Monday, December 4, 2023

Hollywood Hotdog 200 Ride Report

Preliminary results for the Hollywood Hotdog 200K have been posted to the website.  Please review the results and let us know if any corrections are needed.  Results will be sent to RUSA and will become final pending RUSA confirmation.  Twenty riders, including three pre-ride volunteers clipped in for the final Eastern PA brevet of 2023.  All riders made it back in good time for a 100% completion rate!

Relatively mild, but damp, conditions greeted the riders at the start.  As the day progressed the skies cleared and the temperatures climbed up onto the 50's.  Not bad for December!  While the 8:00 am start provided a very comfortable schedule for the organizer to get to the start, it meant that there was little more night riding than is expected on a 200K.  

The route was a nice way to wrap up the year as it had a little bit of everything; car free trails, suburban meandering, Delaware River crossing, scenic farmland, and of course a major climb.  All of the riders seemed to be in good spirits as they came into the finish and satisfied with their rides.  Of note Michael Mauel completed his first Eastern PA brevet, congratulations and welcome to the club!

Some evocative pictures are below and here is a folder with even more: 

Iwan modeling his new helmet liner

Heading out on damp roads.  Photo by Matt McClone

piglets at Tabora. Photo by Ello Shertzer

Ben Keenan writes:

"Thanks a million to Pat, Iwan and Chris for organizing a great day of riding.  It was a worthy end to a great year, and a good way to clear mind and spirit before the onslaught of the holidays.  The stretches along the Delaware River were beautiful with the mist rising off (even if they did allow time for memories better bequeathed to a handsomely-paid therapist to creep in!).  I can also report the hills from Easton to the Wassergas General Store have not gotten any easier since the last time I attempted to, uh, “ride” up them.  Thanks to all the riders that shared the miles and catching up afterwards at the Iron Hill Pub was a great way to end the day.  Hope to see everyone at a ride soon!"

Joshua Han writes:
"Strangely warm December day.  Shorts weather though!  Foggy at the start and foggy at the end.  No precipitation but wet roads all day. Caught a puncture in the Southampton area shortly after leaving the unscheduled stop at the Wawa because someone (will remain unnamed) forgot their water bottles.  Sealant, well, sealed, and didn't lose much tire pressure at all. Heard a loud crash in one of the small towns on the Jersey side.  Pickup truck was not paying attention and crashed into the back of a minivan.  Lunch at a hot dog stand and traffic-watching at the Free Bridge tells you a lot about humanity (and their lack of patience).A small, delicious cider donut at Tabora Farms (and some free samples) and off to the last checkpoint/finish. Legs were pretty dead towards the end so thankful that the last few miles were downhill.  4.5 hours in the dark! Thanks again (and so much more for and to the volunteers) for another great day on the bike!"

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Hollywood Hot Dog 200K Brevet pre-ride report *** Update 1

Please ensure you know what to expect have the latest route uploaded to your device (or printed out on cue sheets) and the latest eBrevet data (if using). The latest cue sheet is VERSION 5, and the RWGPS file was last modified on 2023-11-19 at  to12:56:37 EST. RWGPS file and cue sheets can be found here.

*** Update 1

A second pre-ride was completed on 30 November by Chris Nadovich. The course was found to be mostly still intact. There was power-line construction on the end of Stony Hill Road (the ETM at mi 26.5) and this road was blocked. Probably they will be done by Saturday, but if not, you can  turn left toward the ruins onto Sugan Rd (where the cue says not to go), follow your nose, and this will lead you to a Wawa. Then right, and you'll rejoin the course turning left at the train station. Since New Hope is an open control, this detour to the Wawa would be marginally OK regardless. 

If you don't want a Hot Dog at Jimmy's, the Easton Farmers Market will be in full swing when you cross the Free Bridge into Easton. Mostly to the left of the bridge, they sell various overpriced artisanal refreshments, fresh meat, vegetables, baked goods, and woo woo gifts.  You'll also find a bunch of Winter Festival hoopla squarely in front of you on Northampton St to the circle. Follow the course, walking or hesitating as necessary to avoid pedestrians, Jersey barriers, and ice rinks.

There are a LOT of traffic lights, blinky lights, holiday lights, and busy road crossings through the final 50K of the course. Budget time for standing still waiting for traffic to clear. It will be after sunset for most of you. Light up like a Christmas Tree yourself (tis the season). Wear your reflective gear. And be careful you aren't mistaken for one of the many animated holiday displays.

 *** Original Post

A pre-ride was completed by Pat Gaffney and Iwan Barankay (yours truly). 

This new route starts in Hollywood, PA which is part of Huntington Valley, PA. 

We encourage you to take a SEPTA train to the start, which is about $5 one way. Coming from the city, you buy the ticket at a machine, but going back, you buy it on-board from a "joyful" conductor. 

