Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Philly - Pagoda - Pocono 600K

The time has come for the grandaddy of our 2021 events, the culminating event of the Pennsylvania Randonneurs Super Randonneur Series: the Philly-Pagoda-Pocono 600k on June 5-6, 2021. Registration is open and will remain so though Sunday night, May 30.  Don't delay.  

Hopefully randonesia is soothing riders' memories of this past weekend's Blue Mountain 400k.  Eight riders remain eligible for the prestigious PA SR award, though some might need to pick up an ACP 200k in July, August, or September to qualify. Need motivation? 👇

The prize at the end of a PA SR

For those that either have no interest in the SR, have not yet forgotten the 400k, or simply want to keep an R-12 streak alive, we are also offering a companion 200k on Saturday, June 5.  Unlike the hostel-based 600/200, the new Holiday Inn Hollywood 200 is its own route and will not overlap with the 600k riders.  It will take riders along an interesting route to Hollywood (PA).  Registration for this event is open through Thursday June 3.

Pennsylvania has dramatically relaxed COVID restrictions over the past few days with more planned for the end of May.  Easing restrictions, recognition that riders were using stores anyway, and the reality that adequate food and drink are essential for a 600k motivated a relaxing of our pandemic protocols.  Beginning in June we are re-incorporating more merchant controls into our brevets.  You'll still find information and post card controls, but you'll also find traditional merchant controls as well.  Mask rules at commercial establishments vary greatly, so riders are strongly encouraged to take their mask along for the ride.  Hand sanitizer is never a bad idea.

The P-P-P 600k route has been extensively massaged to smooth out some of the rough edges discovered in 2019.  The route into Philly avoids the suicidal stretch along Germantown Pike.  Miles along the SRT have been reduced to bypass trail construction, but this means there's a little bit of pavement to break the monotony of the trail.  While some dirt roads remain in the approach to the overnight control, these are now minimal with the added bonus that the revised routing reduces climbing by 150 feet.  The second day is much the same, though we have adopted the preferred routing out of Blairstown used on the 300k.  The P-P-P 600k remains a challenging re-tour of many places explored on the earlier SR Series events and represents the very essence of Pennsylvania Randonneurs to provide challenging brevets that leave riders with a tremendous feeling of accomplishment and prepare them for something more.

A pre-ride is still being planned which may result in additional clarifying notes.  Check back periodically.  One known clarification involves the overnight control.  This was a little confusing in 2019.  Riders approach Beach Lake along PA-652, The Beach Lake Highway.  The left turn onto Milanville Road is easily spotted as being directly across from The Carousel Water & Fun Park with a large sign out front. The overnight control is just ahead along Milanville on the left and is marked with a much smaller sign.  It may be hard to see in the dark.

Daylight street view of Pine Grove Cottages

 The driveway is marked as one-way, but at the hour most riders arrive this is a mere formality. 

Map of Pine Grove Cottages

The cottages are arranged around a horseshoe driveway.  We will be using cottages 1 - 4 only. Food and overnight bags will be located at the PA Rando Control in Cottage #4, so check in here when your arrive.  Riders can expect something hearty upon arrival and something breakfasty on departure along with the usual assortment of drinks and grab-and-go items.  The menu is not yet finalized.  I'm willing to at least listen to requests from registered riders. Please understand that I'm no 5-star chef so prime rib and eggs benedict are unlikely.

The Holiday Inn Hollywood 200k is a new route that begins and ends at the Holiday Inn where the SR events are staged.  This route heads south toward Philadelphia via classic Bucks County cycling roads and rail trails before turning around in Hollywood (PA).  Vertical challenges come early in the route as is typical for most events departing from Easton and should make for an enjoyable day of cycling.  Read more about this route on the event page.   

Chris Nadovich
Event Organizer

Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA


Sunday, May 23, 2021

Ride Report: New Blue Re-Redux 400K

Preliminary results for the third ride in our ACP Super Randonneur series, the New Blue Re-Redeux 400K brevet, have been posted on the PA Rando website.  Despite the sudden appearance of hot weather, 12 of the 14 not-heat-acclimated starters finished under the time limit for a 86% completion rate. Congratulations and well done to all. Please review the results and let me know if something doesn't agree with your recollections.  The results will be submitted to RUSA for certification later on and become final at that time. 

Volunteer Greg Keenan with riders George, Amy, and Nick

Two new riders, Brad Layman and Mark Caplan finished their first 400K with excellent times. This was also Mark's first ride over 200K. Congratulations. As a reward for such good work on the 400, maybe would your consider a 600K? 

