(Or is it Manassas? Or Woodbridge? No one knows for sure. Somewhere in Prince William County.)
This section is 0.36 miles (or 580 meters – a little more than six football fields stacked together). It is on Va. Rte 234, aka Dumfries Road. It starts right beside an orange/white utility marker and goes through a traffic light with a slight downhill at the end.
This is a ride I have done many times. According to Strava, 277 times. As of this writing, I am the “Local Legend” with 27 segments in the past 90 days. By my recollection, since Strava introduced Local Legends, I have held the title for every day but one. On the day I was notified I had lost it I went out and rode and got it back. Held it ever since.
There is a bike trail next to the highway. IMHO, if one is serious about a good time on this climb, one must take the road. The trail has a short but steeper climb at the start. It appears to climb higher before leveling off.
The only tricky part is if one takes the road. Since it is signed at 55 mph it is not advisable to be on the road itself. But there is a wide shoulder. And the shoulder is full of crap. In the past year I have changed no less than six flats I have gotten by riding on the shoulder of 234.
The tricky part is the traffic light. The road goes straight but intersects with Warm Springs Drive to the left. If the cars have a red light and one is on the shoulder which goes straight, can one legally stay on the shoulder and keep going without stopping? I do not know the answer to that. I know in Switzerland I saw a similar intersection with direction to the cyclists not to stop. Cars from the left are not turning onto the shoulder.
I did not plan to ride here today. I began the day in Hillsboro and planned to Harpers Ferry (WV) loop. But it was cold this morning. I decided to wait until I go home at 5:30 p.m.
I grabbed my Checkpoint which is a gravel bike. It does not have the top gear my Domane has. But it’s fun to ride and I was just out for a pleasurable ride. But then it happened. The stars aligned.
I was second all-time on this segment at 0:49. I thought the KOM was 0:45 and was thinking I needed four seconds. I was also thinking it would not be on this day with this bike. Some days I am on the trail and just ride leisurely up the trail with no concern for time. Other days I find myself on the shoulder of 234. Often the decision is based on whether there are other users on the trail at the time.
Today I was on the shoulder and I looked down and saw that I was doing 32 mph. I knew that was a good amount of speed to be carrying into this uphill segment. So when I hit the GO/start “line” I kept max effort to the pedals to see how long I could stay ahead of my pace.
And I saw I was one second ahead, then two seconds. And I saw something else. My Garmin Varia radar light was displaying an empty road behind me. Without hesitation I moved from the shoulder onto the right lane of 234. The pavement is so much better, if for no other reason, an absence of crap be it stones and pebbles or nails and glass.
And here I got another break too. The light up ahead was red. I was preparing to dive hard to the right to the shoulder to get past the cars when the light turned green. And just before I caught the rear car, they had pulled out. It left me on the highway itself. I was at three seconds and giving my all. I was hoping for four seconds but never saw it.
That displayed on my Wahoo. In the past two years, Wahoo has seemingly changed the display. In the past that would have come with a PR designation. Today it was just 0:46. So I knew I had a PR. And was one second away from a KOM.
I gained confidence. I thought that if I got a 0:46 on my gravel bike that I could do better with my Domane. I was happy. It was a good ride.
I uploaded the ride and then I saw it.
The Crown is Yours!
Actually, that puts me in a two-way tie for first with Ryan who did the same time six years ago. That’s a long time for a segment to be out there unchallenged. And Ryan and I are now tied. I thought I would only get it if I beat him. Sort of like first to the time gets the crown and keeps it until someone else is better.
But I am quite happy with it. At the same time, I will not rest with this at 0:46. I will try to lower it. It may take me another 277 attempts but I will try to be the sole leader on this segment.
I came here for one thing only. A PR on Sugarloaf Mountain. Having ridden the Horrible Hundred event three times I thought I would be able to set a PR because I am down 40 pounds plus since I last rode it (and set a PR that day).
But first there was some unfinished business. I had a new tire (Continental 5000) with me and decided I would replace the one that flatted yesterday on the Seven Mile Bridge.
I had mapped the route of the Sugarloaf climb and uploaded it to my Wahoo. I took off into the wind. I hadn’t gone far before I was off exploring some new roads. And then I came back to familiar roads.
I was following the route when I came to Sugarloaf Road. I remembered a left hand turn but the road did not look familiar. Oh well, I rode anyhow. But it just didn’t feel right.
No Strava-Live segments were coming up on Wahoo and then I realized I had come up the backside of Sugarloaf. I have ridden down this way three times. But never up it. Damn. I mapped this out in the wrong direction.
I was very conscious of the wind today. It was strong. I came to the top of Sugarloaf and was amazed looking ahead at my descent. This should have been my climb. But I remember standing at the top of the 90-meter hill (ski jump) in Lahti, Finland, in 1995, and thinking what a hill. And I get to ride down it. Of course, I was riding at speed while processing this and just kept riding.