A few miles into the brevet, you are on the Pennypack Heritage Trail (very hard-packed stone, so no challenge for any tires), where Pat Gaffney used to have fun as a kid with his mountain bike in the forest to the right. But now you are on a shared use trail with rules, so please announce yourself to the many pedestrians on the trail walking their dogs, who are invariably called Trooper, Cooper, Hooper, or Blooper.

Soon, carried by memories of the sad fate of the Lenni Lenape, you reach the first open control in New Hope. Perhaps find a coffee or a snack to prepare you for the walk across the Delaware immediately following.

Then comes 15 miles along the flat, featureless river road (aka NJ 29). Please team up with a friend here; or enemy; failing that, prepare music, an audiobook, or a podcast; otherwise, you end up like me, recalling memories I paid my therapist handsomely to forget.  

When you reach Milford, the true PA Randonneur thing to do is to get a bagel at Goldberg's right at the corner. Toasted bagels with cream cheese are fast, but fancier stuff with eggs can take a while.

Super special note. Be extra careful with bridges. Especially the METAL GRID BRIDGES OF DOOM. We emphasized them in the cue sheet: Do not ignore our warnings. Slow down. There is a bridge with such a slippery surface that I had to unlock unique ninja warrior moves so I didn't end up kissing the cold metal grid.

After Easton, the real climbing begins, so make sure you have gentle gearing on your bike and enough sugar in your thighs. Whatever glucose or self-esteem you have lost in those hills, you can scrumptiously refuel them at the Tabora Farm & Orchard control.  Restrooms are open (!), and they have a copy of the US Constitution in there so you can reevaluate how you feel about Shelby County vs Holder (2013).

From there, it's an easy finish back to Hollywood. 

Please be careful with the swelling evening traffic. Ensure your lights are on and don your safety vest before leaving Tabora -- even when it is still light. 

Monday, November 13, 2023

Hopewell Furnace 200k Ride Report

Preliminary results for the Hopewell Furnace 200k have been posted to the website. Please review the results and let me know if I need to make any changes. A total of 52 riders clipped in for the ride on Saturday (in addition to two pre-riders) with all but two riders qualifying. For ten of the participants, this was their first brevet—congratulations! Not an easy one to start with. 

Although the day started out chilly, the sun came out and the temperatures in the mid-fifties made for a great day of riding with lots of fall foliage and beautiful scenery. First finisher Christopher Maglieri 
finished the hilly course in an impressive 7 hours and 58 minutes, but somehow still had time to take a few pictures. 

Photo by Chris Maglieri

Volunteers Michael Reali and Sarah Johnson welcomed riders at the finish with vegan chili, for which all of the riders, especially fellow vegan Bob Dye, were very grateful! Additionally, Tom Keenan drove all the way down from Connecticut to volunteer at the penultimate control. Thank you Tom! Iwan Barankay helped at the start before taking part in the event himself, and I need to give a big shoutout to him and Chris Nadovich for letting me organize this ride and telling me what to do.

Brad Layman, the route designer, was also heavily involved in volunteering for the event, and I am very grateful for his expertise and knowledge and showing me the ropes. I got a lot of complements about the route, and it's all Brad's work, so thank him! Brad, Michael, Sarah, and I stayed at the finish past the 13.5 hour cutoff to see Diane Lenertz come through as the lanterne rouge. Chapeau to Diane for sticking it through and finishing in good spirits! 

Apparently at some point, someone in a car was throwing construction nails out their window so as to give riders flats. How incredibly rude and inconsiderate. However, I heard that Phil Luong stopped to pick them up. Thank you Phil!

Thank you so much Matt McLoone of Cadence for opening the shop at the start. Matt sent in some great photos! 

Photo by Matt McLoone

Nick Manta in his signature short shorts, photographed by Matt McLoone

Photo by Matt McLoone

Andrew Posmontier says: 
"We passed a cow in a field who got really excited and ran alongside us for the length of its pasture and it was so cute."

 Well that would've been the highlight of the ride for me!

Michael Povman says:
“Ello, thanks to you and the other volunteers for organizing this fabulous brevet! While challenging, this was one of the most scenic routes I've ever ridden - absolutely beautiful.  At times I felt like I was cycling through a gallery of Redfield paintings. A definite top 10.“

Photo by Michael Povman
Ben Keenan says: 

“Thank you Ello and volunteers for a wonderful day! It was cold getting to Hennigan’s Market, but that gave way to near perfect conditions, and most of the miles were imbued with the sense I get in late fall sometimes that I am stealing a better day than I could hope for. It was a beautiful road selection, especially through Berks and Chester Counties. Some good hills too; I think I saw some stars on the last hill before the Ludwig’s Corner Wawa. Thanks to everyone that shared the miles!"

Oh yes, some of those hills were pretty spicy! Says Gavin Biebuyck:

“Thanks Ello for organizing and managing 50 freaking riders!!! Great quiet route and good company all day. Those Nantmeal hills hurt!”

