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

Crocs vs. Gators

SHARK VALLEY, EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK

This was my third time with this ride.All have been fun and they would be hard to rank if I wanted to. I don’t.

Parking Lot Full – Everglades National Park

I drove from Miami and passed a huge group ride. It also could have been a bike event but I couldn’t find an event simply by searching. I did see a photographer at the end of the street so maybe it was. My first thought was to stop and see if I could join them. But it looked to be already in progress. It was 9:30 a.m. And more importantly, I went deep yesterday and haven’t recovered.

Line to enter Everglades National Park

At lunch yesterday I had avoided any cramping. And then, a slight turn the wrong way and my hamstring about killed me. I tried to stretch my leg and bend my foot backward. Back to the car before the drive to Miami I drank a Hot Shot cramp killer. It worked in that I didn’t cramp anymore yesterday. But last night, twice in my sleep I awoke with a cramp in a calf, both calves, different times. My body was not recovered. I checked my Whoop Band score this morning. It was only 34% recovered. I knew I should stick to today’s plan which was to ride two loops at Shark Valley.

Shark Valley Visitor Center

Two loops would be simple to satisfy my daily mileage (30 miles). And also for Strava. I knew a loop was timed and I could set a PR by not stopping but I would dedicate the first loop to watching nature including stopping often for photographs. And the second loop would be just riding without stops.

Everglades

Arriving Shark Valley the sign on the roadway announced the lot was full and to expect delays. There were scores of cars already parked outside the park but I got in line to see how long it would be. There were at least 12 cars in line and they would be admitted one car at a time for every one car that left. And since it was 10:15 a.m. the lot probably had just filled up and the early morning folks might be a while before leaving. I did a U-turn and went back out to the highway to park.

Cars parked on the Highway outside Shark Valley

Most of those parked on the roadside had bicycles but a few were walkers. And this observation. The government is not serious about vehicle emissions. The admission for one car was $35 whereas for one individual it was $20. For the cars that parked outside the park a couple walking in would pay more ($40) by walking in that by driving in. They want you to drive your car.

Admission Gate at Shark Valley

I have a National Park pass for free admission so it was an easy decision for me to park on the highway then ride past the long line or parked cars. But if I had a family of four in my car I would wait in the line to pay for the vehicle rather than have to pay individually for each of us with a bike, even though I would be free.

Gator

The ranger greeted me and asked for my pass as though I looked like someone who would have a pass. Of course, I did. She said that I would have a great tailwind going out and a pretty stiff headwind coming back. She was right.

Gators

I headed out of the visitor center on the straight road next to the water towards the observation tower. I only saw seven alligators in the seven miles out to the tower. Winter is the dry season and they are less active. So I saw less today than my other two rides but it was still satisfying.

Gators on the road

I arrived at the tower and saw a few people looking at a big one. I realized that with it’s longer snout and pointy teeth on the outside that it was a crocodile. I would later learn that it was a female.

That’s a crock. Also, never turn your back and take a selfie.

I counted eight alligators and one crocodile before turning to finish the loop. The second part of the loop looked uphill even though it was pancake flat.It was a struggle into the wind. Most people I saw who thought it would be fun to rend a bike realized that it isn’t fun riding into the wind. Most were walking.

After ‘while Crockodile

When I reached the visitor center I had to decide whether to ride another loop, as planned, I met a couple on mountain bikes and they asked me which way to go. I told them the wind was brutal coming back and that I thought there might be a little protection riding clockwise vs. counterclockwise.

Lots of people walking

It was then I decided I would ride the loop again but reverse my direction. I decided a PR on a loop was dumb. Strava is just for social media and I should do what I wanted to do. So I reversed direction. While I would still be nose into the wind the last seven miles, at least it would be along alligator alley and not just in the desolate grasses.

Just lounging

I soon caught the couple and then caught the site-seeing tram. Once the tram stopped and let me pass I never saw it again. I guess the driver didn’t like me drafting. Hehe.

Bird – Help me out here. Everglades.

I tried not to double count alligators. Many were in the same spots one hour later. I would say that I saw 14 today. And two crocodiles. On the way back I stopped to tell three girls to look for the two alligators on the side of the road about one mile further and after that they would see a juvenile crocodile and not long after that the adult female. They were pretty excited.

Mouth open means annoyed

It was a good day. No Strava records, well, maybe one. But that was organically because I had no segments marked.


Reflections on the Year – 2023

WOODBRIDGE, VIRGINIA

Another year of riding. Another year of life. Plenty of great and memorable experiences but maybe most importantly, no crashes. In no particular order, I present my

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

  • The Citrus Tour (MS-150)
  • Knotts Island Ferry Loop
  • Olivia’s Ride
  • Maryland Cycling Classic
  • Rooster Racing
  • Intracoastal Waterway Century
  • Alpine Loop Gran Fondo
  • Working on the Chain Gang
  • Hurricane Mountain Road
  • Tour de Suisse

10. THE CITRUS TOUR. The MS-150 in Championsgate, Florida started well. I rode solo but found some groups as well. Cramps got me very bad starting around Mile 60 and almost knocked me off my bike around Mile 95. I limped to the finish and made a six-hour century but hurt so bad I rode 25 on Sunday instead of 50.

Start line

9. KNOTTS ISLAND FERRY LOOP. It was a route that I drew with RideWithGPS and then rode it. I found gravel (oops) and wasn’t sure about parking at the ferry but had a glorious 50-mile ride from North Carolina into southeast Virginia then back to Knotts Island and a 40-minute ferry ride across the Currituck Bay.

Knotts Island Ferry

8. OLIVIA’S RIDE. Formerly Ride Home Roads, this event, now known as Olivia’s Ride, was also Ben King’s retirement ride. Very nice metric century ride.

Ben and Barry

7. MARYLAND CYCLING CLASSIC. The second year of this race and my second time attending it. Unlike last year I did not volunteer but was able to ride before the race and to just be a fan.

My perfect artwork

6. INTRACOASTAL WATERWAY CENTURY. Went to Melbourne, Fla. and discovered this gem out of Cocoa Village. I fell in with a group like the Old Cranks (Warrenton, Va.) but they were all from the Space Coast Freewheelers, the group sponsoring the ride. I felt really good to the point that I thought about riding off on my own and dropping the guys I was with but we had already formed a cohesive group at that point and I would have been a jerk.

It was also Halloween weekend

5. ALPINE LOOP GRAN FONDO. This cancer-raising event has become my go-to century of the year. Tired from a late night in Pittsburgh the day before my body wasn’t primed for a long ride. Instead I rode the Metric Century (65 miles) and probably became the first rider in history to have ridden all five of their routes.

Chasing Buggy

4. CHAIN GANG. I went to Maryland’s Eastern Shore with a group from Prince William Cycling Club. With limited or moderate traffic but wide shoulders where one needn’t ride on the roadway, the place and time was perfect to teach my group of eight how to ride in a chain gang (double rotating pace line). It was fun and efficient. And fun.

On the ferry

3. ROOSTERS IN LUXEMBOURG. I joined old friends and met new ones riding with Rooster Racing in Luxembourg. And with Fränk Schleck.

Gusty, Barry, Fränk, Brian

2. HURRICANE MOUNTAIN ROAD. I drove to Mount Washington for the Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclim but bad weather forced the cancellation of the race on Saturday and again on the rain date on Sunday. But I was able to ride up Hurricane Mountain Road (a very difficult climb) and that, in itself, was very satisfying.

Hurricane Mountain Road

1. TOUR DE SUISSE. It was to be a very fun day watching Stage 5 of the Tour de Suisse, and it was, but it turned out to be bittersweet. It was the last race for and one of the last photos taken of Gino Mäder who would die from injuries in a crash about one hour later.

Gino Mäder, in red, is drinking from a blue water bottle

What wasn’t included: The Blueridger loop in Marshall; the Abandonded Tunnel in Breezewood; my annual ride from Somerset to Punxsutawney with a stop in Northern Cambria (permanently finished); a ride to Gettysburg.

And for the rest I present these tibits:

WORST AIRLINE

Not even close. British Airways lost my bike at London Heathrow even while the entire time I was tracking it using an Apple AirTag. They ignored my calls and tweets for five days and blew my cycling trip to Switzlerland. CNN writer, Julia Buckley, contacted me to assist but was one day late. She still followed up with an article which I hoped would embarrass British Airlines into some small compensation. It did not. Passenger uses AirTag to track the bike his airline lost

British Airways, Heathrow Airport

BEST AIRLINE

Not even close. Finnair. Not only did British Airways lose my bike (later delivered) but they canceled my return leg from Helsinki – first from Helsinki to Copenhagen and then from Copenhagen to Washington-Dulles. They did nothing to reschedule me but I did get booked on Finnair from Helsinki to London. Great lounge in Helsinki and a great flight.

Helsinki

BEST RIDE IN SWITZERLAND

One week of not riding and on the day I was leaving, Ben offered me his bike to “go ride some hills.”

