My favorite bike event is the 50 States Ride here in DC. I’ve written about it many times. It’s hilly. It’s hot, except when it rains like a monsoon. It’s long. It has an impossibly complicated cue sheet. And I have met dozens of people doing it.
For some reason I have had it in my head that this September would be my 10th time riding it. Nope. Only number 9. Bless me father for I have sinned.
I did the ride in 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016. I skipped 2008 and 2009 to attend my son’s high school football games. 2010 was so hard that I never wanted to do it again before being coerced by a friend who I met on the 2007 ride. By 2014, I had once again decided to retire but the same friend convinced me to do it again. In 2015 I was in Australia visiting my globe trotting kids. Last year was a solo effort.
So this year will be number 9. I am delaying my bike tour just so I can ride it. Registration isn’t yet open. I highly recommend doing this ride at least once, especially if you are new to DC.
Not to get ahead of myself, but if all goes according to plan, I’ll do the 2018 50 States Ride as a victory lap after a cross country bike tour.
Today was the annual Tour Dem Parks, Hon ride in Baltimore. Charm City has its, well, charms, and, as it turns out, so does this ride. I learned about this ride from my friend Paris who I ran into a couple of years ago when I was visiting Baltimore. Paris was in the middle of the ride and having a blast. So, it went on my to-do list.
Things didn’t start particularly well. I had hoped that my friend Linel, bike commuter and mama to Daphne the wonder dog, was hoping to join me. Sadly she bailed last night. So I did the ride solo.
The ride is a counterclockwise circuit of the city of Baltimore. The route passes through eight city parks. Along the way, the ride shows off the city’s extensive bike route system, including the Jones Falls, Gwynns Falls, and Herring Run Trails.
The trails and the city could use a lot of sprucing up. Some of the trails were riddled with tree routes. Some of them are signed routes on sidewalks. The city is a strange mix of beautifully restored and maintained old buildings, hundreds of row houses, and a depressing number of dilapidated buildings, commercial, industrial, and residential. It struck me as sad that I was riding through slums with a view of a publicly funded football stadium in the distance.
Normally, I bring a point and shoot camera with me. And I did today. I forgot to charge its battery so there would be no picture taking on the fly.
Enough depressing stuff. The ride itself began in very comfortable temperatures with pleasant breezes. Since it begins on a trail there is a long string of bicycles for the first five miles. You just have to be chill, and I was. Not having a working camera or anyone riding with me made for a very meditative mood. I’d get into my trance focusing on my legs spinning then snap out of it when another rider would do something unexpected (like veer in front of me, stop in the middle of the trail, etc.)
The scenery varied. Druid Hill Park, the Cylburn Arboretum, and Gwynns Falls and Leaking Park were all stellar. They provided dense shade and rippling streams. At one point we went through Dickeyville, a 19th century village. The road wound past stone walls and picket fences. Beautiful.
Long stretches of the ride were on city streets. Traffic was practically non existent. This let me get my speed fix. My Cross Check may weight a lot but it can roll nicely.
After Leaking Park we rode to the Inner Harbor, passing briefly through Carroll Park. Near the inner harbor we climbed to Federal Hill Park with its views of the harbor.
After the inner harbor we went to Patterson Park where we had a rest stop at a pagoda. This is such a beautiful structure and a stop you really need to make if you ever visit. It’s not always open. (It was today but I passed on taking in the view from the top. I’ve climbed the steps many times before.)
Just behind the pagoda there was a yoga class wrapping up on the lawn. Shucks, I missed it.
The ride headed on city streets into the northeastern section of the city. Clifton Park seemed more about playing fields than most of the rest of the parks. This was followed by Herring Run Park, where there was a rest stop at 32 miles. My cue sheet had a big 35 on the front so I wondered why a rests top was needed three miles from the finish. The answer was that the ride was actually 37 miles long.
Once we entered the Inner Harbor area we were riding on shadeless streets and the temperature was in the low 90Fs, warmer still because of all the asphalt and the masonry row houses.
So what’s a couple more miles when your cookin’, right. As it turns out the last two miles were in shady Druid Hill Park. Ahh.
On the way up the next to last hill, I ran into John Roche pulling daughter Ellie in a trailer. John used to live in DC, but he and his wife Kate left town a couple of years ago. We chatted for a minute. Ellie was looking pretty wiped out. They headed home and I headed to the finish for a burger (excellent), a hot dog (meh), and a cold beer (might fine).
