Indian Head 100 – Okay 98.5

 

After beating my body up yesterday, I got up before dawn in crisp 58 degree air to ride the Indian Head (a.k.a. Southern Maryland) 100.  Indian Head is a town that time has passed by. It would be nice if this ride did something for the town’s economy but, from what I could tell, the town has no economy. I should look up why this place is called Indian Head but I am too lazy. Regardless it’s a better name than Dead Strip Mall Village.

 

I started a little after 7 am which is appalling given the fact that this is a holiday (Labor Day). I didn’t see anyone I knew. Most people I know had the good common sense to be asleep. I wore a vest and arm warmers for the first 18 miles. The cold air also made my asthma kick in so at the first rest stop I took a couple hits of albuterol. I ain’t messing with lung problems anymore this year, thank you very much.

I was riding Deets, my Surly Cross Check. After the first year of fiddling with the set up, I have this bike dialed in perfectly. I was zipping along at 14 miles per hour. (For me with knobby tires, this is zipping.)

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For the entire ride I kept my cellphone stashed. No tweets. One picture with a camera. Just me paying attention to my body. I tried to keep my respiratory rate stable. Except for a few nasty hills, I succeeded. I also focused on keeping my pedaling efficient. Don’t mash, spin with even pressure on the pedals all the way around. It occurred to me that paying close attention to my breathing and to specific parts of my body mechanics is rolling meditation. Every so often I had to double check to make sure I hadn’t missed a turn.

One thing that kept me from getting too zoned out was the fact that my bashed up left knee, arm, and shoulder were aching on and off. It’s going to take a few days to get them back to normal. One thing that didn’t hurt at all was my back. This never happens. Deets is definitely dialed in.

The first 40 miles were low effort. At one point we rode on a road with fresh pavement and rolling hills. Zoom down one, tucking for maximum speed at minimum effort, then take the next uphill with only a few pedal rotations. I love hill hopping. I thought of @BobbiShafoe who  hill hopped the Backroads metric century we did a few years ago.

There are several abrupt climbs on this ride. At one point we were making our way up a hill when the road turned to the left. Just before the turn someone had painter the word “HILL” on the road. We made the turn and there was steepage. About a dozen cyclists had dismounted and were walking. Not. Gonna. Happen. I dropped into my lowest gear and went at it. Pedaling to the rest stop at the top was sweet. This old man on a cross bike with knobby tires and no granny gear felt like feeding quiche to all the walkers. That would be mean. Anyway I didn’t have any quiche so I grabbed a snack and pedaled on.

This section of Charles County Maryland has some truly beautiful country roads. I do have two complaints. Some of the prettiest roads, country lanes almost, are paved with chip seal. It’s cheaper than asphalt but it’s much less smooth. The other complaint is the depressing rural poverty. We were 35 miles from DC and I saw people living in dilapidated mobile homes with portapotties in the yard. Many of the single family houses lacked paint. It’s like an economic black hole.

My measured breathing and pedaling paid off during the second 50 miles. I did lose a little speed but that may be attributed to the temperatures rising into the high 80s. Riders were cramping up all over the place. I drank energy drink at rest stops and lots of water.  I knew that near the 90 mile mark was Rose Hill. This one nearly did me in the first time I rode it a decade ago. I was shocked that I rode up it today with no problem, even without a granny gear. Go Deets.

The  last ten miles were a breeze.  At mile 93-ish we turned onto the Indian Head Rail Trail. In past, shorter Indian Head rides, I have found this to be frustrating. It’s a false flat. It looks flat but gradually rises. When you are tired and hot and want the ride to end, a false flat can really mess with your head. It didn’t bother me at all today. In fact, I was surprised to see the end of the trail.

I rolled into the finish at 98.5 miles. I would suspect that my odometer was off but I overheard some other riders saying the same thing. We call it 100, okay?

So it’s on to three bike commutes, a night baseball game (or two?), and Saturday’s 50 States Ride. Can’t wait.

 

 

 

 

 

Lost in Shame

I hadn’t been awake but a couple of hours when the first food shaming comment hit my Facebook page. Eating turkey is morally bankrupt, utterly unnecessary. and an offense to the universe. Okay. I’ll just go for the veggies and other stuff. Then the next bit of shaming came in. Sweet potatoes are dug up by hand by migrant workers. This is back breaking and inhumane.

Pass the beer please.

So, I punted on the shame. I had some turkey and piles of non-animal foods. No sweet potatoes though. It wasn’t shame. I hate them.

Today, I took the day off from work.  It is apparently the thing these days to shame people into not shopping on what has come to be called Black Friday. REI closed its doors and urged its customers to go do something outdoors instead. They even created a hashtag for it: #optoutside

I could tell you that I chose to give in to this shaming because, after having eaten the turkey, I was riddled with guilt. The truth is I hate shopping even more than I hate the taste of sweet potatoes. To me, one day of shopping is like eating corn beef and cabbage every day for a month. And I don’t need REI or any other store to persuade me to go for a ride or a hike. So I went all in on the #optoutside thing today.

