I am a cyclist, genealogist, soccer referee, grandfather (x6), and cancer survivor. And I have ridden 100,000* 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The forecast for Saturday looked grim. Showers in the morning with steady rain in the afternoon. Half an inch of rain. Mid 60s.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The three main streets in Whalehead. From the ocean they are Lighthouse Dr., Whalehead Dr., and Corolla Dr.
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.
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 maps out a 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.
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.
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.
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 be at the Knotts Island ferry shortly after noon.
I was unable to determine the parking situation at the ferry. I looked for parks nearby where I could start my ride but 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.
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.
Almost immediately I was on NC Rte 168 but only for half a mile. Then I turned onto secondary roads. The backroads were great except for a major hiccup. Gravel.
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.
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.
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 at Knotts Island.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I doubt that I will ever do this loop again but would love to. If anyone reads this and wants to ride it I’d turn right at the tracks in Moyock (before the tracks) on 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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).
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.
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)
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.)
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
It was January 17, 2010, and I decided to go for a bike ride. It was in the heart of winter but was a comfortable 41℉ (5℃) for a winter ride. It would be my first ride since November 8, 2009, when I rode 20 miles (32km). I had a radical retropubic prostatectomy at Johns Hopkins the next day and this would be my first time back on the bike.
I was diagnosed with cancer in 2009. I immediately set three goals.
Plan a “recovery goal” trip to France
Ride. And ride more.
I spent almost six months researching my cancer treatment options. In August 2009, I asked my primary doctor at George Washington University Hospital if I could delay my treatment. He asked why and I told him I wanted to race the Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb in New Hampshire in late August. He laughed and then said, “Sure, it will be the best thing for you.”
Living with cancer was very stressful. The only time I “didn’t have cancer,” i.e., when I never thought about having cancer, was when I was on my bike. I found peace on my bike and wanted that peaceful feeling after cancer treatment. November 9, 2009, began Part II of my life – Living Cancer-Free.
A cancer diagnosis, or any serious health concern, will force someone to take a look at their life, what they have done, and what they would like to do, the proverbial bucket list. For me, I always wanted to go to France and see the Tour de France. So while I made my doctor appointments including four “second opinions” (five separate doctors), I also signed up for a Trek Travel trip to France in July 2010. And I bought trip insurance.
I wanted to get back on my bike as soon as possible. I would be riding in the Pyrenees in France including the ascent up the Col du Tourmalet, from both sides, as this was the 100th year anniversary of the first time the Tourmalet was crossed in the Tour. I needed to be able to ride.
I rode. Slowly. I was in pain. A lot of pain. Although all stitches had been removed two months ago there was an indescribable pain when I sat on the saddle. I thought I might never be able to ride a bike again.
But slowly I was able to build on that winter ride. In mid-February, I did a slow ride with the Potomac Pedalers group and actually felt pretty good. In early March I rode The Hills of Ellicott City (Md.) and then on April 3, I took some friends to Altoona, Pa. for my personal “Breakaway From Cancer” ride. This would be a Metric Century ride with some of the best climbs in the area. I felt good.
I went to France. Although I would discover on the Tourmalet that there was lots of healing and recovery needed to come, I generally felt good. And I fell in love with riding in France. My first time was in 2010 and last month I rode in France every day but one while I was in Luxembourg because it was France. I’ve now been to France six times to ride since 2010.
And today I pedaled my 100,000th mile cancer-free.
I am here. I am cancer-free. I rode in France. And now, 100,000 miles. Life is good.
During this time I rode in 10 different countries besides the US: Austria, Bahamas, Belgium, France, Finland, Germany, Holland, Italy, Luxembourg, and Switzerland. I’ve ridden in 29 different states.
I’ve also ridden in 20 separate cancer fundraising events and five events for Multiple Sclerosis. I raised $25,000 for these worthy causes.
in 2019 I rode on New Year’s Day. Then I rode again on January 2 and had the thought to ride every single day at least 10 miles in honor of my 10-year Cancerversary. I rode throughout the winter in snow and ice and in the summer in the heat and humidity. And that continued in 2020 and 2021. The streak only ended when a foot of snow fell on January 3, 2022.
During this time I’ve climbed a number of mountains. In France I’ve been up the famous Col du Tourmalet, Alpe d’Huez, and Mont Ventoux.
