This ride seemed to begin long before we started.
In the days before To Frederick, On Frederick the weather forecasts were all over the place. By the time they settled down we were to expect rain and rapidly dropping temps beginning promptly at 3PM. There are many riders who can easily cover a hilly century ride in less than seven hours, but not me. And for some reason those who could didn’t show up to ride the Ramble. Perhaps they were home in bed avoiding the bad weather. Anyway, I thought it best to move our start time up to 7AM and to consider a quick lunch instead of our traditional boozy ones.
I met Sam near his home in Woodberry. The pre-dawn sky was cloudy and slightly glowing. Sam looked a little cold and eager to get riding and soon we were off and climbing up Greenspring ave. towards Carroll Park about 6 miles away. The climb up Greenspring is a half mile at maybe 5%- enough to get your breathing up. As I climbed, I recalled the many similar climbs that come with riding To Frederick, On Frederick. I imagined spending a whole day just going up and down Greenspring avenue.
Sam and I were first to the start and then Mike, PJ and Jim a few minutes later. I took pictures of the group and climbed aboard the Soma Smoothie happy about a long day of riding. Baltimore’s early risers were peeking from their stoops as we rolled up Monroe towards Frederick ave. Down the road to great us was Tom, who was here to give us an escort out of town just like he had last month. (thanks and good to see you, Tom) After zooming down the long descent into Ellicott City, we began the equally long climb up and out of the valley. Soon enough the suburban developments faded and with farmland on both sides of us the group began picking up speed.
The hills are unrelenting on this ride. The big rolling landscape between these two cities never lets you relax. Crest the hill, then up-shift, tuck, transition and slowing, down-shift, down-shift, down-shift, stand, push, crest again. Do that… a lot. The Soma Smoothie felt great at handling all these changes. I found myself watching PJ, Sam, Mike and Jim and wondering about individual riding styles. PJ and Sam pulled ahead and intersected with another cyclist. It was Dave who’d left Baltimore before us. Dave’s been waging a war with calories recently and the climbing was taking a toll on him. I suspect he’s working harder than we are. Nearing Mt. Airy, Dave and I rolled under the left arch of Two Arch road and met up with the others at Starbucks. We sipped coffee and chatted about upcoming Rambles. Dave decided he’d turn around and head back from here. The rest of us suited up knowing the rain was coming. Soon enough, we were westbound sans Dave.
There’s a slight downhill on the way to Frederick, and nicer scenery. I was feeling strong and set a quick pace all the way to lunch. Usually I didn’t notice the speed, but occasionally I’d hear Mike’s breathing behind me and I knew I must be pushing. Very fun though. Sam thanked me saying that his feet had finally warmed up. On the way into town I spied the old Monocacy bridge running beside us, enticing me to explore its vintage crumbliness. I rode past.
We opted for a quick lunch at Beans and Bagels. (great food BTW) All (except one of us) were using smart phones to check the exact timing of the rain front coming our way. 3PM? 3:30? The latest info about the storm got us up and headed out to the bikes. Nicely, Dave had emailed PJ pictures of the Trolley bike trail covered in ice and snow. We would need a detour upon our return to Ellicott City. Frederick, MD does have a nice charm, but we barely saw it. From our lunch stop we rode one block up Market st. and then back out of town to the east.
As soon as we were out of town, Mike asked if I was thinking of exploring the old Monocacy bridge. I smiled. As we came near to the little dead end road down to the bridge, I asked Mike if he was coming. He smiled and said he’d see me in Mt. Airy. Jim pulled up behind me. I don’t think Jim knew what silliness I was getting him into. I didn’t either, but with total confidence I rolled down the road toward the barriers blocking access to the bridge. It was easy enough to go around them. And the chain link fence was mostly pushed over so we continued on to the bridge itself. There was graffiti, broken glass and empty beer cans. It seemed like a good place to get stoned with friends from high school. It was actually not a great way to see the bridge itself (I bet from the river below it looks cool). It was also not the best place for biking, what with all the glass. Jim and I weaved a safe path to the other side, climbed over the guard rail and were back on Frederick rd. A nice diversion from the cue. We weren’t arrested and we didn’t get stoned.
The two of us kept a steady strong pace all the way back to Mt. Airy where we re-grouped with Mike, Sam and PJ. Sam’s feet were warm again, this time from PJ’s pace. I had a quick ice cream and waited outside ready to get going again. Soon we were. Back through the arch on Twin Arch rd and east on Old Frederick rd. PJ slowly pulled ahead. Mike, not to be outdone stayed on his wheel. Sam, Jim and I took a quick, but more reasonable pace over the myriad hills back to Ellicott city. The rain had begun. It was gentle at this point. We took the trail detour up a steeply winding old road through the historic town of Oella. Up Edmondson ave. and back to Frederick rd. as the rain was picking up I noticed grit in my drive train, and on my back, and face. Jim said goodbye as we passed near our starting point. Sam and I continued into trafficky Baltimore, stopping at traffic lights, getting wetter and dirtier, watching people prepare for the incoming storm. Near Park st. the Baltimore Arena let out with streams of pedestrians to dodge. Slowly, but surely we made our way back to our own neck of the city. Sam announced that we’d just passed 100 miles for the day. I thanked him for a fine day’s ride, turning right as he stayed straight. A nice long way to get home.
Thanks Sam, PJ, Mike and Jim.