Monday, May 16, 2022

Blue Redeux 400K and Hexenkopf 200K Ride Report

The third event(s) in the 2022 Super Randonneur Series, the New New Blue Redeux 400K and Hexenkopf 200K, again started and finished at the second highest point in Northampton County, Flint Hill Farm 1000' ASL. So I guess it's rando-logic that the difficulty level was notched even higher this time with a day (and night) of rain.    Of those that clipped in for the challenging (and soggy) 400K course 16 of 20 finished within the time limit. This was an overall 80% completion rate -- good given the conditions. On the 200K, 2 of 3 finished in time. Congratulations and well-done to all!  Preliminary results have been posted for the 200K and the 400K.  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.

Flint Hill Farm continued to charm riders. Many riders bought farm-fresh goodies from the farm store. Some riders enjoyed real beds in the farmhouse, while others opted for the wilderness camping option -- even in the rain. Many had happy interactions with the livestock.

 

Bill Fischer makes a new friend

Flint Hill Farm Education Center is a very cool place. Their mission is to bridge the gap between the Urban/Suburban community and they are doing exactly that with these events as they host our riders from the urban jungles of New York City and Philadelphia. Flint Hill has been a congenial venue for our rando events, trusting us to be respectful guests of the Farm as they provide a unique experience for us all.  Special thanks go to Kathleen Fields who runs the place and has helped us in countless ways. Please patronize the farm store if you can.

At the start, Jim Bondra and Sean Keesler helped set up gear and tables at the Farm arena, and at the finish Bill Olsen and Jeff Lippincott staffed the long vigil waiting for each rider to arrive and helped tear down gear. 

The indefatigable rando volunteer, Len Zawadniack, scouted potential flooding on the Swatara trail and supported riders as they passed through that area. He also rescued Andres Prandelli who busted a derailleur cable in Pine Grove.

Iwan Barankay and Jimmy Aspras staffed the Phoenixville control. This control was a critically important boost for riders as they entered the final 50 mile push through the dark, rainy night. Several riders passed on their appreciation for this support.

Ben Thompson looked quite glamorous in the marquee lights of the Colonial Theater.


A couple of experienced randonneurs, Jim Bondra and Mike Anderson abandoned the 400K early on, quickly knowing that they "weren't feeling it". I have a lot of respect for a rider who can make that hard decision early. It takes wisdom, hard-won experience, and not a little humility to know yourself at this level. Chapeau!

Sean Keesler created yet another excellent video of his brevet experience


 

Speaking of "hard won experience", relatively newly minted randonneur Olin Johnson was cursed with a mishap on the Hexenkopf Hill 200K that we've all worried about, but (fortunately) few of us have experienced: wiping out on a steel deck bridge, specifically the Rieglesville Roebling bridge. The rain made the metal deck quite slick and OJ, never having ridden over a Delaware bridge before, didn't realize that us Del-riding vets all cautiously walk these bridges, even in dry weather. Skating away from his guardian angel and into the steel curb not far from the "Walk Bikes" sign, OJ cracked some ribs and needed to have his leg wounds stitched up in the hospital. Fortunately his bike was relatively unharmed. I hope this negative experience doesn't sour him on randonneuring in general, or riding along the beautiful Delaware in particular. Heal quickly, OJ. We hope to see you riding again soon. 

On a dry, sunny day it doesn't seem dangerous, but....

Patrick and Cecilie write...

Thanks to you, Bill, Jeff, Len, Iwan and all the other volunteers at the 400 this past weekend.  We really enjoyed the course.  The hilly section from Bowmanstown to Blondies was not as bad as we remembered, but the nontraditional headwind through Lancaster county made for a challenging afternoon.  It's always good to see Len and his van of goodies out on the  course and the coke and croissant from Iwan in Phoenixville really helped. Thanks again, see you at the 600! 
Brad Layman writes...

This was one of my favorite PA Rando events. Hanging out with fellow randos in the barn the night before and after the ride as the rain pattered on the roof was memorable. The farmhouse provided comfortable lodging. The volunteer support was excellent - especially at the Phoenixville control as  it was great timing to see a familiar face. Thank you Iwan, Jimmy, Len, James, Randi, Jeff, and especially Chris. I had a double flat with four  miles to go which was very frustrating, but on the bright side, it gave me a moment to gather myself before the final "grunt" up to the farm. Three  V8s, four sandwiches, and several treats fueled me through the muggy day.  Hope to see everyone at the 600! 
 


Join us again in June for the final event(s) in the PA Rando SR series: the Philly Pagoda Pocono 600K starting 4 June, paired with the Pagoda 200K starting 5 June. Info on these events can be found on the PA Rando website.



Wednesday, May 11, 2022

New Blue Redux 400K Pre Ride Course Notes

A pre-ride of the New Blue Redux 400K was conducted on 9 May, by Jeff Lippincott. Based on this pre-ride the RWGPS route was  updated 2022-05-11 20:16:15 EDT and the cue sheet is now version 4. Route information and registration are on the event web page

Longer routes can exhaust GPS memory. Make sure your GPS  unit can handle this route. After downloading the route, make sure the GPS can route with it. If necessary, split the route into segments. 

Course notes are below.

The pre-rider did not run into any road closures or detours. He encountered no seriously busy roads. 

On the Swatara Trail, the trail was flooded out by Mill Creek at mile 108.2. He was able to find an obvious side trail to bypass the flooding. 

As we have had several days of dry weather, the trail flooding there has probably drained. On the other hand, if rain returns and if it turns out that the trail flooding is not passable, simply backtrack 0.1 mile to the intersection with PA 443 and turn left (west) to cross the creek on the highway. Continue on 443 for about 5 miles where it bends southward and goes straight into PA 72. This crosses through Swatara gap. Shortly after passing through the gap and under I-81 you will rejoin the course at mile 115, turning right onto Bohn's Lane. 

The PA 443/72 routing avoids the rail trail entirely, but it's trafficy and has rolling hills. Pick your poison.  If the rail trail is flooded or muddy 443/72 is an acceptable alternative. 

At Evansburg SP, 218.5, Mayhall Rd is closed past the park office. It was passable by bike when last checked, but given that many riders will be crossing through this road at night, please look out for unexpected hazards that may have developed recently. 


