Pride and Challenge

Back in June, Karen and I joined Chuck and Bonnie on tandems to do the The Ride for Pride (RFP2014), a fund raiser/picnic for the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley. We had a great time …

I Can Fly! Bounce Pad at Long Acre Farms
I Can Fly! Bounce Pad at Long Acre Farms
Roadside Lounging
Spectators Awaiting the  Rainbow Peloton

and the event raised over $20,000 for the Alliance. And I had my first ever Jello-shots at the party! Everyone got a T-shirt for the ride in one of the rainbow colors and we had a group photo “in formation”.

R4P 2014 Group
R4P 2014 Rainbow Riders

Friday, July 18th

“The Rainbow Riders” from RFP 2014 got called out for the Pride Festival Weekend to do a group ride, in formation of course, through the “gayborhoods” of Rochester …

At Corn Hill Landing
At Corn Hill Landing

and ending at the MLKJ/Manhatten Square Park downtown where the opening ceremonies for the Pride 2014 Festival began.

The Rainbow Riders
The Rainbow Riders at the Festival

It was a beautiful and touching opening with music (Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors”) and dance …

True Colors
True Colors

and our Mayor Lovely Warren issued the Proclamation for the weekend. We had to leave early … gotta get a good night’s sleep because …

Saturday, July 19th

Up early and at the Farmington Town Park by 7am, we were first to get our names on the sign-up board for our club’s annual Andrew Spiller Memorial Challenge Ride. We reserve the park and pavilion for 24 hours to offer the opportunity for cyclists to ride as little … or as much as they want. In the past, many members have reached personal bests, and some folks have topped over 400 miles! Weather radar proved that we would again miss a good “all-nighter” this year, but the rain held off till later afternoon … good enough to score some good miles. My buddy from work came out for a loop and we rode our touring bikes … Jim’s a Surly Ogre, mine a Surly LHT … racks, fenders and lights at the ready.

Andy and Christine were on their tandem and were hammering hard in the last loop of the day; I assume trying to beat the rain. It was everything I could do to hang on to their tail which turned into a rooster tail of water when the rain hit us just a few miles out. I managed to squeeze in 101 miles for the day and after drafting the red rocket-ship tandem for nearly all of the last 25 miles, I was beat, ready for food and a warm dry bed at home.

Over 40 members came out for the day and even though we cut it short due to rain, we still had at least five members break 100 miles.

Can’t wait for next year! I just know it will be warm and DRY!

The Last Blacksburg Trip?

This time, the visit to see our buddy Linda in Virginia, is bittersweet. We’ve been to Blacksburg and had great times with Linda many, many times over the last decade. We stopped here in 2004 near the end of our Trans-America tour. We’ve done Linda’s club’s big ride, the Mountains of Misery three times. We’ve hiked and paddled, and even explored the area by motorcycle. And we started out Linda’s front door when we tackled Adventure Cycling’s Allegheny Mountains Loop.

But Linda is moving on soon, leaving Blacksburg and the wild and wonderful mountains behind. We will miss biking and all the fun in the area, but no Linda … we will not let YOU go. We will happily follow along wherever your adventures take you.

Saturday, June 28th

The trip to Virginia started with a country drive from Rochester to Fallingwater … the world famous home built for the Kaufman family by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Falling Waters

Daring the twisty mountain roads and nasty weather, we arrived in time to catch one of the late afternoon tours. After the tour and a food stop next to the river in Ohiopyle, we snatched evening shelter in Oakland Maryland.

Sunday, June 29th

Crazy day. We had planned to arrive in Blacksburg early enough to go see a talk by a cyclist who did a Trans-Am and says it changed his life. Imagine that.

(A note about change at the end of this entry.)

Well, it didn’t work out quite like that. We were hours late getting to Linda’s due to miscalculations, chance meet-ups, and unplanned adventures, like a stop in coal-town-turned-bike-friendly-art-mecca, Thomas West Virginia.

Thomas West Virginia
Thomas West Virginia

The miscalculations were just that. 200 miles on the freeway and 200 miles in the backcountry roads of West Virginia are worlds apart in character and time required to cover. Then, we meet-up with the “Meet-Up”. The Rochester Sport Motorcycling and Touring (RSMaT) gang of which I’m a member was touring West Virginia this weekend and darned if we don’t run into them while they are taking a break at Seneca Rocks! What are the odds of that?

