I finished my R-12 series on a beautiful late summer day in early September. As I rode Rick Carpenter’s Schuykill to Delaware, this time entirely in light, I enjoyed seeing parts of the course that had always been hidden by the dark before. There’s a cemetary on the right, just after you start the ride, and farms dot the way along Neiffer Rd. Eichele Rd kicked my butt as it has every time I’ve done this course, even though I resolved that this time I was going to try to ride the whole thing. I can’t figure it out since the steep part is only 0.2mile in length. Maybe I would try harder if I were riding with others? I don’t know, but I ended up walking the last tiny blip again.
The cashier at Weis in Pennsburg recognized me, and I her. She asked me when I was going to stop doing these crazy rides. I laughed and muttered, “yeah, I don’t know.” With 20 minutes to spare this time, the most I’ve ever had, I headed for the donut shop in Quakertown. While cars were lining up down the road for the drive-through window, I rolled right up to the store, went inside to purchase some water and a muffin (I’m not a big donut person), and got back on my bike to head for Riegelsville.
I really like this stretch because even though it trends downhill, there are a fair number of lumps. There are a few tiny villages as well, farms, and creeks and woods. Maybe because the road is heading more or less downhill, and I know that the next section is totally flat, I can relax. i shouldn’t have trouble staying within the time limits (unless I have a mechanical issue), and I should actually be able to make up a bit of time, so that I can have lunch in New Hope without worrying. Rick has changed the Riegelsville controle to be an information controle, so after answering the question on my card and eating the rice pudding I’d been carrying, I crossed the river and headed south for New Hope.
There’s not a lot to say about this section. I passed the bakery in Milford, and not being that hungry or in possession of that much extra time, I kept going. Frenchtown was very busy–others apparently also had the idea to be outside enjoying the lovely weather. The section along the river was not exactly quickly dispatched, but maybe at least as efficiently as possible for me.
This time I had lunch at the pizza restaurant instead of the Eagle Diner, since the diner is always a zoo and service therefore suffers. The pizza place was bit more quiet and service was quick. They had beer, too, but it was a bit early for me.
The section from New Hope to Doylestown, in part along Rt 202 is busy so it’s necessary to stay alert. I don’t really like this section, but it goes pretty quickly and there are some more quiet sections after Doylestown, but the navigation is a bit tricky so again, one must stay alert or end up off course as has happened to me a couple of times in the past.
Evansburg State Park feels quite remote, especially given the way Rick routes riders through it. You enter the park on an unused road and eventually turn onto an unmarked road that takes you by the ranger station. For a few minutes, though, you feel as if you’re in the middle of nowhere. To leave the park, you turn onto the busy Germantown Pike, and from there, you ride through several suburban sections, a bit hilly but nothing too bad. The road gets busy again as you draw close to Valley Forge. A few more miles bring you to the Dunkin Donuts in Phoenixville, with only about 10 miles to go to complete the ride.
Just before Phoenixville you cross the Schuykill, and then you cross it again just beyond the town. The last few miles are through newer suburbs. The roads are fairly quiet but offer one or two more gentle rollers to negotiate before you finally return to the Limerick Diner.
This time I finished with more time to spare, about an hour and a half–a lot for me. I bought a coke, had my brevet card validated, packed everything in the truck to drive home. I was tired, and my bike had made alarming noises for the last third of the ride (I’ve since had the bottom bracket replaced), but I had completed something this year and I was happy about that.
It felt good to finish the R-12. In the middle of last winter, it was hard to find days warm enough for me to ride. February was the worst, and it was the last time that I had done this same ride. I barely made it around the course in time, in part because my body was shutting down due to the cold. I had no water to drink because my bottles were frozen, and I think my body was freezing a bit too. Anyway, this ride was quite different, and I’m glad I persisted. I didn’t complete the super randonneur series this year because I didn’t make it to the 600km ride. I’m disappointed that I didn’t do that ride, but it was clear to me that day that I didn’t have the energy for two sleepless nights.
Randonneuring for me is at least 50% mental, and the R-12 challenge is even more so because you have to do something every month, even when you have papers to grade, or you haven’t slept well for a week, or it’s raining. And sometimes you get a beautiful day, like I did for this ride. And that makes it all worth it.
When will I stop doing these crazy rides? I hope not for a long time.