All in all, it's a lovely DIFFICULT route 

Monday, May 2, 2022

Hexenkopf Hill 200K Pre-Ride Course Notes

A pre-ride of the Hexenkopf Hill 200K was conducted on a beautiful Spring Day, Saturday 30 April, by Jeff Lippincott and Chris Nadovich. Based on this pre-ride the RWGPS route was  updated 2022-05-1 17:44:35 EDT and the cue sheet is now version 4. Route information and registration are on the event web page. Course notes are below.

The Hexenkopf route is a remix of the old YARRR route, that moves the rectangular course southward placing the start/finish at Flint Hill.  Because of the southern shift, the route passes beyond Pottstown to the Wawa control near Harmonyville shared with the 400K route. Extra route slack from the shift South also allows a visit to historic Lock 60 in Mont Clare.    

The elevation profile of the course is U shaped, with the highest elevation at the start/finish. There are certainly a bunch of rollers in-between, and some legit climbs, most notably the namesake hexed Hill, but as PA Rando brevets go, I found it to be of low middle difficulty. 

There are several closed bridges on this route, including the Headquarters Rd bridge which now has steel plates covering the holes in the pavement. All closed bridges were easily passable by bicycle at the time of the pre-ride. In a novel variation, this route does not transit the defunct Keim St bridge, but rather uses the main Hanover St bridge out of Potstown to cross  the Schuylkill. 

Returning North over the Schuylkill happens in Phoenixville at Lock 60.  This is a facinating place -- somewhat of an rural island in the midst of suburbia. There is an amazing array of wildlife on this scenic location between the river and the canal. 

Jeff stops to observe a turtles sunning themselves on a log.

After an out-n-back to visit the lock, the course remains on the towpath all the way to the climb away from the river that begins at Hollow Rd. The towpath is crushed stone and is very interesting as it follows the old canal. The original route did not use the towpath. Originally, we went back on PA 29 in a zig-zag by Produce Junction. The traffic on 29 was so annoying, and the towpath so inviting that the route was changed to use the towpath instead of 29.  Full disclosure: the towpath past 29 was not scouted on the pre-ride, but we believe it to be viable.

The info control on Hexenkopf Hill is at the red barn on the left that you will reach on the climb before the summit. There is an inscription on a round sign over the barn door. 

A route change also was made in Hellertown to remain on the Saucon RT a little longer. This avoids a climb and simplifies the route. The only concern here is that riders recognize the exit from the trail at the parking lot on the left just past the Bingen Rd bridge.  Some of you will reach this point after sunset, as we did. Look for the big trail-information board.

As the old YARRR route was often ridden in the heat of Summer, it was a nice change to be on these roads in the cool Spring air. Nevertheless, we stopped at Schoolhouse Sweets for ice cream. Although this isn't a control, nor is the Wawa in Souderton, most riders stop at one or both of these. 

Route information and registration are on the event web page.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Water Gap Revisited 300/200K -- Ride Report

The second event in the 2022 Super Randonneur Series, the Water Gap Revisited 200/300K, started and finished at a new and unique location, and revisited a traditional PA Rando brevet route up through the Delaware Water Gap and Delaware National Recreation Area.    Of those that clipped in at the start/finish at Flint Hill Farm,  23 of the 23 completed the 300K course, and 10 of 10 completed the 200K course, all within the time limit. This was an overall 100% completion rate -- not a small achievement for such a "scenic" course. Congratulations and well-done to all!  Preliminary results have been posted for the 200K and the 300K.  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.

 

The new start location, Flint Hill Farm, turned out to be a fascinating venue for a brevet event. Situated at over 1000 ft elevation, atop the second highest hill in the county (the highest hill being 1500 ft Blue Mountain),  the Flint Hill start/finish provided a screaming descent as an overture, and a soul-sucking climb as a finale. Finishing riders could ride directly into the giant arena building to be applauded by the congregation of riders and volunteers as they grumbled about *##)!@#)$#*&&@! Peppermint Rd. 

Riders reported the slightest sprinkle of rain early on, but otherwise partly sunny skies, light wind, and cool temperatures making it a fine day to ride a bike. The field was divided as to which hill was the most accursed. Peppermint received considerable scorn, as did Geigle Hill and Staats.  Old Mine had some dishonorable mention. 

Several new randonneurs completed their first 300K. One rider, Alex Estes, finished this 300K as his first brevet ever. Welcome to randonneuring, Alex, awesome start, but, just so you know, Alex, you DO need to ride a shorter ACP event for the SR medal.

Two tandem teams were in the field. The Gaffney's finished the 300K in good style as usual.  And we were happy to see the recovering Jurczynski team return to ride in their second PA event, completing the 200K.

Team Gaffney

A big thank you to volunteer Jeff Lippincott, who ran registration at the start, and spent the whole day Saturday checking-in  most of the finishing riders from both events. Jeff also helped set up gear, including the portable shower with propane heater that campers could use.  

Jeff checking-in riders as plywood cow reflects.

Additional thanks are due to Nick Manta, who assisted with set up, bike inspection, check-in of later returning 300K riders, and stayed to the bitter end to welcome the last 300K rider and assist the organizer with tearing down, stowing all the gear, and turning off the lights.

George Retseck assisted with check in and bike inspection, but more importantly, George conducted "rando concierge" duties Friday night, directing cars to parking, welcoming and guiding people to their campsites in the woods, and to bunks in the farmhouse. As most people had never been to Flint Hill Farm before, a volunteer concierge was needed.  George will be on his transcontinental tour for the next events at Flint Hill; I hope someone who now knows Flint Hill will volunteer to take his place next time as Friday night concierge. 

Welcoming committee after lights out.

 

Thanks to Tom Rosenbauer who did roving guardian angel support on the course. 

A final thanks goes to Bill Fischer, who donated some tasty beverages that were enjoyed by many at the finish.   

Sean Keesler created an excellent video report of his experience. 


 

 

As Flint Hill  is a working farm, there are animals everywhere. Certainly a unique aspect of this start/finish. 

Yes, real chickens too.

Cecilie and Pat Gaffney write....

Thanks to you, Nick, Jeff, and (any other volunteers that we are missing) for putting on a great ride this past Saturday.  A really nice route and one of the harder finishing stretches in recent memory made it all the more memorable.  We really enjoyed Flint Hill Farms as the start/finish, though knowing how high up it is loomed large all day as we knew there would be no  coasting into the finish.  Thanks again, see you at the 400.



