Monday, May 18, 2015

The Road We Ride

As cyclists, we talk an awful lot about our bikes, and every component on the bike, as if these are the key to the cycling experience.  I am as guilty of this as anyone, and would be a wealthy man if I could have charged a client my normal hourly rate for the hours I have spent pouring over magazines and websites devoted to bike gear.  We also talk about our bodies, nutrition, and weight, and spend further hours planning routes to maximize or minimize climbing or scenery.  Again, I am as guilty, and likely more guilty than most, of obsessing over routes.

But once the buying and wrenching is done, once the gym work has been completed, and after the route is planned and loaded in the GPS, you hit the road.  And the irony is, the road itself is last thing you think about and the thing you think the least about, but it IS where the rubber meets the road and where the experience of cycling takes place.  And it is the experience of riding the road that motivates us to do all that other stuff and what draws us back day after day, week after week.  So I want to spend a few paragraphs talking about the road itself and how the road adds meaning to the experience of riding.

So, to start with the mundane, the experience of the road cannot be divorced from the road surface itself.  Whether paved or unpaved, the road surface itself makes a difference.  Most pavement, and unpavement too for that matter, is pretty neutral and hardly merits notice.  Some surfaces, like chip seal, slow you down and jar you with vibrations.  Worse are badly pot-holed streets, or loose gravel roads that require great concentration to ride (and stay upright) and are mentally tiring and physically jarring.  In contrast, smooth roads make you feel like a champion, gliding along.  One of my favorite stretches of pavement is Park Central in the Catoctins, which goes by Camp David.  The pavement is meticulously maintained and always glassy-smooth.  Even going up the steep pitches, the pavement is a joy to ride.

But the road surface is, naturally, a superficial and two-dimensional quality.  The first layer of depth is simply that the world itself is in three-dimensions and you experience the road not just as a surface, but as a tunnel or bubble defined by your range of sight.  The road is not 100 miles long, it is maybe ¼ mile long and wide, or less with curves and hills, reduced in scope by your line of sight.  When the road is broken into these smaller chunks, I find myself forgetting where I am because one ¼ mile chunk looks very much like a ¼ chunk on other roads.  I have lost count of the number of times I have climbed a moderately steep hill that bends to the left in front of a white house with a flowering tree next to the road.  That is just one example; there are so many chunks of road that look, feel, and ride like other chunks of road it can be kind of déjà vu experience as I momentarily forget if I am riding near, say Laytonsville or Culpepper.  And the beauty of it is that you get lost in those chunks, losing connection with time and place as you pedal along, lost in the immediate experience of riding that particular stretch of road.

Of course at other times your field of vision opens up dramatically to reveal mountains and valleys, rivers and streams, farms and forests, and all manner of scenery.  Those experiences, as magnificent as they are, pull you away from the road and outside of yourself providing a wonderful contrast to the inner focus of so much cycling.  Indeed, that inner pull is so strong that I often have to force myself to look up and soak in the views, and even stop to take it all in.

The three-dimensional aspect of the road is also seen in the difference between riding the same road in different directions.  Obviously if the road goes up a mountain, the experience of going up v. down is dramatically different.  But even on more ordinary terrain a road can have a very different feel depending on the direction of travel.  It is not just the terrain and views, but the relationship between one stretch of road and the other connecting roads on a given route that combine to make the same road feel like two completely separate roads depending on the direction of travel.

And there is a fourth dimension to cycling because the road becomes a kind of magnetic tape for cycling memories.  We so often ride on the same roads, even following the same routes on a regular basis, that the road evokes memories of past rides on the same road.  This is where Jeff flatted, I cramped badly right here, last time we rode this way Lane was flying.  Mostly the memories are funny, even silly; little things that make you smile in the recollection of past rides.  Often though the memories take on additional depth.  As you ride the same roads with the same friends over the years, you remember past conversations and how your lives have changed over time.  Three years ago you discussed a teenager’s problems and now you discuss how that child is doing in college.  Last year’s conversation about a bad boss is this year’s conversation about an exciting new job, or retirement.  Same road, same bike, same friend, but a very different ride.  And of course friends move, or stop cycling so much, but there is always some stretch of road where you ride with their memory for company.  That temporal aspect of the road gives emotional depth to the visual and physical experience of each stretch of road.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Ride Report: Team Not Lost Yet’s 2015 Fleche

Last weekend I joined 4 team mates, and about 56 other riders on 9 other teams, to participate in the DC Randonneurs’ annual Fleche ride.  The Fleche is a long distance, self-supported ride covering at least 225 miles over 24 hours.  Each team designs its own route, but all routes end at the same place – the Key Bridge Marriott in Roslyn, Va. – at about the same time, where we all meet for a club breakfast and exchange of stories.  As with all things Randonneuring, there are rules and formalities, and the rules giveth and taketh.  On the one hand, 225 miles over 24 hours does not require one to maintain a fast pace and the rules really do not permit you to finish early because you have to leave the final stop at the 22d hour of the ride and then ride at least 25 kilometers.  It is not a race, but you do have to keep moving albeit at a comfortable pace.  Also, being able to design your own route allows you to choose your meal and rest stops as well as the terrain, so you can ride the ride you want.  On the other hand, the rules require you to ride through the night and generally keep moving, with stops more than 2 hours long not permitted.  You also have to document that you stopped at the appropriate places to prove you rode the route, which means collecting receipts and keeping track of the receipts throughout the ride, which can be challenging as the hours and lack of sleep pile up.

This year was a new experience for me.  I have ridden three previous Fleches, all with teams made up of friends with whom I had ridden before.  This year, none of my regular friends was doing the Fleche, so posted an ISO Fleche Team on the Club listserve and was lucky enough to hook up with Jerry, who it turns out was also a friend of two former Fleche-mates.  Jerry’s team was two riders short, so I joined Jerry, Steve, and Jose to make it four, and we were later joined by Georgi to make it a full team.  The long DC winter and our conflicting travel schedules meant that I met Georgi, Steve, and Jose for the first time at the start of the Fleche.  I was a bit apprehensive having never ridden with these guys before the Fleche, but it turned out just fine.  We rode well as a team and got along great throughout the day and night.

Our route described a large circle northwest of DC.  Starting at the White House we headed west through Poolesville and Leesburg and across the Shenandoah River in Virginia, then north through Shepherdstown, WV to Mont Alto, PA, then east over South Mountain to Gettysburg, and south through the night through Thurmont, Frederick, and the Maryland and DC suburbs to Roslyn.  Here is the full map.

We met at the White House for ceremonial pictures and introductions at about 6:40 a.m. and then zipped up to a nearby Starbucks to get a last coffee and the first receipt of the day for our official 7:00 a.m. start.  We were sent off by Rando/Coffee friends Ed and Mary, and rolled out through the quiet streets of downtown DC and Georgetown and into the Maryland suburbs.  About 10 miles into the ride we noticed Georgi was no longer with us, and cyclists passing us told us he had flatted, so we circled back to help.  A new tire proved tricky to get off and on and suddenly we were behind schedule.  We also began to realize that the steady wind from the west/northwest was slowing us down.  On the plus side, the day was gorgeous, with bright crisp sun, blue skies, and blossoms everywhere.  The wind also kept the temperature cool, which made for comfortable riding.  We reached our first break in Darnestown a bit behind schedule, raced through the Harris Teeter to get receipts and a candy bar, and then hit the road for Leesburg.  The wind was really strong in this section, until the road turned a bit south and the wind was not in our faces.  We had a nice break taking White’s Ferry across the Potomac and then rolled into Leesburg for a second breakfast stop at Mom’s Apple Pie.  We treated ourselves to assorted baked treats – I had a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie and others enjoyed brownies and lemon squares.  Biking long distances means never having to say you’re sorry for eating poorly!  

After a nice break, we headed west on the WOD trail, where the wind again asserted itself.  After leaving the trail in Purcellville, we enjoyed a fast run south on Airmont Rd, made a short stop for another receipt, and began a several mile slog up the Blue Ridge to Bluemont for yet another receipt stop.  The scenery here is just spectacular, with the rolling hills of the piedmont framed by the Blue Ridge and the brilliant blue sky.  We had a snack and refilled water bottles, and chatted with other cyclists.  As we rolled out, we found ourselves slogging up the steepish climb over Snicker’s Gap with another Fleche team -- Team George Mason?  We chatted for a few minutes until our routes split, and enjoyed a fast descent to the Shenandoah, and then made a turn north on the quiet roads of the Shenandoah Valley.

