Reflections on the Year – 2021

WOODBRIDGE, VIRGINIA

Another year of riding. Another year of life!

Slowly, many of the events that disappeared in 2020 came back in 2021, most with modifications, and usually to the size of the groups. But I was able to join in some although the signature event, the Livestrong Challenge, in Austin, Texas, was canceled for a second straight year.

MY TOP TEN CYCLING MOMENTS/MEMORIES
(In no particular order)

  • Oh Vesuvius
  • See you later Alligator
  • Alpine Loop Gran Fondo
  • Texas4000
  • Clingman’s Dome
  • Ride to Conquer Caner
  • Horrible Hundred
  • Sea Gull Century
  • 1000 Days 1000 Rides
  • MWARBH

10. Oh Vesuvius. I cramped on this climb in 2007 and then was pulled off my bike by paramedics on the climb to Reid’s Gap. I vowed someday I would get revenge. In December I went and rode these climbs. Vesuvius was no problem but Reid’s Gap – I simply did not remember how hard of climb that is. The last mile is equal to that of Mount Washington. But I made it. Next up is Reid’s Gap revenge.

Vesuvius, Va.

9. See you later Alligator 🐊 – In March I rode in Shark Valley in the Everglades and had to dodge alligators on the trail. What fun! I would like to ride this one again.

Alligator Shark Valley, Homestead, Fla.

8. Alpine Loop Gran Fondo. So satisfying in many ways. I PR’d on Shenandoah Mountain and Reddish Knob and Mole Hill. I finished second in my age group but my granddaughters were on course and at the finish to see me. This was very satisfying. 

Jeremiah Bishop and Barry Sherry

7. Texas4000. When Canada closed their border it forced the Texas4000 to reroute. They created a Smokys route which came through Virginia. We gave them a lunch stop in Linden and I rode with them on Skyline Drive. 

Texas4000. Shenandoah National Park

6. Clingman’s Dome. This was not quite a bucket list climb but in November I was able to ride from the visitors’ center at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Clingman’s Dome. Visibility was near zero at the top and this was the climb only. No descent. But still a great memory. 

My mother at the TN-NC State Line
She drove to the top while I rode up.

5. Ride to Conquer Cancer. Enjoyable ride in which I was concentrating on settings PRs (I was riding solo). At Libby Hill I did a PR which appeared good enough for the age group classification. But I don’t think their age groups align with Strava. But a happy ride fighting cancer. ♋️ 

Survivor Bib – Climb to Conquer Cancer

4. Horrible Hundred. This can be a two-day event and I made it that. We enjoyed a sensible paced group ride on Saturday then John Dockins joined me for the first 30 miles on Sunday’s century ride. 

Thanksgiving is coming. Horrible Hundred.

3. Sea Gull Century. A ride I always look forward to each year. Although I rode solo I enjoyed jumping in with some of the many Major Taylor Cycling Club groups. They were awesome people.

Sea Gull Century

2. 1000 Days – 1000 Rides. I started in 2019 to celebrate 10 years of survivorship. I rode at least 10 miles every day. And like a bad cycling Forrest Gump impression, I kept riding and riding. On September 26 I hit 1,000. By year’s end, it was 1,096 days and counting. 

Proud Grandfather. 1000 Days 1000 Rides

1. MWARBH. (Otherwise known as Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb) I walked (rode?) away in 2014 after my eighth hillclimb content to never do this event again. Earlier this year I was drawn to the mountain. My time sucked (my worst ever) but it sure was satisfying to finish. 

The Summit – MWARBH.
Photo Credit: Joe Vigar Photography

Not quite a Top Ten but had many other memories as well.

TWO RIDES TO PUNXSY

Duman Lake, Cambria Co.

I have been doing a version of this ride from Somerset to Punxsutawney since 2010. It was always one way to a family reunion and I depended on my parents for a ride back after the reunions. I always looked forward to stopping in Northern Cambria to visit Don & Nancy (both now deceased) and with my dad deceased and my mother getting up in age, I think I probably rode this 70-mile route for the last time.

BEST REPRESENTATION OF UNCLE SAM

July 4, 2021 – Washington, D.C.

DID I MISS THE FERRY?

Historic White’s Ferry – June 20, 2021

The Historic White’s Ferry, connecting Loudoun County, Virginia, and Montgomery County, Maryland, remained closed for the year, denying commuters easy access and this cyclist many good miles in Maryland. Will it finally reopen in 2022?

BEST ROAD RIDING

Tim Casbere at Joplin Road

Joplin Road in Prince William County is a windy two-lane road that connects Quantico with Independent Hill. With no shoulders and blind crests and curves, it is normally too dangerous for cyclists. But a bridge was out and made this road perfect for riding. Unfortunately, the bridge repairs were completed by early April and the road is again, best left not ridden.

I WISH I COULD DO THIS AWARD

July 14 – Washington & Old Dominion Trail

CUTEST ANIMALS

Chickens on High Point

These chickens were on the summit of the climb over Shenandoah Mountain, U.S. 33, West Virginia. I love them like they’re family.

PASSED BY THE KID

On July 21 near Ashburn. Va., my radar showed a cyclist was gaining on me. I was surprised when this kid on a motorized skateboard passed me. He told me “these things can go really fast.”

WAIT – OHIO IS TOP TEN TOO

Barry at Yellow Springs. Photo Credit: Erin T

In July I rode from Springfield, O. to Cincinnati and back on the Little Miami Scenic Trail, a distance of about 80 miles each way. Paved rail trail the entire way.

BIRTHDAY RIDE

The Junction – Milford, Ohio

Last year I bonked badly on a mountainous birthday ride (one mile for every year) in Altoona, Pa. (they have mountains). I vowed this year I would do my birthday ride in Delaware. I didn’t make Delaware but I did make Ohio and rode from Springfield, O. to Cincinnati (Milford), Ohio.

ALMOST A GONER

Tim and Connor and the Potomac River

Tim and Connor went out on the pier into the Potomac River and Connor almost lost his bike. We would have saved the bike.

