It’s Time

I’m sure all of you are aware of the significance of May 18, 2010.  It was the day I wrote my first blog article.  I had enjoyed a kayaking blog written by my friend, Joel, and decided to give it a shot.  The rest, as they say, is history.  It’s been a hoot.  Truly, it was far more impactful on me personally than I ever imagined when I started writing.

But I do believe that after 425 posts and four years it’s time to move on to other things.

Way back on that very first day, Joel made a prescient comment on my About page, saying, “I’ve found that the trick to these is keeping them up.”  Truer words were never written.  I am in awe of bloggers who come up with something of interest every single day for years on end.  For those who don’t do this blogging thing, it ain’t easy to be creative that regularly for that long.  I’ve never even made the attempt.  Still, for me, I find it increasingly difficult to maintain a two post/week pace.

I’ve simply run out things to say.

Along the way, I tried to share with you my reentry into the world of cycling.  I’ve approached the subject from just about every angle I could think of.  Well, at least all the angles that interested me.  I’ve shared my trials and tribulations, adventures, silly happenings, profound (or slightly profound or not profound at all) observations, and even a few posts about other people or issues that I was not directly involved in.  It was a way for me to capture my adventures and share what few things I learned with those who could be bothered to read it.  I’ve talked about every historical marker, every battlefield, every organized ride, and almost every crazed car driver I’ve come across.  Increasingly, the topics seem to be getting repetitive and finding an original angle more challenging.  This was becoming more like work, and the job of blogging in this space doesn’t pay very well.

I would like to share with you one last thing – the biggest surprise (and joy) to me was the relationship I built with so many of you through the comments section and your own blogs.  By sharing your knowledge and wisdom with me, you opened up worlds I was only slightly aware of and helped me solve problems I had no answer for.  Your experience and example made my advancement in the hobby much faster and far more enjoyable.  I owe you all a tremendous debt and although I haven’t met most of you, I consider you to be my friends.  You have given me far more than I have provided you and I thank you for that.

So I think this will be a nice place to wrap things up.  Four years is a pretty good run.  I’ll still be around – I haven’t died or anything – and I’ll still show up on your blogs uninvited and make comments which may or may not be related to what you actually wrote about.  I’ll still keep my Facebook Page up and running.  That will give me a creative outlet that requires far less work while still keeping in touch with many of you.

And most importantly, I’ll still be on my bike.  That is, after all, the reason why I started this blog in the first place.

Allez and Bonne Route,

Steve

 

 

 

 

Wandering Around Brentsville

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We’ve had a colder and snowier winter than most, but for the past several weeks there has been a small bit of solace: the nicest weather of the week has occurred on the weekend.  Such was the case on Saturday when the temperature reached 70 degrees in the late afternoon.  The skies were cloudy and the wind was brisk but I wasn’t about to complain.

I had no particular place to go, so I wandered on the country roads between Brentsville and Nokesville looking for something interesting.  It didn’t take me long to find it.  I bet this won’t stay on the market for long.  The possibilities for its use are endless!

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The roads around this part of the county are straight, flat, and car-free.  Below is a picture of Crockett Road, but it could just as easily be Hooe Road, Valley View Drive, Flory Road, or several others in the area.

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Here is a shot of a humble homestead, no doubt occupied by a laborer or tradesman working paycheck to paycheck.  It’s typical of the construction that has occurred here in the last 15 years.

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On Parkgate Drive, there was plenty of activity on the farms.  And by activity I mean animals laying about enjoying the warm weather.  Here is a typical scene.

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It was very nice and worry-free riding.  I saw several other cyclists about and even happened upon two very serious cyclists as I turned back onto Crockett Road.  It was one of those awkward moments where they were clearly stronger riders who were just spinning their wheels and I showed up at precisely the wrong time, only fifty feet behind them and closing.  I didn’t want to overtake them as this would be viewed as a challenge and I didn’t want to sit on their wheel as this would be viewed as being rude.  I could see them downshift and begin to pick up their pace.  Meanwhile, I found a reason to stop and take a picture, thus defusing the entire situation.

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On my way back through Brentsville, I noticed that the general store was up for sale, as was the old house that is next to it.  It looks like the proprietor is ready to move on to other pursuits.

