Reflections on the Year – 2020

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Ah, 2020. No complaints. Just different. For the first time in years, I did not attend an in-person cycling event as the coronavirus forced the cancellation of the events I would normally have or hoped to attend.

My riding became much more localized and I certainly made the best of the opportunity. It was a year I set a personal record for mileage and for days ridden (thanks to being a Leap Year). I just rode locally instead of nationally or internationally. No complaints.

MY TOP TEN MOMENTS/MEMORIES

  • Two New Bikes
  • The Bear Whisperer
  • Virtual Podium
  • Strava, Strava, Strava
  • Solo Centuries
  • Pine Creek Trail
  • A Ride Every Day
  • KOMs and a Local Legend
  • Mount Mitchell
  • Weight Loss
  1. TWO NEW BIKES

Everybody likes a new bike, right? Well, except when you don’t want to get rid of the old. But my 2014 Trek Domane and my 2006 Trek Pilot both reached the end of their useful lives. I got some warranty help from Trek and now have a 2020 Domane and a 2021 Checkpoint (gravel bike).

2020 Domane

2021 Checkpoint ALS 5

  1. THE BEAR WHISPERER

I suppose if you are outside enough, particularly in the wilderness, you will see a bear. I saw my first near Frostburg, Maryland in 2010. I saw my second while climbing Mount Evans, Colorado in 2016. And then … September. First I was on Rectortown Road in Fauquier Co., Virginia on Sept. 2 when I saw a bear. And then on the 22nd, I was on the Pine Creek Trail near Jersey Shore, Pa. when I saw another one. September was a good month for bears.

There’s a bear in those woods
  1. A PODIUM VIRTUAL

Ben King’s Ride Home Roads virtual event offered prizes for distance and climbing – categories I think I could have done well in, except this ran during the Tour de France. And I spent four hours per day watching the Tour instead of riding. But I did win a prize for the social media portion of his event.

A real polka-dot jersey for the 65-69 age group at the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo

Jeremiah Bishop‘s Alpine Loop Grand Fondo offered prizes for best times on Zwift – except I don’t do Zwift. They also had category winners and I won the jersey in the 65-69 year group. I had a number of PRs including a couple of KOMs this summer.

Bib 1 – Alpine Loop
  1. STRAVA, STRAVA, STRAVA

Yes, Strava has been around for years. But this is the first year I subscribed to it to get local segments to display on my Wahoo bike computer and it changed the way I ride. A long solo ride at speed may have had me being complacent if not a bit bored but having segments pop up while I ride forced me to go hard in stretches where I otherwise wouldn’t have. It made me a better cyclist and made my rides more fun.

  1. SOLO CENTURIES

With no events planned I rode my own solo centuries. I did two in August and then in October went to Ocean City, Md. to ride the canceled Sea Gull Century. I rode it solo from Ocean City instead of Salisbury, Md. and I rode it backward, in part to see if other people had come to the beach to ride (they had), and in part, because riding a familiar route backward makes it new to you.
Assateague Island

  1. PINE CREEK TRAIL

Not all miles were road miles and in September I went to Jersey Shore, Pa., and rode the 64-mile Pine Creek Trail through the “Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania.” Since I was riding solo I had to ride it out-and-back but the “back” was mostly on the road. Trails are nice but the road calls.

Pine Creek Trail near Jersey Shore, Pa.
  1. A RIDE EVERY DAY

It began last year on January 1. For my 10th Cancerversary year I set a goal of riding at least 10 miles, outside, every day. And it continued this year. In the cold (18°), heat (100°), rain, and snow – I rode. Now I have ridden 731 straight days. Don’t know when it will end but if I continue to September 26, 2021, it will be 1,000 consecutive days.

Not every ride had beautiful weather and beautiful views like this one at Shawnee State Park near Schellsburg, Pa., 8-17-2020
  1. KOMs AND A LOCAL LEGEND

Strava has segments in which one can try to beat their own times (Personal Records) but also be “King of the Mountain” (KOM), i.e., the best ever. Since everyone is younger and faster than me I never expect to be the KOM for any segment. But it didn’t stop me from trying. And I ended up with four KOMs in 2020, none more satisfying than the two-mile segment on Minnieville Road from Spriggs Road to Rte 234. I was hoping for an age group best but did not know the KOM was in reach. I finished in 4:56 besting the second-place time by 27 seconds. Each time I ride that segment I wonder how in the heck did I do that in under five minutes? (Hint: With light traffic, I never used the bike path and stayed on Minnieville Road the entire time.)