RSMaT @ Seneca Rocks - Photo by Jon D.
RSMaT members Ivan, Rod, Brian and Karen @ Seneca Rocks – Photo by Jon D.

Hugs, shakes, and raucous laugher break out before we all pile into a local deli for lunch together. After we all continue on our separate ways, the antagonist of this blog (me) talked the protagonist in my life (Karen) into a little hike.

I visited Seneca Rocks decades ago with an old and dearly missed friend (Tim) while in WV for a mountain bike race we did in nearby Davis. We climbed to the top of the rocks via a primitive route that has since been closed. Hoping that Karen could catch a glimpse similar to what Tim and I found, we took a nicely developed trail to an overlook that disappointed, but was close to a sign warning of dangers and death counts of those who risked the rocks.

In a fit of adventure, Karen led the way past the signs to witness the fine views of the immense and beautiful Seneca Rocks from the proper viewpoint … The Top.

Don't Look Down!
Don’t Look Down!

We scurried down off the mountain just in time to miss a horrendous downpour that certainly DID hit many other late coming hikers, as well as the technical climbers we could see on the rock faces. Those guys and gals are my kind of heroes.

Seneca Rocks
Seneca Rocks

Leaving the Rocks later than expected, we learned that there’s no point in trying to lead-foot through the mountains to get anywhere quickly. The twists and turns that make West Virginia a (bike or motor) cyclist’s heaven make for slow going on 4 wheels. We got to Blacksburg late, but Linda, being Linda, cared not. Friends were together again!

Monday, June 30th

The first three days in town, we fended for ourselves as Linda had to work through Wednesday. We explored, and shopped for food!

The 1st day exploring was across town to the opposite end of the Huckleberry Trail where we found historic remnants of an abandoned coal mining settlement and a great hiking trail all around it.

Coal car on the Huckleberry Trail
Coal car on the Huckleberry Trail

We noted that the trail would be great mountain bike training should Linda care to ramp up her expertise for a future planned “Great D Adventure”. Our part of being guests at Linda involves cooking dinner, so we hit the store before heading back in. The first of several grocery store visits this week!

Tuesday, July 1st

Having hiked a tiny bit of the Huckleberry, our next bit was to cycle it. After a bit of wandering around town and the gorgeous Virginia Tech campus, we latched on and followed the trail into Christiansburg … A town we fondly remember from our 2004 Trans-Am. A craft coffee and cookie revive even on hot days, and it’s off out of town on a stretch of the TA trail towards Blacksburg.

Revisiting the Trans-America Trail
Revisiting the Trans-America Trail

I still get misty-eyed when we touch parts of the trail that was once our home for two months. All too soon, we reach the hill leading off the trail and up up up to downtown Blacksburg, and back to home base. Thirty two miles of mostly gentle riding. A warm up for more to come.

Good buddy Kathy “The Escort” joined us later for one of Karen’s great salmon dinners.

Wednesday, July 2nd

I’m the early bird in the house who rarely is able to sleep past 5am. That worked in my favor today as the plan was to get an early start on “the assault” before the heat and humidity of the day assaults me. Knowing the route all too well, I hopped on the bike at 6:30am, rode to Newport, and screamed down to the New River. The death march begins at river level. It ends several thousand feet higher at Mountain Lake Lodge, famous as the site of the filming of “Dirty Dancing” yet more recently famous as the finish line of the “Mountains of Misery” ride hosted by Linda’s local club. It’s a killer ride in a beautiful setting and the Lodge has an additional memory for us as a layover on a stormy night while doing ACA’s loop.

Top - O - The Mountain
Top – O – The Mountain

Just as I was about to descend the mountain, I got a text from Karen … Meet me in Newport! She drove out and I arrived at the Newport ball field just seconds after her, after flying down “the front side” of the mountain. After chugging a badly needed cold drink of choice that my sweetie so thoughtfully produced, we mounted up and climbed up into Clover Hollow … a serene loop road in some back woods and hills that’s also part of “MOM”.

Covered bridge in the Hollow
Covered bridge in the Hollow

Sweet, sweet riding up in there. It’s a place the modern world seems to have passed by, and not just because of the rusted antique farm implements scattered around. The roads are narrow like a driveway, and any people you see will wave without provocation.

