Soggy Sunday

My friend April and I rode the Montgomery County Ride for the Reserve yesterday. The weather forecast was foreboding, but the organizers had said they would at least have the picnic and party, so we prepared to go regardless.

We woke to the news that the ride was ON so April came over to my house and I drove up there.

I had all my wet weather gear and took the Surly so I’d have more road surface on the tires and weight to hold it down. As it turned out, it was really warm. My rain jacket doesn’t breathe well (do any of them really?) so I left it in the car and we headed out. This is our starting photo.

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April is pretty new to riding, so I did a bit of coaching as we went along the first several miles. The ride was hilly, and she kept having trouble with her gears but I figured over the course of the ride she’d get more and more comfortable. She was also riding with clips for the first time, so again, I thought she just needed time and miles. Just short of 10 miles though it was clear that it wasn’t technique or experience, there was something REALLY wrong with the gears!

We turned right on a quiet (thank goodness) road after going under a railroad bridge. There was a slight hill, and she was in front of me and all of a sudden there was that horrible grinding clunking noise and I watched as she slowly tipped over to the left and was down. Fortunately she wasn’t hurt past a scrape or two so we pulled off, flipped the bike and … oh my. Not a simple dropped chain.

The SAG driver came to get her and the bike and she told me to go ahead and finish. I gave her the key to the car so she could get warm and dry and headed off.

The rest of the ride was uneventful and beautiful. Even with the overcast and intermittent rain, the area was peaceful. My guess is that the weather deterred many of the participants so there weren’t a lot of cyclists out. There were a number of different distances and the routes for each were slightly different. Even if everyone had shown up, I don’t think the area would have felt saturated. The routes went around Sugarloaf Mountain in various ways.

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I love running across these old log cabins. I hope this one is on its way to restoration or better use.

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I finished pretty quickly and joined April for the lunch. It was catered by a place called Gepettos and let me tell you — this was the best, most flavorful, after-event lunch food I’ve ever had — and I’ve done a lot of events. Wow. Delicious wrap, and excellent sides! I would have liked to see more recovery drinks (choc milk, dr. pepper), but other than that it was excellent.

The sun came out and we headed back to VA by way of the ferry which was fun. We went straight to Green Lizard to drop her bike off for maintenance.

Despite the mechanicals and weather, for me it was a really good day.

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How bad can it be?

I’m not a big fan of riding on the C&O Canal trail. For those not familiar with this area, that’s the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal. It’s a crushed stone path that runs along the Maryland side bank of the Potomac. It is rocky, and rutted, and if there has been any rain can be a real mess. I just don’t like riding it.

But I thought I might need to revisit as so many of my friends have been enjoying it this year. So I created a ride and coerced my friend Laura to ride it with me. The coercion? I dangled, “We get to ride the FERRY” in front of her and she bit.

We left Reston early and got on the W&OD out to Battlefield Parkway. We rode it up to Rt. 15 and fortunately were only on Rt 15 for a short bit before we turned on White’s Ferry Road. The ferry was $2 per bike. These are photos from when we were waiting in line.

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There was a daughter taking her mom on a ‘mystery day’ on board. It made me think of Lindy. They were kind enough to take a photo of us.

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I think I had every color possible on today! And, as you can see, I was on my Cannondale. My Surly is at Green Lizard getting new tires and having the front wheel trued. I would have been MUCH better off with the Surly, but that’s another story.

You can see the day was gorgeous. This is the river while we were on the ferry.

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Looking downstream

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Looking upstream

White’s Ferry historic district is quaint but a pretty quick stop. Here’s the statue of the Confederate General the ferry is named for.

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Jubal Early

And check out the flood marks!

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We rode up to Poolesville and had lunch there at a new cafe. It was okay but nothing to write home (or you) about.

This is a cool former bank building that has served as a town hall and is now the historical society headquarters.

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After lunch we headed down to the C&O and stayed on it for … way too long. This is the surface. Beautiful but really tiring to ride on a road bike.

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We finally bailed out to River Road, then MacArthur and on into Georgetown where we crossed into Rosslyn and hopped the Metro.