Volunteer Tom Keenan with riders at the Ludwig's Corner Wawa, photo by Gavin Biebuyck

 Mac Vergara, R-48 champion, had this to say: 

Thank YOU for planning and organizing the brevet! I had so many wonderful experiences. The PA Rando community is vibrant and welcoming, the route was a challenge full of rewarding views, and everyone I met was having a blast out riding with friends in the unbelievably perfect crisp autumn weather. This was my first time riding with PA Rando, and I’m looking forward to the next time I can make it out to one of your brevets!

Thanks for coming out Mac! We hope to see you at more PA Rando events!

Pat Gaffney says: 

Just a quick thanks to you, Brad, and the rest of the volunteers for a great ride this past Saturday.  The course was a good one and it was nice to see so many people turn out for the ride.  Sitting around the fire and chatting with everyone as they came in was a great way to end the day.  Thanks again.  See you next time.

And Bill Scanga sent in a couple photos:  

Fast fellows, photo by Bill Scanga

Bill Scanga's photo of a Wawa picnic, a classic PA Rando sight

Next month's brevet, the Hollywood Hot Dog 200k, will be starting at 8am to accommodate public transit schedules. It starts in the northern suburbs very close to multiple train stations, so it will be easy to get to. I'm planning on going so long as the weather is nothing like the weather on last year's December 200k *shudder*. Be sure to check it out, there's less climbing if that helps to convince you! 



Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Hopewell Furnace 200k Brevet Pre-ride Report

Please make sure you have the latest route uploaded to your device (or printed out on cue sheets) and the latest eBrevet data (if using). The latest cue sheet is VERSION 7 and the RWGPS file was last modified 2023-11-7 11:59:17 EST. RWGPS file and cue sheets can be found here:

Please make sure you have the required reflective gear and lights for riding in the dark (which many of you will have to do). You are required to wear a reflective vest and reflective ankle bands when riding in the dark, and you must have front and rear lights. It is recommended that you bring backup lights, especially if you are not running a dynamo. Thanks to daylight savings, you’ll start after sunrise, but if you finish after dark without the proper reflective gear or without sufficient lighting, you will be disqualified. 

For those of you who are new to randonneuring, I suggest you take a look at the rules and regulations on RUSA's website here: 

Rules for riders:

Reflectivity guide:

If you are using the E-Brevet app, please note that you still need your physical brevet card. You will need to write the finish code and time on the card at the end of the ride. If you don’t write a finish code on your card you will be disqualified. And of course if you’re only using the brevet card (no app) you need to get merchant signatures/answer the info question where applicable, as well as jotting down what time you get to each control. Please grab a receipt at the last control (Ludwig’s Corner Wawa) if you are only using a brevet card. 

Course notes

This route is a new one for PA Randonneurs. Brad Layman created this one and it traces a lot of roads that will be familiar to seasoned PA randos, especially those who did the SR series this year. Brad and I both pre-rode over the weekend and really lucked out with the weather but you’ll have nice weather too. 

The first control is a big supermarket. The cue sheet/GPS will have you take a right into the parking lot of the building and when you leave, you will retrace your way back to the road and cross to the other side to ride briefly on a small bike path. 

The bridge on the Perkiomen trail was still fenced off when we rode so the latest version of the route goes around it. There’s a wide shoulder on Gravel Pike but just be cautious as cars go pretty fast through there. 

At mile 52.7 you get to descend Oysterdale Rd. As always, don’t ride faster than your guardian angel! This descent is super fun but it does have some twists and turns so don’t go too crazy with it.

The Huff’s Church control is an info control, which means that there is no resupply on-course until the Wawa at mile 71.3. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find a natural spring right on the route at mile 45.8 (on Old Route 100 right before turning right onto Forgedale Rd). If you need water, this is a good place to get it. Otherwise there is a Redners slightly off of the route about a half mile before the spring. 

At mile 64.5, there is a gravel surprise! This gravel road is short, just 0.6mi, and the gravel is the same consistency of the gravel you’ll ride on at the beginning of the ride through Rittenhouse Town up to Wissahickon Avenue. At the end of this road you’ll turn right onto Route 562, which is a little busy, so just be cautious. 

Mark Yanagisawa, honorary rando, shreds through the gravel surprise

The finalized route has the third control at a Wawa, so again make sure you have the updated info. Be cautious as it's a trafficky area. After the Wawa control, you’ll continue south to the river and ride east into Birdsboro. Be careful turning right onto Center Rd (Route 345) and then subsequently turning left onto Main St. Main St can be quite busy so exercise caution as you ride through Birdsboro. After this you’ll take a right onto Shed Rd and start the climb up to French Creek. It’s not steep but it is long, so get in a low gear and just enjoy climbing through the beautiful woods. 