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Heading home on Brentsville Road, I took this picture of Broad Run, which regular viewers will recognize.  I am particularly proud of this picture as I took it while riding at normal cruising spread with (of course) a car passing me at the precise moment I wanted to take the shot.  All things considered, it turned out well, I think.

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My final item of interest is the Woodbine Family Worship Center, which has a unique warning for people who wish to park on their premises for other than religious purposes.

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I reached home in fine form and when I compared notes from previous rides, I realized I had just tied my longest ride of the year to date.  Had I known that earlier, I would have done a few donuts or cruised up a few side streets to set a new mark.  I guess I will have to take comfort in the fact that warmer weather will mean this mark will soon fall.

The Curious Case Of The Malfunctioning Garmin

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I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, “Yo, Steve, I’ve been carefully studying the above ride map and what’s up with you starting your ride at a different spot than where you ended it?  That has to be about a mile away.  You never do stuff like that, bro.”

Of course, you are right, although I’m not sure why you’re thinking in hip-hop slang.  That’s weird.

I like the positive thinking, but I'd prefer something more accurate.

I like the positive thinking, but I’d prefer something more accurate.

I didn’t actually start my ride a mile away; that’s just the spot where I got my Garmin GPS to start working.  Until that point, it was stubbornly refusing to cooperate.  After turning it on, it simply gave me the encouraging status of “working” and then spun its wheels.  After several minutes of patiently waiting, I tried to turn it off, only to be greeted with a long beep that continued until I pressed the power button again.  Then it finally shut off.  I was optimistic when I hit the power button again, but the thing simply gave me the same “working,” message (which was increasingly looking like Exhibit A in a false advertisement lawsuit I was contemplating).  I wasn’t going to sit around all day, so I started my ride and hoped the Garmin would come to its senses.

I’ve used my Garmin 494 times since I got it in 2011.  It’s simply the most reliable piece of gear I own.  I’ve dropped it, been hit by a car with it, been rained on, baked, froze, and just about every other thing that you might expect to happen to a GPS while riding or running. When something works 494 times, you kinda expect it to work on the 495th time.  When it doesn’t work, you’re somewhat at a loss for what to do next.

Convinced that the thing wasn’t going to fix itself, I decided to start fiddling.  To be honest, I probably should have moved to this stage much sooner in the process, but fiddling doesn’t come naturally for me.  I like to have a rational purpose for doing something and pressing buttons for no good reason doesn’t seem very logical to me.  Except that it was logical.  After pressing the button that causes the Garmin’s stop watch to start/stop, the device snapped out of its coma and immediately began giving me the display full of data that I’m used to seeing.  Why this solved the problem I have no idea.

With the case solved, I headed toward Davis Ford.  This is a picturesque area that is always nice to visit.  You can even take some pictures if the traffic is light or you don’t mind cars flying past you at 60mph with only a couple of feet of shoulder to separate you from them.

This is the bridge with the Occoquan River to the right.  You can see there is still quite a bit of grit on the shoulder from the winter snow plowing.

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Davis Ford is named after a family which owned a lot of land on both sides of the river back in the late 1700s.  Beyond that, I can’t find much else about them.  The exact crossing seems to have changed over the years.  Washington and Rochambeau moved part of their armies along this road as they traveled from NY City to Yorktown.  In the Civil War, Confederate troops from Georgia bivouacked along the river on the lookout for a Federal incursion southward.

Towards the other end of the bridge, there is a view of some sand bars that would be interesting to explore when it is less muddy and I have a boat instead of a bike.

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I then climbed up some hills on Davis Ford Road and eventually made my way home.  I stopped at the less historic Lake Terrapin (created a few years ago by a home developer) for another picture.

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I’m pleased my Garmin is fixed but less than excited about the snow that is currently falling outside my window.  With the official start of Spring only days away, Winter doesn’t seem ready to release its grip just yet.

The Best Day Of The Year…

 

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Is the first workday after Daylight Savings Time kicks in.

In 1883, Canadian and American railroads imposed their will on a continent by implementing standard time (you can never be too careful when “Big Railroad” is concerned).  Before then, time was a very local matter and the “official time” was usually kept by a good clock, often the one on the church steeple in the center of town.  You can see how the Brits took this concept to a whole other level with Big Ben.  Officially declaring standard time wasn’t accomplished in U.S. law until 1918 and with it came the concept of Daylight Saving Time.

