Friday, December 31, 2010

RUSA Showers Pass Jacket Offer!

Snow is in the air, and we may not be seeing liquid precipitation for some time, but ...

For RUSA members only, RUSA is offering a limited-time opportunity to purchase a RUSA-Branded Showers Pass Elite 2.0 or Double Century cycling jacket at a special price. 

Here is one of the three colors offered:

Although we luxuriate in an arid climate requiring only infrequent bike cleaning, we do have the occasional joust with downpours, the mountain ones quite chilly, and at remote events we certainly value rando-grade rain attire.
A big thanks to RUSA Board and Oregon Randonneurs member Cecil Reniche-Smith for arranging this.  As an Oregonian, she should know good rainwear if anyone does!
-john lee

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

John Klever Polishes Off His R-12!

On a WINDY December 2nd, John Klever completed the twelfth and final month toward his RUSA R-12 award

Here is John at the pre-dawn start of the Kersey Kick 206km Permanent with two-time R-12 awardee Leslie Sutton:

John's January 200k, also a Kersey Kick, was his longest ride ever (I think), and first RUSA ride of any distance.  He followed this up not only with a randonnée per month but longer distances - to see how far he would get. "How far" ended up being the Super Randonneur award: 200km, 300km, and 400km and 600km brevets in one season.

John joins this year's other first-time R-12's: Mike Fox, Steve Le Goff, Michelle Grainger, Tammie Nakamura, Irene Takahashi, and Jane Yant.   Have a look at the complete list.

Congratulations to John and all this year's R-12's!  Will you be next?


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Your Idea for a High Country 1200 Jersey, Logo?

Do you have a great idea for the Colorado High Country 1200 jersey or logo?
Send me your idea!  It can be a design element, a vector file with graphics, whatever gets your idea across.  The plan is to offer a jersey and perhaps a pin.  Recognition and a possible prize if your idea is used!



Monday, November 15, 2010

A Record Flock of Super-Randonneurs!

Congratulations to this year's 28 Super Randonneurs!  That's more than in any other year except the Paris-Brest-Paris years of 2007 (30) and 2003 (32) ... where riders had to complete an SR series to qualify.

What earns you this award?  Riding a 200k, 300k, 400k, and 600k in a season.  The transitions between each distance are a real leap: from part of a day ... to most of a day .. to a day with some night riding ... to (for most folks) back-to-back days with night riding sandwiched in between.  But it's all doable!

ROOKIES - Eight SR's were first-timers: Brett Cook, Cathy Cramer, KC Heck, Michael Henderson, John Klever, Mark Lowe, Tammie Nakamura, and Jane Yant.  Most of the rookies had not ridden beyond 200km before this year, so this was a fast ramp-up into the unknown.

DOUBLE SR - If that weren't enough, Tammie Nakamura and Cathy Cramer (both rookie SR's) became the first local riders ever to achieve two (2) SR series in one season.

The Audax Club Parisien's Super Randonneur series and award have been tested over time as the classic demonstration of randonneuring prowess.  These first-time riders and veterans have demonstrated that you, too, can meet these challenges over even a short range of time (a part of a season!) and then come back and do more.

Have a look at Super Randonneurs going back to 1999 ... and think about what next year might bode for you.  You can do it!


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Farewell to the Mountains?

Perhaps you saw Jan Heine's recent "Farewell to the Mountains" post.  Jan constructed a multi-day 900km+ end-of-season visit through his favorite mountain areas, just in advance of the coming snows in the Cascades.  I enjoyed the evocative narrative and scenes.  Surely many of us can relate.

Of course, "farewell" is far from absolute for the hardier among us who simply move to knobbies or cross-bike setups.  Or to those of us who enjoy wintersport (alpine or nordic skiing, ski randonnée, or snowshowing) ... or those who mix both! 

Meanwhile, we've gotten an extended succession of opportunities to enjoy the high country ... such as the Indian Peaks on the Lefthand Lark 200k:

... or Rocky Flats, the Flatirons, and Longs Peak with a dusting of snow:

... and, oh yes, with winter mountain snows come foothill winds!