These are photos of the river as we rode along.

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Half mast for Las Vegas

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The old acqueduct

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We biked home from Wiehle Station, and ended up a wee bit short of 70 miles — something like 69.6 but I wasn’t going to go in circles to finish it off! I’d been having cleat problems all day and I was D.O.N.E.

Beautiful day, excellent company (Laura is so intrepid!). Now I’ll have to find a different prize to wave in front of her for the next long ride. I think I might be out of credibility for a while.

29, 39, 49 and holding

Some women freak out about aging. I figure it’s a natural process and it beats the alternative. So, yes — I am now 56! But most days (except for my left knee) I feel like I’m in my 30’s but more knowledgeable and aware.

I have an amazing family who celebrated my birthday in ways that made me feel loved and cherished. My husband gave me KT tape and other bike-related things. Part of the gift from him is that I know I can drop my bike off at Green Lizard and have whatever I need done to it — without question. 🙂  My kids called home and promised mysterious packages inbound. Whether or not they arrive doesn’t matter because my kids called home.

My sister sent a silly hat covered with flowers. Maybe I’ll use it for the Great Pumpkin Ride so I can appear to be … oops, almost revealed my costume! She also sent a cool wall hanging item. I need to find some fake plants that look real because the real plants I have in the house are dying because I’m always away biking.

My sister in law Courtney sent a fantastic bag, some bike shaped pasta, and bike poetry magnets, of course. It made me laugh out loud. And laughing, loving, joy — those are the best birthday gifts.

Ah, but wait. My Mom sent a lovely blouse with a bike on it, and bike socks. Now that I think about it, my biking buddy Mike gave me bike socks too.

I’m beginning to see a theme. Slow, but accelerating. Maybe I need to develop some other interests?

 

Wrapping Up

I’m home now and the rest of the group has gone on to greater adventures further south. I wish them well.

My last couple of riding days were near pure pleasure.

On Monday we rode from Newark, DE to Havre de Grace Maryland. One of the challenges of riding a bike in Maryland is that the bridges are largely not bike-friendly. There is a “lower” bridge across the Susquehanna between Newark and Havre de Grace called the Hatem bridge that was set up for bikes to use last summer. It opened in July with great fanfare and infrastructure to support bikes crossing. But, less than 3 months later, they closed it to bikes except weekends/holidays. We were crossing on a Monday so we had to ride 20 miles out of our way and cross over the Conowingo Dam, a narrow 2-lane roadway with no shoulders.

Fortunately, when we got there we discovered that road construction was our friend! The workers were holding traffic to one lane which meant we were safe! No one would be trying to pass us! There wasn’t any opportunity to stop and take photos, but after a lovely crossing with friendly road sign holders, we turned south to go on the Lower Susquehanna trail.

This trail was more of a gravel based trail and it was covered with fallen leaves. It is a rails to trails one, but this is the first one I’ve ever been on in which the rails are still embedded. As soon as I saw that I slowed WAY down and took off my sunglasses so I could see the rails. They were parallel to the path of travel and absolutely treacherous. Even on my fatter tires, they would have been a fall danger.

Later that evening when we were all in at Havre de Grace, we discovered that our tandem couple had not seen them in time and taken a really bad fall. They were troopers though and while it might have slowed them a wee bit, it didn’t put them off their game much.

These are photos from the ride into Havre de Grace:

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Some old stone houses awaiting restoration/conservation

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This oak sheltered Lafayette during the American Revolution and later sheltered a Civil War cavalry unit. Rising Sun, MD

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The Susquehanna

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The remains of a flint furnace, all that is left of Stafford, MD. Part of porcelain production in Maryland from colonial times through the early 20th century.

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The restored grist mill

When we arrived in Havre de Grace we were treated like royalty by the members of American Legion Post 47. Shirl, Joshua, and Kelly provided everything we needed and more. I think this was my favorite stay location. Being a veteran made it even more special.

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In case you can’t read it, this is in the front hall at the Legion. It is a place setting for the soldier/airman/seaman who has not yet made it home. Poignant and beautiful.

