Prologue2019 will be a Paris-Brest-Paris year, and pre-registration groups are determined by the longest brevet completed in 2018. The longer the ride completed, the earlier you can pre-register. The longest includes any brevet greater than 1000 kilometers, so after a few trips to the RUSA website, up pops a new brevet sponsored by the DC Randonneurs, the Blue Ridge to Bay 1200. The route included some cool destinations from the Shenendoah 1200 (Gettysburg and Antietam National Battlefields) a run through the Washington DC mall, and two passes through Annapolis and the US Naval Academy. Count me in!
|Both bags arrived at IAD (Dulles)|
The first order of business was to assemble the Calfee, check in for the event, and head out for a shakedown ride. After a quick stop at a nearby bike shop for some CO2 cartridges (forbidden by the TSA) for quick flat repairs, it was onto the Western and Old Dominion Trail. A converted rail line that would be the first 28 miles of the BRB route!
|BBQ at the turnaround|
|This will work!|
Day 1 - Leesburg to Sheperdstown 230 miles/9100 feet elevation gainMonuments, suburbs, and battle fields
|Checkin and breakfast|
|My companion for the next 4 days|
|Nick Bull gives the pre-ride brief|
|Ready to go!|
|And we are off!|
A volunteer stood in the crater with reflective gear and a flashlight, and all riders successfully negotiated the first obstacle of the day!The local club would do an outstanding job supporting the ride with nearly as many volunteers as riders throughout the event. Many of these photos were provided by Bill Beck who was ever-present in rain and shine!
|On the W&OD trail|
|With the fast movers at the first control|
|Not many tourists|
|The only flat portion of the route!|
|Fantastic, we are finally in farmland!|
|Can't believe I missed that control!|
Happily a Dunkin Doughnuts was the first establishment in Olny, a quick bottle reload and breakfast sandwich later, it was back on the road. More miles of fantastic Maryland farmland, then into Pennsylvania and the next control in Littlestown PA. Another reload at the Sheetz convenience store and it was back on the road to the Gettysburg National Battlefield.
|Big guns near the Minnesota Monument|
|Many lives lost here|
Day 2 - Shepherdstown to Blue Ridge Parkway to Shepherdstown 188 miles/9800 feet elevation gainWildlife, National Parks, heat and rain!
|Sunrise on the road to Front Royal|
|$15 entry fee buys all the climbing you could want!|
|Many fantastic overlooks|
|Finally at the top|
|Paul and Your Humble Correspondent|
|View from Hogback Overlook|
|Group shot with Nick Bull|
Back on the road the route crosses a valley then climbs another ridge line before dropping into Fort Valley for the run back to Front Royal. Just in case the 50 miles of rollers and 3800 feet of climbing along the Blue Ridge Parkway was not enough to drain the glycogen from the muscles, the short 2.5 mile climb to Edith Gap with grades up to 12% did the trick!
The next control was the Valley Country Store and there were several riders spread out on the bench in the shade. Dan purchased a bag of ice and several of us availed ourselves to ice down water bottles and various body parts!
Here I would leave my brevet card on that cool bench in the shade. Luckily my roommate Greg found it and presented it to me while I was in full panic mode feverishly searching my bike/pockets for it before the Front Royal control! Thanks again Greg!
|Passage Creek in Fort Valley|
The forecast was for rain and thunderstorms in the evening and the building clouds were set to confirm the accuracy of that forecast. The temperatures continued to drop as the clouds built. That combined with a fresh sugar and caffeine push from the last two controls seem to breath life back into the legs. As the storms continued to build from behind, tailwinds picked up and it felt like surfing the leading edge of the storm. That lasted 20 miles before the storm caught up just outside of Berryville.
With the rain picking up dramatically, there was a school bus stop shack on the side of the road, seemingly a perfect place to jump into and change. Rolling up, no go, it was overgrown with vines and potentially poison ivy. With no shelter, I simply plopped down on the driveway of a farm house and put on the rain gear. Finishing up, a big brown Labrador walks up and starts licking my face. Happy that my new found friend was not aggressive I stood to mount up. Just then a bolt of lightning hits danger close (how close? the flash and sound were simultaneous). Looking down my new friend is cowering between my legs.