Ben’s Bike – Notice the Ride for Jamie sticker

NOBODY RIDES ALONE

On a group ride with PWCC, I dropped back with the second group because it’s all work up front and a party in the back. As we split into groups I noticed a rider in between the groups. I asked Renee who that was and she told me she was a new rider and no one knew her. So I rode up to the new rider and said “Nobody rides alone.” So glad I did. Found out Jill is a Penguins and Steelers fan from Pa.

Last Monday night ride of the year. It may have been Halloween-ish

BEST BURGER JOINT

Fosters Grille, Manassas, Va. Like Cheers, where everybody knows your name. On November 30 when I hosted a Movember ride, we all stopped for lunch and my friends were all amazed that everybody knew my name. Literally.

Suzanne, Stu, Sharon, Carla, Sean

NOBODY RIDES ALONE – II

Our last group ride of the season in Manassas. There were six of us on a chilly night. Once we hit the slight uphill of Godwin we discovered a natural break in the group. It could have been three and three or maybe four and two as four of us rode ahead to Wawa to wait and regroup. I knew that John had dropped back and I told our three to ride ahead as I would wait for John and Steve. Steve, as every man would, told the group to go one without him as he didn’t want to hold anyone up. I told him that nobody rides alone. I expected that the three of us would stay together and three would go on ahead as it was getting dark. I was astonished that all six of us stayed together and rode at the speed of Steve.

BEST ICE CREAM

Moo-Thru, Remington, Virginia. Ideally placed next to a park where one can finish a ride and have a scoop.

Runners up: Scottish Highlands Creamery, Oxford, Md.; South Mountain Creamery, Middletown, Md.

South Mountain Creamery – Middletown, Md.
This was an oasis on a mountain ride and much needed.

NOT A NEW YEARS HANGOVER

I didn’t ride on New Years Day. It was the first New Years Day I didn’t ride since 2018. But it wasn’t a hangover. It was Covid. I missed the last three days in 2022 and the first three days in 2023. Six consecutive days over two years without a ride was the most that I missed since 2018 when I missed 53 straight for knee replacement.

SHORTEST RIDE

My standard is a minimum of 10 miles to be a “ride.” Traveling with my 91-year-old mother to Florida, I found the Linn Cove Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. I wanted to tell her to drive my car 10 miles then pull over and I will find her but I knew she would freak out at my suggestion. So I found a pull-off, told her I’d be right back in 5-6 minutes, and then rode over and back across the viaduct. Total miles: 1.2 (2 km)

Linn Cove Viaduct

LONGEST RIDE

That would be my private version of the Sea Gull Century. Total miles: 102.9 (165.6 km). Varied slightly from the official route because I started and ended at the Hampton Inn Hotel, Fruitland.

And all I got was a T-shirt

WORST AT SKIPPING SCHOOL

When the date was announced, Sept. 23, I knew I would have a conflict. I had a class reunion at New Brighton H.S. and a cancer charity event. I could not do both but didn’t want to miss either. My compromise was to attend the informal event the night before the reunion in New Brighton then to drive to Harrisonburg. Va. for the Gran Fondo. By splitting my time I gave both events a half effort. I regretted missing my actual reunion. I could have sent the Gran Fondo a benefit check and told them see you next year. I skipped school but immediately regretted it like I did when I was a kid (which may or may not have happened).

SLOWEST RIDE

I met some friends at their home in Turku, Finland, and we rode 8.6 miles (13.8 km) to the center of Turku and back. We rode with their seven-year-old daughter, Sara, who was amazing. We didn’t go fast but this was one of my best rides of the year – Traveling at the speed of Sara. — 7.6 mph (12.2 kph)

Sara and mom

FASTEST RIDE

I found the flat streets in Corolla, North Carolina, to my liking, combined with few stops signs. When I couldn’t go on long rides on vacation because we had family with us, short faster rides were best for me. On Wednesday I rode 11 miles (17.7 km) at 20.2 mph (32.5 kph). And on our last evening before everyone left I went out at 6:30 p.m. and rode 21.7 mph (35 kph) over 4.1 miles (6.6 km). That was my fastest ever speed measured over distance. Solo. And not involving a descent. I’ve gone faster over longer distances but always involving some mountain descending. This was all human-powered.

Long (3 miles) streets in Corolla

WORST USE OF A HOUSE

House in the Alps, Switzerland. No heating but it had a fireplace – that I couldn’t figure out how to open the door on it. I froze and was hungry. I had brought Pop Tarts as gifts for my friends in Finland but ended up eating them to survive. I came here to ride my bike but had no bike to ride. The views were stunning but no bike. I spent one night then moved on to Lake Lucerne which was very comforting and what I needed.

House in the Alps

METRIC RIDES

For many riders a major achievement is a Metric Century. The Century is 100 of something and in metric terms that is 100 kilometers or 62.14 miles. This year I had 27 rides of a metric century distance including at least one in every month of the year.

Strava Trophy Case

CENTURY RIDES

And forget the metric century and go “full.” I rode three centuries this year. Two were registered events, the MS-150 in Florida and the Intracoastal Waterway, and the third, the Sea Gull Century, I was registered but I rode one day early to beat the weather.

The MS-150, Championsgate, Fla.

NOT 50 NIFTY STATES – ONLY 10

Only 10 states and one district. Here’s the short list: Virginia. Maryland. West Virginia. Pennsylvania. Florida. Delaware. North Carolina. New Hampshire. Massachusetts, Maine. District of Columbia.

My one trip into D.C. was to ride the last 30 miles on the C&O Canal Towpath with my
brother-in-law and sister. They rode from Pittsburgh over six days.

COUNTRIES

In addition to the U.S.A. I rode in six other countries this year. I in Switzerland, not on my bike but one lent to me by Ben. And the rest in order, Luxembourg, France, Germany, The Netherlands, and Finland.

Near Valkenburg, Holland

BEST IMITATION OF A CENTURY RIDE

With an all-day forecast of rain for the Sea Gull Century on Saturday, perfect sunny weather on Friday, plus cheaper weekday rates, I decided to go to Salisbury one day early and I rode the Sea Gull Century by myself. I was also able to find the horses on Assateague Island. Often they are moved to the southern end to avoid the crowds of this event.

Assateague Island

THE BAD 1% CLUB

This is not a good thing. My Whoop band measures recovery but on June 17 it measured my recovery at one percent. I assume that it doesn’t go to zero. This was an accumulation of sleep deprivation and stress. I flew to Zurich but my bike stayed in London. I was checking on it and tweeting every few hours. I wasn’t sleeping well. The day before I took a train to Frankfurt then met some of the Roosters Racing team. My bike was supposedly in transit to Luxembourg. But stress effects recovery and it caught up to me here.

1% Recovery – Not good

THE GOOD 1% CLUB

Strava says that out of more than 95,000,000, I was in the Top One Percent of all users for activity, measured in hours. Maybe I’m slow, that’s all.

Top 1%

BEST REUNION

Missing for one week in Europe, my bike and I met up again in Luxembourg.

LEARNING WHOOP

It’s my second year of wearing my Whoop Band and I am still learning. Amount and quality of sleep effects recovery. But so does mental stress. When my bike was missing while I was in Switzerland I never had a recovery that was normal. Once the bike was returned to me my recovery improved.

On none of these days did I ride the day before
Recovery was in part due to sleep or lack thereof
but mostly due to stress of my bike missing

WORST GROUP RIDE

Showed up for a Thursday night ride and the group leader had no clue who I was but still determined there would be a fast group and a slow group then pointed to me to say that I would be in the slow group. Very rude. I rode on the front or second wheel for much of the ride until I came to my bail out point. Then I rode back to him and put my hand on his shoulder. When I got his attention (a trick I learned from Frank), I told him that I did not appreciate that at all. He stammered and tried to say mistaken identity but it was rude no matter what. I never went back.

BEST INTRUSIVE SELFIE

At Olivia’s Ride on June 9 in Ashland, Va., I saw USA Cycling Women’s Road Champion (2022), Emma Langley, riding away. Although I was wearing flip flops, I jumped on my road bike and caught her and, with permission, took a selfie.

Emma Langley, USA Women’s Road Cycling Champion

LOSING ONE’S ASS (SAVER)

On Christmas Eve I went for a ride with Tim. The roads were wet when I started so I put the Ass Saver on my bike. I did not lock it into place as it was being difficult. When we got to Manassas, I noticed it missing. Rather than finish a loop Tim suggested we double back and try to find it. We did. We didn’t. I miss you. 🙁

A cute temporary fender. More temporary than I expected.

MOST CONSECUTIVE DAYS WITHOUT A RIDE

Four days from June 12-15 when British Airways lost my bike at Heathrow Airport. Have I mentioned this before? Spanning 2022 and 2023 it was six days without a ride from December 29, 2022 – January 3, 2023 when I was sick. During those four days in Switzerland I had to see views like this:

Lake Lucerne – Ferry from Beckenried to Gersau
Didn’t get to ride this as planned but I got to see it.