Somewhat easier for me to obtain was the status of ‘Local Legend’ which is awarded to the cyclist who completes the most segments in a 90-day period. And so, quite predictably, I became a local legend on a number of segments because I ride every day and I stayed mostly at home.

Strava KOMs
  1. MOUNT MITCHELL

In November I went to Marion, North Carolina, and rode up Mount Mitchell, the highest mountain in the eastern U.S. It was a cool day with few people around so from the parking lot I rode up the access trail to the summit to the applause of the few people there.

Mount Mitchell State Park
  1. WEIGHT LOSS

As I close out the year the scales said I weighed less than I did in high school. Yes, it was planned and yes, it was hard work. But I need to keep it going for a lifetime.

All in all, it was a good year. Sure, I didn’t get to go to events and missed seeing friends, especially in Austin, Texas, and in California. But with 1,000,000 reasons to give up, I did not. 2020, I will miss you.


But there were other moments that defined 2020.

THE BEST AND WORST OF THE REST

BEST SMELL – Balsam firs at the top of Mount Mitchell. How aromatic. I felt sorry for people in their cars driving to the top with their windows closed tight.

BEST SMALL TOWN – Mayberry, of course. I went to Mount Airy, N.C. and rode to Mabry Mill near Meadows of Dan, Va. The ride was great but afterward rode through Mount Airy and it was a ride back in time. I even ate at Barney’s (Fife) Cafe like the locals. But I didn’t see Aunt Bee.

Barney’s in Mount Airy

WORST ENDING – White’s Ferry – WTF is that?!? When all else failed and I needed a go-to ride to bring a smile to my face, I would head to Leesburg and to White’s Ferry to cross the Potomac River on a ferry. On December 28 they announced they were closing for good as two entities, Rockland Farms and Whites Ferry, were having a food fight with a touch of Loudoun County thrown in for good measure. I don’t know what the future holds. Is it gone forever? I can’t imagine it so. Will Maryland (Montgomery Co.) and Virginia (Loudoun Co.) governments step in and create a public ferry? I do know that 600 commuters each day depend on the ferry. As does this cyclist.

Whites Ferry 11-14-2020

FUNNIEST COMMENT“You got skinny!” In September in the parking lot at The Bike Lane in Reston, Va., the owner, Todd Mader, who I have known for 20 years at first walked by me and said “Excuse me, sir.” Then he did a double take and said “Barry, I didn’t recognize you. You got skinny!”

BEST BURGER AND FRIES – In a year in which local riding was necessary, my go-to local ride was the “Manassas Loop” with a stop at Fosters Grille in Manassas. A nice outdoor eating area across from an active passenger train station, it was a perfect stop on my rides.

Fosters Grille Manassas

STUPIDEST DRIVER – On March 9, I turned the blind corner on the W&OD at Leesburg to go under Rte. 15 and almost was hit head-on by a car on the trail. “I was just following my GPS,” the driver said.

COOLEST GRANDKIDS I – We had a week with our granddaughters and during that time got our youngest up and riding on two wheels.

Up on Two Wheels


WORST IMPRESSION OF UNCLE SAM – Me. July 4. This photo and a subsequent bonk the next day led me to make a lifestyle change. It’s embarrassing to be here but is a reminder not to repeat the past.

July 4 – Uncle Sam would not be impressed

COOLEST GRANDKIDS II – I took our grandsons, ages 10 and 12, to the W&OD Trail and we rode 28 miles of the trail. Although it was over two days, there are not many 10-year-olds out riding 14-15 miles at a time.

Grandsons

WORST DECISION – After a double flat failure I decided to walk home barefooted (to save the cycling shoes) rather than to call for a ride. I tore up both feet after only 1.5 miles.

Wore my foot out

BEST GOOD SAMARITAN IScott Turner, in Montclair, who saw me walking while pushing my bike and asked if he could give me and my bike a ride home. I did not hesitate saying yes and he didn’t mind my bloody feet in his car.

WORST MECHANIC – Me. I rode a new bike (2020 Trek Domane) with deep rims and could never get the right size tube and stem. The valve stems, while working fine for a floor pump, are too short to allow a CO2 cartridge to fully inflate the tire. After five failures on the road, here’s hoping my 60 cc stems will work the next time. I probably should waste a CO2 and test one first.