My speed crept up. I saw 48 mph on the computer and I always felt on the edge of control. As the road started to flatten out I saw a cyclist riding up the hill. I nodded because I could not take my hands off the handlebars to wave.
At the bottom of the hill, instead of turning right and following what I had mapped, I turned around. I had to try Sugarloaf the right way.
I saw the rider up ahead of me on the hill. And I was gaining. Wahoo started with a GO! But did it twice. I had marked two segments and I really was interested in one. I briefly saw I was ahead of my PR time but then didn’t see that anymore. I need to unstar one of those.
I had a speaker on my bike and was blasting 50s music from SiriusXM. I could see the rider was a woman and I was gaining quickly. As I got close I said “there’s no sneaking up on you.” She looked at me and said “You make it look easy.” If she only knew.
At the top I went another quarter mile to a house which offered free water. I thought she would come over the top but she didn’t. I would learn that she turned around and went to ride it again. Hill repeats. Ugh.
Turning around and going back down, I wanted to hit 50 mph. But that cross wind was a serious problem. A safety problem. I pedaled and then got into a tuck. Again, I saw 49 mph and then had a serious wheel wobble. With the winds this was too fast. I looked to slow down.
At the end of the hill a truck pulled up and some cyclists got out. I thought it was strange they drove out to ride the hill but I don’t know their stories. From there I followed Wahoo and for the next 10 miles followed the Route of the Horrible Hundred – backwards.
I finished the ride and then checked my results. I set a large number of PRs but the one I wanted – Sugarloaf, I lowered by 28 seconds. I was happy. I was now #4000 instead of #6000. I jumped 2000 places. But for context, that’s out of 10,000 athletes. So I’m in the top 40% instead of the bottom 40%. I still suck.
Maybe if I hadn’t climbed Sugarloaf from the backside first I would have been better. And maybe if there was no wind (I’m not asking for a tailwind) I would have shaved more time off. But the wind, even a crosswind, was formidable today.
Looking at other segments, Up the Ridge Westbound – horrible pave and I was second age group – missed age group#1 by :02. If I had known I would have gone for it. On Sugarloaf-Downhill I was #1 age group. I can still go downhill fast.
There are thousands of cyclists who ride these roads. I never came for a #1 in any group. I just wanted to see what I could do on Sugarloaf. I’m not done here. Next time I will ride in the right direction. And hopefully without the wind.
Distance: 31.1 miles Average Speed: 14.7 miles Weight: 172
It was eight years ago that I did a ride from Key West to Marathon and back. It was windy that day and that was OK because I did the hard work the first 50 miles into a strong wind.
The accurate forecast for today was 30 mph winds from the east. My plan was to ride from Marathon to Key West and return. But I would have a great tailwind for 50 miles and then a very difficult headwind when I was tired – the last 50 miles.
I thought about first driving to Key West then riding 100 miles the same as I did eight years ago. But I stayed overnight in Homestead. I would have had to leave by 6:00 a.m. to have a decent start time. I did not check out of the hotel until 8:15 a.m.
Much of the Overseas Highway is signed at 45 mph. It would take 2.5-3 hours to drive to Key West. And that long to drive back. Add six hours for riding and I was looking at a 12-hour day. That was too long. If I was to do this I would want to overnight in Key West.*
I settled on a Seven Mile Bridge Ride. I drove over the bridge although I could have stopped in Marathon. Around MM 31 I saw parking and decided to park there. From there I headed “north” on US 1 (which was really due east).
The winds were very strong. I needed to keep both hands on the bars to control the bike. I stopped at the bridge for a picture of the sign but decided the sign at the other end would be better.
I had gone just short of half a mile and I could feel the bridge bouncing. But it was more than that. The bike was bouncing. This was the tell-tale sign of a rear flat. I looked. It was flatting.
I pulled over, and there isn’t much room and went to remove the wheel. I pulled out my tool kit and looked for my wheel removal tool. It wasn’t in the kit. While I was pondering how I would get back to my car, I looked at the wheel and the tool was attached. I blamed my mechanic for putting it there but it may have been put there by me when I last changed a flat on the road.
Ready to inflate the wheel, the unwrapped the CO2 cartridge and the inflator tool. As I was screwing in the cartridge I saw air (vapor) spewing from a seam in the side of the tool. I quickly attached the inflator and emptied the contents into the tube. It wasn’t enough. The tire was very soft.
When there was a break in the 55-mph traffic on the bridge I ran across the highway and there pondered my options. There was nowhere for someone to pull over to help if I could flag someone down. I figured I had a half-mile to go to get off the bridge and then reconsider. I decided to see if I could ride it or how far I could ride until I ruined the tire completely.
