Monthly Archives: September 2014

PPTC Back Roads Century

Today’s ride: The Back Roads Century is held at the end of September in Berryville Virginia. The century course has two loops; 50 miles north through West Virginia, and another 50 miles south through Virginia. The metric course uses the south loop, and both loops give you great views of the Blue Ridge mountains.  The course is rolling, and the century has approximately 4000 feet of climbing, with more climbing on the south loop than the north. Starting early is a good idea for this century, and the morning is typically cool, but the course loops back to the start, so any jackets or warmers you take on the north loop you can remove before the south loop. The roads are mostly rural, and there is seldom traffic to worry about apart from the times when he ride crosses local highways. The rest stops are well done, with special treats like salted baked potatoes and tomato and cucumber sandwiches.  Potomac Pedalers Touring Club holds this ride, and the volunteers do a good job for the riders. 

The Experience: I arrived before dawn, having gotten up early and driven for an hour and a half to arrive at the start before many of the volunteers. I prepared to go in the early light, and rolled out with Carol, Eric, john and Carol’s friend Johanna.  The morning was cool, and I wore arm warmers for the first loop.  The local authorities chose to crack down on the cyclists on the ride, and some riders were ticketed, but it seemed to me that they were being antagonistic.  John got going quickly with other riders, but the rest of us stayed together. We rolled into West Virginia and made it into the first rest stop at a good pace. The day was starting to warm up, and we headed back toward Berryville with the mountains around us lighting up as the sun rose higher overhead.  We finished the first loop easily, with Eric and I getting out ahead of Carol and Johanna on the climbs.  We joined up again for the start of the second loop, and John stayed with our group, but Johanna began to feel ill and abandoned. The rest of us collected ourselves at the 62 mile rest stop. Once again, Eric and I stayed together, with Carol and John pacing each other behind us. With the heat building and the road rolling, Eric began to slow. He had been on vacation and had been off of the bike for a few weeks, so as the road rolled, I stayed with him as much as possible to keep the team together.  We got a break at mile 79, as well as some fabulous tomato sandwiches, and attacked the next set of rollers.  We were past tired as we made it to mile 92 and the final rest stop, and had some shaved ice to cool down. John and Carol found us before we left, but we set back out and rode strongly for the final 8 miles.  The rolling terrain was a challenge in the last 35 miles, but the views of the Blue Ridge were spectacular, and the weather favored us to help make this year’s Back Roads Century another memorable ride. 

Selections from my mental iPod during the ride: “If I Didn’t Love You” by Squeeze,  “What Difference Does It Make” by The Smiths, and “Obscurity Knocks” by the Trashcan Sinatras. 

Stats: 100.54 Miles ridden.  The day showed us the best of the Blue Ridge.     



A scene from the rest stop at Mile 62.


The crew that rode the Back Roads: Carol Linden, John Koehnlein, Eric Sanne, and myself.

Indian Head 100

Today’s ride: The Indian Head 100 out of Indian Head Maryland is a century for riders that is organized by riders, and it shows. The Oxon Hill Bike Club, which sponsors the event, has made this ride a good experience for the participants. The course is rolling, and the rests stops are scenic, with river views at the rest stops and excellent food. This is a Sunday ride on the first weekend in September, and it can be hot, but the course is well shaded with plenty of scenery to look at.  

The Experience: This was my second century on consecutive days. 200 Miles in a weekend is difficult, but many of my friends and I ride back to back centuries as a challenge.  The night before Indian Head, a front swept through the area, cooling the temperature and pulling the humidity out of the air. Despite having to cope with tired legs, a large group of friends got together to roll out early from the community center at Indian Head. Not all of us were on the Century course, and one was coming back from cancer treatments, but Indian Head is a classic ride, and the conditions couldn’t have been better.  We got right to the climbing and negotiated the first section in good form. Yellow wildflowers were growing thick on the roadsides, and we all got to the first rest stop together while riding strong, We had our fill of the famous egg, ham and cheese sandwiches on english muffins at the first stop. The century riders split with the riders on shorter distances and headed out to ride the rollers on Riverside Road, which is a classic stretch of road that puts riders on a shaded roller coaster for nearly 12 miles. The second rest stop came soon after, and Ron, Tony Lehr, Rita Spence and I kept up a good pace and came into the rest stop riding well. We refreshed ourselves and headed out on the long leg to St. Ignatius Church, and more wonderful views over the Potomac. The course led us to the Thomas Stone House rest stop after a climb up Rose Hill, and with 10 miles to go and the scenic Indian Head Rail trail ahead, we finished our back to back century weekend on the trail with views of the wetlands around Indan Head. One of my favorite rides came though for me again.

Selections from my mental iPod during the ride: “The Perfect Girl” by The Cure,  “Cliffs of Dover” by Eric Johnson, and “I Saw Her Standing There” by the Beatles. 

Stats: 100.22 Miles ridden.  A perfect weather day.  


Our group the first Rest Stop. Left to right – Tony Lehr, Russ Altemose, Myself, John Koehnlein, Ron Tripp and Rita Spence


The long view from St. Ignatius Church over the cemetery. The rest stops have views of the river.

Amish Country Bike Tour

Today’s ride: The Amish Country Bike Tour starts in Dover DE, at the town square. The ride rolls out of town and through Delaware’s Amish country. This is a relatively flat ride along country roads, and because it is held the first weekend in September, it’s often hot.  Since the country you’ll ride through is open, you have to cope with winds as you ride. Among the attractions are homemade pies served at the second rest stop. The riders get a barbecue meal after the ride.

The Experience: Once again, I rode with my friend Ron Tripp, and Rita Bell. Unlike our experience with the ShoreFire Century, we ride with three of Rita’s friends from Sussex County Cyclists in Southern Delaware, where the pace of life is slow, but the pace of riding is very fast. We rolled out well before the mass start that was scheduled for 8am, but we had quite a bit of company on the roads as we made the most of the cool morning. At the first rest stop Michelle, her friend Jay and her other friend Jay joined us, after which the pace increased. I can’t be too upset by that, despite the fact that Ron and I would ride another century the following day (more on that in another post) we all felt good that early in the ride before the heat built up. We all enjoyed a slice of homemade pie at the second stop (I had the peach pie – it was heavenly) and rode away as the heat of the day began to build.  By this time pace became both friend and foe; the motion cooled us, but when the wind wasn’t with us, we were using a lot of energy.  When we got to the third stop in Felton, DE the heat was getting oppressive. When there is little shade and the heat and humidity is high, the pavement is the sun’s anvil, and cooling off is important. We set off on a short loop that would take us back to Felton, and we were drinking often, but on that section, young Jay from Sussex fell prey to the heat, and his teammates looked after him while Ron, Rita and I rode back to Felton.  Some of those at the stop had begun their ride with the mass start, and still had to ride the short loop back to Felton in the high heat. I poured water over myself to cool down while I silently praised our decision to leave earlier.  I was drinking a lot, but it felt like I was barely staying cool enough to avoid a bonk myself. The ride back into Dover was a straight road with a tailwind, and despite the heat we managed to ride strong all the way back to the square in Dover.  Our friends all made it back, after Jay recovered from his difficulties, and our Amish Tour was complete.

Selections from my mental iPod during the ride: “Just Play Music” by Big Audio Dynamite,  “Til I Hear it From You” by The Gin Blossoms, and “I Have the Touch” by Peter Gabriel. 

Stats: 100 Miles ridden.  The heat and humidity made it impossible to drink enough, but we managed to stay cool enough to finish comfortably.  


A Selection of homemade pies at the second rest stop.


Holding up a wall in Felton, DE.