Over the last couple years, I’ve been trying to add some non century-length rides. Shorter rides are more comfortable in the dark winter months, but stretching out and using all the available light in the summer is also nice. This last Sunday, we had eight riders ready to ride the 131.5 mile, Gettysburg Campaign.
We left Druid Hill in a drizzly little rain. I had fenders, but wouldn’t need them for long, the rain eased off before we covered the full 12 mile length of Park Heights ave. Those first miles are a fun journey through the NE corner of Baltimore. The first blocks are lined with solid-built one hundred year old row houses over looking the park. As we roll outward towards Pimlico, grand homes echo the opulence of the early 20th c. Crossing Northern Pkwy, synagogues of 1960’s modern architecture are common. Further out, we pass the suburban icon: the golf course, and then crossing over the beltway, we descend into the well-protected woodland of the “velvet valley”. Here ends the Tour de Park Heights and begins the climbing portion of the ride.
Partly inspired by regular Rambler, Dave Hoskins’ challenge to compete in the 2014 Lake Placid Ironman, I decided to challenge myself today. I brought my fixed-gear bike for an attempt at a personal best in both mileage and climbing on that bike. I did not take the decision lightly. I studied the terrain carefully and considered the weather. I was feeling good about my decision as I chatted with a couple other riders who were climbing the first large hill near the end of Park Heights. I only had 115 miles more to go. Yikes!
We breezed through historic Glyndon and began the roller coaster of hills north on Hanover Pike. A rider was spotted ahead and I knew it must be Tom. I caught up with him and the two of us pulled into the 1st rest in Manchester. Jeff, Mike, Vince and Pat were right behind us. Dave and Andrew pulled in moments later. We kept the break short- there was a lot of mileage yet between us and home. The group of eight rolled out, north towards the PA line.
As the day played itself out, there would be many position changes, but the lead rider was never more than 15 or 20 minutes ahead of the tail. The most notable position changes were me and my single-speed constantly yo-yo-ing with the group as I beat them on the climbs (by necessity) and was promptly passed again on the downs. After a few miles of this, I think we all figured out how to safely negotiate the back and forth. Jeff and I became a middle group for a few miles, missed a turn, and got in to our lunch spot, the Garryowen Pub in Gettysburg together. Dave and Andrew rolled in a few minutes later. Unbeknownst to all of us, another rider, Dan, had left Glyndon at 8AM expecting the group to catch him, which we never did. He ate before we got there and continued on. That’s the second month in a row we’ve had a “ghost” rider.
I’m not sure what a sports nutritionist would have to say about our lunch: burgers, shepherds pie, fish and chips and stout beers, but I believe we were all pleasantly pleased with it. Off we went, southbound. Along our left flank, the Union positions were visible across the expanse of scrubby grasses and rocks. Our group of eight continued down the lines of the Confederate army and made an abrupt right turn onto route US15.
Have I mentioned how great this route is? The stylish exit from Baltimore, the rolling turnpike to Pennsylvania, the dark approach to the battlefields and after lunch, a nearly hill-free glide through the best of Adams and Carroll counties. I was enjoying myself so much on this third stretch, that I purposefully kept myself between the the lead group and the back group. I was all alone, spinning at a comfortable fixed-gear pace and soaking up the beautiful peace of the day. Taneytown brought me out of my meditation- more significantly, the “Lemenade” (sic) stand did.
Inspired again by Dave Hoskins, I did the right thing. I stopped and dug a quarter out of my pocket, buying me a cold one. I stuck around chatting with the young proprietors and smiled as Dave and Andrew soon rolled up. Another “lemenade” and some more city-boy cash into the jar. See ya next year kids, we’ll be back again.
From Taneytown we continued south to Union Bridge, then east on Green Valley rd to New Windsor. Green Valley is a wide open road with nice shoulders to bike on. It also favored us with a wicked head wind. I managed a faux aero position with my elbows nested on top of the brake hoods, steering with my shoulders. After a few minutes I was able to relax and cut through the wind much more efficiently. Soon I was pulling into the 3rd rest stop in New Windsor. Time for ice cream.
At this point, we had all covered over 90 miles. There was leg stretching and water gulping and talk of the next set of hills. And, there was ice cream. I was tired, but nothing in particular was a problem- just tired all over. Now, it was time to see how much gas was left in those legs. First notable climb was Nicodemus, a nice warm up. Then Stone Chapel, ugh and finally a couple of long grinders on Warfieldsburg. During all of this, Tom accelerated ahead and out of view and I continued my yo-yo-ing with the rest of the group. We all pulled up together behind Tom at the intersection of route 32. With the worst of the afternoon climbs behind us, we were given the gift of Deer Park rd: almost 10 miles of gently rolling descent into the Liberty Reservoir valley. Another push got me up the other side. At the top was Tom, who’d stopped to bid us a goodbye. Great riding with you, Tom.
A few more miles on rolling terrain and Mike peeled off. Great riding with you, Mike. Vince, Jeff and I road on through Pikesville. I announced to Vince that I felt like I was walking dead. I think we all did, so we briefly stopped for carbs at the same store I’d waited for Dave and Justin back in 2012. I figured Dave would look for me here, but I planned to catch him at the end. The next miles are newly routed along the Jones Falls trail and boy is it a nice, peaceful way to finish. I high fived Jeff and Vince and waited for the end of the group. Not but 15 minutes later, Dave, Pat and Andrew rolled up with happy tired faces.
Pat had plans at home. Great riding with you, Pat. Dave, Andrew and I did the right thing (again) and headed to Golden West for more beer and burgers. Thanks all. I love that route and riding with y’all.
note: I was amazed at how good I felt after my “reckless” decision to ride a fixed gear on this hilly double metric. Fixed gear bike riding can be a real wrestling match that also requires a lot of concentration. It seems to work out my whole body equally, Geared bikes involve more sustained positions which I think causes more specific aches and pains. The riding also requires enough mental concentration that I don’t have time to dwell on any hardship for very long. I was doing my best to ride conservatively (no ultra high speed spinning and no leg braking). I think that helped me. Also, I shouldn’t discount the effect of beautiful weather for the day.
115,720 revolutions: my bike moves me 6ft. in one pedal revolution. I make 880 pedal revolutions per mile, times 131.5 miles.
NEXT RIDE IS AUGUST 10TH: THE FOUR RESERVOIRS RIDE. Details to come.