I stood, putting all my weight on the front wheel. I made it off the bridge and saw the Sunshine Key and RV Resort. It looked beautiful and on the other side of the security fence I could see couples riding their bikes. My best option would be to ask one of them to borrow a pump. Someone would have one.
I rolled up to the security gate. I explained my plight and the guard was unyielding. He told me rules are rules. I asked if he liked soccer and he did. I told him the story of the Marine Colonel who didn’t understand bending the rules. And my sage advice was if he followed the rule book 100% of the time he would always make the right call – but sometimes not the best call. The guard just looked at me. He had made the right call – he would not let me in to borrow a pump.
Next door at the gas station I asked if they had a pump. They did not. I looked at the five cars at the pump to see evidence of bikes – surely they would have pumps. I saw no bikes. So I decided to ride as far as I could and then hitchhike.
I stood on the pedals and took off. Like on the bridge, I kept my weight forward, never once sitting on the saddle. In all it was 6.5 miles back to the car. And I made it.
At my car, I got out my floor pump and looked at the gauge. Less than 10 psi. Flat. I pumped it to 80 psi and then did another half-mile. It was windy. I had a long ride ahead of me. I called it a day.
Distance: 14.2 miles Average Speed: 12.5 mph Top Speed: 20.8 mph Weight: 172
___ *If there is a next time, I should consider a shuttle service. Park in Marathon or Key Largo and ride to Key West one-way with a prevailing tailwind. Then shuttle back. Keys Shuttle and Florida Keys Shuttle are two of the services that I need to check out.
I must say, that was quite an experience. I went to Shark Valley in the Everglades with not much in the way of expectations.
My Lifetime Senior pass got me right in and avoided a $30 (vehicle) or $15 (bicycle) fee.
The parking lot was pretty full but I found a space. Got my bike out and was ready to roll in a few minutes. I saw a park ranger and asked if I should ride the loop clockwise or counterclockwise. He said it was better to ride it counter-clockwise.
The trail is one vehicle width wide. Just large enough for the park’s tram tours to get by. There is a sign that cyclists must pull over from trams to pass. Since they were going clockwise, it was easy to see them. While I was on the trail there were two trams that came by. I dismounted, stood gingerly off the road always carefully watching my feet for any activity that may be lurking nearby. Both times the tram operator gave me a big thumbs up.
It was within the firsr quarter-mile that I saw my first gator – just relaxing just off the road to my right. Alligators could be and were anywhere. Left side or right side. Just riding along with my head on a swivel, there were gators on both sides.
And none were moving. They seemed completely disinterested in this cyclist. Perhaps adult humans were too big to attack, at least on land. In the water would be a different story but not going in there.
I passed a nest, if it was called that. A momma gator had perhaps 30 little ones with her. I wasn’t real sure that she might be aggressive. In fact, the National Park Service put out yellow tape near her nest so she was easy to find but at the same time let people know to keep their distance.
Most of the alligators I saw were in the first seven miles to Shark Valley and the observation deck. People could hike (walk) that far but the two most common ways were to take the tram or bike. As of this writing, the tram rates were $27 for adults and $14 for children. Bike rentals were $20.
Actually, the first three miles probably contained the most alligators. But this will vary depending on the season and water level. People willing to walk in for about two miles then turn around would have seen plenty.
I made the turn back at the observation deck. There were few travelers in this section although a park ranger came from the other direction. She was on a bike and not wearing a mask. All federal properties including national parks were under a mandatory mask requirement and only about the rangers wore them and probably 20% of the visitors. I suspect it was a requirement on the tram though.
But what fun. Just riding along and there’s an alligator. Or two. Or twenty. Definitely a bucket list trip. Try it. It’s fun!
it looked like a nice ride so I thought about this 40-mile loop for a few weeks now. I have never been to Marco Island so this was my chance – perhaps my only chance.
I used a ride done by my friend, Joe, a few weeks ago. I parked in a shopping center by a Publix grocery store. I headed west planning to be on street but it had no shoulders and no bike lane. Next to it was a concrete path that looked like a bike path. I followed it for a half-mile until I turned into a residential area and took streets until I reached Collier Blvd.
Collier is a six-lane highway which is very busy. It does have a separate bike lane which is separated from 50 mph traffic by five inches of paint. But it’s white paint so that must have protective qualities.
The next 4.5 miles to Marco Island, I flew, I was hitting speeds of 30 mph and averaged 24 mph for the segment. That could only mean one thing. Tailwind.
On Marco Island, I was mostly in traffic lanes. I didn’t find over-courteous or rude drivers. Just drivers. They were fine. I was fine. We got along.
