Reflections on the Year – 2019

I rode on New Years Day because everyone rides on New Years Day, no matter what. But it was nice enough to ride on January 2 so I rode. And it was then I thought why not ride every day? Ten miles minimum. Outside. The 10 miles would be in honor of my 10-year Cancerversary this year. It would give me a reason to ride – no matter what. And I would ride at least 100 miles per week as well. The final part of this was to ride 10,000 miles. That would be a big ask. I twice reached 8,000 miles (but never 7,000). I reasoned there were some things I could do more than just riding 10 miles every day. In my big mileage years, I would often ride around 265 days. For those 100 days that I didn’t ride, I would be adding 1,000 miles just by riding 10 miles per day. Maybe I could do this. And on December 21, I went over 10,000 for the year, finishing with 10,150.

HIGHLIGHTS

With 365 days of riding how does one narrow it down to 10 highlights? Let’s go by month.
W&OD Bridge, Reston, Va.
  • FEBRUARY – Just cold and more snow. Having ridden 480 miles in January my goal was to hit 1,000 miles by the end of February, I made it. But I couldn’t lose sight of the fact that 1,000 miles in two months put me on pace for just 6,000 for the year.
WMRR near Hancock, Md.
  • MARCH was better. My mileage was 723 miles. But even then, at 1700 miles in three months I was on pace for 6,800 miles. Doubt was beginning to creep in.
  • APRIL brought warmer weather and a trip to Florida. I drove and met the family at Club Med in Port St. Lucie. I got in 30-mile rides each day including one 50-mile day.
Pier Titusville Fla.
  • With Spring fully in place, I rode 1000 miles in MAY, the first of five months in which I hit the 1000 mile mark. It was also the first test of riding every day even while traveling. I flew to Austin on May 31 then drove to Killeen. I built the bike then went for a ride, finishing at dusk.
  • JUNE began with the Atlas Ride to support the Texas 4000. Then a trip to Europe. I returned sick and illness prevented a second straight 1,000-mile month (934) as I slogged through seven days doing just the minimum ten miles.
Texas 4000
  • JULY brought the MS-150 ride in State College and an 1100-mile month.
Woodland Ave Punxsutawney
  • AUGUST included a trip to Ohio and Indiana and a 1200-mile month
  • In SEPTEMBER I found a new cancer ride in Richmond and went back to the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo
  • OCTOBER was a California trip and more challenges to ride every day. After riding on Monday morning, I took the redeye home, and as soon as I landed and there was daylight, I took my second bike out and rode since the Domane was still in the shipping case.
  • NOVEMBER included a disappointing trip to Florida (weather). I had hoped to have 9,000 miles by the end of October leaving 1,000 miles for November and December. I was just short of 9,000 but knew I could finish strong.
  • DECEMBER was my lowest month but I was positioned where it didn’t have to be a big mileage month. Bad weather and illness slowed me but on December 21 I crossed the 10,000-mile threshold.
MECHANICALS I had a few, but too few to whine about.
  • In Virginia, the rear derailleur popped off the Domane on the W&OD. I walked a mile and Tom, from The Bike Lane, came and got me.
  • In Texas, the rear derailleur on my Domane quit working while I was on the 50-mile Atlas Ride. A wire had been pinched and shorted out (my fault on rebuild) but I was stuck in one gear for the ride.
  • In Pennsylvania, the rear derailleur cable broke on my Pilot while on the MS-150 ride. I was stuck in the hardest gear but only walked up two mountains.
  • In California, the front derailleur (Di2) of the Domane sheared off a piece and I had to ride both days of the Cookie Gran Fondo without shifting the front derailleur.
AND FLATS I had seven flats in 10,000 miles. My road kit includes a CO2 cartridge and I managed to use just one of those repairing seven flats
  • In January, in a very cold DC (and I didn’t want to mess with changing a flat), Alan Ruof gave me a ride to my car and I was able to repair the flat in my house.
  • In March in a cold rain, I flatted one mile from my house. I walked home and repaired the flat in my house.
Flat – March 21
  • In September I suffered two flats on the Abandoned Turnpike in Pa. I was eight miles from nowhere. I repaired one with the one CO2 I had. I rode the other flat back to the car.
  • In October, on the Pacific Coast Highway, I flatted. A woman had pulled over to wait for her family and I borrowed a floor pump from her to fix my flat.
  • In December, on the W&OD, I had completed a ride but noticed a flat when I got to my daughter’s house. I repaired it there. The next day on the W&OD I flatted one-mile from my car. I walked back to the car then changed the flat at home.
With seven flats I only had to change two on the road. The one on Pacific Coast Highway and the one on the Abandonded Turnpike. That’s not a bad track record. No whining.

