Monday, April 19, 2021

Ride Report: Pagoda 200K

 

The temperature was on the chilly side, with some brief sprinkles during the partly cloudy day, but the warm rando camaraderie more than made up for the raw weather.  Of the 27 riders that clipped in at the start/finish, 25 completed the whole course within the time limit for a 93% completion rate.  Congratulations and well done to all!  Preliminary results 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 after review and will become official once certified.

Gavin pauses at the Pagoda controle
 

It almost seemed like the before-times, with a staff of fully vaccinated volunteers providing "hostel quality" food and beverage services at the start, finish, and Pagoda controls while riders congregated (with some distance) in the outdoor pavilion to trade war stories. 

Organizer Chris Nadovich set up and ran the start, Steve Schoenfelder operated a "secret" control at the Pagoda, then raced back to the finish to check-in returning riders. And volunteer veteran Len Zawodniak  fed them their choice of freshly grilled veggie or beef hamburgers. As if that wasn't enough experienced rando volunteer power, RBA emeritus Tom Rosenbauer lent a hand as well.

Alongside the usual group of veteran randonneurs, there were five totally new RUSA members doing their first randonneuring event ever.  It shows the right stuff to pick such a difficult course for your first brevet, and their results showed they were up to the challenge.

The five new riders were Seth Hallam, Steve Handleman, Brad Layman, Angela Martinez, Michael Panzitta, and Garrett Redmond.   Welcome to Randonneuring!

Four of the five new riders finished well within the time limit to become freshly minted randonneurs.  The one exception was Steve Handleman, who was riding very well, but abandoned in comradeship with ailing Iwan Barankay so he could drive Iwan home to Philly. To accomplish this good deed,  Steve rode back from the Macungie control to fetch his car. That means he rode back over the mountain at Chestnut Hill, and back over the mountain at Applebutter. Clearly Steve is a very strong rider who knows the rando maxim that just because you've abandoned the ride doesn't mean you stop riding. Well done Steve! I expect we'll see you clip in and easily complete your first brevet very soon.

Another of those freshly minted randonneurs, Seth Hallam, unleashed an incredible ride,  zooming  up and down those 9000 feet of climbing and 125 miles of road (and gravel) in an incredible 7:47 (think 747 jetliner speed). This smashed the course record by almost an hour.  Former record holder Chris Magliari was also in the field. Chris beat his previous record as well, but was about 10 minutes slower than Seth. If Magliari didn't stop and take pictures all the time, who knows what the result would have been!?

One of the many interesting sights on the Pagoda 200K captured by Chris Magliari


Karl Chen writes...

Thanks Chris for organizing this great brevet.  The scenery was amazing.  The cuesheet cues were A+.  This was the most challenging ride I've done to date.  And it is good preparation for a more challenging one, training both legs and logistical skills.

George Retseck writes...

A great day on the bike thanks to the tireless volunteers who made it happen! Thank You!!
Tom Rosenbauer writes...
Thanks for putting on another top-notch event this past weekend.  It was great meeting up with the riders at the finish, both familiar and new.  I'm looking forward to riding this course some time, and have put that on my bucket list.
The Pagoda 200K is the first brevet in our 2021 Super Randonneuring series. The remaining events are the May 1st 300KMay 22nd 400K, and June 5th 600K brevets.  Details about these and all other Pennsylvania Randonneurs events  is available on the club website

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Pagoda 200K (update)

***Update 1:

A second pre-ride of the Pagoda 200K was conducted by Steve Schoenfelder on Saturday 10 April. While most of the course was still in fine shape, Steve discovered that the Turkey Hill in Coopersburg has locked its doors. It's unclear if this is a temporary or permanent shutdown. Nevertheless, we have altered the course and moved the Coopersburg control to the Exxon / Dunkin' up the street. 

Steve also scouted a somewhat better approach to the finish control. After crossing the 25th street bridge high over the Lehigh River, make the first right into the Easton Children's Home private drive. Then after the speed bumps, make a quick right onto the bike trail connector. This is a steep and short downhill section. Go slow.  Then almost immediately T sharp left onto the D&L Trail which leads directly to the iron bridge into Hugh Moore Park. This route through the Children's Home avoids the left turn across 25th street which can be a little troublesome when traffic is heavy. 