I followed the southern route out of town. It took me over the Stan Gober bridge and then it was a 55-mph two-lane highway. Joe told me it was straight and the traffic was used to seeing cyclists. While I was the only cyclist I saw today, at no time did I feel unsafe or had any cars pass without giving a wide berth. And I was also going into a brutal headwind. My trip to Marco was a gift. This was the work.
For the next 12 miles, I only averaged 14.6 mph. It was tough work. I saw a number of signs for “Buddy,” a dog missing in the area since Feb. 11 (a month now). Breaks your heart. I sure hope Buddy was reunited at his home.
I turned on Highway 41 North and, to my surprise, saw a pretty nice bike path next to the highway. It would only last 2.3 miles. But I crossed over the highway and picked up a bike lane. I would ride the bike lane six miles to my turn back into the neighborhood. I also picked up a cross tailwind. It helped. I averaged 20 mph in this section.
Not all cyclists are comfortable riding on the road, like I did leaving Marco, or in a bike lane that is on Hwy 41. You have to trust, and hope, and pray, that no one is distracted and they stay in their lane and don’t drift. It’s not my favorite place to ride but I would not necessarily avoid it.
The last five miles were back into the headwind. And my speed dropped to 14.9 for the segment. Arriving back I had covered 41 miles at a speed of 17.9 mph. I was hoping for 18 but with the winds, this wasn’t too bad. My winter rides were often 11-12 miles and even though I rode at Hilton Head last week, it wasn’t far and wasn’t at speed. So this was a jump. A huge jump. I’m happy.
Distance: 41 miles Average speed: 18 mph (RideWithGPS) Max speed: 37.8 mph Weight: 172
Two years ago I rode in Luxembourg with Rooster Racing. One of our riders was Margaret O. from Naples, Florida. When I told her I would be in the area she told me about the Bike and Brunch ride sponsored by the Naples Pathways Coalition. I registered and we met at Lowdermilk Park in Naples, the start/finish location for the ride.
Before I connected with Margaret, I found Joe B., who I worked with in Washington, D.C. We had a brief conversation and then left in our respective ride groups.
We started in neighborhoods and Margaret found (for me) our first impromptu rest stop – at the pier in Naples. After a break we rode off, Margaret giving me a tour of the neighborhoods.
We stopped at the first rest stop at a community center around Mile 20. Once we left there we started off into long straight roads, generally with a bike lane next to a 45-50 mph highway.
The winds were strong. It seemed they were always at an angle so we never got the benefit of a true headwind. Our second stop was set up by a gas station and was manned by some very nice high school students.
Arriving back the organizers had some chips and salsa from Moe’s (a sponsor). That was unexpected in these COVID times – we did not expect anything. We sat on the patio at the concession stand enjoying the 75° weather, reminiscing about our trip two years ago to Luxembourg.
It was Roosters Reunited for another day.
After the ride I decided that I would retire (discard) the Rooster Racing bib shorts. Although they don’t look bad in the photo, they wore horribly worn and see-thru (on the thighs). And when I got back to the hotel, a woman who had been with a number of bike racers today, told me that I looked like a bike racer. Sweet!
We came with the family for a week at Hilton Head Island. And I came to ride my bike (also).
On one hand, Hilton Head is perhaps one of the most bicycle-friendly communities in the country. They tout the miles of bike paths they have – which is true. But it also one of the worst places to be a cyclist.
Many of the roads and streets on Hilton Head have adjoining bike paths which, depending where you are, cyclists are encouraged or required to use. They’re nice – for going 8 mph.
I rode many which were rooted (had tree roots underneath the asphalt which created a dangerous bump), were partially combined with a sidewalk and had a dangerous seam between the two, and way too many at grade crossings with streets. At every intersection while waiting to cross not one single vehicle stopped to allow me or others to cross.
In addition, because riding bikes is popular, one must share the paths with kids on training wheels, walkers, runners, and dogs. Also, few are straight and run exactly parallel to the street they belong but wind and curve around trees and other dangerous obstacles.
If you are a cyclist, like I am, and cycling is your primary form of cardio exercise, one will not get the heart rate up if you ride sensibly on the bike paths which you should. One must ride on the street. And this is frowned upon by all those who drive vehicles.
Somewhere there must exist one sign on the island that says SHARE THE ROAD but I never saw one. Bicycles simply don’t belong (except on bike trails).
No where was this more evident that at Sea Pines Plantation. SPP is at the southern end of the island and is where Harbour Town and the lighthouse are located.
The first day I was going to ride to the lighthouse I came to a control gate. The guard told me it was $9 and I decided not to pay it, electing to turn around instead. I was not told I was not permitted. But the next day I decided I would pay the fee. This time the guard told me that bikes were not allowed to enter unless they were in/on a car.
I could ride to within 50 yards of the gate, have my car meet me, put the bike in the car, drive through the gate and unload the bike, and that would be OK. The automobile is king here.