Join PA Randonneurs again at Flint Hill on May 14th as our 2022 SR Series continues with the New Blue Redeux 400K, and the all new Hexenkopf Hill 200K.


Sunday, April 17, 2022

Flint Hill Farm / Water Gap 200/300K Brevet -- Notes

The Flint Hill Farm Start Finish

There are several things to be aware of when you are visiting Flint Hill Farm. We are here for the first time and I want to make a good impression so they'll invite us back.

  • This is a working farm with animals. Expect encounters with ducks, chickens, horses, cows, deer, foxes, cats, dogs, and more. Please treat animals with respect. Do not feed them or interact with them unnecessarily. 
  • Close any gates you open.
  • Please confine your activities to the parking area or Arena building, unless you booked a bed in the farmhouses. 
  • There is ample lighting outdoors to be able to do most things at night without the need of a flashlight or headlamp -- but bring one anyway.
  • The bathrooms in the Farmhouse and Blacksmith Shop are only for those who are staying in those locations. All other guests should use the Port-o-johns by the arena and farm store.
  • Bikes can be stored in the arena. Many of the wire fences outside are ELECTRIFIED!! Do not lean your bikes on wire fences.  

Click image for full size map

Registration

Registration, start/finish meals, and preferred indoor camping will be available in the arena building. This will be the center of activity for the events. 

Arena Building

If you booked a bed at Flint Hill

When you first arrive, a volunteer will guide you to your bunk. You will be staying either in the farmhouse or the blacksmith shop on the North side of the farm. Go through the gate next to the farm store (and close it!). The farmhouse is down the steps to your left and the Blacksmith Shop is the next building beyond to the right. 

Bed assignments will be first come first served with the queen-size beds preferred for couples willing to share a bed.

There will be bedding and pillows available, but you might be wise to bring your own pillow, and maybe a sleeping bag, if you don't like the bedding you find, or we run out of pillows. 

Be aware that the plumbing and sewer systems are very limited in these old buildings. The farmhouse has a flush toilet, but the blacksmith shop has a non-flush composting toilet -- you might be more comfortable using the port-o-potty out by the arena. Please avoid using the bathroom in the farmhouse if you are not staying in the farmhouse. 

Because of the limited well capacity, showers in the buildings must be limited to farmhouse/blacksmith shop  guests only. Please keep them short. 

You are welcome to eat or cook in the Farmhouse or Blacksmith Shop kitchens. Please clean up after yourself. 

If you are camping

The primary camping area is in the back section inside the arena building (the largest big red building). Enter the arena through the big doors, then walk around the right side of the sand covered arena all the way to the back section. This is all under the arena roof for easy setup in the rain and a short walk to registration in the front section of the arena. 

  • You may set up camp inside one of the arena stalls for extra privacy, or camp out in the main area in front of the stalls by the wagon. 
  • DO NOT enter the sand arena, or camp there, or use it in any other way -- you know what I mean.
  • Please use the port-o-potty in the front of the arena for your needs.
  • Water is available several places in the arena. Ask a volunteer to direct you.
  • There are electric outlets all along the walls that can be used for charging your devices. 
  • To provide hot showers for the campers, we are setting up a shower enclosure and changing room next to the Arena Building. 

You may also primitive-camp in the woods out by the A-Frame (on in the A-Frame) on the East side of the farm. Take the road past the arena and between the two big fields, turning left at the grassy lane. Enter the woods. A volunteer will direct you if necessary. Please leave no trace.  

A-Frame in the woods


Course Notes

A pre ride of the Water Gap 300K was conducted on Friday 15 April by Nicholas Manta, and of the 200K on 16 April by Chris Nadovich and Jeff Lippincott.

As a result of this pre-ride, the cues and RWGPS files have been revised. 

  • For the 200K, the last revision of the RWGPS route was 2022-04-17 11:25:25 EDT and the cuesheet is version 8.
  • For the 300K, the last revision of the RWGPS route was 2022-04-17 11:27:20 EDT and the cuesheet is version 6.

Please be careful at the very beginning of the ride -- descending down from Flint Hill on Forest Rd and Passer Rd.  These are FAST downhills that abruptly reach stop-signs. There will be deer and other wildlife, not counting the flock of bike riders still squirrely from the early morning start. BE CAREFUL!

There are two major road closures. 

  • Route 611 south out of  Water Gap is closed because of road subsidence and other problems. It's wonderfully devoid of cars and I found it safer than usual for cycling, even with the extra debris. 
  • A similar situation exists  on Riverton Rd beginning with the hairpin at the top of the descent from River Rd into Belvidere. I saw slightly more debris than usual, easier than usual to avoid for the lack of auto traffic. 

At mile 172 (on the 300) and  110 (on the 200), Quarry Rd is unpaved. The surface is hard packed dirt with coarse gravel. This is suitable for slightly less than most tires. If you are unsure, please walk your bike, especially on the steep climb section or if rain makes the road muddy. 

There are several wooden bridges. The wood surfaces can be slick if wet. 

Climbing on this course is somewhat back-loaded. Don't burn all your matches on the likes of Blue Mountain, Millbrook, Staats, Harmony, or even Geigel Hill. Save something for Peppermint and the last little grunt.

Have a great ride! 

--

Chris Nadovich

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Eastern PA Fleche 2022 -- Ride Reports

The 2022 PA Randonneurs Flèche is complete and soon to be in the books.  Preliminary results are available on the website along with finish line photos.  I expect many postcards to arrive over the coming days and can then complete the assembly and verification of each team's documentation of proof of passage before making everything official.  Results will be submitted to RUSA at that time.  As usual, don't expect your Flèche certificate from the ACP until next spring.  Think of it as your reminder to register for the 2023 Flèche. 

Six teams started. Six teams finished. Chapeau! The overachievers in the group were "It's Only a Flèche Wound", comprising Joshua Armstrong, Tim Gilligan, and captain Matt McLoone. Their fourth team member, Michael Harding, could not start, but the remaining three got it done. After all, it was only a flèche wound. 

Wounded, but not dead yet.