At first the road was perfect; right next to the river, sheltered from the winds, and lots of birdsong (and a glimpse of a Pileated Woodpecker zipping by, and perhaps a hawk).  But as we rolled along we saw an odd warning sign that we could not figure out at first, but quickly realized meant that the road was about to become unpaved.  In general, that is fine, as many rural roads in the area are very rideable, hard-packed dirt roads.  Unfortunately for us, however, this road had recently been “treated” to a fresh layer of loose gravel, which made riding very difficult, slow, and testing.  The back tire kept slipping and the front tire kept sliding.  Jerry and Steve were agile enough to ride through it all, but I was more cautious and walked up a couple of short rises rather than risk a fall.

I had been feeling less than great most of the day.  In part it was due to riding with new folks and fighting with the wind, but mostly I think I had not eaten well that morning (maybe pie at 10 a.m. was not wise) and probably had not been drinking enough.  I began to cramp a bit on this section and fell behind the others.  Some Motrin and electrolyte pills, and the company of Georgi who hung back to keep me company, seemed to get me through this patch and we rolled as a group through the beautiful Virginia and West Virginia countryside to our late lunch stop in Shepherdstown at the Blue Moon Café.
We enjoyed a longish break, and some good, real food, before setting out on the next leg.  The break was good, and we chatted, checked in with family, and ate well.  Steve felt so good he had a beer or two!

Realizing we were still running late, we rolled out into the late afternoon for the run across Maryland and into Pennsylvania.  We all felt good after lunch and kept together well, although the wind kept our pace a bit below expectations.  We made it through the next two stops in Waynesboro and Mont Alto, Pennsylvania relatively quickly, although we took a few minutes in Waynesboro to eat a snack and put on our nighttime lights and reflective gear as the sun was getting low.  We had hoped to make it over South Mountain, and its steep descent, before dark, but we did not make it.  We made it most of the way up the long, steady climb in the fading light, but by the time we began our descent night was falling.  The climb was good.  I was the slowest of the bunch by a few minutes, but the chirping frogs and rushing stream were good company on the climb.  

We regrouped at the top and stayed together on the descent.  Our collection of lights made it pretty easy to see the road.  As night fell, we rode in an eerie bubble of our lights and each other, but with no real sense of what was around us or where we were.  It was a bit surreal and very peaceful with virtually no traffic on the road.  The descent was long and fun, and after a couple of final hills we rolled into Gettysburg for our late dinner.

Jerry had chosen an Italian restaurant he had used on a prior Fleche, and it hit the spot.  My spinach calzone was great, and everyone devoured their meals.  We then rested for a while as the staff closed up for the night and we tried to cat nap for a few minutes.  By about 11 we realized it was past time for us to go, and in fact we were running late enough that we needed to step up the pace to make up lost time.  We also realized it was getting cold, so we all bundled up in everything we had and headed out.

Luckily, the section from Gettysburg to Thurmont is mostly flat or trending down, so we made good time.  Again, the peaceful quiet of riding through the night made this a great section, and we rolled into the Sheetz in Thurmont for a rest.  We took a few minutes to have a coffee and snack before setting out.  By this point, our schedule was shot and we realized we might not make the 22 hour stop in time.  We decided to take a slight shortcut and follow the minimum legal route on the wide shoulder on US 15 rather than the slightly more winding route we had planned.  I had done this a few years earlier and led the way as we tried to make up time.  We enjoyed a brisk and fast run from Thurmont to Frederick.  

After a quick stop in Frederick to adjust a loose wire on my lights and have a quick snack, we headed out for what I think is the toughest section of the route:  the 25 or so miles down MD 355 to the IHOP in Gaithersburg.  This section is all up and down, and comes at the time in the ride when the legs are tired and the mind is frazzled.  I think we all struggled in this section.  We stopped to regroup and I simply could not figure out how to open my pill bottle for some Motrin; Steve had to help me out!  We were treated to a beautiful moon rise, though, and we knew the miles were ticking by so we kept on pedaling and joking to keep the spirits up.  Eventually, and finally, we got to the IHOP with about 20 minutes to spare.  There were a few other Fleche teams there and we exchanged greetings and commiserations about the wind and miles.  They all headed out and we finished our early breakfasts and gathered ourselves for the last push.