While I was being turned away at the gate, a lovely couple rode through the bicycle gate and signaled me over. I went while they held open the gate. I was in. I saved $9 and rode to the lighthouse.
While at SPP a security guard told me that I was not allowed to ride on the road because it’s a rule in Sea Pines. Is it a rule or the law? The best I can tell is that SPP is private property and they can make and enforce “rules” for their property although enforcement probably would not entail fines. Not sure what powers they have other then to require someone to leave.
South Carolina Law (SECTION 56-5-3425.) requires bikes to ride in a bike lane next to the roadway if one is provided (except to pass). And then, this: “bicyclists may ride on the roadway when there is only an adjacent recreational bicycle path available instead of a bicycle lane.”
Unless there is a local “law,” there is no requirement that cyclists have to be on those crooked recreational bike paths. But there are 1,000 Karens on the island who think and will tell you differently.
Arriving at our rental house, I took off on a mixture of bike paths and roadway (side streets, not main roads). The weather was cool and rainy so I did not ride far but on my second day I saw I had four new PRs (compared to the day before). And that became my goal: see how far and fast I could ride.
At a minimum, I set out to be #1 age group on all four. On the first day I was out of the Top Ten Age Group on all. And I went. And I won. Number One on all four segments near the house. That was fun and gave me something to aim for.
Besides the Dillon Springs segment, I had the age group #1 on ay Carrabba’s (0:51 – old was 1:06); Beach City to Dillon (2:52-3:01); Reverse Folly Sprint (0:54-0:58).
So it was a fun week of riding. Except for the streets near our beach house, most were on the bike paths and would have been fun for a slow roll with the grandkids – but not at a pace to get the heart rate up. I suspect the best riding was back over the bridge around Bluffton on some country roads.
Another indicator that this place is not a mecca for cyclists was my adventure in trying to buy an insulated Camelbak Polartek water bottle. There are many bike “shops” on the island but most, if not all, cater to the rental business. Much like my experience on Sanibel Island trying to buy a tube, the bike shops did not carry this simply accessory. I rode to the Bike Doctor and they did not carry it. A driver from Hilton Head Island Bicycles had pulled over so I asked him if his shop carried it and he said they did not. I stopped at Wheelz of Hilton Head as I rode by. While they didn’t have a 21 oz Camelbak, they did have a 24 oz. Polartek. I took it. Since most shops are rental locations, road cyclists should make sure they bring every thing they need and not simple able to purchase it on the island.
We had a good week. I saw an alligator on one ride and ended up in a helicopter on another. It’s a fun place for most people to ride but serious cyclists may be a little frustrated here..
Ah, 2020. No complaints. Just different. For the first time in years, I did not attend an in-person cycling event as the coronavirus forced the cancellation of the events I would normally have or hoped to attend.
My riding became much more localized and I certainly made the best of the opportunity. It was a year I set a personal record for mileage and for days ridden (thanks to being a Leap Year). I just rode locally instead of nationally or internationally. No complaints.
MY TOP TEN MOMENTS/MEMORIES
Two New Bikes
The Bear Whisperer
Strava, Strava, Strava
Pine Creek Trail
A Ride Every Day
KOMs and a Local Legend
TWO NEW BIKES
Everybody likes a new bike, right? Well, except when you don’t want to get rid of the old. But my 2014 Trek Domane and my 2006 Trek Pilot both reached the end of their useful lives. I got some warranty help from Trek and now have a 2020 Domane and a 2021 Checkpoint (gravel bike).
THE BEAR WHISPERER
I suppose if you are outside enough, particularly in the wilderness, you will see a bear. I saw my first near Frostburg, Maryland in 2010. I saw my second while climbing Mount Evans, Colorado in 2016. And then … September. First I was on Rectortown Road in Fauquier Co., Virginia on Sept. 2 when I saw a bear. And then on the 22nd, I was on the Pine Creek Trail near Jersey Shore, Pa. when I saw another one. September was a good month for bears.
A PODIUM VIRTUAL
Ben King’s Ride Home Roads virtual event offered prizes for distance and climbing – categories I think I could have done well in, except this ran during the Tour de France. And I spent four hours per day watching the Tour instead of riding. But I did win a prize for the social media portion of his event.
Jeremiah Bishop‘s Alpine Loop Grand Fondo offered prizes for best times on Zwift – except I don’t do Zwift. They also had category winners and I won the jersey in the 65-69 year group. I had a number of PRs including a couple of KOMs this summer.
STRAVA, STRAVA, STRAVA
Yes, Strava has been around for years. But this is the first year I subscribed to it to get local segments to display on my Wahoo bike computer and it changed the way I ride. A long solo ride at speed may have had me being complacent if not a bit bored but having segments pop up while I ride forced me to go hard in stretches where I otherwise wouldn’t have. It made me a better cyclist and made my rides more fun.