The Cue Sheet and RWGPS route have been updated with these changes. The latest cues are version 3 and the latest RWGPS route was last modified 2021-04-10 19:52:13 EDT. These are available from the GPS/Cuesheet link on the event page.

 

Original Post:

Last year, the  Pagoda 200K was a somber affair. It was the last brevet organized by PA Randonneurs before the Great COVID Pandemic shut down our sport of Randonneuring for many months. To add insult to injury, the congenial start/finish at the Cask brew pub was made doubly impossible when Cask closed its doors permanently that month. 

Fortunately, a year later things are feeling a lot more optimistic.  Pennsylvania Randonneurs is are able to offer this great event again in April 2021 to kick off our full ACP sanctioned Super Randonneuring series of 200, 300, 400, and 600K brevets. Information and online registration is available for all these events.

For the 2021 edition of the Pagoda 200K, the start/finish has been moved to the outdoor pavilion at the National Canal Museum in Hugh Moore Park, Easton, PA. Socially distanced food will be available both at the start and finish. Water and snacks will be available at the Pagoda control, roughly the midpoint of the course. The plan is to have coffee and breakfast stuff at the start, and a BBQ at the finish with burgers (veggie or beef) and other goodies. All other controls are info controls, so if you don't want to enter a convenience store, you don't have to. 

Spectacular scenery (and hills) near Huff's Church.
 

The scenery on the Pagoda 200K is spectacular. All cyclists know the word "scenic" is code for hilly, and the Pagoda certainly has both scenery and hills in abundance. Although there are steep and sustained climbs from the beginning to end of the route, most riders find that the relentless rollers in the last third of the course, starting soon after Daniel Boone, are the most taxing. Try to remember that there is a 12 mile descent starting at around mile 105, including a long, slightly downhill rail-trail segment, where you can rest and recover to prepare for the last grunt to get over South Mountain at Countryside. Since the start/finish location is at the river, once over Countryside, it's an easy 5 mile coast to the finish. You can do this! 

Course Notes -- 

A pre-ride was conducted on 5 April by Chris Nadovich. As a result of the pre-ride, several small course updates and typo corrections were made to the cues. The latest cue sheet is Version 2, and the latest RWGPS route was modified 2021-04-5 22:36:30 EDT. Both are available online.

Other course notes are as follows:

  • There were no road closures or detours seen anywhere on the course. 
  • Roads were largely clean of winter debris. The one exception was the approach to the Pagoda on Skyline Drive. The weird, right-side but ride-on-the-left "bike lane" is littered with sticks, rocks, and broken glass. It's OK to use this bike lane for the climb when moving slow, but I would consider using the real vehicle lane for the fast descents just before the Pagoda. Whatever you do, use caution.  
  • The condition of the Schuylkill Trail was good. I saw no mud and most of the surface was quite smooth. There were very few soft spots. 
  • The short cut through the Little Wunder Street alley in Reading has been eliminated.  Instead we navigate to Cherry St without having to dodge toilet seats and piles of syringes. The pay phone is still there on the corner, if anyone needs it -- otherwise just ride on by.
  • When you do get to Cherry St via 10th, be aware it's a very small alley at that point, easy to miss. Look for the upside-down one-way sign dangling above the entrance. Cherry St has several stop-signs at intersections with cross traffic and limited view distance. Please stop at all the signs and look both ways. 
  • If the weather is nice, there are several interesting pubs on Cherry that have some outdoor seating.    
  • Although it's easiest, navigation wise, at the Danial Boone park loop road to follow the signs to the Visitor's Center control, and then follow the signs back out to the Exit at the road, you can actually save considerable distance on the exit by starting a second lap of the loop road and then exiting at the locked gate about a quarter of the way around. Of course, if you miss that gate exit, you'll end up doing a bonus loop.
  • The Saucon Rail trail is also smooth and clean, but there are a few sections of softer gravel that those of you with skinny tires might find to be somewhat squirrely. Again, use caution.  
  • The course has many fast, twisty descents. Please don't ride faster than your guardian angel. 