Of the 24 individual starters, only 21 finished, for an 88% finish rate.  Along with "scenic" Pennsylvania roads, the wind, rain, and hail might have had something to do with those abandons. Somehow, all the bad weather vanished Sunday morning and it was sunny, not  too breezy, and almost warm at Keystone in Philly for the finish brunch celebration.

An unexpected problem for some of the teams was flooding on the Delaware. The river tagged flood stage during the event. This required some tactical reroutes.

Delaware River flooding made sections of the D&L more interesting

Normally this spillway is a trickle, easily crossed.

Proper Fleche routes are point-to-point, not loops. This  year we had teams starting from central PA, NYC, and the Jersey shore. Given the distance, it's always interesting to see how teams deal with the logistics of transportation between the start and finish. With the finish in Philly, public transit was available, and a couple of the teams took the trains back home.

Vadim "roughing it" back home in a limo
 

As always, events like this couldn't happen without volunteers. Thanks to the volunteers at Keystone Bicycle Company: Woody, Nick, Ryan, Ag, and Zach. Also thanks to Cecilie Gaffney for bringing fruit and cake, and Andrea Mules who bought the OJ.

---
Chris Nadovich

 


Iwan Barankay, captain of "We The Peoples of Philadelphia" writes...

This was my first flèche and I am glad I was able to share the experience with a great team. Big thanks to team members Pat Gaffney, Oleksiy Guslyakov, Nick Manta, and Anreas Prandelli

We met at the Rocky statue to suck up the best early morning vibe and energy and then headed West. It was an epic ride and the scenery near the Susquehanna valley was breathtaking, but the price for reaching it were what seemed like hundreds of little steep climbs along the way.  Nick and Pat made them looks so easy - perhaps I should shed 50lbs as well.

Oleksiy could not resist the lure of a phone call for a ride back home in Rinely after the first, very tough century. Kudos to him to make it that far and I am sure he will finish the next one with a smile on his face. Even though it was chilly, compared to the others team we fared relatively well and only suffered one brief downpour. Andreas is a fine, experienced, inspirational Randonneur, as he managed to complete the tough course by essentially skipping the breaks and only stopping very briefly at the controls so he could arrive in the finish with us. Chapeau! Thanks also to Chris for making this event happen. Arriving at the Keystone bike store was just wonderful. So nice to see so many familiar, warm, welcoming faces. What a vibrant community of Randonneurs in and around Philly we have now and I look forward to organizing and riding more brevets with a Philly start/finish.

We the Peoples and Rocky


Matt McLoone, captain of It's Only a Flèche Wound writes...

Deciding on a late start paid off in spades, as we avoided the morning deluge. We set off from Manayunk at 9:45 to wet roads and chilly temps and made our way. The decent weather held until we reached the rolling hills of Lancaster County, where the skies opened up and torrential rain fell. Luckily, we found a nice overhang to hide out for the brunt of the brief yet strong downpour. 

After dodging more isolated rain storms we stopped for a restful lunch at Stolzfus meats in Intercourse. Well fed and somewhat rested, we continued our journey through the Amishlands on our way to the Reading Pagoda. Nearly there, disaster struck for Tim. A broken shift cable. With all the supplies except for a shift cable, he soldiered on in the 11th tooth cog. Somewhat remarkably, we all made it up to the Pagoda for our control. With most of the hard climbing done for the ride we sauntered along towards Fleetwood where a nice Turkey Hill stop got us going. We finally realized that we could limit his RD into the 14 tooth and took off into the night. 

The next many hours consisted of chilly weather, a few bike paths and empty roads. Each WAWA was a double edged sword, the warmth and refreshments were divine, but the cold start after each stop had us shivering and using every layer we brought. After climbing up from Easton, we started riding known roads and could feel the end was near. Dawn was approaching and the 202 bike track was unrelenting with a bloc headwind. Eventually we were off, and Andy's Diner was in our sights, finally, a forced respite! After eating and waiting for the 22 hour control to pass, we left, greeted by sunshine and a tail wind. We found our legs and an extra gear and made it to Keystone before we knew it. The ride was finished and it left just a flèche wound.

View of Reading from the Pagoda

CJ Arayata, captain of  Chiens Errants, Rechargés writes...

 They came, they saw, they wandered…. and also started out in pouring rain, got hailed on twice, had a significant portion of their route flooded out, and battled headwinds all through the night. The Lost Pups are beginning to make a tradition of ‘easy on paper’ routes turning into anything but. 

Our opening 100k leg contained two-thirds of the elevation for our entire route, leaving the captain a bit beat up. Immediately after this followed a frustrating and time-burning slog through the D&L Canal Towpath, at times having to completely turn around due to major flooding, and eventually required a busier-than-ideal River Road detour all the way to New Hope. A sit-down pizza dinner was a welcome reprieve from the stress of the ride thus far, and we donned more layers and lubed mud-caked drivetrains before heading out via another stressful re-route on Taylorsville Rd until Morrisville. 

We finally started to enjoy ourselves after getting to witness a spectacular sunset walking across the Trenton Makes bridge and chat our way through the Pine Barrens towards Lower Bank Tavern for a photo op (and a free soda for the captain, simply for asking if Bill Reagan was around). Unfortunately, rookie pup Adam was facing some stomach issues, and despite the life-giving water that The Fist left at the Egg Harbor City Wawa (thank you!) Adam eventually sacrificed himself to the rando gods in order for us to finish in time. Despite being only 60 miles away from Philly, we rode 40 of them straight into a headwind towards our 22hr at Pitman, where we barely stopped on our way to an eventual FINISH. We dedicate our success to Adam, our fallen brother pup. RIP, your sacrifice was not in vain! 

Want to also give a very BIG THANK YOU to Keystone Bicycle Co., a bike shop owned and operated by 5 Wandering Pups alums, for hosting the wonderful finish gathering and sorting out all of the food, wrangling volunteers and other logistics, and also a THANK YOU to Chris for stepping up to the plate on short notice to do all of the front-end route review, team logistics, etc. Until next year! 

I also have ride photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/GXB9WqJS1R3dvUzg8. And finish photos (courtesy Woody): https://photos.app.goo.gl/UAXoPw6Fazt6E5pk6

The Wandering Pups

 

Jimmy Aspras, member of Chiens Errants, Rechargés writes...

Just wanted to thank all of the volunteers and especially our friends at Keystone Bicycle Co. who made the last weekend’s flèche possible.