Meeker and Longs Peak were brilliant on the Glen Haven Gallivant 200k:

... and still a hint of fall colors in Big Thompson Canyon:

Nice enough to pause for a bite and photo op at the top of Devil's Gulch.

... and nice enough that some of us, such as Ray Rupel on the James Canyon Jaunt, biked from dawn to dusk:

Hope you've enjoyed the balmy weather and the mountain views!


Monday, October 25, 2010

Boston-Montreal-Boston Permanent in 2011!

Boston-Montreal-Boston was America's first 1200k.  From 1988 through 2006 it attracted many an avid rider, up for the challenge of Mount Terrible, Andover Ridge, and Middlebury Gap.  As a three-time finisher, I can attest to the "charm" of the route.

BMB is now offered as the BMB Permanent.  So far one rider has completed it (solo!).  Next August - about the time BMB was normally held - our friend and BMB veteran Susan Plonsky is planning on riding the Permanent.  She invites others to apply to the Permanent Owner (Jennifer Wise, former BMB event director) to ride the Permanent at the same time. 

Though permanents can be ridden at any time (at the route owner's discretion) there are advantages to starting with a group. For example, you may find compatible partners to ride with, and group hotel rates can be arranged.

Just after topping Middlebury Gap near sunset on the first day of BMB'06.  Here are some accompanying photos.

Susan has created a blog with lots of info about BMB - the historical event and the permanent - and a way for interested riders to sign up and to communicate.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Colorado High Country 1200 Unveiled!

After PBP'07, les Randonneurs Mondiaux relaxed the rules so as to allow other 1200k's to be organized in a Paris-Brest-Paris year.  For the US, the result is five (yes, 5!) US 1200k's for your delectation next year, one a month from May through September.  You can check them out via the RUSA homepage.

Among those, the Colorado High Country 1200 may pique your interest, one of the "adventure" 1200k's (along with Alaska's Big Wild Ride).

More details ... and an interest list you can subscribe to ... will be following soon!


Saturday, October 9, 2010

James Canyon Jaunt 200k - Great First-Ever October Brevet!

This year's James Canyon Jaunt 200k was our first brevet edging into October ... to take advantage of what can be some very nice weather!  So it was on the day in question, coaxing 23 riders out of bed for an early start.  (The JJ was actually the first RUSA Colorado Permanent, and a scenic but not harrowing candidate for early October.)

Leaves are a bit past peak in the high country but are just starting to turn on the plains, as you see here near Hygiene:

Kelly Bergkessel, John Mangin, and Jane Yant pause for a photo op while looking for the answer to the info control in front of the Jamestown Mercantile: 

After a transit of Masonville and possibility of made-to-order burgers at Sandy's in Loveland, the ride continued its sunny and wind-friendly ways.  John Mangin and Peter Hoff were typically happy riders at the finish:

Tim Dodge led his gruppetto in for their ceremonial finish.  It's Tim's first ride of this distance since his tumble (and broken clavicle) on the 400k in June.  He rode this in good form on his tricked out, custom rando bike, complete with red fenders, red saddle, and de rigueur picnic-hamper sized handlebar bag.  Welcome back, Tim!

High-powered cyclists John Flanigan, Tim Dodge, Tom Knoblauch, and Jane Yant share the smiles after a congenial day spent taking it easy on the road:

This brevet was such a success, I've put it on the schedule for next year!   Crossed fingers that the weather cooperates as well as it did this time around. 

Meanwhile, it's a great incentive, as more than one rider pointed out, to go for the RUSA R-12 Award, as you've already gotten in your October ride!


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Remember to Vote!

A reminder to vote for the RUSA Board candidates of your choice.  The deadline is October 15.  You may find out about the candidates and vote by paper ballot from the latest issue of American Randonneur or here online.

As usual, a fine field of candidates, all dedicated to randonneuring and to Randonneurs USA, the organization that has done so much to promote randonneuring in the US and US randonneurs' interest abroad.


Colorado RBA ... and RUSA RBA Liaison

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

New American Randonneur Challenge Awardees!

Irene Takahashi rode her first 1200k in June, the mountainous Cascade 1200.  After some relaxation, riding permanents and brevets, she followed this up last week with the Colorado Last Chance 1200k.

