangle you'll be sorry as you could end up 500 feet down the mountain in a jiffy and you won't be anywhere near the course. Pro tip: take your time going down those switchbacks and put a priority on navigating correctly.
This is not an easy 200K. Pay attention to where you are. Be prepared to do some work. The climbs leading up to the Pagoda are big but fair, with exhilarating descents and switch-back, run-out pay-offs immediately afterward. The climbs beginning after Daniel Boone are annoyingly unfair. They are irregular, sneaky, and the descents all seem to have blind turns, stop signs, and yet more little climbs peppered throughout.  Stay calm and pedal on. There is ice cream.

Maybe the weather will be nicer for you on 14 March than we had on the pre-ride, but because of the DST change the 6AM start time  is over an hour before sunrise. Everyone must have proper reflective gear and lighting on their bikes. I'd expect there to be a beautiful near-full waning moon in the sky to the west just before dawn.

Chris Nadovich
Brevet Organizer

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Looking ahead to the Pennsylvania Randonneurs Fleche 2020

Pennsylvania Randonneurs continues another of its long-standing traditions with the 2020 Flèche.  Once again the Trexlertown Velodrome is our target destination where finishers will be treated to breakfast, camaraderie, and hopefully dryer conditions than last year.  Maintaining the same finish location benefits those who liked their routes last year; just let me know you intend to use the same route again and you've met the requirements for route submission.

If you want to create a new route, you will need to identify the controls (a complete address, please), and provide a link to a map of you planned route.  Remember that your planned route and the shortest controlled route may not be the same.  It is extremely helpful if you create a brevet card in the RUSA Card-O-Matic application and copy the card to me (3981).

Take this time to brush up on the Rules for the Flèche.

The event page for the Flèche has been up for a while and a few riders have found it already.
Dates to keep in mind:

Mar 19:  Team Captain registration closes
Mar 26:  Route submission deadline
Apr 10:   Rider registration closes
16 April Noon: Earliest start time
18 April 8-9 AM: Preferred start time
18 April 10 AM: Latest start
19 April 10 AM: Latest finish
19 April 8-11 AM: Brunch Banquet and (hopefully) laps on the track

The Captain's deadline is coming up soon.  Don't delay.

Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA