Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Monday, December 31, 2012

D'oh! 500 KILOMETERS, not MILES! - Festive500

As Fear Rothar raised his glass in toast tonight for completion of the Festive 500, he said, "Next time pay attention to the UNITS."

What? It was only 500km, not 500 miles?

photo courtesy of Henry van den Broek

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Motivation to Keep Going - Festive 500

Shortly after we finished our ride on Saturday, the sky was filled with white particles - small at first, but they grew larger after a while. It was actually very pretty. The larger ones had a lace-like quality, with patterned edges and they floated down slowly. I searched deep into my memory. I knew I'd experienced this before. I almost suffered a mini panic attack as I feared the sky was indeed falling - that whole Mayan thing is still lurking in my sub-conscious. What if they were right, but had miscalculated? Could this be the end?

Reception on the Cat TV (TM) was snowy too.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Another 100km Before the Snow Flies - Festive 500

It's a bit tricky trying to plan rides in New England at this time of year. Fortunately, we are somewhat resilient, so we can cope with fluid plans and changing things on the fly! A few weeks back, as Patria and I were putting together the schedule of Festive 500 rides for the week, she heard from Derrick Lewis, Ride Studio Cafe's Rapha representative, that he and Rich Bravo, Rapha Continental rider, would be joining us for a ride on December 29. So we planned a special ride with some Rapha Epic (tm) potential.

The initial plans were for a 105 mile ride that headed out to Mount Wachusett, taking in some lovely steep back road climbs up the the park entrance, a few nice ridge views, a couple of wind turbines, and even some nice dirt for good measure. While we barely got any snow in our neighborhood in the mid-week storm, the western suburbs got quite a bit on Thursday. I received several emails from folks who live further west, about less than ideal conditions on the roads near the mountain. I'd already decided that passing on the dirt road around the back of the mountain would be wise, but still felt like the ride to the mountain would be doable, and should score us some Rapha Epic (tm) Points. However, as the day of the epic ride approached, the forecast began to suggest that snow might start to fly partway through our ride, potentially making it more epic than we really wanted. I studied lots of different forecasts, and came to the conclusion that if we scaled back to the 60 mile option, that everyone, including slow-worn-out me, should be able to do the ride and make it back to the mothership (Ride Studio Cafe) without drama. Since we'd initially planned for a century, we had moved the start time for this ride up to 8AM, so the earlier start time would definitely help with beating a potential midday arrival of the storm.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Blue Moon - Now I'm No Longer Alone - Festive 500

The song played inside my head throughout today's ride, although with slightly revised cycling themed lyrics...
Blue Moon by Lorenz Hart and Richard Rogers

Blue Moon
You saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own
Blue Moon
You knew just what I was there for
You heard me saying a prayer for
Someone I really could care for

And then there suddenly appeared before me
The only one my arms will (ever) hold
I heard somebody whisper please adore me
And when I looked to the Moon it turned to gold

Blue Moon
Now I'm no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

And then there suddenly appeared before me
The only one my arms will ever hold
I heard somebody whisper please adore me
And when I looked the Moon had turned to gold

Blue moon
Now I'm no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

Blue moon
Now I'm no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

The sun returned Friday morning. It was quite cold, but at least it was clear. The roads were a bit dicey though. The temps had plummeted overnight and a dusting of snow had fallen. With all the rain from yesterday, there was potential for icy patches hidden under the film of light snow. I probably should have shown better judgement and taken a bike with the winter or studded tire, but I was tired and really didn't want any more of a handicap than necessary.

Yes, I admit it. I am tired. And may not show the best judgement!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

No BAD Weather, just BAD clothing - Festive 500

Cyclists can be quite devoted to their favorite weather forecasts! Some of us even have multiple forecast apps on our smartphones and multiple weather bookmarks in our browsers - or maybe that's just me. I have started to learn which sources are the most accurate and where to find the best hourly details. I can also try to fool myself by shopping around for the most optimistic forecasts, as if ignoring the reality of a prediction for bad weather could make it go away!

Now the only optimistic forecast I saw about today was that it would positively be miserable and raw. But I'm no fool. Remember my number one rule, courtesy of Fear Rothar, is "Better looking at it than for it".  My frequent riding companions know that I also have very strict rules about tempting fate, by discussing weather during the ride. The phrase that will get you moved to the top of my * list is "At least it's not raining/sleeting/snowing" while we are riding together under very threatening skies. Other banned phrases include "It could be worse" and "Now we'll have a tailwind".  But some have confused a ban on tempting fate, with going out unprepared. Let's be clear. Not carrying a jacket is tempting fate, just as much as saying "At least it's not raining." Looking for the brightest forecast, so you can get yourself out the door, should never preclude carrying or actually wearing raingear! It's not bad weather, it's bad choice of clothing!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Leading the Lost to the Lake - Festive 500

We woke to brilliant sunshine. The thermometer, on the other hand, displayed something that challenged my brilliance! The mercury, for any who remember non-digital thermometers, was buried deep where the sun doesn't shine!

For those having trouble with the metaphor...
And for those having trouble with the units (it was a photo of John's thermometer)...

Big Red Bicycle Christmas

I forgot to include this video with yesterday's post on our Christmas ride. I even rode my red bike yesterday. How could I forget! Enjoy!

BTW, I also added a few more photos from Mary's iphone to yesterday's post, so you can see our desperation at finding all the Dunkin Donuts closed and our great relief at finding giant burritos at 7-11.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Follow me to the End of the World and Back - With Snow - Festive 500

Last year, we did our Festive 500 rides with quite varied temperatures, from well below freezing to almost balmy. But we had no snow to make our rides appear tough enough to even register on the Rapha Epic Scale*. So we were very excited to wake to snow this Christmas morning, with the road in front of the house completely covered. There actually was enough snow on the roads to cause me to switch bikes, changing to one that could take a studded tire. But first I had to put the fenders back on it. I've been using it lots for dry dirt road and trail rides, and the fenders were stored away somewhere in the basement. Once fenders were re-mounted, I grabbed a wheel to take a studded tire - for standby. I was certain it wouldn't be needed, but our road was still covered in snow, so that certainty was tempered. John graciously offered to let me use his winter (non-studded) tire and handicap himself with the studded tire. He is such a stud and a gentleman! I was still thinking the studded tire might not be necessary, but do also have vivid memories of falling on black ice a few times last year. The temperature was just above freezing, and since we've had no real snow this year, there is no salt residue on the roads. Hmm, caution...