At mile 82.1 you’ll pass the Hopewell Furnace historical site, and if needed there are bathrooms/water at the visitor’s center. Be careful getting onto route 23 at mile 85.9. Luckily you’re only on it for a second but after this comes the hardest climb of the ride (in my opinion) so have fun with that. After the final control (the Ludwig’s Corner Wawa), you get to enjoy what I think is one of the best parts of the route, rolling through Chester Springs and Pickering. Be careful turning onto Route 23 as you enter Valley Forge as this road is busy and has some unfortunate potholes. Then you’ll take a right onto Gulph Road for the final significant climb of the route. Once you reach the memorial arch and turn left onto the trail, watch out for pedestrians as you make your way through the park and down to the Schuylkill. Make sure to give notice when passing and give them plenty of room. It gets real touristy up in here. 

Dusk in Valley Forge

Finally, please be considerate to other trail users on the Schuylkill Trail as you head toward Philly. Give notice when you are about to pass people and please don’t try to induce seizures in anyone coming the opposite way by using flashy lights. Yes, I have strong opinions about this. 

That’s all! See you on Saturday!


Sunday, October 29, 2023

Fall Neo Classic 154/200K Ride Report

Preliminary results for the 18th annual Fall Classic 200K brevet and 154K populaire have been posted on the website. Please review the results and inform me of any necessary corrections.  The results will be submitted to RUSA in the coming days and become final pending RUSA certification.  Twelve riders clipped in for the 200K,  and just one started the 154K.  All riders in both events finished in good time for a 100% completion rate of the very challenging brevet and populaire.

Andreas captures the "non-peak" Fall foliage on the route

 This was the third running of the "Neo" edition classic routes with an Easton Start/Finish. It was last run in 2021.

We were graced with unbelievably nice weather for late October. It was in the mid 60s at the start and might've reached near 80 in the middle of the day. Usually riders are shivering at the end of this Fall event, looking for shelter from the cold and a hot bowl of soup. Instead,  we all sat outside comfortably eating burgers at the finish and riders wanted extra salt and vinegar for their heat exhaustion cramps.   

Although a few people complained the Fall foliage wasn't quite at peak (see photo above), there were plenty of fallen leaves. Even without the full Fall colors, riders generally reported that the Neo-classic was just as scenic as ever. Scenic, of course, is bike rider code for a steady diet of hills to consume, the climb up Dyer hill just outside Easton being an appetizer for the many hilly entrees ahead. 

Recent PA events have had some mishaps as riders sped ahead of their guardian angels. Thankfully, this time riders were more cautious keeping their speed checked on the many descents. There was only one crash -- a slow motion affair involving Pat and Gavin. I understand that only pride was hurt in the tangle, if that.  

Some of the unique descents on this edition of the neo-classic included a descent of Fiddler's Elbow. Normally we would descend Lommanson's, but that road was obliterated by recent rains. There were also descents of storm damaged Mud Run, and on the 154K a "bonus" descent of Little Martin's Creek Rd, also storm damaged.

Bob Dye writes....

Toughest 200K I've done. This will make all others seem easy. There were ascents I had trouble walking up. As for descents, I'll be buying brake pads sooner than planned.

Tom Rosenbauer writes...

Congratulations on yet another successful event. I enjoyed catching up with many riders I hadn’t seen in a while and also meeting new ones.

Tom shares this video documentary about Columcille

Joe Ray writes...

This ride lived up to its classic status - I really did enjoy it despite some cramping that kicked in a few miles prior to Wind Gap. Thankfully the bar and grill on Rt 115 had all-you-can-eat salt and that fixed me up for the remainder of the ride.
It was a gorgeous day all around - full moon in the clear pre-dawn sky, stunning trees and scenery everywhere, and Goldilocks temperatures helped make a complete package. Having a chance to sit and chat at the finish cookout was great - thanks for sharing your patio with us! It was made even better when Ron Anderson found my “missing“ car.

Next month we feature a brand new 200K route out of Cadence Cycles in Manayunk. A big crowd is already signed up. Should be a lot of fun. Come on out and ride your bike to work up a good appetite for holiday feasting. Click here for more info.



Friday, October 20, 2023

Fall Neo Classic. 200K/154K Course Notes

Make sure you have the latest cue sheets, RWGPS, and eBrevet data loaded. There have been significant changes.

The latest Cue Sheet for the 200 K is VERSION 3, and the latest RWGPS was last modified 2023-10-20 10:39:15 EDT.  

The latest Cue Sheet for the 154 K is VERSION 1, and the latest RWGPS was last modified 2023-10-20 10:38:15 EDT.  

NIGHT RIDING may be required for many people on the 200K. You must have full reflective gear (vest, ankle bands) and adequate head/tail lights firmly attached to the bike. Backup lights are strongly recommended.  Riders without adequate lighting and reflectivity will not be allowed to start.

Course Notes

This course is a classic for a reason: classic scenery, classic landmarks, and plenty of classic climbs. Ho boy, are there climbs. I do think this course is the hardest 200K on our schedule.  I think this course is also one of the prettiest. So many classic views. I think I could see orange along the crest of the Mt Minsi ridge. Next week I'd expect a lot more Fall Color. It should be spectacular. 