With the rain coming down in buckets, and Berryville just a mile or so up the road, I mount up and start pedaling, with my new friend following along. Another flash-bang and he headed back to his farm house and me with renewed emphasis to Berryville. The store was closed, but the pizza joint across the street was open so I hopped in and found a table as a huge puddle formed as the rain water drained off. Ordering a coke and a pizza, and figuring to wait out the storm I bring up a weather map on the phone. Crap! The leading edge of the storm had passed, but another and bigger wave of red indicated a larger cell was on its way. Just them my pizza arrived, but I gave it to a family at the next table and made a run for the overnight control in Shepardstown.
Rolling in at a few minutes after 11pm, the decision was confirmed when heavy rain and lighting broke loose again! Check in, shower, and another repeat of beer, chicken soup, rice, and lasagna before crawling into the sack and calling this day done!
Day 3 - Shepherdstown to Elkridge Heights (BWI Aiport Hampton Inn) 203 miles/7200 feet elevation gainFog, heat, rollers and rain!
Taking the longest sleep stop of the ride at just under 7 hours, but still on the road at 5:30, we rolled out into another foggy morning. While not an official control, the War Correspondents Arch in Gathland park was a highly recommended as one the Great Spots on the ride. Bill Beck was there to photograph the riders as we passed.
|Short climb to the Arch|
|Well worth the stop|
|Site of another decisive Civil War Battle|
|Dropping down from the gap, the clouds cleared|
The recent floods in Ellicott City caused a route change that was included in the GPS file, but I packed the outdated cue sheet. Trusting the Garmin, I continued on the route following the GPS track, but started to wonder about whether the Garmin or cue sheet was correct. Just then the ever-present Nick Bull pulled up to check if I needed anything. Why yes, an updated cue sheet would be nice. He topped off my water bottle and it was off to the next control.
|Karin and Tim at an Information Control|
|Another train stop|
The route continues through the back streets and bike trails of Severna Park and emerges at the historic monument overlooking the US Naval Academy.
|Clouds finally forming over the US Naval Academy|
|State House in Annapolis|
Leaving town some of the Fast Movers passed in the opposite direction, already completing their loop down to the information control at the Bay Ridge Community on the Chesapeake Bay and heading back. The route heads out of town and over the Spa Creek bridge.
|Information control at Bay Ridge Community|
|Sweet bayside cribs on the Chesapeake|
Back into Annapolis again, but stopped at the Spa Creek Bridge for a passing sailboat!
|We waited for that boat to pass|
Leaving Annapolis we head for the hills again past Parole and Crofton then south to Deale for one last loop and look a the bay before heading north and back to BWI. Again the route goes out and back along a two mile section of road, and of course the Fast-Movers are on their way back waving a hearty hello, blazing away, already completing the 40 mile loop!
The rain finally arrived near the turn-around and would continue for the balance of the evening. Hitting the control in Beal and downing a sugar coffee and a hot dog it was back out into the rain and dropping temperatures. Finally comfortable in the wool jersey, the legs recovered and the 64 miles (including two information controls) looked fairly straight forward.
The rain continued, and was coming down so hard at the information control, it was difficult to get the card out of the bag and write down the answer. Thinking it would be easier to take a picture, I tried to photograph the sign, but with wet hands and a wet iPhone I gave up and scribbled the answer and moved on.
A few miles later in another heavy rain, the Garmin froze. After pulling off the road and recycling the power, it finally restarted for navigation, but (operator error) did not record the ride data for the last 18 miles to the overnight control.
The rain eased off at Millersville but came down heavy again on the outskirts of the BWI airport. With a soggy and nearly illegible cue sheet, it was trust the Garmin and follow the purple line to the hotel. The last two miles along steep uphills with "no outlet" warning signs, there was nothing left to do but trust the GPS and put power to the pedals and hope it would end soon!