MOST CONSECUTIVE DAYS WITH A RIDE

Eighty days from July 5 through September 22. September 23 was a chilly rainy day in Harrisonburg, Va. and our ride with Jeremiah Bishop was canceled. If I had a longer streak going I would have ridden in the rain and got soaked but my bike and body thanked me for taking a day off. I doubt that I ever ride 1,103 days again like I did from 2019-2021.

MOST EMBARASSING MOMENT

First day of riding with the Roosters in Luxembourg, I went on a 20-mile ride before our 48-mile group ride. I was also one week off the bike because, British Airways. Our last climb before lunch at a vineyard, I started cramping. I had to back off the pace and let the group gap me. Fränk Schleck saw me, doubled back and then rode beside me with his hand on my saddle pushing me up the climb.

Julie and Barry at lunch, Schengen, Luxembourg
Feeling better after a puch up the climb – SMH
Photo Credit: Lisa W.

FIREFIGHTER OF THE YEAR

I smelled smoke at first thinking a truck must have really laid down some rubber. As I turned the corner next to Colgan High School I could see lots of black smoke about 200 meters ahead. And then I could see the fire. I was right next to the Coles Fire Department so I dismounted and rang the doorbell. When a firefighter came to the door I told him “There’s a truck on fire at Hoadly and 234 – you all may want to come out and play.” One firefighter jogged out to the street, looked, and then ran back inside. Within 60 seconds four doors on the building were opened and at least three trucks went to put out the fire. You’re welcome. Surely a 911 call had been made before I went to the fire station. Why such a lag in response?

Truck on fire – Va. Rte 234 (Dumfries Road and Hoadly Road)

HOW BAD IS TOO BAD?

Weather for Mount Washington for the MWARBH on August 19. Sixty one mph winds, 39.9℉ (4.4℃), with a wind chill of 26℉ (-3.3℃) and more than one inch of rain. In addition to the bad weather, four people had to be rescued off the mountain the day before and emergency services were thin. It was the right call.

BEST GRAVEL

Is there really a best gravel? But I enjoyed this winter club ride in Fauquier County, Va. Except for the gravel.

Gravey winery

BEST GRAVEL II

On August 30 I rode 30 miles on the C&O Canal Towpath to meet my sister and brother-in-law. Much of the C&O is simply forest but one of the prettiest sections is near Great Falls.

Great Falls

WORST GRAVEL

Uh-oh. On my Currituck Ferry ride I unexpectedly found 2 1/4 miles (3.6 km) of heavy gravel in North Carolina. No flats. No mechanicals. No crashes. All good.

Gravel. Not my friend.

WORST TURKEY DINNER

Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb. The Hart’s Turkey Farm dinner used to be a real highlight of the hillclimb. Five hundred riders (staggered) under one tent and a delicious turkey dinner that rivals Grandma’s best Thanksgiving dinner. Sadly, that has given way to a sandwich. 🙁

Wait. Looks like ham.

EVERY RIDE IS BETTER WITH A FERRY

If I could have a ferry on every ride I would. The Historic White’s Ferry at Leesburg remains closed. I missed planned rides on Lake Zurich and Lake Lucerne. But I was still able ride the Bellevue-Oxford Ferry in Maryland three times and the Knotts Island Ferry in North Carolina, once. It’s no coincidence that two of my top ten rides include a ferry ride.

Currituck Ferry arriving Knotts Island, N.C.

IF NO FERRY THEN FIND A COVERED BRIDGE

Covered bridges are cool. I usually hit up to eight of them in Bedford Co., Pa. and did go back to the three great ones in Frederick Co., Md. I found Jacksons Mills Covered Bridge near Breezewwod and then found Kings Covered Bridge in Somerset Co., Pa.

Kings Covered Bridge, Somerset Co., Pa.

I AM TRULY FORGETTABLE

In October while I was on a ride in Florida I was pretty excited to see a guy that I rode with for six days in Luxembourg in June with Rooster Racing. When I greeted him he had no clue who I was.

Keith from the Roosters Although we rode in a group of nine for six days in Luxembourg four months ago – he did not remember me

100,000 MILES CANCER-FREE.

Nobody should hear those words “You’ve got cancer.” When I heard them in 2009 I wanted (1) to live and (2) to ride again. I never tracked miles much before 2008 or 2009 when bike computers became readily available and have no idea how far I have ridden in my lifetime. But after cancer, which is a new lease on life, I know every mile. And on July 24 I went over 100,000 miles cancer-free.

BEST/SCARIEST ROAD SIGN

Somewhere in Fauquier County, Virginia

Warrenton, Va., Jan. 20, 2023

MOST PRACTICAL ROAD SIGN

But still SHARE THE ROAD (Bikes may use full lane)

Lake Wales, Fla. Mar. 18, 2023

FUNNIEST MOMENT

Almost every moment on a Roosters Racing trip. But the funniest was at our first team meeting. Danny had everybody stand up. “Now sit down if you have shaved legs.” All the women and the majority of men sat down. For those who didn’t, – BUFFALO! (Rufas shaved his legs that night.)

Danny holding Buffalo court

TESTING THE LIGHTS

Late in the season I rode to Manassas for a group ride and came home in the dark. Then on Halloween I started out at 6:45 a.m. in Altamonte Springs, Fla. It was dark and misty. And my lights work. Two years ago I was almost hit at night in a parking lot in South Carolina. Has a pleasant conversation with an apologetic driver who told me he didn’t see my lights. I believed him and upgraded my visibility. Still don’t want to go far in the dark but I am comfortable for an hour or so if I have to.

Warm and misty

BEST TOW

These don’t come along often, in fact they are very rare, but on our last day in Luxembourg, our support driver, Jean-Claude passed three of us and waited to see what would happen. I jumped on his wheel but Paul, and riding with me, did not. Jean-Claude sped up and I sped up. We passed a few riders on that ride. We both greatly enjoyed this little used trick by cyclists. When we caught the front group, JC was beaming with delight.

BEST CHARGE

On September 16, I started a Metric Century ride with only 42% charge on my Wahoo. (User error.) That would have been enough but I had a 90-minute pause to watch a softball game. If I turned off the Wahoo it would have created a ride and when I resumed I would have had a second ride. I could have joined the rides together later. I decided to ride as far as I could until it shut down. At that point I would have turned on my phone app and recorded the second part and then joined those two if it came to that. No need. I pulled into Mod Pizza in Purcellville and before I ordered asked if they had a USB-C charger. They did. I went from 3% charge when I pulled in to 50% when I left. Saved the day.

Mod Pizza, Purcelleville, Va.

MOST AWKWARD QUESTION

Because it was a documentary, Schleck vs. Contador, I had just watched, Tour de France Winner (2011), Andy Schlect, asked me who was better, him or Alberto Contador. Hmm. How to answer honestly. “You?,” I asked/said.

Andy chuckled and said, “No, he was the better rider but I’m the better person.”

And to this I whole-heartedly agree.

Andy and Barry

THE STATS

10,071 miles – fifth straight year of 10,000+ miles. The first time, 2019, was the most rewarding because I had never reached 10,000 before. But this year started with COVID and was interrupted in Europe with a missing bike. There were periods of doubt but as the end of year got closer I knew I could finish the year on a positive note.

STRAVA VS RIDEWITHGPS

There is a slight discrepany on distance between the two fitness tracking programs, Strava and RideWithGPS. My Wahoo uploads the same data points to both programs and if they aren’t exact they are usually within 0.1 miles. But over 10,000 miles there can be slight differences. I’m not worried. I have a much longer history as a RideWithGPS user so I defer to their data for my annual mileage. The difference in mileage, 10,074 v 10,071 is due to some walking that was also recorded in Strava.

RideWithGPS

ACHIEVEMENTS

I was excited when I captured my first KOM (King of the Mountain) a couple of years ago. Then I chased them. Now I longer chase them – if they happen, they happen. Also, I try to give more Kudos than I receive.

I may have to start giving kudos to indoor rides and weight lifting to even out the kudo discrepancy

And that’s a wrap on another year. No spills, crashes, or falls although I came upon one crash in Olivia’s Ride, Ben King’s retirement ride on June 10. For a year of safe riding, I am very thankful. Ride safe my friends!

Intracoastal Waterway Century

COCOA VILLAGE, FLORIDA

Quick Thoughts – The registration process stated that the event materials including a T-shirt would be mailed to the riders. I registered two months in advance but never received anything. I had to arrive early today for late registration ready to explain that I never received anything. Turns out they didn’t mail mine. Sigh.

A t-shirt and my riding bib/tag

I met a nice young woman who was sitting on the curb 15 minutes before the start time. I convinced her to sit on a bench with me and save her legs. Kristen Reynolds was riding her first Metric Century and was a bit nervous about being able to finish.

Waiting at the start

Part of me wanted to ride with Kristen to make sure she would finish but I decided to stick with my plan of a full Century ride. At just about 8:00 we all started moving. The event had around 400 riders so it wasn’t too large, unlike a Sea Gull Century which has more than 5,000 riders.

