The prospect of riding this month’s ramble was a difficult subject for me all last week. I spent a large part of my time since the crash stretching and hoping for the best. On one hand I’ve been dreaming about doing this ride again for at least a year now. On the other hand I’d been off my commute and obviously hadn’t been doing my weekly 50 milers. I could feel my fitness rolling off and everything ‘biking’ related slipping away. Saturday I did a little checkout ride after a quick tuneup to the Salsa. Wrenching the pedals up a few hills I couldn’t find any movements which made my side hurt so I just decided to go for it. I printed out a map with the route drawn out on it for my better half who promised to come rescue me if I got in too deep. I decided to leave at the same time as the rest of the group and let the cards fall where they may so I got the luxury of sleeping till 6am.
After a quick meetup at the conservatory, it was north out of the city. A light rain was coming down. Even with our downhills being straight on clear roads I’m still skittish and backed off big-time on the speed. It looked like the skies could open up at any moment but real rains never materialized. I rode most of the day with Andrew and enjoyed quite a bit of conversation about biking, fixing bikes, bike camping, and everything else. We hit the Burger King rest stop together as everyone was sitting down with their food. Leaving with the group we lost visual after only a few minutes on the rolling landscape along rte30. I hit a light at the bottom of one hill and watched Andrew pull away. Not a problem except I let the lead get a bit too big. When the Garmin dinged for the Impounding Dam Road turn I looked around to see if I could make visual and saw his jersey far ahead in the distance. Luckily it was a downhill because if I tried to catch him on a climb I would have been out of luck as he’s much stronger than me on the hills. Once I was within shouting distance I flagged him down and we got back on course. That was good for an extra 1.7 miles. On the back roads again we had plenty of rolling scenery to enjoy for the next 25 miles. Before we knew it we were turning into the battlefields…
Photographic evidence on Round Top.
North through town, we stopped at Garryowen Pub, ate lunch and talked more about camping and bike stuff.
Leaving Gettysburg and riding south is easy going over the Maryland line. The main pack cleared out a few minutes after we hit the open road. No tractor show this year. The tractor graveyard was still there and the inventory was shuffled around so I’m sure there are plenty of guys out there working on restoration projects right now. Riding through Taneytown Andrew and I caught Bob at an impromptu stop for lemonade. It’s been a banner year for lemonade stands! I had a glass too and we were on our way. The climbing kicked in for the afternoon outside of New Windsor and I started to question my decision to ride. Once you’re out there the best you can do is to keep moving and hope for the best. The steady grade up rte 31 wasn’t aided by a tail wind this time around, though mercifully the most we had to deal with all day was light crosswinds from mixed directions. The temperatures were much more pleasant than last time around as well. I pushed on the uphills and would watch Andrew pull away. I’d tuck on the downhills and make the most of my momentum. Aside from a little tweak in my left knee I still felt ok and the convenience store ice cream stop came pretty quick.
Back on the bike we headed towards the reservoir. I caught up with Pat who had run the first half of the day with the lead group and decided to ease up a bit. He had come out to the start from Ellicott City and had a few miles over us all to begin with. I also kept bumping in to Adam who would pass me, and then pass me again a few miles later. We all stopped on the side of the road and had a second impromptu stop for a few ripe blackberries. I maybe saw Adam once more before he broke with the group to head for BWI. Down, up, down again towards the beltway, then up again towards Baltimore. Jeez. We lost sight of Andrew while climbing Milford Mill and after a series of complex turns through a neighborhood Pat and I started to wonder if he might have missed the turn while waiting for a light crossing Reisterstown. At that point there really wasn’t any way we could backtrack so we hoped for the best. We passed the parking lot where I met up with Bob on the last ride and it was empty. Sort of groaned to myself and lamented that I’d missed on the post-ride drink synchronization yet again… I wasn’t surprised as it was past 6:30 by that point. Coming down through the top side of Mount Washington I was thinking about how to get home with the least climbing. Taking the official route carries you higher in altitude, but cutting across to Roland Park makes you descend into the valley first. I don’t think there’s a real difference between the two. Pat was headed back to Ellicott City after the ride so these were mostly internal thoughts as I was sure he wouldn’t want to loop further away from home even if the net distance/elevation was the same. We stuck to the route, crossed Northern Parkway and rode across to connect with the start of the Jones Falls Trail. This was my first ride on that section of the JFT and it’s a nice jaunt through the woods. Approaching one of the switchbacks I even caught a glimpse of a 6 point buck bounding back into the trees. Coming past the Mill Center I was shocked to see a certain awesome ride leader hanging out on a park bench by the light rail tracks. OH YEAH it’s ON AGAIN I thought as I laughed out loud and we rolled to a stop. Good thing we stayed on course. As we exchanged stories of the late afternoon Andrew rolled up behind us. He’d missed a turn and fortunately had self-corrected.
We decided to convene at Golden West for what was now a late dinner and drinks. Andrew left for home to drop of his bike and we headed for Bob’s to stash the bikes in his garage while we were closing out the restaurant. Perfect end to a great day in the saddle and I finally got the post-ride beer I’ve been trying to do for
6 8 months now. Good times!
Numbers: time riding 9:45’ | miles – 131 | mv average – 13.4 | elev gain – 8040′ — I thought this was high when I looked at the unit after the ride, but it matches up with my elevation numbers from the last time.
Photos: No photography. Just trying to survive this month.