Pedal Pals


I am a “Pedal Pal.”  A pen pal for a cyclist who is riding 4,000 miles to raise money and cancer awareness. The 4K for Cancer started at Johns Hopkins and I was asked to be a Pedal Pal for this year’s group.

4K Sendoff 2012 01
Team Portland

My friend, Alan Ruof, graciously allowed me to be at his house in Alexandria at 5:30 p.m. and he drove me to Baltimore.

When we arrived at 6:45 it was easy to spot the riders. Team Portland wore blue jerseys. Team Seattle wore gold jerseys. Team San Francisco wore white jerseys. The riders were standing in a dedication circle holding hands and one by one announcing who they were riding for on that day.


4K Sendoff 2012 02
Chey Hillsgrove, Barry Sherry

I had to find Chey Hillsgrove, the Team Portland leader. He is the Pedal Pal for Jake the Hero Grecco. I didn’t know when we would be rolling out and made sure I found him first. He was very gracious and very thankful that I came to say hello to him.

4K Sendoff 2012 03
Chey riding for Jake

I then found Patrick Sheridan, my Pedal Pal. He introduced me to our riding team of Jeff Graves, Chris Chitterling, and Lauren Shoener, as well as Lauren’s father, who would be riding with us. At some point before we rolled out we had an alumni rider, Mark, join us but I don’t remember meeting him until I gave him my water bottle – because he forgot water bottles.

4K Sendoff 2012 04
Team San Francisco

Shortly after 7:00 a.m. we rolled out of the parking lot and over to the Inner Harbor. A strange sight (to me) was seeing so many of the bikes turned upside down. Perhaps in my circle we never do that because we would smash our bike computers. The riders were then called over for the opening ceremony.


4K Sendoff 2012 05
Lauren Shoener (Chris with his back turned)

After the National Anthem, the riders dipped their rear wheels into the Inner Harbor followed by a group photo op. The San Francisco group was called up and were ready for the send off. Although I had pictured a peloton of 30 riders, that was not to be. We were sent off in groups of four or five, each one spaced seemingly 3-4 minutes apart. Our group was the third to go and it was then I saw the mystery alumni rider, Mark.


4K Sendoff 2012 06

Within a few hundred yards we were caught up with the front groups and were in the midst of a 10k run. Perhaps the four riders had cue sheets and our alumni rider did as well but I didn’t. I was simply along for the ride.

We had only gone one mile when we got on a trail that was littered with broken bottles and glass. Stay classy Baltimore.

We meandered, literally, about the streets. When we looked up we saw riders headed in different directions. So we followed them. We went east on Ostend Street then made a U-turn and went west. And others followed us. I was along for the ride.

Mark then led us down a street with a clear “No Outlet” sign visible. I enjoyed pointing to it while we passed it. We turned around. I was along for the ride.

As little confidence as we had in our alumni leader, others may have had less in theirs because they asked us to go to the front and be the lead group. Jeff then stepped up and took the lead on reading and calling out directions and I did most of the pulling. Just tell me where to turn. It worked well because I had a good odometer. Not sure about the other riders. I can’t imagine doing a cross country trip without one though.


4K Sendoff 2012 07
Pikachu backpack Chey is taking to Portland

Once we finally got rolling we got to the BWI Trail. When we came to Stoney Run Road we turned left instead of right. We even stopped about 50 yards from where we turned to contemplate our decision and one of the 4K vans even stopped and didn’t say a word (that we were going the wrong way). Nice. We went 1.5 miles before turning around. We rode back four miles when we could have continued with a right turn and been back on course after two miles.

4K Sendoff 2012 08
Riders dipping their rear wheels in the Harbor

We stopped in Jessup for Rest Stop #1. While our bonus miles had dropped us back as the third or fourth group in we were the first to leave. As we rolled on the open road we noticed we soon dropped Mark, our leader. We waited and discovered he needed a tool to fix his seat.

Once fixed, we dropped Mark again. This time we learned that he hadn’t eaten breakfast. And that he ran four marathons. And six half marathons.

