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.

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