Bel Air to Baltimore and Back – the errandonee rando

I’ve been spending my weeks doing indoor workouts and getting out here and there for rec rides when I have a chance but not getting much done by way of bike. Mary over at Chasing Mailboxes posted the 2014 Errandonee Challenge, and I was excited for the chance to start using my bike for utilitarian purposes again. I started relying on the Hopkins Shuttle for commuting back in September and cutting back on my store/bike trips since moving last year. This would have been a good chance for me to get back into the swing of things but I also started incorporating strength/core training early last week. After a few days suffering through “delayed-onset-muscle-soreness” and doing only light spinning on the trainer while trying to recover I’d burned up a number of the challenge days with nothing to show for it. I’d planned for an endurance ride on Sunday so I sat down with the computer to see if I could also knock off some ‘errands’ too. I set my alarm for 5:30 Sunday and put all my riding gear in neat piles ready to go the night before.

In lieu of my normal pre-ride routine, I went out for breakfast. 0.7 miles in was my first stop of the errandonee challenge at the local Dunkin Donuts for breakfast. I treated myself to cream and sugar in my coffee this morning. What did I learn? Well, if I need to cool off a volcanically hot beverage quickly enough to drink it in 10 minutes, I can blow on it from the top-left and create a little ‘convection cooling whirlpool’ that brings the first few sips to temperature in a minute or 2. That’s all I got. Oh, and it’s been ages since I’ve had a hash brown. I like hash browns.

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Leaving the Dunkin Donuts I saw a truck pulling away hauling a fishing boat in tow. I can relate to the hobbies of nearly everyone I see up this early in the morning… There was a near-full if not full moon setting as I rode south on Jerusalem rd. I stopped to take a photo, but phone cameras suck and it didn’t do the scene justice. I did snap a slightly less-crappy pic of the way my bars are lit up by the marker lights on the urban 400. Looks pretty cool. Oh yeah, Stops 1 and 2 both started pre-dawn. I used my Light & Motion Urban 400 for a headlight and a combination of L&M vis 180 micro taillight on my helmet with a Dinotte 400r for the heavy lifting.

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A few minutes later and I was in civil-twilight territory. Riding at dawn before the world wakes up is the best. THE BEST. The trip south was along standard routes I’ve ridden a dozen times before. I got to ride through the covered bridge along Jericho Rd. The only difference from the normal route was a missed turn due to a cockeyed road sign which took me off Franklinville Rd. and a mile or so out of my way on Reynolds. I didn’t notice I was off course for about 5 minutes so I decided to “see where this road would take me”. Just a different path that put me out a mile further east on Bradshaw.

Through Middle River for my approach of East Baltimore on Eastern Ave, I intersected with the MARC rail line and looked across the fence at the tracks I take to every work day. Now I’ll have a new memory to daydream about while I’m staring out the window on the train. The sun was rising right behind me and I was casting a long shadow maybe 50 feet straight in front of me along a stretch of Orems Rd. Before I knew it I was in Fells Point at my second stop–the Common ground–about 30 miles and 2 hours later. The Warbird soaks up the cobblestone streets pretty effectively, but I can’t imagine wanting to race on roads like that for an extended period. I’ll call that my lesson learned for this control. I’d already had a bagel sandwich, and other options weren’t looking all that spectacular so I just got a small mocha (great) and a chocolate cookie (eh). 20 minutes later and I was ready to go. The sun was out and the weather was great. Still lots to see and do!

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From Fells Point I headed west towards the Harbor. There was a ménage of food trucks parked up along the waterfront and I thought about making a ‘lunch errand stop’ for a few seconds. It was barely 9:30 by that point. I wasn’t hungry and I don’t think they were serving yet anyway.

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I rode through the Harbor and over to Charles St., heading north. This leg (#3 – 8ish miles) was taking me to the atm so I could get a little cash. I had $4 left in my wallet after the Common Ground stop. My observation for this leg was that there were a bunch of things I wanted to include while riding through mid-town and not one of them was open at the time I wanted to ride through. The only things I REALLY wanted for the day were to browse at a bike shop (my 2 faves open at 11 and 12 respectively) and have an ice cream cone (every good shop was either closed{?!?} or didn’t open till noon). The bank I had in mind was about 1/2 mile off-route for the day but I figured “no problem, I’m out for the miles so what’s the difference.” Turns out the diversion wasn’t necessary because I passed at least 4 other branches further up the route where I could have stopped.

