Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Hawk's Nest 300K -- Pre Ride Notes (updated)

*** Update 1

I found a way to allow the kinder-gentler return route to Easton that avoids some of those nasty climbs on Foul Rift Rd and finishes with the nice descent on Marble Hill. In exchange there is a slightly different approach to the Old Mine Rd climb in Flatbrookville. We leave NPS615 using Pompey  at mile 139. This leads over to a segment of Old Mine by the river that we rarely ride. It's a nice road, although a little longer than the usual way -- which is what allowed the elimination of the nasty Foul Rift section. 

Latest cue sheet is now Version 4, with RWGPS last updated  2021-04-23 10:19:43 EDT

 *** Original Post

Hawk's Nest 300K PreRide 18 April 2021 by Chris Nadovich

The course has been updated to reflect route changes decided by this pre ride. The latest cue sheet is  Version 3, RWGPS Route last modified 2021-04-19 16:07:49 EDT. Full info and online registration available at the event web site.

Course notes:

Mile 2.1 -- Two Rivers Trailway. Watch for bollards and gates! Bridges can be slippery when wet.

Mile 8 -- Returning to the rail trail, it may be difficult to spot the entrance at night. 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 21.3 -- Murder Cows!

An unusual traffic scene

Mile 29.2 -- National Park Drive. Here there is a crumbling bit of roadway across a creek. This is why the road is closed. I walked it because I was a little terrified by the look of the subsidence. That and I wanted a picture.

Crumbling roadway on National Park Drive.

Mile 29.2 -- National Park Drive. Only about half the descent is gravel. The second half is paved, so you and your guardian angel might consider going a little faster on the solid ground. Or not. There are often oblivious pedestrians wandering around the fast, paved decent. Be aware the descent ends in a T-stop with PA611.  

Mile 44.7 -- The Winona Falls Turkey Hill Controle is almost the last real convenience store you'll see for the next 50 miles. There is a General Store at Pickerel Lake about 15 miles from here, but otherwise nothing. I mean there's pretty much nothing for the next 50 miles other than that one General Store where you can buy Gatorade and shotgun shells.  Plan accordingly

Mile 73.4 -- The 402 Cafe was not open. I hope you stocked up at  the Winona Falls Turkey Hill.

Mile 113.0 -- The routing through Port Jervis / Matamoras is the new Sleepy Hollow Road route along the river that passes Riverside Creamery (mi 115.2) just before crossing the bridge into Matamoras, PA out-n-back to the Turkey Hill control. Old time PA riders should turn off autopilot for this. The route is better than the old tour de US-6.

Mile 116.2 -- Matamoras Turkey Hill. This is the last convenience store you will see for 50 miles. Plan accordingly. 

Mile 117.2 -- Railroad Ave is a narrow path, initially paved, immediately next to the RR tracks. When it reaches the park it becomes unpaved. The gravel is better than National Park Drive. You pass a BMX "Pump Track" at around mi 117.7 (why not take a lap?). After the Pump Track the roadbed of Railroad Ave gets even dicier and skirts close to the RR tracks. Keep a lookout for the yellow gate posts on the right indicating the exit from the trail and back to civilization over the brand new bridge on US-6.  If you miss the yellow gate exit, you'll end up crossing a RR trestle, which would be bad. 

Yellow Gate on right exiting from Railroad Ave

Mile 144.1 -- Old Mine Rd. Freshly paved!  Still a tough climb. Stay away from those deep, v-shaped drains. If your wheel hits those, you are going down. 

Mile 146.3 -- This is the beginning of the big climb up Millbrook Rd, which is your reward for just finishing the big climb up Old Mine Rd.  If you've not climbed Millbrook from this side, it's worse than you've heard. If you have climbed it, it's worse than you remember. Fortunately it's smoothly paved and followed by almost 6 miles of descent.

Mile 153.9 -- Blairstown, NJ.   Dale's Market is open till 8PM. After that, only the Blairstown Inn is open. I hope you stocked up at the Matamoras Turkey Hill.

Mile 155.7 -- Heller Hill Rd. You thought the climbing was done when you summited Millbrook?

Mile 166.5 -- Passing a 24 hour Quik Check convenience store. 

Mile 170.6 -- Foul Rift and River Rd, the full experience, all the way into Easton along the river. No, we don't switch back to 519 this time. Sorry. You need to do those little, annoying climbs. 

Mile 184 -- Riding Northampton St through the center of Easton isn't that bad, even considering the two moderate hills it crosses. The section between 3rd and 4th is closed in this direction for restaurant seating, but you can easily weave your way through the barriers or take the sidewalk. I recommend not riding backwards through the one-way car lane -- I've seen this attempted (by cars!) and it can be real trouble. Beyond 4th St take the main lane with confidence. If there's any traffic, it will be calmed by the plethora of traffic lights. The one thing to remember is to stay away from the parked cars. People like to sit in those cars, the ones with the opaque windows and the lights off, to do the stuff they do, and then these people open their car door suddenly without looking. The street is pretty wide. If you firmly take the lane, you should be able to keep away from those scary car doors without causing the minimal traffic too much concern.  

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.