Welcome

I am a cyclist, genealogist, soccer referee, grandfather (x6), and cancer survivor. And I have ridden 105,000* miles cancer-free.

You have stumbled upon the personal blog of Barry Sherry. It is my private journal but made public. After keeping a journal for years I decided to push this out to the web. Maybe someone will find some information of value.

I have included the names, and in some cases, photos of others I have met in my journey. If you are mentioned and do not want to be, kindly contact me and I can change that.

Enjoy the blog. If you would like to know more about me, click my About Me page.

*as of Jan. 2024

SkyMass Again

FRONT ROYAL, VIRGINIA

I did this ride once. It was in 2010 and was my first or second ride after cancer. Fourteen years ago my weight was better (thanks, Cancer), my bike fitness was probably less,* my age was better, and my motivation was stronger. On that day I rode with seven riders from The Bike Lane, all appreciably younger, stronger, faster. Yet I kept up.

Toll both entrance to Sklyline Drive

Although Strava was founded in 2009, who was using it then? Not me. Likewise for RideWithGPS, founded in 2007. I was using a Garmin 705. I would upload a ride to Garmin Connect but only epic rides. To upload meant connecting the Strava to a computer to upload to the Garmin website. The 10-30 mile local rides were never uploaded.

First generation super GPS for the bike (2009)

Eventually, I became a convert to RidewithGPS and even later to Strava. Today my Wahoo Bolt automatically uploads each ride to both as soon as I end a ride. It is done through Wifi, Bluetooth, or some magical potion that I carry in my back pocket. I don’t know or care how it works, just that it works.

South Fork Shenandoah River

Late last night I went to the Garmin website. My password still worked. I found my ride from 2010 and exported the GPX file. I uploaded that to Strava so that I could be discouraged when I rode seeing how I did 14 years ago.

Skyline Drive

I posted this SkyMass ride six weeks ago on the Facebook page of Prince William Cycling Club. The night before my ride, some dick posted the same ride including the route I had drawn, just 30 minutes earlier. He could have asked me if I could move the start time to 9:00 and I would have agreed.

Passage Creek off Fort Valley Road

When I arrived at the park at 9:05 there was a group of about eight riders looking ready to roll out. At 9:15 and 9:20 they were still there. I began to think it was a different group and I approached them and asked what ride it was I was met with a surly, “This is the 9:00 ride.” I guess they knew me. Why he wanted to lead his own ride, I don’t know. Ego?

Mountain Road

Although in 2010 my Edge had mapping capabilities, we were not creating routes to be downloaded to bike computers yet. It could be done but it was a very awkward process. I never did that. Someone 14 years ago, had a cue sheet of the roads we would follow. And everyone followed. On that day we bypassed Luray and opted for country roads and closed country stores. For today, I created a route that went through Luray where refueling was an option.

Foggy on Skyline Drive

We had a group of four and it was perfect. I don’t like large groups and I was glad to see the 9:00 group leave five minutes before us. We left and headed up to Skyline Drive. The last time I was here was in 2021 with the Texas4000.

We climbed and climbed some more. The first 5.7 miles (9.2km) were all uphill before giving way to a very slight and short downhill and then climbed to 7.5 miles (12km) before a downhill section. The climbing continued to our high point on the Drive at 22.4 miles (35km).

Skyline Drive

While it looks imposing, the climbing was just 2.5% grade for those 22 miles. After removing the descents from the climb it was 15.9 miles (25.6km) at 4.5%. It felt like more.

Skyline Drive

It was foggy and chilly at times. My arms were wet from riding in the clouds. I regretted not having the arm warmers that I had left in the car. My three riding partners wore jackets.

Our group

We descended off Skyline Drive on Rte 211 to Luray. It was a Sunday and many places were closed. I don’t remember being in downtown Luray before. Although the initial impression was gas stations and a strip mall, the main street presented quite a pretty and quaint place.

Cute store. They sold almost nothing though.

We made our way over to a bridge over the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. Two turns later we were on Fort Valley Road. That road turns up and goes over Massanutten Mountain. It is in a forest with an occasional view of the valley over the right shoulder, especially where a home on the side of the mountain has been built.

George Washington National Forest

The sun had come out and I was sweating heavily. My Whoop was showing my Strava segment from 14 years ago and was taunting me. Although I started first with another rider, once I went ahead I watched to see if I would lose more time compared to 2010 or keep the loss the same. I was losing time.

Luray

The climb is hard. It gets increasingly harder the farther up you go. It was 10% for the last kilometer,

Overlook

At the summit, I saw a paraglider jumping off the side of the mountain. I had slumped over my handlebars and was too tired and my hands were too slimy to get a photo. But the views were great.

Paraglider flying past the mountain

The profile appears to show a 33-mile downhill after the summit. There is a nice descent back off the mountain but while the road trends downhill it is extremely lumpy. We still had more than 1000′ of climbing (300m) remaining. Plus we were now going into a headwind.

Fort Valley Road

We stopped at Fort Valley Store for more drinks – and a Snickers. As we turned onto Mountain Road at Mile 73 (117 km), a Strava segment popped up. I decided to see if the legs had anything left. At first, I went, and then I paused. Then I went again. And I went full out and beat the 2010-self by one second. I will take that.