THAT’S A LOT OF FLATS

Before I rode on Sept. 24 I had a flat that I changed. At Fosters in Manassas it “blew” a second time so I changed it there. When I got home it flatted again so I gave up. Diagnosed it as a hole in the rim tape and replaced it the next day. 

Fosters Grille Manassas

HELPING THE HOMELESS 

I passed a woman on the bike path next to the Prince William landfill. I saw she was wearing trash bags so I went home and made a Care package for her. She refused all clothing but accepted the food. I’ve seen her twice since and she no longer makes eye contact. 

NEW AND DIFFERENT TRAILS

Withlacoochee State Trail

I rode the Mahoning Shadow Trail in Punxsutawney, Pa., the Creeper Trail in southwest Virginia (partial), and the Withlacoochee State Trail in Florida (partial). 

NEW FRIENDS

Nah. Didn’t make any. 

OLD FRIENDS

Tim and the Great Shiplock Park

I rode with Tim more than anyone, although most of my miles are solo. But Tim and I enjoyed the roads in Fauquier County and did a couple of longer day trips. We rode the Abandoned Turnpike in Pa. and from Williamsburg to Richmond. 

OLD FRIENDS TOO

Barry and Margaret – Naples, Fla.
Barry and Joe

I did squeeze in a day in Naples, Fla. and see Joe B. (USPS colleague) and Margaret (Roosters). And rode in Culpeper Co. with Margaret in June.

Barry and Margaret (Jun 1, 2021), Brandy Station, Va.
John D. and Barry Sherry at Rest 1

And rode with John (USPS colleague) at the Horrible Hundred in Clermont, Fla. I did see my friend, Erin, in Ohio (no photo).

ALL-WEATHER

Montclair. Ice.

There were crap days and I tried to choose my routes carefully. This one in Montclair I messed up. But with no significant snowstorms, I was able to ride every day in 2021.


THE NUMBERS

KOM or King of the Mountains. Two years ago I was very happy when I grabbed four of those. But this year – 121!!!! To be fair, many are “trash” – small segments with 10 or fewer participants. But there were a couple where I was best out of 1,000. However, when I ride on the W&OD and there are 30,000 riders competing for a segment, I typically don’t crack the Top 100 although I always strive for #1 in my age group.

THE TOTALS

DISTANCE – 10,367 miles (16.684 km). This was my second-highest annual total, second only to 2020 (10,500).

From RideWithGPS

There is a slight difference between the two tracking programs. (10,367 vs 10,369).

DAYS RIDDEN: 365 (1,096 consecutive days since Jan. 1, 2019)

WEIGHT: 172 (just a little bit up from end of last year)


OUTLOOK FOR 2022

I have no goals. The consecutive days ridden streak was specific to 2019 for my cancerversary which kept going to September 26 when I reached 1,000 straight days. It could have ended there but the weather wasn’t awful enough to stop. But it won’t continue in 2022.

The Cookie Gran Fondo in Malibu by Phil Gaimon has been postponed for two years now and I still have my registration fee paid for 2020. Hopefully, that will work out for October. Likewise, the Livestrong Challenge in Austin has also been postponed for two years. And it would be nice to return to Austin.

With the uncertainty of how COVID will be handled by foreign countries, this doesn’t look like a year to travel to Europe. And my biological clock is ticking.

Above all, I hope for a safe year. Some adventures. But above all, safe riding.

Vesuvius Revenge

VESUVIUS, VIRGINIA

Fourteen years ago I first rode this climb as part of the short-lived Blue Ridge Extreme Century. It was at Mile 50 before we encountered this climb and when I saw a friend walking near the top that was enough for me to join in. My memory, which may be wrong, tells me I went back in 2008 for a different route. But I think we climbed this again and I flatted near the top. I was dragging a low tire and had to walk it to the top for a repair.

I had forgotten about this climb completely until July when the Texas4000 came through. Their route included a descent of this climb. I briefly thought about incorporating this climb as training for Mount Washington but never did. With nice December weather upon us, I put together a 50-mile ride which I thought, tracked what I did 14 years ago. It did not.

Vesuvius has a few homes and no parking. But it does have a church – the Vesuvius Baptist Church. I parked there. I sought permission but the door was locked when I knocked on it.

With a start temperature of 45º, I opted for knee warmers, a headcover, gloves, and a jacket. I started from the parking lot and was immediately on the climb. I remembered nothing about this climb. I was getting warm but had no problems going right up it.

Headed towards Crabtree Falls

Although I had unzipped my jacket, at the top I stopped and zipped it back up. The descent here was fabulous except winds were sustained at 29 mph making bike handling difficult. I stopped briefly at Crabtree Falls and felt and heard problems with my rear brake. I decided not to touch it the rest of the ride. Descending would be with one brake.

Crabtree Falls. South Fork Tye River.

I routed myself a bit too far. I ended up on Patrick Henry Highway. While not too busy in Nelson County, it was still named after a Virginia/U.S. Patriot. It was a highway. It was 8.5 miles to the Ski Barn. I was on a gradual climb with a nice one-mile descent. I loved the ride but would not recommend it or plan to ride it again because it was Patrick Henry Highway.

Crabtree Falls

The Ski Barn was Beech Grove was familiar. It was a rest stop twice for the Extreme Century rides. And from there it would be a six-mile climb to the “top” at Reid’s Gap.

While I rode today to prove myself on Vesuvius, equal to that was the climb to Reid’s Gap. Fourteen years ago I was pulled off my bike on this climb. What I remember: I came to a section and saw other people walking. At that point, I decided I would too. I did not walk too far before remounting and continuing. On the right side of the road was a setup. There was a tent. Definitely a tent. There was an ambulance or fire rescue vehicle parked. And a paramedic yelled to another, “you get his bike, I’m going to get him.”

They pulled me off my bike and made me sit in the tent. They had iced towels they put around my neck. They gave me fresh water. After 10 minutes they told me I could leave but offered, and even strongly suggested, that I be SAGged back to the finish. I refused.