Mileage by Year
5100 (my first 5,000-mile year)
4205 (Knee replacement and TBI)
5175 (needed for 100,000 miles
List of Mileage by Year
In Italy I climbed the famous Stelvio Pass and froze in the rain on the Gavia Pass.
In Switzerland I climbed St. Gotthard Pass which is an 8-mile cobblestone climb. Also I rode across the Swiss Alps solo.
Summary. I flew from Washington-Dulles to Zürich, Switzerland on Sunday, June 11, 2023. My luggage, including my bike needed for a Swiss cycling vacation, contained Apple AirTags My bike never made it. For five days I tried in vain to get someone, anyone, from British Airways to see what I could see – my bike’s exact location at Heathrow. None did. I was unable to ride in Switzerland. I was reunited with my bike on Saturday, June 24:, 2023, in Luxembourg.
On Sunday, June 11, 2023, I flew from Washington-Dulles (IAD) to Zurich (ZRH) through London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR). Although a million-mile flier on American Airlines, this was my first experience flying British Airways.
The check-in at Dulles was quick and efficient. I had two bags to check, one suitcase, and a bike case/bag. They tagged them both as Priority and sent them down the belt. Both bags contained an Apple AirTag. My key tag, normally with my car keys, was in my luggage and my bike has an AirTag inside of the downtube.
When I arrived London, I got through passport control plus additional security and made my way to the British Airways lounge. Finally able to relax I opened the FindMy app and saw that my keys and my bike were both at Heathrow. So far so good.
When I arrived at Zurich I waited for my luggage. My bag seemed to be one of the first bags on the carousel and I grabbed it and waited for my bike. And waited. I went to the Oversize Luggage door but nothing came out. I was avoiding turning on cellular service and paying a high daily fee and instead tried to log onto free Wifi at the airport. One problem is to get free WiFi they will send a code to your phone – which has to be on WiFi or cellular service to receive the code. I turned on my cell service.
I opened the FindMy app and saw the keys (luggage) were with me. I did not see the bike and had to expand the map so I could see Great Britain and there I could see it. My bike was still at Heathrow.
This was to be the first week of a three-week cycling vacation in Europe. While Week Two would be in Luxembourg with my Rooster Racing group, Week One was on my own in Switzerland. I rented a house in the Alps near Wassen for riding in the high Alps.
My first day would be a visit with my friend, Corinne, and her family in Zürich. I had hoped to arrive at her house by 14:00, assemble my bike, and then ride halfway around Lake Zürich in part to slam my body into European time but also to not bother Corinne or her husband as they were both working from home remotely.
I went to the Lost and Found (Luggage) at the baggage claim and approached the woman who would take my claim. I told her my bike did not make it. I showed her my claim ticket and when she asked for a description I showed her a photo of the case. While she offered some excuse about where the bike could be I showed her my live look at the Apple AirTag and told her it was still at Heathrow.
Surely I was not the first passenger to show her an AppleAir tag being tracked by the FindMy app. Yet she seemed surprised that I knew where my bag was while her system did not. I am not sure if she was a British Airways employee but more likely an airport employee who dealt with missing luggage and forwarded that to the airlines. She offered the usual nothing assurance that most bags come on the next flight or within 24 hours.
Surprisingly I was calm and thought my bike would be on the next flight. I gave my location address in Zürich to the lost and found agent content that my bike would be delivered later in the afternoon.
I checked the British Airways flight schedule and saw that they have five flights per day between Heathrow and Zürich. The next flights would be arriving at 14:30, 17:50, and 22:30. While I would probably miss Tuesday’s ride in Zürich at least I’d have my bike when I headed for the Alps on Wednesday.
At 19:06 on Tuesday, June 12, I checked the FindMy app and saw my bike was still at Heathrow. I had little hope that it would make the 19:45 flight and arrive Zürich on Tuesday. Also, I took to Twitter in the hopes that a human at British Airways would see my plight and get my bike on the next plane. It got no response.
My thoughts shifted from my bike being merely delayed to it actually being lost and I might never see it again. I could not relax. I did not sleep well and at 7:20 am on Wednesday, June 13 I checked the app. The bike hadn’t moved. I knew then it was not on the 6:50 am flight and had little hope it would be on the 9:20 flight.
At 9:00 Corinne offered me her phone to call the local British Airways desk in Zürich. I talked to a very nice but useless man. He was just a guy on a phone in Zürich and not at the facility at Heathrow. He told me that he would “add a note to the file.”
