Thursday, June 29, 2023

Free Bridge 200K Course Notes ***UPDATE 2

Columbus statue at the start control

A partial pre-ride of the Free Bridge 200K North Loop, was conducted on 29 June Chris Nadovich

*** Then a final survey (by car) of the South loop on 30 June. Notes all included below.

Unhealthy air quality and the first taste of real Summer heat combined to make it a decidedly unpleasant day for a pre-ride. I only made it fully around the North Loop by bike. After lunch at Jimmy's I rode onto the South, but I couldn't muster the courage for Shire Rd, and completed the South loop using the towpath. (Then I returned on Friday to finish the course review by car.) As a result of these rides/drives, several important corrections were made to the cues. If you previously downloaded the course, you must update your route data. The latest cue sheet is Version 4, and the latest RWGPS route was modified 2023-06-30 15:10:06 EDT. Both are available online.  Full information and online registration link on the event web site

The bridge may be free, but parking near it isn't.

A formerly free, but now pay parking area ($10/day) is the large public lot behind Jimmys Doggie Stand on the NJ side of the bridge. Don't park next to Jimmy's itself, or adjacent to the bridge.  Go all the way back behind Jimmy's to the big lot by the boat ramp. Remember your spot number and pay at the machine.  There is a Port-A-Potty here that is reasonably maintained at most times.

And you can find free parking in NJ about a mile upstream along the river on the NJ side. You can also park for free at Pohatcong Plaza, as we do for Hope to New Hope. This is about 4 miles away.

If you prefer to park in PA by the bridge, these are all pay-to-park spots that require using the ParkMobile parking app.

Perhaps the simplest  parking option in PA is to use one of the municipal parking garages. There are two: the South Third Street garage, which also requires the ParkMobile app, and the Fourth Street Garage you can pay at a kiosk by the elevator or at the exit gate for long-term (hourly) parking on the upper floors. 

If you are willing to ride futher from your parking spot, most of Easton is unmetered 6th street and beyond. If you're looking for a real place to have dinner after the ride, and perhaps a pint to go with it, I highly recommend Porters Pub at 7th street and Northampton. Parking near there is free.

Because National Park Drive is closed, the original Northern loop was re-routed over Fox Gap, climbing the mountain from the South -- something I'm not sure we've ever done. If not, I'm not sure why. [Ed: Randi Nerde says we definitely have].  I found the climb to be significantly more pleasant than climbing it from the North. Fox Gap Rd is a very quiet country road with good pavement and interesting scenery. It takes you almost to the top, where it tees into 191 for a last little grunt to the summit and across the AT. 

Bill Olsen writes...

[A northbound climb of Fox Gap] has been done on several PA 200 rides (way before all you young whippersnappers took up Randonneuring) and the consensus was that it was a kinder and gentler climb from this direction.

The decent of 191 on the North side of the mountain is a screamer. Long and steep and twisty. Please be careful with this. I was maintaining 40 mph easily as I feathered the rear brake approaching each curve. Without brakes I'm sure it would've been 50 MPH, maybe 60 MPH!  Pavement is good and visibility around the curves isn't terrible, but please don't ride faster than your guardian angel, OK? 

After tagging the control at Delaware Water Gap, you will ride South on 611 through the Gap itself. This stretch of road is still closed. I expect the locals find this closure annoying, but it's a wonderful blessing for cyclists. You need to get your bike over two sets of jersey barriers, and beware of the debris on the road, but otherwise it's a glorious ride. 

Definitely look out for debris on 611, which is extremely sticky -- sticky, as in covered with sticks.  I saw two fallen trees, both easy to get around, but given more storms are predicted for the upcoming week, 611 will be stickier yet, I expect. The debris doesn't let up till you approach Portland. 

Below Portland the course uses the Pine Tree Rd short cut, which leads to Shady Lane. The upper part of Shady is a gravel descent. I found the surface to be in excellent shape. You won't go down it as fast as from Fox Gap, but faster than we could go on National Park Drive.

After returning to River Rd, the route follows our standard Foul Rift routing followed by the climb to Harmony. Turn off autopilot when you reach the Harmony summit, as you'll be turning right for the big descent into Phillipsburg for the midpoint control. The pavement on Marble Hill Rd is less than perfect, so this is a descent you'll need to take caution with. It's steepest at the bottom where the road ends with a stop sign at a T intersection.  Brake early.

After lunch at the Jimmy's control, the route threads through the city of Phillipsburg before it climbs over into Warren Glen and the climb up Ciphers/Shire, which is a decidedly steep and unrelenting climb. The descents that follow this into Milford are steep and twisty and end at a T stop, so be careful.

After Milford, you cross back into PA for a rolling tour of classic Bucks County cycling roads, all of which appear to be in good shape.  