I made the mistake of listening to the weather report and not packing any rain gear. Much to my dismay, our ride started amid pouring rain which accompanied us in varying degrees for the first hour or two. Fortunately, it was dry enough the rest of the day to allow my clothing to dry out. Unfortunately, we hit many detours due to flooding, both on the towpath and even on legitimate roads paralleling the Delaware River from Riegelsville to Morrisville. In a rando first for me, we even experienced hail for several minutes. Luckily we had no rain after sunset. Our teammate Adam had to stop his ride after about 300k due to stomach issues, but he had a strong ride, having improved on his previous distance PR by 100k. Very impressive.

As always, the company was good, but I was glad to be finished. Familiar faces at the end were a welcome sight. Breakfast tacos were a great idea to have there, and it was nice to have a vegan option with them too. I grabbed a couple of those, and a couple of the egg and cheese ones, for some well deserved calories for the ride home.

Steve  Schoenfelder, captain of Now You've Gone Too Far writes...

The day dawned rainy in Lewisburg, PA as team Now You’ve Gone Too Far congregated at 4 Westridge Lane for bagels and coffee.  Perhaps it was the rain or conversation that lead us to tarry and head down the hill later than planned for the two and a half mile trek to the official start.  Although the forecast called for cessation of rain by noon, we were stalked by a front that had us riding in and out of showers for most of the day.  

Our route took us past decaying industrial towns along the Susquehanna River, before heading into pastoral farmland, and then southward across the folded ridges of the Appalachians.  There were a few challenging climbs.   As we ground our way up a sustained 13-15% grade, Jeff declared it a “proper hill”.  Teammate Greg was less charitable in his description.  In spite of the adversity, we stuck it out and stuck together.  

We were pleasantly surprised at Trout Run Trailhead controle when friend Ron was waiting with snacks and beverages.  The sustenance and camaraderie helped take the chill out of the cold drizzle.  Thankfully, team NYGTF rode out of the rain by nightfall and beheld a beautiful sunset.  We would continue to pedal until the earth's rotation would bring us back into the light.  As we passed through Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area, we were serenaded by peeper frogs celebrating the early spring season.  And, there was a beautiful gibbous moon rising as the clouds parted.  

Pedaling through the night was met with the usual challenges including clock anxiety, nutritional management in the face of stressed digestive tracts, and diminishing power output.  But we prevailed, and made it to Andy’s Diner in Conshohocken, our 22-hour controle, where we were restored with delicious omelets and strong coffee.  Soon we were joined by Iwan and team The Peoples of Philadelphia, giving us a chance to complain about our travails and swap lies before we headed out for the final stretch along the Schuylkill River Trail.  After a brief stop at the Joan of Arc Statue for a photo, we rolled into Keystone Bicycle Company for a victorious finish.  The amazing breakfast burritos at KBC were just reward for a job well done.  Thanks to organizers Andrew Mead, Chris Nadovich, volunteers, and KBC for hosting this epic event.

NYGTF
Mile 226.3 Philadelphia, PA (ok, now it's cold)

 

----------------------------------------------------------------------
 

It looks like the Xanax might be wearing off

Les Noctambules at Staten Island Borough Hall


Coming up next in the PA Randonneurs calendar is the ACP SR Series that begins with a 300K and simultaneous 200K run out of a new venue, Flint Hill Farm. All the details are on the website. Hope to see you there.




Monday, April 4, 2022

Eastern PA Fleche Final Instructions

Your route and brevet card are approved. You are good to go for the fleche. Here are some things to keep in mind in order to have a successful ride.   


BEFORE THE FLECHE   

- Be familiar with the rules. and the general info and tips     

- Print brevet cards for EVERYONE on your team. Everyone should carry and fill out their cards (very important if you are split up). But only one set of receipts/photos etc for the whole team are requierd.

- If you have postcard controls, bring a few extra postcards in case you need to split or get off route, but only one postcard needs to be mailed (signed by all members of the team).


- Parking at Keystone Fri/Sat is on street only. Fold your mirror in as it's a narrow street.

- If possible, please share a tracking URL with me before you depart, at least one tracker per team.

DURING THE FLECHE  

- Everyone carries and completes a brevet card, but only one proof of passage is required per team at each control. So one photo, one postcard, one receipt....

- If you have a POSTCARD control, the postcard should clearly show the team name and be addressed to

  PA Randonneurs 
  1700 Sullivan Trail     
  Easton, PA 18040-8333  


- IF you have a PHOTO control, please text/email the photo to me (rando at nadovich.com, 267-218-0418) when you reach the control.  ALl riders and bikes and something identifyable at the control should appear in the photo. If necessary, take multiple photos.

- If any/all team members need to abandon, please let me know immediately at 267-218-0418 

- Remember you need proof being at the 22 hour control at or AFTER the end of hour 22. That means you need to get your timestamped receipt or photo AFTER the 23rd hour begins, when you have exactly or slightly less than 2 hours to ride the last 25 km.

AFTER THE FLECHE    

- There are no showers at Keystone, but there are 10+ bathrooms for freshening up. - We will have a few places to lay down and nap on Sunday after the event, but not many.  If you live any distance away, do not drive yourself home. Either be a passenger of someone who didn't ride all night, or book a room somewhere in Philly so you can grab some sleep before attempting to drive. On Sunday there may be other sleeping options at or near Keystone, but I don't know about them at this time.
 

---------------                                                                                                                                                                      

 
Have a great ride!                                                                                                                                                                  

Chris Nadovich     

PA Randonneurs            

Monday, March 21, 2022

Covered Bridges 200K Ride Report

Bazinga! What a blockbuster ACP March 200k brevet.  After weeks of planning, anticipation, and obsessive updating of the Weather Underground webpage, 54 riders converged to the Cadence Cycles store in the pre-dawn hours of March 19 in Manayunk in what turned out to be a day blessed with dry conditions and summerly temperatures. 

Pre-ride meeting with spooky lighting

Of those riders who clipped in, including the four volunteer pre-riders, 55 finished inside the time limit for a 95% completion rate. Congratulations and well-done to all!  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 review and will become official once certified.

Riders approaching one of ten covered bridges on the route

This was the biggest PA event on record and this was reflected in the rather expanded shopping lists both for the start (over 120 waffles and 40 half-cream cheese bagels) and even more for the Tinicum control (see below) to ensure the riders had the required fuel in their legs to conquer the 7265ft of climbing. 