The agent had urged me to check the progress at the British Airways link they gave me for my case. The only thing of value in that link was a location to change where my luggage should be delivered. On Wednesday morning I changed it to Wassen, Switzerland, to the house in the Alps that I had rented for cycling.
I said goodbye to my friends and arrived at Wassen at 16:00. Even before finding my house I checked the status of my bike. It was still at Heathrow.
Twenty-five years ago I worked with a high school foreign exchange program. One student that I placed was 17-year-old Ben from Sissach, Switzerland. Ben and I kept in contact over the years and he was at the center of this bike vacation.
When I couldn’t get a bike reservation online for my train from Basel to Frankfort, Ben went to the desk at the train station in Basel to buy it for me. He arranged his work schedule and took two days off work to join me at the house in the Alps.
On Wednesday I informed Ben not to travel to Wassen. I had no bike and no one at British Airways was responding. Ben canceled his plans.
With a house in the Alps for cycling and no bike I felt captive by the house. I checked on the location throughout the day and no movement. My tweets were ignored or answered by a bot.
Despite paying for a house for three nights, I needed a change where I wouldn’t dwell on missing my bike. I booked a hotel on Lake Lucerne and went on the British Airways site to change the delivery location to Beckenreid.
With no movement by Thursday, Ben invited me to visit him and his family in Sissach. It was close to Basel where I would catch the train and I gladly took him up on it. I went to British Airways and updated the delivery location to Luxembourg which was my next destination upon leaving Switzerland.
On Friday, June 16, I was enjoying breakfast when I told Ben I had to check the status on my FindMy app. I was shocked to see my bike had moved from the south end of the terminal to the north end. It was moving!
I also checked email and text and saw that British Airways informed me they “located” my item. Well, I knew the location for five days. Sigh.
I missed all my planned Swiss cycling vacation at the same time worried whether my bike would ever be returned. For four days I tweeted BA, eventually adding American Airlines (because I booked with them) and even included Heathrow Airport. I could not find one person willing to look at the location I had and retrieve the bike.
Maybe American or Heathrow got someone to look. It was within 24 hours after including American and Heathrow on my tweets that the bike was located. When it was located they sent it to Zürich even though I had updated the location information to Luxembourg. Maybe logistically it was easier since BA has two daily flights to Luxembourg, 8:40 and 17:20. But that meant even more handling for my bike.
My first human contact came on Friday, June 23. I was sitting with my team at the Hilton Airport Hotel in Frankfurt when I received notice of a tweet. The sender was Julia Buckley, a CNN reporter based in London. She offered to help me get my bike back by working with the BA Press Office. While the offer was greatly appreciated, the bike was already in transport.
I still believe in people and think there are good people who work at BA. I think they cut a lot of personnel and replaced them with bots or AI. An automated response is designed to look human and often carried a human’s name. It’s quite deceptive really.
I love my AirTag but it was both a blessing and a curse. It was comforting to know the bike was still at the airport the entire time but I was checking on the status 3-4 times a day and was frustrated that it was still there and BA never lifted a hand.
My return flight on July 4 was scheduled on Finnair from Helsinki to Copenhagen; BA from Copenhagen to Heathrow; and BA to Heathrow to Dulles. On July 3 British Airways notified me that my London-Washington flight had been canceled. However, they booked me on Virgin Airlines, two hours later.
I awoke on July 4 to a text from BA that my flight from Copenhagen to London was canceled. They did not rebook me. At the airport in Helsinki, Finnair couldn’t check me in because of the missing connection. I was able to call BA in London and they rebooked me on FinnAir directly to Heathrow at 16:00. Eight hours in the FinnAir lounge was a small trade-off knowing the British Airways would not be touching my bike on my trip home.
No one at British Airways reached out to me about this horrendous experience. In what I believe was my last cycling trip to Europe it was ruined by not having a bike.
Today would be our final day of riding with only a short window tomorrow that I already nixed. My recovery on this trip has been too little so a day of rest, but with travel, is what is in store for tomorrow.