As the course heads back North through Durham Forge, a bridge out on Stouts Valley Rd forced a re-route onto the steeper but more direct Durham Rd. Sorry. This is the final series of climbs, getting you over South Mountain, with the final summit reached at the end of Cider Press. Be careful on the descent that begins on Gaffney Rd and ends on Berger, which can be a bit trafficy. 

After crossing the bridge over the Lehigh, and our usual short cut through the Children's Home, it's back to the finish at Jimmy's (or the Sand Bar).


Haze masks the cooling towers of the Martin's Creek plant.

For this brevet, riders have the option of using Electronic Proof of Passage (EPP) with the eBrevet mobile app. For more information about this option, read the blog post here.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

The Electronic Brevet Card: eBrevet

eBrevet is an open-source Android/iOS app that serves as an automated brevet card providing control check-in on a randonneuring brevet or permanent. It maintains some of the "feel" of the traditional paper brevet card process. The app only needs to be activated at controls and does not require Internet data service at controls. Using the phone's clock and GPS, the app determines if you are near a control (within 500 meters). If a nearby control is open, you can record your authenticated check-in within the app. When network access happens to be available, the app will report these control check in times to the PA Rando server, which will be visible in real time on the roster page. When the event is completed successfully,  the app can automatically upload results to the PA Rando records, and generates a unique Proof of Passage Certificate that is sharable on social media.

You can find the app on both the Apple Store and the Google Play Store. Search for "eBrevet" by "CTNadovich".  Please make sure you are using the latest version of the app.  Control checkins or event downloads will not work if your app is outdated.

Detailed rider instructions for the app are available here. 

This app does not eliminate your need for a paper brevet card. 

You will still need a paper brevet card to start an event because the paper card has the start code required by eBrevet. Make sure you have the latest version of the app and the latest version of the events downloaded into the app. The most common reason a start-code isn't accepted by the app is because either the events cue sheet has changed recently and you need to download the latest event info, or the app is out of date.

Once you use the start code to start your ride with eBrevet, you can use eBrevet exclusively on the ride without needing to get merchant signatures, answer info questions, or take photos.  Just ride the bike, and when you get to a control, click the button on eBrevet to check in. Then ride on.

You also still need a paper brevet card to finish an event. At the finish, you must write your time of arrival at the finish control, and the finish code from the app onto the paper card as proof you completed the ride,  you also need to sign the card, and return the card to the organizer.  

In summary, when using eBrevet you must

  1. Obtain the start code from your paper brevet card and use it to start the app
  2. Open the app at each control and press the Check-In button
  3. After checking in at the finish, record your finish time and finish code from the app onto your paper brevet card,  sign your card,  and return the card to the organizer. 

Remember: if you are using the eBrevet app for proof of passage, at the finish of an event the following three things must be written on your paper brevet card:

  • Your finish time.
  • Your signature.
  • The FINISH CODE from the app.

If you used eBrevet and these three things are not on your brevet card, you can be disqualified.  Also, if you "forget" to check in at a control the app will always notice. You will NOT get a finish code. The app will give you a DNQ.  You must not skip any control. If you miss a control, you need to go back and check in (either with the app, or with traditional signature/receipt). If you skip controls you could be disqualified.

That is the basic plan, and we really want to stick with it. However, given that cell phones do sometimes fail, and software does sometimes have bugs, prudent riders using eBrevet also write onto their paper brevet card their time of arrival and "control check in codes"  from the app at each intermediate control  as a paper backup.  Writing down your time and these codes isn't required -- it's simply prudent. If you think your phone is about to fail, battery die, or the app is acting wonky, record all check-in codes and be ready switch to old-school brevet card control check-in processes (get merchant initials, receipts, etc...) for the remainder of the event. The RBA will not accept 'my phone died' and a blank card as proof of passage. 

Enjoy the blessings of technology in this app, but keep in mind that this is still randonneuring. Per our traditions, you as a rider must check-in at controls and must provide the required proof of passage for your ride.

Using eBrevet  is completely optional for riders at this time. And  it will remain optional for most "front country" events so long as I'm RBA.  If you want to continue to use traditional brevet card control check-in processes, you still may.

I believe the new option of eBrevet  is a fun and satisfying application of technology to our sport. I hope you enjoy it. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Jim Thorpe 600K (and TK 200) Ride Report

The Final event(s) in the 2023 Super Randonneur Series, the Jim Thorpe 600K and TK 200K were held in the Chamounix Mansion rather than the usual Carriage House. This was a welcome upgrade as the Mansion has more bedrooms, more interesting places to hang out that are well separated from the sleeping areas, and somewhat more secure parking options. It also looks pretty.

The Chamounix Mansion was a magical upgrade as Start/Overnight/Finish control.