We had excellent volunteer help for this event. Iwan Banankay, Mark Caplan, and Brad Layman helped set up the Holiday Inn meeting room. Sue Proulx baked those scrumptious brownies we all love,  and she ran the finish control for 6+ hours.  Steve Schoenfelder, Greg Keenan, and Bill Slabonik roved the hottest stretch of the course, secretly controlling and delivering water, ice, and snacks to the sweltering riders.  After a day of on-road support, Steve returned to the start/finish hotel to help with the cleanup at 5AM.

Sue waits for returning riders as first-finisher Iwan sleeps

Iwan Banankay writes:

What a day. A 400 never, ever falls short of being epic.  Ever heard someone say, “I rode a 400 once but I can’t recall it?” Neither do I. Spectacular sunrise and sunset and blasting sunshine during the day. Most of the prep went into thinking about food and drinking. I went through three gallons of ice-water to which I added Himalayan Salt – an experiment but it worked quite well – plus another gal of soda. Despite all that I had a heatstroke but caught it just in time with some magical elixir at a Wawa (bottled, cold Starbucks milky coffee; 300cals!). Main lesson is simple: when things go well keep riding, when they don’t, stop and fix them! Great feeling to ride with two strong 400 novices, Brad and Mark, who both finished in a spectacular time; Brad overcame a bad heatstroke and Mark literally talked him up that beastly final climb – true rando spirit.  By far the best parts were to come across the well-stocked secret controls (many thanks to Steven, Greg, and Bill – that cold Pepsi was divine) and the wonderful welcome committee at the finish.  Special thanks to Chris for planning and executing the event despite the complex year we had.


Numerous baby deer seen at night on the Saucon Trail

Gavin Biebuyck writes:

That was a challenging ride. You called it: the first 100 or so was wonderful and cool, followed by 80 of sun blasted farmlands, and then nice run-in through the dark. Chocolate and cheese helped me.  I drank 2 gallons of milk, 2 ice creams, 3 V8s, 1 gal or so of sugar water.  Two sit-down meals with beers helped cool me down.  Turns out that Tandoori chicken cucumber and lettuce on pizza tastes good after 14 hours of riding. Who knew the Army used trains - 8 chevaux. Thanks for the attention to detail on the routing and to all the volunteers!


Swaincycle at sunset (or is it sunrise?)

George Swain writes:

The advantages of riding a 400K? Seeing both sunrise and sunset, getting to eat anything you want, catching up with old friends. This was my longest ride since PBP. Thanks for the good times, PA Randonneurs!


Sunday, May 16, 2021

New Blue Redux 400K -- Course Notes

On Saturday, 15 May,  event volunteers Greg Keenan (on a fixie), Steve Schoenfelder, and Chris Nadovich  conducted a pre-ride of the New Blue Redeux 400K course. As a result of information gathered on this ride, there are some course changes. The cues have been updated. The latest cue sheet is version 5 with RWGPS route modified 2021-05-16 19:08:02 EDT.

Pre-riders horse around on the bridge to the Bear Hole trail

It was a most excellent cool-warm-cool Spring sandwich of a pre-ride. We started out with downright cold (mid 30s) temperatures, ended cool in the clear and chilly early morning hours, and caught some sunburn from the many pleasant hours of warm sunshine during the mild daytime temperatures. We can only hope that the day-of-event weather is just as agreeable.

Flowers and trees are definitely in bloom. All of us had some trouble with allergies. If only there was a simple technology we could use for protecting us from harmful particles in the air.

In the spectrum PA Rando courses, I would call this course "moderate". There are some tough climbs, of course, but they aren't as frequent or relentless as the climbs incorporated into the 200K and 300K this year. If  I could finish this 400K with ample time in the bank, then I think most anybody can. As with any brevet, keeping yourself fed and hydrated is paramount. The course passes through many remote areas with zero services. Pay close attention to the suggestions on the cue sheet and plan ahead so you won't be caught without food or water.

PreRide Course notes:

Mile 2.1 -- We found the wooden bridges on the Two Rivers trailway to be quite slippery when wet. As the group will still be together at this point, please be careful to hold your line on the bridges, especially if it's been raining or heavy dew, and to go through the chicanes and bollards with ample space between riders.

