Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Pagoda Classic 200K Course Notes

For the 2022 edition of the Pagoda "Classic" 200K, the start/finish has been moved to Flint Hill Farm.  The start is Sunday, 5 June, at 7AM. Details here.

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.   New for 2022 is the "bonus climb" at the end, up to Flint Hill Farm. Gotta climb them all!

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

Course Notes -- 

A pre-ride was conducted on 23 May 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 4, and the latest RWGPS route was modified 2022-05-24 17:57:34 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 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.  
  • When you get to Reading after the descent from the Pagoda, you'll be headed for 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.    
  • 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 Daniel Boone control has been moved a little earlier to the Turkey Hill in Birdsboro, which is at the point you exit the SRT to  cross the river. This is a great place to stop for a meal. They have indoor seating (and beer).
  • The course has many fast, twisty descents. Please don't ride faster than your guardian angel. 

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.