Of those that clipped in at the front porch of the Mansion for the challenging  600K course, 21 of 24 finished (88%). On the Tscheschter Kaundi 200K, 100% of the riders, 23 of 23, finished in good time. Congratulations and well-done to all!  Preliminary results have been posted for the 600K and the 200K.  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. Given this is a PBP year, results submission will happen very quickly.

The weather was decent for a 600K. Certainly there was less issue with rain than the other events in the SR series, which all seemed to be held in monsoon conditions. Everyone was glad that the 90F heat on Friday had vanished by the early Saturday start time. The temperatures were moderate all weekend. Things got pretty nice on Sunday., and it only rained briefly on Saturday -- albeit pretty heavy in places. Unparalleled in their ability to find in the worst weather,  Nicole and Soph took shelter in Len Zawodniak's car during a downpour. 

Congratulations to our fourteen PA Super Randonneurs for 2023.

    Nicole Aptekar
    Travis Berry (2)
    Tristan Dahn
    Cecilie Gaffney (6)
    Patrick Gaffney (6)
    Benjamin Keenan (2)
    Chris Kline
    Bryce Lackey
    Greg Lang
    Brad Layman (3)
    Bill Scanga (2)
    Ello Shertzer
    Ryan J Stanis (3)
    Ben Thompson (2)

For six of these riders Nicole Aptekar, Tristan Dahn,  Chris Kline, Bryce Lackey, Greg Lang, and Ello Shertzer this was their first SR: welcome to Super Randonneuing!  Some of these newly minted Super Randonneurs are headed to PBP. With this tough series under your belt, you will have no problem at PBP.

Recovery position for a randonneur

Four other riders notched their first 600K, but without other rides needed to complete a 2023 SR.

    Andrew Crooks
    Jeryl Jamir
    Sophia Lofaso
    Humberto Sanchez

Greg Lang completed his first Pennsylvania SR series, including the 600K brevet, on a fixed gear, joining an elite club of very few riders who have ridden a PA SR series fixed. Greg rode the entire series on a fixie with no brakes. To our knowledge, this is the first time ever that audacious feat has been accomplished.

The man, the gear.

Pat and Cece Gaffney recorded their sixth PA SR, tying them with Greg Keenan and Guy Harris who have achieved this perfect and amazing number -- but, yeah, you still need three more SRs to equal Bill Olsen's nine PA SR series completions.

Unlike last year when only one lonely rider rode the companion 200K event on Sunday, this year there were 23 riders that clipped in for the 200. By my count, nine of these TK 200K riders were completing their very first brevet. Welcome to randonneuring! I hope you took note of those brave souls riding the 600K by your side -- checking in with them at the South St Bridge and other photo controls. Day 1 for you,  day 2 for them, 400K already in their legs. Newly minted randonneurs, I ask you: do you see a longer brevet in your future?  I think maybe so. Several of the 200K riders rode in from NYC to the start! I saw many strong riders in this batch of newcomers.

The South Street bridge is a perfect spot for a skyline selfie.

Some of the TK 200K riders provided direct camaraderie for 600K riders on their second day. Amanda Jones Layman completed her first 200K brevet as she kept company with her partner Brad Layman who was finishing up his third PA SR series. Ben Swartz from DC rode the 200K along with his brother Noah Swartz who came from California to ride the PA 600K.  

Also riding the 200K was Annie Gibson who completed a 2023 SR with this ACP event along with a PA 300, 400, and NJ 600K.

Congratulations to the Super Randonneurs, 600K finishers, 200K finishers, and all the riders attempting all or part of this difficult event series. And a super randonneur thanks to all the volunteers that made it possible.

    Ben Keenan (Gear Schlepping and cleanup)
    Nicole & Soph (Monday cleanup)
    CJ Arayata (Grocery run)
    Annie Gibson (Overnight)
    Ryan Stannis (Gear schlepping)
    Anton Linberg (Diplomatic liason)
    Walt Pettigrew (Gear schlepping)
    Len Zawodniak (Road angel) 

And of course Iwan Barankay as the tireless event organizer, who took time out from invading other countries to  work  50+ hours straight without significant sleep, taking on jobs he wasn't expecting to do, all without complaint,  and generally making sure the event ran as smoothly as a German train schedule (and even more importantly, Iwan compiled the finish results so they could be available for PBP registration ASAP). All kidding aside, Iwan, from the bottom of my heart I thank you for your service with this event. Without you, it truly would not have been possible. 

Well done and thanks to all these critical volunteers. Indeed, we couldn't have run the event without them. You may be tired of hearing it said, but vol...

