Coffee and Pumpkins and Bikes, Oh My

It was cold. It was Friday. Warming up would require a bike ride and hot coffee. Fortunately, Friday Coffee Club was on the agenda. I rode Big Nellie to Swings and found that the cold had not stopped the fearless bike commuters of DC from attending. They, however, did move the proceedings inside for the first time since late winter. It was good to see Adam (a.k.a. Froggie) back on dry land after spending months at sea in his job as Tweeter First Class aboard the USS iPad. Kate, who had just completed the graveyard shift as an underpaid public servant, was also in attendance. She had ridden Kermit, the bike I would be most likely to steal but for its pink handlebar tape. Welcome back, you two.

Friday’s workday came and went. During the ride home I was going over a checklist of things to do in preparation for Saturday’s Great Pumpkin Ride in Warrenton VA. Thing number one was raise the seat on The Mule. This went really well until I tried to tightened the seat post bolt that would keep the seat where I done raised it to. The bolt wouldn’t tighten. I jumped in the car and drove to Spokes Etc. to get a replacement. It turns out the bicycle industry no longer uses this seat post retention system. Spokes didn’t have a bolt. I drove home and decided to ride Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist instead.

Saturday morning was so cold that I didn’t bother to look at the thermometer. The drive to Warrenton involved a 15 mile detour caused by VDOT’s brilliant decision to close one of the exits on I-66. I lucked out and found a parking space only a couple of blocks from the start.

As I was getting ready to leave the car, the guy in the car next to me says, “Are you Rootchopper?” It turns out he is known online as Consularrider and he works in the building next to me in Rosslyn. Small world. After a brief chat, I took off to pick up my t-shirt and cue sheet. I decided to ride the 43 mile ride instead of the 71 miler. After doing the check in, I headed out for a brief tour of Warrenton. Old Town Warrenton is quaint and small, but I managed to get lost anyway. After about 3 miles or riding I pulled into Red Truck Bakery. I had a coffee and an orange cranberry walnut muffin. The coffee was okay but the muffin was mouthwatering. Readers of the blog may find this familiar since I had the very same thing last year. It is still the best damned muffin in the universe.

Little Nellie at Red Truck Bakery
Little Nellie at Red Truck Bakery

After muffinpaloosa, I headed back to the start of the ride where I was hoping to find John Roche, creator of the Hoppy 100 bike rides. I learned from the check-in desk that John was long gone. Bob Cannon and his son Jeremy soon appeared and in short order the three of us were underway. Bob and Jeremy set a very brisk pace. After about five miles I slowed to my normal slog and took in the scenery. Last year the foliage was post peak; this year most of the trees were green. It didn’t much matter because this is the Virginia Piedmont, the kind of countryside you see in coffee table books: split rail fences, rolls of hay drying in the fields, Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.

I reached the first rest stop. It was Cannon-less. It was also foodless so I topped off my water bottle. Before leaving, I raised my seat a couple of millimeters to get more extension out of my legs. The bolt didn’t break. Yay. Back on the road I was alone with swirling winds and rolling hills. The hills are just the right size to hill hop, zoom down one hill then use the momentum to ride all the way up the next.

The next stop was at the Elk Run Anglican Church. Oh. My. God. Cookies, brownies, hot pretzel sticks, nuts, M&Ms, and more. To wash it down they were serving hot apple cider. I hate cold apple cider, but this sweet, hot drink totally hit the spot. The Cannons were here. So was Consularrider. And John Roche. Chat ensued. I split off to talk to a guy with a faired Gold Rush, a lighter weight aluminum version of Big Nellie. I did my best not to drool on it.

By the time I rejoined the posse, Consularrider (who was doing the 71 mile ride) and the Cannons were gone. John Roche and I headed out as a duo. Before leaving the rest stop, I nearly flipped my bike over backwards when I caught the rear wheel in a roadside drainage ditch. A cop sitting in his nearby car had a good laugh. He said I wasn’t the only one.

John and I gave the ride an honest effort. We had a steady tailwind for what seemed like two or three miles (yay!)  then it was in our face again (boo!). John’s better at hills so he would speed ahead on the rises and I would catch up a mile or two later. On one of the downhills, the Gold Rush went by us in a blur. Dang, that bike can fly.

Our next stop came at Poplar Springs, a vineyard up a windy hill from the main road. On the climb up, we caught and passed Gold Rush.  Recumbents can’t climb for beans. As the famous cyclists Milton Friedman once said, “There ain’t no such thing as a free downhill.”

This rest stop had tables of food, hot cider, and pumpkin soup. It looked like many of the riders were preparing for an overnight stay. Nom. Nom.

As we were preparing to leave, my grad school roommate Paul and Amy, his significant other, appeared. They were doing the 23 mile ride. Given the food at this rest stop, I think they might have gained a pound for their efforts. They were last seen falling into a food coma near the pumpkin soup.

The Cannons blasted down the road and John and I made rather pathetic chase. We found out that Jeremy, a high school hockey player dressed in street clothes, was chasing down lycra-clad triathletes on their fancy carbon fiber bikes. I’d have loved to have seen the look on their faces when this kid in jeans got on their back wheels.

The Cannons were out of sight  in no time. No worries. This stretch of the route had some honest to god foliage. Pedal, pedal. Pretty, pretty.

After passing a couple of women wearing capes, we rolled into the finish. There was more food! And massages. And antique bikes. We hung out in the hopes that the sun would warm us. No dice. We went our separate ways. Back at the car, Consullarrider was preparing to go out for another ride – to get his 100 miles in for the day. I would have joined him but I am sane and there was heat in the car!

On the way home, I visited several bike shops to find a new seat bolt. No luck. The Mule now sits at home looking sad, off in the corner of the shed, its seat pushed all the way down to the top of the frame.  No worries. One of the shops is getting some bolts in this week. The Mule will ride again.

For pix of the ride (beware: Food porn ahead) check out my set on Flickr.

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