Lock the gates, Goofy.

Eric and I had a successful ride this past Saturday, on the first official running of Splendid Isolation 200K.   I have a whopping R-3 streak going here.  Yay for me.

To offer some modicum of variety, we decided to try out an alternate route between Weikert and Milroy, and it ended up being the simultaneous lowlight and highlight of the day.  It was rocky, steep doubletrack that was challenging to ride, and it slowed us down big time.  But it was rewarding.  We finished in 13:04 (officially), but had to really bust ass to do so.  But overall, despite being hard, it was a great ride.  We wouldn’t do this stuff if it was a cakewalk, right?

The scenery was great and everything was extremely lush, due to recent rains.  And also, as usual, the ride was extremely quiet.  We saw one whole car on the non pavement sections all day.  Splendid Isolation, indeed.

Warren’s take:

Eric’s take (on the ride):

So we finished in 13 hours out of the 13:24 allotted. Steamer took a roofing nail to his rear tire with about 7 miles to go, so we were a little concerned about time. The fact that it was a nail made changing it a little easier since we knew the cause of the flat was gone and there was no need to search around for it like happens with a sliver of steel or glass.

I always was curious about one of the roads we took, turns out we should have trusted the Purple Lizard map that showed it as ajeep trail. It was about 15 miles of doubletrack with big rocks and huge mud puddles, compounding the fact that it was almost all uphill. Fortunately, the road surface on the descent was much better, although it’s not sustainable and there were huge ditches made by runoff crossing the road. Ya, you can ride it on a CX bike, but it’s a lot slower than if you are riding a MTB. I suspect that if I was riding the 30mm tires I was using last year that I would have gotten at least one pinch flat.

Amusingly, one full second after I pulled the roofing nail out of my rear tire and showed it to Eric, he pointed to a contractor’s trailer parked 30 feet away that said “roofing and siding”.  Thanks a lot, pal.  Let’s keep the nails in people’s yards where they belong…  Ahem.  Eric’s point about pinch flats is mildly ironic.  We missed a million opportunities to have one of those all day long, you see.

Oh, in case anyone was wondering, the doubletrack Jeep road we speak of is Longwell Draft Road and it looks like…..

Longwell Draft Road. Kinda rough for the machines we’re riding (not mountain bikes).

The Macho Man getting dirty. (talking about the bike….)

I took this picture whilst Eric slathered his nether regions (untested saddle, you see…). The Stoopid 50 came through this way the following day. See the yellow arrow in the background?

Old RR trestle abutment near Weikert (along Cherry Run Rd.)

A favorite area of mine. Cherry Run.

Vista on the ‘back side’ of Colerain.

The front side vista of Colerain. I have posted a picture taken from this location how many times now? (I like it. It’s even more appreciated when you climb 1,000 feet on the thickest, loosest gravel in Rothrock in order to get here).

The rest of the pics: http://s771.photobucket.com/user/steamer_03/library/SI%20200K-1

Strava entry:  http://app.strava.com/activities/153633319

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Alternative Format Idea for RCoH

I have only had very spotty interest in doing The Rothrock Cyrcle of Hell event.  I think what makes it lack appeal for some folks is the heavy demands of navigation in an area they are not too familiar with (or not familiar with at all).  Most folks would rather plan a route at their leisure and then go do it, rather than having to navigate on the fly.  GPS devices and marked up maps and cue sheets are nice.  I get that.  It’s certainly a nice security blanket.  I wouldn’t start a brevet or adventure ride without such things, so I am not putting myself above that, you see.  ( I still have my childhood security blankets too, if you’d like to psychoanalyze that….. let me know what you determine. )

SO, here is another format concept to chew on…

Imagine an open course 12 hour race that entailed all riders starting and finishing at given location.  Each rider does their own route.  It’s a distance event, with the riders with the most miles wins, except that vertical gain would count too.  And so would gravel / mixed surface.  Every so many vertical feet counting as an additional equivalent mile.  Every mile traveled on gravel would be equal to 1.x miles on pavement.  (an appropriate value for “x” to be determined).  All verified by GPS track data.  Part of the strategy would be to come up with a route that suited one’s own strengths, and still get you back to the start/finish within the 12 hours, but yet still utilize all 12 hours.  I guess someone could ride and up down the road near the start finish or something, and that would be lame.  We’d have to have a ‘no retrace your route” rule, etc.  The idea is to get out there and do one big circumnavigation / grand loop or a big out and back or something like that.

As you can see, ‘free route’ is near and dear to my heart.  But it allows for pre-planning, which seems to be a thing obsessive compulsive ultra cyclists enjoy doing.


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NYC Route Scouting – Homestead to Loretto

So then, Reddan used his amazing networking skillz to assembly a motley crew of randoesque folk to partake in a leisurely Sunday ramble amongst sylvan dale and babbling brook.  Ok, enough vocabulary for now…

Yeah, we wanted to scout the first 100 miles or so of the NYC route.  So, we devised an out and back starting in Homestead (at the site of one of organized labor’s bloodiest battles in U.S. history) and turning around in Cresson  (located at the top of the first railroad to breach the Allegheny front) and heading back.  Full route being a solid 300K.