THE AWARDS

HANGING WITH THE PROS I had chances to ride with current and retired pro cyclists. In Europe, I rode with Andy and Frank Schleck and Jens Voigt. Back in the States, I rode with Jeremiah Bishop, Ben King (almost), and Phil Gaimon. KEEPING UP WITH A TRACK STAR In Finland, I hooked up with a very young Astrid Snall, a track and triathlon champion.
Astrid
SPEED AWARD On August 14, riding near Ligonier, Pa., I went 52 mph (83 kph) down Darlington Road towards Rector.
Top Speed 2019
BEST SWAG Phil Gaimon’s Cookie Gran Fondo had a cookie mussette Ben King’s Home Roads RVA had a neck gaiter. Got an insulated water bottle from the Horrible Hundred. But the one thing I use almost daily – a reusable shopping back from the Climb to Conquer Cancer. A TRIP I FINALLY REMEMBER Having woken up in Ohio on May 16, 2018 with no memory of being there, I went back to Ohio and rode with Paul Sullenberger, the retired police officer who found me unconscious on the Great Miami River Trail. This time I remembered the ride.
Paul and Barry
BEST COUPLE I met Andrew and Stacey near the end of the Sea Gull Century. They were doing their first every Metric Century BEST GROUP RIDE Every day in Luxembourg with the Roosters. We rode in twos, close to the rider in front of us. No one was sketchy (ok, maybe one but not calling that person out here) and we felt safe at 15, 20, 30 mph. WORST GROUP RIDE On July 9 I met up with a group from Bull Run Cycles in Manassas. There were about 60 cyclists of varying abilities. My three attempts to have a conversation with anyone went nowhere. Having just returned from Europe and riding with Jens Voigt and the Brothers Schleck, I saw a rider with a Team CSC jersey. I tried to drop their names but he had never heard of them – even though that was the team they raced with before Leopard. There were riders crossing wheels, stopping without warning, and just riding erratically. I bailed before it was over and won’t jump in with that group again. BEST MEAL Cookie Gran Fondo. At Phil Gaimon’s Cookie Gran Fondo, some of the best chefs in L.A. brought in their creations. In addition to the chocolate chip cookies, you won’t find better food on a ride than this. Honorable Mention: The Alpine Loop Gran Fondo (Jeremiah Bishop)., Harrisonburg, Va. Ride Director, Erin Bishop does an outstanding job with a post-ride catered meal.
WORST MEAL While eating at an outdoor restaurant in Luxembourg City, Frank Schleck found a spider in his salad.
Shortly after this photo was taken, Frank was given a salad with a spider in it
OH FRANCE, I HARDLY KNEW YE Riding in France four times previously, it existed for me as the perfect place to ride. No road rage and even the dogs don’t bark at you. While on our Luxembourg-France ride in June, a car went by horn blazing. And a dog barked at us. France, I hardly knew ye. Now France is just a place (actually it’s not, it’s just not perfect anymore). WORST DIRECTIONS Arriving at the Hilton Airport in Frankfort, and needing a place to ride to “ride every day,” I asked three people at the front desk where to ride. I was told we were at an airport and one couldn’t ride. Yet I could see a bike path 10 floors below my room. I found the bike path. BIGGEST LOGISTICAL CHALLENGE – I Zurich. On Mon. June 24, I would leave at 10:00 a.m., scheduled to arrive Philadelphia at 2:30, depart at 6:00, arrive DCA at 7:30, then be home by 9:00 p.m. (dark), if lucky. But the Zurich Airport Hotel had some “rental” bikes which were free to guests. I departed the hotel at 6:05 a.m. with no clue where I was going but rode 10.4 miles. Philadelphia had bad weather, my flight was delayed three times and my bike stayed on the place in DC after they unloaded all the luggage. They had to get a special crew out to the plane to get my bike. But at least I got my ride done in Switzerland. BIGGEST LOGISTICAL CHALLENGE – II On June 6 I rode in the morning before my 4:30 flight to Iceland connecting to Helsinki. I arrived in Helsinki on June 7, rented a car and drove to Forssa. I was building the bike when Laura Vainio came home around 4:00 p.m. and we visited and went to dinner. It was almost 9:00 p.m. before I started on a 13-mile exploration of Forssa. BIGGEST LOGISTICAL CHALLENGE – III Returning from California, I rode the morning of Monday, October 28, along the beaches of Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach. I took the redeye (departing at 10:00 p.m. PST). The flight was only four hours and it arrived IAD before 6:00 a.m. I waited at baggage for my Domane but had brought my Trek Pilot in the car. Once I got my bike from luggage, I grabbed a quick breakfast then jumped on my Pilot rode 20 miles on the W&OD. And I almost fell asleep on the drive home. WORST CRASH There was one, on snow. I was on treated streets until I came to Holleyside Dr. in Montclair. Wanting to do a loop instead of an out and back. I thought I would follow some fresh tire tracks in the snow. Downhill. They ended in a driveway. I went straight. I went down. Ouch.
Holleyside Drive yuck
DOLORES! At Phil Gaimon’s Cookie Gran Fondo I head a voice then recognized the actress as Susan Walters. She has many acting credits but I only know her a the girl Jerry Seinfeld is dating but he doesn’t remember her name and is too embarrassed to ask her. SHUT UP LEGS! I went to Luxembourg expecting to ride with Frank Schleck. But on the last night we were there who would show up but Jens Voigt. I got to ride with the Jensie! BEST ICE CREAM RIDE In Finland, 12-year-old, Olivia, and I went for a ride to downtown Forssa for ice cream.
We asked if they took credit cards (they said yes), we ordered, we ate, we went to pay and none of my credit cards would work. But we went to an ATM, got cash, went back and settled up. And the ice cream was delish!
MOST OVER OFFICIOUS PERSON In May, I was on my normal go-to route through Montclair which means going through the school parking lot at Henderson Elementary, dismounting and walking up 10 stairs to the upper drop-off area. This is to avoid the upper section and uphill portion of Waterway Drive which gets busy. It was about 8:45 a.m. and the drive up to the school was crowded with parents illegally parked in the fire lane, all on their cell phones. I went past them to the sidewalk and dismounted. The principal of the school, Suzanne Bevins, came over and confronted me. She asked me not to ride there “for your own safety.” I thought her concern was 500 elementary students and not one cyclist. It seemed clear that she was worried about an older male wearing Lycra being near the kids. I asked her if it was illegal for me to walk up those stairs and she conceded it was not. I thanked her for her concern for my safety, maybe a bit sarcastically, but assured her that avoiding those caffeinated drivers using Waterway Drive was much more dangerous than me walking through the school grounds. For what it’s worth, I don’t believe for one second she was concerned about my safety. I do believe I believe I was targeted because I am an older man on the grounds with elementary students. A man in Lycra. BEST OVERTIME When my rear derailleur quit working on the Atlas Ride near Austin, I scrambled late on Saturday to find an open bike shop for repair so I could ride on Sunday. I found Bicycle Shop on N. Palmer Ave. Sam Jaffe worked on the bike to diagnose it, find a part (didn’t have it but improvised), and stayed overtime to get the bike running again.
Sam Jaffe at Bicycle Shop in Austin
RIDING BAREBACK I did not find my hand pump for my treat to Europe so through when I hit the ground in Finland my plan was to find a bike shop and buy a CO2 cartridge. Forssa had a bike shop that was closed weekends and was mostly a hardware store. I visited friends twice to use their floor pumps. I rode through Finland, Germany, Luxembourg, Holland, Franc,e Belgium, and Switzerland without an air source for my tires in case of emergency. I made it but do not recommend it. THE WAY YOU DO IT In California, I visited a bike shop to top off my tires. I then bought a CO2 cartridge from them. Although I had a flat while on the Cookie Gran Fondo, where I pulled over I found a woman with a floor pump in her car. I did not need to go to my C02. And when I tore down the bike at Enterprise Rent A Car in El Segundo, I gave my cartridge to the manager who was a cyclist. BEST BIKE PURCHASE On my way to Florida, I stopped at an REI in Jacksonville. I had a 25% off one item coupon and found the Wahoo Bike Computer I had been looking at. She read the fine print (I couldn’t read it) and said it was not good on items with GPS. Then she smiled and rang it up anyway. ROYAL ORDER OF THE IRON CROTCH My local cycling club, Potomac Pedalers Touring Club, has an award, which may be tongue in cheek, but it is called the Iron Crotch Award. This recognition goes to anyone who rides 5,000 miles in a year. And I qualified. Twice. To qualify, I had to submit a simple questionnaire.
  • TOTAL MILES: 10,150
  • LONGEST RIDE – Sea Gull Century — 104
  • Date on which 5,000 was achieved (1) – July 11 – Just a loop around home.
  • Date on which 5,000 was achieved (2) – July 15 – I thought I went over 5,000 on July 11 but there were a couple of rides that were counted twice. I had to recalibrate and actually went over 5,000 on a 34-mile ride I call the “Manassas Loop.”
  • Most miles in a Month — 1211 (August)
  • Most miles in a week — 334 – July 15- 21, included the MS-150 in Pennsylvania
  • Number of Zero mile weeks – None
  • Number of 100 mile days – One
  • Most interesting story – That’s sort of what this blog post is about