Fort Valley Store

Back at the cars, I pulled out apple cinnamon donuts from The AppleHouse restaurant in Linden. They were a perfect dessert for a full meal of climbing today.


*I say my bike fitness was less 14 years ago. I was recovering from cancer surgery and not riding daily as I was working full-time. In 2024 I ride every day although I undoubtedly am not as strong.


A Colonial Ride

WILLIAMSBURG, VIRGINIA

I found myself side by side with two horses pulling a couple riders in a carriage. The driver was dressed in period garb but the riders, well, they were wearing something from 400 years later.

Horse and carriage

The capitol flew the flag of the British Empire. And I, in my time-traveling machine, was on my bike.

Capitol

I began 90 minutes earlier in Richmond. I parked at Great Shiplock Park and rode one mile over to the Richmond Main Station. The train was scheduled to leave at 10:03 a.m. and I walked into the terminal at 9:50. A not-so-friendly employee “greeted” me with a greeting that was less friendly and more challenging. She sort of barked out “May I help you?” and I sensed that was more seeing what I was doing in the train station with my bike as opposed to actually wanting to help me.

Cobbles are for cars. Pave is for bikes. Richmond, Va.

I responded that I was headed to Williamsburg. She said, “Ok.” She could have, should have added, that the train was 38 minutes late. Is this really any way to run a train?

Low Line in Richmond

Despite a beautiful morning, the doors to the outside platform were locked. One couple had tried to go outside for fresh air while the rest of us were inside the terminal. At about 10:15 a.m. two employees opened the doors to the platform, signaling that the train would be arriving soon.

Richmond Main

On the platform I met two people who had bikes with them. This train is nice but they limit bikes to four per train. That may be one bike per car on a hook and hang system.

Richmond Main. Couple would be riding back as well.

I chatted briefly with the couple. This was their first time riding from Williamsburg to Richmond. The woman had a prosthetic foot and I was quite impressed that she, that they, were trying this. They looked to be both recreational riders. The man, and he was the only one I talked to, asked if he should buy a newer bike. He mentioned his bike is 30 years old. I told him for sure he should. I should have had him lift my bike.

Train approaching Richmond Main

He asked if I was riding back from Williamsburg and I told him I was. He said he didn’t know if they could ride seven more miles and told me they would take a bus from the train to Jamestown Settlement which is the beginning of the 52-mile trail back to Richmond. I saw them when I had offloaded in Williamsburg and hoped to pass them on my ride but I never saw them again. They may have eaten lunch in Williamsburg before beginning their journey.

Bike storage on Amtrak

The late arriving train messed up my schedule. I had just enough time to ride from Williamsburg to Richmond and finish with a climb up Libby Hill. I needed to get home in time to go watch my grandson play baseball at 6:30 p.m.

Williamsburg Station

I departed the station and was about to head to Jamestown. I saw one of the entrances to Colonial Williamsburg and decided to roll back into time. The signage was clear – no motorized vehicles. So bikes are welcome.

Williamsburg, Va.

I slow-rolled through the town which may explain my disappointing average speed for the ride.* Other reasons may be (1) I’m old, (2) It was windy, (3) Out of fuel, (4) I’m fat, (5) I suck.

Williamsburg

There were places for lunch in Williamsburg that tempted me but I thought I had everything I needed for the ride. I headed down Jamestown Road making two exploratory wrong turns along the way. I came into the Virginia Capital Trail at MP 0.5 (there isn’t such a MP though) and headed towards Richmond.

Capitol

Food options are scarce on the trail. The trail parallels Va. Rte 5 and food options are scarce on Rte 5. I didn’t use it but there is a nice trail map online. Near Jamestown at MP 2.5 is Spoke & Art Provisions. They are closed Tuesdays and Wednesday but the clock and not the calendar was my problem today.

Capitol in Williamsburg

I was fighting a strong crosswind all day coming from the southwest. And I was fighting the clock.

Entrance to Williamsburg

Near Charles City is a Citgo gas station where the trail crosses Rte 5 and takes the road for 1/2 mile. The gas station sells fried chicken. In Charles City is Cul’s Courthouse Grille (you know what the “e” means). That is probably the best place to stop, sit, and eat on the trail. I ate there once and it was good. The gas station does not have seating.

A new entry may be Breez-In Conveniene Store, just south of Charles City. It may be a Sunoco station that I passed. The trail is away from the road here so I did not check it out. But that was it for food and water.

Bridge near MP4

I carried two bottles of water and a few food packets. I would discover that was not enough. I was out of food by MP 42 when I went through the two parks. The first is Four Mile Creek Park. No facilities were open but a new restroom is almost complete. Two miles later was Dorey Park. It had facilities and presumably water fountains. But I would have to exit from the trail to go into the park and didn’t have the time. Or energy. I was bonking.

Four Mile Creek Park

I passed the Valero gas station at MP 43.5 and then doubled back. I knew I was just eight miles from start but also knew I needed something. I went into the Fast Mart, saw the water then opted instead for Gatorade. I went to the counter and there were two young women “working.” There were two registers and the one woman had a “Register Closed” sign on hers as she was checking her phone. The other woman, with three nostril rings, said “I’ll be with you in a second.”