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The next leg took me north out of the city. Instead of going straight up Charles St. I cut over to Springlake and Bellona before taking in the great descent west of Charles St. I exchanged pleasantries with a roadie who was just leaving for a 2 hour ride at the Charles light. He was out of sight within a half mile of the bottom of the hill but I couldn’t feel too bad about it today because I already had 3.5 hours of riding under my belt by that point and another 3 to come. I rode north on Thornton and across Seminary pointing towards REI. I was going to make that my 4th stop around mile 48, browse in ‘a store that is not a grocery store’ for a few minutes and pick up an energy bar or something. Problem with my plan was I was too quick for my schedule and arrived about 35 minutes before they opened. I sat out front, ate a clif bar, checked in with home and took off. What’d I learn? I don’t really need anything right now.

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My bike is the gear I need to stay outside…

From there I took Greenspring Dr./Deerco/Beaver Dam straight up through Timonium and Cockeysville. I hit a red light and ducked into a 7-11 as I noticed my water bottle was light. The last 25-30 miles of the route is a bit of a ‘convenience-store-desert’ so I wanted to top off. I got vitamin water because it was on sale and instantly regretted my decision. It was so sweet I felt like I was eating raw sugar by the spoonful. Arriving at the north end of Baltimore’s urban territory was the point when the errandonee challenge started to fall apart for me. My plan was to grab lunch and knock off #5 before moving into farm territory but nothing looked both appealing enough to eat and casual enough to not escort a person with snot-covered legs and helmet head to the door. It was only 11 by the time I reached the trail so I grabbed another snack from my collection and kept moving. The trail was quieter than I thought it would be for a sunny weekend day but there were a few souls here and there. Amazingly enough after all the warm weather there were still a few traces of ice and snow lingering in the valleys. There was one point where a muddy area with some rutted tire tracks had frozen over and it required all my concentration to get through. If I was spending the day on the trail i would have let 30 pounds out of the tires. The clouds rolled in while I was off-road and it was the last of sun or blue-skies for the day.

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Climb-Descend-Climb-Descend… The last 25% of this route is kind of brutal. I was starting to feel it in my upper-left leg. I’d been pushing the higher gears for most of the day and saved the 2 largest cogs for emergency use only. The strategy worked well and on the worst grades I dropped it in my lowest combo and spun rather than blowing myself up. While I was descending on Glencoe or Carroll Rd. I had a close encounter was a rooster crossing the road. Some church somewhere close to Corbett rd. must have let out just when I was passing through because I got caught in more traffic than any farm-country road deserves. I pulled off to the side, had a bit of my corn-syrup laden vitamin water and balanced it out with the rest of the salty snack that I had started earlier. Aside from that my approach to Bel Air was nothing more than pedals up and down as fast as I could. My moving average had been ticking back and forth between 12 and 13 all day and I wanted to finish strong.

Although not associated with an errand, I have a bonus observation for the last 30 miles. As much as I hate the idea of using a trainer in the basement it truly is a wonderful workout for pedaling technique. The 2 areas I concentrate on the most are cadence and efficiency. My usual pedaling style when I’m not paying attention is to spin along at 50 or 60 rpm and the trainer will produce a sinusoidal ‘wah-wah’ noise. As I work through several hour-long sessions I try to focus on being as smooth as possible until I reach the point where I can just spin along at 90 or 100 rpm with an even hum. The benefits back on the road are 1) My legs stay fresher longer. Maybe they clear out lactic acid faster or don’t build it up as quick. Doesn’t really matter, I just know it works. 2) I’m not fiddling with the shifters on every little rise and drop–I adjust my cadence to match it. Riding over varied terrain feels smoother.

Home again, I still had the option for lunch and even mapped out an option for a ‘dessert’ run 5 miles up the road at Brooms Bloom Dairy. As it turned out, once I checked in at home, stretched and got a drink I checked out. If all had gone according to plan I would have finished 7 in one day. Looking out the window at the snow, my final day off till next weekend was cursed with bad weather so it looks like I won’t be pulling round 2 of my errandonee catch-up rides. I’ll have to give it a real go next year.

Distance: 81.4mi | total time: 7:33:21 | avg: 10.8 | mv avg: 12.8 | elev: 6482′

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4 thoughts on “Bel Air to Baltimore and Back – the errandonee rando

    • Hey Ken, Joe’s Bike shop and Baltimore Bicycle Works. I could fit something in as long as we’re back by 4:30 or 5. I’ve got plans in the evening. I’m also thinking of a slightly shorter sojourn on Sunday if you’re free then…

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