With no events planned I rode my own solo centuries. I did two in August and then in October went to Ocean City, Md. to ride the canceled Sea Gull Century. I rode it solo from Ocean City instead of Salisbury, Md. and I rode it backward, in part to see if other people had come to the beach to ride (they had), and in part, because riding a familiar route backward makes it new to you. Assateague Island
PINE CREEK TRAIL
Not all miles were road miles and in September I went to Jersey Shore, Pa., and rode the 64-mile Pine Creek Trail through the “Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania.” Since I was riding solo I had to ride it out-and-back but the “back” was mostly on the road. Trails are nice but the road calls.
A RIDE EVERY DAY
It began last year on January 1. For my 10th Cancerversary year I set a goal of riding at least 10 miles, outside, every day. And it continued this year. In the cold (18°), heat (100°), rain, and snow – I rode. Now I have ridden 731 straight days. Don’t know when it will end but if I continue to September 26, 2021, it will be 1,000 consecutive days.
KOMs AND A LOCAL LEGEND
Strava has segments in which one can try to beat their own times (Personal Records) but also be “King of the Mountain” (KOM), i.e., the best ever. Since everyone is younger and faster than me I never expect to be the KOM for any segment. But it didn’t stop me from trying. And I ended up with four KOMs in 2020, none more satisfying than the two-mile segment on Minnieville Road from Spriggs Road to Rte 234. I was hoping for an age group best but did not know the KOM was in reach. I finished in 4:56 besting the second-place time by 27 seconds. Each time I ride that segment I wonder how in the heck did I do that in under five minutes? (Hint: With light traffic, I never used the bike path and stayed on Minnieville Road the entire time.)
Somewhat easier for me to obtain was the status of ‘Local Legend’ which is awarded to the cyclist who completes the most segments in a 90-day period. And so, quite predictably, I became a local legend on a number of segments because I ride every day and I stayed mostly at home.
In November I went to Marion, North Carolina, and rode up Mount Mitchell, the highest mountain in the eastern U.S. It was a cool day with few people around so from the parking lot I rode up the access trail to the summit to the applause of the few people there.
As I close out the year the scales said I weighed less than I did in high school. Yes, it was planned and yes, it was hard work. But I need to keep it going for a lifetime.
All in all, it was a good year. Sure, I didn’t get to go to events and missed seeing friends, especially in Austin, Texas, and in California. But with 1,000,000 reasons to give up, I did not. 2020, I will miss you.
But there were other moments that defined 2020.
THE BEST AND WORST OF THE REST
BEST SMELL – Balsam firs at the top of Mount Mitchell. How aromatic. I felt sorry for people in their cars driving to the top with their windows closed tight.
BEST SMALL TOWN – Mayberry, of course. I went to Mount Airy, N.C. and rode to Mabry Mill near Meadows of Dan, Va. The ride was great but afterward rode through Mount Airy and it was a ride back in time. I even ate at Barney’s (Fife) Cafe like the locals. But I didn’t see Aunt Bee.
WORST ENDING – White’s Ferry – WTF is that?!? When all else failed and I needed a go-to ride to bring a smile to my face, I would head to Leesburg and to White’s Ferry to cross the Potomac River on a ferry. On December 28 they announced they were closing for good as two entities, Rockland Farms and Whites Ferry, were having a food fight with a touch of Loudoun County thrown in for good measure. I don’t know what the future holds. Is it gone forever? I can’t imagine it so. Will Maryland (Montgomery Co.) and Virginia (Loudoun Co.) governments step in and create a public ferry? I do know that 600 commuters each day depend on the ferry. As does this cyclist.
FUNNIEST COMMENT – “You got skinny!” In September in the parking lot at The Bike Lane in Reston, Va., the owner, Todd Mader, who I have known for 20 years at first walked by me and said “Excuse me, sir.” Then he did a double take and said “Barry, I didn’t recognize you. You got skinny!”
BEST BURGER AND FRIES – In a year in which local riding was necessary, my go-to local ride was the “Manassas Loop” with a stop at Fosters Grille in Manassas. A nice outdoor eating area across from an active passenger train station, it was a perfect stop on my rides.
STUPIDEST DRIVER – On March 9, I turned the blind corner on the W&OD at Leesburg to go under Rte. 15 and almost was hit head-on by a car on the trail. “I was just following my GPS,” the driver said.
COOLEST GRANDKIDS I – We had a week with our granddaughters and during that time got our youngest up and riding on two wheels.
WORST IMPRESSION OF UNCLE SAM – Me. July 4. This photo and a subsequent bonk the next day led me to make a lifestyle change. It’s embarrassing to be here but is a reminder not to repeat the past.
