Today’s ride: The 6 Pillars Century in Cambridge MD. Held on the first Saturday in May, 6 Pillars runs from Cambridge on the Choptank River south through the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge to Hoopers Island, then heads back up the bay and circles east, passing through the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge again. The ride itself is very flat, which can take it’s toll on all of a rider’s contact points with the bicycle, hands, seat and feet. The largest hills on the ride are bridges, and the conditions that will take the biggest toll on riders is wind. 6 Pillars takes riders through tidal flats, small towns and open farmland. A variety of birds and other wildlife can be seen in the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge, including Ospreys, Herons, and Red-winged Blackbirds.
The Experience: This year’s 6 Pillars Century started out with the threat of rain. The forecast didn’t call for it, but the hours before dawn were wet. By 7am the rain had stopped, leaving wet roads and gray skies overhead. At 7:30, my group set out with layers for warmth and rain protection, but as the morning progressed, it was only needed to keep the spray from our tires off of us. 7 of us rode together – Myself, Ron, Tony, Eric, John, Carol and Stephanie – who was riding her first century. It was a calm morning, and we rode at a comfortable pace out of Cambridge, staying together. At the first rest stop we picked up another rider, Holly, who rides with the Oxon Hill Bicycle Club and knows most of us. As we rode on, the weather had been improving. We left the second rest stop and headed to Hooper’s Island with a tailwind. John, Eric and I jumped out at the bridges and sprinted over them for fun. We crossed over to South Hooper’s Island and turned back, with the roads starting to dry and the wind picking up. We pushed back into the wildlife refuge and made the rest stop at 63 miles feeling good. By that time our fist time century rider had gone as far as she ever had on a bicycle, with 38 miles to ride. The next leg went through some marshland over roads that were often submerged at high tide. At one point, because of the rains over the previous week, we found ourselves riding through approximately 100 yards of standing water. As we rode into the final rest stop, the sun had come out and the temperature had gotten into the low 60’s. At that point my jacket wasn’t needed, so I folded it up and put it into a jersey pocket. I was feeling good, and rode to the front with Eric. We soon found we’d broken away from the group. Instead of sitting up, we finished strong, and waited for the others, including Stephanie, who came in with Ron and Tony to finish her first century. In the end, we came back to the parking lot and celebrated our ride.
Selections from my mental iPod during the ride: “Manhattan” by Eric Johnson, “I Love You Suzanne” by Lou Reed, and “E=MC2” by Big Audio Dynamite.
Stats: 100.12 Miles ridden. A cool day with warm company.
Getting ready to start. Tom, Ron, Carol, Stephanie, Tony, John and Eric.
Eric and I at the Third rest stop, at the North end of the bridge between Hooper’s Island and South Hooper’s Island.
Stephanie at the finish – Her first century ride is complete!
The Celebration Post ride. The sun is out, and so are the smiles!