Truly Horrible

CLERMONT, FLORIDA

The Horrible Hundred occurs over two days if you include the Saturday orientation rides. Those are delightful and, like group rides, occur under adult supervision. Not so the Sunday ride.

I stayed at the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Clermont, a four-mile ride from the hotel to start. With chilly temperatures (low 50s) I was unsure what to wear. I was also checking out of the hotel so I was a few minutes later leaving than I had planned to meet John Dockins at the start.

Rest Stop One

This would also be a test of the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt, a new bike computer I bought in Jacksonville on Friday. I decided to mount both computers as a test.

I downloaded directions to the start on my Garmin and followed those yesterday. I didn’t load the route today thinking I would retrace yesterday’s route by memory. I was wrong. Normally with a keen sense of direction, the fully gray skies gave me no directional bearing. I had gone three miles and was literally, just feet from the hotel where I started and never noticed that until viewing my route hours later.

I wasn’t getting closer to Waterfront Park. A message appeared on the Bolt. “Where are you?” It was from John Dockins. Messages on my bike computer, pretty cool.

I called him and told him I messed up. I was two miles away and would be there in eight minutes but he was raring to go. I realized I was on course and told him I’d ride back to meet him.

There was one problem with my plan. Although I was two miles from the start, the route would circumvent the lake first before climbing up the hill to our meeting location. I rode back. I waited. And waited. And waited some more.

Eventually, I was convinced John had ridden by and we missed one another. John had suggested meeting at Rest Stop One. At this point, I figured I had missed him so I rode ahead to Rest Stop One.

Our bikes at Rest Step One

As I approached the rest stop I thought back to the map I had looked at before the ride. Only then was I pretty sure they went around the lake. I had cut off eight miles. But it’s a ride, not a race, and I was adding four to and from the hotel to get the same mileage.

At the rest stop, I called John. He was five miles behind me. I told him I’d ride back for sure this time. And I did.

Rest Stop One

The first segment to Rest One was not fun. This is a big event and mob mentality takes over. At two red lights, I was the only cyclist to stop. Even with cross-traffic tens of cyclists went by me, sometimes flew by me, through the intersections. I thought I might be hit by someone flying by.