Before leaving for DC, I stopped by John’s house. I expected Ellie to be asleep but she was full of energy. The last time I saw John and Kate, Kate was past her due date, so this was my first time to hang out with Ellie. She’s a charmer. She speaks a form of English only day care teachers can translate. Talking to her was a bit like watching a French movie; I could understand a word here and there, but it was hard work. After an hour or so, I headed back to DC.
I think the drive home was harder than the ride. I was groggy from the heat.
Bottom line: this is a ride well worth doing. It is a good companion ride to the Tour du Port event that I’ve done four or five times.
Today was the Vasa ride, the kickoff to the #bikedc event season. This event is staged by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association in collaboration with the House of Sweden, the Swedish Embassy.
Instead of riding – I’ve done the ride at least four times, and ridden the course(s) many more – I decided to volunteer. I was assigned to work on the early morning shift. When I awoke at 5:17 am (digital alarm clock) I could hear rain pelting the windows. Not good. The weather report called for cold rain or snow until about the time of the ride(s) – there are four Vasa rides to choose from – start.
I drove to DC. My advanced meteorological training told me it was yucky. I parked a block from the start and walked over to find WABA’s Nick Russo and Jon Gonzales hard at work in a cold, light rain. They had already set out several temporary bike racks. A few volunteers were gathering and soon we were putting up canopies and bike racks and sign in tables and such. We had the whole thing set up in minutes.
The ride was sold out but there were many no shows. Traffic at the check in tables was slow but steady. I had the good fortune of working with Lesly Jones. I met Leslie years ago on a 50 States Ride. She is all positive energy. I have ridden parts of 3 or 4 50 States Rides with her. She is the only bicyclist I have ever met who uses echolocation to navigate. She talks nonstop, except when she is laughing. She is one very serious bicyclist. Last year she rode cross country. Lesly is a force.
From time to time the wind would pick up. We were standing in one place for long periods of time and our fingers and toes were going numb. Lesly stayed positive. Me not so much. Then my finger started bleeding. (I took off a chunk of skin yesterday while closing a padlock.) Lesly found me a bandage. The only person who didn’t seem to be all that cold was Nick who seemed to be wearing less clothing than the rest of us. Nick’s motto is “Don’t blame me, I’m from Massachusetts.” He is impervious to cold weather. I hate him. (Just kidding.)
Despite the weather the riders seemed to be in a good mood. You might say they were rolling with it. Many dropped from longer rides to shorter ones. One woman decided not to ride but came down to the start saying, “I came for the blueberry soup.”
A few of my friends cancelled because of the weather. Paul stayed home to eat quiche. Ryan decided to binge watch the Gilmore Girls. Still, I saw several more people I knew. Scuba enthusiast Michael B showed up in a wet suit. (I thought the aqualung was overkill, to be honest.) Some people were a tad grumpy, but I think most were simply wanting to get moving to warm up.
The standing around was making my legs feel like concrete posts. At about this time, the last of the riders hit the road. This final group was doing the 8 mile family ride. It was led by a dad riding a long cargo bike. He had one kid in the box in front and another on a trailer bike in the back. Riding in the rear of the group was a pedicab. Not to be outdone, one of the longer routes was ridden by a man in a velomobile.
After the riders were gone we made quick work of putting all the check-in stuff back in the rental truck. I went into the Swedish embassy to get some blooberry soop. It was hot and tasted awesome. I chatted with a few folks before my body decided it was time to go home and recover the sleep that I had lost.
Everybody I know who rides bike events in the DC area raves about the Seagull Century. Seagull is held every October out of Salisbury University on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. With over 6,000 participants paying in-season hotel rates, this ride provides a big economic boost. I did not participate in the hotel part of the proceedings, however, choosing to forgo some sleep to save a few bucks.
I left home at 4:30 a.m.
I arrived at Salisbury just before 7. I put my cue sheet on my bike. Threw on my rain jacket because the skies were overcast, and headed to the start. I looked around for people I knew but, seeing no one, set out on my own.
Getting to the start involved riding through a tunnel. Weee!
The start was obstructed by people milling about and straddling their bikes. This was a good reminder that people would be lacking situational awareness during the ride.
After about a mile I struck up a conversation with another rider who told me that organizers had chopped off four miles of the 100-mile route due to flooding. It had rained 15 inches in the area during the previous weeks causing major flooding in some communities along the course. After discussing the flood, he asked me what time I was trying to reach. Time? Seriously? I usually try to reach a zen moment by mile 30 but that’s about the extent of my riding goals.