I wrapped up the ride with 44 miles and 4400′ of climbing …. most of the climbing in an eleven mile stretch just from the river to Mountain Lake. Wow.

Dinner was Karen’s sausage-zucchini boats and we had ice cream again …. Mint Chocolate, Cherry Garcia (my Great Divide favorite!) and … Get this … Denali Extreme Maximum Fudge Moose Tracks!  Really!

Serious Chocolate
Serious Chocolate – We’ve Earned it!

Thursday, July 3rd

Today, Linda is off work and will be till Monday. So we’re going biking and Linda has great suggestions. We headed down to Newport road and eventually out to RT311 where we turned back toward town on yet another section of the Trans-America Trail … Aka Route 76.

History lesson for non-bikers … The Trans-Am trail was developed to celebrate America’s BiCentennial in 1976 by having hundred of cyclists cross the country. Hence: Route 76.

Headed Home
Headed Home

So we get back to the Blacksburg area and climb back up into town by another new, extremely steep route. Once elevated, we hopped on the Huckleberry Trail to avoid the main drag (traffic) and got back home after 54 miles and 4300′ of climbing. Deceptive … a lot of rolling around here even in the valleys between mountain ridges.

Dinner out!! PASTA! Because tomorrow will be a big riding day.

And the ice cream still in the freezer is calling my name! Life is good!

Friday, 4th of July

No 5am wake-ups today … we slept in till after 7! Was that because yesterday was too much fun, or because we were subconsciously delaying the start of today’s plan to tackle Potts Mountain and “The Wall” on the back end of the MOM double-metric loop?

No complaints though … The weather was PERFECT for doing the loop. We drove out and started at a gravel pull-off on Rt 311 just east of Peaceful Valley Road. The first order of business was getting to the Paint Bank General Store, only twelve miles away to grab a few snacks and a drink. Problem was, Potts Mountain stood between us and the store.

Climb to Potts Mountain
Climb to Potts Mountain
Potts Mountain
Potts Mountain

Potts mountain is a long long climb, but it isn’t terribly steep since Rt311 does gave to accommodate truck traffic. We hit the top in reasonable time, but got back down the other side to the store in unreasonably quick time. It’s a wide clear road with little traffic, not that it matters since we fly down at auto-highway speeds. In fact, a car pulled over to let Karen fly past and chased her down the hill taking pictures as they went. We met the owners at the store and they promised to email the photos.

After our stop at the coolest general store in Virginia,

Paint Bank General Store
Paint Bank General Store

we started up Rt18 toward the north end of the loop. The route eventually turns off into narrow back-country roads and the real fun starts. We weave through the woods in both left-right and up-down axes making most any theme park roller coaster seem lame. And this is more fun anyway.

Karen removes a speed bump from the road.
Karen removes a speed bump from the road.

We stopped at the bottom of the wall to snack up. Good thing … It goes over two miles of nearly uninterrupted granny gearing.

Wanna Cookie?
Wanna Cookie?

Another snack stop at the top and it’s payback time … Seventeen miles of nearly uninterrupted yet gentle downhill through the forest and along Barber Creek! Linda spotted rhododendrons, I spotted two hawks, and Karen watched for bear.

Didn’t see any. Sorry.

It’s July 4th, so dinner at home, then party and fireworks in downtown Blacksburg tonight!


Saturday, July 5th

Taking a more leisurely day, we met Kathy and Iain at the Newport Ball Field at 9am for a ride around Clover Hollow. Yes, we’ve already been there this week but it really is so beautiful in there that I could do it a hundred times and not get tired of it. So much so, we ended up doing three loops in there for a total of thirty miles today.

Efficiencies compared
Efficiencies compared

Lunch back at home, then grocery shopping once again for tonight’s dinner with Kathy and Iain and the balance of the afternoon “resting” before dinner. A good idea since Linda has a bigger riding day planned for us tomorrow.

Sunday, July 6th

The best for last perhaps?

Today’s ride, our last of the vacation, headed a new direction toward the south of Christiansburg and into Floyd County not far from The Blue Ridge. We started at the gas station at the corner of Rt177 and Mud Pike Road, which looked strangely familiar. I was sure I’ve been here before, but with all our rides around the area over the years, I couldn’t quite place when.