I waited for one minute and she was still standing there. I think she was in mid-transaction with someone who left the store, maybe to go out to the car and get their wallet. Rather than pause or cancel the transaction she just stood there. I apologized and told her I didn’t have time to wait. I left with nothing.

I went another four miles and came to a 7-Eleven. At this point I was only two and one-half miles from start and all downhill. But I stopped. I needed water. And went for a Slurpy. I poured that into both bottles and I was great.

Chickahominy River

I was watching the time and wanted to ride Libby Hill. Three miles earlier I had no energy to tackle the famous climb used in the 2015 World Cycling Championships. When I go to my car I was ready to climb. I decided I would check Waze. If traffic going home was horrific and there was no chance of getting to Aiden’s game then I would continue my ride.

Berkeley Plantation MP30

I stopped at the car. I opened Waze and saw I could be home by 5:30 if I left right then. I ended my ride, took a “shower” with Chamois Butt’r Skin Wash, and headed home.

End of the trail in Richmond

It was a nice ride. Ultimately my ride didn’t end short because of a baseball game. It ended short because Amtrak can’t run a train on schedule.

*My average was just 15.1 mph. Knocking out the slow rolling part in Williamsburg it was more than 16 mph.

Happy Happy Pain

THURMONT, MARYLAND

It’s like Happy Happy Pain Pain but with half the pain.

We climbed that

The need for more mountain training became obvious when on Sunday I rode from Myersville on my Happy Happy Pain Pain ride. I had one metric that day I wanted to improve on. That was the two-mile climb from Pen Mar to High Rock. And I failed. Miserably.

Bridge over Big Hunting Creek (Blacks Mill Road)

We didn’t time segments back in 2009 but I had the segment loaded on my bike computer on Sunday. I started out 1-2 seconds ahead of my 2009 self. After 3-4 minutes I was behind the pace. I fell off dramatically and finished at 17:08. I lost 3.5 minutes in 15 years. France is not looking good.

Catoctin Furnace

Today’s ride was planned for 45 or 57 miles but from Thurmont, Md., and not from Myersville. But the destination again was High Rock. I rode with my friend, Tim, and told him I would ride with him except at High Rock. There I had to go for a PR (personal record). This assumed that he couldn’t or wouldn’t want to stay with me as I went all out.

Roddy Creek – Thurmont

It was a gorgeous day as we arrived at Thurmont Community Park. The temperature would hover in the low 70s most of the day with bright sunshine obscured by forested roads for most of the route.

Catoctin Furnace – You only see this traveling at the speed of bike

We rode some flat country roads for about eight miles before starting the climbing portion of the day up Catoctin Hollow Road. I have ridden this road at least twice before, once in 2009 and once in 2012. Has it really been 12 years since I last climbed this?

Rocks. Lots of rocks.

I designed this route using a route ridden by three cyclists I met at High Rock on Sunday. They had ridden from Walkersville so I wasn’t going to duplicate their exact route as I wanted to ride out of Thurmont. But we would follow their route from Catoctin Hollow Road to High Rock and back to Thurmont.

Not for the faint of heart

The roads are beautiful. Most were shaded in the forest and it was hard to resist stopping on the climb for photos. We made our way over to Fort Ritchie and the beginning of the climb to High Rock. We went through an intersection at the High Rock Park. And I took off.

High Rock Park

I wasn’t sure where the segment on the climb began although Wahoo would show START. But from history, I also know that there is a delay in actually passing the start location, and by the time it shows up on the bike’s computer. So it was good to have some speed going at that point. In a few hundred meters I hit the start and was immediately up on my personal record (PR) by 2-3 seconds.

My goal, and it would change frequently over the next 15 minutes, was to set a PR. For that I needed to beat my 2009 time of 13:26. The time ahead went up to 20 seconds then 30 seconds. Then my goal was to beat 13:00. At one point I was 0:48 ahead and Wahoo also predicted a finishing time. That time was 13:28. Even Wahoo didn’t believe that I could hold a 48-second lead to the finish.

High Rock

I unzipped my jersey. The winds felt like headwinds but were cooling and weren’t hated. My wind map would show that those were crosswinds.

Winds from the ENE

At 400 meters to go I could see the opening at High Rock in the road ahead. I still had a 45-second lead. As I crested the summit it showed I still had 60 meters to go. But where? There was only a parking lot and an access road to the left. I stayed on the road. And then the display switched to my course map. There was no indication that I finished a Strava segment. I know I was ahead. Does it count if it’s not on Strava?

Loy’s Station Covered Bridge

I turned around. I descended 800 meters (0.5 miles) to find Tim and to ride the last section with him. He asked me if I got it (PR) and I told him I didn’t know. I mean, I killed it but Strava may not have it. I thought about descending and riding it again but doubted my second effort would match the first.

We took some photos. Saw some Methodists. I found a dad with his son and took their photo. Another woman climbed on the rock and I asked for her phone to take her photo. And then we left.

