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Ride Reports August 2006

'GET' RIde
July 22, 2006 by Rick O'Donnell

The ride from Walkersville to Gettysburg and back, passing through Emmitsburg and then meandering through the Gettysburg National Military Park before returning via a country tour through the fields and towns of Adams County, PA, Carroll County, and Frederick County, was led by Rick O'Donnell and joined by Jeff Johnson, Dan Trivette, Jason Ashmore, and Charles Wilson. Dan joined us from outside the club, while Charlie is new to the club. Jason is also on the mailing list, but not yet a club member.

The morning started out a little iffy, with a somewhat ominous-looking bank of clouds hovering over the western ridge from Glade Elementary. As we were getting ready to leave, a local woman came by walking her dog and expressed interest in our group. She was looking for a bicycling group in which her husband might be able to participate. Rick gave her a cue sheet for that morning's ride along with the Web site address for our club. After considering our chances for favorable weather during the ride, we decided to proceed. We were taking into account a forecast of increased probability of severe thunderstorms and heat by mid-afternoon, so wanted an early start.

We started out at somewhat easy pace, but within the first few miles Rick stopped to wait for Charlie, who appeared to be laboring on an older steel Pegeuot bike. Again, by the time we got to Links Bridge and Old Frederick, Rick stopped again to let Charlie catch up. After about 10 minutes, Rick and Charlie met again and consulted about the distance and pace advertised for the Gettysburg ride, and the availability of shorter social rides on Wednesday. Charlie agreed that maybe he should return to Glade and start his club rides with the shorter versions midweek. Charlie also agreed that he wanted to get an updated, lighter bike.

While Rick worked with Charlie, the other riders, Dan, Jason, and Jeff, had already taken off, apparently at their own pace. Rick pedaled on at an accelerated pace, seeking to return to the group. By the time Rick reached St. Mary's Seminary, it became apparent that the remainder of the group was gone and that Rick was in for a solo ride.

With evidently improving weather, Rick decided to complete the Gettysburg ride and return. All went well through Emmitsburg and into the Gettysburg Military Park. Rick took in the historic battlefield route (West and South Confederate Aves.), enjoying the sunny scenery, the rolling terrain, and the monuments.

Rick had a little difficulty with the cue directions and Mapquest backup map when trying to exit the park to the east (Sedgwick to Wheatfield to PA 134). He decided to detour out of the main entrance to the park on Business Route 15, connecting back to PA 134 south and picking up the route again. He spent the next couple of hours touring through the corn fields back across the Maryland line, stopping at the Village store in Detour to recharge. By then (early afternoon) the sun and humidity were high and the road was radiating considerable heat. Fortunately there were only 9 miles left to go to return to Walkersville. Rick and his bike finished the tour without any problems.

Counting a couple of minor detours, Rick logged 73.2 miles at an average 14 mph, which met the advertised ride pace or slightly better. Upon arriving back to Glade Elementary, Rick noted that his car was the only one left on the parking lot. Here's to hoping that Jason, Dan, and Jeff had a good time, wherever they went, and that they met their personal objectives for riding speed and fitness after leaving Rick behind early on.

The weather held up surprisingly well, considering that by the time Rick got home at 2:30 p.m. the sky opened up with heavy rain.

2006 Michigan National 24-Hour Challenge
June 17, 2006 by Bill Smith

This year’s ride might better have been entitled “Burnin’ in a Heat Wave”, as we struggled with a twenty mph southerly wind and a high in the mid-nineties.

I am beginning to get the hang of this ride, as this was my seventh time around on this beast—but it was the first time I’ve done it in such heat. Whereas I tend to excel in hot weather, we’d not had much heat this year so I was not acclimated and quickly accepted the fact that this year would not be about breaking my record of 362 miles, it would be about surviving until Sunday morning.

The 24-Hour Challenge is held in Middleville, MI every Father’s Day weekend. It consists of riding a 127-mile loop, followed by as many of the 24-mile loops as one can ride until about 8 pm, followed by 7.5-mile loops all night into the morning. Riders on the first loop must average 12.5 mph or risk being whisked up by the "broom wagon".