The 154K is no easy ride either. In fact, if you choose this shorter route you will be treated to some special "bonus climbs" that the 200K riders will not tackle.

Lake Nokamixon

There also were a lot of creepy Halloween decorations. Giant skeletons are a thing this year, it seems. 

Please don't ride faster than your guardian angel.

 PA Rando veterans will be familiar with most of the features in this course. Except in THIS version, we ride them all backwards. The climb up Fox Gap (200K only) is a lot easier this way, as is the Mountain View climb. On the other hand, the Wind Gap (200K) climb is a lot harder -- and annoying with traffic -- in this direction.  

The Shady Ln / Pine Tree Rd "short cut" climb has been removed from the 200K (candidly, I avoided it on the pre-ride, so now you can too).  You can ride it if you want. It cuts off a little over a mile -- go for it. Follow one of the 154K riders -- I left it in that route.

With climbs come descents. There are several extended, steep, twisty descents. The biggest of these is the decent off the north side of Fox gap, but there are many others, some of which end in T intersections, some of which have vast sinkholes and collapsed guardrails. PLEASE DO NOT RIDE FASTER THAN YOUR GUARDIAN ANGEL. I'm not kidding. There have been some accidents descending on recent PA Rando brevets and I want the trend to stop. STFD! 

I think worst climb, safety wise, is the Wind Gap climb on the 200K. It's not _that_ hard, but there's considerable car traffic. Some of you will climb this in the dark. Oncoming headlights can be blinding. Be aware that the shoulder is limited in spots. Take your time. Stay focused. And if you feel unable to hold your line safely on the shoulder of a dark road, get off the bike and walk -- or just don't ride the 200K event!

The Columncil and Wind Gap controls (200K)  are untimed info controls, so there should be no reason to panic if you find yourself a few minutes past the cutoff at these. After Wind gap the course is mostly downhill. Even totally exhausted, you can easily make up 10-15 minutes on the clock over that segment into the finish -- AMHIK.

Enjoy the ride, and remember what I said about your guardian angel!  


Chris N

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Rusty Rail 200K Ride Report

Foregoing family barbecues and football games, a small group of intrepid cyclists clipped-in on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend to embrace the challenge that is the Rusty Rail 200K. Six of 7 riders (including the prerider) completed the brevet (86%), all of them documenting their passage with the new eBrevet App. Congratulations and well done to all. Preliminary results have been posted on the website.  Please review the results and let us know if something is not quite right.  The results will be submitted to RUSA after review and will become official once certified.

Temperatures were cool at the start, allowing the riders to crest the fist two epic climbs: Jacks Mountain, and Ulsh Gap before the heat and humidity set in. Sadly, Gerry Montague sustained injuries after crashing at high speed while descending Ulsh Gap. Fellow rider Brian Fitzsimmons was quickly on the scene to render aid and call EMS.

The five remaining day-of riders finished in regulation time,  and were able to enjoy the fine offerings of the Rusty Rail Brewing Company.

The start at dawn: how does this eBrevet App work?

Bryan and Gavin are the first up Jacks Mountain

Brian and Gerry on Jacks

Andreas on Jacks

Chris on Jacks

Gavin on Ulsh Gap

Gavin motoring

Bryan on Ulsh Gap

Brian and Gerry on Ulsh Gap, just before...

Andreas on Ulsh Gap


Here is what Chris Nadovich had to say:

Thank you Steve for yet another chance to tour the beautiful ridge-valley region of Pennsylvania. The climbs are tough, but they are separated by many miles of glorious spinning through the rural countryside. Certainly this is one of PA Rando's classic courses.  Thanks for creating the course and organizing the ride on such  a perfect day, weather wise. 

It's a shame such a great ride was marred by Gerry's crash -- the second crash on a descent in so many PA events -- makes me wonder about the insufficient speed of our club's guardian angel. I hope other riders take note of this disturbing trend and BE CAREFUL OUT THERE! Please, oh please don't ride faster than our failing angel. The next PA event also has a ton of descending, including a descent of Fiddler's Elbow. Please SLOW THE F DOWN. I promise that there will be plenty of burgers at the finish for even the slowest riders.

And, a note from Gerry:

I wanted to take a minute to thank everyone who took care of me and my family after Saturday's little incident on Ulsh Gap: Chris, Steve, and Brian in particular. I have a long list of injuries, expect to be back on the bike by the end of the month depending on the extent of how many fingers need surgery, definitely two so far. You guys typified why this is a special community.

Now if anyone knows a really, REALLY good bike mechnic / miracle worker....

Our thoughts are with you Gerry. We wish you a speedy and complete recovery.

Thanks to riders Brian and Chris for assisting at the accident scene on Ulsh Gap Rd. And thanks to Chris Nadovich for not dying on this ride so he can continue to fine tune his brilliant eBrevet App that is sure to be the salvation of randonneurs everywhere.