Monday, December 24, 2012

Fire and Brimstone on a Cold Day - Festive 500

The Rapha Festive 500 started today, this day before the holiday when everything is closed in our annual celebration to honor excessive consumerism and gluttony [John: I get to live with this positive attitude!]. The idea behind the Festive 500 is to ride 500 km over the holidays to offset a bit of the excesses that may stretch the waistline at this time of the year. Fortunately I've been training hard all year just so I can survive all the riding this week. And given all the riding I have planned, I will need to eat even more!

John and I worked with the fine folks at Ride Studio Cafe in Lexington to put together a series of rides for the 8 days of the challenge. We have rides of about 100km on everyday, with a special 100 mile ride out to Mount Wachusett on December 29, when a few folks from Rapha are coming up to join us.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Resting Up Before the Festive 500

It just seemed wrong. A crisp cold Sunday with lots of sunshine, and I was holding back, doing a short ride. Why? Because the Festive 500 starts Monday. We have long rides planned for every day through the end of the year, and I suspect I'll be appreciating the rest as the week wears on. I heard from lots of folks on today's club ride who are planning to come out for many of the rides through out the holiday week, so we are very excited that we'll have so much company (and so many people in our photos!) The more the merrier. Please join us for any or all. Details here.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Festive 500 - 2012

It's starting to look like we might get some snowy pictures for the Rapha Festive 500 this year. Like last year, we have put together a series of rides, based out of Ride Studio Cafe. Check out all the details here, and please come join us!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Winter Bike

My recent blog postings have dealt with dressing for winter cycling.  (Southern Hemisphere readers can skip the smug comments, and store away these links for a few months!) So now that we've got you in appropriate clothing for riding comfortably through the winter, let's take a look at your bike. You may look at your fancy lightweight bike with its shiny anodized parts and carbon rims and think that you don't want to take it out on wet mucky salty roads. Good call! Save that bike for warm dry rides on pristine pavement.

A winter bike is one that will need to stand up well to abuse, as it is likely to get caked in sand and salt and other assorted road grime, be ridden through slush covered potholes and occasionally kept out after dark. You might think that an appropriate winter bike is a cheap department store bike that you won't care about, but the first time you are doing some repair on the side of the road with cold numb hands, you will curse that bike in a way that makes you care!

Monday, December 10, 2012

World's End Ride, December 20, 2012

Will Thursday, December 20 be our last full day of existence? Lots of folks seem to be worried that the Mayan calendar may be predicting total destruction on 12/21/2012. There has been enough chatter about it that the US Government and NASA have posted FAQs addressing the question... not that any of the groups freaking out about the Apocalypse would trust those agencies.

I don't know if I trust those agencies either! Who knows what will happen on the Winter Solstice (December 21), aside from cyclists in the Northern Hemisphere celebrating that days are starting to get longer! If we are still here, that is...

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Dressing for Winter Cycling - Hands, Feet and Head

In the previous two posts, I've talked about base layers and outer layers for winter cycling. Now before getting to the details for hands and feet, let me reiterate that riders sometimes miss the obvious when facing issues with cold extremities - Protect the brain and Insulate the pipes. The brain, being the central control unit, protects itself first. Extremities are the lowest priorities. So the most important item of clothing for keeping the hands and feet warm is actually what is on your head!

It should be obvious that the hands and feet are at the end of your arms and legs, and the warm blood you'd like to have flowing around your hands and feet has to pass from your heart inside your nice warm core out through the arms and legs to get to the hands and feet. Imagine your hot water heater working away down in your basement, but with uninsulated pipes running outside the house to get upstairs to your shower, or the duct work from your furnace running outside the house before reaching a vent in your living room. A lot of heat will be lost through those uninsulated exposed pipes and ducts. Same for your body.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Dressing for Winter Cycling - Outer Layers

In the previous blog post, I talked about base layers for winter cycling. But so far, global warming hasn't completely eliminated the need for a few extra layers in the winter, so I will now talk about additional layering.

Arm and leg warmers are great for those rides that start out cool, but warm up enough to expose some flesh. Warmers are easy to push down or pull off on the move. They tend to be pretty compact so can be stored in a pocket or seat bag when not in use.

Dressing for Winter Cycling - Base Layers

For many years now, the most popular article on our website is the one about dressing for winter riding. The next few blog posts draw from that article with some updates. The weather here is starting to turn distinctly colder, so the timing seems right to talk about dressing for winter rides.

Both Fear Rothar and I are year-round cyclists, and have been for many years. We commute throughout the year, but also enjoy quite a few recreational rides during the winter as well.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Vertical Epic

Yesterday I hit a milestone - well not so much a milestone as a foot-stone. According to my records on Strava, I've climbed 1 million feet this year!

Now I'll be the first to admit that I am quite lucky to have lots of time on my hands, enabling me to go out and do long rides every day. And my ability to clock up this much climbing has a lot more to do with time to ride than anything else. But it's still something I got excited about as I got closer to the big number.

We had a very mild winter in 2012, which allowed me and most of my riding neighbors to do a lot of early season riding. Then Strava had this climbing challenge from mid-March to the end of April. I got a little taste of competition as I flirted with the top spot on the female leaderboard. And by the end, I'd accumulated a lot of feet, and it seemed also a new love of climbing.

I've never considered myself a climber. Fear Rothar is the climber. But he seems to influence me a bit. I started doing the hill-climb races, because he was doing the hill-climb races. And of course when we ride the tandem, I have no choice but to go up and down all the same hills. But I will admit that at some point I developed a real love of the views from the top of these climbs, and eventually found I also really enjoyed the journey.

A suitable brew!

The ride that put me over the top!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Building Community

A few years ago Rob Vandermark, founder of Seven Cycles, possibly in an attempt to fill every hour of every day with work, opened a shop near us that combined two of my passions, coffee and bicycles. But the Ride Studio Cafe is so much more than a coffee shop that sells bicycles or a bike shop that sells coffee.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Because Sometimes the Road Goes Up

Hello Mountains!

