Ride Reports August 2006
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
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
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
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
You can check out the web site at www.n24hc.org and read Nancy Guth’s account at
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
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.