Headquarters is at the Middleville Junior High School, where there is access to showers, camping, food (in the school cafeteria), indoor sleeping (in the gym), and vendor displays along with various scrapbooks full of pictures, stories and results from previous Challenges. On Friday night we get a pasta dinner (all you can eat) and on Saturday morning there is a pancake breakfast to fuel up with before the fun begins.

I drove out the day before the ride — it takes about 13 hours from Frederick at the speed limit (yawn). My bed for the night consisted of a foam mattress on the gym floor and my trusty pillow. Usually I do not sleep well before this ride, but this time I slept soundly as I was tired from the drive. I went to bed somewhat under-hydrated, as I drank little during the day — this would come to haunt me on the ride the next day.

At about 7:30 am the traditional bagpipers begin their piping—I find it uniquely reminiscent to hear the sound of bagpipes, as it always reminds me of the feelings I experience the morning of this ride: anticipation, nervousness, excitement, worry (Did I train enough? Will the bike hold up? Did I forget anything? Do I have enough food/drink?). Spying around, I see familiar faces from past years - record setters John and Nancy Guth from Stafford, VA; 79-year old Richard Lawrence from Lexington, KY; 72-year old Lew Meyer from Berwyn, PA.

At precisely 8 am they send us out of the school for the first, long loop. We pass through the town of Middleville, where the bagpipers have reassembled and are once more piping. The photographers shoot picture after picture of the riders passing through town, as they will be doing the entire ride. We have checkpoints at 37, 71, 96 and 127 miles of the first loop. At each of these will be food and drink. I'll be stopping for several minutes at each of these today, as I've no support person to get me supplies so I’ll be filling my own bottles and getting my own food.

A southerly wind meant that it was important for me to hang in pacelines during our southerly progression until mile 71, where we’d be turning northwesterly again. I had to push a bit sometimes to hang in, and found myself emptying two water bottles in the first 37 miles (and still very thirsty). I knew I was not hydrated enough, so I drank a full bottle at this first stop, then filled up both of my bottles and headed back out to catch the next paceline. This tactic had its pluses and minuses, as I had about an 18.6 mph average at the 71-mile point. On the down side, I was having trouble breathing—full, deep breaths felt almost worthless as I struggled to get air from about mile 57 to 65. This was a new and scary sensation. I also had the recurring experience of goose bumps (at 90 degrees!) as I began to show the first signs of heatstroke. Because of these, I eased up and let the pacelines go ahead—they're like trains anyway, another one comes along every minute. I reached the end of the first loop with 127 miles behind my pedals and an average pace of 17.9 mph. My slowly dropping average pace would resemble the Dow Jones average after two afternoon loops of 24 miles, where the heat really took its toll and I lost another mph. I spent about three quarters of an hour off the bike that afternoon, trying to re-hydrate and cool off inside the air-conditioned school. As evening approached, the afternoon loop closed and the night loop opened. The sun got low and the temperatures dropped to a sweet 75-80 degrees. Compared to the afternoon heat, it felt like paradise. I mounted my Cateye and Nite Rider lights on my Trek and eased into the task of getting accustomed slowly to darkness. The wind eased to about 10 mph, but strangely increased back up to 20-25 mph (and remained there all night) at 10:30 pm.

I stopped several times during the night to get drinks, refuel, and grab some pizza from the cafeteria. I struggled a little bit with sleepiness during the night, but remained caffeinated enough to hang on until 6 am in the morning, where I decided that I just did not feel like riding any more. (Normally I ride until 8 am, getting as many laps in as I can.) I quit at 309 miles — I could have pushed for up to 22.5 miles more, but I just did not mentally have it. Physically I felt fine, just a little tired, and my parts were all as sore as one would expect to be after spending 22 hours on a bike. Accounting for the time off the bike, I turned in my mileage tag with an average speed of 15.9 mph, which was a only 0.1 mph less than last year. The difference this year, of course, was that I spent two and one-half hours off the bike during the period 8 am Saturday until 6 am Sunday, whereas last year I think I was only off the bike for an hour and a half of the full 24 hours (last year's temperatures were in the 70s).