I got back on the bike that day and rode a couple of hundred yards then walked a little more before finally remounting and riding to the top. And that is my memory of that August day.

Patrick Henry Highway near Beech Grove

My Wahoo showed the distance to the next turn which was six miles (5.7 actually). I thought how bad could this be as I started up the climb. The road was busier than I thought and I think most drivers in a hurry were headed to Wintergreen Resort. This is a steep climb. The Virginia Hill Climb Championships have been held here, maybe all on the Wintergreen property to avoid the public road.

I remembered the description in 2007 as the “18% grade of Reid’s Gap.” And I remembered the paramedics. And not much else.

The lower slopes of the climb are gentle. The first two miles probably average two percent grade and the third mile averages three percent. It really kicks up at the entrance to Wintergreen. It is 1.1 miles from there to the top and averages 12.4%. That’s steeper than Mount Washington (12%) although it’s for the final mile and not 7.6 miles.

Reid’s Gap

I hurt. I was going slow. But I was going. I rode my standard road bike setup and not my climbing setup for Mt. Washington. At the top, I turned south on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I did not realize that my climb simply continued. In all it was a 17-mile climb when I was expecting six.

I bonked. I had two bottles with me and went through both. I had one pack of energy chews. Gone. Depleted. I was pedaling but no longer feeling my body. It was surreal. Maybe worse was that I was thinking one I got to Reid’s Gap my body would catch a break. I didn’t know I had 11 more miles of climbing left, even if it was just 3-4% grade. The Blue Ridge Parkway has a rough surface, a “heavy” road as we say in cycling terms. I was spent.

Normally I love forward to the final descent. What a perfect way to end a ride. But I determined not to use my rear brake which made the descent sketchy. I took it much slower than I normally would have. But I made it. My clothes were a mix of sweat and snot. I quickly changed out before driving home.

Pumpkin farm. Thousands of rotting pumpkins. 🙁

The Reid’s Gap climb left me pretty beat. I never remembered that the last mile was 13% with grades even higher in spots. But unlike 14 years ago, I powered, albeit slowly, to the top. And this day left me feeling better about that hot day in August 2007. That was a tough climb then and now.

QUICK THOUGHTS: I last rode this before we had GPS bike computers and therefore, did not have comparison times. Nor was a sure of the exact route that I created to ride today. We definitely did not ride on Patrick Henry Highway. I could have shaved six miles by tracking Rte. 680 at Tyro to Beech Grove. That looks like the road that comes into Beech Grove that we took except it has about one mile of unpaved surface on it. I don’t remember any gravel from 14 years ago. I doubt that I do this ride again but that modification to the route is worth looking at.


High Bridge

FARMVILLE, VIRGINIA

“There have been higher bridges not so long and longer bridges not so high but taking the height and length together, this is perhaps, the largest bridge in the world.”C.O. Sanford, South Side Railroad’s chief engineer, 1852

High Bridge

I first stumbled upon High Bridge, or High Bridge State Park, while on a charity ride in 2013. Our route for the day didn’t take us anywhere near this site but that was the problem. Our map didn’t take us anywhere. The organization wasn’t organized and after making a 30-mile loop we were back to where we started. Someone (me) saw the trail and the signs to High Bridge and we made a deal. Let us ride over the bridge and we’ll call our 50-mile ride to nowhere a ride to somewhere and drive the rest of the way to Raleigh.

Train station, Farmville, Va.

It was an early Spring day in 2013 and there were lots of users out on the trail. I wanted to see it without people so I chose a day in December. And I didn’t see any users until I was nearing the end of my ride when a couple went by on bikes. It was a gray day with temperatures in the upper 50s. I would have preferred a few more degrees or sunshine but I could not control that.

Farmville, Va.

I chose to park in a shopping plaza next to a Cook Out restaurant. I wanted to see a little of the charming town of Farmville and not just stick to the trail. Although the prettiest part of the downtown I bypassed by staying on the trail. It’s charming nonetheless.

High Bridge

In preparation for the ride, I read some trail reviews on TrailLink.com. What junk reviews. One user complained because Mile Marker 0.0 is in the middle of the bridge and they count up from there – in both directions. He stated he wouldn’t be back. Who really cares?

MM 0.0
The center of the bridge

Other users complained because the bridge is the only fixture on the trail. They don’t make trails based on your model train layout. Another complained that the crushed limestone was really gravel. Well, duh!

High Bridge Trail

It’s a rail trail. Almost all of its 33 miles are flat (a feature of most rail beds turned rail trail). There are no great vistas along the trail except for one and it’s really great – the bridge. The surface is crushed limestone which was mostly packed solid making for a very passable surface even for a road bike – which I rode today.

High Bridge

Farmville is a charming college town. Longwood University is located here. From Farmville to the bridge is 4.5 miles (7.25 km). The trail is not a thru-trail, unlike the Great Allegheny Passage which connects Pittsburgh with Cumberland (and to Washington, D.C. via the C&O Canal Towpath). Is it a “destination” trail? Maybe, depending on your perspective.

Downtown Farmville, Va.

I don’t know that I would plan to vacation here, unlike the Pine Creek Trail in Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon. Thirty-three miles is a little short for a destination trail. As mentioned previously, there is but one fixture, High Bridge, but that alone makes a trip here worthwhile.

High Bridge

I enjoyed the peace and quiet of today’s ride. It was weird not seeing any other users except that couple near the end. I saw four dogs roaming around. One had a really bad coat of fur but also a ribbon around his neck. They didn’t approach me and while I thought of approaching them, I did not. Likely as not to be someone’s pets that were off-leash.

High Bridge Trail in Farmville, Va.

Bottom line: If you’re anywhere near the trail, take a ride, a walk, or a run on it. The bridge is awesome.

Farmville, Va.