 

Monday, March 15, 2021

Ride Report: Portland Paxinosa 200K

 

After a rough February with snow and ice causing the cancellation of our R12 event for the month, everyone was ready to ride their bike on a sunny day in March.  It wasn't particularly warm, but it was sunny and a lot warmer than it was in February.  Of those that clipped in at the start/finish at Portland, PA, all 21 of 21 completed the whole course within the time limit for a 100% completion rate.  Congratulations to all!  Preliminary results 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 after review and will become official once certified.

As it turned out, the closure of NPS615 and State St had little impact on the riders. Although a detour alternative was offered (and pre-ridden, see below),  all riders I spoke to reported that they chose to simply brave the "tilted barn" on NPS615, and the construction gear on State Street. Much ado about nothing, it seems.

Still tilted on the day of the ride.

Kudos and thanks go to Jimmy Aspras who volunteered to check out the course Friday afternoon/evening before the event. Finishing up a little before midnight, Jimmy grabbed some sleep in his car, and officiated the start at 6AM.  It should also be noted Jimmy's pre-ride of the course scouted both NPS615 alternative detours (one of them hilly, the other upaved and still somewhat snow covered) in the dark. He did all this riding on a fixed gear fat bike.  This is rando!  

Thanks also to Tom Rosenbauer who assisted at the Paxinosa control (Sue Proulx's control sign still serving us well... but where were the brownies?!?), and to Bill Olsen who staffed the finish control for the first few hours.

I'm always impressed when a new randonneur turns up at a tough Winter brevet for their first-ever 200K. This is exactly what Jeremy Sieg did, finishing the difficult course with such aplomb that you'd think he's been doing this stuff for many years. Welcome to randonneuring Jeremy! Clearly you have what it takes.

 

Riders puzzled over the info control question in Wind Gap. The correct answer was "too many".

Iwan Barankay writes...

What a spectacular brevet today. Fantastic scenery and I loved the secret control at your home. So nice to see Tom Rosenbauer there - a bonus surprise. Coffee taste so great and I was impressed to see Lara bars, a true upgrade yet a departure from classic Payday.  The hills kept coming but they were gentle and I think  the cool temperatures made climbing easier. I stuck to the route to go past the "leaning barn" which was still standing and I enjoyed that empty stretch of  road which compensated for the somewhat busy River Rd sections. I wanted to  burn through all the controls since I brought all my foods and drinks with me (including half a gallon of Gatorade balanced on my aero bars with slender    rubber bands) but no Hercules could resist the calls of the pies and Walnut bread at the penultimate control. Looking forward to the next one. Oh and last bit not least thanks also to Jimmy Aspras for sending us off at the start.

Iwan's special Gatorade reservoir attachment technology


Thursday, March 4, 2021

Portland Paxinosa 200K (update)

*** Update 2:

It appears that a "tilted barn" is the hazard that has caused 10 miles of NPS615 to be closed just past the right turn in Flatbrookville at the T-right mile 75.2 at the base of the newly paved Old Mine Road descent. You can read the news story here.  The barn in question is at mile 79.2 of the route. During the pre-ride, this tilted barn did not impede passage of a bicycle on NPS 615, but riders should consider the risk of the situation. 

Tilted barn that has NPS 615 closed for 10 miles.

The official detour is to T-left at mile 75.2 and to stay on Old Mine Road around the other side of the mountain. This routing is not that much longer than the official route and maybe only slightly hillier.  It's a perfectly nice detour and you can't go wrong by taking it.

 

***Update 1:

The info control in Blairstown (mi 65.5) at Dale's Market was not correctly highlighted on the cue sheet.  This has been corrected in version 4 of the cuesheet.   Be aware that there is a control in Blairstown, NJ at Dale's Market.

 

Original Post:

This is a classic tour of the the Delaware Water "Gaps", both the namesake "big water gap" between Mt Minsi and Mt Tatamy, and the "mini water gap" at the Paxinosa ridge.  The route extends all the way north to Dingman's Ferry, and as far south as Easton, PA, hugging the Delaware River most of the way. 