Here Irene is looking pleased as a tailwind has come up to waft her to the LC turnaround point at Kensington, KS:

That successful finish means she's now earned the RUSA American Randonneur Challenge award, for finishing two (or more) US 1200k's in a year.  Bravo, Irene!

Vernon Smith also achieved the ARC award this year, also via the Cascade and Last Chance.  No less an accomplishment, even for the seasoned but still cheery Vernon.  Congrats!

Here is Vernon at the Kensington post office on the Last Chance with the other ARC awardee (Paul Foley photo):


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Order Your Super-Randonneur Jersey by October 15!

Once again, the RUSA Super-Randonneur jersey is available from the RUSA Online Store

You may order if you've completed a Super-Randonneur series in any year from 1999 to 2010.

Qualifying events must have been on the RUSA calendar, either ACP-sanctioned or not.

The series consists of a 200k, 300k, 400k, and 600k brevet, and you can substitute a distance up to 99km longer than the required distance (e.g., a 450km RUSA brevet for the 400km requirement).

Order deadline is October 15.  Delivery by December 31.

Questions?  Contact


Have a look at our SR awardees for 2010!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Texas Labor Day Weekend 600k

Still needing a ACP 600K brevet to complete my Super Randonneur, I ventured to Texas for the Lone Star Randonneur's (LSR) Labor Day weekend rando fest. One thousand kilometers of rides were on tap, which allowed an enterprising rider to ride four days in a row. I was in Mineral Wells, Texas, for the 600K brevet on Saturday and Sunday, September 4th and 5th. This was my first Texas brevet.
The ride started at 7:00 am, just as the sun was coming up. There were over thirty riders registered. Many were remarking about the mild temperatures. It was around 60F at the start, and would get up to 90F on Saturday. Apparently, Texas had been having a heat wave, and this was the first weekend were temperatures were under 100F for a long time. Mineral Wells is located in the northern part of what is called Texas Hill Country.

We were immediately into long rollers with the occasional short climb. That would be the theme for the day. There were few long flat stretches. Nothing was really steep, but I never felt like I got rolling. Although I was warned about the rough chip seal of the FM roads (farm to market roads), I don't recall having ever ridden on so much chip seal on a ride. The upside was that there was virtually no traffic, and Texas drivers routinely take the oncoming lane when passing. I noticed that the LSR riders generally rode fat tires, and some had pretty thick bar tape. I reduced the pressure in my tires and found that the ride improved considerably. Chip seal aside, the roads go through some incredibly scenic areas of farms, ranches and parks.

Many small towns on the route seem to be suffering from decline. Yet others seemed well kept and prosperous. Glen Rose was absolutely beautiful, with a park like setting along one of the many rivers in this area. Day one (225 miles) ended with a fast run back to Mineral Wells for the overnight.

Day two started just before sunrise. Upon turning south, we headed into a brisk headwind that would be in our face for the next thirty miles. The nice thing about the wind in this part of Texas is, if you have a headwind going out, you will have a tail wind coming back. The wind didn't shift in the afternoon like you expect in Colorado. Sunday had the look of a club ride. Dan Driscoll, LSR RBA, organized about half the 600K riders into a group that rode together for day two. The temperatures were warmer, reaching the mid 90's. On advice of the locals, I rode with a Camelbak both days. The camaraderie of the LSR group made the ride a lot of fun. The sense of esprit de corps started on Friday night with a group dinner at a restaurant next door to the ride motel.

Since the weather in Texas is mild in the winter, LSR has rides very early in the year with ACP brevets starting in January. Next year, LSR is putting on Texas Rando Stampede 1200K on May 11, 2011. They are extremely organized, friendly and have great cue sheets. I rode with riders from Texas, Washington, Arizona and other states. It was a great experience to ride with this group, and ride in a part of the country I would have never experienced without having done this brevet.
Rick Isham, RUSA 5133

Friday, September 10, 2010

ACP Brevet Medals - Volunteer Needed!

RUSA is looking for someone to help Online Store manager Jennifer Wise in distributing ACP Brevet Medals to those who order them.  Greg Olmstead, who has done an excellent job at this task for some years, is stepping down. 