Nick Manta and Gavin Biebuyck overcoming gravity on Uhlerstown Climb Road

Riders were faced with multiple inquisitive questions at the info-controls teaching them about the history of Covered Bridges in Bucks County.  Based on the photographic record, some answers were arrived at through the wisdom of the crowd. 

There is hope of getting this information control right!


The Tinicum refreshment control was expertly organized by Chris Nadovich with HR support from Oleksiy Guslyakov, Bill Olsen and Tom Rosenbauer. A big thanks to all five. It turns out that the hunger of riders was only outmatched by their thirst requiring multiple re-supply runs to keep up with demand.  Only one rider, first-timer Andrea Gonzalez, decided to abandon at that control but luckily a spousal limousine service was available for her. Chapeau Andrea for attempting this tough route.

Bill Olsen, Chris Nadovich, and Tom Rosenbauer trying their best at looking supportive


Indeed, we saw a surge of riders who finished their first ever brevet: Travis Berry, Matthew Bidwell, Guido Castellani III, Megan Collier, Kuba Jennes, TransAm veteran racer Max Lippe, Claire Lutz, and Bill Scanga.  With such young talent comes responsibility and we hope to see you all again at future events especially the upcoming 300 on April 23.

Megan Collier, Claire Lutz, and Corrie Tice with their first brevet in the bag!


Hephaestus dutifully watched over the machines and equipment of the riders but somehow neglected to keep an eye out for two riders. Max Shilvock seemed to have derailleurs that had a mind of their own leading to a tearful destruction of a vintage DuraAce front derailleur.  Max managed to overcome these challenges, however, and made it to the finish. Rudi Saldia’s Di2 decided to not even begin to work at the start but luckily Matt McLoone from Cadence Cycles was there to help him and blew fresh live into his bike’s circuits. Matt did double-duty at this event as he showed up early to open the shop just for as so we could access facilities. Another big thank you.

Jimmy Aspras once again in skinsuit on his TT-bike


Despite the gloomy forecasts all week there was no rain for any of the finishers yet there was an annoying headwind towards the end of the ride. Nevertheless all riders arrived with a broad smile on their face. The finish location was changed at the last minute to the Manayunk Brewing Company since the original finish location closed at 4pm. We were able to gather in the alley where we could display our gorgeous randonneur bikes to the other arriving civilian patrons and then dip into the Brewery for food and refreshments.  All in all a good compromise and a wonderful place for riders to exchange tall tales of their adventures and accomplishments of the day or from past events. 

Riders rolling down "Victory Alley" at Manayunk Brewing Company


My big hope is that the smiles we saw at the finish translates to a curiosity to continue with the PA series. The next brevet is coming up soon. You owe it to yourself to ride that too!

We have a great collection of photos.

By me, Mat McLoone, and Gavin: https://photos.app.goo.gl/anjuVtzjpbdXC5KC9

Brad Layman: https://photos.app.goo.gl/aafq4ch69JiPc4Y59

CJ Arayata: https://photos.app.goo.gl/ghrvjtFAeDHQ72Zc7

Oleksiy Guslyakov at the Uhlerstown Climb Road secret control: https://photos.app.goo.gl/EJWMQAUQ6YYh8GDG6

Andreas Prandelli: https://photos.app.goo.gl/vkA1BWT8qbKroxLp9


Please email me if you have more pictures to share.

-- Iwan Barankay and Brad Layman (Co-Organizers)


Chris Nadovich provided this report from Tinicum Control:

"What a beautiful day to hang out in Tinicum Park, volunteering at the Tinicum control for the Covered Bridges 200K. Despite the dire predictions of rain, we had partly sunny skies, no rain at all, mild temperatures, and little wind.

Riders looked strong and happy when they arrived in Tinicum, and became even happier as they gobbled up three and a half large trays of French toast casserole. They were thirsty too. Our big 10 Gallon dispenser, filled to the brim with artisinal water, was drained dry before half the riders were through the control. Eventually another 10+ gallons of water, three 12-packs of soda, and 3 gallons of coffee were gulped down by the 58 riders. Thanks to Tom Rosenbauer who made multiple water runs into town as we, yet again, ran dry. Tom also assisted with logging riders and cleanup.

Also staffing the Tinicum control was the inimitable Bill Olsen. Along with assisting with clean up, Bill spent some time scouting the water and bathroom situation. Sadly, Tinicum Park is still closed for the winter and all the facilities were locked. Nevertheless, this is a nice park with a nice pavilion. We will return here for some future event -- maybe when things are open.

Oleksiy Guslyakov helped with setup at the start, cleanup at the end, and in-between he staffed a secret control at the Uhlerstown Hill climb to catch anyone who tried to cheat and bypass the hill (no one did). Oleksiy told me that he had counted almost 20 riders who did not dismount -- pedaling up the whole hill. Amazing.

Oleksiy is a relatively new randonneur and it's great to see him step up to volunteer at the events. All you new riders out there -- yes you -- need to think about volunteering at some events. It's the volunteers that make these events possible. Volunteering is very rewarding. Give it a try.

I was able to enjoy the easy duty of simply running an intermediate control because Iwan Barankay and Brad Layman did the hard work of organizing the Start/Finish in Manayunk, managing the overall event, as well as developing this new course. Kudos to them for a great inaugural running of the Covered Bridges 200K. Awesome event.

Ryan Stanis reported:
“The ride was good! Made good time for the first half of the day, then really slowed down on those hills. Made it up Uhlerstown and Kitner on the bike, which was no small victory, but maybe took a little bit more gas than I should have used up. Shawn and I stopped a few times on the way in to fight off a bonk, and should’ve kept on top of water a bit better. Not used to 70 degree temps in March! Thanks again for planning such a good day!”

Jeffrey Butt wrote:
“Iwan, thank-you for volunteering yesterday. Indeed, we really got lucky with the weather.”

Gavin Biebuyck said:
“Beautiful route. Not sure which hill was hardest - maybe Kinzer. Rode too fast for 80 miles. Following Chris N’s advice, Nick and I then employed a “burst of slowness” and stopped at Free Will brewery, who were celebrating their 10th anniversary. Sun and headwinds made for slow finish. First time sweating this year! Thanks for starting and finishing us Iwan and Brad!”