70,000 MILES CANCER-FREE – And at the end of the year it was 74,378 miles which is just 326 miles short of being three times around the Earth at the equator (74,704 miles)

BEST ROAD RIDES NOT ON THE ROAD – While the Pine Creek Trail was a destination trip, it wasn’t the only rail trail that I rode. Of course, I ride the Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) so frequently that I forget it is a rail trail. I also rode the Great Allegheny Passage between Meyersdale and Fort Hill, Pa. and in Pittsburgh; the Hoodlebug in Indiana Co., Pa. the Western Maryland Rail Trail in Hancock, Md.; and the American Tobacco Trail in Durham, N.C. I also rode the Path of the Flood Trail in Johnstown which is part rail-trail as it follows the Allegheny Portage Rail Road and goes through the first railroad tunnel built in the U.S.

American Tobacco Trail

WORST ENDING FOR A GOOD CAR – It was nearly the perfect car for my riding. It had a DIY rack and could transport two bikes in the back of my 2002 Toyota RAV4 and two more on top. But it also had 334,000 miles and when a barrel fell off a truck in front of me on US 220 in Williamsport, Pa. in September, the car was totaled. I was uninjured but I was a bit sad losing this car.

Toyota RAV4
Toyota RAV4 with DIY Bike Rack

BEST GOOD SAMARITAN II – A man named “CW” on Captiva Island, Fla. gave me a ride after a couple of flats (glass through the tire) to Sanibel Island to a bike rental store.

CW on the right

WORST WEATHER WIMP – Me. On Christmas Day I rode in Washington, D.C. to see the Christmas decorations. Only out for one hour and with temperatures about freezing (34°), my hands literally froze. I could not feel the touch screen on my phone to take a photo. I could not remove my key from my pocket. Not could I feel to unbuckle my helmet (and that’s what friends are for). My hands were like numb clubs but this may be a harbinger of things to come.

FALLS – I HAD A FEW – Well, two. I had gone more than 500 days without a crash/fall and then on a foggy day when I tried to cross a grass median on Rte 234 to get to the bike trail, I hit a sunken 2×4 that was in the high grass which caused me to me a have a heavy fall on the asphalt. Please don’t litter.

Less than three weeks later, I was again trying to cross a grass median, this one in Lake Ride, to avoid a couple ahead of me on the path. It looked safe but the grass concealed a hidden ditch. My wheel went into it and I went over the handlebars, ever so slowly. I almost sat down in the grass more than fell, but it was a fall. I laughed.

A MILEAGE RECORD – Having ridden 10,000 miles in 2019, I didn’t think I would repeat that. I didn’t. I bettered it.

Final Stats for 2020 – But this one includes a 3-mile walk. Waiting for a new graphic from Strava for 10,500.

BEST GOOD SAMARITAN III – On Sanibel Island at Fennimore’s Cycle Shop, they did not have the right size tube to sell me. Instead, they gave me one of their rental road bikes to ride across the causeway and retrieve my car so I could return for my bike.

Removing the platform pedals from the Fuji for me to ride

BEST ICE CREAM – Just as Fosters Grille gave me purpose to ride my Manassas Loop, so too did Moo-Thru give me purpose to ride in Remington, Va. Tim Casebere and I did a ride in Culpeper, Va. when I realized where Moo-Thru was. So I created a route from nearby Remington which would stop at Moo-Thru. In all, I probably stopped there six times or so.

Moo-Thru, Remington. Va.

WORST PAYMENT ON A TOLL ROAD – Having parked on the Fort Myers, Fla. side so I could ride across the causeway to Sanibel Island and also avoid a $6 toll, I accepted the offer of Fennimore’s to take their bike and retrieve my car. Actually, I should have gone to my car and retrieved the right tube and maybe a new tire, which I had with me in the car. Now I’m on the hook for $6 (plus fees).

BEST GOOD SAMARITAN IV – Me. On April 9 I saw a young woman pushing her bike. I offered to help her fix it but I couldn’t fix the dangerous wind she was riding in. So I gave Erin a ride back to her car. We became friends and would ride together a dozen times, often with my friend, Tim. In a year of complete repetition and some boredom, riding with someone new to the area gave me a renewed purpose to look at my routes through the eyes of a first-time rider.

BEST REPLACEMENT FOR A CAR – My new (used, but it’s new to me) 2020 Ford Transit. I didn’t find it, it found me. Can carry my bikes and my DIY rack from the RAV4 moved over with just a slight modification.

2020 Ford Transit Connect
DIY Bike Rack

With less adventure and no events, I made the best out of 2020. And it was my best year ever. Here’s to a better year in 2021.

Stats from RidewithGPS. Strava (for now), included the 2.5 mile walk home in my bare feet accounting for the 3-mile difference.

MILESTONES – The Strava training calendar said that I set 843 personal records. That will be hard to beat in any year.

WEIGHT (AT START): 212 lbs (Minimum. Complete guess. It could have been 10 pounds higher)

WEIGHT (AT END): 162 lbs

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