The routes were announced as 90 and 130 km. The 130 km would leave at 9:30 although 9:30 never really meant 9:30 much to the chagrin of our 29-year Marine veteran. (And he was right)
We rolled out with apparently only Brian, our guide, and Alonzo, having the routes on their bike’s computer head units. I had requested three weeks prior to this trip to have GPX files to upload before we arrived but none were sent. A couple of times during the week we were sent files in the morning about an hour before we rolled. I did not have files for France, The Netherlands, or today’s ride. Yesterday was a rainout and the ride to Andy Schleck Cycles was an old route ridden by Will. So basically we only had the Germany route in advance.
We left the hotel and went up the first hill at a comfortable pace. My left shoe wasn’t clipping in. Before the ride, I walked through some cedar chips to get to the support van for water for my bottles and suspect that a chip was stuck in my cleat. I went to the front and asked for a stop when we made a turn. We made a turn but did not stop. I quickly stopped and shook out the offending tree piece then remounted and had to chase up a grade to catch the group. I caught them but not without using serious effort. In cycling terms, I burned a match or two (of energy).
It was an up-and-down day. My Wahoo recognized the roads and displayed the climbs as I rode them. In all, we had 21 summits on the route and missed a 22nd when we turned off right before the summit. It was a hilly or rolling day to be sure (4700′ of climb over 65 miles).
The first real climb we had come to left the river Moselle and climbed high up the hill. I hadn’t recovered yet from my effort 10 minutes earlier and immediately was dropped. Or dropped back because I didn’t want to go deep this early in the ride. Brian said we all ride at our pace and I accepted that. There would be two or three climbs like this and I felt I was holding back my group of strong riders. If I had the map I might have told them the truth. I prefer a group ride of one where I can stop and take photos, something I can’t do sitting in a group.
Our guide for the week, Gusty (Goose-ty), was hosting us for lunch. His son, Pet, was riding with us. Incredibly skinny and small, he looked to be 5’5” and no more than 100 pounds. He looked very young, maybe 13-14, but was 18 years old.
It was fascinating watching Pet’s recovery as we rode. We dropped him once and he may have been 500 meters behind us. We stopped and when we resumed he took off up the next climb like a bat out of hell. He could fly uphill but didn’t yet develop endurance muscles. I also heard it was only the third or fourth time on a bike. I figured if he was behind me I could stay in the middle between him and our group.
Pit appeared to be tiring or maybe we were just running behind schedule. Brian and he made some adjustments to get to his house and cut our ride short. Amazingly we beat the second group although we were riding 30-40 km farther and left just 30 minutes later.
Gusto’s wife, Dani, had set up a nice lunch spread. The one food I really wanted, small sausages, were gone by the time I went through the line. But I got two Cokes so it may have evened out.
When we left Gustyland we rolled out as a group. On the road Alonzo and Danny went to the front and took off, presumably to break up the group to see who would follow. I didn’t want to even if I could have and I’m not sure that I could have. They developed perhaps a 300-meter gap on us when we came to the fork in the road. Will’s head unit said to turn left whereas Brian’s said to turn right. We stopped and waited for the third group on the road, headed up by Gusty for the correct turn.
On one long grade, I was pulling along without realizing Paul was on my wheel. He passed and thanked me for the pull and I reciprocated by grabbing his wheel. We passed Pit and tried to get him to join us but he couldn’t. Of course, as soon as the road turned up he flew past us. Again.
One final grade and this time the three of us were together. The van, driven by our mechanic, Jean-Claude, passed usandthen pulled in front. Paul encouraged Pit to follow the car but he wasn’t ready to. I thought Paul was going to but in the end, it was just me.
And I took off. Jean-Claude seemed quite pleased that someone was drafting his car. We passed maybe 6-7 in our group hoping that each one was envious of my drafting. We reached an intersection catching the first group and as I passed while he braked, we did a “low-five” hand slap. Drafting isn’t easy and the driver and both have to trust one another. And we did.
It was literally all downhill from there. We rolled into town as a team (or a group that wants to be a team) and I rolled out of town. I wanted a photo of the town’s entrance sign that I tried to take yesterday in the rain. And I had to go to France one last time.
At dinner in the evening Gusty shared how he met the Schlecks (hunting). He stated that he doesn’t live a luxurious lifestyle but in his own words makes up for what he doesn’t have materially with a big heart
We would learn later that the first group was delayed when one of the rental bikes wouldn’t shift due to a discharged battery. Fränk rode to his place, got his gravel bike, then rode both back to the hotel so that Lisa could ride his bike.