Cold Weather Gear

Another time I was on the shoulder – to the right of the lane line and a cyclist flew up the gutter passing me. This was unsafe and not fun. And another group came by so fast and so close I jumped on the parallel bike path to avoid them. I hadn’t remembered such aggression before but will now consider this my last Horrible Hundred.

Tour of Lancaster (County) Jersey

John and I stopped at Rest One. The stops were well stocked with food and big lines. Not a complaint, just an observation. And great volunteers.

VeloFix Guy at Rest Four

John and I stayed together mostly. I let him go ahead on Sugarloaf Road but caught him on the climb. I set a PR on Sugarloaf on a day I was determined not to try. And sometimes when we try we go into the red and blow up. Slow and steady set my PR. (And now am in 5200th place.) This was ironic because I was thinking this was my last hill climb of 2019 and to enjoy it, not go out to set a PR.

Rest Stop Four

As we came back into town we were on the last hill. It had probably a 12% grade. A few feet in front of me I thought a rider was doing a track stand (balancing the bike while stopped). I wondered, briefly, why he was showing off this skill. Then he stopped and fell over very hard. And yelled. Very loudly.

Rest Stop Four

He had cramped badly and could not pedal nor could he unclip from his pedals. I stopped along with a woman. We tried to get him help and a SAG ride for the final two miles but he said: “I must finish this.” It’s a man thing. I understand. After five minutes I helped him to his feet then rolled on. The Bolt had a message from John: “Are you OK?” If it can respond I don’t know how to do that so I ignored it. (Note: It can’t.)

It was a chilly day. We had some very light rain in the beginning but mostly it was cold (low 50s) and windy. The phone was in a jersey pocket under my vest. Using it meant stopping and unzipping the vest. Maybe removing a glove too. So I didn’t take pictures on the road or try to call or text John (using Siri).

We went to lunch then said goodbye. I had to find my way back to the hotel. I noticed the mileage was different between the two computers: 73.0 and 72.9. I thought they would be perfectly equal. I have more testing to do.

A Thin Strip of Paint

CLERMONT, FLORIDA

I came to Florida to escape Virginia’s Fall temperatures and ended up with Virginia’s Fall temperatures. It was 55° when I rolled out of the hotel for Waterfront Park. I put on long-fingered gloves. There were three rides today and this was the last one scheduled.

Registration Check-in

We rolled out at 9:00 a.m. for a 42-mile ride, not including my hotel miles. The organization for the Horrible Hundred offered these “familiarization” rides the day before the event. Our group, about 14 riders, at first looked to be mostly equal in ability. But quickly, one noticeably overweight cyclist dropped back. I love riders riding, of all abilities. So I dropped back to talk with him.

He was from Winchester, Va. which made us practically neighbors. Really, he would have been fine except he kept talking about his domain is the mountains so he can’t go as fast as the flatlanders can on these flats. Saying nothing would have been fine. We’ve all been the slowest or fastest. No excuse is necessary.

The rubber band broke and he lost contact with us although one of the leaders stayed with him. There was a four-mile loop before a turn so we went ahead and when he arrived there he would turn and be in front of us on course.

Riders at the start

At Mile 30 we stopped at a gas station. Ever mindful of lactic acid building up while standing around, I announced I would keep going and soft-pedal. The group could catch us. My friend came with me.

I had to soft-pedal and wait a little on some inclines but I was keeping us together. I saw a port-a-john at a boat ramp and pulled over. He did too.

Now with 10 miles to go, we pulled out onto the main road. Except he didn’t come. I pedaled slowly for 1/2 mile and never saw where he went. Then I decided just to ride.

I doubt I was the oldest in the group but was far from being the youngest. I was sure the group would catch me. But then I didn’t want to be caught.

It’s a funny thing, this sport. You tell the group you will ride ahead and they can catch you. And after a while, when they don’t, you become determined not to let them catch you.

Some of our riders

I picked up my pace and occasionally looked back the road to see if they were coming. It was almost “time trial” mode for the last 10 miles although I don’t have aero bars on my bike. Some did though.

They never caught me. I was first in this group.

I went to registration and signed in for tomorrow’s ride. I left and backtracked 1/4 mile expecting to see my group. I never did.

I hope they did not suffer any mechanicals or accidents. I was sure the group would catch me but of course they didn’t know they were chasing. And maybe today I rode faster than the group behind.

______

My ride home took me on St. Rte 50. Six lanes of traffic and a designated “bike lane” on either side.

And there you see it. Cyclists’ deaths are up this year. The NTSB says cyclists should wear helmets. And be more visible. But this is infrastructure. A guardrail protects pedestrians from out of control cyclists but cyclists get to ride side by side with traffic that is signed for 50 mph (actual speeds usually higher) and we are protected by a four-inch strip of paint. Bigger vehicles. Smartphones. Crappy infrastructure. We get a strip of paint. That is why cyclists’ deaths are up.



Hello Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA

On my way to the Horrible Hundred in Clermont, I swung by Ormond Beach to ride to Daytona Beach. It wasn’t far but was just enough to stretch the legs.

Ormond Beach

I parked in Ormond Beach and crossed the Intracoastal Waterway over to the thin strip of land next to the beach. Temperatures were in the high 50s and it was a gray day.

State vehicle using the bike lane to park on the bridge. Sigh.

But there is always something special about ocean air. It refreshes the lungs.

I checked out the oceanfront then crossed back over the Intracoastal and headed north back to my car.