COOLEST GRANDKIDS II – I took our grandsons, ages 10 and 12, to the W&OD Trail and we rode 28 miles of the trail. Although it was over two days, there are not many 10-year-olds out riding 14-15 miles at a time.
WORST DECISION – After a double flat failure I decided to walk home barefooted (to save the cycling shoes) rather than to call for a ride. I tore up both feet after only 1.5 miles.
BEST GOOD SAMARITAN I – Scott Turner, in Montclair, who saw me walking while pushing my bike and asked if he could give me and my bike a ride home. I did not hesitate saying yes and he didn’t mind my bloody feet in his car.
WORST MECHANIC – Me. I rode a new bike (2020 Trek Domane) with deep rims and could never get the right size tube and stem. The valve stems, while working fine for a floor pump, are too short to allow a CO2 cartridge to fully inflate the tire. After five failures on the road, here’s hoping my 60 cc stems will work the next time. I probably should waste a CO2 and test one first.
70,000 MILES CANCER-FREE – And at the end of the year it was 74,378 miles which is just 326 miles short of being three times around the Earth at the equator (74,704 miles)
BEST ROAD RIDES NOT ON THE ROAD – While the Pine Creek Trail was a destination trip, it wasn’t the only rail trail that I rode. Of course, I ride the Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) so frequently that I forget it is a rail trail. I also rode the Great Allegheny Passage between Meyersdale and Fort Hill, Pa. and in Pittsburgh; the Hoodlebug in Indiana Co., Pa. the Western Maryland Rail Trail in Hancock, Md.; and the American Tobacco Trail in Durham, N.C. I also rode the Path of the Flood Trail in Johnstown which is part rail-trail as it follows the Allegheny Portage Rail Road and goes through the first railroad tunnel built in the U.S.
WORST ENDING FOR A GOOD CAR – It was nearly the perfect car for my riding. It had a DIY rack and could transport two bikes in the back of my 2002 Toyota RAV4 and two more on top. But it also had 334,000 miles and when a barrel fell off a truck in front of me on US 220 in Williamsport, Pa. in September, the car was totaled. I was uninjured but I was a bit sad losing this car.
BEST GOOD SAMARITAN II – A man named “CW” on Captiva Island, Fla. gave me a ride after a couple of flats (glass through the tire) to Sanibel Island to a bike rental store.
WORST WEATHER WIMP – Me. On Christmas Day I rode in Washington, D.C. to see the Christmas decorations. Only out for one hour and with temperatures about freezing (34°), my hands literally froze. I could not feel the touch screen on my phone to take a photo. I could not remove my key from my pocket. Not could I feel to unbuckle my helmet (and that’s what friends are for). My hands were like numb clubs but this may be a harbinger of things to come.
FALLS – I HAD A FEW – Well, two. I had gone more than 500 days without a crash/fall and then on a foggy day when I tried to cross a grass median on Rte 234 to get to the bike trail, I hit a sunken 2×4 that was in the high grass which caused me to me a have a heavy fall on the asphalt. Please don’t litter.
Less than three weeks later, I was again trying to cross a grass median, this one in Lake Ride, to avoid a couple ahead of me on the path. It looked safe but the grass concealed a hidden ditch. My wheel went into it and I went over the handlebars, ever so slowly. I almost sat down in the grass more than fell, but it was a fall. I laughed.
A MILEAGE RECORD – Having ridden 10,000 miles in 2019, I didn’t think I would repeat that. I didn’t. I bettered it.
BEST GOOD SAMARITAN III – On Sanibel Island at Fennimore’s Cycle Shop, they did not have the right size tube to sell me. Instead, they gave me one of their rental road bikes to ride across the causeway and retrieve my car so I could return for my bike.
BEST ICE CREAM – Just as Fosters Grille gave me purpose to ride my Manassas Loop, so too did Moo-Thru give me purpose to ride in Remington, Va. Tim Casebere and I did a ride in Culpeper, Va. when I realized where Moo-Thru was. So I created a route from nearby Remington which would stop at Moo-Thru. In all, I probably stopped there six times or so.
WORST PAYMENT ON A TOLL ROAD – Having parked on the Fort Myers, Fla. side so I could ride across the causeway to Sanibel Island and also avoid a $6 toll, I accepted the offer of Fennimore’s to take their bike and retrieve my car. Actually, I should have gone to my car and retrieved the right tube and maybe a new tire, which I had with me in the car. Now I’m on the hook for $6 (plus fees).
BEST GOOD SAMARITAN IV – Me. On April 9 I saw a young woman pushing her bike. I offered to help her fix it but I couldn’t fix the dangerous wind she was riding in. So I gave Erin a ride back to her car. We became friends and would ride together a dozen times, often with my friend, Tim. In a year of complete repetition and some boredom, riding with someone new to the area gave me a renewed purpose to look at my routes through the eyes of a first-time rider.