I waited until 11 to get moving. Mostly because the temperatures here in the DC area were rising through the morning. At 11 they were rising through the 50s. Time to boogay.

I decided to drive to Indian Head Maryland and ride their rail trail. I also took the cue sheet and map from a book of rides I have. The plan was to ride the trail one way then do the book’s ride that covers some of the same route as the Southern Maryland metric century.  Just by eyeballing the thing, I figured I’d be doing about 40 miles of riding.

Even though I’ve done the rail trail many times, I had trouble finding it. I eventually gave up and took the roads from the century ride. After about five miles this route intersected with the trail and I switched over to Plan A.

The trail was newly paved. Each time I do it some additional improvements have been made. It’s getting better every year. This time of year there is not much to see along the trail. A damned up creek forms a trailside pond. I spotted two bald eagles in trees along the edge of the pond.

The trail ends in a parking lot that continues on to scary US 301. This is a high speed, four lane, divided highway. I think driving it is unsafe so you can guess how I feel about riding it.

I backtracked along the trail and hung a left on Middletown Road, a lightly traveled two lane country road. Weee!

From the book map, I could tell that Middletown would soon meet up with the route in the book. And sure enough it did. At US 301. All I had to do was ride on this highway of death for 1/2 mile. I did and it was pretty scary.

The book route is a figure eight. I had already ridden half of one loop of the 8 now I was looking to doing the other loop before returning to finish the first loop. I noticed that this meant that I’d be going against the directional arrows in the book. No big deal…..

The route took me into La Plata Maryland. La Plata is the county seat of Charles County Maryland. Charles County used to be all about tobacco growing and casinos. Both are long gone, replaced by a bed room community. It is a distant suburb of DC and Annapolis.

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It dawned on me for the very first time that this town bears the same name as the hometown of an Argentinian friend of mine. Our La Plata has cinderblock evangelican churches. Their La Plata has a gothic cathedral. Our La Plata has a horrifically scary highway blasting through town. Their La Plata has tree lined boulevards that radiate from a central square. (Their street grid actually looks a lot like DC with boulevards cutting diagonally across a a grid of streets.) Our La Plata has the world’s best barbeque. (It said so on a sign so it must be true.) Theirs has world class padbol. (Don’t ask.) Our La Plata is a tornado magnet. Theirs not so much. Both, as it turns out, have Thai massage therapists. Whoda thunk?

I passed through our La Plata and kept going. Then I found out that going against the arrows was not such a good idea. The route took me back to 301. To stay on course, I was supposed to ride the shoulder of 301 against the traffic for 1/2 mile.

Not gonna happen.

So I crossed 301 and continued on the country road opposite in hopes it would re-connect me with the route. After 1 1/2 miles I came to a fancy gate. Very big and impressive looking. With keyed entry. The road continued through the gate and wound up a hill to a massive house overlooking acres and acres of carefully groomed land. Next to the gate was a sign that said “Private Road.”

Not gonna happen.

Frustrated, I turned around and decided to head back to La Plata. After back tracking halfway to town I decided to look at the map. Sure enough I could actually get back of course by riding a big circle to the east. It looked like about a five mile detour on country roads. Onward!

It actually turned out to be a mighty nice ride. There was one big downhill to a creek crossing and an uphill on the other side but the views were pretty and the traffic was light.  Then, about a mile from re-crossing 301 I came upon Rich Hill. Straight up. No messing around. I do believe they should change its name to Bitch Hill.

Finally, I re-crossed 301 and was back on course. Chapel Point Road is another lovely two-lane country road that meanders by farms and fields. At the top of a hill is a beautiful old church. It’s bell was ringing the three o’clock hour. Next to the church was a graveyard. Just beyond, the hill fell away and the Port Tobacco River could be seen down below bathed in the late November sun. I really should have taken a picture but I was worried that any more delays might leave me out in the dark. I didn’t bring any lights so this was a pretty serious consideration.

The road followed the drop off of the hill and wound up, down, and around small hills that overlooked the river. As the road nears Port Tobacco, it passes dilapidated tobacco barns. Then the remnants of the original settlement from colonial days can still be seen. The US Census says the population is 13. Quaint.

On the far side of the town of Port Tobacco is Rose Hill. I remember Rose Hill from all the times I rode the Southern Maryland Century. It winds up and gets steeper near the top.  What makes it hard is heat and humidity. There was little of either today so I managed to climb the hill without too much difficulty. Perhaps my ease in climbing was relative. After making it up Bitch Hill, Rose Hill wasn’t so bad.

The rest of the ride was rolling hills on country roads. I was worried that I’d get caught in the dark with temperatures falling so I kept plugging along. It was something of a relief to get back to the trail. The trail goes gradually uphill for 5 miles to Indian Head. This sort of false flat can really be discouraging, especially after you’ve already ridden farther than you intended.

Pedal. Pedal.

Soon I was riding under the archway at the trail head. I made it back to my car with plenty of daylight left and 53.5 miles on my odometer. I could feel the air cooling as I prepped for the drive home.

So there is no shame in La Plata. What would you expect for a town that lived off of tobacco and gambling?

Time for some leftovers. My mama always said that it’s a shame to waste food.