DISTANCE: 14.5 miles
WEIGHT: 172 pounds

Horrible Hundred

CLERMONT, FLORIDA

The Horrible Hundred can be a full weekend of fun. On Saturday they offer “familiarization rides” which are group rides that cover some of the roads. This is followed by the main event on Sunday. So two days of riding.

Clermont, Florida

The 8:30 ride on Saturday is listed as 17 mph and 50 miles. I did that one twice before. The last time was in 2018. On that ride, we seemingly had 100 riders and way too much testosterone. We had a bad touch of wheels and some riders hit the deck hard when one of the guys at the front braked hard to take a nature break. That would be the last time I would jump in with that group.

Saturday group ride – Howey-in-the-Hills

In 2019, I jumped in with a mid-ride group (16 mph) and had an enjoyable ride over 35 miles or so. And this weekend I would again find the 8:45 group. Our leader was Stacey (I believe). We had a great group that stayed together. Other than Stacey, maybe not the most friendly group but I didn’t ride to make friends. Nor were there any jerks. I told her that this ride was the best part of the weekend.

Saturday ride at a quick stop

Officially the Sunday ride starts at 7:30 a.m. and I arrived at 6:30 a.m. I could not find a parking place at the official lots. Not to worry, I went another half-mile away and rode in. And there were many riders already on course at 7:00 a.m.

John D. and Barry Sherry at Rest 1

I was in line at the port-johns when I received a text from John D. He was two people in front of me. He had driven up from Sarasota but was unsure how far he could ride.

Food at Rest Stop 1

It turned out that John could only ride 35 miles, instead of 70. He had hip replacement surgery earlier this year and wasn’t back to riding many miles. We were passed by a couple of huge groups. They were very sketchy and I don’t join them because I am afraid of a touch of wheels that brings down a number of riders.

Thanksgiving is coming

A few miles later we came upon a crash scene. Half the road was shut down and a number of cyclists had stopped although may not have been involved in a crash. But paramedics were working on one rider who was lying in the road. It was probably caused by a touch of wheels but you never know.

Group start in Clermont

We came to Rest 1 and stopped to refill bottles and take on some food. Once on the road again, John was looking for the turn back to start. That was around Mile 30. He would have five more miles back to start and I would have a decision to make.

Rest 1 – Notice the Limited Vision Cyclist

I was riding solo and catching people. Then I noticed I had someone on my wheel. He should have said something and even passed me and took a pull. But basically sat on my wheel for 3-4 miles until Rest 2 (almost). When he pulled in he came over and gave me a fist pump and thanked meme for the pull. He said I was a strong rider (sucking up).

Rest Stop 2

Leaving Rest 2, I jumped on the back of a group from Clearwater. We were going into a strong headwind at 22-23 mph. I stayed with them for 2-3 miles then decided to let them go. I’m not sure if you say I got dropped or let them go but I’m going with the latter.

Food at Rest Stop 2. Sandwiches.

At Mile 54 was the moment of truth. If John had been with me I know we would have gone for the 70-mile route. But I stopped to check the weather because it had become gray. But the weather app showed 15% of rain for the next few hours so I decided to go for the 100.

Rest Stop 3 – Pirates
Ye Olde Poop Deck (far left)

From my first ride five years ago, and I may be misremembering, I was expecting a 30-mile loop. That would be the difference between 70 miles and 100 miles.

Rooster at Howey-in-the-Hills

After a rest stop in Howey-in-the-Hills, the loop was completed in just 17 miles. And I didn’t mind.

Rest Stop 4 – Sugarloaf Mountain

I came to Sugarloaf Mountain with a wind in my face. I did not expect a PR and I did not disappoint. But I was only two seconds off my best on the lower portion. I had ridden this in March and set my PRs on that day. Today was not the day for it.

Someone pushing their bike up Sugarloaf. Love the GCN Jersey.

After I left the last rest stop at Sugarloaf, I saw that I had about 10 miles to go. I had ridden 80 and was happy to see that the shortened Howey loop apparently cut off 10 miles.

Pirate Rest Stop – 4

Likewise, when I came to the road back to Clermont, I saw that the 70-mile group turned while the 100-mile continued – apparently for a 10-mile loop or simply a different route. I decided to finish the 100.

John cresting a hill

I was in a group of four when we came back to the first rest stop. They stopped. I continued. I just wanted to finish.

This guy was cramping so I gave him my bottle of HotShot.

I came to one more route marker for the 100-mile ride. I decided to turn and take the 70-mile route back. I thought it would be shorter and I did not care if I finished with 96 or 97 miles. There was a time I was anal-retentive that a Century ride must be 100 miles. Not today.

Lunch

But the joke was on me. It was 100 miles.

Very good meal

The lunch was great although I was certainly by myself. Options were a pulled pork sandwich, grilled chicken breast, or a veggie burger (I think).

Lunch

I had looked in vain from Stacey, the ride leader from yesterday, simply to thank her once again. But there were way too many people.

Walking up Sugarloaf

It was a good day. Afterward, I headed back to the hotel in Apopka. I washed all my kits from this trip to take home some nice-smelling clothes. And watch the Steelers vs. Chargers tonight.

We like pirates


DISTANCE: 101 miles
TIME:
SPEED:
WEIGHT: 171 pounds

Clingmans’ Dome

GATLINGBURG, TENNESSEE

It wasn’t a bucket list climb but was certainly one that I wanted to do. I was traveling with my mother, age 90, and we diverted slightly, on our way to Florida. By slightly, I mean 115 miles. Or I guess 129 to include the seven-mile access road to Clingman’s Dome.

Sugarlands Visitor Center

Bad weather would have scrubbed my plans but the weather forecast looked good for Gatlinburg with a high temperature of 70 forecast – for Gatlinburg, but not for Clingman’s Dome. It was in the low 50s when I decided to push off from the Sugarlands Visitor Center.

U.S. Rte. 441

The instructions to my mother were simple. Follow the highway (U.S. 441) 13 miles to the top of the mountain then turn right to Clingman’s Dome. If she started to go down the mountain she went too far. I realized as I was riding that I should have had her leapfrog from pull-off to pull off and she would be more comfortable knowing where I was.