Early morning Start line

As I rolled out I recognized one of our Roosters from this summer’s trip to Luxembourg. I rode up to Keith but he didn’t know who I was. Strange. Very strange. I rode with Keith for the first 15 miles even catching Kristen who was flying. I was surprised that the split in the two routes came so quickly. I never really said goodbye to Keith or Kristen. They turned right. I turned left. Goodbye.

Keith from the Roosters
Although we rode in a group of nine for six days in Luxembourg four months ago – he did not remember me

I turned west on the Century route while a large group I was in went east for the Metric. I was the only one who turned left. I thought I would be riding the rest of the century alone. I was prepared to ride alone. In one mile was the first rest stop. I made a quick pit stop and noticed a group of 5-6 guys getting a group photo taken. I left. Solo.

Rest stop one

After departing the stop I may have ridden one mile, at most two, catching one rider when the group I saw minutes earlier passed me by. One rider announced they were passing and told me to jump in. Another said, “Jump in, take a rest and recover, and then take a turn.” I liked the invitation.

Rolling at the start – Cocoa Beach

After the group passed me I jumped in. I had to judge what type of rotation or pace line they were riding and match it. We went in order with each person pulling off when they were comfortable. There were a couple of short pulls and a couple of long pulls. Their group of five became a group of six. As we passed other riders we grew to about 20 with the six of us doing all the pulling with 14 passengers. There were riders willing to tag on but not become part of our group.

Rest stop two

The composition of the group changed when we came to the NASA Causeway Bridge to the Kennedy Space Center. I was at the back hoping to take some photos. When I ride I love to take photos. Sometimes I can do it while riding solo but more often I pull over for a shot. Today I was in a line most of the way and could not capture the views to share with others.

Eau Gallie Causeway
Dr. W. J. Creel Bridge

It was flat. Everywhere was flat. But the causeways all were bridges that became hills for those in this area. We came to the “hill” on the NASA Causeway. There was a split in our group and I found myself on the back of the split. I quickly moved past one or two riders to catch the front of our group.

Every ride needs a Velomobile

Coming down off the bridge we had a great view of the space center to the left across the Indian River and a canal to the right. I saw an alligator in the canal but could not take a photo.

Rest stop two

At the end of the causeway, our group pulled over realizing they dropped Walter. One rider doubled back about one-half mile to see if he was coming but didn’t find him. I later learned that Walter had been off his bike for three years and jumped in today to ride 100 miles. Dumb if that’s what he did. The group waited about 10-12 minutes and then continued on without him.

Baby Cokes at Rest Stop 4. These were a life saver.

Walter apparently abandoned and presumably called for a SAG. But no one in our group called him? Maybe they knew him but weren’t necessarily friends with him much as I would be in the Prince William Cycling group. I know a lot of people but I’m not friends with most or have their cell phone numbers. Poor Walter.

Kennedy Space Center

Around Mile 60, Herb and I were at the front and we caught another group. In doing so we dropped the other three riders we were with. I was willing to hang on the back of the new group after pulling so much but Herb suggested we wait for his group because “they need us more than we need a free ride.” We waited.

Rest stop 3

Leaving the third rest stop I wanted to ride faster. And it was a weird situation that I joined a group and rode 45 miles with them but was ready to abandon them. Is that wrong? Twice when their riders were hurting the group stopped so I did too. I was part of the group. But to ride a century the advice is to ride the first third slow, the second third normal, and leave yourself enough in the tank for the last third. I did.

On Merritt Island – the Indian River

Today I had lots in the tank and wanted to pick up the pace. Every time I was on the front I was constantly looking to see if someone was on my wheel. And often it was one rider with a split. Sometimes it was just me. I slowed down.

Bridge on Merritt Island

At what point do you become part of the group and can’t leave? I could have pedaled away at any point, with or without a word. But I stayed with the group taking turns pulling with those still working.

Rest stop 5

In the end, we finished together except for Jim who dropped back with three miles to go. And I know Tom appreciated I was pulling my share in the group when he couldn’t contribute. After the ride, he thanked me for pulling. He said he doesn’t normally ride that fast and was just trying to hang on but was very pleased with his average speed for the day. I didn’t tell him that I was always slowing it down to keep them with us.

Indian Harbor Beach – Eau Gallie Causeway

It was a good day. I started slow to stay in with the Metric riders until they turned. Then I thought I had 85 miles of solo riding ahead of me. The Melbourne Old Cranks (my new name for them) made the ride very interesting and enjoyable. I don’t know how many they had passed and how large of a group they wanted. But they invited me to work with them and that clearly saved my energy. And I was the only one who joined them.

Rest stop 5

Never say never. I thought this would be a one-and-done ride and it probably was. But I already drew a new route for my personal century ride if I would do this again. I’d follow the Metric ride back to finish, cross the causeway at Cocoa Village then pick up the Century route. It would mean four causeways instead of two, only two miles that are “off course” (crossing the causeway at Cocoa) and a new distance of 107 miles. Sounds awesome. Maybe I’ll be back. I would like that.



SOME ODDS AND ENDS

I monitor my biometrics with the Whoop Band. Without fail, my recovery the night before a big event is always in the red. Today was no exception.

Take it easy. Don’t ride too far today. Yea, right.

I think the mental aspect affects the physical recovery. It’s not like I stayed up all night worrying but just knowing a big effort is required seems to effect me.


Bad slice

At the Eau Gallie Causeway, I heard a piece of metal being hit and landing. It has a distinctive sound. I also knew it was me. I thought for sure that I would have a flat within the next 30-60 seconds but I survived that. Unbeknownst to me was I had a slice in the tire. We were at Mile 79 and had 21 miles to go. None the wiser, I rode on the slice back to the finish line. Pretty impressed by those Continental 5000s.

I should have pulled over and inspected it. Although I had an extra tire with me in my car, I didn’t carry it with me on the ride. I really had no choice regardless. Ride and hope. And carry the SAG number in case I had to stop.


If there was any question as to whether I was part of the group and therefore should not have left them it is this. Jim gave me a shoutout on his Strava (although I’m not from Roanoke).


It was windy. But most of the route was north-south and the winds were consistently ENE, in other words, crosswinds.

mywindsock.com

I’m still learning Windsock but this graphic shows the wind direction. Crosswinds. It also looks like there was a two-minute penalty for the wind which I guess means with no wind I would have finished two minutes sooner. That seems low to me but it’s fun to think about.

Sea Gull Century – The Dry Roads Edition

IMMEDIATE REACTION – While it should never be about speed this ride tends to be about speed. I have never failed to do this in less than six hours (16.7 mph) until today. In most rides, I can jump in with other riders for a while but today was a solo ride. Yet in 2020 when this event was canceled due to a cold with a scary-sounding name, I still averaged 18 mph solo. I didn’t have the energy and should have stopped at the cafe at the entrance to Assateague Island. It was a Bonk.


SALISBURY, MARYLAND

The forecast for Saturday looked grim. Showers in the morning with steady rain in the afternoon. Half an inch of rain. Mid 60s.

Parking at the Hampton Inn, Fruitland, Md.

I watched the forecast all week and decided on Wednesday to cancel my two-night stay in Ocean City for Friday-Saturday and booked one night for Thursday at the Hampton Inn-Fruitland (Salisbury). I would do my own Sea Gull Century on Friday and take advantage of the nice weather.

Hampton Inn and Suites, Fruitland, Md.

I have ridden in the rain a lot. If the temperature’s warm enough and you are with friends then it might be okay. But I wasn’t planning to ride with anyone at the SGC. I have ridden this event enough that I knew or thought I knew every turn. I didn’t need to ride this in the rain.

Seatick Rd

It is a rain or shine event along with a no refund policy. I had paid my $100 and really wanted to ride this 100-mile course. Fresh off some personal records for speed in Corolla, North Carolina, I was in my peak end-of-season fitness. And I wanted the ferry.

The new Scottish Highland Creamery, Oxford, Md.

On Thursday I drove to Salisbury but first stopped in Easton for a St. Michaels loop ride. I went out to St. Michaels, rode through the beautiful residential section, cut over to the trail, and then headed to the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry. The operator was Brooke, a lovely woman who had been from Warrenton, Virginia. And stopped for ice cream, of course.

Oxford Ferry

Dinner last evening was across the street at the Texas Roadhouse. I ordered a 6-oz. sirloin, a cup of chili, and corn. That seemed to be an adequate meal. A the Hampton Inn my breakfast was a bowl of oatmeal (but probably not much bigger than a cup), a scoop of scrambled eggs, and a thin-sliced ham patty. Should have gone with the waffle. Or lots of oatmeal.

Perryhawkin Church Road

Last year it was overcast and almost cold. I blew by the first two rest stops stopping only at the one at Assateague State Park. I took only a bagel. Two bottles of fluid shouldn’t have been enough but it was. Because I rode well last year I wasn’t worried about nutrition today. I carried two SIS gels, two chewable carbs, one pack of Honey Sticker chews, and a banana I got from breakfast. And two bottles.

