After Saturday’s grueling (but fun) 50 States Ride, I woke up at 5 a. m., just rarin’ to go. Not. My legs felt like lead but I managed to get myself downstairs and planted my face in a bowl of Cheerios. Feeling my oats, I plunked Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, on the bike rack on the back of my car and headed off to DC.
The plan was to do the Backroads Metric Century in the northern Shenandoah Valley with Kristen. I volunteered to pick up Kristen’s friend Elizabeth (@ymax) in DC on my way to Berryville. I arrived at her place at 6 on the dot.
The drive took about 90 minutes, including a good 10 minutes waiting in the long line to park. We were somewhat concerned that it would be hard to find Kristen who had already transported Elizabeth’s bike. Just before pulling into our parking space we spotted Kristen and her husband standing a few feet away. We took this to be a good omen.
We lingered for just a moment at the start. A recumbent trike rider offered to sell me a lightly used fairing for Big Nellie. I just might take him up on the offer.
And we’re off, me on a recumbent, Kristen on her hybrid, and Elizabeth on her carbon fiber road bike. In addition to having a rocket ship for a bike, Elizabeth is the perfect body type for hilly cycling: thin, fit, and small. Once she warmed up, she was gone!
Kristin, as it turns out, is a mom on a mission and a hill climbing machine. Her technique is to ride down hills in a tuck and then power up the next rise. I spun my ass off on Big Nellie but there was no power at all in my legs. This was going to be a long day.
We rode more or less together for the first leg of our journey, through farmers’ fields with views of the fog rising from the crops with the Blue Ridge to the east. The first rest stop was at an old mill. It was a food fest. The highlight was the baked potatoes with salt and butter. There was also a trio of musicians including banjo and harp for our musical enjoyment. As much as we wanted to stay, we had play to do.
On the road to the next stop, I found myself lagging behind my posse. Along comes Jeff who I saw at the start of the 50 States. Jeff has a talent for sneaking up on me. He once spotted me in a crowd in the rain on Bike DC. Jeff crashed on the 50 States Ride and hurt his right arm which he said was quite painful. Even one armed, Jeff can bury me on a bike. He was gone in short order.
Up, up, up. Pedal, pedal, pedal. Into a headwind.
The next rest stop came at the top of a hill at around 11 a.m.. We had expected to see Kristen’s husband and kids, but he was out boozing again. Just kidding. There was a little interspousal miscommunication.
After a few minutes we were spinning back down the way we came with the wind at our backs. Fields of hay and corn and soy, cows and sheep and alpacas and horses, stone walls and white fences. Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River.
The course is entirely on backroads. Duh. We crossed a couple of busy highways but never rode along them. I learned after the ride that there is about 10 percent more climbing on this ride than on the 50 States. It felt like it.
Many miles and hills later we came to our next stop at the town of White Post, so cleverly named after the white post at the center of town where two roads meet. (It would suck if they replaced the post with a big trash can.) While munching some tomato and mayo sammiches, Kristen spotted an amazing sight. About a month ago on the 2013 Hoppy 100 ride, our band of merry beer hounds helped a guy get medical help after he crashed his bike in the rain on a bridge in DC. He was a bloody mess and was clearly going into shock. So it was pleasant surprise to see him in one piece out on his first bike ride since the crash. Except from a couple of gnarly looking fingernails, he looked quite well. While talking to him, Mike, a regular at Friday Coffee Club appeared. Mike was doing the full century so he was soon off on a mileage quest of his own.
After chatting we headed out under threatening skies. Thankfully, the rain stayed away but we rode the next ten miles under cloudy skies. More hills made my legs achy, but spin we must. I could feel my quadriceps spasming from time to time. How it would suck if they seized up, but, at the last rest stop after eating some mango gelato, it was Kristen who started having leg cramps. Fortunately they went away with some stretching.
As we were leaving somebody said that there was a 16 percent incline in the last few miles. I couldn’t recall one and I was right. The last big hill was 6 percent and plenty long but nothing we couldn’t handle. A few times on this ride we rode passed roadies in Lycra doing the walk of shame, waddling up the steep hills in their cleated bike shoes. The three of us are proud to report that we rode every single blessed uphill without dismounting.
At the finish there was food and hugs all around. Despite the dead legs, I had a great time.
50 States Postscript: When I got home, I changed the flat on The Mule. The tire must have had 20 small cuts in the casing. Time for a fresh tire. I could use some fresh legs too.
Thanks to Kristen for getting me to sign up. It was great to ride with Elizabeth too. You may see her around these parts on a bike. She’ll be that little black dot receding into the distance in front of you.
Here are a few pix of our Backroads adventure.