Taking photos of strangers
Photo Credit: Tim

I missed a planned turn in Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., and we improvised. We found the Sunoco/Convenience store and Tim bought some Gatorade. The road out of Blue Ridge Summit was one I’d ridden 4-5 times during the Civil War Century and I should have recognized the sweet descent on Gladhill Road. I did but not until it was too late to get some real speed. I did hit 45 mph (72.4 kph) though.

Sabillasville Road near Thurmont

We made our way over to Sabillasville Road which trends downhill to Thurmont. Unlike most Maryland highways, there are no shoulders on this road but Tim and I would pull over when we passed an intersection to allow any following cars to pass. We’re nice.

Roddy Road Covered Bridge

The Roddy Road covered bridge became our decision point. At 43 miles we were two miles from where we parked. Or we could add a second covered bridge and 12 more miles. We pushed forward. We made a late decision to avoid Creagerstown Road and that added 3-4 miles.

I showed Tim their Trolley Trail and we were only 1-2 miles from a Metric Century. When we got to the parking lot I told Tim we could ride the park’s loop road and he agreed. I only needed two laps to get my 100 km but I rode a third one with Tim and he completed four laps. Century complete.

Thurmont Trolley

Happy Happy Pain Pain

MYERSVILLE, MARYLAND

This wonderful name comes from a group ride posted for the Potomac Pedalers Touring Club that I rode in 2009. And I haven’t been back.

Starting town of Myersville

As I try to get into climbing shape for the French Alps in June, I am looking for increasingly challenging climbs to incorporate into my training regimen. I posted this climb to the Prince William Cycling Club page as a group ride. No one responded.

Back roads

Through Strava we can compare climbing segments and I marked a few for comparison. Fifteen years ago I rode in a group which is almost always faster than I can ride solo. The exception is the chill Thursday night ride in Manassas that I often do and just hang at the back chatting or sweeping.

Welcome to Pa. I came down a side street and missed the Pa. border so backtracked 50 meters for this photo

I did not expect to be better than I was 15 years ago but you never know, If there were times that I put up “just riding along” then maybe by trying harder I could better those times. On the other hand, I told myself not to worry about Strava. Stop and smell the roses. Take pictures. Enjoy the ride.

Bikes may use full lane – Myersville

The route was mostly on back country roads – those with no lines. Traffic on those roads was extremely light. A major difference between 2009 and 2024 is that then I did not carry a cell phone with an awesome camera. I did carry a pocket camera but rarely took pictures when I rode. Today would be a day for photos.

Blue Ridge Summit, Pa. Only the second sign I’ve seen like this. The other is in Ebensburg, Pa.

I arrived at the computer lot by 9:30 a.m. for a 10:00 a.m. ride to which no one responded. Still, someone could arrive who hadn’t responded but the ride description also said that I could leave when I wanted to if no one responded. I left the commuter lot at 9:49 a.m.

Library in an old train station in Blue Ridge Summit, Pa.

It was chilly at first – just 60°. I wore arm warmers but would remove them within the first hour. The profile started with what was basically a 15-mile climb. In Myersville my Wahoo bike computer also displayed the first climb and labeled it 1/27. Oh boy. Tough ride ahead.

Valley view

I went through Blue Ridge Summit which I have been 5-6 times before on the Civil War Century rides. Leaving BRS I passed a golf course that looked like someone’s backyard (sorry). I would discover that it was Monterey Country Club, which they claim is one of the five oldest courses in the country.

Monterey Country Club

A nice descent to Waynesboro and then Pen Mar set me up for the climb to High Rock – my destination. The bottom section of the climb was very hard. It was one mile at 8% but was undulating so there were ramps of 12-15%.

Pick your old sign

After the first grueling mile it’s a straight shot and with a steady 5.7% grade for two miles to High Rock. For the first 4-5 minutes I was ahead of my 2009 self pace by 1-2 seconds but eventually fell behind and said screw it. Enjoy the scenery. In 2009 I was riding with one other person and we paced each other up the climb. Not today.

Graffiti is not urban art. This is not an urban area. It is vandalism and it is hideous what people have done to such a beautiful area. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

High Rock

I was hoping for a mostly downhill return to Myersville. But High Rock was only climb #14/27 according to my Strava map so it wasn’t all downhill with a tailwind after the climb. In fact, it was a headwind the rest of the way.

High Rock

I wasn’t feeling it today. With each climb, I tried a little but as soon as I saw I was off the pace of the 2009 “me” I backed off. Near Myersville, I had a long segment on rollers and did get a :30 advantage. Near the end I went real slow so that I would PR by only a few seconds (so I can beat it next time). When I reached the end of the segment the distance remaining displayed as -10 then -20. Oh no. I sprinted and got my PR.

High Rock

It is a beautiful ride. With 5400′ gain in 54 miles, it is a mountainous ride. I don’t know if I will be back but I should probably try this one once more before France.



DISTANCE: 53.59 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: 5,387′

Lake Monroe Loop

SANFORD, FLORIDA

This is a description of a route and not one ride. It was three rides on the Lake Monroe Loop which may or may not be its official name.