Mark would have a rough day. He was on a borrowed bike (not his fault), lost his water bottle (partially his fault) and failed to eat breakfast before a 65 mile ride in the heat (his fault).


4K Sendoff 2012 09
Dipping the rear tire in the Inner Harbor

With our confidence in Mark waning, I asked Jeff to read me the street names on the cue sheet. That’s when I learned we would connect with the Capital Crescent Trail, a trail I ride 2-3 times per week. I told him to get us there and I would lead us home. We were brimming with confidence.


4K Sendoff 2012 10
BWI Trail

We rolled into Rest Stop #2 in College Park. Then things started to go terribly wrong. Mark was insistent that we would have to wait for all the groups to check in and we had heard one group was more than one hour behind. We were not patiently waiting.

To make matters more confusing, Mark told us that one of the drivers (alumni) stated we had to wait while another one was clearly telling us to go. Lauren’s father was with us and was really pushing the issue to ride. With three groups checked in, we left.


4K Sendoff 2012 11
Patrick Sheridan (L), Jeff Graves (R)

We followed the directions and then they just blew up. They made no sense. We showed locals and they simply shook their heads. We used Barry’s rules of navigating: (1) If you’re trying to get to the river (Potomac) follow the creek as it flows downward; and (2) If you don’t know where you’re going at least get there in a hurry.


4K Sendoff 2012 12
Lunch Stop – Papa Johns Pizza

Even stopping and asking a Maryland Park Policewoman, she was also confused by our directions. So at Queen’s Chapel Road in Hyattsville we stopped in a broken bottle, glass strewn Exxon parking lot.

It was hot and we were thirsty. I gave Mark some money and told him to go itno the CVS and brink back a couple gallons of water. Mark went across the street and got himself a Coke.


4K Sendoff 2012 13
Christopher Chitterling, Lauren Schoener, Patrick Sheridan, Jeff Graves

Eventually both support vans found us and since we had been leading and chalking the turns, the other groups followed. Mark was insistent that we all stay together and Lauren’s dad not-so-gently informed him that we were in a pretty unsafe area.

That was the end of Mark’s day. Not literally because he kept riding with us but he fell to the back and didn’t say a word after that.

Patrick found us a nice car route to D.C. although we rode on the sidewalk on Queen’s Chapel instead of on the street. I told Patrick we couldn’t ride down North Capitol Street which was his plan but we could find parallel streets. Although when he said we would run into Michigan Avenue I thought that could work an alternative route.

We came to the bridge that crossed Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and I instructed the group to stop. I didn’t tip my hand, at first, but I knew exactly where I was.

I had twice ridden the Metropolitan Branch Trail at lunchtime in the winter and didn’t like it. But I at least recognized the area. I had Jeff put down an arrow to turn on 7th, then on Monroe, then on 8th. Then we joined the Metropolitan Branch Trail. I told our group the MBT would take us right to Union Station, downtown. Talk about big smiles. They called the vans immediately.

We followed the trail to Union Station then down to the Mall. I took out group to 15th Street simple to sign it then we backtracked for bonus miles. I took my group for a tour of Hains Point then Jeff and I went ahead and signed the rest of the route while the others took a rest in the shade of a tree at the Jefferson Memorial.

Once our task was completed, we took the 14th Street Bridge across the Potomac and followed the Mt. Vernon Trail to Old Town Alexandria. We did briefly stop at Gravelly Point and watch the places land at Reagan National Airport.

I said goodbye to my new friends and had to find my way to Alan’s house, without a 4K cuesheet. It was easier that way.

Wishing I Could Go


Patrick Sheridan said they would have wheels down at 6:30 a.m. which I thought was too early after a long and hot first day. But the forecast was for another 90° day.

I drove to Nottoway Park in Vienna where I parked then biked to the W&OD and smoked it hoping to meet the cancer group coming up from Alexandria. I reached the end of the W&OD and continued on the Four Mile Run Trail. At a difficult-to-determine intersection, I came upon what looked like 20 riders, all holding cue sheets, discussing which way to go. And some already decided to go straight – which was the wrong way.