West Prong Little Pigeon River

I wore a long-sleeve Under Armour underneath my Schleck jersey along with a light vest. Gloves and a thermal cap complemented my kit.

First tunnel

Newfound Gap Road (U.S. Rte 441) from Gatlinburg to Cherokee, North Carolina is a 36-mile road. At Newfound Gap, which is the border of Tennesse and North Carolina, there is a seven-mile access road to Clingman’s Gap. It is a two-lane road with no shoulders but plenty of pull-offs. The speed limit is generally 45 mph and I reasoned, maybe incorrectly, that the majority of traffic would be park goers in no hurry. But this is also U.S. Rte 441 and the only way over the mountain. Surely there were some drivers trying to get over the mountain as quickly as possible.

The Loop – The road goes under, or over, itself

As I started climbing I also got passed by a few cars. I would play a game and simply count the number of cars that passed me on this ride. And I would tweet out how courteous the drivers were. This lasted 91 cars, The 92nd came by me and almost hit me. I reacted badly. I screamed out.

Walker Gap Prong

I don’t ride on the white line. I’m not coordinated enough to do that as surely I would go off the road. But I ride constantly about 1-2′ to the left of the white line. And this driver seemed determined that he would drive right in the middle of the lane whether I was there or not.

Morton Mountain Tunnel

We used to always think these were aggressive drivers meaning to punish cyclists. But some are surely distracted drivers who come upon cyclists quickly. And if you were driving 45 mph, you come upon a cyclist traveling 8-10 mph pretty quickly. Assuming there was no cell service to be messing with a phone (maybe there was?), I believe the driver was aggressive and not distracted. But it sure scared me.

Appalachian Trail crosses on the Clingman’s Dome Road
(And also in the parking lot at Newfound Gap)

I would start my count over. I got to 31 before a second car passed me very closely. Then I got to 161 before a pickup truck driver tried to put its hood underneath my left elbow. Literally. I looked at the driver. I yelled. Then I moved to the center so he knew he didn’t have room to pass in the lane. It was quite harrowing.

Ice on the road to Clingman’s Dome

Part-way up the mountain was a construction zone. Traffic was being held for one-lane travel so at times I basically had the road to myself. But when the traffic was released by the construction flagger, I pulled off the road and let the entire group pass. There may have been 50-60 cars at a time that I would let pass while I stood safely off the road. And I did not include them in my totals of the number of cars that passed me. I was glad to pull over and let them by while waiting for that empty gap to resume riding.

Newfound Gap – Tennessee-North Carolina State Line

About three miles into the ride I pulled over to unzip the vest, removed the gloves, and my headcover. I was sweating pretty nicely on this November day. Near the top of the Newfound Gap climb, I pulled over to zip up the jacket and put my gloves back on. It was getting cold.

Newfound Gap

I was glad at the gap to turn onto Clingman’s Gap access road. I was surprised to see that it was closed from December 1 – March 31. I hadn’t even thought of that. But I beat it by 15 days. I hoped there wasn’t a lot more climbing, picturing the road traveling alongside the mountain top. Of course, I knew it still climbed. It was a slog. The entire ride wasn’t overly difficult but it sure was a constant slog.

You can see what the observation tower looks like on a clear day on the sign

As I climbed to the top visibility dropped to about 100′. I saw my car but my mother wasn’t in it. I went a bit farther and saw she was at a restroom. I went to the base of the observation tower and found some willing person to take my photo.

I really wanted to keep riding to Cherokee. It was all downhill and who wouldn’t love a 20-mile downhill. But it would also mean trusting my mother to drive down the mountain and I wasn’t going to ask her to do that.

My mother at the TN-NC State Line

I sincerely doubt I will get the chance to ride down either side – back to Gatlinburg or ahead to Cherokee. I have no desire to ever ride this one again. I do not recommend this climb. The road surface is great. The scenery is wonderful. But the traffic is crap. Cyclists have the right to be on the road. But I don’t want to be dead right.


Creeper Trail

ABINGTON, VIRGINIA

The Virginia Creeper Trail had intrigued me for a while. I did not plan to ride it, especially this time of year. But a trip to Florida and I decided to get a taste of it. The experience on the trail would determine whether I want to make this a destination trip at some point.

Creeper Trail – Abington, Va.

I was traveling from Pennsylvania to Florida and had my mother with me. We left Somerset and there were three to four inches of snow on the ground and on the road. My consecutive days ridden streak was now at 1,049 straight days and I hoped to be able to finish a third consecutive year of a ride every single day. I would need a ride today.

Bridge 1

It would be a long day in the car and I tried to stop with my mother at least once every two hours. I saw we would pass through Abington, Virginia. I knew the Creeper Trail went through or to Abington but I didn’t know much more. But I would figure it out.

Creeper Trail covered in leaves

It never warmed up but the 44 degrees were much warmer than we left behind in Somerset. I told my mother I would need about 45 minutes and we took a break from our trip from Somerset, Pa. to Gatlinburg, Tenn.

We parked at a trailhead and thought I might have an option of going north or south (or east or west). But Abington is the terminus so there was one way to go.

And the direction was down. The trail goes 34 miles to Whitetop Station in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, at the Virginia-North Carolina border.

Bridge 3

The trail is a crushed limestone trail. In November the gravel is mostly covered by leaves. I was on my Trek Domane road bike and had no problems on the trail. I saw some neat fixtures (trestles).

Abington, Va.

We had parked in a lot and my mother took the opportunity to walk out on the first trestle. I was gone for 55 minutes as I was not making good time on the leaves. It was a very nice diversion and I certainly would ride it again if I’m in the area. Given my distance (178 miles) from the trail, I don’t know that I would return just to ride this trail. But if I was in the area I certainly would.