Pat and Cece Gaffney wrote in to say:
“Thanks to you, Chris, Brad, and Oleksiy for all the hard work in putting the ride together yesterday. For a route that didn't look too tough on paper this one packed a punch. The climb up Uhlstertown was just a preamble to the ass kicking that didn't give up until the top of Buckwampum. I would like to say it was all smooth sailing from there but the afternoon headwinds made for a challenging finish. Thanks again, see you at the 300.”

CJ Arayata mused the following:
“Thanks" so much for the ride on Saturday! I had so much "fun" on the extremely "scenic" route. It was my first ride over 100km since 2019, and very quickly all the memories of the "fun times" that I've had on previous PA brevets came flooding back. Hah. But in all seriousness, a heartfelt "Thank you!" for organizing these newer brevets. The legacy of the club shines through these challenging routes, the well-marked cue sheets, and the overall attention to detail and execution. It was an excellent season opener, especially for those contemplating a PA SR and maybe even Endless Mountains later this year...

There were many highs on the ride. First and foremost, the record-high registration numbers and all of the new faces and unfamiliar names! Further, the sunny weather was a pleasant surprise, the rural ride theme did not disappoint, and I very much appreciated those hard-earned sweeping descents. On the flip side, I knew I hadn't eaten enough when I began to dread every bend in the road for fear of *yet another* brutal climb. The relentless wind during the second half of the course also posed its own challenge, especially on the hectic-feeling 202 trail (I didn't realize how mentally taxing the sound of traffic was until we got off the trail). My brevet finish was brought to you by my inner chainring, Dairy Queen pretzel sticks, half of a Tabora Farm donut, and entertainment in the form of Jimmy's inability to coast. In case anyone was wondering, half-eaten jelly donuts are not a handlebar-bag-friendly snack.

I'd like to thank you, Brad, and Chris for the route planning and organization work, Matt M. for opening up Cadence for us at the start, and the rock-star lunch squad of Tom R., Chris N., and Bill O. for their efforts in keeping everyone fed (and hydrated!) at Tinicum Park. Speaking of hydration, Woody and I got extremely hydrated from above on our way home from Manayunk. All of those plastic bags for my electronics, cue sheet, saddle, etc. got put to use after all!

Here's my photos from the day: https://photos.app.goo.gl/ghrvjtFAeDHQ72Zc7. As a side note, it's been great to bear witness and document the growth of the club over the last few years. Getting to ride past the old clubhouse on the way to a Philadelphia finish was a treat. The Philly Rando Renaissance has arrived!”


Coming up next is the Fleche, with a finish party at Keystone Bicycle Company in Philly on 10 April. And after that, we begin the Flint Hill Farm SR Series events with a 300K  and 200K  on 23 April.

Hope to see you all there!”

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Covered Bridges Pre-ride report

Two separate pre-rides were completed. The first on Saturday 3/5/2022 by Brad Layman, Chris Nadovich, and Oleksiy Guslyakov and a second by me on 3/11/2022.

This is a new route, first designed by Brad and then edited with deep local knowledge of the finest, and only the finest, hills and roads by Chris. 


Note: We updated the cue-sheet and RWGPS files. You must go and download the new file as it is a different URL from what it was before (file from 2022-03-13, cuesheet v14) Please make sure you have the latest version especially since the finish control has also changed: We finish a mile earlier at the Manayunk Brewing Company just after you get off the Schuylkill River Trail.  Also please note that there are no bathrooms at the Tinicum lunch control.


https://parando.org/info/event/352


Brad took gorgeous pictures during the pre-ride.

A few from within Van Sandt Covered Bridge (1875)


To me this route expresses well what PA randonneuring is about. It will allow you to connect with a great group of riders, some of them novices to this non-competitive sport, others more experienced, others still well in over their head. It also lets you ride on roads, familiar or new, as part of an event where even if you are riding alone - as you may well end up doing for some stretches - you always feel part of a bigger group. It also, and finally, gives you time to just pedal and roam, perhaps the most luxurious privilege we can offer to ourselves.


Now after all this purple prose let's get to the real beef. This course is hard. Not because there are long climbs - there is one, well two - or the surface is bad - only on the Uhlerstown Rd climb - but because there are many many short steep climbs sucking the glucose out of your thighs. There is no one recipe for success but my philosophy is to let the hills come to you rather than you attacking them - it will make sense at the end of the day. Also keep eating and drinking to stay fueled.


Here are some notes specifically for this route and in the context that this may be your first ride with us or of this season:


  • Winter just ended but there is still a lot debris and road damage.  Please always look for gravel in turns and beware of deep potholes especially at the edges of the road surface.

  • Please take care when crossing the covered bridges. The saying goes that you will save a lot of time by going slowly. Please take care as surfaces are bumpy and visibility poor inside bridges.

  • There are multiple steep hills. Please make sure that you have appropriate gearing and that your shifting works down to the easiest gears. For the steepest sections a 1:1 gear ration or easier is recommended.

  • Uhlerstown Rd climb is technically challenging as it is steep and has a lot of loose gravel. Additionally there is a gate at the bottom and the top of it. With skill, you can roll past the bottom gate but not at the top.

    Minor obstacle at the bottom of Uhlerstown Rd climb


  • We recommend unclipping and walking that stretch but if you want to attempt the climb you need a 1:1 gear ratio or easier. Here are some tips of how to go up slippery steep hills:


     

  • Please give your bike a good look. Check brakes, tyres, tighten all the bolts, etc. If you can’t recall when you bought your chain it may be a good idea to change it. A snapped chain when going up a steep hill is something your anatomy won’t like.

  • Given the many climbs, make a plan for getting electrolytes into your system during the ride to avoid cramps and grumpiness. For me, when I start fantasizing about ham sandwiches and burgers I know I am running low on salt. 

  • You must have working front and rear lights. Rear lights must be set on steady and attached to the frame. You must also have a reflective vest (or bands) and ankle straps. I won’t let you start without these items!

  • It is going to be a delicious and nourishing brevet. Breakfast and food at the Tinicum control will be provided by the club. There is a bathroom at the start but there is no bathroom at the Tinicum control. We have highlighted multiple other bathroom options on the route and cue sheet.