Eating any of these pies is not required.

 

The route start/finish is at the center of this figure-8 course, allowing you to resupply from your car at the halfway point if you prefer not to enter any business for food/drink, like, for example you won't need to enter the Hainsville General Store that specializes in Home Made Pies. No need to do that.  All controls are either staffed or are Info controls.

This version of the route is now on all paved roads. Even the infamous Old Mine Rd that lay in ruin for decades has now been resurfaced. 

 

The Walpack Inn is Out

A pre-ride was conducted on 3 March by Chris Nadovich. As a result of observations on that pre-ride the course cues have been revised. The latest cuesheet is version 3 and the RWGPS was last modified 2021-03-4 10:24:09 EST. 

Course Notes:

It's still winter on Marshfield Drive, so this gravel climb (and the gravel descent on Shady Lane) have been deleted from the course. There in no longer any unpaved road on the course. And a major climb has been eliminated. On the downside, the course is now 2 miles longer, but those miles are all flat and pretty. 

Most of the winter debris has been cleared from the roads. Most.   The Old Mine descent was smooth but sticky. Look out for sticks and rocks on the shoulders, especially on 611 South out of Water Gap. Some riders will hit this stretch of 611 at dusk, when the debris will be harder to see. 

There was a lot of black ice during the first hour of the pre-ride when temperatures were near 20F.  The weather should be warmer on the day of the event, but definitely keep a lookout for black ice at the start and end of the ride if the temperature is below freezing. There is a lot of snow melting on the shoulders leaving puddles that freeze over at night. 

There are two "Closed Roads" on the course as of the pre-ride inspection date. These both bear special discussion. 

Mile 54.4 -- The first possible blockage is just before returning to Portland at the crossover point. The old State St bridge -- a 100 year old bridge that was in disrepair and closed to traffic for the last decade, inconveniencing no one,  has suddenly become a priority to repair. (?) The course does not cross this bridge, but there is now a collection of parked cars, dumpsters, rebar, and construction equipment blocking the end of Jacoby Creek Rd.  As of the date of the pre-ride it was possible to thread one's way, on foot (watch your step!), through all this junk and emerge safely onto State Street beyond the bridge construction.  If, for some reason, this clutter transit is not possible for you (or you want to avoid it), backtrack to Middle Village Rd, which takes you over to 611 (Traffic!), turn left (northbound), then follow signs for 611 Portland, then left on River Road to rejoin the route with hardly any bonus miles.

Mile 75.2 -- This blockage presents more imagined psychological terror than concrete fear of tripping over construction gear. At the base of the freshly re-paved Old Mine Rd descent, the course does a T-right. As of the date of the pre-ride, there's a sign to the right that says: Closed to Through Traffic.  If you choose to ignore this sign and make the right turn anyway, you'll ride for about 10 miles in quiet, trafficless solitude, wondering if you will encounter a blockage or hazard that will turn you around. During the pre-ride there were a few snow drifts that made it partway across the lane, and a section of telephone wire that was rather "droopy" crossing the road, but other than the "Road Closed" signs, nothing seemed to impede traffic. No bridges were under construction. No trees were down. No rock slides. Nothing. That having been said, the real terror is that you'll ride about 8-9 miles and find you do need to turn around. If that happens, the only choice is to ride all the way back to mile 75.2 and now go left, rather than right, at the base of the descent. That will take you around the other side of the mountain on Old Mine Rd -- a perfectly good route -- that rejoins the course at Blevans Rd (mile  84.9) for a possible 20 bonus miles. The pre-ride based recommendation is to think positive, turn right, and follow the usual route passed the Road Closure sign to enjoy that beautiful, quiet road. But if you can't stand the thought of possibly needing a 20 mile backtrack/detour, you can turn left at the base of the descent and enjoy the alternative route that is a little longer and hillier (but not much more) than the main route.   