A View from the Creeper

There is a shuttle in the area that one can use to go to one end and ride back to the car. I thought the grades on this trail were a little steeper than some of the trails I have been on and that would be a fun option to explore. But this was a nice ride on a chilly Fall day. My 1,049th consecutive ride.


Sea Gull Century

SALISBURY, MARYLAND

Officially this was my seventh Sea Gull Century. Officially because last year it was canceled but I rode it anyway.

Start line in Salisbury

Each Sea Gull brings new experiences and memories. In 2016 I met and rode with some members of the Blair Cycling Club. In 2017 I just rode solo. In 2018 I basically towed Sandra for 60 miles and she never thanked me or said goodbye. In 2019 I met Andrew and Stacey which was refreshing. Last year was unofficial and backward.

Major Taylor Cycling Club, Columbus

I didn’t know what 2021 would hold. Let’s start with breakfast. I stayed at Tru by Hilton in Georgetown, Delaware. Although the breakfast area was fully lit, they would not turn on the juice machine or pancake maker until 7:00 a.m. I left at 6:10 a.m.

Major Taylor Cycling Club, Columbus

I went through the drive-thru at McDonalds and went with the standby of hotcakes (no sausage). Actually, I was quite happy with the breakfast.

Snow Hill, Md.

In Salisbury, I parked on the street next to the stadium. I liked this spot. Much better than a big lot or a field. It was gray and 62º. I wore arm warmers and took a rain jacket which I would not need. I was wheels-down at 7:40 a.m.

Rest Stop, Assateague State Park

Today I wanted to be real conscious at doling at my effort. Easy in the first third is the adage. And in the first hour, my perceived effort was a two (out of 10). My heart rate seemed to never go above 115. I was riding easy.

Snow Hill, Md.

I looked for a place for a natural break and found it behind a truck parked in the woods. When I rolled out I jumped in with a Major Taylor Cycling Club group from Columbus. These people were truly delightful. I enjoyed riding and conversing with each rider.

Country Riding

This ride attracts a number of Major Taylor Cycling Clubs from all over the east coast. Most (all?) are people of color and today I found my niche riding all day with Major Taylor riders.

The first rest top was in Snow Hill, Maryland. The police had a separate route for cyclists to the rest stop and it reminded me of RAGBRAI. It was so crowded you (almost) needed to dismount and walk your bike.

Please Don’t Run me Over

I had integrated with a group before the second rest stop. While almost everyone went to the rest stop I continued straight. I caught onto a new group. This one was a little awkward. I was looking a Strava Live Segments and knew I could set a PR on a two-mile segment if I could pass this large group. It was a large group and since we were on a country road with good visibility of oncoming, the group was spread across the entire road.

Assateague State Park

I had to fight my way through the group to the front. I heard someone say “he is really moving.” I take that as a compliment. I was also going into a brutal headwind. I got the PR, went about one mile further then pulled over and removed my arm warmers. This was strategically done simply to allow them to catch me without admitting they were catching me. Then once they went past I went and caught up to them.

Mile 80 Rest Stop

We hung together until about 10 miles before Assateague Island. I went off the front and didn’t see them again. When I arrived at the rest stop I met a rider from MTCC-New York. “Webb” was cramping and I pulled out one of my Hot Shot drinks to eliminate cramps. He was surprised I gave it to him and asked what he owed. I told him if he liked it he could buy some and the next time he sees a cyclist with cramps he could pay it back. He drank. His cramps went away.

Yodeling and Cycling
Any thoughts of buying this kit ended today when I saw it

I left the rest stop solo. Again. Once over the bridge, I joined four riders from MTCC-Philly. The five of us, four men and one woman, were taking equal pulls. I thought we might have 20 miles of this.

Webb drinking Hot Shot

After 2-3 miles a larger group passed us and soon we were part of a much larger group. For the first time today, we had a tailwind. We only averaged 21 mph on this segment but that includes creeping through Berlin. It took me 60 miles but I finally found the group I wanted to ride with. But it would not last.

Verranzano Bridge

We stopped at Mile 80 at the rest stop. As usual, I wasn’t staying long. I waited a little bit to see if a group would form. None did so I headed off willing to slow pedal and be caught. After 10 miles on this 18-mile segment, I shifted from wanting to be caught to not wanting to be caught. I wasn’t.

Salisbury University Cheerleaders at the Finish

I went through the tunnel at the college, stopped long enough to take a photo of the Salisbury University cheerleaders, grabbed some ice cream then slowly rode back to my car. It was a really good day and I loved all the MTCC riders I met. One of my favorite Sea Gulls yet.



DISTANCE: 102.5 miles
SPEED: 17.7 mph
WEIGHT: 171 pounds

I actually rode 0.2 faster last year solo but today included the last mile of getting back to the car. It’s not all about speed and I purposely rode slow today. But if it was, I am still very happy with this ride.

Kent Island

KENT ISLAND, MARYLAND

I have traveled across this island two to three dozen times. Always it was just a place to bridge the gap between the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Maryland’s eastern shore.

Traffic can be heavy especially on summer weekends. Usually, it’s get on, get moving, and get off the island. Unless, of course, one wants to stop at the Chick-fil-A.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge in distance

I’ve spotted some bike baths alongside U.S. Rte 50 and decided I would explore the island. I don’t know if I would make this a destination trip but since I was headed to the Sea Gull Century it was a great place to stop and explore.

Kent Island South Trail

In a nutshell, there are two trails on the island and some road riding that connects them if you are willing. The road between the trail can be busy.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge in the background. Matapeake State Park.

I took the first exit and went south. I parked at the Matapeake Park – the entrance to the Kent Island South Trail. But I wasn’t interested in the trail so much. In fact, when I left the parking lot I didn’t know the trail existed. I didn’t see the entrance.

Matapeake State Park Pier

I first turned and went back to a pier and boat launch at Matapeake State Park. There is an excellent view here of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

Wide shoulder on Rte 8

When I reached the main road I turned right (south) and rode on the wide shoulder. I was very comfortable riding here and only then did I see a trail next to the highway. I jumped on the trail at the next opening.