Whatever … off we go … just Karen and Linda and I … and immediately start twisting and turning and rolling up and down. Linda’s route had us do essentially a figure eight through a lot of back country roads with little traffic.

Roadside Snacks
Roadside Snacks
Good price, but no thanks!
Good price, but no thanks!
On the Road Again!
On the Road Again!

We took a break at a store in Willis and as I was wearing a T-shirt from Deal’s Gap we did a couple years ago on the beast, I was approached by a Harley biker who asked if I rode my bicycle on the Tail of the Dragon. No, just our big bike, but I’d LOVE to someday! We chatted about all the great rides down near Deal’s Gap, and about his riding up through the Finger Lakes in western New York a couple years ago. I was impressed that he had heard of OUR stomping grounds. A bicyclist and a motorcyclist … we share the spirit. We bid each other a safe ride.

On the return, we got to an intersection where I peeled off at Linda’s suggestion and did a hillier, twisty way back to the car.

Swimming Hole
Swimming Hole

It was great, and when I arrived back at the highway, it hit me … I was back on the “76″ … the Trans-America trail again and that’s why I remembered the store!

Not too surprising, as I pulled into the station, I saw a Co-Motion Divide and a Salsa Vaya, fully loaded and leaning against the wall. Gee … I wonder where THOSE bikers are going! I walked into the store to find Karen and Linda chatting with Tor, one of the riders. We shared tips and stories and congratulations inside, and met his riding partner Victor outside.

Brian, Victor, Tor and Karen share memories of the TA
Brian, Victor, Tor and Karen share memories of the TA

They are eastbound and almost done with their adventure. Tor shared with me the same sentiment I felt … sad about finishing, and wondering how one could possibly return to “normal” life after an adventure like a Trans-Am.

Or a Great Divide.

I think we agree; life for us will be forever changed.

Susquehannock Lodge Weekend – 2014

RBC Jersey Day at the S-Lodge Weekend
RBC Jersey Day at the S-Lodge Weekend

We’ve been going down to the Susquehannock Lodge in Potter County Pennsylvania every spring since 1992. Ann grew up in this area and knows it well. In 1991, she resurrected a weekend event that our club had done decades ago. We go down on Friday morning, do a short ride that includes a lunch stop, and return for dinner after 40 or more miles, depending on the weather. On Saturday, we typically do a longer ride, and on Sunday, we do a slightly shorter (not much) ride, return for dinner at 4pm, and head home afterwards. The back roads are beautiful, but as this is steep hilly country here in the mountains of Pennsylvania, many of us get riding early in the season just to prepare for this weekend!

The lodge is operated by Ed and Carol who are the nicest people, the greatest hosts, and I think I can say are really part of the “family”. I’ve always thought we should just give them honorary membership in the bike club!

Like I said, Ann started this in 1991. I missed the first year since I just moved back to Rochester that spring and didn’t even know about this event starting that year, but with the exception of 2013, I’ve been here every year since 1992 … when people discovered that Karen and I had become “an item”.

Day One – Thursday, May 29th

Doing my penance.

Because I missed coming in 2013 due to my Great Divide adventure, I felt it appropriate to make it up by riding down to the lodge on Thursday, rather than driving down on Friday. A small handful of club members have been doing this over the years, but I’ve never tried my hand at it till now.

My ride started at 5:30am because I knew it was going to be a long tough day. I chose to ride my Surly Long Haul Trucker (LHT) with it’s loaded touring setup so that I could carry my clothing and essentials. Between the racks, panniers, fenders, lights (front hub generator powered), expedition wheels (tandem rear hub, El Gordo rims, 48 spokes per wheel, and 60psi wide tires) and my Jeff Jones Loop Bars, this is not my “fast” bike, right?

Fast, I was not. Comfy, no question! The bike is geared low, so the inevitable hill climbing was tolerable if not challenging and quite fun. This was a sunrise to sunset ride of 115 miles, 11,800′ of climbing, and a few sections of dirt back roads that reminded me of the Great Divide … without the grizzlys.

Miles of dirt roads on the direct route
Miles of dirt roads on the direct route

See the stats and route map as recorded by GaiaGPS that I had running on the iPad Mini in the pannier.