The last section took us straight down Rockville Pike and Wisconsin Ave.  It is very odd to ride this road, notorious for its traffic, in the predawn hours on a Sunday morning with NO traffic.  We pedaled on, keeping one eye on the clock to make sure we were on pace and one eye to the east as the sun rose.  The rising sun gave us a boost, but that was offset as the traffic lights switched from flashing yellow to red & green, but by this time we felt comfortable that we would make it on time.  The last run down a heavily pot-holed Wisconsin Ave. was highlighted with the sun rising behind the National Cathedral.  Finally we got to Georgetown and crested the final rise to see the Marriott framed in the sun.  Kind of sad to think that heaven turned out to be a Marriott in Roslyn, VA, but after 24 hours on the road heaven is where you are going to stop. 
We passed cherry blossoms at their peak and stopped for final pictures on the Key Bridge before rolling into the Marriott with 15 minutes to spare.   

Lots of other teams were already in, and others coming in behind us, so there was lots of chatter as we exchanged greetings and stories, and then began to sort through our receipts to turn in our paperwork.  

Finally, we went into the dining room and enjoyed a second breakfast and more stories with more teams.  After a nice meal and camaraderie it was time to ride home.  Jerry and I headed out and took it VERY slow through downtown and Columbia Heights.  Sunday was simply spectacular, and we stopped to peel off a few layers as the day warmed up.  I dropped Jerry off and pushed on for the last three miles to home, shower, and a nap.

All in all a tough but rewarding ride.  The wind really took a toll, both physically and mentally, but the scenery, the challenge, and the camaraderie made for a great adventure.  I am really grateful to my teammates for slowing up to let me catch up on the hills and when my legs were cramping, and I hope I repaid my debt by taking my time in the wind.  I also want to thank Georgi for the photos.  Every time I do this ride I am struck by how much fun the ride through the night is; so quiet and peaceful and eerily beautiful.  A great, fun time and a hard day’s night.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Voices In My Head

Last weekend I went out for my standard Winter ride from home -- through Rock Creek Park, Bethesda, and Potomac to Riley's Lock.  It is about 50 miles, and I know the route completely by heart so all I have to do is ride, pay attention to traffic, and think.  And that brought to mind a question several people have asked me over the years: What do you think about on those longer rides?  I usually laugh and say Nothing!  Which is kind of true, because the question is usually asked with the implied premise that I will be thinking over some knotty legal issue or mulling over some other deep thought.  In fact, there is a constant stream of little, flitting thoughts running through my head that really don't amount to much at the end of the day.  It is kind of like a dream state where the mind runs free and is not held accountable for its thoughts.  Honestly, it is one of the great things about cycling.

Nonetheless, I decided to ruin it and try to depict what I think about in numeric terms that gives an utterly false sense of precision.  Here, in mathematically imprecise terms, is what I think about when I ride:

Of course, the percentages and mix of topics vary with the ride.  I rarely thought about How Much Longer or Farther on my ride on Sunday when I felt good and knew the route well.  So the Voices in My Head expanded to fill that space.  Depending on the ride, my mood, my overall mental/stress state, the percentages and mix of topics will vary, but these pretty much cover the thoughts I have.  Here is a brief annotation to explain these categories a bit.

Talking with Riding Friends or The Voices in My Head.  One of the joys of riding with friends is the intermittent conversations about each others lives, cycling, the route, rest stops, and so on.  Riding with the same friends naturally adds a depth to the conversations, as with any friendship.  Riding alone, however, means that you have fill that space with your own thoughts, and that can be a scary place.  I generally find myself racing through all kinds of random thoughts, rarely able to sustain a single thread very long, and certainly not to any kind of logical solution.  I will also get snippets of songs stuck in my head, usually prompted by my mood or something I see by the road.  Like I said, it kind of a dream state.

How much longer/farther to …  I am surprised how much time I spend on longer rides trying, and failing, to do basic math to figure out how much farther will this hill last, or when will I get to the next stop.  This is a particular problem when I am not feeling good, or the weather has turned bad.  I have learned that this is a sign to stop and get something to eat right away.

Wow.  That is beautiful.  I do spend a lot of time looking at the scenery, scanning the horizon for birds, and trying to enjoy where I am.  And I am lucky to ride in scenic areas, so there is always something to look at.  Getting out into the countryside is one of the big appeals about cycling long distances.