SGC Markings on the Road

I was ready to roll and reviewed my directions. On Tuesday an email had gone out to all riders:

IMPORTANT NOTE: **Route Detour** Please be aware we were required to add a last-minute detour to the route affecting BOTH metric and century riders. Updated RidewithGPS links can be found on our website (seagullcentury.org).

Somerset, Md.

Despite knowing every turn of the route I went to the SCG page and downloaded the route to my Wahoo. And indeed the route was different this year compared to the past. We were no longer going through Snow Hill (a neat little town), along the bayside, or through Newark. Whether this was temporary for this year or permanent I do not know.

Washington High School – Rest Stop One

It was 55℉ (12.8℃) when I started. I wore my Schleck Xperience kit, arm warmers, and a vest. The low rising morning sun brought much-needed warmth and it was very pleasant riding until I came to one of the forested sectors. The temperature seemed to drop 10 degrees inside the forest and the sun was completely blocked from reaching the road. It wasn’t until three hours into the ride that I finally removed the vest. The warm warmers came off 30 minutes after that.

Porta-johns are the most welcome feature at Rest Stop One

I had made my own route change. Instead of leaving from the college at the official start, I would ride out the door from my hotel in Fruitland. It was less than one mile before I would pick up the route of the SGC. I could return to the college for my check-in to pick up my swag (t-shirt).

Maggs Gym at Salisbury University

The first rest was set up at Washington High School in Somerset, Md. The porta-johns were all in place as was a tent for the food and snacks. It was two miles after this stop where I came to the first fork in the road. My map had me going straight on Dublin Road but the painted SCG markings turned right on Arden Station Road. I first followed the markings but then did a U-turn. Once I was no longer following my Wahoo but some paint in the road I could be in trouble. I have missed marked turns before but never missed a turn on the Wahoo. In Wahoo I trust(ed).

Had a great bib number this year

The routes came back together, maybe at Mitchell and Dublin Roads. Two other times the painted directions and my Wahoo downloaded map would disagree. I always followed Wahoo.

Pusey Branch, near Snow Hill

Why the change in route I do not know. It could be for safety or police reasons as the old route to Snow Hill and Newark featured crossings of busy US 113. A few years ago there was a light that cyclists used to cross 113 near Newark that went onto Newark Road. That featured an odd grade crossing of railroad tracks that many riders crashed on. The newer version featured riding on 113, with the help of police, but they were there for hours stopping traffic.

Berlin – It is much more quaint than this photo

The new route featured many more miles in the country. The roads were “heavy” (chip and seal) and my speed was slow. Once out to Berlin, it was the same run into Assateague Island. A park ranger told me 3-4 years ago that for his event they try to move all the wild horses to the south end of the island to avoid the crowds of cyclists.

Assateague Island Hill Climb

I did not stop today at the Maryland State Park which is where the main lunch rest stop is for the SGC. Instead, I turned right to go to Assateague Island National Park. I have a pass to get me in. Before I reached the entrance I came upon three horses grazing. I said hello, took a photo, and then headed back.

Assateague Island

There was one small change from the past years’ route. Instead of following Sinenpuxtant Road today’s route was to follow Assateague Road back to Berlin. That saved two miles and at that point was probably just to shave miles since the new route was already over 100 miles in length.

Assateague Island. Watch your wheels.

I had decided to get something to eat in Berlin. I was thinking the convenience store called Uncle Willie’s. But when I arrived the clientele hanging around outside did not give me a good feeling about leaving my bike behind while I went inside to make a purchase. I continued on.

Uncle Willie’s

The SGC route takes riders around the beautiful downtown in Berlin but I chose to ride through it. I found a burger place and then made a stupid decision as I usually do when I am tired. I decided that time was more important than food and would just roll on to the end. I had less than 50 km to go.

100k to go. This was a milestone today as I felt sluggish all day.

As I got closer I was feeling very sluggish. No power was coming from my legs. I was just pedaling – maybe pedaling squares in cycling parlance. With 12 km to go I turned off the route back to the college and changed it to route to start. I didn’t need to go to the college on my bike. That could be sketchy too to leave it outside unlocked.

Assateague Island. Looking at the Atlantic Ocean.

I headed back to the Hampton Inn. I hadn’t been tracking average speed and even if I did, I display it in kilometers so I wouldn’t know what my goal was. But when I uploaded my ride to Strava and saw my average I was disappointed my speed wasn’t higher. But I was bonked.


THE FUTURE: “Never say never. But never.” (Mike Tomlin). I’m not saying I will never do this event again but doubtful. Of course, this would change if a friend or friends are going and want to ride in a group. Last year for $100 (?) I got a T-shirt. And a bagel. I acknowledge that free snacks and drinks are available on course at four places but I typically don’t take advantage of them.

Swag

If I want to stay in Salisbury the hotels are much more expensive the weekend of the SGC if you can reserve one. In my case, the Hampton was $82 more per night (tonight vs. Thursday night). A better route for me is a solo ride starting in West Ocean City and riding to Salisbury, saving Assateague for near the end. I always like building towards the big crescendo.

Windsock. Lots of red (wind in my face)

It’s a fun ride. A flat but windy course. But I don’t need the event to ride. I doubt that I will come back specifically for this event. But never say never.


Corolla

COROLLA, NORTH CAROLINA

I am nearing the end of a week of vacationing in Corolla. This is my first time here in this northernmost part of the Outer Banks. I had no expectations so I could not be disappointed if my expectations were not met.

End of the road

The main road, because there is only one, is Hwy 12 from Kill Devil Hills. It is a 20-mile two-lane road with speed limits of 25, 35, and 45 mph. There sometimes is a narrow shoulder and sometimes no shoulder at all. In Duck, there is a separate bike lane. In most areas, there is a “bike path” which is narrow at times, curvy, and in many places, it is a concrete sidewalk.

Hwy 12

On my first day, I rode north to the end of Hwy 12 where one can drive on the beach (4-wheel drive vehicles only). I looked for side streets that followed the main roads but there were few. I thought I might be riding from Corolla to Duck and back a few times but really didn’t like the road although I saw a handful of cyclists on the road.

Beach at Corolla

I turned into my neighborhood and found what would be my riding course for the week. There are three parallel streets between the ocean and the main road. And they are three miles long. There are some intersections, four-way- so some stopping is necessary. But it’s flat and about as traffic-free as one will find. In fact, a bigger obstacle was people walking to the beach.

Corolla Village BBQ

It was windy. This is, after all, where Orville and Wilbur Wright came to test their flying motorized kite. They needed constant wind and sand and this place has it. On Monday I went out and did some laps of the neighborhood. I wasn’t pushing it but saw my speed was 19 mph which was higher than anything I rode last year. (I did an average of 19.3 mph one month ago in a group ride).

Long (3 miles) streets

It was a week of Wahoo woes. My Wahoo wasn’t syncing with the Wi-Fi in the house we had rented. I couldn’t sync my routes but did find a different way to import my routes. I made a route to follow for fun but mostly as a test to see if by backward way of importing a route would work. I was planning a 50-mile ride at Currituck on Tuesday so the neighborhood ride was perfect for a test ride.

Swimming on Corolla Drive

On Monday the test was a three-lap ride of two streets but only to the first stop sign. It would be a perfect circuit. On the first street, I had to brake for a slow-walking family that was blocking a crosswalk for all their kids to cross. I was annoyed enough that I called it a ride. The Wahoo was working as advertised and that was good enough for me. I pedaled back to start. I uploaded my ride and saw that I rode at 20.1 mph. Wow! Although it was less than five miles, I was very pleased.

Enjoying the beach

I went out on Wednesday intending to ride the full course which was 11 miles. I was riding well but my plans were sort of waylayed by a policeman on course, parked at a stop sign. Perfectly done, this course had three stop signs, all right turns, and only one with cross traffic. I was hoping to roll through each but when I came to the second sign and saw a policeman sitting there. I stopped. I took a gel. Then I had to get back up to speed.

Corolla

At first, I decided to scrub this ride but then rode just for the fun of it. Speed no longer mattered. When I finished I had completed my ride of 11 miles at a speed of 20.2 mph.

Good beach traffic

I could but choose not to display distance traveled on my Wahoo. I also choose to display in kilometres and not miles. So when I went to the metrics page I had no idea what 32.5 kph meant. Turns out it means 20.2 mph.

One of the bike paths between the streets

After that, I just rode. Every day I put in some miles. I am balancing family here at the beach with riding but I could ride all day here in circles. Or rectangles. I doubt that I come back here but would love to if the opportunity presents itself. A nice place to ride.

Early morning at the beach

The three main streets in Whalehead. From the ocean they are Lighthouse Dr., Whalehead Dr., and Corolla Dr.


Currituck-Knotts Island

CURRITUCK, NORTH CAROLINA

Every ride needs a ferry. And this could be a near-epic ride. A medium-distance ride (80km/50mi) and a 40-minute ferry ride. 

Ferry at Currituck, N.C.