If you're looking for a way to "give back" to randonneuring, here's a good opportunity!  For details on the duties and how the program works, contact Greg or Jennifer.



Wednesday, September 8, 2010

New Perm Route #932

View from Glenwood Canyon bike path

As a number of you prepare for the epic 1200K Last Chance this is to announce a new ride for your pleasure. This will come in the form of a free route perm called the Rocky Mountain High #932. It is a fun filled point to point route from Grand Junction to Denver and is designed to go from Amtrak stations in Junction to Denver. All told this is 261 miles/ 420km with questionably 14,000 ft of climbing.

Spencer Klaussen of KC has been the inspiration for this ride with his use of Amtrak to get to the ride starts. The days journey puts a rider in GJ around 5 PM just in time to get started.

Using Hwy 6 this parallels I70 the whole distance. At 150 miles the climbing starts at Vail to then goes over Loveland at 202 miles. The Baker trail is now completed from the base of Loveland which keeps one off I70 for that fast descent with the trucks. At this point descending to Denver is great but not without some annoying climbs with dead legs. Finishing up at Union Station was great. We just wish that we had the strength to do this in the 28 hours allowed but we layed up for needed rest in Vail the night before. At this point even without stopping there was no way the two of us could have made it.
Brent and Beth

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Last Chance Pre-Riders Hit the Trail!

At 3am this morning, the four intrepid Last Chance pre-riders hit the trail: Bob Barday, Eric Simmons, Mike Fox, and Susan Plonsky!

Bonne route à tous!


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Rod Geisert Chimes in on the 1000k!

Rod Geisert has let his impressions germinate for a month ... and his muscles heal, and memories soften ... or maybe harden.  You can now read his photo-laced report

Thanks, Rod, and congrats on finishing a tough, tough ride!


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Irene Takahashi at the Cascade 1200!

Last June, our friends Tim "Foon" Feldman, Val and Robin Phelps, Vernon Smith, and Irene Takahashi successfully completed Seattle International Randonneurs' Cascade 1200. 

You can read Irene's story with photos - quite a tale of overcoming adversity to finish her first 1200k!


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Biggest, Toastiest 1000k Yet!

This was probably our toastiest 1000k yet, with temps the first day topping out at 102 degrees. The nearest competition would be from Jack Herrick's inaugural 2001 solo 1000k, with similar temps. Jack said he only hoped a thunderstorm would wend its way in his direction.

Rod Geisert from Columbia, Missouri, takes cranial refuge from the heat.

But this time around, unlike Jack's solo ride, misery had company, with a record eleven riders (and an amazing nine finishers!). Yet if you look at the finish line photos below, these folks look pretty cheery!

Dave Meridith, accomplished ultracyclist from Utah, finished in good form:

Meanwhile, Jeff Erickson from Arlington, Virginia is relaxed and refreshed after a good night's sleep ... because he finished the day before! Eric dodged the full impact of the heat by riding through the nights. Pretty sneaky!

And our local ex-triathlete-turned-rando phenom, Ray Rupel, did just fine, thank you, finishing before dawn on the final day.

Steve Le Goff was happy to finish his first 1000k (or is it the cupcake?), egged on here by wife and RAAM-finisher Michelle Grainger whom circumstances prevented from doing this ride.

Todd LeBlanc reflects with Steve at the finish after his first 1000k ... but not his longest randonnée, which would be the Last Chance 1200k last year:

Mark Gunther from San Francisco says it all with his good-natured attitude, which he showed throughout the ride, and the satisfaction of a voluminous brevet card all filled out:

Check out Mark's ride report and Dale Brigham's ride report.

A special thanks to everyone who signed up to do this big ride, persisted through the climbs and endured the heat! Results in the usual spot.

- john lee

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Dale Brigham's 1000k Saga!