The Bay Park

It is wide and is in excellent shape. The asphalt seems new. I’d say maybe this year but I’m not sure it’s that new. The only annoying thing is the many at-grade crossings of driveways and each one comes with a Stop sign and BIKERS DISMOUNT. Seriously? This is clearly driven by the county’s lawyer.

Every stop sign has these silly “Bikers Dismount” obviously placed there by lawyers

It is only 5.5 miles to the pier. An alternative which I intended to do was to follow the road to the southernmost tip. I followed the trail without realizing I wasn’t following my mapped ride. Maybe if there’s a next time.

Boardwalk on the Cross Island Trail

I made it a point to follow the trail to the northern end. It took me right back to my car. I didn’t even notice it the first time.

Kent Island South Trail

The second trail on the island is the Cross Island Trail. Generally, I prefer roads to trails so I decided to ride the road to the Kent Narrows Bridge.

Kent Narrows

It’s about 3-4 miles on Rte. 8 to cross U.S. 50. There is a wide shoulder the entire way although one must exercise extreme care when crossing the entrances to U.S. 50.

Boardwalk on Cross Island Trail

I turned on Main Street and for a while had no shoulder. The street is marked with a Bike sign – Share the Road – but to most motorists that means get out of their way not that bikes are entitled to the full lane.

Kent Narrows

I rode this section but I wouldn’t want to ride it with anyone slower than me and wouldn’t normally recommend the east-west road route on the island.

Kent Narrows Bridge

I got on the Cross Island Trail. I found a few boardwalks but know I missed the big one. I saw that as I left the island after my ride. Although I crossed the Kent Narrows Bridge I did not follow the trail to the conclusion on the west side.

Cross Island Trail

But I followed the trail back to Rte 8. It’s in great shape. Not built for speed as it meanders amongst the trees. It dumped me at Kent Island High School which was having a Friday afternoon pep rally. I stopped and watched.

Cross Island Trail

The emcee, maybe the principal, maybe the athletic director or even coach, introduced a returning former member. And then the quarterback who was standing at the 40-yard line. If the QB could hit the receiver 40 yards for a touchdown, all the students would get a free water at the next game or restaurant or something.

Kent Island High School, Md. (Pep Rally)

The QB threw and the ball went 35 yards in the air. It was a perfect strike but it wasn’t in the end zone. The receive held up, caught the ball, and then walked it. The crowd went wild. It also makes you appreciate the pros who can throw 50-55 yards or more.

It was a nice ride. Normally not a destination but sure is a great place to stop if you’re traveling through. I would love to come back for the western portion of the Cross Island Trail.


Cap to Cap to Cap

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA

It was a most beautiful day. Tim and I drove to Richmond and parked at the Great Shiplock Park which is about one mile from the Richmond Main Station. We rode to the station and waited.

Tim and the Great Shiplock Park

If only someone knew how to run a train. Sigh. A woman greeted us (nice) and told us the train was running late. Still under pandemic protocols, most of the large open station was closed off so people had to be in one area. The doors to the outdoor platform where one could breathe fresh air were locked.

Entrance to Main Station, Richmond

When the train arrived and arriving passengers disembarked they could not open the doors to get into the station. And we could not leave to get to the platform. Finally (maybe no more than two minutes but for some people, it probably seemed much longer), an employee came and opened the doors.

Great Shiplock Park (viewed from Amtrak)

Tim and I rolled our bikes onto the platform. The conductor said he had a bike rack in this car and “back there.” I guess I took this one and Tim went back there. We went to separate cars.

My bike aboard the train (ready to disembark)

The rack had one hook and I tried to hang my front wheel but the hook didn’t like a deeper rim that I had. I was able to turn it just right and hang it. I then saw an instruction sign that said to remove the front wheel. Not sure how that would have worked. I didn’t have my tool to remove the wheel readily available.

That also tells me Amtrak is not accommodating of many bikes. They must anticipate quick-release skewers which have been replaced by through-axles. Depending on the bike you may need a special tool to remove the wheel. I use a mini-rachet which I did not have with me. For an emergency, I could get to one in a tool kit inside my frame. As for bikes with bolted-on front wheels, they would be out of luck too. Amtrak can do better if they want to.

About halfway through the ride I put the bike in a luggage area. It fit better. I actually through we were approaching Williamsburg and was getting ready. But we weren’t.

Williamsburg, Va.

Once in Williamsburg, we rolled down through Duke of Glocester Street in Colonial Williamsburg. Very slowly. If Tim wanted a faster average speed today I killed it in Colonial Williamsburg.

Governor’s Palace, Colonial Williamsburg

Rather than take John Tyler Highway directly to Jamestown to meet the trail, my mapping took us through some residential areas. They were very pretty but I’m not sure about the benefit. The highway did have a bike lane for much of it. I think the only section it did not was where we finally picked it up.

Williamsburg

We passed a Taco Bell and grabbed a not-so-quick bite to eat knowing that food options were limited on the ride. It was 11:30 a.m.

Taco Bell, Williamsburg

The trail in Jamestown was easy to find. The Virginia Capital Trail is a paved and boardwalk trail that follows the Rte. 5 corridor. While next to the highway almost all of it has a strand of trees between it and the road. When there is no traffic going by one does not see the road and it appears it is a trail in the woods.

Jamestown Settlement

There are not many provisions on the trail. I had forgotten there was a very nice-looking deli restaurant at Mile 2.5 (Spokes + Art Provisions Co.). At Charles City, there is Haupts gas station which has some good fried chicken. Also in Charles City, there is Cul’s Courthouse Grille. And then northing until Mile 48.

The long bridge at MP1

We had a wonderful headwind most of the way. But it was 72º and it was great.

A deer is outstanding in his field

At Kingsland Road we left the trail as I opted for some back roads which added two to three miles. Tim was okay with that because he wanted to make sure we rode a metric century (100 km or 62.14 miles). The mileage would do that. These were roads used in the Climb to Conquer Cancer that I have ridder before. And I approved.