On January 24 I had a reservation on the AutoTrain from Sanford to Lorton, Virginia. The train left at 5:00 pm, but check-in with a vehicle was from 11:30 until 3:00. I wanted a nice ride in the area before a 15-hour train ride.

Near the AutoTrain, Sanford

I found a ride on RidewithGPS that started at the Bicikleta Bike Shop in Sanford. It was a 27-mile loop around the lake and looked perfect. I found the bike shop and started to follow the route that I had uploaded to my bike computer.

Bicikleta Bike Shop, Sanford

I was only two blocks from the downtown area which is absolutely charming. Sanford has brick streets so I checked out the downtown before starting my ride.

Downtown Sanford

Downtown Sanford is only one block from the lakefront which is very pretty.

Lake Monroe, Sanford

I obviously did not study the route. I envisioned a 27-mile route hugging this lake the entire time. What I got was three and a half miles of lakefront views. I crossed a bridge over the St. Johns River which flows into the lake. And then I picked up a series of bike trails.

Coast to Coast Trail

Part of the trail picks up a section of the Coast to Coast Trail

Coast to Coast

There were sections of boardwalks in the swamp. (Boardwalks scare me) Pretty but I’m not a fan of tires on wood.

Trail

I wasn’t quick enough with the camera but as I came around one corner I saw a juvenile armadillo scurry off the trail.

More boardwalks

I gave up lakeside for woods. And swamp.

Not so wildlife. Goats.

Eventually, the trail connected with a bike path next to Fl. State Hwy 415. It is separate from the highway and has an underpass at the one bridge to get to the other side to cross the river.

Lake Monroe

About five miles from Sanford the trail ends and one must ride on the road. But here the roads are more streets than highways.

Red corn snake

The first time I rode it when I got back to the start I continued a second pass down the lake and found the AutoTrain. It was just an enjoyable loop.

Osteen Trail Head and Hwy 415

My next AutoTrain reservation was on March 13. Arriving on March 14 I was prepared to ride the same loop. However, I thought it would be fun to reverse the route so I rode the same course but counterclockwise this time. Near the end, I routed to PDQ Chicken for lunch and then used the Wahoo’s Route to Start feature to get me back to the parking lot that was two blocks from Bicikleta’s.

Sanford

And it was six days later I was headed home. No AutoTrain this time but I was headed up I-4 early in the morning. I stopped at the park next to the bridge that crosses the St. Johns River. I would ride the loop again albeit with a different start location,

PDQ. Worth the trip.

There were no surprises. I could ride this loop without a map. But it’s nice to have a map on the computer as I like to display the distance remaining.

St. Johns River below I-4

This is an easy, flat, ride with lake, swamp, and forest views. I highly recommend this to anyone in central Florida looking for an easy and enjoyable ride, Finish with lunch in Sanford.

St. Johns River

Flying Fox Airport Loop

ORLANDO, FLORIDA

My travels took me to Orlando and I was looking for a ride. I found the Florida Freewheelers Bike Club that also sponsors the Horrible Hundred each November. They had a ride posted for today called the Flying Fox Airport Loop.

I am not a member of their club so their public site may be different than their private site. I could see a ride map but not a GPX file that I could upload to my bike computer.

A ride map (not the one for this ride)

I emailed the ride leader and asked for a GPX file. He sent me a file but it was only 5k in size. It was a data point – the ride start. I went to the ride map and drew the route in RideWithGPS. I wasn’t 100% sure but I think I got it.

Brick streets near the park

I arrived at the park at 7:30 a.m. for an 8:00 a.m. ride. At 7:45 I didn’t see any other cars. I have a feeling I was in the wrong part of the park. I decided to roll out ahead and figured I would be swept up by the group.

Toll Road – Bikes stay to the right (even though that guy didn’t)
South Goldenrod Road

It was a mixed road route. It is not for everyone. The residential streets were fine but there were some highway segments. And I was buzzed three times today. The first time a car passed by within an arm’s length. I thought the driver was careless. The second time I thought it was deliberate. And the third time I know it was deliberate. There seems to be an attitude that cyclists don’t belong on the roads and the drivers will punish you. I am also always aware that Florida has more cycling deaths per capita than any other state.

Slow with the camera – just missed getting a shot of this Spirit Airlines airplane

The route passed by the Orlando Executive Airport and then the Orlando International Airport. At one location the route went on a toll road but there was a Bike Route sign to take cyclists past the toll booth.

Jeff Fuqua Blvd – just south of the airport

On some shoulders, the roads were marked with a white line directing cyclists away from the drain grates. Very nice safety feature.

Infrastructure – Notice the white line directing bikes away from the drains
Heinztelman Blvd by Orlando Int’l Airport

It was cloudy but humid. My legs felt good although I was coming off a poor recovery (19%). I had thought about trying hard to find the group but then wondered if I would have the legs to stay with them. Catching me was a better option although they never did. I was riding well enough but at two miles per hour faster they must have been close.

Bike lane – Hansel Ave. (Englewood)

I love finding routes, downloading them to my Wahoo, and following them. So I was able to do that today. I didn’t meet any new people but that was okay too. Thanks for the ride!