Using the tools in RideWithGPS I mapped out a ride between the two ferry terminals of the Currituck-Knotts Island Ferry. I choose a couple of points on the map and RideWithGPS then mapped out the route. It usually avoids major roads, and indeed, instead of riding on NC Hwy 168 it routed me over the road at Moyock and brought me back to 168 at Northwest for about 1/2 mile which was unavoidable. 

MacKay Island Wildlife Refuge – Marsh Causeway

The schedule was my main planning point. The ferry runs every two hours and one would not want to just miss a ferry and wait for 90 minutes or more for the next one.

Ferry arriving Knotts Island

I mapped my ride from Currituck to Knotts Island. This was in a clockwise direction and had nothing to do with prevailing winds but was solely based on wanting to finish with a ferry ride. Although it was negligible today it would make sense to check winds to see if one could catch a tailwind towards the end of the ride.

Ferry at Currituck, 8:33 a.m.

From Knotts Island my feasible choices for meeting the ferry would be 10:30, 12:30, or 2:30. The only real workable time was 12:30 so I planned for a 9:00 departure and estimated that I would arrive at the Knotts Island ferry shortly after noon. 

MacKay Island Wildlife Refuge

I was unable to determine the parking situation at the ferry. I looked for parks nearby where I could start my ride but when I arrived I pulled into the ferry administration building at Currituck. There was a small parking lot behind the building with a sign warning against overnight parking. I read that to be that daytime parking was okay so I parked. 

Parking behind the admin building at the ferry

Some cars were coming off the ferry at 8:30. This must have been the 7:30 departure from Knotts Island and was running late. I thought that if they were departing soon it would behoove me to take the ferry first thing and ride my route counter-clockwise. That way I would have no downtime waiting for the ferry or angst in case I was running late. But a quick check of the sign and I saw the next departure was at 9:30. I rode my originally planned route. 

Actually, this is in Virginia Beach

Almost immediately I was on NC Rte 168 but only for half a mile. Then I turned onto secondary roads. The back roads were great except for a major hiccup. Gravel. 

Gravel. Not my friend.

RideWithGPS uses Google Maps and Google Maps showed the route as 100% paved. It wasn’t. I came to Cooper Garret Road. I stopped. It was gravel. And it wasn’t packed dirt. It was heavy gravel with a sand base. 

Virginia state line (notice the pavement difference). But no welcome to Virginia sign.
But there is a Welcome to Virginia Beach sign.

I opened up Apple Maps to see if there was an easy alternative. I didn’t see one. I slowly trudged through the gravel knowing it was a little more than two miles until South Mills Road and hoped that it was paved. 

Bridge on Pungo Ferry Road, Virginia Beach. (Hillclimb)

I was on my Trek Pilot with skinny tires. The 25 mm tires cut through the sand and made controlling the bike difficult. I was afraid I might have a flat. And I was losing the time that was necessary to make the ferry on time at Knotts Island. 

North Landing River, Virginia Beach (Photo from bridge on Pungo Ferry Road)

I got through the gravel and back to paved roads. Barring any mechanicals or more road surface surprises I calculated that I should arrive at Knotts Island about 12:05 – 25 minutes to spare. Well, I forgot about the wind. 

Va. Hwy 168 – Battlefield Blvd, Chesapeake, Va.
(Only on this road for 1/2 mile)

There were strong winds blowing and if they were headwinds I could be in trouble. But they were mostly cross winds headed to Knotts Island with a tailwind the final 10 miles. 

Ferry Schedule, Knotts Island

I pulled into the waiting area for the ferry at 12:00 pm. Slowed by gravel and then pulling over three times for photos, I still had 30 minutes to spare. 

Knotts Island

The ferry is free. It departed at 12:30 and made the crossing in 38 minutes. There was an RV, two cars, three motorcycles, and me on the boat. 

Onboard the ferry

I doubt that I will ever do this loop again but I would love to. If anyone reads this and wants to ride it I’d turn right at the tracks in Moyock (before the tracks) onto Oak Street. Go three blocks to the end at Shingle Landing Road. Cross the highway and it becomes Camellia Drive. Follow that to South Mills Road and that will avoid that gravel. Avoid the gravel


North Carolina border sign – Knotts Island

I rode this on a Tuesday morning in October. There was virtually no traffic on Hwy 168. On a Saturday morning, the departing traffic from OBX would be horrible and must be avoided. While the website seems to indicate the ferry runs daily, it must be noted that the sign on the schedule is for a weekday schedule. When we stopped on a Saturday there was a sign indicating that it was closed for the day. High winds were not a problem so before I would do this again I would double-check to make sure the ferry was operating. It may not operate on weekends.



ROAD SURFACE:
TRAFFIC DENSITY: 2 (Light)
AGGRESSIVENESS: 1.5

Listen to the Whoop

HARRISONBURG, VIRGINIA

Travel seems to affect me more than a hard effort on a bike. In the past three days, I’ve been to Altoona, Somerset, New Brighton (all Pa.), and now Harrisonburg, Va. When I arrived yesterday it was in the middle of Tropical Storm Ophelia. I had ridden daily since returning from Europe on July 4, a streak of 81 consecutive days. But yesterday was a washout and I viewed that as good. My body would rest.

Whoop band

The weather was unsettled as to whether the remnants of Ophelia would still be giving us rain in the morning. I had looked forward to my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughters to be on course on U.S. 33 to cheer me on. As for the latter, the rain convinced them not to come and for the former, it was gray but mostly dry.

Ready for Action

My Whoop Band provides biometrics and I looked at my data. My overnight recovery was at 24%. The suggestion was to stay in bed for the day. (Not really – but to rest and not take on any strain.) Whoop did not know that I planned to ride 80 miles including two huge mountain passes.

Robert Warren Hess and Barry

It was cool, 57℉, plus a chance of rain. No kids on the mountain climbs to cheer for me and the thought of riding on U.S. 33 wasn’t appealing. My Whoop said not to push the strain. I decided that I would ride with Robert Warren Hess, the founder of the Prostate Cancer Awareness Project.

Riders having fun

Robert and I rode near the back as he was riding the shortest route available, 36 miles. I would ride the Metric Century, some 62 miles. That’s not a lot different than the original 78 miles that I planned to ride but a significant difference in climbing.

On the loop

Robert and I rode and caught a couple from Greenville, S.C. The wife was telling me that her husband wanted to ride the Metric Century but would ride with her on the Valley View Challenge, the 36-mile route. I suggested to her that her husband could ride the Metric while she and Robert stayed together for the Valley View Challenge but he decided he would stay with his wife.

Rest Stop

After Robert and I rolled out of the rest stop we came to a split. The Metric route included a 27-mile loop back to the rest stop. I wished him well when a woman came flying up between us. She asked which way we were going and I replied “Whatever direction you are.” That wasn’t creeping on her, it was acknowledging that if she went straight Robert would ride with her and if she went right I would ride with her. She went right.

Food at the rest stop

Robert and I were last on course for these two routes that didn’t go over the mountain. As the founder of the PCAP, he spends time talking with every rider at the rest stop. And I also spent time meeting some Trek Travel Guides for the Shenandoah Valley Gravel Bike Tour. So we were quite surprised someone came up from behind us.

Trek Travel

Wilma started at 8:30 and missed our roll-out at 8:00. Her husband was also riding but he opted for the 36-mile route. I sensed she wanted to beat him, i.e., ride 62 miles faster than he could ride 36 miles although she never said that.

Bridge in Stokesville

We rolled together back to the rest stop where we had caught a number of the Metric riders. Although they left while we were still at the stop, I told Wilma that we would soon start catching riders. And we did.

Stokesville (next to the bridge)

When we came to the sprint section I asked Wilma how her sprint was. She said not very good. I believe that today I could compete for age group winner in the sprint but at registration, I was told by a person handing out the chips that I didn’t need one. Indeed I would not be competing on Allegheny Mountain or Reddish Knob but this one I could have. But I had no timing chip.

Goats

I thought about how I would handle it and told Wilma to hold my wheel and I would try to tow her to a win. We went but I never was at 100% effort and frequently backed off so she could stay with me. And I still set a PR. I think that had I had a chip today I could have gotten it. Oh well, my bad for not pushing back on the chip issue before the ride. (Note to self: Strava winner today was 1:50 which will be my target next time.)

Lunch at the finish – from Hank’s

Wilma and I continued to catch and pass riders. We made a turn and up the road about 100 meters and saw a guy pedaling. She said, “There’s my husband.” And she blew by him. Not even a glance back or slowing down to ask him how his ride was going.

Trek Travel presentation for their group

On a climb on Swope Road, I caught an Amish horse and buggy. It had caught three cyclists that I knew I would be passing. But I did not want to pass the horse and buggy. Eventually, the driver saw a place where he could pass the cyclists and I followed. The horse took off up the hill and I followed, blowing past the cyclists. I matched the speed almost as if I was drafting the buggy. I wasn’t, I swear. The kids in the buggy would wave to me and I would wave back. What fun. Probably some of my Wenger cousins (at least 7th).