Mile 7.9 -- By now most riders should be familiar with the trail entrance here. 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 52.5 -- The controle at Blondies is an old favorite for a sit-down meal. The food is great, but many riders might feel it's too early in a 400K to be sitting down for a meal. No worries. We didn't sit down. We did, however, use the convenient outdoor seating area (with bathroom access) to strip layers and refill water bottles.

Mile 68.4 -- Instead of Blondies, consider the Boyer's Food Mart at Orwigsburg. It's a little hard to spot on the left (by the Santander bank), but it's a great place to grab something to eat. Juices by the entrance, fruits and baked goods just beyond.  There's a bathroom immediately after the checkout.  Jersey barriers for drying clothes.

Mile 87.5 -- There's a Turkey Hill just off course to the right. This has been the controle in the past. It's the last service you'll see for quite a while. If you haven't stopped at Blondies or Boyers, you pretty much have to stop here for something. That said, since you'll soon be bumping along on the rail trail, maybe you shouldn't fill your belly too much.

Mile 93.3 -- Who's riding a fat bike? They'll be happy with this horse trail. Everybody else will have a saddle sore 911 bumping along a few miles on the pock-marked gravel and dirt surface. Hang in there. There are some downhill sections that merit caution.  Keep pedaling steady through the soft stuff and you should be OK. But riding a fat bike on a 400K doesn't seem so silly now, does it?  Nevertheless, Greg on his fixie with 28 mm tires says: "I had no trouble".

Mile 116.7 -- There are at least five pizza joints, two Turkey Hills, and a Subway in Palmyra. Take your pick. The easiest is the Turkey Hill at mile 119.

Mile 142 -- Follow the cue directions to get through on the left side of the parking lot by the bike service shed. After this bit of confusion the Warwick/Ephrata opens up to a very, very nice multi-use trail.  The whole thing is quite pretty with trees and other interesting touches. Most of it has a wide, very smooth, crushed stone surface. If you have any of those pies left over from Boyer's, this is the place maybe you'd want to picnic for a while. Maybe take a nap. Rest up for the steep climb when you exit the trail.

Mile 172.1 -- I think it's easy to miss this right turn onto Harmonyville Rd, especially in the dark, but beyond here there's no excuse for missing any turn.  Until the unmistakable tee left onto Laurelwood (181.8), you pretty much remain on Harmonyville Rd, which is marked as such.  There are lots of twists and turns and crossings, but it's really just still Harmonyville Rd. Even after you reach the town of Harmonyville, you still want Harmonyville Rd.

Mile 181-226 -- The course finishes with a Series of 24 hr Wawas: Pottstown (181), Phoenixville (188), Harleysville (211), and Quakertown (226).  Take advantage of these for mental and physical replenishment through this difficult segment most people will ride late at night.

Mile 194 -- Downtown Phoenixville is hoppin' on a Saturday night.  What a hoot. Look out for drunks on foot and in cars. The main street is blocked off pretty solid, but we were able to sneak through the small gaps between the barricade and the sidewalk.  The crowd wasn't too thick. We never had to walk the bikes.

Mile 201.8 - 202.1 -- Germantown Pike is freshly paved. You will be tempted to bomb down it at full speed. But be aware that at the bottom of the descent there is a left onto Skippack Creek Rd just before the bridge. Even if traffic is clear and all looks well, do not make this left turn at speed. Slow down. A lot. The beginning of Skippack Creek Rd after the left is terrible. Very bad surface.  Even worse than the Swatara Horse Trail.  Take your time to pick through it and then suddenly, poof! ... relatively smooth pavement begins again.  There are a few potholes (and horse droppings) on the park roads (204.5), but not nearly as bad as the beginning of Skippack Creek.

Mile 233.4 -- You've been on the Saucon Rail Trail for a while (a wide, fenced-in path through the woods that is a little rougher than the Ephrata, but a lot smoother than the Swatara) when you'll see, straight ahead, an uncompleted trail section that's blocked off. The detour takes you left into the parking lot of Saucon TWP park and library. Keep in mind that you're trying to get back to the trail -- to find the far end of that straight, uncompleted section.  GPS and Cues are good, but there are so many confusing paths and it will be dark. Your first goal is to make it through the tunnel by the library. Once you get through that, bear right toward the woods with the big parking lot on your left.  When you pass through the gate, don't miss that right turn up the ramp that takes you back into the woods. This right turn is across from the soccer field. If you miss the turn, you will be taking a lap around the field.

Mile 241 -- Countryside Lane. The final big climb. No shame in walking. 