Ormond Metric

PORT ORANGE, FLORIDA

My trip to Florida led me seeking sun and warmth and preferably ocean views. Or one view. I ended up at Ormond Beach because the Hampton Inn was very reasonable. I found a route I wanted to ride but the map was showing sections of unpaved road north of Flagler Beach that seemed strange. I ruled that out.

Next to Halifax River

I found a ride on RidewithGPS that I would follow. It began at the Hub Cycling in Port Orange up and over to Flagler Beach then back south to Dayton Beach. While I wanted to ride on A1A next to the ocean, the route avoided much of that when there was an alternative, presumably because of traffic and safety.

South Beach St., Daytona Beach

The roads were a mix of residential streets, country roads, a little highway, and the A1A right down through Daytona Beach. At one point I deviated from the course and rode over to the A1A.

A1A, Ocean Shore Blvd, Ormond Beach

I wasn’t sure what it would be like when I reached Daytona Beach. But on the two-lane southbound route, I found new sharrows had just been painted. A sharrow means bikes can use full lane and are often on roads where it would be too dangerous to pass a cyclist riding on the right side of the lane. Better to ride right down the middle. Any cars that would pass would already be partially in the left lane and would always move over.

Daytona Beach

I was headed into a moderately strong headwind from the south. And I as getting tired. I had two bottles with me – one with Skratch and one with water. I took two gels and two feeds. I could tell around 50 miles I was running on E.

North Beach Street, Tomoca State Park

I found a service station/convenience store and stopped in for water – and a Snickers. I haven’t had a Snickers in forever but I knew its sugars would sustain me the last 12 miles.

Tomoka River, Old Dixie Highway

I didn’t realize it at the time but this was where we started our cancer ride on April 11, 2013. Today I just missed passing the starting point because I had moved off the A1A and back to John Anderson Drive next to the Halifax River (less traffic).

Vikings. Daytona Beach Shores

I was hoping to go faster today but on that day we had a group of four setting a good pace in 2013. I wasn’t going to match that. But my goal of warmth, sun, and an ocean view was met.


Hill – Port Orange Causeway
Halifax River View from causeway bridge

Off the beaten track

LORTON, VIRGINIA

SUMMARY – I have taken the Auto Train four times. I did not take coach but three times was in a room and once in a roomette.

A room or roomette comes with dining choices, coach does not. A roomette is for sleeping only and one must exit the room and use a restroom in the car. A room has a private bathroom. All are very small. Pro Tip: There is Wifi on the train and it is pretty good. There is one power outlet in the rooms and no USB ports. Plan accordingly.


While this is a cycling blog, this post is a little different. Just a little off the normal track so to speak. Off the beaten track.

Car at Lorton

In 2021 I was headed to Florida with my mother for the Pan-Florida Challenge, a 200-mile cancer charity cycling event. Rather than drive, I decided to try the Auto Train.

Auto Train Station, Lorton

The train departs from Lorton, Va., which is about 10 miles from my home and about 20 miles south of Washington, D.C. It goes to Sanford, Florida, which was about 80 miles from our first destination. We couldn’t do much better as far as those logistics.

My car is in one of those train cars

I am not going to do a true cost comparison. The Auto Train is more costly than driving, especially for multiple passengers. I also think I got nailed with a fare jump by not booking the day before when I looked at the fares. But I paid $1000 for two with a sleeper car. Amtrak calls this a room or a bedroom.

Sleeping car corridor

Driving would have been 812 miles (30 mpg) and gas was averaging $4.15 per gallon. We would have stopped en route and needed a hotel. ($111 / $160 – Call it $300)

James River, Richmond, Va.

The train has coach seats in its coach cars as well as sleeper cars. If you are willing to be in coach the train can be cost-efficient, as opposed to driving, for a party of one. Coach passengers have wide reclining seats, but they don’t lie flat. No meals are provided but one can go to the cafe car and order food there.

Auto Train Lorton, Va. – March 13, 2024

The sleeper car is an upgrade in service. One can get a private room or “roomette” plus dinner and breakfast in the dining car. In 2021 we traveled during a time COVID restrictions were in place, the main one was wearing a mask while in the public areas of the train. If we were in coach we would be subject to wearing a mask the entire time. I wasn’t going to subject my mother to wear a mask for 16 hours straight. In our room, we did not need a mask.

Take a picture (of your car), you’ll remember the number better

For rooms, we had a choice of a smaller and cheaper roomette that did not have a private bathroom. Or, as we did, a room that sleeps two or a family room that sleeps four.

Lorton, Va.

The train was scheduled to leave at 4:00 p.m. Check-in was between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. This is for loading cars. We were in line by 12:30 p.m. I checked in at the counter and was not required to show my reservation on the app or an ID. I simply gave my name. My mother never presented herself to the agent. It was a beautiful day so we waited outside until 2:30 at which time we boarded.

Double seating in the sleeper car

We had to go up the steps to the second level of the car. The corridor was small and we found our room – B. Inside, the main “sofa” was two seats side by side that would open down into a bed. There was a rear-facing seat as well. The bathroom was a one-seater and had a shower as well. There was a sign stating that it might be easier to shower seated (on the closed toilet). Maybe if one was traveling for 2-3 days but this would be an overnight trip. No shower was necessary.