Chickahominy River

We stopped for water when we got back to the trail, around Mile 48 . There is a new 7-Eleven opening soon but was a store across the highway as well. Tim got water for the last five miles and we began the nice mostly downhill ride to Richmond.

Chickahominy River

I don’t know what picture I had painted of Libby Hill but I think Tim was picturing Mount Washington and not Libby Hill. When we got to Rocket’s Landing I could see the monument atop Libby Hill and pointed that out to Tim. I think he was relieved to see that it wasn’t far away and it wasn’t very high.

Richmond in the distance

I wanted Libby Hill. Twice I raced it as a timed climb in the Climb to Conquer Cancer. Both times I finished at 0:53. Three weeks ago my time was good enough to win the 65-69 age group at the event. The problem for me is they had a 60-69 age group. I never saw official results and could not easily determine on Strava who I may have lost to but the most important person I am racing is me. And I wanted a good race time today.

Church, Williamsburg, Va.

We came to the gated entrance (no vehicles permitted) and I showed Tim the climb. He thought it might take him four minutes. I pointed out that even if he went half as fast as me he’d still be there in under two minutes.

The trail

I was hoping for one second. I hit the climb from a dead stop. The bike started to bounce. I made the hard left onto the climb and felt the rear wheel slip on the wet cobbles as here there is always some runoff or drainage across the road. It’s about 6″-12″ at best (worst).

One of the boardwalk bridges on the trail

My helmet, which I thought was tight, was moving as were my sunglasses. I never looked at my Wahoo Live Segments to see if I was ahead or behind my PR pace.

Near Great Shiplock Park, passing underneath the train tracks, Richmond

Halfway up is the sharp right-hander. Once I turned it I got out of the saddle. Three weeks ago I tried standing here and the bike bounced so much I sat back down. Today I stood and let the bike bounce.

Strava showed me 0:47. Strava disagreed.

I’m not sure if I was out of the saddle the rest of the way or if I sat. But I went across the top and saw the time – 0:47.

Horses in Williamsburg

I killed it. I destroyed my previous best time. Then I saw Tim was coming and I was encouraging him as well. And in his first time, he came in 1:33. Excellent! Being his first time he now has a marker for a PR for the next time as well.

I beat Libby Hill. Credit: Tim

Officially, Strava would record my time as 0:48. I still destroyed it. And maybe the next cancer climb, a 0:48 would be good enough for the 60-69 group. (They should align with Strava’s 65-69 group but that’s a different discussion.)

The top two times were done on trainers and not actually at Libby Hill

We descended back to the car. Tim saw a parking lot that looked promising to cut through although we didn’t need to. But it had two bridges which led to Stone Brewing. When we exited we were in the outdor cafe area of the brewery. Oops. Let us ride between your tables. We went through the parking lot and were back on the trail only 400 meters from where we parked. In all we rode through three of Virginia’s capitals through history, Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Richmond.



WEIGHT: 170 pounds

I Got My MoJo Back

VIRGINIA

August was a down month. I only rode 893 miles whereas a summer month should always be over 1,000 miles. I was tired and I knew it. Not sick, just tired.

Last year I rode 1,200 miles in August. In 2019, I also rode 1,200 miles in August. This is what August should be. But 300+ miles less this year, it was an average of 10 miles per day that I was off.

August was hot. The day before my first big Punxsutawney ride I rode 30 miles in Virginia with Tim. It was 95º. That left me drained. The heat continued into the second week.

Northern Cambria, Pa., Aug. 7, 2021
Don and Nancy’s house (they weren’t home)

By the third week, I cut back. And maybe it was too much. There was not a ride the entire week of 20 miles. The longest was August 20 in Concord, New Hampshire. I rode 10 miles in the morning and 11 miles in Maine in the afternoon. For the week I rode just 103 miles.

Maine-New Hampshire border, Aug. 20, 2021

Some of it was travel. Two trips to Pennsylvania then a long trip to Maine. It’s hard to get long rides in when you are driving most of the day. But then Mount Washington came. I had hoped to have a PR on Mount Washington but instead had my worst time ever.

Life’s a struggle

Maybe not worse but I was completely drained afterward. For the next 12 days, it was total blah. Nothing there. It took me 12 days to feel like my legs were coming back. And then on Sept. 2, I recaptured the Walton Drive Sprint KOM (52 sec.). I also picked up the longer Walton Roll KOM. I could not have done this in the prior two weeks.

I went to Richmond on September 12 for the Climb to Conquer Cancer. Riding solo instead of in a group this year, I was one mph faster than I was two years ago, the only time I had ridden this course. I marked a number of segments and I PR’d on every one of them except for two near the end that I held back on for a reason.

Not my jeresey

The reason was that I was riding well. I was spending a lot of energy but wanted one PR on the day. And that was on Libby Hill. Ultimately, I had the same exact time as I did two years ago. So no PR for me. But it was in the Top Ten All-Time age group. “Officially” I am 9th out of 53. But many of those are on trainers in their basements riding the Zwift Richmond Worlds Course. Not the same thing. I did not see anyone on Sept. 12, 2021, in my age group that was better. I think I won the age group for the event but never heard back from anyone.

Then there was Sunday. The Alpine Loop Gran Fondo. I had my best ride in 10 years. Second overall for my age group – need to work on first. I was energized by my granddaughters cheering me on.

1000 Days 1000 Rides

There are times when one is tired. Worn down. And for me, I hit the way in August. I started to question whether I’d get my mojo back. But I am not alone.

Even the best in the world will hit the wall. Richard Carapez of Equador won the Tour de Swiss then finished third in the Tour de France. He went to Tokoyo and won the Olympic road race gold medal. Then he returned to Spain to race the Vuelta a España and withdrew during Stage 14. It just caught up to him.

So no need to worry when I don’t have it – even for weeks. Sometimes the body is tired and needs a rest. And what little mojo I have, will come back.