Mile 246.8 -- Childrens Home of Easton is the first right turn immediately after the bridge.  There's a sign there that says Children's Home, but we noticed that the light is out. The road is also marked Private Drive. There are some speed bumps and soon you'll see the segregated bike lane painted on the pavement, an extension of the D&L Trail, so not really a private drive entirely.  You will not be happy about the climb, but it avoids climbing on 25th street. 

Mile 247.5 -- Speaking of 25th Street the T-right here can be difficult with traffic, but most of you will be on it late enough to make it much easier. If you are one of the speedier riders and the traffic is still coming up the hill, please wait till you see no cars from your left before you proceed.  You will be turning left very soon up the hill and you don't want to contend with cars overtaking you and passing you on your left.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Ride Report: Hawk's Nest 300K

The second event in the 2021 Pennsylvania Super Randonneur Series, was a "full value" 300K version of the Hawk's Nest brevet that began at 5AM in the decidedly  cold and windy parking lot of the Easton, PA, Holiday Inn Express.  Of the shivering bunch that clipped in at that pre-dawn hour, 14 of the 17 completed the whole course within the time limit for a 82% completion rate. Congratulations to all who attempted the challenging course!  Preliminary results have been posted on the website.  Please review the results and let us know if they align with your memory.  The results will be submitted to RUSA after receipt of postal control cards and careful review. They will become official once certified.

Despite the beautiful weather later in the day, it was decidedly cold and windy at the pre-dawn start outside the Holiday Inn.   The low temperature seemed to drop further as the riders climbed up the front of the Pocono plateau, dropping into the high 30s, with wind-chills making the May Day seem more like a date in February.  Not anticipating these conditions, several of the riders were a bit under-dressed and paid a price. The cold and wind gave Chris Maglieri numb feet, but with some supplies he acquired at the Pickerel Lake General Store (chemical hand warmers, plastic bags, and electrical tape) he was able to revive his feet and soldier on. Unfortunately this brilliant fix was not enough, as he shortly ran into unrelated mechanical difficulties.


Chris Maglieri uses rando ingenuity to keep his feet warm.

In fact, two different riders were forced to abandon because of mechanical problem. Soon after he had repaired his feet, Chris had a rear-hub issue that affected his gears and brakes. Sean Connelly suffered a shifter cable failure. Both of these issues occurred in a remote section of the course, precluding a quick trip to a nearby bike shop for repair. Consequently, both riders were forced to abandon. 

Unconcerned about the possibility of shifter failure, Greg Keenan kept warm by completing the challenging course on a fixed gear. Good pedaling Greg! Those derailleurs are so overrated.

Despite the frosty and blustery beginnings,  by the time the riders reached El dred, the sun was shining bright, temperatures had moderated, and the stunning vista from the Hawk's Nest fully lived up to its promise. 

Trio of riders (Joe Ray, Greg Keenan, Dawn Engstrom) each with their own unique way of experiencing the Hawk's Nest. (Steven J. Schoenfelder behind the camera)

First finisher Josh Armstrong made full use of  gears to set a new course record at 12 hrs 59 mins, nipping four minutes off the previous mark set by Tim Creyts in 2019.  It should be noted that this version of the Hawk's Nest 300 course has a smidge less climbing than the edition Tim faced. On the other hand, Josh's record setting time included two laps of the Pump Track in Port Jervis.   This 300K event was also Josh's first-ever brevet!  Congratulations and welcome to randonneuring Josh.  

Two other riders relatively new to the sport, Brad Layman and Jeremy Seig, completed their first 300K.  Excellent work.  

It bears repeating that randonneuring events, especially the longer events, cannot be run without the support of volunteers. Iwan BarankayBrad Layman, and Steve Schoenfelder helped organizer Chris Nadovich set up food and gear. Steve also ran the start while Iwan did bike inspections.  Out on the course, RBA emeritus Tom Rosenbauer ran a roving secret control with water and snacks. Bill Olsen staffed the Blairstown control later in the day providing encouragement and sustenance for the slower riders. Bill also helped clean up and pack up at the finish, along with some help from Dawn Engstrom.  Thanks to these volunteers, quality events can happen. 

Please consider volunteering at a future event. Both the upcoming 400K and 600K are badly in need of more helpers. Contact the Organizer to volunteer. 