Emerging from the forest, and after passing every hotel brand known to man, finally the Hampton Inn came into sight, and with a half-dozen sleepy volunteers cheering this lone rider into the proper entrance, the day's ride was finally complete at 1:20am!
Check-in, beer, shower, food, and sleep and this day was finally done.
Day 4 - Elkridge Heights (BWI Aiport Hampton Inn) to Leesburg Virgina 128 miles/3800 feet elevation gainRain, rollers, and mental mistakes!
The BWI control would not close until 8:05am, so I set the alarm for 6:00am to target a 7:00am departure to try to get 3-4 hours of sleep. The result of three consecutive days of double century+ riding is general fatigue and a deterioration of physical performance, hence a 200km ride that fully rested may take 7-8 hours to complete will more likely take 9-10 hours. The result of three consecutive days of riding with only 3-4 hours sleep per night (or less) is mental fatigue that results in mental mistakes that can add minutes and hours.
Again waking before the alarm, and before my roommate awoke, I dressed, had breakfast and moved my bike into the hallway to set up and rollout. Here I made several mental mistakes the morning of day 4:
- Thinking the rain has been 'warm' for the whole ride, didn't need to pack my rain booties or warm base layer.
- Thinking it was 'only 200k' I didn't pack my battery recharging adapter or cable. Niether was necessary for the ride, but in that bag was the cable that connected the Garmin to back-up battery, and it was necessary and left behind.
- Somehow I packed only page 1 of the cue sheet that would cover only half the ride.
|First control, Historic Bridge at Savage Mill|
|Rolling along before the knee problem|
Checking the cue sheet for the next control, I realized the second page was missing! No worries, I had the iPhone and could track it that way. Noticing the Garmin battery was below 50%, it was time to plug it in for a recharge from the auxiliary. Ugh, no cable. OK no worries there were drug stores and phone stores all over Damascus, certainly one would have the necessary cable, so get some lunch then get started!
The Garmin 810 has an old USB connector that is not used in phones or many current devices, short story, no love at CVS, T-Mobile, Sprint, or several other stops. With 40+ percent of battery left, there was a chance I could make it, but without a cue sheet I would need to rely on the iPhone, and as long as the rain held off, that should not be a problem.
Rolling out of Damascus the heavy rain returned. The CVS in Poolsville was the next control and had a wider selection of cables, but not the one that was needed! With the rain, the iPhone was nearly useless as the wet touch screen was unresponsive.
Next up, rear flat tire. Well, at least one of the CO2 cartridges purchased before the event was put to use! Upon discharge the CO2 will freeze the stem and adapter, not normally a problem, unless your fingers are wet! Ouch, a small patch of skin fused to the cartridge and peeled off my fingertip! It was only a 8 minute stop before getting back on the road, with a little less skin!
Luckily the ever-present Nick Bull passed by between the Adamstown and Lovettsville controls checking on riders. "Do you need anything?" he asked, oh boy, "Yes!"
After getting a second cue sheet AND a Garmin cable, my navigation worries were over and all that was left was 35 miles of riding (the Garmin battery was less than 20% at that time)!
|Just over the Potomac in Virgina, just before the Lovettsville control|
|Rolling into the finish|
|Beer and plenty of food at the finish|
EpilogueUnable to stay awake, I gathered up the Calfee and bike box, returned to my room and promptly passed out! The Best Western had a surprisingly well stocked hot breakfast buffet and I enjoyed breakfast with some of the other riders.
Retiring to the room, it was time to pack the bike and plug in the computer and check into work and start the slog through hundreds of emails that had piled up in only a few days off. After a noon checkout the BW shuttle delivered me to the airport well in advance of my flight, so burning a day pass, I checked into the United Club to continue my day job!
Arriving back to Phoenix without incident. Tougher than expected, this was a fantastic event, special thanks again to Nick Bull and his team of Capital Randonneurs for making this one happen!
|Sweet BRB pint glass and finisher medal!|
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