On Sunday morning McDonalds provided for us a free breakfast (McMuffins) and the awards were presented for the top three mileage riders in various categories.

I finished thirteenth of about 60 in my age group (45-49 year old geezers). I heard a rumor that 1/8 of the riders stopped after the first loop because it was so hot. I even counted six cyclists laying in the shade by the roadside in the last 60 miles of the first, big loop. One person passed out in the school cafeteria and was hospitalized. On Sunday morning I saw a guy who wore the remains of an IV still attached to his hand (from a hydration visit to the hospital Saturday night). This event is first-class—there are over a hundred encouraging volunteers to assist event coordinators Diane and John Obermeyer, who plan to turn the event over to others in 2008. Police patrol the night loop and assist riders through the intersections. Photographers take riders’ pictures all day and night; the pictures are sent to us in the mail a week later with the results packet. Michigan drivers, for whom passing seems to be a competitive sport, are generally quite courteous to bicyclists, at least on this ride.

As I write it's only been two weeks since I left Michigan and I am looking forward to next year. I welcome any of you out there who’d consider joining me in 2007. Remember — once you do the first 151 miles (day loop + 24-mile afternoon loop), you can whittle away at the night loop (or even quit) and do as many or as few miles as you wish. It is a personal challenge ride, not a race. However, to put it in perspective, my 309 miles pale in comparison to the numerous riders who got over 400 miles this year!

You can check out the web site at www.n24hc.org and read Nancy Guth’s account at www.ultracycling.com/results/n24hc2006.html.

Yockatomac Trek 2006
June 17, 2006 by Ann Abeles

The longest and most scenic off-road bike ride in the Eastern US is the combined C & O towpath and the Great Allegheny Passage trail which runs from Washington, DC to Pittsburgh, PA, a distance of about 320 miles. Fred and I joined 25 other bikers for the 8th Annual Yockatomac Trek, June 17 to 25, 2006. The cost for this supported ride was about $1,560 for two. This amount covered registration ($224 per rider), shuttle ($20pp) from Pittsburgh to DC, lodging for two ($750) and meals ($360). (I probably didn’t add in all the beer.) You can get more details and history on the web site (http://www.yockatomac.org). It is a popular ride and is limited to about 25 riders because lodging is still scarce. The registration forms are posted in February and all the slots are usually filled in about a week.

We drove to West Mifflin, PA on Friday, June 16 and stayed overnight at the Holiday Inn (an extra $102 for lodging plus $40 dinner) so we could meet the other riders at the McKeesport Marina for the shuttle to DC. Secure parking was available for riders leaving their vehicles at McKeesport. A full description of the 2006 ride and overnight accommodations can be downloaded from the web site above. Other resources to this passage include: "Chesapeake and Ohio Canal", Handbook 142 from the National Park Service, "Linking Up" by Mary Shaw and Roy Weil, (www.atatrail.org) "The Great Allegheny Passage Companion" by Bill Metzger, from Amazon or http://shaw-weil.com/linkup/ and "TrailBook" Fieldstone Press, 522 Handwerk Road, Markleton, PA 15551 (available in many stores along the way).

Saturday morning we met the shuttle group at the marina, loaded our bikes and gear and were driven down to Thompson’s Boat Center in Georgetown. We took the traditional start picture at “Mile 0” behind the center and then rode our bikes out to Great Falls.


Starting at the beginning - Mile 0 on the C&O Canal

After some sightseeing, we backtracked a little to mile 12 and biked up MacArthur Blvd. to Rockwood Manor, a former Girl Scout Camp and now a county park and conference center. It was surprising to find such a serene place so close to DC. The rooms are air conditioned and dinner and breakfast were brought in for our group. Sunday we rode 50 miles to our next stop, Hilltop House Hotel in Harpers Ferry, WV. The best thing about Hilltop is the view. One would hope that someday the establishment will be better managed.