Trek Pilot

I wanted a few more miles and crossed the Intracoastal one more time (and back again). Then drove on to Clermont.

Daytona Beach

Home Roads RVA

ASHLAND, VIRGINIA

Professional cyclist, Ben King, and his wife, Jenna, hosted a ride to benefit Qubecca, the bike project of Dimension Data. At a little more than one hour door to door to Ashland, I was all set to arrive one hour early. Today I planned to arrive one hour early and not be rushed.

The ride was scheduled for 10:00 a.m. I left my house at 8:15 a.m. My rear (car) tire was very low and I went looking for a service station to add air. The first one I came to did not have an air pump. The second one did. It was a slow pump and cost $1.50. Now it was 8:25 a.m.

Roll out

I was on U.S Rte 1 and saw a McDonalds. I thought I’d get a Diet Coke in the drive-thru. Ultimately, that took 17 minutes and it was Diet Dr. Pepper. I dumped it out. It was 8:42 a.m.

I still had one hour to go on I-95. I stopped at the rest area near Ladysmith to change into my riding bib shorts. My ETA moved to 9:42 a.m. I arrived at 9:45 a.m. but there was no close-in parking. A policeman directed my 1/4 mile up the road.

Roll out – three minutes early

I got the bike down from the roof, changed my shirt to a jersey, grabbed a vest, and hustled to registration. It was 9:55 a.m. I was handed a bib to pin on and the ride took off. It was 9:57 a.m. I’ve never been to a ride that left early. I put the bib in my vest pocket.

There were two routes – a full metric (62 miles) and a shorter 48-mile route. My granddaughters came to visit this weekend so I thought I would take the shorter route. I rolled out at the start, dead last. Kept an easy pace and saw the split up ahead with the cool kids picking up the pace.

At the split of routes I went short. I passed a few people and arrived second at the rest stop. A number of riders I passed all showed up as I made sure to thank each of the volunteers. So about six of us left together, I was on the front. Eventually, a couple passed me but I stayed 50-150 yards behind them for the next 20 miles.

Restrooms were in the firehouse. Cool.

And then I passed them, catching and passing the only two riders ahead of me. I was having a good day.

Rest Stop

A car passed me followed by a motorbike who said, “keep right.” I was right and I thought it was a warning not to be all over the road. Instead, he should have said, “stay right, we’re passing.” But he probably didn’t have time. About 10 seconds later a small peloton of about 20 riders, led by Ben and Jeremiah Bishop, came flying by. Ben said, “keep up the good work.” They had caught me. They rode 15 (or more miles) farther and they passed me.

Oh well. I was only 2-3 minutes behind them arriving at the end. I saw Ben and Jeremiah briefly but went inside to pick up my ride swag which I did not have time to take to my car beforehand. When I came out they were gone. Maybe they just put their bikes away.

I had granddaughters at home. I was happy with my ride. I left.

The ride was a fun ride. It especially looked like it had a nice meal plus there were items to be auctioned for charity. I missed the social part as I rushed home. I don’t regret missing out but I hope Ben does this ride next year and I can bring some friends.



California Dreamin

EL SEGUNDO, CALIFORNIA

Having just returned from California from the Phil Gaimon Cookie Gran Fondo weekend, I need to revisit my planning – for next time, you know.

What went right – what went wrong.

All in all, it was a great trip.

Bike packed in Thule case

In 2019 I am celebrating my 10-year Cancversary and will ride 10 miles (at least) every day. That affected the flights that I could take. If I fly out early it has to be real early so I have time to ride when I arrive. Or I can ride in the morning and travel late – but that one isn’t for me.

Barry and Ernie Rodriguez

I left home by 4:30 a.m. for Washington-Dulles. I parked in the long-term Economy lot and was still at my gate by 5:43 a.m. – two hours before scheduled take-off.

In Terminal B is a Five Guys that served breakfast sandwiches. I had the bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich. And it was good.

The flight arrived LAX on-time. My only checked bag was my bike and despite the luggage arriving at Terminal 6, mine was an Oversized bag and arrived in Terminal 4 at the Oversize Baggage.

Building the bike at the hotel

I took the hotel shuttle to the Fairfield Inn and Suites – El Segundo. Arrived by noon. No room was ready but I built my bike in the pool area (only a few funny looks). I jumped on my bike and visited – In-N-Out Burger which was right next door. Then I rode west – towards the ocean.

El Segundo at the beach
Bike path El Segundo

I had texted Robert Hess and he offered to pick me up at the hotel for a ride. I told him I already found the bike path and could ride to meet him. That was better. We met close to Manhattan Beach then rode north towards (but not to) Venice Beach. We found a straight section used for KOMs and both went moderately fast.

Manhattan Beach
Bike Path in Hermosa Beach
Robert and Barry

RIGHT: By taking the hotel shuttle from the airport I avoided one day of car rental charges.

RIGHT: By renting in El Segundo, I avoided the LAX fees on rental cars. In addition, a much higher rate.

I drove to Thousand Oaks where I stayed at the TownePlace Suites by Marriott. I was going to stay at the official hotel of the Fondo, the Hyatt, but the rooms were $60/night more.

TownePlace Suites by Marriott, Thousand Oaks. The pool wasn’t so nice.

I was 10 miles from the venue on Saturday and decided to ride there instead of drive. That also made my decision to choose the 40-mile ride over the 50-mile ride.