"Because sometimes the road goes up" - This was my gut reaction recently when, after posting these photos on facebook, a friend asked about the advantage of the nominal mountain bike derailleur on a road bike. I did think the "Hello Mountains" caption was pretty clear, but it seems it wasn't.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Fall Five - Part Two

The fabrication of this awesome trophy!

To my twitter followers - Wondering what all those tweets with the #fallfive tag were all about?

We managed to complete (and blog about) the first three stages of the Fall Five before Superstorm Sandy breezed through the area with a glancing blow. While NJ, NY and CT took the brunt of the damage, we just got the winds swirling above the eye. As a result of all the severe forecasts for the area, and previous occasions where warnings had been ignored with dire consequences, everything was essentially closed down on Monday, while we waited for Sandy to arrive. Around mid-afternoon, we had some impressive rain and wind, and then we heard the loud crackle of a nearby transformer blowing as our power went out. John was working from home, but no power spelled the end of that. We decided to try and get out for a walk to get a little exercise for the day, and very quickly spotted what had taken out our power as a tree had fallen across the street, taking down power and phone lines, and was resting on a neighbors house. We saw lots of leaves down everywhere, but relatively little significant damage, other than this one downed tree.  It turns out this pattern repeated itself lots in the area. There were lots of little pockets of power outages caused by similar circumstances, but nothing major.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Fall Five

This week, a unique solo stage race, Fall Five is being hosted by our local bike and coffee shop, Ride Studio Cafe (RSC). While RSC is clearly one of the best places for cyclists to hang out, drool over cool bikes and accessories and clothes, drink espresso and meet with cycling friends, the proprietors do recognize that we all have very busy schedules, and sometimes it's just not possible to coordinate and all get together for a ride/race at the same time. So they came up with this clever stage race, that let's us compete with each other, on our own schedules.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Two Chicks on a Tandem do the Great River Ride

This week my Tuesday ride had 4 riders of the female persuasion and one lone male. When Bob joined us en route, I commented to him that he was lucky to ride with 4 chicks. He agreed that we were delightful company, but commented that while we were allowed to call ourselves chicks, he probably was not!

Ah well, I've never been one to worry much about political correctness. I love telling the story of one of our fleche rides. We had three gals riding fixed gear bikes, and our team name was "Fixie Chicks".  But that's not the story. My two teammates were 10 or 20 years younger than me. We were close to the end of our 250 mile/24 hour ride, when we came to an intersection. I must have been slightly ahead and crossed safely, but the other two stopped and got a kick out of watching the guys passing by on Harleys, who apparently twisted their heads around quite noticeably checking me out! So now I call myself a post-feminist, because my reaction to that was to think that this was pretty cool!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Missed Opportunities

We will definitely make a return trip to the Cevennes. First and foremost to visit our friends, Eddie and Chisa. But we missed a few climbs, and we must do them all. We also missed about half the Gorges du Tarn, and according to some sources, the part we missed was even more spectacular than the part we saw. We didn't ride across the top of Mt Lozere. We never made it back to ride through  the Ardeche Gorge. And we totally missed out on Nimes. When we arrived in Nimes at the beginning of the trip, we really only saw the area immediately by the train station. It was all under construction and just wasn't appealing. Eddie's GPS then picked the most unattractive way out of town. And with all the construction in the area, Eddie was none too impressed with the city and made his feelings known.

For our return trip, Eddie drove us back into Nimes, where we'd spend the night and then catch the TGV the next morning to get back to Paris for our flight home. As we wandered around Nimes that evening, we realized we'd have to come back and spend some time there. I managed to get a few shots the next morning before we caught the train.

Monday, October 22, 2012

One More Day to Climb

We had one final day for cycling in France and it was a exquisite one. We had such a nice time climbing Mt. Bouquet the first week that we thought we'd head back out and take Eddie with us this time. We decided to make it a shorter ride than our first journey, since we needed to get back and take the bikes apart and pack up all our stuff before getting a lift into Nimes where we'd stay the night before catching the train to Paris the next morning.

We also decided to approach the mountain from the opposite side this time, which would make it a completely different ride for us. The interesting thing about this approach was that we could see the mountain sitting out in front of us for miles and miles, where the route we took the first time left the climb as a sudden shocking surprise. We suggested to Eddie that he could bring folks he didn't like up the surprise way!

The End Is Near

After the drama and excitement of the day before, our ride back to Vezenobres seemed almost like a let down. Moreso, since this was our last day out touring. It was sad to think our holiday was almost over. I think this made me ride slower and stop more often just to make the trip last longer.

After coffee and many thanks to Vincent for his kind hospitality (Joelle had left for work very early), we rode into town to find some food for breakfast and lunch. We would be following a lot of the roads we had ridden with Eddie when coming back from Mt Aiguoal, and we remembered that there weren't many services along the way, so again it would be a good idea to stock up where we could. 

The Kindness of Strangers

Josie Dew is one of my favorite authors. If you don't know of her, you may suspect, based on my cycling obsession and my fondness for her books, that she writes about cycling - self supported cycle touring to be specific. Twenty-some years ago, she started taking off on long self-supported tours, first with a boyfriend, and later, once he proved too fragile, solo. She wrote a book about one of those early tours, and then soon after wrote another and another. After a while books just kept appearing after some extended bike tour in some exotic or not so exotic place. Her writing style is quite humorous and very much to my taste.

The kindness of strangers is a recurring theme in her books. Maybe because she was a female touring alone, with an enormous load, including the kitchen sink it seems, she would often have folks stop and give her things, like food, and Hello Kitty paraphernalia (that - mostly when when she was touring in Japan). Now no one has ever stopped us while we were touring to offer us Hello Kitty socks, or cans of soda, or asked us to come home and camp in their back garden. I suspect part of the reason Josie got more attention is that she was a female, traveling alone. And given the load she was already carrying, what's a little more! Oh and we've never toured in Japan, so maybe we would get the same treatment there and need to carry an empty pannier to hold all the gifts!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Simply Gorges!

Today we really learned what makes the Cevennes so special. I hinted a couple of days ago that it seemed to be much more about the valleys or gorges than the mountains, and our ride through the Gorges Du Tarn proved that beyond any shadow of a doubt!

