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

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