Ann & Fred on top of the world in Harpers Ferry

Monday, we crossed back over the Potomac on the pedestrian bridge to the towpath. We gathered for lunch at Dam 4 and then biked up the hill on the permanent, 4-mile detour around a short stretch where there is no towpath – and unlikely to ever be one due to the instability of the hillside. After the detour we biked on to Williamsport to the Red Roof Inn, our next stop after about 44 miles for the day. Since the weather was pleasant, we made a large circle of chairs on the lawn and had Chinese dinner brought in. Beverages flowed freely and we got to know most of the other riders better during this social evening after a day on the trail. Riders doubled up to get their laundry done using the motel's single washer and dryer.

Tuesday we continued on the trail and then biked into Fort Frederick to catch up on our history. Fred and I added the fort flag to our collection as it predates the Maryland flag. A few more miles down the towpath we crossed over to the paved Western Maryland Rail Trail and shot along into Hancock for lunch at Weavers Restaurant, always a treat. We continued on the paved trail for another 12 miles west of Hancock and returned to the canal at lock 56, about mp 136. After a day’s ride of 44 miles, we arrived at Little Orleans. We were sorry to miss having a beer at Bill’s Place as we waited for our shuttle up the steep 7 miles to Town Hill Hotel B&B. This nicely restored inn on old Route 40 has a magnificent view of the surrounding countryside. The Inn provides a shuttle up from the tow path so our van plus Town’s Hill’s got everyone up in no time. A few of the hard core riders biked all the way and got a cold beer for their effort. The food and rooms were good and our host, pleasant and accommodating. As the evening progressed we were treated to the sight of riders from RAAM (Race across America) passing in front of the dining room. Many riders stopped in front of the Inn to change bikes, or riders if they were part of relay teams. It was a marvelous opportunity to visit with some of these amazing bikers who take 9 to 10 days to cycle from Oceanside, California to Atlantic City, a distance of 3,000 miles. The contrast between our 9 days to cover 340 miles to their 3,400 was striking. Our camera must have been overwhelmed by the event as it died, leaving us without pictures of the rest of the trip.

The next morning, the 7-mile ride down 1400 feet of elevation to the tow path was a hoot. We enjoyed rolling our bikes through the historic 3,118 foot Paw Paw Tunnel and most of the riders remembered their bike or flashlights. The last bit of the ride into Cumberland was over a much improved tow path and into the new Canal Place. The crushed limestone was a major improvement over the mud that was the usual state of affairs on our earlier trips and nicer to ride on than the round pebbles used on the trail closer to Washington. Part of the basin has been rewatered, the towpath is paved and eventually there will be shops and museums around the basin at Canal Place. We stopped for some ice cream at The Creamery and finished our 52 miles to the Inn at Walnut Bottom, one of our favorite spots to stay in Cumberland. That night we all gathered in City Lights for dinner and a reporter from WDUQ joined us. He was riding along the trail, assisting on a special NPR report about the ride.

Our first daytime rain of the trip enhanced our enjoyment of the ride out of Cumberland. We left the Inn and assembled at a gas station about a mile away so our support van could follow behind us with a big sign cautioning that bikers were ahead. We hoped drivers would think that we were part of the RAAM! We biked as a pack for about a mile through the "narrows" where there is little shoulder, then left our escort and spread out on the very wide shoulder of Rt. 36. About 7 miles out of town, we biked 1 ½ miles uphill on Woodcock Hollow Road to the current trailhead for the Allegheny Highlands Trail (the Maryland section of the GAP). The road is fairly steep, but doable. By this fall this last section of the trail into Cumberland should be open and we could see where the work was progressing. The light rain/drizzle had stopped and we continued up the trail to the Frostburg trailhead which is just below the station for the historic steam train. About 10 of our group had opted to take the train from Cumberland and were due to arrive about 1:30. Some of the group waited for them while eating lunch, but Fred and I continued the ride up to the entrance of the Great Savage Tunnel, a climb of about 1700 ft from Cumberland. The view at this point is one of the major highlights of this trip. Mary Shaw and Roy Weil, who have been so instrumental in getting this long trail put together, were already sitting on the bench at the overlook. We ate our lunch while visiting with them and enjoying the view. The 3,300 foot tunnel is illuminated and a few miles later, you reach the Eastern Continental Divide near Deal, PA.