Wilma and a buggy

We avoided the rain. I listened to the Whoop. I had a companion for 100% of the ride to the split (Robert) and one from the split back to the finish (Wilma). For a day of rest, it was very enjoyable. Another great Alpine Loop Gran Fondo.

Crossing the low bridge

A SPECIAL FEAT – As Robert and I rode I told him about my decision to ride the Metric Century, adding that it would give me all five routes. Early on I rode the Alpine Century Loop with its gravel. I rode the Full Century on pavement. Minus the 25-mile loop, I’ve ridden the Shenandoah Mountain adventure. In 2015 I did the Gran Fondo but opted for the 36-mile ride so I could hurry to Richmond to see the UCI World Championships. And today I would ride the Metric. Robert told me that Jeremiah Bishop had told him that no one had ridden all their routes. And so I would complete that. I also told Erin Bishop that after my ride and she found it “interesting.” (My quotes)


Working on the Chain Gang

EASTON, MARYLAND

“That’s the sound of the men working on the chain gang”

The lyrics of the 1960 hit song by Sam Cooke reverberated in my head as we rolled down the road with me out in front with my nose in the wind. I have been on many group rides where a pace line is simply one person at the front and everyone else drafting. They may pull for 3-4 minutes or 10-12. And often it only ends because the group has to stop. And today looked like I might be that guy.

Rolling through Easton

I have often wanted to organize a “chain gang” pace line but the opportunity did not present itself with the exception of one brief time in Florida on a cancer charity ride. These are hard to organize because of the roads we ride or sometimes the composition or size of the group.

Rolling through Easton

The weather in Warrenton, Va. today scrubbed my plans to ride to see my grandson play baseball. It rained off and on all day in Warrenton for his games. I would not have enjoyed a 70-mile ride in the rain. But our local club had a field trip to Easton, Maryland, which is one of my favorite rides.

Rolling through Easton

Our leader was Michele who is known for starting rides promptly as advertised which I absolutely love. And she is known also for leading a ride, that is, riding at the very front. I had not responded that I was going to join the ride because it was a spur-of-the-moment decision made this morning when the weather was bad in Virginia but nice in Maryland. I arrived at 9:15 a.m. and Michele was surprised to see me. Heck, I was surprised to see me.

Rolling through Easton

I started my Wahoo bike computer and brought up my route for the Tilghman Island Metric which I have ridden multiple times. I love riding on St. Michael’s Island. I did not have the specific route they were riding because I didn’t need it although it would prove to be a little bit different.

Rolling through Easton

It was 9:40 a.m. when we rolled out, 10 minutes later than the group’s posted start time. I chided Michele about always being prompt and she told me she gave a grace period for a “field trip” ride. I chuckled. She made a couple of announcements as we were rolling with two groups and then said I would be leading her group. Just as we were starting to roll my Wahoo shut down. I told her that because of the downtime, my computer went to sleep so I’d catch them after a reboot. We’re all data geeks and I couldn’t roll out and miss one or two kilometers waiting for it to turn back on.

Rolling through Easton

They took off into Easton. I saw them make their first turn and they disappeared down a street. Once Wahoo “warmed up” and was ready to go I took off to catch them. It was a different route than I have taken in the past but I was confident I would find them. I did, bypassing them on a side street and then waiting for them at the next turn.

Rolling through Easton

Our route was farther north than the main road to Saint Michael’s I have always taken. We were on Glebe Road. It was better since it was rural and didn’t go past the Target and BJs shopping center on St. Michael’s Road. When I have ridden this loop my mileage was 60 miles so if one wanted 62.14 miles, a metric century, this extra addition would probably do it.

St. Michael’s, Md.

Michele was leading the group in a line and I rode up beside her. We rode double for a little bit and then single-file with me at the front. And we rode one group off the back. We waited for them at the next turn.

I was on the front to St. Michael’s when Michele called for a stop to wait for our second group on the road. We stopped but then decided we wouldn’t wait and try to ride as a large group even to our predefined split. Our group had eight riders and we went through a residential area of St. Michael’s and avoided the main street through town.

The end of Tilghman Island. Chesapeake Bay.

After going through St. Michael’s and back on the main road, Highway 33 or Tilghman Island Road, we had a wide shoulder. I had been doing almost all the pulling along with Michele. We had passengers. And I wanted to break it up.

In cycling, a chain gang is a group of cyclists in a close-knit formation of two parallel lines drafting behind the leader. The formation comes from the fact that it is harder to cycle at the front of a group than in the shelter of another rider. The rider behind enjoys the slipstream of the rider in front. The motion of the formation is such that the left line is always passing the right line.

Tilhman Island Country Store

Better than most groups we had settled into a double-pace line. Two people would take their turns pulling at the front, usually 3-5 minutes, and then they would peel off. This would work if it could be done safely. But we were on a shoulder next to a two-lane main road. The person on the left would have to move to their left which meant crossing the white lane and into the traffic lane on the highway itself. Ideally, the person on the right would peel off to the right and drift back but there was no room. So they too made their way to the left crossing in front of the pace line to the highway. This was not ideal.

Donkey Donut – Sprout Cafe

John and I were sitting on third wheel when one rider decided he was going to pass us and go up to the front. He passed in the center, very close to John, which was a very dangerous maneuver. Just as we avoided a mishap, a second guy followed him. Wow. This was a sketchy group. Or a ride with some sketchy riders. I wasn’t sure about a double pace line.

Michele had mentioned to me that I might want to try and teach a chain gang formation. And the opportunity was right. I told John that when he and I got to the front we would start a chain gang rotation. We did not stop to explain to others but started this while riding on the shoulder. I knew three of our riders, Michele, Sunny, and John. And I knew I could trust them. The other four guys I wasn’t sure about as I had not met them before. But we had to do something different than passing each other in the middle of a pace line. We would have to try this and see.

Oxford Ferry

It was our turn. We were rolling along at 18 mph. I told John to slow down a little (17 mph) and let me pass in front of him. I moved over and Sunny, who had been following me, moved up to take my place. I slowed down to 17 and told her to pass me at 18 mph. She did.

Oxford Ferry

In the back, we tried to instruct the last person on the right to move to the left. We knew we had varying degrees of experience. Some may have been ex-pros, who knows? But some also may have had very little group riding. A couple of guys got to the front and “attacked” to pass, ramping the speeds up to 21-22 mph. This, of course, was not the purpose of a steady line.

Call for the ferry

And we had a couple of guys that when they passed and moved to the right they kept their speed. Actually, they even increased their speed. John seemed to have been the victim of this tactic more than others. I picked the wheels I wanted to follow and it was my friends, Michel, John, and Sunny. They picked it up quickly.

Oxford Ferry
Credit: PWCC Facebook (Orange Pinarello)

John held 18 mph. When the rider in front of him moved to the right and kept it at 18 John kept it there too. He would hold his pace as long as it took for the right side to slow down to let him in. If they didn’t, they would be riding on the front and not rotating. The great thing about the chain gang is that it is self-correcting. As we rode the 11 miles towards Tilghman Island the pace line got better.

Onboard the ferry

We arrived at the draw bridge as the bells were going off. The bridge was opening. Seven of us hurried across the open grate segment while Sunny wasn’t sure if she would have to bunny-hop an opening in the bridge. She made it.

Tilghman’s Island

We rolled to Tilghman Island Country store and stopped. Most riders bought sandwiches. I wanted to roll on as I prefer to eat after a ride. Once everyone was fulfilled we rolled to the end of the island and turned around at Sharps Island Light. After crossing the draw bridge again, we formed our chain gang and rolled the 11 miles back to St. Michael’s. The time flies by while in a line like this.

We stopped at Sprout Cafe in St. Michaels for another snack. Another break. Then we went to the bike trail that bypassed the town. The main road had a narrower shoulder so we rode single file to Royal Oak Road towards the ferry. And while it was a country two-lane road, there were signs for bikes to ride single file. Ugh.

On the ferry

We arrived at the Oxford ferry at 1:30 and did not see it. There was a sign for bikes to go to the end of the pier to raise the call signal if the ferry was not there. Michele gave the ropes a tug and opened the sign board. It seemed to take forever but the ferry arrived at 1:45.

Scottish Highland Creamery

In Oxford, we went down to the Scottish Highland Creamery at the waterfront but it was closed. Although they opened a new storefront on Main (Morris) Street, we rolled past without stopping. Although I always want to stop there, with the stop at Tilghman’s Island and another in St. Michael’s, plus waiting 15 minutes more for the ferry, I was fine with rolling towards home.

We left Oxford and the road presented itself once again for a chain gang. Wide shoulders and little traffic. The last 10 miles flew past. The group dynamics really improved and everyone eventually got the hang of it. In all, we rode 32 of the 62 miles using a chain gang. It was one of the best group rides I have done in a while.


Maryland Cycling Classic

PARKTON, MARYLAND

This was the second year for the UCI race and I had to decide whether to volunteer or to go and be a spectator, a.k.a., fan boy. I chose the latter.