We have hundreds of photos from today, and have tried to select a nice subset. It's the reason it has taken so long to get this post out. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Learning Not to Trust the Weather Forecast

I've been a cyclist long enough to know better! Honestly I do know better. But I'm an optimist, so I still look at the weather forecast, despite the forecasters abysmal record at getting it right. And I still trust them when I see predictions like sunny, warm, light winds, etc. The forecast for Monday was for exactly that - clear skies. We had a pretty good thunderstorm overnight, but we did see bits of blue sky when we came out for breakfast, so we felt it could be a good day. However, by the time we were ready to head out, the clouds had closed back in, and in fact, it was starting to spit rain just as we were saying thankyou and goodbye.

We bid adieu to Chisa and Siobhan and headed into town to pick up some more snacks and lunch supplies for the day. We were quite surprised to find Vialas was all shuttered up and closed on Mondays! The boulangerie and small grocery were both closed as was everything else, meaning we would now be dependent on finding lunch on the road. By the time we rolled out of Vialas for good, it was really beginning to rain.  Well at least we had a few miles of climbing ahead of us to warm up! We were heading back up the same 10km section of road that we had descended twice in the last two days! John stopped to take a few photos and I reached the col well ahead of him. The wind was howling in my face, and it was raining quite steadily. Had I looked at a forecast for a different country? I managed to find some shelter where I put on my legwarmers and well... everything else I had with me. John arrived shortly and we started down.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Mont Lozere in the Clouds

Before our wonderful multi-course classic French meal with our Irish, French and Japanese friends, I had a quick look at the map and noticed some nice twisty scenic roads with triple arrows all around  Mont Lozere. I mentioned the possibility of doing a loop ride around the massif the next day. Christian and Siobhan instead suggested a loop up and across the massif. They recommended a dirt road that turned off the main road shortly after the ski station at Le Mas de la Barque. They had ridden it on their mountain bikes but said once up the first steep bit from the paved road, it should be quite rideable with our road tires.
We were starting to notice that these mountains were a bit different from those of the Pyrenees and Alpes. Here the mountains, while dramatic in their own way, were more of a backdrop to the main feature: the valleys. It was actually the valleys or gorges that seemed to have the most spectacular scenery. The mountain tops tended to be the large causses with prairie like scenery, that is until they dropped off dramatically into a gorge.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Mountains Calling - a short bike tour

After getting a taste of the mountains of the Cevennes on our two day tour to Mt Aigoual, we wanted to get back and explore more. Chisa was planning to spend a few days with her friend, Siobhan and her husband, Christian, at their mountain home in Vialas near Mont Lozere. The ladies were planning a lunch out and some hiking. Siobhan offered to do B&B (and dinner) for us if we wanted to head up that way. How could we turn a great offer like that? So Vialas became our destination for the first day.

We again pulled out the Michelin map and looked for the green highlights that mark the scenic roads.  By looking for twisty roads with triple arrows and green highlights, we were able to plot out a nice route that would have a few climbs and hopefully some nice scenery. We aimed initially for Anduze, as the gateway to the mountains. From Anduze, we followed a gorge west for a while before turning back east to climb the Col d'Uglas, bringing us back down toward Ales. Next we followed some more green highlighted roads over the Col de la Baraque, before picking up some tiny roads that would bring us up to a ridge road that headed for the Col de la Croix de Berthel. From there is would be downhill to Vialas.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Day of Surprises

After getting glorious dry sunny weather at the wettest place in France, we had to pay the price and Friday was forecast to be dull and dreary. Eddie wanted to take the day off, but he made a few suggestions for areas we could explore on a day ride. We initially thought we would head for the Ardèche Gorge, but when we mapped it out, it was a bit long for a day ride - at least one with nice scenery where we'd want to stop lots for photos! So we decided to still head in that direction, taking in a few other sights along the way, and then plan to get back out to the gorge later on our longer tour the following week.

Someone failed to notice that spike in the profile!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Lot of Descending

We spent most of the first day climbing, so the return journey from Mt. Aigoual should be mostly downhill, right? Well it was certainly a net downhill and certainly easier than the ride out, but we did still have a few cols to go over on our way home.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Wettest Place in France - on a Sunny Day

I only learned well after our ride that our destination, Mt Aigoual, situated where clouds from cold Atlantic air converges with warm Mediterranean currents resulting in over 7 feet of rainfall annually, is the wettest place in France! Amazingly we found sunny skies. We had a bit of wind to contend with, but no rain on this visit!

Eddie had mapped out a 200km route from Vézénobres out to Mt Aigoual and back that he planned to submit to Audax Ireland as a permanent. He'd ridden the outbound leg, but still needed to check out the return journey. 

Mt Aigoual is the highest point in the Cevennes and features prominently in Tim Krabbé classic, The Rider. It was on John's list of must see places. So we were happy to join him on the scouting mission. We decided to split the ride into two days to allow lots of time for taking photos, as well as the potential need to change the route for the sections Eddie had not yet ridden. This would also eliminate the need for lights with the shorter Autumn daylight.


On Tuesday, the forecast called for heavy rain. When we awoke, the visibility out the door was zilch and Eddie felt it would be a bad idea to ride. While he took the day to get caught up on chores around the house, we decided to explore Vézénobres and then do a 6 mile hike, followed by some shopping...

Eddie and Chisa's place is next to the Marie and the tourist office is in the lower level around the back. Armed with a map of a 6 mile hike, we headed out into the fog to explore town and try to find the markers for the hike. After about an hour of wandering around the medieval village, we stopped into the tourist office to try to find the first blaze for the hike. We'd seen lots of yellow signs for longer hikes, but hadn't spied any green signs, as our hike was supposed to be marked in green. Leaving the tourist office armed with the route for the first kilometer, we finally sped the tiny green blazes painted on various signs and buildings through town. The map had a verbal description (in French), and between the verbal description, the map, and some GPS consulting, we managed to find our way onto the trail. Since part of the hike went through the center of town, it wasn't simply a matter of following a worn track through the woods! And the blazes were about 1cm high by 3cm wide - and could be generously described as being placed discreetly! We had a great game of trying to find the next blaze as we made our way out of town. Fortunately we did eventually turn into the woods and it was a bit easier to follow the worn track than  it had been scanning for turns along the village streets!