Not everyone liked the idea.  It was repealed the next year, leaving it to the locals to decide what they wanted.  It was reinstituted nationally during WWII.  As recently as 1966, lawmakers were still horsing around with the concept when they wrote The Uniform Time Act, which permitted states to determine if they would use the concept, but mandated the date on which it would occur.  In 2007, Congress moved the implementation date for DST four or five weeks earlier in the year.

All of this was an attempt to save electricity (which is why the two world wars are not a coincidence in this story).  To cyclists who have day jobs, it’s all about the weeknight ride.  I happen to be one of those cyclists, so I very happily hopped on my bike Monday night and went for a spin.  The above picture was taken at 6:00 PM, and as you can see there was still plenty of sun to light my way.  A good time was had by all.

Sadly, today was an absolutely exquisite day, the best of the year by far.  I say that this is a sad thing because I found myself in the basement of the Pentagon for the entire day and forced to endure a two-hour commute home (metro-auto combo).  By the time I arrived, BOB (Bright Orange Ball, as we used to call the sun in my Army days) was setting on the horizon.

But still, I have Monday’s ride and many more sunny weeknight rides to look forward to.

Weekend Mosy

I’ve been getting lucky with the weather these days with the weekend weather being the best of the week.  Last weekend was good enough to get in a ride before another snowstorm which shut the city down on Monday.  Things slowly melted during the week until the best weather arrived on Saturday.  So I set off to check on some places I haven’t visited in a few months, just to make sure everything was as it should be.

At the Aden Country Store, I made a rare (for me) right turn onto Fleetwood Drive.  This lonely outpost of civilization has saved me more than once with a cool beverage and some shade.  It’s hard to believe its only five miles from suburbia.

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Fleetwood is a nice country road, full of farms and fancy estate “McMansions.”  Here’s a barn that caught my eye.

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While on Fleetwood, I took a moment to capture a picture of a white tree, standing out from its neighbors.

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Moving on, I noticed preparations continue apace for the new Brentsville K-8 school which is, confusingly, located near Nokesville.

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I wandered down Marsteller Drive to check on the old Iron Bridge east of town.  Last May I wrote about the history of this bridge and a project that was underway to move it so a larger, safer bridge could replace it.  I was interested to see if work had begun.  The answer – no.

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Onward I went toward the Manassas Airport.  I traveled along Broad Run (why the creeks are called “runs” around here, I do not know) and spotted a photo opportunity that won’t be available to me in a few months.  At this time of year, the brush along the creek banks hasn’t grown, so I was able to manage a short, muddy, walk in cycling shoes to take a picture.  I noted with approval the water is less muddy than a few weeks ago.  You can see we still have a bit of snow to take care of before Spring can officially begin.

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And that was that.  I finished off a pleasant 38-mile ride and am now looking forward to increasingly warmer weather and longer days.  Daylight Savings Time started on Sunday so I will hopefully be getting my mileage up to respectable levels.  On my Facebook page, I regale readers with a short bit of history for the year that corresponds to my mileage to date.  Sadly, we are still mired in the 3rd Century.  I hope to get to the Dark Ages very soon!

Lucasville Road

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The Winter That Would Not End was preparing to strike another blow Sunday night, but I was able to get in a quick 27-miler under darkening skies.  The temperature on my Garmin said it was 62 degrees.  The low on Monday is supposed to be near zero.  I guess March has decided to come “in like a Lion.”  Lets hope lamblike tendencies are around the corner.

I chose a road I visit only occasionally, Lucasville Road.  This is the stretch of the route that takes me between the words “Prince” and “William” on the above map.  It’s a nondescript road, just like all the other country lanes in the area.  This one has a few too many rollers for my liking – especially when I’m tired – but today I was fresh and the rollers were of no bother.  Despite its “averageness” (if that’s a word), Lucasville Road harkens to another time in the county’s history and touches on a subject that one rarely learns about in detail, namely, after the Civil War, where did all the slaves go?

I mean, they had no money and very few skills beyond what they learned as slaves.  They had no transportation.  Where did they go?  What did they do?  I can imagine a plantation owner telling his former slaves, “Congratulations, you’re free.  Now get the hell out of here before I shoot you for trespassing.”  It’s an interesting (to me at least) problem that doesn’t get a lot of attention.