Join us next month, 28 October in Easton PA for the PA Rando Fall Classic. There is a 200K brevet and a 154K populaire.  Both courses are among the hilliest in our repertoire. At the finish, if you survive, there will be a Bar-B-Cue at CafĂ© Nadovich. Details can be found on the PA Rando website.


Steven Schoenfelder
Organizer, PAR Rusty Rail 200K

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Rusty Rail 200K Pre-ride Report

A pre-ride of the Rusty Rail 200K was conducted by the organizer on 8/22, and lord, did I pick a beautiful day to ride!  The route was generally in good shape, but stay tuned as there is a new detour for 2023.  After the Milroy control at mile 41, you will spend a fair amount of time on East Back Mountain Rd.  Do not let the massive piles of horse dung that litter this lane distract you from the potholes created by metal horseshoes in the middle and the longitudinal gouges cut by the buggy wheels along the sides of the pavement.  But do look up once in a while to enjoy the spectacular views.  

It was all rainbows and unicorns, with three of the epic climbs behind me when I hit the mandatory "Road Closed" sign on Miller Road.  PenDot did not consult me and decided to replace the bridge over Laurel Run in the midst of this event.  In the tradition of PA Randonneuring, I considered both a dangerous creek ford and an illegal closed-bridge crossing, but, it turned out neither were viable options.  Thankfully, the construction crew was not present, so I danced across the rebar, barely making it to the other side.

So, the route was modified to eliminate a beautiful but rugged back road segment, reducing route length by one mile and vertical ascent by a few feet. sure you download the RWGPS route after this is posted in order to have the 2023 detour included.  Trust me, you do not want to try to cross this bridge with Look cleats.  Cue sheet version 4 (or later) is the proper one.

After conquering the fourth epic climb that is Tussey Mountain, you are rewarding with a commanding view of Happy Valley from the Jo Hays Vista.

Entering the Sheetz at Centre Hall (mile 86.7) can be tricky due to high traffic volume in this area,  I elected to cross the intersection and turn left into the Sheetz driveway about 60 yards past the traffic light.

I used the eBrevet app on my iPhone to record my passage.  Believe me, this is the ONLY WAY TO GO and eliminates the need to hassle clerks to sign your brevet card or gather receipts.  BUT, you need to enter the FINISH CODE provided by the app on your brevet card in ink or blood.  During the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon 200k I got all excited about getting the green checkmarks on my app at each controle and neglected to enter the FINISH CODE at the end.  OK, the driving rain, wind, and lightning may have been a distraction.  But because of this omission I received a SRBAR (Stern RBA Reprimand), which granted, is better than a DQ.  So my final recommendation is to load the eBrevet app on your smartphone NOW so you can use it on the ride.  AND ENTER THE DAMN FINISH CODE AND SIGN YOUR CARD AT THE END!

Y'all have a nice ride, hear?!

-Steve Schoenfelder, ride organizer and scofflaw

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Pennsylvania Grand Canyon 200k Ride Report


The inaugural running of The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania brevet was completed by an impressive 10 out of 11 riders (91%). Congratulations and well done to all. Preliminary results have been posted on the website.  Please review the results and let us know if something is not quite right.  The results will be submitted to RUSA after review and will become official once certified.

View of Pine Creek from Colton Point

Although many PA events utilize “rail trails”, this was the first PA Randonneurs event that featured extensive sections of unpaved roads and was run in accordance with the RUSA “Rules for Unpaved Distance”. Riders had to endure a relatively brief but heavy rain squall early in the ride but were unperturbed by this minor inconvenience and enjoyed the unpaved climb through Letonia and arrived (although a little soggy) to enjoy the beautiful view at Colton Point:

After the Colton Point lookout things took an unpleasant turn.  I’m  sorry to report that new Randonneur Ken Cappel suffered a crash while descending the paved road between Colton Point and Ansonia.  Fortunately RBA Chris Nadovich was nearby and a very helpful off duty nurse was driving past the scene of the crash and rendered aid to Ken.  Ken was taken by ambulance to a local hospital.   Ken was alert and in relatively good spirits when he was placed in the ambulance.   More information on his condition will be shared once available.

[...Ed] At last report Ken was resting comfortably in the hospital. His injuries were "typical" for a bike crash. When I last spoke with him, he was in good spirits. Thanks to Bill Fischer and Jon Clamp for transporting Ken's bicycle (which seemed uninjured). 

After briefly stopping at the mid-point control in Ansonia, riders started to dry out, the sun started to shine and the temperature started to climb.  All riders were able to ford Babb Creek without incident:

Andreas Prandelli fording Babb Creek

After cooling their feet in Babb Creek riders had to tackle the most challenging section of the course.  It was repeatedly relayed to the ride organizer (using various adjectives) that the steep climb on loose gravel along Ritter road was “challenging”.