The town of Havre de Grace was established/named by Lafayette during the American Revolution. In 1813 the British burned it, except for one building. So the town is “new” as opposed to the “old” Maryland towns that survived the British. Havre de Grace was the deep water port for a long time for this part of the watershed so it was a strategic target for the British. Even though the architecture is largely new (post 1813), I found much of it engaging and interesting.

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The only structure that survived the fire. Rodgers House, dating from 1788. Home of John and Elizabeth Rodgers, parents of US Naval hero, Commodore John Rodgers, credited with firing the first shot of the war of 1812.

People in this town were very friendly and kind too and there were many opportunities to spend money on food, drink, and artwork.

The next day we rode to Annapolis via Baltimore. Curt rode with me much of the day so I took him “off route” to tour the Inner Harbor. It was so much fun watching him enjoy the sights. Leaving Baltimore we headed towards BWI and then Annapolis on great paved trails.

Along the way we saw Mike, who had split off to go see Fort McHenry. It was good we saw him because I was having a mechanical issue with my bike. The back brake was locking up. I called Brad at Green Lizard and he talked us through what was going on. With Mike’s strong hands we were able to fix it, and got back on the road.

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As we rolled into Annapolis I had to take a photo of the Naval Academy crew on the river, and the academy across the bridge. What a beautiful town.

 

My new friend (we hadn’t met but had been emailing/texting/fbing through Women & Bicycles) Susan opened her home for showers as well as a shuttle to get there for the early team members. By the time I arrived we were ready to go out for dinner and she very kindly took me to her house to sleep in a real bed. THANK YOU SUSAN!

And finally, on Wednesday we rode from Annapolis to Reston. I’m glad I did the ride because now I know Annapolis is completely doable! I didn’t take photos because I was in a hurry. When I got to Eastern Market I jumped on the Metro so I could get home before the team arrived at 3 as planned.

Well, plans being what they are, some members of the team got to my house before I did, but Westy was a gracious host. He also grilled about a zillion burgers and kept providing more food for everyone. Curt’s cousin MaryAnn and her husband Ray, the parents of Matthew Burke (on our jerseys), came to join us for dinner. That was special to connect with the people whose son’s death was the inspiration for Curt’s ride.

Overall, I’m glad I did it. Each time I do one of these rides I learn more about what I like and don’t like about touring (distance, speed, etc.) that will help me make a good decision about my next adventure.

For now, the only organized riding on my horizon will be some day-long charity rides in October and November. I’ll try to keep up some daily miles though so as not to lose my ‘edge’.

But today is my 56th birthday and I’m going to relax and enjoy it.

Gritty City

Today we rode from Conshohocken, a suburb of Philadelphia, through Philly to Newark, Delaware.

On the way, I met up with a friend who used to live in DC, Vanitha. I can’t believe we didn’t take any pictures of the two of us together. We met for breakfast at a place called Greg’s Kitchen (delicious breakfast bowls with tater tots – yum!). While I was waiting I was looking at the neighborhood. The architecture told a story that I would love to investigate using deed records and historical notes. Across the street there was a sculpture gallery called Artesano Iron Works. These are some of the very interesting works they had outside.

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Right next to the ironworks was a “Smoke and Vape” shop. Next to that was, appropriately enough, the fire department. I thought the juxtaposition was funny.

After breakfast we rode together for about 10 miles before Vanitha needed to head back. We rode right past her apartment and she very kindly offered me a car ride to Newark, but I resisted. Before we parted I took a photo of this trail sign. 10 points if you can tell me why I took this photo.

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The route went through some pretty gritty areas of Philadelphia. The City of Brotherly Love needs to show some better love in the neighborhoods near the airport and the John Heinz Wildlife Refuge. I was never nervous or felt unsafe in those neighborhoods, although there were many boarded up houses, etc. It was Sunday morning and most of the people I saw out were dressed for church and responded cheerfully to my “Good morning!”

At one point the route took us through a small park where I saw several peahens strutting around unconcerned about people passing through. In the midst of all of these sad neighborhoods, they were a treat to see.