Tractor showing off on course

Last year I volunteered and it was chaotic. I’m still not sure if I went to the right location to be a course marshal. Communication to the volunteers was awful and I did not give them a second chance. This year I went as a fan.

5K to KOM

My location last year was on a corner at Prettyboy Dam Road and Falls Road and I found parking right beside the corner at Bushland Road. I drove back to the same spot.

KOM

I had mapped out an outer loop that would take me into Pennsylvania and an inner loop that would simply circumvent the Prettyboy Reservoir. I miscalculated the amount of time to drive to northern Baltimore County and did not leave myself enough time to ride the outer loop. That was okay. In a perfect world I was going to ride the longer route before the race went by and then the shorter one after the race passed.

My perfect artwork

When the course hit the Prettyboy loop they would pass by my location twice as they also would ride the inner loop twice. I thought that was the best place to be without being on a long steep climb.

The view on TV – I am standing on the left in what appears to be black

I left my car and rode one mile on Prettyboy Dam Road when I realized something was amiss. My radar wasn’t displaying on my Wahoo head unit. That was because I forgot to put it on my bike. I never ride without a helmet and rarely ride on the road without my radar light. I went back for it and started over.

Team EF Education First – EZ Post (in pink)

I then only had time to take the short loop. It is hilly and is used by the race to start to break it up. As I came upon an intersection at Beckleysville and Gunpowder Roads I saw the large MDOT trucks and wondered if there was a construction job nearby. Then it became apparent. The trucks were there to block road access and they were blocking me from going through. I told a Baltimore County cop that I needed to get to my car that was parked down at the reservoir and he waved me through.

I went up the KOM climb thinking all along at the Tour of Denmark they call it they KOH, or King of the Hill, because they don’t have mountains. Maryland does, but not in Baltimore County. You have to go to Western Maryland to Garrett and Frostburg to find mountains in Maryland. It was nice to see the people gathered here to cheer the riders for King of the Hill.

Second lap

I descended to the dam and entered the green zone. This was in conjunction with a feed zone and was where riders could discard their trash. But if they were taking on fresh bottle or food in a mussett, this is where once they have the items in their pockets or on their bikes, they discard these as well. A mussett would especially be a nice souvenir.

Toms liked it – that’s all that matters

The crowds were starting to assemble in the feed zone. But crowds here were nothing like in Europe. Maybe 50 or 100 people or so. Still, I wanted some place were I could be alone.

The hill coming out of the reservoir was perfect. I had carried some yellow chalk with me ans stopped to write T-O-M-S on the road. This was for Toms Skuijins, a Latvian rider and one of my favorite riders in the peloton.

Last year Toms was at the front of the breakaway when they went past. Today he was in the pack but would breakaway aftewards. He was in a solo break but caught and passed bu his teammate, Matthias Skjelmose, on his way to victory. Toms took 5th.


Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek) won in a dominant fashion the second edition of the Maryland Cycling Classic in Baltimore on Sunday. The Danish champion attacked from a five-rider front group inside of two laps to go and crossed the line with over two minutes on the chase group.

The first major selection in the tough race, made even more difficult by the hot temperatures, came with 65 miles of the 121 mile race to go as the field splintered leaving around 35 riders in the front. More aggressive racing led to a final group of six battling for the win on the first of four city circuits. The group also included Toms Skujiņš (Lidl-Trek), Hugo Houle (Israel-Premier Tech), Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) and Lucas Hamilton (Jayco-AlUla).

Using team numbers to their advantage, Skjelmose and Skujiņš launched multiple attacks until the Latvian managed to get free in the final 20 miles. Skjelmose waited for his moment to make his countermove when his teammate was reeled in and left everyone behind.

Powless launched his sprint with 200 meters to go to take second place, ahead of Houle. Hamilton finished fourth and Skujiņš, held on for fifth. (Source: CyclingNews.com)




NOTES: Forget sticks of chalk. They actually make a spray chalk. There are a number of roads around the reservoir that beg exploring on a bike. If I go back be sure to map these roads. And wear a potato costume for Toms.

Don’t Get Dead (MWARBH)

“Italy has its Mortirolo, mountain of death; 124 persons to date have died on Mount Washington. Overall steeper than the Angliru, windier than Mont Ventoux, deadlier than the mountain of death; this is why for cyclists, Mount Washington stands above all other climbs. It is not hard just because it is steep. It is also windy and cold enough to be dangerous.” — New York Cycle Club (2008)

PINKHAM NOTCH, NEW HAMPSHIRE

This was to be the year. My last year. And It probably was but for the wrong reason. This was to be my 10th time. Ten and done.

At check-in, I picked up my bib and was directed where to get a sticker to add to it. I added “10 Timer.” (Upon reflection, maybe I was a 9-Timer waiting to be a 10-timer. Hmmm.)

I wonder if I was supposed to put a 9 on here?

The weather forecast did not look good. The morning window was the best followed by deteriorating conditions over the next 24-36 hours.

When I left the hotel it was looking good. It was 30℉ (-2℃) at the summit with 37 mph winds (60 kph) and foggy. The race was on.

I didn’t fuel properly last night and decided to go to the McDonalds in North Conway for their hotcakes. I pulled in a 6:15 a.m. and they told me they had just started their grill. Things move at a different pace here. I saw a Dunkin Donuts and went in and got a breakfast sandwich. It would have to do.

Dunkin, North Conway, N.H.

Last year we had given a ride down to a rider named Bruce from Indiana. We agreed to meet this year and share a ride down in my car. I met him in the parking lot and we got my car ready for his wife to drive to the summit. And we went out on the road to warm up.

Bruce

It was raining lightly and I was contemplating what to wear for the actual hill climb. On the road, I had a wind jacket but wasn’t sure if that was what I would take or wear to the summit. At 8:10 a.m. we got back. I was watching the riders in the first group start to assemble and Bruce made his way to the Top Notch group.

The event director made some announcements beginning with thanking the sponsors of this hillclimb. But before she got to the major announcement, the only announcement that mattered, I could see that Katie, driving my car, made a U-turn just beyond the toll booth. Those cars had been turned around.

And then the director broke the news. The race was canceled.

Nothing to see here. You all can just go home.

There is no second-guessing here. Other events that we do are “rain or shine” events. But this one is different. These can be “live or die” events. The weather can be extreme at any time. Eight days earlier, a 21-year-old hiker from Pennsylvania, died on this mountain. Rule number one of cycling is Don’t Get Dead.

But I wasn’t “feeling it.” I think back to my first MWARBH. It was 2007, “07/07/07” to be exact, but it was canceled due to weather. So in 2008 and not in 2007, my big question was if I could do it. And I did. And then in 2009 thru 2014 it was never if I could make it but merely how much I would suffer. (Answer: A lot.)

After a seven-year break, I came back in 2021 and again last year. And it still was a question of how much suffering. But this year I have begun to think if I could do it. I’m not sure why. But I was hoping during the night that the race might be canceled. And then when it wasn’t I got my game face on and was ready to attack the mountain.

But it all ended abruptly. Canceled. And that was it.

Bruce asked what I planned to do next. I told him my backup plan had always been to ride Hurricane Mountain Road. He told me he would like to join me.

Hurricane Mountain Road, Intervale, NH

Hurricane Mountain Road is a beast. It lacks the distance to be a top climb in the U.S. but the two miles on this road is tougher than any two-mile stretch of the Mount Washington Auto Road. It also lacks the weather and altitude that Mount Washington has.

Lower slopes of Hurricane Mountain Road

Bruce and I started from the scenic view area by Intervale. There is a steep ramp immediately on Hurricane Mountain Road followed by two miles of rollers. And then one comes to the gate. The road is closed in the winter. RVs and trucks are prohibited.

The steepness begins here

My recollection is I tried this climb but had to stop once on 2007. I tried a second time in 2008 and stopped. But my third time, in 2009, I tried again and made it. I told Bruce that I usually have to stop at this one turnout. When we came to it I could hear it calling for me to stop. Instead, I turned on the inside corner which seemed stepper than Mount Washington’s 22% grade. Probably 25% and maybe 30%. Tough.

At the summit, I told Bruce we could go over the top and then to Maine or turn around. He wanted to go over the top. The descent went better than the one time I remember descending before. Probably because I took it slower and never had to grab a handful of brakes.

Disappointing not to do the hillclimb for sure. And it has been canceled for tomorrow as well. But a little relief because I wasn’t feeling it this year and may never again. But also thankful I didn’t get dead and could ride another day.


Lodging was at the Grand Hotel at Attatash. Very spacious room. Somewhat cheaper than the hotels in North Conway. Two restaurants including one that served a pasta buffet Friday night ($24). I did not partake mainly because I had eaten a burger from Five Guys in Lebanon, N.H. around 3:00 p.m. and wasn’t hungry.

Hotel at Attatash

The bike, my 2007 Trek Pilot, was set up with a fully working triple drive train. The front was 24-42-52 whereas the rear 10-speed cassette was 11-34t. Stock for the bike was a 30t small ring and last year we left the 24t in place unbeknownst to me. So it’s set up for next year, I guess.


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