The official Cookiemobile

One problem was I was riding directly into a low sun on Thousand Oaks Blvd. Even with two rear lights, I was worried about the traffic seeing me.

The hotel was only about 15 miles from Sunday’s venue so I could not complain. Plus it was very close to an In-N-Out Burger and a Chili’s.

I was initially going to ride in Santa Barbara on Monday but decided to ride again in Manhattan Beach. I did not explore the southern end of the trail before and I could save a day’s rental charge.

RIGHT: By getting the car back before 11 a.m. I would have three days’ rental and not four.

Wildfire on the 101

One problem was there were wildfires including one I went by one Hwy 101. Waze found a better way but that meant hundreds of drivers all used the same side streets. I got in a little late but within tolerance.

Wildfire on the 101

Once packed, their driver took me back over to the Fairfield Suites where I boarded the Fairfield airport shuttle, the one that dropped me there four days earlier. I don’t know if this was cool or not but when I checked out on Friday I asked Scott Trexler at the hotel and he said it would be no problem. Of course, he wasn’t working when I returned.

Near Manhattan Beach

I rode south to Redondo Beach then one last time to In-N-Out Burger. I went back to the car rental location where I had left my luggage. I think they were more bemused than annoyed that I tore down the bike in their office and packed it in the case.

At the airport, I found a restaurant and watched the Steelers-Dolphins on Monday Night Football (Steelers won 27-14). About one hour later I boarded the redeye flight to Dulles.

Watching the Steelers at LAX

Arriving Dulles, I had to figure out where my bike would arrive. It came in on the Oversize Baggage belt. It has come down the regular belt before (ugh) so I have to figure out by airport where it will arrive.

I went back to my car in the Economy lot then to Chick-Fil-A, Ashburn, for breakfast before getting the Trek Pilot out for a ride on the W&OD. I had packed the Domane for California but also brought the Pilot and left it in the car. It was on its side covered by a blanket in the car. Then when arriving back, rather than trying to rebuild my Domane, I could just jump on the Pilot and ride.

After riding and dropping the Domane at the bike shop (broken front derailleur), I found myself fighting drowsiness on the 30-mile trip home. That redeye took it out of me but was necessary if I was to ride today. The other option on American was 10:30 a.m. arriving at 6:30 p.m. It would be hard to ride in the morning, tear down the bike, and get to the airport on time. And it arrived too late for an evening ride.

I am comfortable with almost all the decisions I made for this trip. I like the hotel shuttle and the first night near the airport. It worked out renting off-site. And getting back to the hotel. Keep this in mind if I do this one again.

Everyone is Walking

CAMARILLO, CALIFORNIA

This was Phil’s Cookie Gran Fondo and I had decided to ride the 50-mile “Sugar Cookie” route. I was to meet Anthony Venida and waited at the starting chute with Robert Hess who was riding the family route which departed a little later.

Entrance between two hangers. Start/Finish is on the other side.

I didn’t see Anthony and let everyone roll through ahead of me before starting last. Once on course, I received a text from Anthony that he started with the “Chocolate Chip” route as some of his friends were riding the 80-mile route.

Start/Finish line


I rolled out, although I could not go fast, and the first seven miles were pancake flat. I was chatting with a rider wearing a Mont Ventoux jersey. Although much younger than me, I still had to secretly question his equipment when I saw it looked like his lowest gear was about a 17t cassette. I was running 32t.

“Are you OK?” – “Yes, just getting pictures of peppers”


The climb, which I remembered as a three-mile climb, had a much different profile than I remembered. The first 1/3 mile kicks up and then it appears to level off. It’s still a climb but much more gradual for the next two miles. And then, it whacks you in the face full force.

Cookies everywhere

My friend, with the Ventoux jersey, sat on my wheel and I didn’t mind. As we got to the wall, there were people pushing their bikes. And they were all over the place. The road kicked up – more than 15% (and maybe 20%). I was counting but lost track of the walkers but was over 100.

He had passed me on the climb – until he had to walk too

 

Part of me wanted to join them. And I wondered what I would have done had this been a normal Sunday ride with nobody watching. But they were watching. And I kept climbing although it was a real effort.

West Protero Road in Lake Sherwood


When I reached the summit, I turned around to look for Mr. Ventoux. He was nowhere to be found. It would have taken a super-human effort to push his gear up that climb. I don’t know when he got off to walk.

FAll horse farms up here – Lake Sherwood


There was a second intermediate climb of two miles which was also considerable. The Fondo made no mention of it, maybe because it wasn’t a timed KOM. It was also on Pretero Road, two miles after the summit of the first climb. At the bottom of the second hill, I stopped and visited the VeloFix mechanic who was finishing up changing a tire for a woman. We mentioned the climb on Pretero Road and he said, “everybody is walking up that hill.”

Mulholland Road

Although there was a rest stop at the base of the last climb, I did not stop because it was a rest stop at the base of a climb. The time off the bike would cause lactic acid to build up and my climbing would be crap. More crap than usual, that is.

Mulholland Road – this is nice!

I continued past and started up the climb of Westlake Blvd. This one was tough with sections of the lower portion pushing 20% grade. About one mile up it gets easier – 10-12% grade.

Westlake is particularly steep at the bottom portion and very windy. As we would discover, owners of fast cars love driving this road on Sunday mornings. It was almost a constant din of revved engines and occasional squealed tires.