Iwan Barankay writes:

A glorious day once the toes thawed at around 11am. Very rewarding scenery. Thank you for the careful route and the wonderful hospitality at the start and finish.
Iwan also contributed the Haiku of the Ride:

Gusts swaying resolve
Asphalt acne from times when
Roads like us were young


Iwan at the Roebling Aquaduct fighting the cold with Sheldon Brown helmet vent covers.

Vadim Gritsus writes:

Thank you for organizing yet another perfectly orchestrated PA brevet. My late arrival due to road closure outside NYC in combination with a failed front tire pressure sensor were surely looking like the ride would be going bad. However it actually went amazingly well! Things improved immediately after I spotted Tom offering delicious candy bars at a secret control as well as his luxury ride as a bike rack. Never underestimate his dedication!

Tom made another much-needed appearance, this time on his bike intercepting me just before one of the controls and pacing me through difficult miles. The weather was pretty cold for the better part of the morning, however things dramatically improved later on. This surely provide a big opportunity to dial in your outfit based on almost 35 degree span during the ride.

This was a combination of previously ridden roads but somehow felt very new and exciting. A pleasant bonus was to see 21% on my GPS during that infamous climb.

Once again, thank you for organizing this beautiful event!

A randonneur's view of Port Jervis (photo by V Gritsus)

Regarding Vadim's photo, Tom Rosenbauer writes:

The gritty post-apocalyptic ruins make a striking contrast to the clear ski and pristine mountains in the background. A barren landscape that is completely void of any life is a metaphor for the lonely emptiness one can experience at a low point of a challenging brevet.

Joe Ray writes:

Thanks to you, Tom Rosenbauer and Bill Olsen for yesterday’s 300k.  It was a tough finish for me, but with Greg having handicapped himself a bit on fixed gear I had someone to cover the last 30 miles with.  Coming up Northampton had me reminiscing about the 2019 600k flat-tire finish, but I’m glad we still had plenty of time in the bank yesterday.   As bad as that wind was for the first half, the course was pretty and I really love the stretch following the Lackawaxen down to the Delaware Aqueduct.  Hotel breakfast and swapping enjoyable stories and thoughts there this morning with Steve and Greg got me at least partly back on track. 


Steven J. Schoenfelder writes: 

Thanks to ride organizer Chris Nadovich and volunteers Tom Rosenbauer and Bill Olsen for making the Hawk’ s Nest 300K an epic ride.

The theme of the first leg of our journey was headwinds.  The gusts of the prior evening turned Two Rivers Trailway into a cyclocross course that included a quick dismount to clear a horizontal pine tree. Wind Gap lived up to its name, but offered some relief at the Turkey Hill where Dawn and I could go through our gear and realize that we didn’t bring enough clothing to contend with the wind chill.   

We battled our way over the Appalachian front, battered by headwinds as we inched up the ascents.  Just as I was feeling that I would never get warm again, and all was lost, we were greeted by rando legend Tom Rosenbauer at Controle 4 who restored us with water, delicious pastries, and kind words of encouragement.  It was the turning point that I desperately needed to salvage my ride.  

By Eldred, the sun was coming out, skies were blue, and the winds were now behind us.  And..we finally caught other riders: Joe and Greg.  Soon, it was party time at Hawks Nest where we enjoyed camaraderie,  great views, sunshine, and photo ops. 

That positivity powered me through the ensuing miles.  The new pavement on the infamous Old Mine Road climb made it seem easier than ever before.  Maybe I will be able to pedal over the dreaded Millbrook Road climb!  But alas, after a short stretch of 14-16% grade, I looked up the road, and unclipped, keeping my streak of never pedaling over that climb alive. 

I felt exhausted and defeated after crossing the Appalachian Trail, but knew that we would achieve our goal of arriving at the Blairstown controle in daylight.  We were greeted by volunteer Bill Olsen at the Inn who provided a helpful weather update, encouragement, and his special brand of humor to spur us on.  I would likely still be in Blairstown if not for Dawn who charitably pulled me through the remaining  31.5 miles.   

We were pleased to find Chris and Bill at the finish, ready to revive us with hot soup and pickles.  And so the journey from misery to Hope, and Foul Rift to achievement was complete.

For those of you who want to experience the spectacular Hawk's Nest vista as part of a "pint sized" 200K brevet, the shorter version will be offered in July. 

On the other hand, for those of you seeking a SR medal, the next event in the Pennsylvania Super Randonneur Series is the New Blue Redux 400K on 22 May. Full information is available on the 400K Event Web Site.