The plan was to use an old cue sheet that I photocopied from a book of rides called The Washington Area Bicycling Atlas. The cue sheet is a turn-by turn guide through Virginia hunt country. You know, the horsey set that Hugh Grant pretends to write about to get to interview Julia Roberts in Love Actually.
So I drove to Middleburg ready for anything. I had the cue sheet for this 45-mile ride. I did not have the corresponding map for the ride, but having done it a few times back in the 1990s and 2000s I figured I’d have no problem navigating.
I arrived in Middleburg after driving by a few dozen stone mansions on vast greenswards and past tony shops where you can buy things made of wool or shepherd’s hooks hand crafted out of wrought iron. They probably sell chaps and riding crops too. And proper tea sets. Cheerio.
I left the car with a single pannier on my rear rack, loaded with extra water and snacks. Off I rode following my cue sheet. Once off US 50 it was all rolling hills, tall grasses, and stone walls. I was being shoved along by a tailwind that I only noticed when it gusted above 30 miles per hour.
About five miles into the ride I noticed that the cue sheet stopped at 13.7 miles. Hmmm. Then I realized that I only had the directions for the first third of the ride. Rather than turn around and add ten miles to my effort, I decided to follow the directions all the way to the end then use the Google to see if I could recall the rest of the route.
Up and down, around the bends, past the quaint farm houses and the massive estates. I took Zula Road to Frogtown Road, knowing to turn onto Frogtown even though the road sign gave it another name. (I missed the turn for this very reason the first time I did this ride 20 or so years ago.)
I made my way in a big square ending up back on US 50. All of this was familiar. A few miles on 50 would take me to the general store at Atoka where I would check the Google to see if I could conjure up the rest of the route.
My brain told me to head north. I don’t know why. I remember riding to the south on Atoka Road but for some reason I was sure that the route must go to Saint Louis to the north. I also decided that even though I was nearly halfway through the ride that I would save the snacks in my pannier for later.
Off I rode. I took St. Louis Road to Foxglove Road and I can’t say I was disappointed in my choice. It was green and rolling and winding. And windy. Dang, was it ever windy. Of course, now that I was lost, the wind would be in my face. And the gusts were intensifying.
We’re having fun now.
Foxglove descends to a creek and I rode along that for a meandering mile. By this point my brain was off in the clouds, which, come to think of it, was entirely appropriate on this overcast day.
Foxglove headed south past hunt clubs (the Horse and Hound kind). I didn’t see Hugh Grant. In fact, I only saw a couple of anonymous humans. One was an old man in a facemask walking with a pronounced forward lean on his way down his driveway to his mailbox. I stopped and we did the secret dance of the Stenosis Society.
Okay, I lie.
The headwind and the hills were beating me up pretty good when I spotted a water tower a mile or two ahead. Foxglove led me right back to my car.
28 1/2 miles. I decided to see if I could find the missing part of my cue sheet. Curiously, it was not in the car.
Oh well, I guess I’ll have that snack now.
I opened the pannier and there, on top of my snacks, was the cue sheet. I had the damned thing the entire time. And, of course, the route actually went south from Atoka to a town called The Plains. (No, Fantasy Island jokes please. Ironically, this is actually the home of Robert Duvall.)
I decided that to recover the missed part of the ride would involve at least 27 more miles of windy riding. Not gonna happen.
Now I can look forward to doing this ride again properly. Now for a brisk cup of piping hot tea.