The Straight Way to Susquehannock Lodge
The Straight Way to Susquehannock Lodge

I had several nice stops:

East Avon for a slug of chocolate milk and to turn on “Find My Friends” on the iPhone so Karen could watch my progress.

Scottsburg to check out a discovery at the town hall.

Dansville, for breakfast #2 … corned beef hash, eggs, toast and coffee … at the Sunrise Family Restaurant.

Arkport for a Big Gulp at the 7-11 because I hadn’t been drinking enough on this somewhat cool morning and was starting to feel it while pushing into the increasing headwinds.

Alfred Station to see my old buddy Peter at his new BicycleMan recumbent and trike dealer location.

Andover for a brownie and coffee at the coffee shop, and get a warning about the road to Independence and Whitesville. So noted!

Whitesville, where I serendipitously met Bob Cooper and Joe Voekel (who also rode down) at the Whitesville House. A Sloppy Joe and fries washed down with a Southern Tier XXIPA and a tall cold Coke was just the caloric supplement I badly needed at this point.

Ulysses for one last shot of chocolate milk.

And finally, I dragged myself in the carriage house at the lodge after 8:30 and it’s getting dark. A long hot soaking bath was just the ticket. I slept like a baby!

Day Two – Friday, May 30th

Bob, Joe and I had a nice breakfast while waiting for the rest of the gang to arrive. Everyone who planned to ride today all showed up within a 30 minute window and we were off and riding to Sweden Valley for lunch by 11am. We took a longer route to breakfast, up route 449 to Brooklyn and left up over the hills of Sweden Valley Road. Still feeling beat from yesterday, I had to stop for a minute to snack enough to get to the restaurant where the bikers and bikes collected. After a great lunch (I had chili and cheesy fries), we headed toward Coudersport and up a county road to what we call the Seven Bridges loop. After passing the headwaters of the Allegany River, and the headwaters of the Genesee River just a mile from there, our group broke in two with some headed for Ulysses, and another group heading back to the barn. Those of us calling it early, to “save something for tomorrow”, got 38 miles today in beautiful weather. Showered and rehydrated, we now wait for dinner! Not long … Dinner was salmon with a corn mango salsa topping, asparagus, rice and a cake with chocolate bits and topping. Yum! As always, a great meal at the lodge.

Afterwards, the gang migrated to the living room to relax and chat. Digital devices came out to utilize the WiFi … mostly to check out tomorrow’s weather. It looks perfect at the moment. Let’s see what tomorrow brings!

Day Three – Saturday, May 31st

Gorgeous! Simply gorgeous day! Following the typical morning coffee infusions and terrific breakfast, the gang headed up PA route 6 toward Coudersport. After a photo stop and for some more coffee, we continued the loop into the hills north of Coudersport, past Hebron, to Ann’s parents house for a lunch break,

Bikers splattered on the lawn at Ann's old home
Bikers splattered on the lawn at Ann’s old home

and another food (ok … ice cream) stop in Genesee. The final leg of the day was a jaunt over to Ulysses, where the group split in two. One group took the hillier route back to the lodge via Brookland, and the other group took the longer gentler way via Louck’s Mills. We logged 71 miles today.

Snack, beverages and conversation flowed before a great chicken and lasagna dinner! Oh … ice cream and brownies for desert! Back to the living room after dinner, and the discussions and planning for future adventures continues.

Day Four – Sunday, June 1st

Never at a loss for cool ideas, Todd dreamed up an adventurous route into areas we had never been before. It was of course, a gravel grinder that attracted the likes of Bob, Joe, Steve, Brad, and Todd and myself. An eclectic collection of retro mountain bikes, randonneurs, and a certain LHT got pulled into service this day. And all served well, with no flats or failures or any bikes down.

The Mountain Men
The Mountain Men

The ride had four serious up-ups and a couple very memorable down-downs. All total, the surly group tallied 40 miles and 3,600′ of climbing … most all of the action being on dirt.

The hike-a-bike  "shortcut" - a power line trail
The hike-a-bike “shortcut” – a power line trail

We returned to the lodge in plenty of time to pack for home before our last dinner of the weekend and the trip back home.

Once again, big thanks to Ann for organizing the weekend, and we all credit her for ordering up the perfect weather for the weekend!

Can it get any better than this?