Sunday, February 21, 2021

SR Series in the Time of COVID

Did you know that Pennsylvania Randonneurs had, until last year, offered a complete SR series since 2007, the first year it was eligible to offer one?  Breaking that streak was heartbreaking.  As we take on the 2021 brevet season still faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, offering a full Super Randonneur series is my top priority. Much uncertainty remains.  Once simple tasks suddenly require hours or days to complete.  Against this backdrop and recognizing that RUSA and ACP are allowing great flexibility in scheduling that I announce a decision to slightly postpone the 2021 SR series.  If you've been watching the website closely you may have already noticed the date changes.  

We have two ACP 200k events planned.  The March 13 event will be run in the format resembling the R-12 events beginning from the Park-N-Ride in Portland, PA.  This route is a Figure 8 design and will utilize the COVID protocols we've used since last fall.  

The "official" kickoff brevet for the SR series will be the April 17 Pagoda 200 starting from Hugh Moore Park in Easton.  The route is a loop, but our plan is to staff some of the controls to allow contact-free riding, if so desired.  We plan to have food available at the start and finish as has been our tradition for the SR events. 

The remaining SR events will be staged from the Holiday Inn East in Easton using the routes we debuted in 2019.  The 300k will be run on May 1; the 400k will be run on May 22; the 600k will be held on June 5.  All of these events have food offerings at the start and finish, at least that's the plan for now.  Our hope is that the extra delay will allow pandemic things to settle a bit before we ride.  COVID protocols are more difficult on the longer events as overlapping loops have their limits.  Additional staffed controls will be added, but all riders should be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least 100k.  

Plans may change; that's just the nature of things these days. We are hopeful that we can adjust and offer the SR series brevets that meet our own expectations and yours. If conditions dictate a change, we may alter the dates.  But please realize that we have every intention of offering the complete SR series in 2021.

Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA


Monday, February 1, 2021

The New New Hope to Hope 200K (Cancelled)

Update 4: Cancelled

Yes, the heavy snow hit us, and the event is canceled. We will issue refunds for all registered riders.

 

Update 3: Likely Cancellation

Unless the heavy snow predicted for Thursday and Friday misses us, the New New Hope to Hope 200K will be cancelled. It's not possible to reschedule. Anyone registered will receive a refund for your entry fee.

 

Update 2:  POSTPONEMENT

The New New Hope to Hope 200k scheduled for Saturday, February 6 is being postponed until February 20.  The snow storm earlier in the week deposited well over two feet of snow on most of the route.  While some clearing has occurred in the past two days, rain/snow forecast for Friday combined with overnight lows around 20 almost guarantee significant black ice on the route this Saturday.

If you are currently registered for the brevet, your registration will be automatically moved to the new event on February 20.  If the new date does NOT work in your schedule, contact the organizer by Tuesday, February 9 to obtain a refund of your registration fee.  There is no action required if the new date works for you and you intend to ride then.  If you were on the fence about the 6th, the new event will be live on the website soon and you'll be able to register for it.

Follow this space for additional updates

Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA

Update 1: 

Some tweaks have been made to the cues and RWGPS route so as to improve the "snowy shoulder compatibility" of the route. The latest update was 2021-02-1 20:14:38 EST cuesheet version 3

Original Post:

On Saturday 6 February at 7AM, weather permitting, we return to Pohatcong to ride last month's GPS-boggling route in reverse, as the new version of New Hope to Hope. This time turn RIGHT the first time you reach the blinking light.  Information and online registration is available on the event page.


There's a clearing trend, but will it be soon enough?

As a major winter storm will hit the area early in the week, we will be monitoring road conditions carefully. We will postpone or cancel the event if road conditions have not improved prior to Saturday.  Stay tuned for updates.

Park away from active stores down by the Movie Theater. There are numerous drive-in joints, gas stations, and even a Wawa in this plaza if you need anything, but the idea is that you will show up self-sufficient and have some personal supplies stashed in your car. The course is a figure 8 and you will return to your car at Pohatcong after each loop.

Many services can be found near the Start/Finish

The Southern loop passes twice through all the Delaware River towns providing many options for service. If seeing the water flowing in the river, and all that coffee you drank, is making you seek a rest room, consider stopping at Bull Island Rec Area (mi 32 and 48). There are rest rooms located on the right side of the main office building. In the winter, these rest rooms are relatively low traffic. 