Rear-facing seat

Our car attendant was Rob, a very nice young man from Fort Washington, Maryland. He came to our car to get our food orders after we were underway. We had an option to eat in the dining car or in our room. In the dining car one would need to wear a mask except while actually eating because the virus does not transmit while one is chewing. Apparently. We chose to dine in our car.

Florida

The train pulled out of the station at Lorton around 3:50 p.m. We seemed to be on a siding for 45 minutes before rolling. I imagine that was coupling the cars carrying the automobiles to the train.

Shortly after 6:00 p.m., Rob brought dinner to the car and then came in at 10:00 p.m. to convert the room for sleeping. The dinner was surprisingly good.

Top bunk

The top portion of the cabin was pulled down and formed a top bunk. The bedding was comfortable enough but we were on a train. There was rocking and rolling, not quite violently, but shaking at times.

James River, Richmond, Va.

Breakfast was ala carte and was four cars back from ours. I donned the mask and went for a walk, returning with two hot breakfast sandwiches. There was coffee in our car. Rob came in removed the bedding and restored the seats to their upright position.

Waiting in line at Lorton

The train is direct except for a stop and a crew change and refueling in Florence, South Carolina, around 11:30 p.m. The train runs on freight train tracks and is at the mercy of freight schedules. It may or may not be on time. We were pretty close, arriving 15 minutes behind schedule.

Breakfast car

After we got off the train and gave a generous tip to Rob, we made our way outside and waited for our car. It costs $75 for priority unloading. By 2024 priority offloading would cost you $95.

Sanford, Fla.

They would take up to 30 cars for this service. I think that works out to be two car carriers on the train. For everybody else, they announced the cars would be offloaded in completely random order. It did not matter if your car was loaded first or loaded last. It was in one of those 19 auto carriers all parked side by side. I saw six on our train that were being unloaded.

Sanford, Fla.

The first cars rolled off at 9:47. Our car took 52 minutes and was near the end. Is priority offloading worth it? Of course that depends on your day’s itinerary. My sister-in-law took the train from Sanford to Lorton with all the snowbirds and waited four hours for her car.

Car rolling up at Sanford

So it was expensive. But it was stress-free. The average moving speed (52 mph) wasn’t great. One could drive faster but is subject to weather, road, and traffic delays. If it were free it certainly would be the way to go. But there is a lot to factor in whether it’s right for you or for me the next time.

The stats

I took it one way because my return trip was going to be direct to Somerset, Pa. and included bike riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway. But I’m glad to have it as an option.


Since the initial trip from Lorton to Sanford, I have made the trip three more times. On October 31, 2023, my mother and I traveled again on the Auto Train. This was a return from Sanford to Lorton. And it was Halloween. I went to Spirit Halloween for a costume but everything was expensive and picked over. We had talked about bringing a costume but I didn’t bring anything.

Like our first trip, we booked a room for the two of us. There were no COVID restrictions in place. In Sanford, I checked in for the both of us. Name only. No ID was required.

Unlike our ride during COVID restriction, dinner was in the dining car. Thankfully it was only one car behind our car. I was worried about my mother having to walk the corridor and losing her balance.

Dinner was in the dining car. They don’t have many empty chairs or tables and fill up all the tables with ones or twos. We were seated with another couple.

In the morning my mother asked me to go to the dining car and bring something back for her.


In January 2024 I was traveling alone and jumped on an Amtrak Flash Fare sale. This time I booked a roomette to see what it would be like.

Sanford Auto Train

Before checking in I went to Sanford for a bike ride. Once around Lake Monroe was just what the (Bike) Doctor ordered. I swung by the train terminal to check it out. Someone (NY plates) was already in line at 11:28 a.m. even though check-in did not open until noon.

Some donkey from New York was in line at 11:28 a.m. in Sanford

I checked in at 1:30. Once I said goodbye to my car I went inside the terminal to check in. I was given the choice of dining times, 6:00 or 8:00 p.m., and handed a boarding ticket and meal ticket. Again, no ID was requested.

Great weather in Sanford

Taking advantage of the beautiful weather, I sat outside until they announced boarding at 3:30 p.m. Amtrak has a food truck vendor on site but also offers a shuttle to downtown Sanford.

SANFORD

I did neither but would encourage early arriving passengers to check out Sanford. I had checked it out on a bike so I wasn’t feeling the need to go back into town.

Roomette

I went to my Roomette. And that is it. Two wide bucket seats facing opposite.

Neighbor’s Roomette

The most comfortable position was to sit back and put my feet on the other chair. If you are traveling double, wash your feet and hope you like your travel partner. In the evening the attendant, mine was Max, comes in, flips the seats into the bed position, and makes the bed. There is a fold-down bed up above and I assume it’s the same as in the room. One attendant in the dining car told me some couples get two roomettes and each takes one.

There is no bathroom in the roomette so you must use one in the car itself. But the three bathrooms serve the four or xix or eight roomettes in that car so I never saw anyone else at the same time.

