Reflections on the Year – 2021

WOODBRIDGE, VIRGINIA

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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