Posted by Dale Brigham, Columbia (Missouri) Bike Club, RUSA #0772

Day 1 (250 miles) started at 4 a.m. with the big group (36 in total) of 400, 600, and 1000 km brevet riders screaming along the net elevation loss route segment to the Platteville checkpoint. It was like being in a road race. Fellow Columbia (Missouri) Bike Club rando Rod Geisert and I slowed down after that checkpoint to a more sane rando pace, joining up with a few riders in route to the Niwot checkpoint, and then after that stop, heading west and north to the Lefthand Canyon climb up to Ward. I had forgotten how steep the last few kilometers are at the top of that climb. Ouch! After lunch at the Ward checkpoint, we descended from the Peak-to-Peak Highway down to Lyons, stopped there for ice and fluids, and then headed north and climbed up to the Carter Lake checkpoint and on to Horsetooth Reservoir (I had no idea that there were that many boats and pickups in Colorado). After passing by Horsetooth, we descended eastbound, turned north and went through Ft. Collins, and then made a big clockwise loop through Wellington and Johnstown before arriving back at Louisville at about half past 11 p.m. It was hot (temperatures on the plains exceeded 100 degrees F), it was hard, my legs were jello, but all was well.

Day 2 (204 miles) took us up north and east to Ft. Morgan, with the route noodling around in many directions, followed by a fairly direct route back to Louisville that included a stint along the I-76 shoulder and frontage road. My riding buddy, Rod, had a very bad heat-induced episode that threatened to stop him at Ft. Morgan. Rod courageously got back on the bike and miraculously rallied after we were drenched by a cooling rainstorm that hit us soon after leaving that checkpoint, which doubly helped us by morphing into a nice tailwind. After about 50 miles of up-and-down plains and foothills riding, broken up by a checkpoint stop in Hudson, we hit our home port at the Comfort Inn in Louisville around 1 a.m. Having to moderate my pace at times to stay with Rod left me relatively "fresh" that day. And, I was never really bothered by the heat. To me, the low humidity more than offset the high temperatures. I felt as good as I can hope to after over 450 miles in the saddle in two days.

Day 3 (175 miles) took us up north to U.S. 34 and the Big Thompson Canyon climb up to Estes Park, with our new rando friend Mark Gunther of San Francisco leading the way. We encountered a microburst storm at the base of the canyon, which tried to bring us to a dead halt and/or blow us over the guardrails. Fortunately, we rode through the storm until we passed it by, and then it was simply a long, hard slog up to Estes Park. We had a nice lunch stop there in the Safeway parking lot, waited out a brief mountain shower, and then descended via Devil's Gulch Rd. to Glen Haven, rejoining U.S. 34 at Drake. Descending is nice!

On the descent, Rod broke a spoke on his rear wheel (it was a low-spoke count/high tension wheel -- a broken spoke was potentially catastrophic), so we limped on to Masonville, where we had a checkpoint and a support vehicle waiting. (My wife, Jo, and Rod's wife, Susan, could meet us on the route only at designated checkpoints, which is the standard brevet rule.) Being Dr. Contingency, I had a spare set of wheels (Open Pro rims/Ultegra hubs/32 DT spokes) and a bunch of tools and other spare parts in the car. Mark helped me change out the spare wheel's 9-speed cogset to Rod's 10-speed cogset, along with changing the spare wheel's tire to Rod's (my Conti touring tires were too large for his racing-type frame). Working together, we got Rod's bike ready to go. At this time, Rod was very cooked by the mid-afternoon heat, so I rode with him in survival mode on south and east to the Platteville checkpoint while Mark motored on ahead.

We had a great revitalizing dinner at Platteville (Susan bribed a local restaurant into cooking up eggs, hash browns, sausage patties, and pancakes), and then we forged on into the sunset, heading west and south toward the Niwot checkpoint. There was a minor navigation glitch on the route (cue) sheet, so we had to backtrack, which meant lots of cursing (by me) and spirited riding to Niwot, arriving there a bit after 11 p.m. We had a brief refreshment stop there, and then after another 15 miles of lumpy foothill riding, we hit the finish line at the Comfort Inn just a few minutes before 1 a.m., for a total brevet time of 69 hours for 629 miles. Mark had finished about an hour prior to us. The time limit is 75 hours, so we all had a nice safety cushion. We had celebratory beers and chips out on the Comfort Inn portico, and then we headed off to showers and bed.