BEST REPLACEMENT FOR A CAR – My new (used, but it’s new to me) 2020 Ford Transit. I didn’t find it, it found me. Can carry my bikes and my DIY rack from the RAV4 moved over with just a slight modification.
With less adventure and no events, I made the best out of 2020. And it was my best year ever. Here’s to a better year in 2021.
MILESTONES – The Strava training calendar said that I set 843 personal records. That will be hard to beat in any year.
WEIGHT (AT START): 212 lbs (Minimum. Complete guess. It could have been 10 pounds higher)
This was farther south than I had planned, some two hours from my hotel in Sarasota. But you’re only here once, or here once to ride, so I came to check it out.
I found a state park nearby where I could park but remembered the one on Amelia Island and there would be a fee. I didn’t want to pay to park and didn’t want to pay to drive across the causeway. And I found the Port Sanibel Marina one mile before the causeway. There was plenty of parking and it was free.
I had read a discussion on whether it’s safe to ride across the causeway. Cyclists generally said yes – there is a bike lane next to the main traffic. People who ride bikes generally said no – there is a bike lane but it’s next to the main traffic. The bottom line depended on what level of risk one was willing to assume.
I went through, or around the toll both and started the climb up the first bridge of the causeway. That too caused some people angst in deciding whether to ride the causeway. “You know the bridge is a hill…”
It was a nice ride across two islands, named A and B, on the causeway. Although Sanibel proudly boasts 20 miles of bike paths away from traffic, once I reached the island I saw slow, helmet-less riders on the trails. And while pretty, the bike paths had a lot of twists and turns. I stayed on the main road and only angered one person – a driver from Indiana laid on his horn as he passed me. Then I caught him.
I had come to an intersection and found a cyclist waiting for his partner. He wore a helmet and a full kit. I asked him about riding on the roads and it said it was legal but then he recommended as I got close to Captiva to take a path because the road narrowed and “the drivers got older.”
I followed his suggestion and found the path was very narrow, perhaps the most narrow path I had ever been on. I crossed a bridge to get on Captiva Island and didn’t realize it.
Things were going well. My speed was up. The temperature was great. And then, the tell-tell sign of a squishy tire. Ugh.
I pulled over not confident in my ability to repair the tire. I pulled the wheel off the bike and was looking at a man who had brought his trash out to a bin. He asked me if I needed anything and I told him a floor pump. He said he’d be right back and did come back with a pump.
While working on the tire I had cut myself. Blood was coming pretty good. I had my repair kit on a small log. I picked it up without realizing it was covered by ants. I saw black spots on my hands and realized the ants attacked me. They were biting and may have been drawn to my blood.
Unfortunately, the pump did work as advertised. But the man, “CW,” also told me if it didn’t work to come to his house because he had a truck and would take me anywhere. I went to his house. I threw the bike in the back and I declined his offer to take me to his car, instead opting for the closest bike shop, Finnimore’s Bike and Beach Rentals.
We pulled in and I was able to borrow a pump while CW and one of the employees, maybe the owner, enjoyed seeing each other. I pumped up the tire and he told me to take it for a spin to make sure it held. CW drove away. I went 20 meters and the tire was squishy.
I removed the tire and tube and found embedded glass in the tire. Being a rental shop they didn’t have much in supplies but sold me a 700×35 (35-42) for my 32 tire. I installed it but the stem was too short to attach a pump. I was screwed.
The shop gave me one of their rentals to ride back to my bike. They had a heck of a time removing the platform pedals so I could put my pedals on the bike since I was wearing Speedplay cleats. But they got them off the bike and I moved my Speedplay pedals over to the Fuji.
It was a nice ride back across the causeway. I got back to my car and then drove through the toll booth that I tried to avoid.
It wasn’t the ride I was hoping for. But I found the goodness of man. CW giving me a ride to the shop. The shop ultimately giving me one of their rentals to ride back to my car. There are good people out there.
It wasn’t the best ride but I did set a new PR for mileage in a year (10,150+ miles / 16,335 kms)
The ride was paused in Captiva and the Wahoo turned off at the bike shop but still shows the airmiles back to the shop. But the data is correct.
DISTANCE: 25 miles SPEED: Almost 18 mph WEIGHT: 168
EPILOGUE – It’s hard to think straight under pressure. With a tube that could not be repaired (but did they have a patch kit to sell? I don’t know), we decided it was best to take their bike, ride it across the causeway to my car, then drive back.
I had everything I needed for a repair in my car. If I could do it over again, I would have ridden to my car, grabbed a new tube (and maybe a new tire as well), returned to Finnimore’s, and then change out the old and ride from there. Oh well, it was getting late in the day and I didn’t arrive in Clermont for the night until 7:00 p.m. so the car option was probably best. It’s just that I never thought of picking up a new tube/tire from my car.