It was time for me to break the 40-mile barrier today. I chose to do it by breaking the 50-mile barrier at the same time and coming close to the 60-mile barrier as well. In 95-degree heat. In retrospect, this was an unwise decision.
My plan was to head to the Manassas Battlefield Park on the north side of Manassas, about 23 miles from my house. I would take a leisurely detour on the way home and log about 52 miles. My sainted wife would meet me at the battlefield with Gatorade and water to refill my stores and a banana for some simple carbohydrates to help keep my energy up. I would wander the battlefield, take some lovely photos, then triumphantly head home on much the same route near Nokesville that I had mastered in my earlier 38-mile rides. I should be back in no more than four hours, probably less. The plan was utterly fool-proof and I confidently headed out at 8:45 AM.
I pedaled northward on Rte 234 without event and hit the southern outskirts of Manassas in fine form. It was here that I met my first problem: namely, the city of Manassas. I know the town well enough to avoid the city center and selected a route which was slightly longer but skirted the town. Sadly, this was still tough going for me. There were many stop signs and a few traffic lights as well. You know how your car gets poorer gas mileage in cities? I discovered the same is true for cyclists. The continuous stopping and starting and nervous energy spent staying clear of crowded streets slowed me down and drained my strength. This would prove to be crucial in about 30 miles.
Still, my spirits rose when I reached Route 28 on the north side of town. This is an incredibly busy six lane road, but it also meant that I was about three miles from reaching the park’s Visitor’s Center. And I braced myself for the final push. Then my phone rang. I don’t have a great storage plan for my phone; I keep it in my Camelbak which means I must stop, pull off the backpack and dig the phone out to use it. After pulling off the road, I retrieved my phone and saw my wife was trying to reach me. She was lost. Yippee.
Fortunately she wasn’t far from our link up point, but I was running late from the stop-and-go traffic and sticking to my original plan of touring the battlefield THEN linking up with the missus would cause her to sit in a picnic area parking lot for over 30 minutes. Not cool. I abandoned my route and headed down Balls Ford Road to link up with my betrothed.
The detour to the link up brought me 1.5 miles off course. Now fully resupplied, I had a choice: return to my route or cut it short and begin going home. I was already at 25 miles and the way home was longer than the route I took to get to this point. And it was hot. A prudent person would have turned back. But durnit, I wanted to see that battlefield. I returned to my route, knowing I just added at least three miles to my trip.
I turned westward onto the Warrenton Pike and traveled the road where Confederates ambushed a column of marching Federals at the start of 2nd Manassas. I took some pictures while riding, but after reviewing them I see my camera had other priorities than properly focusing. I then turned onto Groveton Road and pedaled past the park where I met my wife about 40 minutes ago. My tour of the battlefield complete, it was now time to go home. I wandered through some roads west of Manassas that I had never been on. Nothing terribly impressive here – just 10 miles of suburbia to traverse. I eventually found myself on Vint Hill Farm Road and very tired. It was at this point – around mile 38 – that I realized I was in trouble. I pushed myself to the 40-mile point, a farm on Colvin Road, and dismounted to drink my 2nd Gatorade and eat a Clif Bar. It was a very pleasant scene and I managed to take this shot to commemorate my official breaking of the 40-mile barrier.