Except on places like Lucasville Road.  It turns out that Lucasville was one of those places where African Americans gathered after the war and formed a community.  There are no markers that discuss this and there is no such place as Lucasville today.  For the idle traveler, the only way this history is preserved is in a refurbished one room school house on nearby Godwin Drive.  The school was built in 1885 for this community and is available for tours by appointment.  Online, I can find no reference to the town of Lucasville except for those related to the school house, so I guess it’s a good thing it has been preserved.

Storm clouds gather over Route 234 and the Lucasville Road overpass.  The Appalachians are in the background.

Storm clouds gather over Route 234 and the Lucasville Road overpass. The Appalachians are in the background.

As for the ride, it was pleasant but I seemed to hit every red light I possibly could.  I was glad to be on my way home towards the end because I could feel the temperature beginning to drop.  I once again went with shorts, and half fingered gloves but I was glad for my vest and long-sleeved shirt.  One of these days it will be hot as blazes and I will need my insulated water bottle to help keep my water cool.  Those will be good days.

And here’s a shot of the mixed use path on Route 234, near the Meadows Farm Nursery.

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But of course what you are really wondering about is if I disassembled the BEARD.  The answer is yes.  On a relatively warm day, I didn’t miss it very much.  We’ll see what happens as the temperature drops about 30 degrees today!

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UCI World Championships

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Only 573 days until the UCI World Cycling Championships come to Richmond, Virginia!  It’s not too early to start getting excited so it was with great fanfare that the courses were announced earlier this week.

Mark Cavendish, acting like a big shot in his rainbow jersey

Mark Cavendish, acting like a big shot in his rainbow jersey

UCI stands for Union Cycliste Internationale, which is French for “Bureaucracy Which Runs Cycling” (or something like that).  Every year, they put on a world championship event, the winner of which gets to wear a rainbow jersey for the next year.  They’ve been running these championships every year since 1921 with a break for some sort of war that was occupying everybody’s attention from 1939 to 1945.  Along with the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia, this race forms cycling’s Triple Crown.  Since France and Italy rarely move very far, this race is the one opportunity for fans who can’t get to France and/or Italy to see an important race.  The World Championships are rarely run outside of Europe.  The U.S. has hosted it only once before, in Colorado Springs in 1986.  It’s kind of a big deal, is what I’m saying, and its heading my way.

I’ve never been to a cycling race at any level, so I have been wondering about the course and how best to enjoy the show.  I was very interested in the routes were announced this week.  Basically, I’ve got three options:

1.  The Team Time Trial, Sunday September 20th.  This course is 21.9 miles long and is run on many of the same roads I was on during the 2011 Cap2Cap Century.  It’s one long loop, so I guess the idea is to pick one spot and watch each team zoom by with lightning speed, then wait patiently for the next one.  The other possibility is to fight everyone else at the Start/Finish Line at Rockett’s Landing.

2.  The Individual Time Trial, Wednesday September 23rd.  A Wednesday?  Ugh.  This will start about 20 miles north of Richmond and finish downtown 33 miles later.  Much like the Team Time Trial, a spectator needs to pick a spot and watch individual cyclists parade past them in intervals.  The start and finish occur in different locations, so there isn’t even that small opportunity to see a cyclist more than once.  And did I say this was on a weekday?  Moving on, then…

3.  The Road Race, Sunday September 27th.  This has great potential.  The course is a 10.3 mile loop through the center of Richmond.  For some reason, the final race distance hasn’t been posted, but presumably more than one lap will be run.  AND, the course runs along Monument Avenue where it doubles back on itself, meaning spectators at that location will see the peloton TWICE each lap.  Monument Avenue is one of the tourist attractions of Richmond.  For those that aren’t familiar with 19th Century American history, Richmond was the capital of the Confederate States of America.  Thus on Monument Avenue we find several impressive monuments to heroes of the Confederacy, including Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis.   It won’t be as spectacular as the Champs Elysee or the Olympic route going past Buckingham Palace, but its the best Richmond has to offer and it should be neat.

The Road Race Route

The Road Race Route

So I’ve got 573 days to plan my attendance.  Anyone who has been to one of these things and has some advice, please comment below.  And anyone else who has a good idea, a passing thought, or a completely unrelated issue, chime in as well.  There’s plenty of room in the comments section!