There were seven starters, and four finishers of the full route (Chris, Steph, Jim, and Bill).  Three of us (Reddan, Sarah P., and meeself) decided to turn around at mile 70 and make a ‘short’ day of it.

Seeing as this route was totally untested from about mile 10 onwards, we all had no idea what to expect.  Some significant observations were made:

1.  The West Penn trail is an actual TRAIL with garlic in it’s soul, not a stevia sweetened low calorie rail trail bon bon.

2.  The West Penn trail gets confusing at one critical point not far from the Conemaugh Dam, and it’s easy to be lured into bushwacking.  Not that we would actually do that, you see.

3.  Hey, this is a great route.  All of the roads intended for the one way NYC route are keepers.

4.  If we can eliminate a little Ghost Town Trail for some roads, that might not be a bad thing.  But not totally necessary either in the context of a one way ride.

5.  Dillweed is a place, and they have a nice country store there.

6.  Sarah is a tough lady.  After wiping out in the soft shoulder of the GTT whilst trying to pass a lady on a motorized trike with dog-holding sidecar (not joking) she merrily mended her wounds with baby wipes, neosporin, and duct tape and continued to ride another 70 something miles without complaint.  Then she worked a 13 hour day starting the next morning.

Anyhoo, the routes were..

Outbound:  http://ridewithgps.com/routes/4787300

Inbound:  http://ridewithgps.com/routes/4787304

Early Morning Roll Out in the Pgh Burbs.  Photo by Reddan

Dan futzing with his brakes.

Me, futzing with MY brakes.  Photo by Reddan

Cruising along the watershed near Slickville

Interesting trestle on the West Penn Trail (at this location it takes the form of a road)

Our heroes, emerging from the forest shadows….

Dan and Sarah after the navigational funk

Dan, looking for insectious nutrition

Nice country near Blairsville


The Ghost Town Trail is a great crushed limestone rail trail, if you’re into that sort of thing. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Photo by Reddan

Chillin’ in Dillhole…err, I mean Dillweed.  Photo by Reddan

The Stick, The P-38 (Stillers style), and The Sparkly Straggler at Sheetz. Photo by Reddan

Rest of the pics I took are here:  http://s771.photobucket.com/user/steamer_03/library/NYC%20Scouting%201

Reddan’s Pics:  https://plus.google.com/photos/+DanBlumenfeld/albums/6017809938469394353?authkey=CIyPnbrsn5yUIw

Strava:  http://www.strava.com/activities/145833388

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Pittsburgh to NYC Randonnee

Eric McK., the father of Crush the Commonwealth, has a new idea.  Commonwealth crushing with a twist.  To ride from Pgh to NYC.  From Point State Park to Times Square.

He first laid out the idea here:

I found it to be an interesting navigational challenge, as there are no obvious, pre-designated routes between those two points, especially when considering a route suitable for cycling.

Here is the work in progress.

If you do the most direct route possible, it would only be about 410 miles and 20,000 feet of climbing, but you’d end up riding straight through the portion of NJ directly west of the city, which is a route I would not wish upon Beelzebub.  I was advised to make a big fishhook at the end, where the final approach to the city is made by riding a good 20+ miles along the west bank of the Hudson.

I have been looking for advice, and the part in rural northern NJ is still pretty much a wild ass guess, so I really need some help there from folks who know that area.

Here are some already running solicitations on various forums:




Ohh, a group of us are planning to scout from Homestead PA to Altoona PA on the 25th of this month.  Randos who read this who want in should comment on this article to get hooked into the action.

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Puppies and Potholes 300K

With the vauge notion that I might actually complete a full SR series this year, I decided to head out to Pgh for the 300K version of the Puppies and Kittens brevet.  This one starts further west on the (ahem) idyllic Neville Island and runs considerably further out into Ohio (to Hartville, to be exact).

Seven riders started, but only a few miles in, we lost Chris B., who came in from the DC area for the ride.  We figured a mechanical had stopped him, so we soft pedaled a while, but he never showed up again (turns out Chris did do an abbreviated ride; but his brevet card left behind at the end of the day suggested he was fairly well doused in rain at some point…)

The rest of us made good time out to Koppel (first controle), and to Petersburg OH (just over the border), but not long after we turned due west to head to the second controle south of Youngstown, we noticed the wind went up and the pavement quality went down.  We didn’t slow down – just gritted our teeth a little.

About the pavement…Calla Road has now entered into the collective conciousness of Pittsburgh area randonneurs.  It will heretofore ever be THE standard by which all other bad pavement is judged.   “hey, this is half as bad as Calla”, or “quite whining, you should see Calla!”.  You get the idea.  We must have passed at least 5,000 holes going each direction that were of the size and depth that would end your ride one way or another, if you were to hit one head on, at normal riding speed.  A taco’ed wheel, severe road rash, broken collarbone, etc. would ruin your day.

