January’s ramble went off with barely a hitch. That was partly due to the decent weather- low 40’s and cloudy with light winds. Good weather, however, is just dumb luck. The most important reason the ride went well, was that all the cyclists on this ride were well prepared. They’d been riding the neighborhood hills to build stamina, they’d been testing out their winter outfits to ward off the cold and they’d been sure to keep their bikes in good working order to minimize the chance of breakdowns. That is the stuff that gets you to the finish of a winter century.I created this route because I wanted to do some more exploring NE of Baltimore. Other rides of mine have rolled along further south near the Chesapeake or north along the Susquehanna, but none of them went into the heart of the Harford county farmland. When I want to explore, I make routes. Thus, the Pylesville Winter Warmer was born.
A group of eight riders left from Lake Montebello at 7:30AM and rolled up the nearly car-free and appropriately named Harford rd. We were a chatty bunch for a cold winter morning, talking bikes, bike rides, clothing, lighting and New Year’s resolutions. The only one not chatty was Peter, who’d been training for the ride, but had just come down with some sickness. Old Harford rd took us into the county towards Satyr Hill rd. In a flash, a new rider, this one with long hair and beard, short sleeved jersey and bike shorts zoomed past us. “Hiya, Bob!” he yelled. It was wild man randonneur, Ben from Wheaton, MD, slightly less wild today since he’d driven to the start instead of riding the extra 35 miles each way as he’s done in the past. Always great having Ben along. I was thinking that Ben’s arrival brought our total up to 9 riders (an outstanding number of riders for a January century ride) however, I was informed that Peter had called it quits and headed back home. Very sorry to hear that. Hopefully you’ll be back with us in February.Moments after he’d announced his arrival, Ben was speeding off ahead of us. I pursued, while the rest of the group, riding together tightly like an English gentlemen’s cycling club rolled easily behind me. This pacing pretty much describes the remainder of the day with Ben off the front, me in an awkward purgatory and Dave, Dave, Justin, John and Charlie riding smartly in the C group. A few miles on Long Green rd got us up to Bottom rd, nondescript at it’s start it spans a babbling stream and goes to dirt with the dark leafless forest of Gunpowder State Park on both side. When I drop onto roads like this, it makes me recall how it’d been just a few short miles ago that we were in Baltimore city. The lowly bicycle becomes a becomes a time and space transporter. Amazing.
A few more miles of forest and we pop out northwest of Bel Air for our first rest stop near the intersection of routes 23 and 24. Isaias was conspicuously missing from our group, but that mystery was solved by mobile technology- Dave checked FB to find out that Isaias had had mechanical issues with the bike AND had gone to the wrong start point. Darnit.We kept the break short, which was just as well cause Ben was freezing standing still in his shorts. Off we went- northeast along Rock Spring, then Chestnut Hill then the lovely wandering and unpaved Walters Mill rd.
Civilization was really thinning out at this point. Rocky forested hills gave way to farms, their fields low and gray showing off the curvaceous Harford county landscape. Infrequently, long driveways and large houses greeted us as we rolled through. Even more infrequently, cars were almost absent as we turned left onto Old Pylesville rd. nearing our lunch stop and the turnaround towards the southwest.
Cafe 165 on Pylesville rd. just changed ownership. I don’t know what the calzones made by the previous owners tasted like, but the veggie I had totally hit the spot and fueled me well for the ride home. The friendly woman at the counter wished us well on our ride back to Baltimore. As we were walking out she noticed Ben’s naked legs and begged us to tell her that he was wearing more than that. We couldn’t.Back on the road, Ben blazed ahead. Justin, John and Charlie were not far behind. I was struggling to get my “lunch legs” spinning again. Finally, I came up behind the B group on a nasty unpaved section of Red Bridge rd (mental note: detour around that next time). There were a couple sharp climbs that I powered up in the next mile and when I looked back I saw only Justin. I think Justin has amazed himself as much as anyone with his fitness improvement over the last few months. He is clearly on a tear to become a strong, confident long distance rider. He’ll be with us ramblers for a few more months, but he’s headed to NC before the summer. We conversed along several contoured miles of Jerrys, Bradenbaugh and Harford Creamery roads. We discussed route designs and what goes into making the Ramble routes. I foresee him creating rides through the Carolinas before the end of the year.
Miles go by with wonderful distraction and the next thing I know I’m on Old York rd. How many times do you have to make intersection turns to stay on this road? 4? 5? We climb Stockton hill and scoot over to secluded Carroll Mill rd where we see Ben checking out a tree consuming a road sign. The rest of the group pulls up in no time at all and then we’re all off to finish the way to Hunt Valley and our last rest stop- the “ice cream stop”. Amazingly, I’m not the only one eating ice cream on a 40º day. Dave and Dave are with me. There is a lot of complaining about the hills and pace today as well as a lot of appreciation for a beautiful route and that we were likely to finish before sundown. We donned our ear covers and warm gloves and were off for the last leg.Those last few miles were not very scenic, but they were safe and not too strenuous. Smartly, we’d pre-decided where to meet at the end of the ride and one by one we rolled up to Alonsos for beers, nachos and loud camaraderie. Well done ramblers.