Or, “127 miles of riding the flats with friends new and old.”
Yesterday was the DC Randonneurs Flatbread 200k ride, an all-day long distance jaunt through eastern Maryland and Delaware. The ride started at the Good Guys Pizza in Cumberland, Maryland, went out to Slaughter Beach in Delaware, then wound its way back to Good Guys for the post-ride celebration.
Adam and I had reserved a campsite at the nearby Tuckahoe State Park for the night before, but the evening’s cold forced us to car-camp rather than tent-camp as an attempt to stay a little warmer. We arrived at the campsite around 10pm after a nice big dinner of crab cakes and red velvet cake at Davis’ Pub in Annapolis, and managed to fall asleep by midnight. Our alarm was set for 5am to give us time to shower, pack up the bikes, make breakfast, and drive to the starting point.
We parked in the public lot down the street (where we also saw John, Ed, Mary, and Lisa arriving) and rode to the Good Guys Pizza, where sign-in took no longer than a minute – the volunteers find your name on list, give you your control card and a pencil and you’re ready to go. It was a chilly start, everyone bundled in layers we would eventually shed as the sun came out and warmed the day.
Chip, the ride organizer, gave a few announcements about the ride: Milton was an open control, meaning we could choose any business there and get a receipt to prove we made it there within the time limits. He also talked about the route, which had been checked out the weekend before and was good to go. Chip sent off the riders – some 70 or more people – and said he’d see us back soon for pizza. “Soon” in our case being 11 hours later.
In the beginning, most of the group stayed together, with the fastest riders already long gone. Adam and I were riding for stretches with Chris, John, Ed, Mary, and of course Lisa and Mike on Mike’s interesting Da Vinci tandem bicycle. It was Lisa’s first time riding a tandem, so kudos for her for sticking it out over 200 kilometers. That’s also a long time to spend with a person, though they’re both easygoing and funny so I can’t imagine it was an issue. The group eventually started to spread out, but the controls gave us the chance to catch back up with people. We also met a lot of new folks, some of which had traveled from further away to do this ride.
In Milton, Delaware at the lunch stop, we couldn’t find Magnolia Deli, which was one of the options suggested on the cue sheet, so we stopped in at the espresso bar on Federal Street. Met Bob from North Carolina, who’s been randonneuring for three years and says the Flatbread is one of his favorite rides. We ended up sticking with him to the end, and he helped us make sure we were on the right course. Navigation using a cue sheet is one of the challenges of randonneuring – there are no arrows painted on the road like on charity rides – especially if you’re riding after dark and trying to find unmarked roads. With Bob’s familiarity with the route, we didn’t miss a single turn all day.
When the sun started to set, we still had about 20 miles to go, so I was thankful to have a bright light and the company of several other riders including Eric, who is in the process of starting up a randonneur club in Long Island with the help of New Jersey Randonneurs. (They should have 200k and 300k rides next year, which we’ll definitely try to join.)
Though I’ve ridden my commute home in the dark before, it’s different being on unfamiliar ground and seeing the little points of light cast in the distance ahead by cyclists on the same ride. One mistake I made was having no way of reading my cue sheet when it got completely dark. Fortunately, Bob called out our turns in advance, like “Half a mile until we make our left.” The last ten miles were really tough, with saddle pains that made me want to stop pedaling, but Adam started motivating me with thoughts of pizza and beer at the end. We finally rolled in to Good Guys a few minutes before 6pm, where we were warmly greeted by the ride volunteers. They made sure it was known to everyone that this was our first brevet (the term for a randonneuring ride, where 200 kilometers is the minimum distance) and told us that some pizza had just come out. Many folks were still hanging out, eating and drinking up after a long day of riding. Soda and pizza were free (amazing for a ride that has a registration fee of 5 bucks), and there were $2 beers.
I didn’t take any photos on the ride, but you can see Mary’s photos here. It was a beautiful day and the best part was the company! Can’t wait for my next 200, though I’m not sure yet where that will be.