Lessons Learned (or Reinforced):

1) Motorists in Colorado are generally very good around cyclists, compared to most places in the U.S., and almost every road has at least a foot-wide ridable shoulder or designated bike lane. Folks in the small towns we had as checkpoints were very nice to us. Colorado is a great place to ride a bike.

2) Reliability and toughness in equipment trumps everything to me. My heavy touring tires (Conti Touring Plus) were reassuring on the debris covered highway shoulders. No flats. The index function on my right (rear derailleur) bar-end shifter went away on the morning of Day 2, so I simply changed it to friction shift mode, meaning no down time or repair needed on the route. (I did make lots of noisy mis-shifts until I relearned how to shift by feel, but it was kind of fun to go to "old school" shifting for a change.) Fenders were nice to have during the rain storms. My wheels (32 DT spokes/Open Pro rims/Ultegra hubs) stayed true despite lots of potholes, expansion strip gaps, and other wheel-eating road features. The Surly Pacer was good to me.

3) My recently added small handlebar bag was a revelation on this ride. I previously carried everything in my jersey pockets, but moving my energy bars, billfold-in-a-bag (ziplock bag with meds, ID, money, first aid, and other stuff), brevet card, rain jacket, and reflective clothing into the handlebar bag freed up my jersey pockets for extra water bottles. I carried at least one, but most often two, 24 oz. bottles filled with ice water or Gatorade in my jersey pockets during the hot portions of the day. Those bottles, in addition to two 24 oz. insulated bottles filled with ice and water and carried on the bottle cages on the frame, meant that I had up to 3 quarts of ice-cold fluids to start every segment. That made a big difference in the mid-day and afternoon heat. As a bonus, an ice-cold bottle in the jersey pocket has a nice cooling effect on the lower back.

4) Full-zip jerseys are a must for making restroom stops more convenient. Unzip and take off jersey, hang jersey on restroom door handle or other handy hook, pull down bib straps, drop shorts, and you are off to the races. More restroom stops means happier GI tract. Which means happier randonneur.

5) Checkpoint support can mean the difference between finishing a brevet or not. If not for the spare wheels in our support car, Rod would likely have had to abandon the brevet. Besides that, having Jo and Susan at the checkpoints saved us time and effort, and guaranteed that we started every segment fed, watered, and ready to ride. Finally, the morale boost of having someone on the route who cares if you make it is tremendous. I realize that many randos feel that having support on the route is just not kosher, but I am simply too much of a weenie on the multi-day (1000 and 1200 km) brevets to eschew it. Call me the world's laziest randonneur -- I don't mind. Chapeau to the unsupported riders who completed the brevet. You are tougher than I am.

6) Lanacane is super for taking the sting out of sitting on the saddle. Apply liberally and frequently when troubles below arise.

7) Making new friends during a brevet is the best part of the sport. Meeting and riding with Mark Gunther of San Francisco and Todd LeBlanc of Colorado was well worth the price of admission.

8) Having a rando buddy is priceless. On this ride, I was able to assist Rod. On other rides, he has assisted me. On all rides, we are mutually supportive. Having a dedicated partner on the ride makes it all better.

9) Rocky Mountain Cycling Club is a great outfit, and John Lee Ellis is a top-notch RBA. I would recommend your brevets to anyone. Thank you for welcoming us to your event.

10) I am very lucky to be married to a supportive, energetic, and resourceful wife, who helps me do these crazy rides. Thank you, Jo!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Shenandoah 1200 - Surprisingly Surmountable!

With 45,000 to 50,000 feet of climbing, the Shenandoah 1200 promised to be a lot of, well, exertion! (By contrast, Boston-Montreal-Boston and Paris-Brest-Paris claim around 30,000 ft. and the Gold Rush Randonnée clocks in with 26,000, albeit in concentrated form.)

What's more, this year's 42% DNF rate suggests a rough experience. So, would the scenery offset the sweat? I was about to find out!

[Most of these photos, after the first couple, are clickable to enlarge.]

Here is one of the evocative "discomfort-assuaging" vistas on Back Rd.