The F word, grunts, and other expletives.  I am not proud of this, but on almost every ride I will huff and puff up some hill and gasp out some Anglo-Saxon expletive.  It is not always pretty out there.

Thoughts of Unworthiness.  A related theme, and part of the Voices in My Head, are thoughts of unworthiness.  Sometimes, particularly after sputtering out a four letter expletive, the thoughts are focused on my slow cycling and inability to get faster.  Other times, the Voices take this thread into more personal and depressing territory.  All part of the dream state, I guess.

Guilt and Regrets.  I am Jewish.

I feel AWESOME.  There are times on a ride -- sometimes long stretches, sometimes a few moments -- when I feel fantastic.  Like I could turn Pro fantastic.  It may be the weather, the scenery, the company, or all of it, but it is a time of sheer joy.

I feel like SHIT.  Other times, not so much.

FB Post about the Ride.  Oh vanity.  Yes, thinking about what I will say about the ride occupies an embarrassing percentage of my thoughts.

I want to stop.  Another thought-string in the negative thought series.  Luckily this thought rarely lasts long and usually is blotted out by the good feelings.  But I can't deny it is there.

What is that sound?  Sometimes I start hearing a mysterious click or squeak coming from the bike.  Usually it is nothing, or easily explainable, but this often becomes a focal point for worry.  This is usually a sign that I am tired or hungry, and stopping to eat usually makes the "sound" go away.

Am I lost?  On long rides where I have fallen out of the group, this is another negative thought string that crops up.  It is irrational.  I have a cue sheet, I have a GPS, I usually know the route reasonably well.  But, the thought is there anyway.

Family and Life.  It is not all about the ride, and I do think about my family and life, but not as much as I care to admit.

Thoughts I think are profound.  Sometimes I think I have great ideas and profound insights.  On further reflection, I am usually wrong.

You are OK.  Keep pedaling.  When I am going slower than I think I should, or it is just a hard day, I have to remind myself that I am fine.  I am not bleeding, cramping, hallucinating, or suffering from any actual physical ailment.  I am just working hard.  And that is ok.  Usually this works, I can relax, and soon enough I am feeling awesome.
Work.  It is always there.

If I could just get my wheels to spin as fast as my mind, I could turn pro. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Errandonee 2015

My friend Mary organizes an "Errandonnee" every year, latish in the Winter.  The term "errandonnee" is a play on the words "randonnee," which is an organized long distance bike ride of 1200 kilometers in 90 hours, and "errand," which is, well, an errand.  The Errandonnee is a bit easier than a randonnee: bike at least 30 miles and finish 12 errands in 12 days covering at least 7 of 9 prescribed categories between March 5-16.  It is actually harder than it seems because of the category requirement.  You can't just ride to work every day, and maybe stop at a bunch of different stores on the way home.  The upside is that it pushes you to use your bike in new ways.  Or, if you are a lawyer like me, it encourages you to redefine the term "errand" and get creative with the categories.  It is a lot of fun and I look forward to it every year.

To prove I completed the event, I completed the a "control" card Mary created to document my errands, and took a photograph of each errand.  I forgot to take a photograph a couple of times, so let's just say I have a photograph closely associated with each errand, many of which were actually taken on the errand.  In any event, here is my control card, with bonus commentary and photos.

Errandonnee 2015: Errand by Errand

Errand 1

I started the Errandonnee on my back foot because we had the heaviest snowfall of the year on the first day and I am simply afraid to ride on anything like ice or snow.  In fact, that fear, plus a bit of travel, had kept me off the bike for almost three weeks.  So on Sunday, feeling desperate for a ride and an errand I dabbled with the Dark Side and went for a nice 50 mile ride and by lawyerly sleight of hand, called it an errand; you know, to "pick up" some mental and physical health.  You can see my route here.
Category:Non-Store Errand       Destination:  Riley’s Lock

What I learned/observation:  I went for a bike ride to get my happy place after two+ weeks off the bike.  I learned I can still ride a bike.  I saw two spectacular Broad Winged Hawks in Rock Creek Park and a Pileated Woodpecker in a snow covered copse off Esworthy in Potomac.

Miles:           52               Date:     Sunday, 3-8-2015                            

Snowy Historical Marker at Riley's Lock
Snowy Stairs up to the Tow Path

Errand 2

With that out of my system, and the weather improving to near-seasonal temperatures, I could settle into more normal errandoneeing, starting with a ride to the dry cleaners Monday morning.