The turnaround control for the Northern loop is the Dunkin Donuts at the I-80 interchange just beyond Hope, but riders seeking a quick cup of coffee at a lower traffic location might better choose the US Gas convenience store passed twice just a mile South of the turnaround, as the DD can sometimes be very crowded.

All riders must be a paid-up member of RUSA at the time of the event, so be sure to renew your RUSA membership for 2021 before you register. If your membership expires in 2020 the system will refuse you. You can join or renew RUSA membership here. PA Rando membership is not required for riding this event, but to promote PA membership there is a registration discount for PA Rando Members. 

Under pandemic rules, all intermediate controls are info controls. It is not required to enter any business to complete this 200K, although there are several stores available along the route if you choose this option. Masks are generally required at the start/finish and to enter businesses if you choose to do this.

The start and finish extend during night hours. The organizer will strictly enforce the rules regarding lighting and reflective gear.



Sunday, January 3, 2021

Ride Report: NEW, Hope to New Hope

Full of anticipation that 2021 will be a better than last year, a tough group of 20 ever-hopeful randonneurs clipped in for a somewhat new version of the traditional Hope to New Hope winter-ready-brevet™. Of those that clipped in at the new start/finish at Pohatcong Plaza, 18 of the 20 completed the whole course within the time limit for a 90% completion rate.   Preliminary results 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 after review and will become official once certified.

It was about as hopeful a January day as could be expected for  the event. A  fortuitous gap in the recently difficult weather opened up to allow a reasonably rideable winter day with temperatures reaching the low 40s and no sign of  ice anywhere on the roadways.  There was some fog and drizzle to start out, it was always chilly, became windy toward the afternoon, but there was a good amount of sunshine.

Several riders complained about the headwind on the final leg back from New Hope, although a few admitted that the wind they faced in Lancaster County last month probably was worse.

Jon Elrath sporting wool pants with retro-reflective stripes.
 

Vadim Gritsus writes...

Once again, thank you for another masterfully crafted Brevet, skillfully scheduled between freezing rain and major area snow storm. Strategically positioned glass and sharp metal debris slowed me down when I was thinking of going too fast for my guardian angel. The roads were otherwise very pleasant, exactly what one would expect from PA Rando planning team! I must  admit I anticipated a major climb to be thrown in somewhere close to the finish but, thankfully, it never materialized. :) I also really appreciate your approach to controls, fast, efficient and without too much unnecessary exposure. An excellent start to a new year, looking forward to many more rides ahead!
The Terrific Tandem Team of Pat and Cece write...

Thanks for your efforts with yesterday's brevet.  The course was more challenging than it looked on paper.  The headwind on the final leg did not help matters.  All in all it was a great day especially once the sun came  out and chased away the dampness.  Thanks again.
Two riders finished most but not quite all of the course. Doug Haluza on a beautiful new front-wheel-drive recumbent became concerned about an biomechanical issue pedaling up the Harmony climb and decided to cut the North loop short and return to his car. Then, after working out the issue, Doug completed the South loop for something near a statute century on the day.   

Dawn Engstrom made brief pit-stop at a Wawa near the Start/Finish and this confused Dawn's GPS to decide the North loop was thus complete and incorrectly continue on the South loop.  After realizing the misroute, with any hope of a RUSA finish dashed, Dawn still soldiered on alone to battle the winds on the South loop and was satisfied with "only" 75+ tough (but non-RUSA) miles for the day. 

Riders are reminded that only the cue sheet is canonical for the route. A GPS unit can certainly help riders navigate efficiently. But even so, if they use a GPS, riders should consult the cue sheet regularly. Cue sheets serve as a check that mitigates GPS confusion and contain important notes and warnings not displayed by most GPS screens.  

The organizer is hopeful that everyone takes this advice to heart, as next month we return to Pohatcong to ride this same GPS-boggling route in reverse, as the new version of New Hope to Hope. This time turn RIGHT the first time you reach the blinking light.  Information and online registration is available on the event page.