Like the NPR fund drive that seems to be on the radio constantly. You know, the one we automatically tune out mentally -- selective deafness. Begging for help on rando events is almost like that, it seems. Unfortunately, unlike NPR, PA Rando doesn't have a full time paid staff and sources of funding from the government and special interests. We aren't Grand Fondo. We aren't Bicycling Magazine. Unlike those organizations, if you don't help out, we actually won't be able to continue with the events you love. So, no shit, in total seriousness, if you enjoy the kind of events PA Rando puts on: events in Philly, events that are accessible by public transit, events with low cost lodging options, good food acceptable to troubled, ethically constrained, and famished omnivore stomachs alike, with road angels that appear just when you need them most, then you, YOU, YOU need to step up as a vol... blah blah, <click!> hey Harold,  let's switch to Spotify till the NPR begging ends ... unteer organizer.  Organizers are people with good resource management skills, people who can solve problems, who can improvise, adapt, overcome. People who can take criticism and either grow from it or ignore it. These are EXACTLY the qualities most randonneurs posses. There's no instruction manual, but any rando who's had more that 3 hours sleep and  who's ridden several PA events should be able to figure out what needs to be done to run an overnight control or a whole event. Be an event organizer, or at least organize an overnight control.  Want to design routes, design a route! Take criticism for your design and fix it. Then organize an event that features your route. Wrangle help from other people. If you want these events to continue then you <click!> la, la, la, la... do you like PiƱa coladas...

...unteers are essential to these events -- especially people willing to be organizers of an entire event, or of an overnight control. If you are an experienced randonneur who hasn't been an event or overnight organizer (or hasn't lately) please consider giving back to the sport by taking on a significant organizer responsibility for a brevet We have the EM1000K coming up. This will need good volunteers. Is this your turn to help out?

We now return to our regularly scheduled ride report.

Even more photos here.

Ben Keenan writes....

Thanks Iwan, Chris and all volunteers (Len, Annie, all others and a sizeable bunch of people who pitched in) for putting together the ride over the weekend. It was a another grand adventure! The moments are still sinking in: rolling under tulip poplars in bloom, riding beside tall grass along the back roads, hearing the water running over the rocks along the Lehigh, feeling the stillness just before the sun comes up and it’s just you and the birds and the road. These rides have a way of filling you up at the same time they take everything you’ve got, but I think the filling up part is the one that stays. It’s bittersweet to see the series end. This was a really good group and thanks a million to everyone that shared the miles for your unfailing courage and good humor. Keep riding and hope to see everyone on future rides soon!
Bill Scanga writes... 

Hey I’m feeling that post ride life affirming stuff today and the randonesia is helping me prepare for PBP already. I wanted to thank you all for the hard work you do keeping this group together. What a great group. We couldn't do any of this with out you. I really appreciate what you do and look forward to being a volunteer myself. 

Thank you thank you thank you

Brad Layman writes....   

Iwan and Chris, thank you for putting on this great event. You both put an incredible amount of effort into this event and series. I am proud to have completed another SR series but sad that it is over. This 600 was a memorable one. I really enjoyed the route and challenging climb up to Penn's Peak. It was special to ride the series with old and new friends. Finishing the 600 and series with Amanda on the Tscheschter Kaundi route, surrounded by friends and in perfect weather has got to be my favorite rando memory. Hope to see everyone again on a ride soon.   Photos here.

Pat and Cece write...

Thank you for organizing the 600 this past weekend. It was a lovely ride. While on paper it didn't seem to be too tough, it really packed a punch. Particularly the climb up to the top of Penn's Peak. Our plan of going straight through went a little arry, but in the end leaving early on the second day worked out for us and gave us some valuable information, like sleeping is good. Many thanks again to you, Annie, Chris, Anton, Ben, Len, and anyone else we are missing who worked so hard to put this event together.

Iwan Barankay writes...

I want to thank all the riders for coming and riding. It would have been so weird if nobody showed up! Seeing you come in at night, feeding you, and getting (kicking?) you out the door again the next morning was a pleasure. Finally seeing you roll in, some in pain, many with smiles, and some with tears of triumph was just epic and a joy to see. It was also great that we had this nice space for you all to hang out for hours after the event to debrief and relax. I hope to see you all again at the next one!

Next, I also want to thank all the other volunteers who selflessly stepped in and went above and beyond. Special mention here goes to Chris, our RBA, for a continued vision for the club and its events and for taking a leap of faith by running the SR series entirely from Philadelphia.


The 2023 SR Series now in the books, PA Randonneurs continues with it's traditional monthly series of R12 events all of which will be free of charge for PA Rando club members. On deck are the Free Bridge 200K and the gravelly, climby, ultra amazing Grand Canyon of PA 200K that includes a stream ford (which may turn out to be nothing if the drought continues).  On the horizon is the Endless Mountains 1000K.