PCH
Pacific Coast Highway (PCH)


At the top, we transitioned onto Mulholland Highway for a trip to the ocean. The road was closed to vehicles as much reconstruction is going on due to fires one year ago. Not having a big ring available because my front derailleur had failed yesterday meant that I gave up some speed here although it wouldn’t hurt me much. That would come later.

This woman, walking away, had stopped and I borrowed a floor pump from her to change my flat.
This woman had a floor pump which I could use

 

My recollection of Mulholland before today was that it was downhill the entire way. That is not true. There are some uphill sections even while the road trends downhill. Once on Pacific Coast Highway, I was treated to a delight – a tail wind. It was here that I would really miss my big ring.

Lunch inside an airport hanger
Lunch inside an airport hanger


I was quickly out pedaling my gears. Oh how I needed the big ring to take advantage of the wind. Instead, I was spinning and getting passed by others. And then I flatted. As it happened, I pulled over on the Pacific Coast Highway next to a woman who was running SAG for her family. She had a floor pump which made it easier to change. And asked for my used tube so her husband could repair it. Deal.

Barry Sherry, Phil Gaimon, Anthony Venida


Anthony texted me. Although he had finished 30 minutes (or more) earlier, he had come back to an intersection to ride in with me. Robert met us and we all enjoyed a delicious gourmet cycling lunch.

This is not just your typical cycling lunch. There were chefs from L.A. competing with their dishes. This is the best ever. Superb.

Robert Hess, Barry Sherry, Phil Gaimon, and Anthony Venida

 



Phil’s Sugar Cookie

THOUSAND OAKS, CALIFORNIA

Last year I came for the weekend and rode the longer route (Chocolate Chip Cookie) on Saturday. Having done that route, it made sense to try the other route this year, the Sugar Cookie.

The official car of the Cookie Gran Fondo

I stayed at a Homewood Suites in Thousand Oak and mapped out a route to bike to registration. It was 10 miles door-to-door so I would be adding 20 miles to the “40-mile” Sugar Cookie route. I think 55 miles the day before the Gran Fondo would be enough.

Phil Gaimon as Cookie Monster

The temperature was great but there was one issue. I was riding into a low rising sun. At times I had to shield my eyes to see. That was not a problem for me but I also worried that there may be drivers fighting the sun and may not see me on the road. I was nervous.

Barry and Phil’s Mom

Phil Gaimon met me at registration and have me a warm greeting. He made it a point to introduce me to his mother.

Barry and Susan Walters

After Phil’s group rolled out, we had 30 minutes before our group was ready to depart. I heard a voice – that voice – and I recognized it from Seinfeld. It was Susan Walters, who played the girlfriend that Jerry never knew her name – DOLORES! Susan was trying to take a selfie with friends and I offered to take a photo for her. And then I got a selfie (not really, one of her friends took our photo).

Barry and Anthony Venida

Before we rolled out, Anthony Venida, came in with some friends of his. They would be riding tomorrow. But I have known Anthony for six years and it was good to see him again. He also was recovering from a traumatic brain injury earlier in the year. But instead of being found unconscious next to a river, he went all-canyon and went over a cliff. He truly is a lucky young man.

Cookies on the ride

I thought I might ride with Susan’s group but they rolled out about 10 minutes before our official time. I never saw them on the road.

The views…

Once on the road, the route started out similar to what I rode last year. Out a canyon road and then an eight-mile climb up a pretty tough mountain. There is 4600′ of climb in just 37 miles. This is not an easy ride. After the climb, it was a short loop and back to start.

Phil Gaimon and Barry

On my descent, I tried to get in the big ring and get some real speed going. But the bike did not want to shift. My computer told me I was in the big ring but my eyes and my legs told me I wasn’t. I stopped and determined that a piece in the derailleur that lifts the chain had sheared off. I figured, and confirmed this with the VeloFix van, this is not a simple fix but a part replacement would be necessary. But not for this weekend. I would be out of luck for the rest of the weekend.

Frankie Andreu

On my return trip I never could get some good speed going. I was a slow-poke going back.

Frankie Andreu and Barry

Back at the site, we had a great lunch. I also chatted a little bit with Frankie Andreu, who also doubled as Phil’s race announcer.

At the evening Gala

I bought some items at the merchandise tent, left the items (on purpose) and my wallet (not on purpose) to be picked up later this evening at the VIP Gala. There’s a bigger ride tomorrow.


KOM: Madison Avenue Shopping Spree Dash

HAMILTON, VIRGINIA

I was in Purcellville for a football game on September 10 and rode on Bus. Rte 7 to Hamilton. Two lanes and no shoulders, I knew Madison Avenue was a loop that would bring me out further up the road.

Madison Avenue, Hamilton, Va.

When I looked at the ride I saw I was Top Ten. But there were few riders (less than 10) and I had a crappy time (4:05). I was determined to do better.

On October 19, 2019, I was back for another game. Knowing this was a Strava segment, I went all in. And scored a KOM.

Madison Avenue, Hamilton, Va.

It’s not an area that I frequently ride in and probably won’t be back. The locals can have it back but for one day I was KOM.


Weight: 210 (est.)


EDIT/EPILOGUE – Sept. 17, 2020 – The locals have come out to play. I did ride this again on December 7, 2019, it was 38°. Although I bettered my time to 3:07 I now rank 4th (out of 17), with the KOM lowered to 2:41. I have ridden this section just three times.

Cap to Cap

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA

The goal: Park in Richmond, take a train to Williamsburg and ride back on the Virginia Capital Trail.

