Kirstin, a fellow bike commuter, blogger, and Friday Coffee Clubber, signed up for the Backroads Century next month. She is a little worried that she doesn’t have enough bike miles in her legs so she asked me to go for a ride with her this weekend. I picked out a 43-mile ride that I did on the Great Pumpkin Ride last fall. I wanted to check out the area around Warrenton, Virginia when the air was warm and the winds weren’t howling. Kirstin is usually accompanied by her Hubz but alas he is on the DL and she had to go it alone.
We met up in Old Town Warrenton and headed out, she on her Surly Long Haul Trucker (My Precious) and I on my Bike Friday New World Tourist (Little Nellie). After a mile or so on a rail trail, we found ourselves riding winding country roads at a conversational pace. Split rail fences, fields of soy and corn, and even the sight of a biplane cruising overhead made the first ten miles a breeze.
We were following the yellow route on a map I used during the Great Pumpkin ride. After a while we noticed that yellow arrows were painted on the road at every turn so we decided to use them as our guide. What could go wrong?
Every so often the country roads would penetrate a wooded area. A couple of times, we saw turkey vultures soaring up into the trees waiting for us to pass. They are graceful flyers but butt ugly birds.
Speaking of butt ugly, did you know that longhorn steers think I am a whole mess of ugly? We came upon a small herd of longhorns in a field. Several of the steers were looking over the fence along the side of the road. We stopped for a photo and the steers turned and ran. When they reached the rest of the herd the whole lot of them took off. Well, I got one thing to tell them: those horns look ridiculous.
Kirstin and I have different hill climbing styles. I HATE hills and take every opportunity to hill hop: speed down one side to use the momentum to carry me up the other. She rides hills like a recumbent rider. She gets down into her lowest gears and spins like a crazy person. This makes maximum use of her incredible stamina; she recently completed a very hill 100-mile ultramarathon. They don’t call her Ultrarunnergirl for nothing. As she approached each hill she’d let out a howl and get down to work. At the top, she’d take a couple of breaths and then her breathing would return to normal. Hills? What hills?
As we rode along, a cyclists pulled up along side us. He started chatting and told us how he was training for a century in Fredericksburg in a week. I figured he’d already ridden a long way of he was from Fredericksburg. After a while he sped off.
Not long afterward we passed a sign indicating we were entering leaving Fauquer County and entering Stafford County. Funny. I didn’t recall riding in Stafford County on the Great Pumpkin Ride. We kept riding and following the arrows and enjoying the scenery and quiet country roads. Then we rode past the Spring Hill Farm. This farm went on for what seemed like eternity (It’s actually over 1,900 acres). Funny, I didn’t recall seening such a large farm on the ride last fall.
We rolled along chatting about the Nationals, crops, Whole30 diets, recovery from endurance events, and animal sex. Kirstin says you know you’re on a long ride when animal sex comes up. No, we were not discussing zipless monkey sex. What kind of blog do you think this is, anyway? You see Spring Hill Farm has a sign indicating the road to its foaling stable. Which got me thinking about the mating stable at the Morgan Horse Farm in Vermont. Morgans are big and expensive. So they are brought into a controlled environment for mating to reduce the chance of injury. Really. Would I make this up?
After this discussion, we stopped for a cigarette.
No, just kidding. We stopped when we reached a crossroad and I announced that I was pretty sure we were off course. Out came the smartphones. We were not off course. We were WAAAAYYYY off course. We were closer to Fredericksburg than Warrenton.
Kirstin seemed pleased. More riding for MEEEEE!. After she ate some baby food (Whole30 diets are interesting), we headed north-ish with the hope that the roads would be merciful and kind. We were in luck; they were every bit as lovely as the roads that came before. Up until this point clouds had kept us out of the sun, but now the sun was burning through. We came to
Dodds Corner which is an intersection with a country store and nothing much else. The sign on the door said “No public restroom,” but Kirstin thought she could get the old man behind the counter to offer her the use of the facilities. No dice. That’s the last time I buy an iced tea from you, sir!
Back on the bike we now felt confident of our ability to finish the ride comfortably. After another five miles we came upon another country store with a porta potty. Yay! Take that you old codger!
We stopped and did the rest stop thing. As we were about to leave a wide-eyed couple in their late 20s walked up. The woman asked us if it was safe to ride bikes “around here.” I responded, “We rob banks.” I kid. We reassured her that she was in bicycling heaven. She and her man looked at us with amazement, said thanks, got in their car and drove off. Even with a day to think about it, it was a weird conversation.
Back on the bikes, we were now miraculously back on the route. The clouds came back to give us some shelter from the hot sun. The trees along the road added some shade. The cows and horses and corn gave us some bucolic stuff to admire. I turned down a lane that wound through a field of soy, across a stone bridge and up a hill to a stone house. It was a restaurant that served as the last rest stop on the Great Pumpkin Ride. Alas, there was no hot cider and pumpkin soup but Kirstin admired the charm of the place as she munched on a cricket bar. Yes, made from insect flour. In my day we lived by the expression, If you wanna go fasta, you gotta eatta your pasta. So much for the wisdom of the ages. Fartlek anyone?
As we started the ride, I told Kirstin that the ride out of Warrenton was a gradual downhill not unlike the start of the Backroads Century. Now we were on the last miles into town. Hills got hillier. The flats were slightly uphill. No worries. We slowed a bit but kept trucking along.
In short order we rolled into town past the caboose at the finish. Our unplanned tour of Stafford County had added 20 miles to our 43-mile route. A metric century by accident.
We went to a nearby watering hole for food and drink. We toasted our good fortune with club soda (she) and a showerless pint of Harp. Cheers!
And so it came to pass that Kirstin gave notice to the hills of the Berryville countryside that she is indeed ready to take on the Backroads Century. Hell, she could probably run the bloody thing.
Here are some more pix from the ride.