The folks who do best at the Shenandoah seem to be some mélange of locals, old hands at 1200k's, and just plain tough and indomitable riders. Here, Jim Solanick from Florida, gearing up for his 20th (!) 1200k, waves hello to the folks who made his t-shirt possible: the 1995 Florida qualifying brevets were run by RAAM luminaryVictor Gallo and his wife Gladys, who now live down the road in Boulder.

Woody Graham, my riding pal from South Carolina, has been doing 1200k's since PBP'87, the last rainy year until PBP'07:

Speaking of rain, after a solid day of rain the day before, the ride started clear (which, at 4am, is to say "starry") but muggy ... bringing, not-all-too-surprisingly, dense fog as we headed from Virginia into Pennsylvania. As it burned off, we were treated to atmospheric wooded lanes like this one. A useful scenic distraction on roads like Spruce Run, which "starts out easy ... but ends with a sting" as I was duly warned. Good thing I put on that smaller chainring!

The next leitmotif: Civil War history, as we transited the Gettysburg battlefield National Park and then the NPS Antietam site near Sharpsburg. Calm roads, but replete with impact as you pass through the huge acreage on which these battles took place and reflect on the huge costs they inflicted. Reading a smattering of the many plaques leaves us food for thought:

After a pick-me-up at the Battleview Market in Sharpsburg, we were in store for more ornery climbs over the Catoctin Mountains, zigging and zagging over quiet but sawtooth country lanes.

The big rollers of Middle Road brought us to the big but more extended rollers of Back Road, replete with nice views:

As promised, just after turning onto Back Road, local cyclist and resident Mark Brewer had furnished riders a welcome cache of ice:

Event organizer Matt Settle lives off remote Middle Road, on an even more remote but rustic-looking spur:

As enchanting but hilly Back Road went on and on, it seemed prudent to rehydrate (ha, ha, that means I was parched) at an old-time country store at a crossroads:

And it was scenes like this that uplifted the spirits on this rolling ridge road!

Turning onto VA42 did not dispel the quiet, scenic value of the course, but the hefty rolling nature of the ridge roads attenuated to a more lithely rolling landscape:

In fact, the evening approach into Harrisonburg, the first recommended overnight control, seemed positively docile compared to the foregoing umpteen hours of our ride! I may have even used the aerobars once or twice, at least for show.

Day 2: Henk Bouhuyzen, Paul Donaldson, and I headed off at 3am on a continuation of this mild segment ... with one gnarly interlude over Jennings Gap (but who could really tell, as it was pitch dark?). The shallow descent on Deerfield Valley Road brought us to the Deerfield control at first light:

Here is Henk patiently waiting in the kitchen for Ruby Lee Bryant's made-to-order hefty breakfast:

Controleuse Patsy Lindsay lent a welcome visage not only at Deerfield and Harrisonburg but seemingly everywhere else!
Paul "WGR" Donaldson's orange-motif equipment stands waiting for his Deerfield getaway. "WGR" stands for "World's Greatest Randonneur," Paul's local moniker. Paul finished handily, by the way.

Of the many log cabins we passed in the Blue Ridge foothills, this may have been the most grandiose:

Goshen Pass was one of the scenic highlights. A gorge coupled with mild climbing, it was a cool and refreshing way to spend part of your second morning:

What did the intervening 14 hours, curiously unchronicled by photos, hold:
  • the shady ten-mile climb up Buffalo Road;

  • the annoying but tolerable peripherique around Roanoke, bolstered by upbeat remarks from fellow rider Chuck Howes;

  • a lilting but toasty 15-mile climb up the quiet and panoramic Blue Ridge Parkway;

  • some rolling miles on US-221;

  • some inspiring preaching (see below);

  • rollercoaster country roads and the plummetous descent of Willis Gap Road in the dark;
  • a warm welcome by the NC contingent in Mt. Airy!

Word was that we would get a gracious welcome from the NC contingent ... and we were not disappointed! Friendly faces and lots of rando-oriented food: cheeseburgers from the grill, beans, macaroni & cheese, and other ingratiating delicacies.

RUSA VP and newsletter editor Mike Dayton gives a warm welcome, resting up for the Central Coast 1000k he would be riding in a fortnight's time:

Alan Johnson has been Raleigh RBA since 1998 and evidences a more-than-decade of wisdom and good nature:

High Point, NC RBA Tony Goodnight on right and John Olmstead bear valued liquid gifts for the dehydrated riders!