Jeff Graves

I pulled up and said, “can you guys make it all the way to San Francisco without me giving you turn by turn directions?”

I heard someone, I think it was Chris, yell out “Barry!”

Since I rode with four riders yesterday, most in the group did not know me although I did say goodbye to a number of them in Alexandria the day before.

They were glad to see me and quickly decided which group should follow me. Five or six of us headed up the trail to the W&OD. I was talking with a rider from Dallas, Michael Wray.

As we made our way up the trail I asked where Patrick was. I was told he was “way out in front.” Uh, no he wasn’t. Since I had come down the trail I knew who was out in front – nobody.

They decided which group would follow me — even on trails they stayed true to riding in small groups rather than all 30 riding as one — and we took off up the trail. As I made my way up the trail I was asked to slow down. Repeatedly. My response was simply to ask them if they knew how a bunch of 20-something guys asking an old rider like me to slow down really stroked my ego?

Even better was the journal account of Stephanie Ausfresser.

“At the beginning we rode a trail for miles. When a fork in the trail
came and we didn’t know which way to go, Barry, Patrick’s pedal pal
found us and pointed us in the right direction. He rode with us for the
first two days. He was so strong and fast, I was pushing just to keep
. We made a line to follow each other and break the wind. Even though
it was mostly flat, we were going about 16-18 mph.”

I guided our first group to Nottoway Park then went back to find the others, eventually leading all groups there. Patrick’s group had been first on the trail but missed the Four Mile Run turn and by the time they doubled back, they were last. So I rode with them from Vienna through Fairfax before saying goodbye and riding back to my van.

Checking a text before riding 3900 more miles

I took the long way home through Manassas and there I saw the riders again, far off course. I laughed and directed them back on course. I stopped at a Sheetz and bought 30 hot dogs and found their rest stop. The hot dogs were well received.

But this time I had to say goodbye for good. I had to referee a regional high school soccer match at 5:00 p.m. And some asked me to ride with them. I so wanted to.

I left Patrick’s group with my words of wisdom for them. They are too young.

Too young to really appreciate the good of what they are doing. They will look back in 30 years and say “I did what?” While for some this is a (biking) adventure of a lifetime, it is so much more important than that. We survivors can never thank them enough for what they are doing to raise awareness and, yes, funds. They really do make a difference. Godspeed my friends.

This day and this ride have made me want to retire. Not on the spot and ride with them, although that would be nice. But I want to retire from my job and move on to a place that will make a difference in people’s lives. I would like to elevate my cancer-fighting game like they are doing for 70 days.

My First Bike Ride With Dad


I bike. My dad bikes. (Badly)  His bike riding is the subject of many jokes, all behind his back, of course.

I learned to ride a bike in our backyard in New Salem, (Armstrong Co.) Pa. when I was 6 or 7 years old. I never remember riding a bike with my dad.

Big Savage Tunnel

As a dad, I rode with all my kids, even subjecting Andrew to two days of a planned D.C. to Pittsburgh ride on the last day he was 12 years old. But I never remember riding a bike with my dad. I don’t think I did.

We grew up below the poverty level. The two bikes we had were bought by my brother and me. Bernie actually sold magazine subscriptions enough to get a bike. I was a paperboy for the Piqua Daily Call. When I got enough money I bought a bike. We never had bikes for a family ride.

In Piqua, Ohio, my brother, Bernie, and I would ride together to the Piqua Country Club where we were caddies. We even somehow managed to ride to the public golf course, Echo Hills, with golf clubs on our backs. I was 12 years old. But I never remember riding a bike with my dad.

My dad pulling off the trail

A few weeks ago I mentioned to my dad about going for a ride on the Great Allegheny Passage, a rail trail that goes from Cumberland, Maryland to McKeesport, Pennsylvania, and soon connecting to Pittsburgh.  A large portion is in Somerset Co., Pa.

My dad expressed desire at going but said that he could never keep up with me. I told him not to worry about that.