The one saving grace was that the vast majority of these severely potholed stretches were very quiet / almost car-less, so we could zig-zag as needed (which was near to continuously).  However, there was one 3 mile bad pavement stretch on Western Reserve Road that almost made me cry.  That is a very busy, very narrow road, and the road was in horrible shape.   Not Calla bad, but close in some spots.   That was NO FUN.   it would have been no fun even without the potholes, but the combination of these factors made it near-deadly.  I would say this was the scariest road I have been on in a pretty long time.  

Now, we were SUPPOSED to re-trace that portion of the route going back, but one of the guys (Bob Rich) that was on the ride used to be an Ohio state trooper and lived in that area for about 20 years or somesuch, and thought he knew a good alternative.  So, on our second stop at the Sheetz near Youngstown, he called his wife who then looked at online maps and confirmed what he was thinking.  So, bottom line, we now have a much better route in that area now.  It added about a half mile but the alternative route was nice (reasonably quiet and good pavement and flat-like).  I will never ride Western Reserve Road again.

I should mention the weather.  We didn’t see any rain.  The forecast was pretty ominious the day before, but it changed mere hours before the start.  All we saw was light sprinkles a few times here and there.  Dan B. commented on our good fortune about 5 miles from the end, and then it started sprinkling no more than a minute or two later.  I think it was M. Nature’s way of saying “Ok, I let you off the hook on this day, but that doesn’t mean you should antagonize me.”  Luckily, she stopped short of teaching Dan a lesson. 

So it was grey the whole day, except we were treated to a beautiful sunset view as we crossed the bridge going onto Neville Island, one mile from the finish.  The sky was technicolor orange and red.  A nice final touch to a good day on the road.

The Random Lesson Learned:  I need to give an external urinary catheter a try.  There is little cover out there in rural Ohio farmland with which to do one’s business.  Why not just hold it to the controle?  Holding it is what I did do most of the time.  But I found that quite distracting and, of course, uncomfortable.   Trying to hold a distended bladder closed while dodging potholes was a little too much.  I figure the urinary catheter would be the ultimate in convenience.  Piss on the move without doing anything than relaxing your pelvic floor.  I don’t know why, but I sure was pissing a whole lot on this ride.   Why not do what triatheletes do?  Huh?  Nope.  Sorry.  There is no way I could piss myself on the bike (purposely).  Taping a rubber thingy on my manhood is waaay better.  Ok, I’m done now.  Thanks for listening….

By the way, credit for the idea goes to Dan Fallon, who certainly has put it to practical use:


Dan Fallon racing at RAW in 2010. Note the tube exiting Dan’s left side waistband. Photo by Allan Duhm

Route:  http://ridewithgps.com/routes/4648447

Strava:  http://www.strava.com/activities/139941233

Results:  7 starters, 6 finishers.

Pics:  Sorry I took none.  Forgot my camera.  Dan B. took one, apparently….

This is all we’ve got folks. At the turnaround in Hartville, OH. Photo by Dan Blumenfeld

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Pittsburgh Randonneurs Puppies and Kittens 200K

Brevity is a virtue?

Miles: 129-ish.

Hills:  5,300 feet.  Not a lot for these parts.

Route:  Designed for maximum flatness.  Out and back.  Sticks to the Ohio river valley for about 70 miles of the total.  Rolling hills mostly for the overland jaunt into Ohio (the state), with a turnaround in New Middletown OH.

Weather:  Very foggy and cold for the first 30 miles.  But it got sunny and  warmed up nicely by noon.  Short sleeves and sunburn after that.

Company:  10 starters.  9 finishers.  A few new faces, a few familar ones.  Got to ride with Dan Chew for the first time.  His reputation precedes him, and is pretty much spot on.  What a nice guy, he is.

Trouble:  Dan B.’s bike had an irrecoverable mechanical in Petersburg OH. Had to call in a rescue.  Bummer.

Strava:  http://app.strava.com/activities/129825789

Pics:   D. Chew wanted a picture with me because we were wearing matching Pgh Randos jerseys.  It was my first ride with the Chew-man, so apparently I now have my one and only red pen entry into his journal.  And, quite strangely, we each choose the same toothy smile for the picture, without pre-coordination.

others:  http://s771.photobucket.com/user/steamer_03/library/puppies%20and%20kittens%20200K

Still soggy from the morning fog… At the first controle at Al’s Corner in Koppel. Al’s is located on Big Beaver Boulevard. Not joking.


And the fog has lifted….

Waiting for the (double!) train to pass


Welcome to Ohio… Now let’s get the hell out of here.


I think we have a problem…

D. Chew and I at Al’s Corner (return trip)


Chew holding court…

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Well, this blog just passed 10,000 views.  Hard to believe that I have contributed so much to the downfall to society that is the internet.  Yay me.

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