Last Saturday the PA Randonneurs spent the day enjoying the fall foliage on a ride that offered the amount of climbing to be expected on a Pennsylvania ride. It was a beautiful day, just a little crisp in the morning but then sunny and pleasant for the rest of the day. RBA Tom Rosenbauer offered a 200km and 150km version of the ride. I signed up for the 150 and asked Chris if she wanted to join me. As it turned out, this was a great option; we finished at about the same time as the fastest 200km riders and were able to complete the entire ride in daylight.
After the NC 600km a couple of weeks ago, this ride seemed quite petite despite the hills. The stages were quite manageable: 45 miles to Skoogy’s Deli in Belvidere, 18 more miles to Koppe’s General Store in Bloomsbury, and then 31 miles to complete the loop back to Weisel Youth Hostel in Quakertown.
We also crossed the Delaware River four times, affording us four opportunities to get off our bikes, stretch our legs and walk across the bridges. When we crossed the river the first time in Riegelsville, it was still early enough that sunlight sparkled through the dozens of spiderwebs that filled the length of the bridge’s railings. Someone remarked that this was a real halloween scene although there was nothing ghoulish here. Quite the opposite in fact; the intricate webs were spectacular against the backdrop of the early morning river below.
The color of the air that morning was also almost breathtaking, or maybe I was mistaken–maybe it was just that I was out of air because of the climbs. The roads were still wet from rain the night before so that the yellows, oranges, and reds of the leaves were reflecting off of the surface of the roads, filling the air with color. We were riding through autumn. Chris and I kept a pretty good pace although it should be noted that I was only able to keep up with her because she was, again, on her fixie–quite a choice given the terrain.
In any case, the first 45 miles passed reasonably quickly. There were a few hills, probably the steepest of which came as we were climbing out of Easton on College Avenue. On this leg we had the company off and on of Laurent, Diane, Bill, Hugo and Julian. Our pace allowed us to chat while riding, and Bill had lots of good beer stories to tell. Apparently Bill can manage a pretty decent pace on 1200km rides and enjoy beer along the way or by enjoying beer along the way? Not sure which. It seems like a talent to cultivate though, as he claims that beer helps him to sleep at the rest stops. I have wondered how one gets through the long stretches of the Last Chance 1200. It seems that anticipating a few ice cold beers at the next controle really helps. Hmmm.
When we got to the proper Skoogy’s Deli (apparently this is a popular name in Belvidere and there are TWO Skoogy’s delis) we were really hungry so we bought sandwiches, chips, and drinks and had an al fresco picnic. I bought some sort of energy water drink that came with a capful of green powdery stuff to mix in the water. It made the water sort of taste like green tea and kind of sweet and mostly not like anything that I recognized. But I was hungry and thirsty and downed everything without too much thought although not without comment from my riding companion.
The next 18 miles began with an uphill and rolled its way to Bloomsbury. The most notable feature of this leg is Foul Rift Rd with its view of the Martin’s Creek Power Plant across the river on the Pennsylvania side. According to its website, it is powered by coal, natural gas or oil. I wonder which came first, the power plant or Foul Rift Rd.
In excited anticipation of the final 30 miles, Chris and I made quick work of the Bloomsbury controle. Ice cream, quick calls home and a trip to the rest room and we were back on the road climbing up Willow Rd. And then climbing up Milford Rd, and then climbing up Staats Rd. Even Chris, as strong as she is, had to walk a few shorts bits in this last stretch because they were just too steep. I managed to climb them all but then, as Laurent has said, my small gear on the back is as big as a dinner plate. I used it quite frequently for this stretch. Soon after our last Delaware crossing in Milford, we turned onto Red Cliff Rd. It starts off quite gently and leads you to think that you are just going to meander your way up along the stream on your left and eventually work your way to the top of the plateau. Not so. You go about 1 1/2 miles and then the road suddenly shoots straight up and, to stay on route, you need to make a hairpin left turn. Once you’ve conquered this dandy little hill, you are faced with Geigel Hill Rd that climbs and climbs some more. Actually, the remaining 10-12 miles pretty much goes up and down but mostly up.
Just before we reached Elephant Rd, the point when you know you’re almost home and you can conquer the remaining bits of hills without a problem (unless you have some major mechanical issue), we were passed by the fastest riders on the 200km ride. Well, we were almost the fastest ones in; we were among the fastest ones in? Not really but it’s nice to pretend.
We turned back onto the gravel driveway of the youth hostel a little less than 9 hours after we started. It was still light. It was still light when I got home! I could enjoy an occasional 150km ride.
A great ride on a beautiful day. Rides like this make me really happy to be a randonneur.
I took a few photos but they are blurry and not worth posting. Below is the link for Chris’s photos (I hope she won’t mind). They’re really good.