Inside the Borden Tunnel

Although Dad had complained of back pain, he assured me that riding a bike would be no problem. After all, he rode 1.5 miles on the stationary bike in the doctor’s office, he reminded me. So we made a plan to ride on the trail. We would park cars strategically so he would only have to ride one way. And I would make it downhill. I thought.

Artwork at the Eastern Continental Divide

Our plan was to ride east to west going through two tunnels and crossing the eastern continental divide. My sister, Betsy, would join us as well. There was one thing wrong with that plan. Other than the section from Cumberland to Frostburg, the Frostburg to Deal section had the highest climbing of any section on the trail. We would ge going uphill. Damn me.

Arriving in Frostburg, I was shocked at how heavy his bike was as I unloaded it from my van. Dad had better bikes but at least one was stolen from his R.V. while my parents were camping in York, Pa. He ended up finding this old heavyweight bike at a garage sale. It had the one requirement he wanted – coaster brakes.

My Dad’s Beater Bike

I love climbing. I am more enthusiastic than talented yet the satisfaction of reaching the top is, well, satisfying. My dad is not a climber. Although the rail trail is just a 1-2% railroad grade it’s not like we’re ascending Mount Washington and its average 12% grade. But to my dad it was.

We had gone but 300 yards and my dad says “I think I’ll walk now.” I can’t describe how I felt. I was annoyed that I drove up this weekend and we rode all of 300 yards and he was walking. I was annoyed at myself for starting here. In fairness, this was one the one section of the trail that wasn’t true to its railroad past and did climb up to 4% or so for 100 yards.

Dad enjoyng the view

Once over the hump we settled into a pattern of riding for about 1/2 mile and then resting It was sort of funny. Sort of.

I do not know how I will be at 82 years old. Or if I will be. I don’t appreciate how the cardiovascular system works and how it may not replenish the red blood cells as fast. I do know that we didn’t see any other octogenarians on the trail.

Entering the Big Savage Tunnel

The trail was full of wildlife. Five turtles, four snakes, (including one rattlesnake), three rabbits, two chipmunks, and one deer. One guy showed us where the mileage marker had been removed because it also marked a rattelsnake den.

Borden Tunnel description

We entered the Bordon Tunnel which was unlit and I think surprised my dad. When he saw through it he said “We can see right through it.” Only once inside did he realize how difficult it was for the eyes to adjust. Dad was in front of a guy who had two lights on bright and he was able to stay in front of those lights. 

At the longer Big Savage Tunnel he had gone about 100 yards and I heard him say “Is this only 3/4 mile? – I can walk this.” Don’t walk. Don’t walk. I kept riding, leaving Betsy to stay with him. At the exit I climbed to the top of the portal to take pictures of them exiting, not knowing when they would exit.

Exiting the Big Savage Tunnel

But Dad had a brief acclimation to the tunnel which caused some dizziness but quickly adjusted and rode his bike through the tunnel. He made it through safely.

We stopped at the Eastern Continental Divide, the location where rainfall to the east flows to the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean watershed and to the west to the Ohio (River), Mississippi, and Gulf of Mexico watershed. It was here I saw an elevation map for the trail painted on the wall. Frostburg was much lower in elevation than Meyersdale, something I hadn’t accounted for. That was my first realization that I had screwed up.

Family photo. Dad. Me. Betsy.
The guy taking the photo said “look mad.” Only Betsy played along.

At the Divide we had another mile to go before reaching Deal. It was here we parked his Jeep as a bailout measure. It was a good measure. He was tired and for someone who had only ridden 1.5 miles on a stationary bike, the 11 miles we just covered, on a trail, was quite an accomplishment. These were 11 trail miles by an 82-year-old with a couple of stents.

Storm clouds were rolling in, the temperature was dropping, and it was a good place for him to stop. I loaded his bike in his Jeep for the drive home. And that concluded my first bike ride with Dad.

Betsy riding beside Dad

Betsy and headed on to Meyersdale where she had parked. It was another seven miles. Arriving at Meyersdale we found my dad, who had driven there, probably to make sure Betsy got back to her card safely.