Fortunately, after the Liberty Control, the course is quite pleasant.  The route to Waterville was designed by PA Randonneurs founder Tom Rosenbauer for the infamous Endless Mountains 1,200k Grand Randonee.

First finisher Jon Clamp made it around the course in under 10 hours. Jon was followed by Ello Shertzer, Ron Anderson (in Ron's triumphant return to rando after a long break) and newly minted Randonneur Matt Gruner.  Unfortunately, about 5 minutes after Matt and Ron finished an intense thunderstorm rolled through.  Steve Schoenfelder, and George Retseck in true Randonneur spirit simply continued on through the horizontal rain.  I believe Andreas Prandelli was able to seek shelter at the McConnell’s store.  RBA Chris Nadovich (having been delayed by Ken’s crash) was in the middle of the storm and I suspect had to ride in heavy rain for about the last 3 hours of the event (but finished with a smile). 

Although he may have sheltered from the early rain, Andreas Prandelli turned right (North -- back into the Canyon)  rather than left (South -- to the finish) as he joined the Pine Creek trail in Waterville. Whoops! This was just about the time the skies opened up and that wrong turn cost Andreas about 20 bonus miles of riding in the soaking rain. Nevertheless, Andreas finished well within the gravel time limit. No extra charge for the rando bath. 

Ron Anderson Writes...

A great big thank you to Chris Nadovich and Bill Fischer for putting on this ride! I had a wonderful return to randonnering after a long layoff. This course had it all: 40 miles of unpaved roads, a control named the Burnin' Barrel Bar and a stream crossing! I simply couldn't let this opportunity pass me by. It was great reconnecting with old friends and making a few new ones. A great day out!  Photos here.

Steve Schoenfelder writes...

Thanks to event organizer and route designer Bill Fischer and volunteer/RBA Chris Nadovich for an epic ride through the wilds of the Pennsylvania Endless Mountain region. 

The day started in the low 60’s and featured scattered showers mingled with puffy clouds hugging the peaks of the canyon on a backdrop of blue sky. The roads progressively narrowed until we entered the forest on rock and dirt. The woods were misty and emerald with ferns, moss, and pines lining the way. There was beauty and pain in the rugged climbs, and chaos in the dramatic descents. I was glad to have a gravel bike equipped with knobbies for this one. Out of fear, I carried way too much water on my back and never feared thirst. 

Fording Babb Creek was an experience I will not soon forget. The current was fast and strong, as I grew tired of carrying my bike while focusing on not being swept downstream. The shallows came just in time; I was able to drop my bike and wheel it over the rocky stream bed for the last few meters. 

The hard work is behind you as you roll into the Liberty control at mile 87. After that it is all rainbows and unicorns as you descent back to the canyon formed by Little Pine Creek. Well, there was that rain, and later the walls of wind and water thrown at me by a thunderstorm while navigating the last eleven miles on the Pine Creek Rail Trail. All in all, an epic and transformative event that should become a fixture of the PAR schedule.

Chris Nadovich writes...

Thank you so much for creating this route, Bill Fischer. It's simply spectacular. As we rolled up the unpaved Letonia Rd, which seemed to thread its way through every quaint little glen and dell of the upper canyon, George Retseck commented that this was now his "most favorite road".  I had to concur -- a road sweeter than Sweet Hollow, for sure. 

The joy was spoiled a little by Ken's misfortune, but I was relieved when I saw that he appeared to have "ordinary" bike crash injuries. Still, he hit his head pretty hard. The helmet probably saved his life. We await final word on the severity of his concussion, but last I spoke with him he seemed OK. 

Fording Babb creek was a hoot. Just an absolute hoot. Fortunately I didn't appreciate the brutal gravel climb that follows the creek and was able to frolic in the water without apprehension, allowing the cool waters to restore my soul, and wash away some of my concern for Ken.  

But then, yeah, about that climb up Hurley Hill, Ritter, and the rest. Yeeesh! I was forced to walk up some of the more squirrely gravel, worrying that I was expending too much energy just keeping the bike aimed up the road. I was jealous of Schoenfelder's knobbies. The climb is doable on 32mm tires, but 42mm's would make that one section almost pleasant. Almost. Still, the rest of the gravel was very smooth and easy to ride on 32's.  

When you get to the final summit, and the control in Liberty, the remaining 38 miles are pretty much all downhill. There are some spiky rollers near Little Pine SP, but by then the previous 20 miles of coasting through the forest had me completely recovered.  I'm unaware of a longer sustained descent in any other PA ride. An absolute joy of a finish. Thanks again, Bill, this route is a keeper.

We'll stay "upstate" next month for the Rusty Rail 200k that start/finishes at the Rusty Rail Brewing company in Mifflinburg. This event is orgainized by Steve Schoenfelder.

And Bonne Route and Bonne Courage to all PA Randonneurs members travelling to Paris Brest Paris!