My car in Sanford

I chose the 6:00 dinner. To spice things up I wore my “tuxedo” cycling jersey. The dining car people loved it. I was seated with Diane, a married woman from near Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Joining us was Ed, who was also from near Wilkes-Barre. We had a fourth person come later but we didn’t bother asking his name and he wasn’t in a hurry to learn ours.

Amtrak Lorton

On this trip, there was a long delay in Florence. They may have swapped out locomotives or did a minor repair.

I went to the dining car for breakfast. It was first-come, first-served seating and I hurried to get a seat. I was the second one there. Ultimately there were five of us, including Ed and Diane from last night’s dinner. The guy across from me told me of the time that he took the train and road in coach. He said some college guy kept leaning his head on him. A scene right out of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

We arrived 1:15 late at 11:15 a.m. I got off the train at 11:28 and the first of the priority cars drove up 10 minutes later. It took about five minutes for the remaining cars to be unloaded. I counted five families remaining in the terminal when they called my number at 12:03 p.m., or about 35 minutes after the first priority offload that cost that guy $95.

There is Wi-Fi aboard the train that is pretty good. I can’t speak to the coach section but I think there is a power port at each chair. In the room and roomette there is one power outlet. There are no USB ports.

Overdressed?

I jumped on another Flash Fare sale for the AutoTrain. This was one-way from Lorton to Sanford on March 13, 2024.

Cars waiting in line at Sanford, Fla. – March 14, 2024

I was traveling solo and booked a roomette. I don’t think I would travel without a sleeping berth and for a solo traveler the roomette was enough. The room has more space and is more comfortable even for one traveler plus there is the added benefit of a bathroom in the room.

Private bathroom in a car – March 13, 2024

Two weeks before I departed I got an email from Amtrak asking if I would bid on a room upgrade to a “bedroom.” My thought was the family rooms were not being used and this was what I was bidding on.

Bids started at $150 with a suggested bid of $450 for an upgrade ( a complete ripoff by the way). I bid $151 – just one dollar more than the minimum in case there were those who bid the minimum. Two days before the trip I was notified that my bid was accepted.

Auto Train Room – March 13, 2024

Living so close to the station I decided not to arrive too early. I arrived at 2:23 p.m. Although I knew the train would be relatively empty, I was taken aback when I checked in and was told my dinner would be at 8:00 p.m. All the 6:00 slots had been taken. The attendant offered me dinner in my car at 7:30 p.m. I accepted that.

En route. Passing Woodbridge, Va. – March 13, 2024

I boarded at 3:18 p.m. anticipating going to a family room. Instead, I went to a room. Or bedroom. I was disappointed mostly in that I hadn’t read the bid carefully enough. I wouldn’t have bid $151 more for a bedroom but was glad to have the extra space.

Sink in the room. These are not modern train. March 13, 2024.

These are not modern cars. Perhaps in the 70s they were. There are no USB ports. I brought my own adapter/power cord. There is only one power outlet in the room.

View of a sleeper. One power outlet, no USB outlets. Bring your own adapters.

The announcements in the room were barely audible. I always enjoy the statistics offered as the train is underway. They always tell how many people are on board and how many vehicles are being transported. And add that this is the world’s longest passenger train.

Boarding documents

The attendant came into my room. He never introduced himself but his nametag said J. Hill. I would later learn it was James. I told him I could not hear the announcements and he said he would check on it. He never did. I also told him the shower/bathroom had a cigarette smoke smell and he said he would come back with some spray. He never did.

James, the attendant. (back turned) March 14, 2024

He brought my meal to me at 7:50 p.m. in a paper bag. It was complete with plastic utensils. During COVID when they brought the meals to my mother and me we had real plates and real utensils. The steak was good but hard to cut with a plastic knife.

Flat Iron Steak – March 13, 2024

I was planning to go to the dining car for breakfast but he told me he would bring my breakfast to me. I didn’t push back on this but should have. It was as though by agreeing to dinner in my room I signed up for both meals in my room. When it was 7:50 p.m. and my dinner hadn’t yet come I almost just walked to the dining car. 7:30 is not the same as 7:50 p.m. except maybe in government travel.

Sanford, Fla. – March 14, 2024

Dinner at 7:30 p.m. in my room was a better option than dinner in the car at 8:00 p.m. Dinner in my room at 7:50 p.m. (actual) was not a better option than dinner in the dining car.

My trip – March 13-14, 2024

The train was on time. I disembarked at 9:55 a.m. The priority cars started off at 10:13. Mine came off at 10:44 a.m.

My car coming off the train in Sanford – March 14, 2024

It’s a fun way to travel. But it kills my recovery. My Whoop band said I only slept 2:20 and my recovery was just 11%. Ouch.

Whoop does not like this ride

Cykelnerven

BRIANÇON, FRANCE

I will be joining other passionate cyclists and riding Cykelnerven in June. It is one of Europe’s most challenging events and raises money for the MS International Federation (MSIF). Over four days in June we will tackle some of the toughest mountains that will be used in this year’s Tour de France.

There will be more added to this post but I will direct readers to my official page at Cykelnerven.

MS is very personal to me as it directly affects my family. I would like nothing more than to see a cure in my lifetime.

It is my hope that my participation in this event and by raising funds will be a beacon of hope for anyone affected by MS.

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