It was a brisk and cool morning. The sun was rising behind the stripped-down trees to catch the morning mist rising from the Schuylkill just so. A rabbit hushed across the trail and a squirrel dug up a nut. Wait, that was a different morning.
Instead, fifteen brave randonneurs, some novices along with the usual suspects hailing from around Philadelphia, Reading, Brooklyn, and New Jersey, gathered on Saturday at the Port Providence Schuylkill River Trail parking lot in rather wet conditions minutes before sunrise. Twelve riders finished the brevet in addition to three pre-riders. Results have been posted on the website and will be submitted to RUSA after review. Please check your result and let me know if it doesn't align with your recollections.
|First of many downpours right at the start|
After a short rider meeting, in which I implored riders not to do anything stupid, the rain started in earnest just to make sure that we did not get our hopes up too much about the weather. There were also positive surprises in that the wind wasn’t as gusty as predicted. The wet weather and the hills which wouldn’t want to roll were the themes of the day. I lost count of the number of flats reported from the peloton.
The counter-clockwise Rotated-Yet-Another-River-to-River route passed by the Upper Tinicum Lutheran church where riders were asked to redraw a design with wet and clammy hands. It was a gorgeous display of dexterity and artistry - guess which of these drawings is by a German civil engineer.
After a second bagel breakfast in Milford, our newly minted RBA Chris Nadovich awaited our riders at the National Canal Museum with hot soup, coffee, and PayDay bars.
I think all the Wawas and Coffee places were visited by the riders on the route back via Hellertown, Coopersburg, and Pottsdown. A point of discussion was whether the muddy dirty trails would have been better than the constant hills but all riders remained faithful to the route. After all, hills keep you warm and focused. Amie Gibson, on her second brevet, got unlucky on a descent and had to abandon near Bethlehem after further mechanicals. Joshua Han and Daniel Oh also struggled with numerous flats and ran out of time and thus abandoned shortly after the Canal Museum control. The remaining twelve riders completed the course to be greeted by our walrus-moustached Pat Gaffney at the Fitzwater Station pub for some well-deserved drinks and grub.
The first finisher was Ben Keenan in 10:59, a time testament to the tough conditions of the day, followed by Max Atkins for his first-ever brevet. Congratulations Max! I wish I could say to Max that all our other brevets are downhill with pleasant weather but where would be the fun in that? The vegan riders stayed but briefly at the pub for lack of food options but I was pleased to catch up with all the other riders just as Bob Olsen finished in 12:48. In the end, riders completed the ride within a short span of time which made for a nice gathering at the finish control.
|Fitzwater Station contrôle|
Ben Keenan writes:
"Rain, hills, and 126 miles with people crazy and great enough to head out into it undaunted. It was a grand adventure! Thanks a million to everyone that shared it, and special thanks to Iwan, Chris and Pat for volunteering to make it possible. There is a solitude in the countryside this time of year that is as beautiful as a day of spring riding just different. RIP to my trusty Suntour downtube shifters that after countless rides and years of loyal service gave up the ghost about 15 miles in so the rear derailer slipped and stuck in high. Adjusting the limiting screw left two gear selections, 46-15 and 34-15, which proved more or less doable with a special combination of zigzagging/walking/complaining bitterly and feeling sorry for myself up the numerous hills. Special note to Max Atkins for pulling me along the later miles and to Annie Gibson for a really excellent ride until having to deal with a crash. Hope you are healing up quickly Annie, and hope to see everyone on the road before much time passes in the new year!"
Ello Shertzer reported:
"Thank you so much for organizing this ride!! I was pretty apprehensive about the weather going into it, and rightfully so—I think we only got a couple hours of respite from the rain in the afternoon before getting completely dumped on again. When we stopped in Milford and got bagels, getting back on the bike in a totally soaked kit was quite difficult, and I remember asking Erik to tell me that I could do it—I was fully shivering and teeth uncontrollably chattering. But once we started pedaling again, I was able to warm up pretty quickly. It was certainly rough at times, but I found myself looking forward to climbs for the warmth that they provided! And given the amount of climbing on this route, it was pretty amazing to actually want to continue climbing!
Overall I had a blast riding with my friends all day! We joked about silly things to take our minds off of the rainy misery, proclaimed our love for Wawa, and appreciated some really scenic moments. It was a lovely day of camaraderie and positive vibes.
Big thanks also to Chris for his hospitality at the second controle, and thank you Chris for not murdering me when I handed you my soggy brevet card 😂"
Chris Nadovich wrote:
I was very impressed with the equal measures of cold toughness and warm camaraderie I saw in the riders rolling into my "soup control" at the National Canal museum. I thought I had it tough on my own pre-ride with temps in the mid 20's at the start, but starting in a 50 degree wet mess definitely out-rule-9s my effort.
The riders probably didn't notice the small contingent of homeless people who were watching their arrival at the control. They would cautiously approach me between rider arrivals. All very nice people, I was told some facinating stories about the history of Easton and Phillipsburg. I had no idea that the owner of the now defunct yet still infamous Boxcar nude-dance club in Phillipsburg continues to be a pillar of the community and now owns the Sand Bar at the Free bridge. The things you learn staffing controls.
Anyway, I can assure you that none of the leftover soup went to waste.