Our journey over 18 miles took almost 4.5 hours. A little more than four mph.

After dropping off Betsy, I headed back up to the trail to Frostburg. We had been hearing thunder for two hours but could tell it was two mountains over. Yet rain was near us and we had just a brief exposure to it. But going back through Deal the trail was soaked although I hadn’t got caught in it, it did make for harder conditions.

My attire for the day was “relaxed” and I wore sandals and had platform pedals on Andrew’s bike, which he never rides anymore. I went up the rail at a good pace. There are days on the road bike when I don’t average 16 mph yet I made the 18 miles back in little more than one hour. I averaged almost 16.5 mph. I say I smoked it.

I can reflect on the ride. In 82 years this was the first day I rode my with dad. And in Deal, we walked around, where I found a plaque commemorating trail builders. I think a commemorative brick back at the tunnel had been promised, but in the end, they simply erected a plaque. There on the plaque were the names of two trail builders – Barry & Andrew Sherry, a reminder of the days this dad used to ride with his son.

Trailbulders plaque in Deal, Pa.

After uploading my ride data, I got an email that RideWith GPS made the Meyersdale to Frostburg section a timed segment. I’ve never been first on any segment but there I was in first. I smoked it going back.


Bike to Work Day


It was Bike to Work Day and a gorgeous one at that. Chilly, and low 50s to start, but after 10 minutes of riding I quickly was comfortable and wasn’t cursing my decision not to wear arm warmers. Rather than navigate that mess known as Minnieville Road, I drove the van to the commuter lot so that I could take the lightly traveled Telegraph Road instead.

My route would take me down Tanyard Hill Road into Occoquan and across the pedestrian bridge that spans the Occquan River. Then Ox Road (123) to Lee Chapel, Burke Lake Rd., Lake Braddock, Olley Dr., Guinea Rd., some exploring a shortcut which never materialized, then Prosperity Rd. to Gallows Rd. then hooking up with the Washington & Old Dominion trail.

One of the joys of biking is traveling the road less traveled. I bet thousands if commuters travel through or by Occoquan each day without realizing a bridge exists for cyclists. And walkers.

Crossing the Occoquan River. By bike.

At Gallows Road I stopped at a Bike to Work pit stop for my free T-shirt then continued on. In Falls Church I stopped at their lively pit stop. The police officer on duty was Jimmy Brooks, a friend of mine.

Officer Brooks

It was fun seeing Jimmy and he made sure that I knew the ABC’s of cycling. A is for air pressure. B is for brakes. C is for crank (or drive train). He said I passed.

From there I followed the Custis Trail to Rosslyn retracing my ride of three years ago. But I didn’t crash.

In Washington D.C. I rode by the Washington Monument, even diverting to go through some water sprinklers. It felt good.

My route home was a little different. I followed the Mount Vernon Trail to Four Mile Run to the W&OD.  On the Four Mile Run Trail I was about to announce my presence passing a woman, who wasn’t wearing a helmet, when I got a puff. Of her cigarette smoke.

Rather than pass I slowed down and heard a “ding-ding” of a bell from a rider behind me who wanted to pass. I said “you’ve got to be kidding me.” I was thinking out loud why I should warn this woman about me about to overtake her when someone needed to warn her about the effects of smoking.

The guy behind me heard me and started to apologize for ringing his bell. I laughed. I told him what I was thinking and he agreed with me.

Barry with Officer Brooks

Officer Brooks invited me back on my return trip which was fun. Music, smoothies, ice cream, and a slow rider contest which was going slow without put a foot down. I won my heat.


After leaving the W&OD at Gallows Road it was then a matter of riding home. The legs felt good. Some days when biking home from work the legs start to hurt after 30 miles but today, after 70, the legs still felt good. It was the best 77.77 miles I have felt on a bike but maybe that’s because I rode slow for BTWD.

But road rage???? In more than 2,000 miles of riding this year I have been honked or yelled at three times. Today? Four. All in Fairfax County. Wow. Somebody who was stuck in a car was grumpy today. Jealous.