Category: Personal Business        Destination:  Carriage House Dry Cleaners

What I learned/observation:  Potholes and a bit of ice are still lurking in the early morning hours.  And you can stuff an amazing amount of dirty laundry in panniers.

Miles:         0.3                Date:     Monday, 3/9/2015   

Carriage House Cleaners, Takoma Park

 Errand 3 
That evening I stopped at the bank on my way home.  I felt bad about this one because it broke one of my personal Errandonnee rules.  Because I bike to work almost every day, I want my Errandonnee errands to require some deviation from my normal commuting route, and I count only the miles of the deviation.  But, I was tired, and really had to get to the bank, so I stopped at the ATM right on on the route. 

Category: Personal Business                                 Destination:  Bank

What I learned/observation:  Warm weather!  Shorts!  Short sleeves!  I think I biked much faster with fewer layers.  Whatever, it felt great!

Miles:          6                      Date:  Monday, 3/9/2015
Takoma SunTrust ATM

Errand 4
Tuesday was another workaday day of errands.  I decided to count my commute as an errand today. 

Work or Volunteering Destination:  Work (Farragut Sq.)

What I learned/observation:  Despite the warm temperatures and rain, there are still some surprise piles of filthy, gritty, snow, or “snirt”, in the bike lanes.  (FYI: Snirt is that mix of dirt and snow by the side of the road that just won't melt).

Miles:        6.5                Date:         Monday, 3/9/2015    

A bit of stubborn snow on our North-facing front yard

Errand 5
That night I went by CVS to pick up a few things, although they did not have everything we needed.  No drama, but was very frustrated that CVS in Takoma has no accommodation for bikes. 

Category: Store (includes bike shop, grocery store, etc. You know, a store.)     Destination:  CVS

What I learned/observation: CVS no longer carries Q-Tip brand cotton swabs, which is sad because CVS brand swabs are not the same as the real thing.  Also, the Takoma CVS has no bike parking.

Miles:             .5                Date:         Monday, 3/9/2015      
Deluxe Locking Station at CVS
The VIP Bike Lot at CVS

Errand 6 
The next night I was not sure if I would get an errand in, but a last minute text message from my son asking for ketchup saved the errandonnee!  And off to CVS I went.  It had started to rain, so I metroed to Takoma and then biked to CVS and home.
Category: Store                                                                    Destination:  CVS Part 2

What I learned/observation: Last minute call for catsup/ketchup let me pick up another errandonnee errand.  Forgot a lock, though, so I pretended my bike was a horse and tied it up with my helmet straps and a Velcro strip.  That high security, or maybe the rain, deterred theft and my bike was waiting for me when I finished my errandonneeing.

Miles:       1                         Date:  Tuesday, 3/10/2015      


Errand 7
The next night I counted my ride home as an errand and was treated to mild temperatures and striking sunset.

Category: Work/Volunteering                                            Destination:  Home from Work

What I learned/observation:  Beautiful sunset tonight.

Miles:      6.8                       Date: Wednesday, 3/11/2015   
Blurry Sunset
Better Sunset

Errand 8
The next night was an extra-special errand: a trip to the liquor store (a treat in itself) to buy six single malt whiskeys for a scotch tasting we were hosting that weekend.  Lots of fun shopping, and then figuring out how to pack the bottles into my panniers.  The clerks and other customers were highly amused, although I am not sure if they were laughing with me or at me.  

Category:  You carried WHAT on your bike?!                     Destination:  S&A Liquors

What I learned/observation:  We are hosting a Single Malt Scotch tasting on Friday so I had to pick up 6 bottles of whiskey on my way home.  Took some advanced geometry to get them into my panniers, but it worked.

Miles:      .3                        Date:   Thursday, 3/12/2015                         Destination:

Now You Don't
Now You See Them

Errand 9
Friday morning means Friday Coffee Club at ME Swings, near the White House.  Mary and husband Ed started FCC a few years ago as an informal weekly gathering of DC bike commuters, bloggers, and twitterers.   I used to be a FCC regular, but Fridays are often deadline days, so I typically try to get into work early and my FCC attendance slid from regular to occasional to "who is that guy?"  The Errandonnee inspired me to make the effort this week, and I was glad I did

Category: Social Call                                             Destination: Friday Coffee Club

What I learned/observation: I need to make a greater effort to come to FCC!