Monday, August 7, 2023

Pennsylvania Grand Canyon Course Notes V2


On 8/6 a pre-ride of the entire course was completed by Bill Fischer and Gavin Biebuyck.  Temperatures were fairly pleasant and all the wet roads and mud seen last week were dry. 

I completed the ride on 32 mm tires and, in spite of the dry conditions, I would highly recommend wider tires.  The loose gravel on Snyder Road (particularly the descent at ~mile 85) was less than pleasant. Gavin had 48mm tires and was much happier. 

Some additional minor cue corrections were made so please use version 10 of the cue sheet which was updated on 8/7.

Cell phone coverage was more limited than I remembered, the only place we had any coverage was in Ansonia.

Babb Creek was a little deeper than reported last week, maximum depth for the fording was about 18” (a rather pleasant experience on a warm day).

Chris Nadovich has kindly agreed to host the start control.  I’ll be at the Burnin’ Barrel for the fast riders (see previous notes) and will see everyone at the finish.  See you Saturday!

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Pennsylvania Grand Canyon 200k Course Notes

On 7/28 a partial pre-ride of the Northern section of the PA Grand Canyon course was completed by Bill Fischer.  By noon the temperature was hitting 90 degrees so I tucked tail and went home.  Before I wimped out, I was able to ride all the gravel sections of the course (excluding the Pine Creek Trail).  Widely scattered thunderstorms were reported on 7/27 and sections of the course were muddy.  I rode my gravel bike with 38mm (slick) tires which were nice for the muddy bits and the gravel on Ritter Road.  If the weather cooperates, I’ll attempt a complete pre-ride on 8/5 with my brevet bike and 32mm tires (assuming drier conditions).

There were no changes to the route but I’ve updated and corrected some cues so please use Version 5 of the cue sheet and the current RWGPS route which was updated on 7/29/23.

Other than the Pine Creek Trail, there are 4 significant non-paved sections:

1.       Cedar Run to Colton Pt (Mile 32-53).  This is the longest non-paved section and is a stair step climb with some short descents.  This section is better described as hard packed dirt with some short sections of well packed gravel.  There were a few muddy spots at the bottom of the descents. Note after you finish the climb and take a couple photos at Colton Point Lookout, you’ll climb a little more and then start a long descent to Ansonia.  This descent is steep and somewhat twisty.  There will likely be some mindless drivers coming uphill so keep to the right and keep your speed in check.

2.       Ansonia to SR660 (Mile 59-61).  This is a shaded climb with well packed gravel leading to a pleasant descent onto paved SR660.

3.       Stony Fork to Babb Creek (Mile 68-73) A beautiful, slightly downhill section with well packed dirt and a few short muddy sections.  At the end of this section you’ll ford Babb Creek which is currently about 12” deep.  The bottom consists of smooth round rocks which are very slippery.  It’s entirely possibly to walk this bare footed (I’ve done it several times) but it was much more pleasant tromping through it yesterday in my cycling sandals.

4.       Hurley Hill to Liberty (Mile 76-85) This is the most technically challenging section and has some moderately loose gravel on Nauvoo and Ritter Roads with a few gravel descents (don’t go faster than your guardian angel!). 

The start location is at the Jersey Shore recreational parking area off Railroad Street (3 blocks West of Bridge Street).  There is a Weis grocery store on Allegheny Street behind the parking area (and up a hill). My GPS recognized the start as 445 Railroad St. Jersey Shore, PA. 

Controls/Resupply points:

1.       Wolf General Store [Slate Run} Mile 28.  A well-stocked store with excellent made-to-order breakfast sandwiches.  If you’ve got some time to spend while they’re making your sandwich, go downstairs and see their fly fishing department.  If you’re a faster rider you may want to grab some extra food since you’re next resupply will not be until mile 65.

2.       Burnin’ Barrel Bar [Ansonia] Mile 57.  This is a country bar with excellent food but, sadly doesn’t open until 12:00.  For faster riders, I’ll be there with water (but not much else).

3.       Stony Fork Country Store [Stony Fork] Mile 65.  This is a small, Mennonite owned grocery store (there is also a small store at the Stony Fork Campground at mile 67).  They have a sign on the front door requesting patrons wear long sleeved shirts and trousers but they’ve always been pleasant to me in my cycling gear.  I believe this is a cash only establishment.

4.        Exxon [Liberty] Mile 87.  This is a veritable oasis with clean bathrooms and hot food.  You’ll be pretty tired when you get there so it’s a great place to get reenergized.  There are no tables but they have a lawn area on the East side.

5.       McConnell’s Country Store [Waterville] Mile 11and 115.  Another well stocked general store with a deli counter.  If you’re extra thirsty the Waterville Tavern is next door and has a good beer selection (or so I’m told).

As noted on the route description there is very little cell phone coverage on course so don’t plan on staying in contact with the outside world.  You’ll have coverage at Ansonia, Liberty and maybe Waterville.