A Truly Great Pumpkin Ride

I don’t much care for pumpkin pie.

Each year just before Halloween, the folks at the Fauquier Trails Coalition in Fauquier County, VIrginia put on their Great Pumpkin Ride. I’ve done this ride a few times before and it has always been a fun challenge. Last year’s ride, for instance, included cool temperatures and a constant headwind despite the fact that the route was a 45-ish mile circuit. The ride always gives back though. The scenery is classic Virginia Piedmont countryside and the food at the rest stops is always great. This year didn’t disappoint. In fact, it exceeded my expectations.

I began by picking my long-time riding buddy Lisa up in Hyattsville, Maryland. I managed to get lost going to and from her house which takes some doing, I suppose. We made it to Warrenton, Virginia where the ride starts and ends at around 8:45. The 68-mile riders were already heading out. We took our time getting ready. Chatted with Kirstin and Betsy, a.k.a Boots. They decided to ride the 68-mile course while Lisa and I were doing the 47-miler. While waiting I decided to shed my wind pants as the temperature was climbing into the high 50s.

Lisa and I went to get our shirts and maps and such. I was standing in line looking all about for familar faces when I realized that Reba and her husband Robert were standing directly in front of me. Doh!

Robert, Lisa, and Reba at the start

The four of us decided to ride together and we were soon on the road. We seemed to be a well-matched quartet rolling along at 15 miles per hour give or take. My legs were not happy with me since I had not had a day of rest from biking or hiking in over two weeks. In prior years the sky was gray and the foliage seemed past peak. This year we had beautiful blue skies with some pretty decent foliage to delight our eyes. At our first big intersection I took a wrong turn which is pretty much my new thing these days. Reba and Robert corrected me and we were soon in pursuit of Lisa who actually knows how to read a cue sheet. Ironically, Kirstin and Boots managed to miss this turn and screw up their route. They ended up doing the 47 miler about 30 minutes ahead of us. Considering the fact that I took Kirstin off route in this same area a couple of months ago, I felt a certain amount of vindication or, perhaps, camaraderie. There is comfort in shared stupidity.

This year’s route was slightly different than last year’s. For a start it was counter clockwise. For another there was a rest stop at 10 miles and it was a doozy. The stop was at the Old Bust Head craft brewery. They had (and I am not exagerating) pumpkin pie, Peanut butter and jelly sammiches, roasted soft pretzels, banana bread, coffee, hot apple cider, hot pumpkin soup, cookies, bananas, samples of pumpkin ale, and indoor bathrooms!!!  We ate and drank and basically didn’t want to leave.

Craft brewery

I appear to be one of the few people I know who doesn’t like pumpkin pie.My wife and kids are pumpkin pie addicts, but it just makes me gag. Last Sunday, after our hike, Flor told me about how pumpkin and apple pie are her Kryptonite.  So I decided to give a slice a try during the ride. It wasn’t half bad. The pie filling was mushy but firm and not overly sweet. The crust was moist. Not half bad. At a later rest stop, I threw caution to the wind and tried the pumpkin soup. Yeah, baby. You could freebase this stuff.

IMG_0308

Even better than the soup though were the roasted soft pretzels. Sweet mother of god are they good. Follow them up with some hot apple cider or some pumpkin ale (really pretty tasty) and you have yourself a reason never to get back on the bike.

Somehow we did. We were off and riding and my legs wanted nothing to do with it. I persisted and they came around. Soon we were crusing into rest stop number 2. Here I found a table with brown bags of goodies for people on gluten free diets. This ride is organized!

Speaking of organization, all troublesome intersections were staffed by sherrifs with their lights flashing. These law enforcement officers could not have been more helpful or polite. What a shame Backroads doesn’t have this type of cooperation.

We rolled along past houses, farms, and fields. Then we heard a train whistle blow. Reba entertained us with her version of Johnny Cash railroad songs. During Folsom Prison Blues, she even threw in some air guitar. Somewhere Carl Perkins smiled.

Lisa and me and the road ahead

As we approached the third and final rest stop, Robert started to habe cramps in his legs. This looked painful. He ulled out a tube of cold stuff that was supposed to relax his muscles. After our final stop, we decided that Lisa and I would forge ahead while Reba and Robert would take it slow to the finish.

We alll made it. And wouldn’t you know it there was more food at the finish. And a pretty decent three-piece rock band. And food. We decided to move our party indoors and headed to Molly’s, an Irish-themed pub in the historic center of town. Lo and behold there were Kirstin and Boots doing shots with a motorcycle gang.

Okay, actually they sitting alone having a post-ride lunch. (For the record, the Irish stew that Boots was eating looked amazing!)

We merged our tables and had us a  nice little after party. Since we had been to their brewery, Lisa and  I tried the Bust Head Porter. I found it waaaaay better than pumpkin pie. I do believe we may have to take the Hoppy 100 west next year!

My thanks go to the folks who planned this ride, to the volunteers who seemed to be everywhere, to the sheriff and his staff for doing a terrific and cheerful job of keeping us safe, and to the people of Fauquier County who put up with 1250 bicyclists for a day. I look forward to eating my way through the Piedmont again next year.

As usual my (and some of Reba’s) pix of the ride can be found on my Flickr page.

Lisa writes more better than me. Here‘s her account of the day.

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3 thoughts on “A Truly Great Pumpkin Ride

  1. What a great day for a bike ride in the countryside. I too was impressed with the friendly and helpful police presence at intersections and the gluten-free options. This ride goes on my calendar for next year!

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