Miles:          1                        Date:     3/13/2015                               

This is a B-roll shot I stole from Rudy.
FCC Still Life

Errand 10
Friday night was the Scotch tasting so I left work a bit early to help get ready.  As I walked out of the office I saw a flower stand and bought some roses for the table.  Errandonnee score!  Good husband points too!

Category: Wild Card                                                      Destination:  Home with flowers

What I learned/observation:  Stopped to get flowers for a scotch whiskey tasting we hosted.  Flowers in your panniers make the bike ride more fun, no doubt.

Miles:    6.5                             Date:       Friday, 3/13/2015     

Reenactment of Roses Errandonnee

Errand 11
Sunday I had a big ride planned.  A new biking friend, Hamid, and I planned to pre-ride a 200k brevet for the DC Randonneurs.  Hamid was the ride organizer so he needed to pre-ride the route.  I had a conflict the day of the official ride, so Hamid let me tag along.  This turned out to be a very tough ride, with strong, 20 mph headwinds for the first 55 or so miles.  Plus, this is a very hilly route with a lot of difficult climbing over the Catoctins, South Mountain, and the Blue Ridge in the first 30 miles.  After that, you only have about 88 miles to ride!  I stretched a point or two in the Errandonnee rules and counted the ride as two errands.  Here is what the complete ride looks like.

Category: Wild Card                                                     Destination:  Lunch in Pennsylvania!

What I learned/observation:  Wind is the silent killer of speed.  Also, my hyper-caloric training regimen this winter did not, contrary to all expectations, improve my endurance on the bike.  Just edged into Pennsylvania on my aborted 200k attempt.  The swollen rivers and streams, especially the Monocacy and Chonocheague, were amazing to pedal by, especially on roads that were just inches above the water level.

Miles:        60                        Date: 3/15/2015

Menu and Brevet Card
Welcome to Pennsylvania

Errand 12
I wanted to do this ride as the first in the "Super Randonneur Series," a series of rides of 200k, 300k 400k, and 600k spread out from March - early June.  I have done the 200k and 300k distance before, but never all four rides in a single year.  Unfortunately, I did not get my 200k this weekend.  Hamid was on his first long ride after coming back from a serious injury last summer, and the wind, hills, and miles were all too much.  After lunch there as a long, tough climb over South Mountain and Catoctin Ridge.  On the top, it was very cold, near freezing.  I made it over first, waited at the top until I got the shivers, and then descended into Thurmont to wait for Hamid.  When he came down he said he was done, and called a buddy for a ride back to his car.  I waited with him, and decided I did not want to ride the remaining 40+ miles alone and took a shortcut (if 30 miles is a shortcut) back to the car.  113 miles on the day, but not the 200k I had hoped for.  On the plus side, I get to do it again to complete the 200k ride.  Here is a map of the ride I actually did.

Category: Non-Store Errand                                Destination:  Urbana to collect completed brevet card

What I learned/observation:  Sometimes things don't go to plan.  Set out to do this brevet with Hamid.  Headwind and hills put us behind schedule almost from the start, and then Hamid needed to abandon at mile 85 because of some health issues.  I ended up riding about 113 miles, but no completed 200k.

Miles:          113                      Date: 3/15/2015
Incomplete Brevet Card
Resting at KOA near Williamsport, MD

 Errand 13 (for luck)
Monday came and my legs were remarkably not sore.  I had made plans to meet Rudy (biking buddy, FCC regular, and all-round good guy) for a beer to catch up on bikes and life (there is a difference ... I think).

Category: Social Call                                    Destination:  Glenn’s Garden Market for beers with Rudy

What I learned/observation:  There is a whole other world out there!  I have not spent much time around Dupont Circle for many years and have forgotten what a whole bunch on young professionals looks like.  It was a nice change of pace and scene, and the beer was good too.  Thanks Rudy!

Miles:     .5                       Date: 3/16/2015                                                 
Rudy and the Beers

Total Errands:           13                                                              
Categories Used:        7        
Total Miles:            201.4        

Once again, the Errandonnee surprised, delighted, and challenged me.  Lots of fun.  Thanks Mary!