I'm sure there were mountains out there yesterday!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Pont du Gard

A few years ago, Eddie and Chisato, friends of John's from Ireland (and Japan), bought and refurbished a lovely home in the south of France, in the center of the medieval village of Vézénobres. Chisa now spends 6 months of the year there, running it as a La Maison Yoshimi B&B. Eddie is still gainfully employed in Ireland, and until he can properly retire, doesn't get to spend quite so much time there. We've had a longstanding invitation to come visit, and this year took advantage at a time when Eddie would be around and able to cycle with us. 

We flew into Paris and took the TGV to Nimes, where Eddie picked us up and drove us to the village. Despite a bit of sleep deprivation, we reassembled our bikes, and then enjoyed one of Chisa's fabulous Japanese meals, before collapsing into bed. 

There is a bike in there - some assembly requitred

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sevens en Les Cevennes - Climbing

We have just returned from a two week trip in Les Cevennes in France. When we ordered our Seven Cycles bikes last year, we had two major requirements. They must fly and they must climb. They do both quite well.  I'll post about packing and unpacking the S&S bikes, as well as some packing lists for our tour later.

Let me just say that I am quite happy that I've been doing so much climbing this year. I do believe that all the hill-climbing has trained me well for this holiday, especially the windy conditions from Newton's.

Just to provide a teaser for upcoming posts, here's shots from some of the climbing we did. We have about 1000 photos to sort through, and I will start getting a few pictures and stories from each day up soon. I had hoped to blog along the way, but our days were full enough with riding and eating, so there just wasn't time. But I have lots of blog material now for a few weeks!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Kearsarge Klassic

The New Hampshire Cycling Club did a great job with their inaugural Kearsarge Klassic, a new event taking in lots of dirt roads around Mt. Kearsarge State Forest Park, an area of NH that we haven't spent a lot of time in before. We found ourselves on lovely lightly traveled scenic roads with some pretty awesome support, as well as a great after ride dinner of homemade chili. The ride was a fund-raiser for the Ausbon Sargent Land Preservation Trust to support its work preserving and protecting the natural beauty of New Hampshire. The club donated over $5,000 with proceeds from the ride!

We'd heard about the ride a few weeks ago from friends who know our love for dirt, but we had not seen any publicity about it. I was reminded of the ride when I noticed a link on bikereg.com last week as I was registering us for the Burke race. I mentioned it to John and we decided to give it a go. As you can probably tell from the blog, we've had a very busy year, and when Friday evening rolled around we were having second thoughts about loading up the car yet again to go do yet another event. Frankly, we are worn out! Not so much from riding, but loading and unloading the car, driving and laundry!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Getting Dirty in the Northeast Kingdom

The Burke Bike Barn is quite spacious, so we had a few friends to join us for the weekend. The potluck cookouts on Saturday and Sunday nights were fabulous. Odd took over the grill and did an excellent job with the steaks, chicken and sausages, as well as drinking some beer.

Laboring Up Burke Mountain

After discovering the Burke Bike Barn last summer, we tried to reserve it for every Labor Day and every Memorial Day forever. Fortunately Doug accepted our reservations for Labor Day this year. Hopefully he has us penciled in for the next 20 years. We love it here! It is a magical place.

It was made even more magical this year by the presence of a rare blue moon Friday night.

Followed the next morning by some brilliant sunshine and crisp blue skies.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Mt. Washington duathlon

Ironically, the rides and races that go smoothly and completely according to plan are often those that are quickly forgotten. Instead, those which involve unplanned adversity - be that weather, mechanical, navigation, terrain or something else that I can't even think of right now - are the ones that lead to tall tales of heroism and derring-do.

Speaking of tall tales, Mount Washington seemed determined to feature in my unforgettable list for 2012. In July, the Newton's Revenge race featured wind gusts of almost 70 mph/110 kph, conditions that I thoroughly enjoyed and revelled in. The extra challenge somehow inspired me and allowed me to explore the depths of the "pain cave" a little deeper than I think I might have otherwise managed that day.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Getting my Mt Washington Fix

Regular readers know that the pixie fixie (that's the bike) was due to make another appearance at Mt Washington this year for the bike race up to the top. Leading up to the ride, the Fixie Pixie (that's me) tried to get back into proper fixie mode. I admit that I have been a bit shifty since late spring, with lots of long hilly rides with gears, but starting the first of August, I pulled out my road fixie and rode it a lot. Then I borrowed a belt-drive bike set up as fixed and test rode it for a week. And I raced the pixie fixie up Mt.  Equinox to test out my new slightly higher gear. So by the time August 18th rolled around I was definitely back in a state of not knowing how to shift.

It's been an action packed year, with lots of long distance rides, as well as a few hill climbs. I got a good kick-start with the Strava-Specialized climbing challenge back in the spring, and continued to do lots of climbing in the longer events. My first hill-climb race of the year was the Newton's Revenge race up Mt Washington.  I was finally persuaded to give gears another chance, and ended up having a pretty good race with gears, taking 5 minutes off my previous best time. But I really wanted to have another go on fixed. After all, I tell folks that fixed is actually an advantage.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Belt Drive Fixie

"Why fixed?"

It's a question that I hear lots. Actually I hear this question mostly when I am riding fixed. Which isn't always, but this month it has been a lot. In a blog posting last week, I mentioned that I would be doing Mt. Washington on the pixie fixie again. So leading up to that event, I've been avoiding those shifty bikes in favor of fixed. Therefore it seemed like an ideal time to do an extended test ride of the Seven Cafe Racer S set up with a Gates Carbon Drive belt and a fixed cog. I'd first spotted this bike at Ride Studio Cafe last year. It was set up as a single speed. I took it out for a short test ride last spring, and then asked Rob about fixing it, and letting me take it for some extended rides. He ordered the fixed cog right away, but the bike was actually booked on a flight to London for a some test riding and reviewing there, so I'd have to wait a little while before I could really put it through the paces.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Fixin' to Climb Mt Equinox

The pixie fixie has seemingly been in hibernation for a while, but all that changed recently. After stoking the tandem for a week, I wasn't sure I could handle going back to doing my own steering, braking and shifting all at once. So I decided to leave out shifting for a while. I pulled down the road fixie and just reacquainted myself with steering and braking.