  • We will gather for the finish control at Manayunk Brewery Company where you can purchase drinks and food. When you arrive roll down the alley and park your bike behind the building.

  • Please review the route. We highlighted additional stops for food and bathrooms but there are stretches with little or no opportunity for resupply. Please plan accordingly.



We look forward to serving you breakfast at the start!


Iwan Barankay



Pennsylvania Randonneurs Announces Flèche 2022

*****   Team Deadlines Reminder *****
Today (March 12) is the deadline for Captains to register and form teams for the 2022 Flèche.  The deadline for route submission is next weekend, March 19.   This is  just a reminder that captains must submit a separate list of planned controls in addition to the planned route before RBA  review of the route can begin.  Your Team Roster page indicates the route is "under RBA review"by virtue of your linking a planned route in the  team sign-up.  The actual RBA review of the route does not begin until the captain submits  the planned route AND the list of planned controls  for review.  

As of this writing, one route is approved and a second  has been submitted for review.  I'm still looking for routes & a list of controls from five teams. 

Thanks!
Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA
  

*****   Original Announcement ***** 

After a two-year hiatus, the Flèche returns to the Pennsylvania Randonneurs schedule for 2022.  Original plans were to try again for a finish at the Trexlertown Velodrome for some hot laps, but we were notified earlier this spring that the track is being resurfaced and will not be available to us in April.  Fortunately our friends at Keystone Bicycle Co., fresh of their successful hosting of the November 2021 R-12 brevet, have agreed to serve as our fleche destination for 2022 and will host an outdoor brunch on Sunday, April 9 between 8 and 11. As always, Flèche teams may start any time after noon on Thursday, April 7, but in so doing risks missing on the festivities.  Teams should ideally start between 8 and 10 on Saturday so their arrival time aligns with the brunch.

Additional details are on the event website.  Key dates to keep in mind:

March 12:  Team Captain registration deadline

March 19:  Route Submission deadline

April 3:  Team member registration deadline

With a new destination, every route will be new.  I'm asking all Team Captains to start work early on their routes to avoid a last-minute crush of route reviews.

Registration details have been posted on the Pennsylvania Randonneurs website.  Start planning your routes and get your teams together now.

Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA/Organizer

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Stillwater 200K Ride Report

Luck was with us for the rescheduled Stillwater 200K. Instead of black ice and a temperature in the teens, we had an excellent (for February) day of partial sunshine and temperatures in the mid 50s.   Of those that clipped in at the start/finish at Pohatcong Plaza, 16 of the 18 completed the whole course within the time limit for a 89% 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.

Heading toward Milford along River Rd.
New rider Ben Keenan  completed his very first brevet with excellent style. Chapeau and welcome to Randonneuring!  

Jan Dembinski had the misfortune of losing his brevet card -- but then later Tom Dermody found it -- and then the card also escaped Tom's grasp. What was going on with that accursed card? Jan's result is under RBA review. Sadly, I don't think there is an ACP/RUSA exception that grants mercy to a rider hate dropped by their brevet card. The card needs to be filled out correctly and somehow wrangled to the finish for the ride to qualify.

Although the weather was quite nice most of the day, there was an annoying wind to contend with, and the temperatures did plummet at the end of the day. There was a technical gitch in the form of RWGPS weirdness toward the end of the ride as the route veered off 519 several times onto short, parallel lanes (some quite muddy). Riders in the know stayed on 519, but some were briefly delayed by this glitch.

And several of the controls were somewhat arguable. Who knew there were two historical markers in Portland within close proximity?! But the more perplexing info control confusion was the change in historical gas price at the Geo D. Garris general store. 

It seems that since the last time we ran the Stillwater 200K (in 2019) the gas pump at Geo. D Garris was "renovated" in a way that rewrote history. Those of us old enough to drive in the 1970s remember when the price of gasoline rose above $1/gal for the first time and older pumps were forced to switch to liters so the price could "fit" in the available digits. Like the moon landing and disco, this really happened. 

Pump in 2019 -- Price in Liters

 

Pump in 2022 -- Price in Gallons

Many thanks to Bob Dye who ran the finish control. Because Bob was willing to volunteer to cover the finish, the organizer was freed to ride the actual event. I can't even begin to express how wonderful that is.  It may seem like a small thing -- covering a finish control -- but the benefit to the organization is huge. Please consider volunteering to cover a finish some day. It's not hard and you are allowed to pre ride, which has some advantages (eg cherry picking the weather). Seriously, every event could use a finish volunteer.

By the way, Bob had a tough time on his preride, a failed headlight forcing him to walk several miles in from Belvidere. That's rando. 

Also thanks are due to Jim Bondra who drove down from Ithaca to deliver the most excellent PA Rando cycling caps. Jim orchestrated the purchase of these caps from Walz, which involved considerable back and forth to get the color right. Those of you who ordered caps for pickup, your cap will be available at upcoming PA Rando events. Those of you who selected shipping should see your cap arrive at your address in a few weeks.

Iwan Barankay wrote ....

What a spectacular day.  So great to be finally out on the road again with an ever expanding list of regulars including riders that come from NJ and DC to join our fine routes. This was my first Stillwater and now I know what all the fuss is about. I loved the virtuous routing along 519 to Harmony – really broke up the grind up that hill. I was glad we could ride together and I got this nice pic of you on the way to Milford. The first 100m were great fun then the legs "resigned" and the wind became gusty but all in all I can't believe our luck with the weather: black ice just a week ago and more snow the night after.           

Dale Houck wrote ...

Great ride today!  We couldn't have asked for better February weather.  And what a great route!  I really appreciated the flat opening 30km that allowed us all to roll together and chat for a while before the climbs separated us.  The downhill trend in the back half of the ride was nice too, even in spite of the headwinds.  Really beautiful string of roads throughout the ride.Thanks as always for your efforts to make PA Rando rides consistently excellent.  And kudos to James for delivering on the caps

Joe Ray wrote ... 

Thanks for such as fine brevet yesterday.  I had thought of the Sweet Hollow climb last fall and remembered that it was a really pleasant stretch, so it was nice to get back there and reaffirm how enjoyable that was for a morning ascent. The scenery for the whole route is terrific, but those north-facing cliffs of ice along the river north of Belvedere were better than I have seen them before, usually later on in March for the SR series water gap 200k.