Back to Back to Backroads

It’s five o’clock on a Sunday. It’s dark out. My legs are dead.  I know, I’ll jump in a car and drive 90 minutes to a bike ride. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Cresting the Blue Ridge at Daybreak

And so I did. I loaded The Mule on the Millennium Falcon, grabbed some tunes (Crowded House, Wilco, Le Vent du Nord) and headed west to Berryville, Virginia and the Backroads Century.  The Backroads is the annual century of the Potomac Pedalers Bicycle Club, a DC area bike club for riders of all skill levels.

Berryville Sunrise

Jeff Heads Out for 100 Miles
Carbon Faired Gold Rush
Leslie, A Friday Coffee Clubber
The Start

I hoped to ride with one or more of my friends. Paul, Jody and I rode Bike Virginia together in 1991.  This was to be our 21st (and only) reunion.  Paul emailed me the day before saying he had a hockey championship game that morning so he was going to come much later, too late to do a long ride.  So he told me to contact Jody.  Not seeing her phone number at the bottom of the email, I sent her an email telling her to meet me at the high school in Berryville around 8-ish.

Another Faired Gold Rush
Kirsten (c) with the Hubz (r)
Looks like a splendid day for a ride
Bike Friday Tandem Traveller
I Could Ride This All Day, so I Did

I arrived in Berryville at 745 and was at the start 10 minutes later. I picked up the cure sheet for the 65 milers (called a metric century because it’s about 100 kilometers) from Leslie, a Friday Coffee Clubber.

Hay, Sky, Trees, Field

It Was Sooooo Nice

I met up with Jeff who was armed with an Eddy Merckx road bike to do the century (100 miles).  Adios, mon ami. Too rich for my blood.

Say Neigh, Somebody
White Folks Rockin’

Kirsten, another Friday Coffee Club regular and ultramarathon runner, appeared with husband and Friday Coffee Clubber Tom – a.k.a. the Hubz – and some friends to do the half century.  Adios, mes amis.

Lisa, another Coffee Clubber, showed up.  She was doing the metric century with her husband Robert and her friend Jane and her husband.  They waited for me. I waited for Jody. At 8:10 they left. I waited 20 more minutes and checked my email. At around 8:30 I noticed Jody’s phone number at the bottom of the email. I called her.

Hellava Lot of Apples

“Where are you?”

“At home. I’m coming later with Paul.”

I was feeling like Cool Hand Luke. (What we have is failure to communicate.)

They’re Gaining on Me

I left.  I wasn’t mad, but, boy, The Mule was. He left at an impressive gallop, determined to catch up to Lisa and her crew.

I rarely ride faster than 15 miles per hour.  My bike is heavy and old and so am I.  You’d think after riding the 50 States Ride the day before I’d have nothing in my legs. My legs, however, were ready to boogie. And so we did.  The first rest stop was 12 miles away. No problem.  You might say we hauled ass. (Sorry. It’s the only mule joke I have.)

Robert and Lisa

Beautiful country side and a slightly chilly breeze were the order of the day. I didn’t care. I was cruising.  I passed a heap of riders on this mad dash.  They weren’t in any hurry.  I arrived at the first rest stop. It had all kinds of good food, a trio playing string music by a creek, an old mill,. and Lisa and her crew.

We Fanned Out a Bit

After a few minutes we headed out together for 53 miles.  The next 20 miles were hill and windy.  We stopped after about an hour at a second rest stop. Lisa who, like me has asthma, was having breathing problems. I gave her my albuterol inhaler and she was instantly feeling better. Feeling a bit like a ’70s college student, I took a hit. Does albuterol count as a performance enhancing drug?

The Mule Pulled Them in
Just Like This for 65 Miles

Off we rode. For the most part the downs were followed by ups so we could do a decent amount of hill hopping.  That’s when your downhill momentum carries you up to the top of the next hill.  Every few miles, though, there was a long uphill, the kind that keeps you humble but doesn’t kill you.

Cool Rocks along the Road

For every one of these difficult uphills, there was a scary fast descent.  The scary part came mostly from the fact that the roads were chip seal, a surface just rough enough to put some fear in you.  If I had more bike handling confidence, I could have easily broken 40 miles per hour. Instead of bike handling confidence I have fear. Fear is a good speed governor.

Jane and Lisa at White Post

The five of us rode in ever changing formations. Sometimes Jane’s husband took the lead with Jane and I several hundred yards back and Lisa and Robert pulling up the rear. Then we’d reform and break off in another arrangement.

You Pretty Much Can’t Stop Taking Pix on a Day Like This

At the final rest stop, Jane and her husband took off.  We met up with Leslie, who was enjoying a ride she called Tour of the Rest Stops after volunteering at the start.  Lisa was taking a long time so Robert told me to head out.

Leslie at our Last Rest Stop

Off I rode solo.  10 miles left. Some challenging hills remained but I was familiar with the course and nothing surprised me. That’s not to say I was bored. Even after 60 miles the countryside of the northern Shenandoah Valley never loses its appeal.

The last two miles are on Route 7, the main drag through the town of Berryville.  It’s a big comedown from the previous 63 miles.  The houses and shops are quaint but the trucks leave a lot to be desired.

When I finished I felt fine.I met up with Jeff and told him I could have done the century. He had 100 miles behind him to add to well over 70 the day before. He was cooked. I felt fine except for an achy left foot.  I need to get stiffer shoes for these long rides.

Rene Magritte Phone Home

Jane and her husband and I milled about. I tried a pulled pork sammich but I’m not much of a barbecue fan. I took off for home, and stopped at a pie place near Round Hill called Hill High Orchards.  Their pies, I am told, come from a Sara Lee factory.  The blueberry slice I had was heated up and had a big scoop of vamilla ice cream on top.

I filled my pie hole with it.

Blurry Reward at Hill High Orchards

So ended a long weekend of riding. 132 miles, all of it on The Mule.

Click on Lisa’s and Kirsten’s names above to read their accounts of the day. My full set of pix (yeah, I know about the smudge on my lens) is over on my Flickr site.

5 thoughts on “Back to Back to Backroads

  1. I was surprised to see you at the first rest stop! But did we really take an hour at one of the other rest stops, and was I really taking that long at the last one? I swear I didn't think that much time passed. I didn't realize I was being pokey.I hit 37 mph. I'm trying not to feel scared about it.Anyway, gorgeous photos. That pie looks goooood. I need some pie in my life.Oh, and my friend's name is Jane.

  2. I am useless with names. I can't remember half of the Friday Coffee Clubber's names. Of course, is doesn't help when you've got Laura and Lauren, Kirsten and Kristin,… I guess we didn't take that long at the rest stops, but I was tight every time we started up again. If your pokey, does that make Robert Gumby?

  3. The only reason I can keep up with anyone else in trail running and road cycling is because I have no fear of speed (and crashing) on the downhills. Occasionally it occurs to me I might be getting old enough to be more cautious but then I put that out of my mind.Great seeing you at BackRoads! And thanks again for urging me to do it. Next year, the century!

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