Within five miles, Chris M. (@manymodecommute on the Twitter) pulled up along side me. We met on the inaugural Cider Ride a few years ago. Ever since I have struggled to remember his face. Another victim of my defective fusiform gyrus. Also, Chris is chatty so the zen thing kind of went out the window. (Except for about a minute late in the ride when my brain went on vacation and Deets decided to ride some rumble strips. How I managed to keep all my filling is a mystery.)
Chris was riding about 1 – 2 miles per hour faster than I normally do but I decided to ride with him anyway. We zipped along in an every changing pack of bcycles.A while ago someone told me that it was wise to skip the first rest stop. They were right. It was a madhouse.
Chris and I made our way through all the people lingering on the road and headed forth looking for Rest Stop No. 2.
Meanwhile we noticed that the road was utterly flat. For those of you wishing to do a very fast 100 mile bike ride, this is your dream ride. I wasn’t looking to prove anything but it was hard not to ride fast. Despite my efforts to make Deets gallop, we were getting passed by scores of bicyclists, sometimes gather in groups. Velomobiles also clipped by us. These are little bike cars.
At the second rest stop 40 miles into the proceedings we had some water and some rather disappointing snacks. A participant while refined interwebs taste said “Hi Rootchopper. I like your blog.” Once again my fusiform gyrus failed me. (If you read this, please identify yourself.)
Trees. Sodden farmers’ fields. Chicken farms. I kept saying we were getting a headwind but Chris was pretty sure we weren’t. It was just the fact that I rarely ride 17 -20 miles per hour.
Just before 60 miles we approached Assateague Island. The bridge to the island looked ominous. It was a trick of the eye. We flew over it.
The rest stop at Assateague was a bit better than the previous one. It had packaged, crustless PB&J sammichers. They looked like sponge bread raviolis. The texture was strange but the calories were welcome.
As we left the island we stopped for a photo op with some ponies. Chris is a better wild pony model than I am.
Once we came off the bridge we encountered a bona fide headwind. You mean we have to work at this? Well I never! It was short-lived. In fact, the overcast skies and light winds made for a perfect day to ride hard. We obliged.
Another ludicrously flat 20 miles went by in a flash. The final rest stop loomed. After I parked Deets, I picked up another rider’s bike after it had fallen over. It was made of carbon fiber. It was about half as light as Deets. No wonder so many riders were passing us. (Note to self: never admit you are fat, old, and slow. Find excuses wherever you can. K? Thks.)
I had heard a rumor about pie on this ride but the first rest stops had left me feeling short changed. But no! There was pie at the last rest stop. Cherry pie with vanilla ice cream too.
Major YUM. Chris has so much will power. He made me leave after one piece of pie. I cried.
The last 20 miles featured a climb over a highway. The overpass actually was a little difficult. Not much. Well, not at all actually. There was even a surprise pit stop that featured, I am not making this up, free beer. Dang. (We did not partake, however.)
We rode to the finish line through a tunnel and past throngs of our adoring fans. Okay, maybe one or two said “Hi” but still..
The after ride festivities were pretty nice too. Music, beer, food that didn’t taste like it was made last week.I even ran into Dave (@darsal) and Jean (@oskarchat) who told me about the amazing exploits of Ricky (@bikeeveryday) and Ryan (@ryansigworth) who scorched the course in under five hours. And a special surprise came from seeing Phil F. who I worked with for about 20 years.
The post ride activity was a fun game of Find the Car. When you get up at 4 a.m. and river over two hours you don’t think to make a note of where you park. I had plenty of company. I think I won the game though. I found a campus map. Then made my way to the route I drove in on. That led me to my car. Ta da. Only took me 30 minutes.
Another bonus was the fact that the Nats game got rained out. Now I can recover watching the game tomorrow.
Special thanks to the organizers and volunteers at this very well run event. You did yourselves proud. Also thanks to the many police officers (including Maryland State Troopers) who protected us at busy intersections. And to the EMTs who carted a handful of riders from the course after they crashed.
Bottom line: If you want to do a first century ride, this is your event. The flat course made 100 miles much easier than most metric (62 mile rides I’ve done). If you want to ride your fastest 100 mile ride, this is also the event for you.
Being confronted with adversity in your life is inevitable. Just keep in mind that it does not have to defeat you. Adversity is often short lived. Giving up is what makes it permanent. As a certified fitness professional, this blog is my way of helping you feel capable of anything.