We continued on a very slight downgrade and over the Keystone viaduct to our Thursday stop, Meyersdale, PA, only 32 miles from Cumberland. Our hotel, the Main Street Inn and Restaurant apparently hasn’t changed much since it was built in 1920. The first clue was the price of the room, $36 for the room and two beers. A single bath served the 6 rooms in the hotel and a number of the rooms were interconnected. The hotel also lacked modern fire extinguishers, etc. so there was some discussion about emergency exits, but all went well. Because of the limited accommodations, a number of single riders had to share rooms. It was at this point that we were told, “What happens on the Trek stays on the Trek”. Other riders were at the (slightly better?) lodging available at Yoder’s Motel and Burgess’ House. A few riders were at the Donges’ Motel. The consensus from later discussions was that the Donges was terrible a nd the other lodgings were passable.

Friday's trip was easy and relaxing as we rolled downhill to Confluence where we ate our lunch at the River’s Edge, an excellent restaurant and lovely B&B. Then we continued to Ohiopyle to our B&B, 42 miles total. We were lodged in different guest houses in Ohiopyle. Riders that had made the trip before knew that one should check the refrigerators of one's guest house for breakfast items – often minimal – and make a trip to the market in town for extras like milk, fruit and cereal. A few of our group went rafting for a quick but wet ride on the "loop". Then we all met for dinner at the joint behind the Wilderness Voyager outfitter.

Saturday morning we made oatmeal with apples and raisins to accompany the coffee and tiny cinnamon rolls supplied at our house. Again we headed down hill on a very scenic ride along the Yock. For lunch Saturday, we stopped in the park in Connellsville. While we were eating, two men from the historical society told us that there was going to be a reenactment of General Braddock’s crossing of the Youghiogheny with cannon and musket firing and invited us to attend. Fred and I enjoyed being led down to the river by the King's Scottish Guards shouting, "Make way for the King's bicycles!" After the "crossing" we finished our 44 mile downhill run to West Newton, PA to the Scarsdale Cottage B&B. This Inn was quite luxurious compared to the lodging in Meyersdale. Our final dinner and awards ceremony were held at the Scarsdale. The finale was passing the flashlight, bicycle basket and Yockatomac Trek leadership position to next year’s coordinator.

After a huge breakfast Sunday morning, we set off for McKeesport. You could tell the participants of the “rolling” party were reluctant for it to be over because we stopped at just about every trailhead along the way. We also had a chance for us all to demonstrate our trail maintenance skills when we came upon two fallen locust trees completely blocking the trail. In very short order, two portable hand “chain saws”, one Swiss Army knife saw and a swarm of bikers attacked the blockage and cleared the path. We arrived back in McKeesport about noon, 18 miles, just as the rain started. People quickly transferred their gear and retreated inside the marina for a final party. The group wound up this 8th annual Yockatomac Trek with a beautiful cake and fond farewells.

Now that the trail is essentially complete and we know where the lodgings are located, we are hoping that in the near future we can put our bikes on the Amtrak train to Pittsburgh and then bike back to Frederick. This is a trip to repeat!

Hagerstown - Smithsburg - Thurmont
July 22, 2006 by Bill Smith

Laura Chaffiotte stepped in at the last minute to help Bill lead the ride, as he was away all the previous week and did not know if he'd attend. We climbed out Route 40 early in the hazy morning where we met up with Chris Borkman and Randy Buxbaum (armed with a gallon of water for us all). From there, we headed to Hagerstown, then, right on cue Bill missed a turn, which actually reduced the ride mileage by about five miles and avoided a couple of hills. We did not miss the MD77 climb from Smithsburg to Thurmont, and after Chris and Randy cut off to head back to Middletown, Bill and Laura met up with a quick, enjoyable rain shower in Thurmont. At the High’s we had some interesting discussions on group riding with some gentlemen on Harleys. As it turns out, there’s little difference between distance cycling and distance riding on motorcycles.