From there I went through the Heinz refuge. What a surprise! When I was researching the route I saw it went through there, but I couldn’t discern what kind of trail it was. Well, typical of the Adventure Cycling routes, it was gravelly and dirt, but very doable with my Surly (yay again for the touring bike). The area is some land surrounded by interstates and airport and would be considered “waste land” except that it has started to recover from years of pollution. Marshes provide natural filtration and cleaning of the water and the health of a system is measured by the animals returning. I saw MANY fishing birds – mostly herons. There were also ducks and geese.

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A lot of our route today was marked as part of the East Coast Greenway. I have to say that “greenway” is an ambitious description. Yes, it’s a connection of roads, but the green spaces around this area are few and far between.

But finally, I saw this sign:

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And I knew I was close to the finish. I wandered around a bit at the end and took a wrong turn, but I corrected pretty quickly and finally got to the church. We are at Bible Fellowship Church of Newark, DE. What a great church – open, friendly, and showers available on site. A couple of us went to do some laundry.

So, I have a clean body, and enough clean clothes to get me to Reston. I rode the entire way today and if the speaker wasn’t as loud as I would have liked, at least I didn’t get any flats. One of our road bike riders and our tandem riders weren’t as lucky today, and it was hotter today than yesterday.

So I feel pretty okay, and I’m ready for some sleep and then another short day tomorrow as we head for Havre de Grace.

 

 

 

Friday & Saturday on the Tour

Friday and Saturday we were weaving our way down the Delaware River, alternating first between New York and Pennsylvania with a small dip into New Jersey on Friday. Then on Saturday we alternated between Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The views were beautiful, the people were nice.

We are mostly following Adventure Cycling routes, and the one for Friday put us on a gravel path – good for my light touring Surly, not so great for the others on skinny road bike tires. So we looked hard at the route for Saturday and took ourselves off the cart path and onto a wide shoulder on Rt. 29.

Ironically, on the paved road getting to Rt. 29, the surface had been recently “oiled and graveled” so there were some pretty sketchy parts no matter what size tires one had.

Out on Rt. 29 though we saw MANY cyclists, most heading north. They were day recreationalists and everyone was friendly.

About 12 miles short of our finish on Saturday, I got a flat. I fixed it with Suzanne’s patience. While we were on the side of the road doing it, a guy came out to offer his help. He provided a Powerade and two drinking glasses, which was awesome. His name was Vince and he told us “Youse be careful,” as we headed down the road. Not 20 minutes later, my tire was flat again.

I sent Suzanne ahead and called for SAG. Mike-san came to get me and when I got to the church and examined the inside of the tire, I saw one of those little radial wires on the inside of the tire. I couldn’t tell whether it had made it through the tire liner. BUT, when Mike (mechanic) examined my tube later, there was a split at the base of the valve. It would never have been good long enough for me to finish. Sigh.

Ah well, at least I changed the tire. Three times. I will probably have this grease under my nails for weeks.

In front of a house in Milford, PA.

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Crossing into New Jersey! This is Suzanne, my riding buddy for a lot of this trip.

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A bike eating pothole – normal for the trail on Friday.

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Coming up, we were on the Appalachian Trail for a wee bit.

These last two photos were when we crossed the Delaware Water Gap on the Appalachian Trail. It was awesome!

From NY to PA by way of NJ

We began our morning leaving Poughkeepsie early. Mike and I stopped at a local diner to get some breakfast where Suzanne joined us. After we ate we got on the Duchess Rail Trail. It was beautiful – wide, not crowded, smooth pavement … sweet. It took us right to the Walkway Over The Hudson. These are the photos from that.

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After that, we followed some backroads through gorgeous countryside. Here are a few photos of the scenery, both real and artificial.

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and the piece de resistance:

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After those we rode through an area around the “Neversink River” surround. All along the road and river in this part were historical markers documenting Indian raids by a band led by Joseph Brant, the Mohawk Chief, who (depending on which side you read) was a loyalist or a rebel. He is a fascinating character in history who you can read about here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Brant

These are some views of the Neversink River.

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I didn’t realize that during the Neversink part, we were in New Jersey! But at the very end, as we entered Milford, we saw this very welcome sign:

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