Then I pulled down the pixie fixie (note the difference here - pixie fixie is the pink bike with the teeney fixed gear. Fixie Pixie is the small gal with the pink jersey and braids who rides the pixie fixie). Anyway, I pulled the pixie fixie down from the hook where it spends most of the year and starting prepping it for the race up Mt Equinox. First up was changing the rear cog. I've used 20/20 gearing for all my previous (successful) races, but decided this year to throw caution to the wind, and step it up a notch by using a 19T cog in the back! I also decided it was time for some new tires. Not that I have ridden the bike a lot, but apparently the tires had quite a bit of use before I put them on the bike last year. So I treated the pixie fixie to its own dedicated pair of brand new tires. Finally I moved my super-light pedals over from the geared hill-climber. I double checked that the wheel was on nice and tight. Last year, I had a incomplete (DNF) on Mt Equinox when, after changing the cog, I didn't tighten the wheel enough and it came loose on the descent. I did not want a repeat!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Quadzilla - Day 4

The final day, and there I was checking the weather again. Initially the forecast had looked good, but now I saw a big swath of green and yellow headed our way on the radar. What a pity we still haven't mounted the fenders. I'm ashamed to admit this, but we've been doing so much dirt road riding and simply had not wanted to risk damaging them. Oh well, I'd have to suffer the indignity of a wet bum. We put our rain jackets into the seat bag, and headed out trying to get as far along as possible before being overtaken by the storms.

We passed through the charming looking town of Skaneateles at the top of its eponymous lake. It looked like a lovely place to spent a night, or at least have a coffee, but the storm brewing behind us kept us on the move. The rain caught us in earnest as we began the first real climb of the day, and the thunder and lightning were almost of top of us when we reached the summit, where Chuck and Crista were waiting in their van offering bananas and encouragement.  I quickly put on my jacket, while John took a banana and we apologized for not hanging out due to the lightning! We just wanted to get off the mountaintop. We got down as quickly as we could, while still showing some caution for the wet and steep roads, and those ever-present stops signs!

Quadzilla - Day 3

After two hard days with over 10,000 feet of climbing each day, we were looking forward to this easy day with a mere 6,000 feet. There was even a little temptation to make it easier, by riding directly to Auburn, without taking the dogleg up to Lake Ontario. Fortunately Mark had emphasized that the ride up to Fair Haven State Park was beautiful and the views of Lake Ontario would be well worthwhile.

Still we were pretty tired. We rolled out of town with MaryBeth and Vida, and enjoyed getting to know them better as we rode along, chatting away. Shortly before reaching Waterloo, I heard comments about stopping for coffee, so I kept my eyes peeled as we passed through town, and we found a lovely coffee shop just at the edge of town. As we sat down to enjoy our find, Robert pulled up with the same idea. He had sprinted off the front, but had missed a turn, resulting in some bonus miles. Great minds think alike though and he was also ready for a break in Waterloo.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Quadzilla - Day 2

Cyclists seem to be more obsessed with weather and weather forecasts than anyone. Inevitably when gathered among a group of cyclists, discussion turns to weather, weather apps and weather forecasting tools. We've all got several weather apps on our smart phones, ipads and laptops. Some of us are on a first name basis with the local TV weather reporters. I will even admit I subscribe to a weather twitter feed. We obsessively check and compare and sometimes shop around to find the most favorable forecast - being optimistic creatures and all.

Conversation at dinner Wednesday night kept turning back to the weather. We'd had an absolutely glorious day for riding Wednesday with crystal clear blue skies, although the humidity had started to rise a bit late in the day and some clouds were rolling in for the final climb.  It was just starting to sprinkle a bit as we walked down to dinner.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Quadzilla - Day 1

Early in the season, when we looked at various events on the calendar, Quadzilla-Staged was to be one of the target rides for the Ride Studio Cafe Endurance Team. In previous years, Quadzilla was run as a 400 mile, 28,000 foot ride around all 11 Finger Lakes with a 40 hour time limit. The new staged format added 100 miles, another 10,000 feet of climbing, and expanded to four days with 200km routes each day. This would allow for proper meals and full nights sleep in comfy motels each night.  It would also mean all the scenery could be enjoyed in daylight! Maybe I'm just no longer a proper randonneur, but for some reason this format appealed to me. The initial plan had been for QZ-staged ride to also serve as a team photo shoot, so we would bring both the tandem and single bikes, since we'd have the photo car to carry the extra bikes. But at some point, the expense of a full week on the road caused the other team members some concern, and they decided to conserve resources. I'd already registered and booked all the accommodation and to be honest, I was fairly stoked about doing the ride. Now without the photo car to carry the extra bikes, we decided to just bring the tandem. Mark Frank, organizer extraordinaire, told me that Crista Borras and Chuck Wood would also be on their tandem, so this was even more incentive to bring the tandem. That and the route profiles... Woohoo, look at those downhills!

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

More Vermont Dirt

After a couple of days in the Ascutney area, we packed up and started heading west on our way to Ithaca. We took our time though, stopping in Brownsville for breakfast, Ludlow for coffee, and Manchester for lunch, then Bennington for an afternoon ride and overnight stay. We found a charming motel downtown, then had the great fortune to find a lovely 30 mile route on ridewithgps. It had some nice dirt roads, lovely vistas and three covered bridges, plus the Bennington monument.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Mt Ascutney Hillclimb Race

Sorry it's taken me so long to get a new post up. I know that I won't get any sympathy for saying this... I've just been too busy cycling (aka creating content for the blog) or more to the point, too exhausted when I'm done cycling to be able to do any blogging!

After a fabulous weekend in Northampton doing the Grand Hundo and seeing RT in concert, I faced a dilemma. Strava was having another climbing challenge, but this one was pretty ambitious and only a week long. It started on the Sunday after the climbing-intense Grand Hundo, and ended the following Saturday - or so I thought.  We had a race up Mt. Ascutney on Saturday, to be followed by a pretty hard week doing Quadzilla - Staged. We were also in the midst of a heat wave. The logical thing was to ignore the challenge and get some rest. But I can't seem to resist a challenge and I decided to try to fit in a few extra climbs during the week. I did at least pass on the temptation to try to do more climbing on Wednesday than any other female in the world. This was enforced by some pretty violent storms in the area that day, not to mention the brutal heat wave.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Jelly Beans!

