Sunday, April 08, 2007

Bike Ride Report - Fleche 2007

Here I am home at last after our failed attempt at the fleche.

I did 120 miles yesterday, and 70 today, almost all into strong headwinds. The high temperature for all of this was 42. It took me 20:30 to do this, which is not quite good enough a pace to complete a fleche.

It was a bad year for Team Torque (Jim, Drew, Scott, l to r)

Here we are about to set off from Dewey Beach at 8:00 am. Note that it is snowing. There is also a very strong wind blowing right from the direction where we will be riding.

Jim was the first casualty.

If you are a glass-half-full sort of person, you would say that Jim toughed it out for 2 hours. On the other hand, the glass-half-empty sort of person would note that Jim toughed it out for 11 miles.

We did lose 40 minutes due to Jim getting a flat tire at mile 3.5, so it wasn't as if he was only riding 5.5 mph. He was making nearly 8 into the wind.

Anyway, Jim went home because it was apparent there was no way he was going to finish in these conditions.

Once we got up to Route 16, Scott and I made some serious time, since the wind was blowing across. We were able to maintain about 17 mph, and by the time we got to the control at NASCAR Al's, were were back on the pace of 10 mph. (238 miles in 24 hours for our route)

It seems another Fleche team, the Chain Gang, had passed through Al's 3 1/2 hours earlier. They left us words of encouragement.

But right after Al's the route turned north into the wind, and we were unable to add much cushion. We stopped at mile 78 in Sudlersville. We found a great cafe about a quarter mile off the route. Turn right at the stoplight, it's on the right just past the meat packers.

Both Scott and I had open-faced roast beef sandwiches, with gravy on them fries, hon. Yum!

Note Drew's clean plate and Scott's half-eaten meal. This marked the beginning of the end for Scott. He was unable to hold down food or liquid.

He realized severe dehydration was inevitable by Bethel (mile 85) and called his wife to pick him up in Chesapeake City, which was the first town where there was a warm place to wait around in.

Here's Scott at the end in Chesapeake City. He was dragging badly at this point.

I pressed on.

The route gets quite hilly after Elkton. By the time I got to Oxford, PA (mile 120), it was 8:00 and dark. It was also getting pretty cold, and I was starting to get second thoughts about riding all night alone in these conditions. I decided to find a good meal, and then see how I felt, and maybe just get a room if I didn't start feeling better.

I found a diner about a quarter mile off the route, and it had just closed. I inquired at the nearest gas station if there was a motel in town. The guys at the gas station didn't speak English so well. The first one said no motel. The second one said there was a hotel. Go down the road to the first light and look to your left.

Here it is. (taken this morning in the daylight)

I went and looked in the window. There were people inside, there was a dining room, a bar, and pool tables in the back. Food!

I went in. There was a man and a woman sitting at the counter in the dining room who looked like they might be in charge.

I asked "Are you guys actually a hotel?" They looked at each other kind of puzzled.

"Why do you want to know?"

"Well, I'd like to get a room."

This seemed to confuse them more. They didn't know what to do. I explained to them about the fleche, and how I had had enough after 120 miles of cold and headwinds. I also said how it would make my day if I could just sit here and eat and then go to sleep and ride home tomorrow.

They explained the situation. They rent rooms, but only by the week, typically to laborers. There are two shared showers for all rooms, and they provide no sheets, blankets, towels or toiletries.

I observed that they had a Dangerously Delicious pie box on the counter, which was the pie shop in my former neighborhood run by Rodney the retired punk rocker and notable neighborhood character. They said they drive to Baltimore every week and load up on pies, and that's actually all the food they serve any more, and pretty much all the food they themselves eat.

I told them at this point I have no standards and I would take whatever room they had. Since we had bonded over our love of Rodney's pie, they set out to figure out how to accommodate me. I ordered a slice of sausage pie for dinner, and slice of custard pie ("white trash creme brulee" according to Rodney) for dessert. And a hot chocolate and a Yuengling.

First they had to figure out what a room cost for one night. They decided $20. The weekly rate is $120. Then there was the matter of blankets. They found some sheets and blankets upstairs, which I suspect were the spares from their own room. They found a bar of soap! But the towel had them stumped. They eventually handed me a new roll of paper towels from behind the bar. Finally we had to figure out what to do with my bike. The room was on the third floor, and of course there is no elevator. We chained it to the radiator pipe in the hallway.

Here's the room.

No, there was no heat to speak of, but the blankets were plenty warm, and I slept in the fleece pants I rode in (they weren't too soggy) and my reserve base layer and down sweater. I was very comfy, and as far as I am concerned this place was a complete score.

It only took about 20 paper towels to dry off from my shower.

Now the next day, all I had to do was ride home. Since I no longer had to worry about our Approved Fleche Route and control cards and all that, I decided there was no way I was going to ride 12 miles of very hilly roads north to Quarryville and cross the Susquehanna at Holtville. Instead I'll just ride on US 1 and go over the Conowingo dam. Everyone says it's horrible to ride over the Conowingo dam, but I had never done it so I figured it was time for the direct experience. Also maybe the grades on Route 1 wouldn't be so bad and maybe there would be places to eat.

So I fired up my GPS and headed out of town on Locust St. to Route 1. I discovered in Pennsylvania, Route 1 is a limited access highway, and there is no access from Locust St. Four very hilly miles later, I made it to Nottingham, PA, home of a giant Herr's chip plant, and a tasty breakfast restaraunt. I was feeling quite ragged at this point, but a good breakfast fixed me right up.

So I headed out on Route 1 the limited access freeway, on the smooth and spacious shoulder, and into Maryland where Route 1 is a regular road, which still has a smooth and spacious shoulder, and over the Conowingo Dam, which was not so bad at all. It's really not much different than crossing Liberty Reservoir on Deer Park Road. Don't believe the hype.

In fact I was feeling so confident I decided to abandon my notion of riding Route 1 all the way to Bel Air, and instead I would take one of my favorite scenic ride routes and go down MD 136 and head into Baltimore on MD 7, Philadelphia Rd. Perhaps I had an oxygen deficiency in my brain and all the brain cells that were involved with remembering just how hilly that route was were disabled at the time. It was bad. I wound up climbing 5400 feet on a 70 mile ride. Into a 15+ mph headwind the whole time. I was about spent when I got to the Double T at White Marsh, which was still about 25 miles from home.

Hot turkey sandwich with gravy on them fries, hon fixed me right up. Also, it flattens out a bit on the back roads I take through Middle River and Essex.

I also figured out why subconsciously I had to go this way.

No fleche success this year, those frigid headwinds are brutal, but it was a good adventure.

Here's the map for the first day, and the MotionBased page.

Here's the map for the second day, and the MotionBased page.

Max is still cute!


Vik said...

You are making me feel guilty for thoughts of skipping my first planned brevet because temps look to be below zero C.

Glad you got some good riding in - sounds like character building conditions.

Drew Roth said...

character building, that's it!

Smitty Werbenmanjensen said...

That's a cycling adventure par excellence. Thousands of anciens are tipping their hats t

Hjalti said...

Wow. Great story. epic ride.