This is a hilly ride so don’t expect to see any pictures attached to this post. Unfortunately, I did not have time to stop to snap a photo of the baby swans nestled between their parents in the pond on Cherry Valley Rd, nor was there time to take photos of the many beautiful streams, water falls, or gardens that we saw along most of the route.
Laurent and I made pretty good time on the first two legs of the route so that we were able to stop for pancakes and large amounts of ice water at the Portland diner which comes 37 miles into the ride. The day was warm and humid so I had already been dripping with sweat for hours by the time we reached the diner. I practically finished my pitcher of ice water and what I didn’t drink immediately, I poured into my water bottles for the next leg of the trip.
We had a few relatively easy miles after the diner but then we faced Lommason Glen, followed by Buckhorn, followed by Castners–all uphill, along a stream for part of it, but relentlessly uphill until the turn on Harmony Brass, where it continues to go up just for a tiny bit more and then you finally get some relief. I had stopped at the bottom of Lomasson Glen to refill my “magic sock” (a tube sock filled with ice and tied around the neck to provide relief from heat) and was very glad that I did. While a good part of this climb was in the shade, the sunny parts felt a bit like riding into a furnace.
After this segment, you get some relief until Staats Rd just outside of Bloomsbury. I think I walked a bit here. I was just too hot. And then, just when I was starting to despair of making it to the next controle on time, I realized that the next several miles were going to be on Route 29 along the Delaware. Laurent and I made very good time on this stretch and stopped for half an hour in Stockton to recover.
Following the break in Stockton, the route retraces to a pedestrian bridge in the Bull Island Recreation Area. You take this bridge to reach the Pennsylvania side of the river and very shortly thereafter take a turn on Fleecy Dale Road to start to head up away from the Delaware. This is a beautiful little road. I had worked myself up for some steep climb, not unheard of on Tom’s routes, but this was a gentle climb past some beautiful houses and gardens and a stream. Quite a relief.
The next direction on the cue sheet that caused alarm was the one at mile 103.2 that said “Geigle Hill Rd…STEEP descents/climbs ahead!!” Now, we’ve gone over 100 miles on a hilly route in the heat and humidity and so you can imagine how much enthusiasm I felt when reading this direction. But I tried to remain optimistic. How bad could it be? Hah! Well, there were two very steep grunts that I just had to walk up–at least tried to although I have to say that even pushing my bike up these hills was no easy job. After recovering my breath at the top of each hill, I climbed back on my bike and carried on.
Shortly after this brief and challenging stretch, though, we were back along the river and making good time. There are a few more small climbs to finish off the ride, but nothing too much. Still, I really welcomed the sight of the Wawa, the final controle. I purchased some rice pudding and got my receipt to verify the finish of my ride, and then even managed to grin at Laurent a little bit and congratulate him and us on a good ride. Of course, when we got back to Tom’s house, we learned that the first person had finished at 2:30!! It was 7pm when I was seeing that bit of information on the sign-in sheet, but that’s ok. There were points in the day when I could not have been certain that I was going to finish within the official time, so having 3o minutes spare time seemed pretty good. Perserverance generally pays off in randonneuring. If you just keep going, chances are you’re going to be ok.
I found this route incredibly challenging but had a good day riding and chatting with Laurent and was very glad that I had shown up that morning.
Thanks, Tom, for a good ride.