I love jelly beans. In fact, jelly beans are my favorite post ride snack. I am especially partial to the cinnamon flavored ones! So it's no wonder that I am a fan of Jelly Belly, who not only make the best jelly beans, but also sponsor a bicycle racing team.

In addition to a bazillion flavors of regular jelly beans, Jelly Belly also make Sport Beans. These are electrolytes, vitamins, and calories in a nice tasty jelly bean shaped package! Some even have caffeine! My friend Cristine got me hooked on the caffeinated ones while we were climbing Monte Grappa a few years ago.

So naturally when I saw that Jeremy Powers,  a member of the Jelly Belly road race team, was putting on a fun dirt road event in one of my favorite places, I had to check it out, knowing that there would be jelly beans on offer. As a US cyclocross national champion, he'd also include some great dirt roads, along with lots of climbing, which of course would bring us up to lovely scenic vistas, followed by some screaming descents.

The JAM Fundo Grand Fundo/Hundo ride takes in some amazing beautiful, quiet, steep dirt (and a few paved) roads in the Berkshire foothills, starting in Southampton, MA. This was the third running of the event. We missed the prior two, because we were away, but this year, the timing was perfect. Earlier in the year I'd bought tickets to the Green River Festival, mainly to see Richard Thompson perform on Sunday. The ride and festival were on the same weekend, and in close proximity, so we decided to combine some riding with some music.

We decided to take the tandem because we've just been having so much fun bombing around dirt roads with it. We also figured we've been doing enough long hard dirt road rides this year that we'd just go for the full Hundo experience.

We booked a room at a fabulous solar-powered B&B, the Starlight Llama, not too far from the start. We'd stayed here a while back and had a wonderful time. John and Dee are fabulous hosts and are quite happy to share a wealth of information about solar power. The llamas, goats, peacocks and other assorted farm animals are cool too.

After a great breakfast, we headed down to the ride start, about 5 miles away and started bumping into loads of friends, and what seemed like everyone in NECX. I haven't seen official numbers, but it appeared there were several hundred riders. I saw that they made over $30K to help out some lucky, hard working young local cyclists, which is very cool.

It was a brutally hot day and while we planned to do the long route, we also planned to take it easy in the heat. So we started at the back, and got to enjoy the sight of cyclists strung out on the road for a long ways ahead of us!

The route is a little lumpy and has quite a bit of dirt. We flew through the first section past lots of ejected water bottles and folks pulled off to the side repairing punctures.

We were feeling pretty chuffed with out fat tires as we rolled along, that is until we hit pavement again and noticed the rear tire was going a bit soft! We had just caught up with Gary, who I'd ridden with on Green Mountain Double, and he stayed with us while we stopped to put in a new tube. We couldn't find anything obvious in the tire, but did discover that our brand new pump was either defective, or that maybe we needed to have a pump designed for high volume, low pressure. It took forever to get air back in, and even loads of pumping, we still had fairly low pressure. We'll have to look closer at the pump before the next big ride.

Anyway, shortly after getting back on the road, Jeremy Powers came riding by and taking note of the tandem, slowed to chat a bit and warn us about the upcoming climb on King's Highway. We had a great climb but managed to lose Gary on the descent. I knew we had a jelly bean, uh, I mean rest stop ahead, and figured we'd regroup there. 

We arrived at the stop and I filled my pockets with more Sport Beans and had a 1/2 banana. We also tried to locate a pump to top off the tire. There were two SRAM neutral support vehicles on the course, but they were still behind helping all the other folks who'd had punctures. Fortunately they rolled in shortly after we did and we were able to get the pressure back up to a comfortable 75 psi (Grand Bois 650BX42 Hetre tires).

While this was going on, Gary slipped past us. We managed to catch back up to him before the famous ice cream truck stop, where he also found one of his teammates.  Cooled a bit by some frozen treats, we headed out for more climbing.

The scenery continued to astound. The sun continued to bear down. Before the ride, Matt and David had talked about stopping at swimming holes, but try as we might, we didn't see any! They would have been littered with hot cyclists!

We continued along, enjoying quite a few new roads, with loads of dirt, mostly smooth and fast, until we hit one section where the organizers had painstakingly put orange paint on the various large rocks poking up. We were bombing along this section when we noticed the rear tire seemed soft again. This time we were able to find a small piece of flint. Hopefully we would not have any more issues. We had now used both our tubes, although we could patch if necessary. John again struggled to get proper air from the pump. But we again managed to top it off at the next rest stop, thanks to the SRAM support. 

After doing the extra Hundo loop, we rejoined the Fundo course at the final rest stop. While chatting away about tandems with the lovely ladies handing out jelly beans and cold drinks, John commented how it would be awesome and fun-scary to ride a tandem with Jeremy Powers captaining, especially on the screaming descents. It was at this point that they told us they were Jeremy's mom, aunt and nieces! They joked about having t-shirts made up with these labels next year.

We arrived back at the start hot, thirsty and hungry. It was around the time that I was inhaling the bar-b-q that I realized I'd not had much to eat for 82 miles other that Sport Beans! I think I was supposed to supplement with them, and actually eat some other stuff, but it's good to know that I can survive on them. We made it back in time for the raffle, but sadly did not win Jeremy's cool bike from last season or the Rapha shoes. We did have a great time chatting with lots of folks and talking up tandems.

We were pretty hot and tired and ending up passing on the music festival that evening. And just to give an idea of how hot it was on Sunday, I plotted a nice easy ride up and down the shaded Green River Road, getting us back to Greenfield in plenty of time to see RT!

Richard is awesome live, and did not disappoint.