Mike posted a series of great reports on his Research Trailer Park blog, including photos of some arrivees.

Day 3: My strategy was to soak up quality sleep like a sponge in air conditioned comfort, and in that I was successful. The climb back up Willis Gap Road was uneventful after the adrenal encounter with unchained dogs ... which I was not surprised to meet after making their acquaintance on last night's descent.

At the top of the gap, the reward was a series of top-of-ridge pastoral roads in early morning light:

... this one with hay bales:

... and this one with that scrappy Top-of-the-Blue-Ridge look:

On a country road descent, I spy the church sign passed the previous evening while creeping uphill at dusk. At that point I'd noted that preaching was offered after 7:30pm on Fridays, and guess what: that was when I was passing! Sure enough, a lady preacher was laying into the congregation. I could hear it plainly from the road. Very affecting to the no-longer-fresh randonneur.

Back at the Floyd control, event director Matt Settle gives a warm welcome in front of the rustic cabin serving as control locale. Also in the background is his bike sans wheels, one of which was cratered by an automotobile encounter the previous evening - fortunately only equipment damage. A thankful situation.

Matt had generously posted these intelligent signs along parts of the route, especially on this segment:

What followed was the plummeting descend down to Roanoke, followed by heat, followed (fortunately!) by a blustery but cooling thunderstorm (in my case fortuitously in sight of the I-581 overpass, a breezy shelter), more rain back through Troutville, and delightful wet but no-longer-low-90's temps to the Buchanan checkpoint.

Jim Solanick pulls off his raingear to reveal an excellent sartorial choice, his Colorado Last Chance 1200 jersey!

In this segment you'd see vehicles like this with "Farm Use" plates - a useful concept, although they also seemed to feel free to roam the open road, too.

What followed, departing the Buchanan control at 4pm, was essentially a 90-mile straight shot down US-11, the old Shenandoah Valley road. After the preceding countless snippets down "Curly Tail Possum Road, turn at brown cow on right," this prolonged stretch was more like, well, the Last Chance.

Lots of woods (and tailwinds, as Matt had predicted) coupled with Americana such as billboards for excursions to dinosaur artifacts ... but at least for much of it, very little traffic. The traffic? It was on parallel I-81 - you could hear it at times. The only cars were local traffic and those intent on dinosaur remains, natural bridges, or thrift shops.

Perhaps in honor of these miles, I later bought a packet of locally-produced Route 11 potato chips next day in Fort Valley:

Day 4: I compromised between an early start and avoiding the heat. It was just getting light as the route climbed up to the ridgeline on South Middle Road:

Across another manicured meadow you can see Massanutten Mountain paralleling our course:

An early morning climb over wooded Edinburg Gap, complete with switchbacks, brought us to the scenic, park-like Fort Valley Road, another highlight!

This final 200 miles has really been a kinder, gentler section of the route, with a succession of charming roads. After Front Royal (where our route meets the end of Skyline Drive), we're heading into the refined horsey country characterized by Middleburg.

The fox-topped gateway to this estate reads "Merry Chase" - presumably not the foxes' sentiment! And fences must have their jumping gaps, of course:

Really a pretty serene finish, and what better than to be greeted at the finish line not only by Matt but my friends Crista Borras and finish line chef-de-contrôle Carol Bell? (Crista "Permanista" Borras is RUSA Permanents Coordinator and has organized her back-to-back century rides most weekends for more than a decade. )

Crista's tandem partner Chuck Wood also gave a much appreciated welcome (Carol Bell photo):

Lots of climbing, and lots of miles on the odometer. Laminated cue sheet holding up pretty well:

In the end the Shenandoah 1200 fulfilled the unspoken promise of "tough but scenic." What more could a randonneur ask?

- john lee

P.S. It seems Colorado sends one delegate per year to the Shenandoah. The first, "blazing heat," year it was Bob Barday. Last year it was Catherine Shenk. You can read Catherine's report (which I avoided perusing while writing the above, but do recall her Mt. Airy burger-and-beans photo).