I was thinking Union Station in D.C. with its six-level parking garage. In Richmond, I found nothing other than a mostly vacant lot near the train station which needed a parking app. I drove a few blocks away and found on-street parking. After all, I was riding a bike today so it really didn’t matter how far away I parked.

Richmond Main Train Station

The area where I parked seemed a little sketchy. Next time: I will park at the trailhead at the bottom of Pear St. then bike to the station.

Inside Richmond station

Like so many U.S. train stations, the Richmond Main Station is a treasure. What a beautiful building. It was, however, lacking in signage. I had no idea which track my train was arriving on or how late it would be. It was scheduled at 10:03 a.m. but had not arrived by then.

I had made a bike reservation so someone should have known that I was boarding with a bike. The baggage car was at the front of the train. There was one boarding area, in the middle, where the conductor checked our tickets.

Richmond Main

I had to enter the middle of the train. When I asked the conductor where I should put my bike he said “anywhere.” I was expecting two hooks per car but found none. One we got rolling he walked it through two cars to the baggage car and hung it on a hook.

The train ride could have been enjoyable The windows were filthy dirty and it seemed the engineer loved blowing that train whistle. Seems to me that there should be better ways in 2019 to warn people of an oncoming train rather than a whistle. I’m not sure I ever heard a train in Switzerland use one.

Dirty windows

With the glare of the sun hitting those windows, it was hard to see any scenery. But mostly it was a forested area from Richmond to Williamsburg.

The seats were much better than the last time I rode a train. Only the constant whistle kept it from being truly enjoyable.

At the Williamsburg station, I had to exit from the middle of the train then walk back up to the front to pick up my bike. Seems the two cyclists would have been better served to exit with their bikes.

Colonial Williamsburg

I had no clue where I was but then – I was in Colonial Williamsburg. I rode the traffic-free streets for a few minutes then found Rte. 5 towards Jamestown.

Arriving at Jamestown Settlement, I met Terry Moran. We would ride together the first 13 miles of the Virginia Capital Trail before he would turn around and go back to his Williamsburg home.

Terry Moran

The trail begins here and is a 51-mile bike trail from Richmond to Jamestown. It is 98% trail with two small portions at Charles City diverted to the street as well as one section of about 1/4 mile near Richmond.

If you love wooden boardwalks this is the trail for you. Every mile it seems you cross one of the bridges. All are in great shape now but wonder if they will hold up in 10-15 years. But enjoy them now. They are great!

Terry rides into the distance

The eastern section is pancake flat. It is situated in the Middle Peninsula section. It is wooded with its share of wooden bridges as it follows Rte 5.

Chickahominy River

At MP 6 (or 7) the trail crosses the Chickahominy River. There is a separate bike lane on either side or the cool kids can ride on the shoulder on the highway.

Crossing the Chickahominy River

Once over the bridge, the trail continues with Charles City being the next landmark. Charles City Courthouse is at MP 21. There are little to no amenities on the trail so grab them when you see them.

Chickahominy River

Terry had turned around at MP 13. He suggested to me that I stop at the Citgo service station at Charles City – for their fried chicken. I came to Haupt’s Country Store and at first, kept going. But then I smelled the chicken and went inside. Chicken by the piece was $2.65 for a breast and roll. It was good but there was no seating area, not even a bench outside.

Haupt’s Country Store

At Charles City, the trail disappeared into the street for a couple hundred yards. I passed Cut’s Courthouse Grille and saw some bicycles parked outside. That is your restaurant option if you want sit-down. At the Citgo Station, I stood next to a trash can.

Did you know this?

After Charles City, I entered the plantation area. Shirley. Berkeley. Sherwood Forest.

Once in Henrico County, the trail went from flat to rolling. The rustle of dried leaves cracked beneath my tires. It was still wooded in many sections and the Fall leaves were covering the trail.

Another bridge – all are in great shape

Fueled by my piece of chicken, I averaged 17 mph from Charles City to Richmond. My time at either end, Williamsburg and Richmond, slowed my average speed as I was site-seeing in Williamsburg and climbing Libby Hill in Richmond.

Four-Mile Creek Park

As I got closer to Richmond the trail became familiar to me. I stopped here in April and had ridden part of this before.

The trail goes under I-295 and is the only place there is considerable road noise.

Mile 51 in Richmond

As I got close to Richmond, I remembered some of this trail from having ridden it four years ago when I volunteered at the UCI World Championships. But some of it was also new to me.

James River, Richmond

Rather than finish the last quarter-mile of the trail, I turned off it to go up Libby Hill and find where I was parked. At Libby Hill, there was a chain across the entrance. After 10-15 seconds of thought, I decided that was for automobiles. There was an opening for a bike and I rode up the famous Libby Hill – as I did three times last month.

The cobbles on Libby Hill

At the top I needed to find my way to my car. I was on Richmond Hill and the street where I parked, Grace Street, did not continue because of a cliff.

sN. 23rd St is a cobbled street that looks to be 12% grade going down. I decided not to ride down it, afraid of my traction while bouncing on the cobbles. The sidewalk presented a good option and I carefully went down the sidewalk. However, at the bottom, it becomes steps.

Richmond Hill – It’s steep – need steps

It was a 60-mile day. It was a beautiful day. I would recommend this again although I would think I would like to add the Jamestown Ferry as an option and ride on the south side of the James to Rte 156.