It was another fabulous weekend. No rest for the weary. We are off to race up Mt Ascutney next weekend before heading out to the Finger Lakes for Quadzilla!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Shifting Gears

We've been doing lots of long distance rides this year - between various brevets, the fleche, Green Mountain Double and Rapha Gentlemen's Race. But last weekend, it was time to switch gears and do a short intense hill-climb race. Due to various conflicts, our first hill-climb event of the season was a biggie,  Newton's Revenge race up Mt Washington! We had penciled in the race up Okemo for the weekend before Newton's, to at least get one pure hill-climb race in before climbing Mt Washington, but as the weekend drew near, we finally had to admit that we were pooped from all the travelling! So we decided to save some energy by not loading up the car and driving to some far-away event for once, meaning Newton's would be the first hill-climb of the year - way to ease oneself into these things, eh?

Fortunately, I did a little hill climb training in the early spring, but truth be told, neither of us has really done any specific training for pure hill-climbs this year.  Since the long events have been coming at us fast and furious every weekend since April, we can barely think about any event beyond whatever is happening in the next few days. So there we were last week, suddenly faced with a Date with the Rock Pile.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Twenty Years

I was reminded recently that it's been twenty years. A lot of things have changed in that 20 years. A lot of things haven't. I'm happy to see some of the changes, sad to see others. I'm disappointed in some of the things that haven't changed or haven't changed enough. And I'm happy to see that some other things haven't changed at all.

I have many before and after moments in my life, some significant point that becomes a dividing line for me. Collectively we share some dates of significance, where we know exactly where we were and what we were doing. Sadly many of them mark deaths - the assassination of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, John Lennon,  and the events of September 11. We can talk about our innocence or naivety before the event, and how different things were after.  We all have stories of how these events changed us personally.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


...continued from The Perfect Storm.

A little more background: The Rapha Gents Race is a team event, where a team of 6 riders must do a prescribed route and cross the finish line together and as a complete team of 6. The best way to do this, of course, is to ride together all day, working together, helping each other out and, of course, having fun.  To make it a proper Rapha ride, it also must have lots of climbing and loads of dirt and gravel, and of course, something extra to make it epic - like a blizzard or a grizzly bear!

To quote from the Rapha blog, describing the recent Gent's race in Australia,  "there's no better way to find out if you're a true team, pulling together through the difficulties and attrition to get each other to the finish, or just six individuals racing the clock." This was certainly our theme for the day. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Perfect Storm

2012 has been an intense year of cycling for us. We've had some amazing rides. And while I wouldn't say that the Rapha Gent's Race was the focus of our early season, it was a big goal. We had such a blast on the ride last year, when we pulled together a very strong tandem team with experience on both dirt and with long distance, who brought 3 tandems with fat tires, low gears and good brakes to Pennsylvania and surprised more than a few folks, as we crossed the line first and earned some pretty nice swag.

Initially I had assumed that John would like to ride a single on the 2012 edition, but he was so stoked from our ride in 2011, that he wanted to ride tandem again. In fact, he loved it so much that he ordered a new tandem just for this year's event. Well that might be pushing it a bit, but we did get a new tandem, and it really was designed to do Gent's Race type roads. We got it just before Memorial Day and headed up to Vermont for the christening on some amazing dirt roads around East Burke. Those were our RGR shakedown rides, per se, to make sure everything was perfect on the brand new bike.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Green Mountain Double Century - Signs of Sanity

The Green Mountain Double Century was conceived by Sandy Whittlesey, founder of the wildly popular D2R2, for those folks who just didn't find D2R2 to be enough fun. Yeah, bring it on and make it twice as fun. Then see if 1000 people would still show up! For the first year, 2011, more than fifty people inquired about it, but maybe a dozen showed up at the start line, in the pouring rain. Among them was Fear Rothar, along with his Ride Studio Cafe EnduroTeammates, Matt Roy and David Wilcox. The torrential rains stayed with them all day. There may still be sand and grit in the socks John wore that day. But they had a great time and won the race, finishing in a bit over 19 hours. Russ Loomis took a break overnight and finished sometime the next day, but still well within the allowed 40 hours. They were the only finishers.

Sandy has kept the event very low-key. There is no website. There is just the announcement that you see to the right, linked off the UMCA calendar. He wants people who are interested to actually contact him, so he can let them know exactly what they are getting themselves into! And for anyone who has never received the detailed preview from Sandy, let me just say that he tells you everything - possibly way more than you want to know!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Magic Faerie Dust

Magic Faerie Dust is that elusive substance that sometimes comes with new bikes, making them seemingly effortless to ride. It doesn't accompany every new bike, since it results from a combination of good experiences, including the excitement of placing the order, the pleasure of working with the shop, the joy of seeing the results, and the thrill of riding the bike.

Fortunately for us, we had a great Magic Faerie Dust experience last year when we got our custom Seven single bikes from Ride Studio Cafe. So much so, that even after 10,000 miles and numerous rides in heavy rains that really should have washed the substance away by now, I still feel its presence on every ride!  John says the same about his Seven.

So we really should have known that it was risky to our bank account and retirement plan to take a Seven tandem out for a test ride last December. We instantly fell in love with both the concept of that bike and its sublime ride.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

DROVES - Days 2 and 3

We had a fabulous Memorial Day weekend in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Vermont has such an amazing network of lightly traveled scenic, and yes, hilly, dirt roads.  We've been taking trips to various parts of the state for years, and are always delighted by what we find. Late last summer Hurricane Irene did significant damage throughout the state, but the residents and authorities responded quickly. Areas with homes were top priority, and it was amazing how fast many of the roads were repaired. I think one of the things that helped is that so many of the roads are dirt, and is  much easier to go out and regrade these roads than to repair the paved ones.  Our hearts ached for the people affected, and we hesitated to go up last fall amid the devastation, but the word went out that tourists SHOULD come. So we tried to do our part to help out the local economy. We had a hillclimb race up Burke Mountain over Labor Day weekend, and took the opportunity as we always do, to ride as many of the dirt roads in the area as we could do in a weekend. We were happy to fond very little damage in the area. With so much uncertainty about the roads on the original route, and needing to book accommodation early, we decided to move DROVES to East Burke. This gave us the opportunity to share even more parts of this wonderful state with our friends. Also by changing to a single location, it would make it easy for folks who wanted to do shorter rides. A few folks took advantage of that opportunity this year, but we still had plenty of company on the longer rides.