Wandering Around Brentsville

brentsville wander

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.

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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!

Zipping Along

brentsville road

Monday was a pleasant day with a high in the low 50s and a modest breeze.  It was also Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and I took advantage of the time off to squeeze in a zippy 26-mile ride near Brentsville.

I say “zippy” because I resolved to go fast.  Well, “faster” is probably a better word.  My average pace always takes a dip during the winter months and things aren’t helped when I take significant breaks to take photos.

A word about timing is in order here.  I know many people turn off their ride computers when they take a break.  I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just not how I roll.  Literally.  When I start my ride, the clock starts with it.  The clock doesn’t stop until I’m done, regardless of how many traffic lights, lunch breaks, or photo sessions may arise.  It may be weird, but at least its consistent.

So even though I know the cold will affect my speed and I know the frequent breaks will decrease it some more, I still don’t like that fact.  Every so often I decide to push things a bit and today was that day.  So there won’t be many pics here, but to be honest it’s not a terribly interesting route.

I did take a pic while crossing Cedar Run, near Brentsville.  In the water, you can make out the shadow of the photographer.

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About a mile later I came across Broad Run and took a similar pic.  I decided to play with the colors on this one to help bring out the greens and make it look less dreary.

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And since I was feeling artsy, I tried an unusual photo angle on the Broad Run bridge. I didn’t notice it at the time, but those three bags are Sunday editions of the Washington Post.  How they ended up together on this bridge is anyone’s guess.  The black tape is a similar mystery, though less unusual.

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The breeze I spoke of was at my back on the way home, which made for some quick times.  One of my Strava segments was at a pace of 20.8 mph!  I was then immediately deflated when I saw that was only good for 28th all time.  Still, anything over 20 mph for me means I’m either going very fast or hanging onto the bumper of a car.

Old Man Winter is scheduled to make a reappearance tomorrow, so it will probably be a few days before another ride is possible.  Until then, I’ll stare at my digitally altered picture of Broad Run and tell myself Spring is right around the corner.

Tour Of The Towns

Tour Of The TownsMost of you know I am an incredibly important and influential person, not just in the cycling world but in other fields of endeavor as well.  Those other pursuits have kept me away from the computer and I am therefore late in telling you the tale of the Inaugural Tour of the Towns century ride.  Please pull up a chair and grab a cold beverage while I catch you up on things.

Since this ride is meant to showcase the various parts of the county, it is probably appropriate that it began in a commuter parking lot.  Prince William County serves as a bedroom community for the Greater Washington, DC, area.  Every morning, a very large portion of its 400,000 inhabitants moves northward on its commute to DC.  Commuter lots collect thousands of vehicles and commuters continue northward on trains and buses.

Showing off my jersey in the commuter lot

Showing off my jersey in the commuter lot

71 people had preregistered for the event, a humble number that will no doubt one day grow into the hundreds.  Decades from now, people will look at antiquated photos (“Remember when photos were two-dimensional?” they’ll say) of this inaugural event and wish they had been there on that exciting first day.  I will be able to say I was there because I actually bought a jersey which commemorated the event.

Ride organizers said there would be no mass start and they weren’t kidding.  I was fiddling with my gear, waiting for some sort of group meeting to start the show, when I noticed that people had begun to trickle away.  I shrugged my shoulders and headed off by myself, heading toward the town of Occoquan.  This would be the first of eight towns we’d be pedaling through during the day.  At 7:45 on a Sunday, the town was very quiet.

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Thanks to some traffic lights (there would be scores of traffic lights on this ride) I was able to catch up to a pack of riders as we made our way eastward and then south along the vaunted Route 1 Corridor.  Riding on Route 1 is not for the timid and I have never made the attempt to go all the way from Occoquan in the north to Quantico in the south.  A nifty trail (previously unknown to me) helped us bypass much of the road, but eventually we were forced onto it in the town of Dumfries.  A sign proudly announced the town as being the oldest in Virginia.  The town has not aged gracefully and let us leave it at that.

People!  Just east of Occoquan (Mile 3)

People! Just east of Occoquan (Mile 3)

A nifty trail/bridge that helps bypass Rte 1

A nifty trail/bridge that helps bypass Rte 1

I bypassed the first rest stop at Mile 11 and continued southward to Quantico Marine Base, where I soon found myself on the same nine mile loop I will ride in two weeks at the Quantico Sprint Triathlon.  We departed the loop briefly to tour the town of Quantico, a small village completely surrounded by the military base except for the side bordering the Potomac River.  The base was quiet and the day sunny and pleasant.  All was well.

Bypassing Rest Stop 1 - the Dumfries Town Hall

Bypassing Rest Stop 1 – the Dumfries Town Hall

Quantico

Quantico

This is about the last time I could honestly say that on this ride.

We left the base and made our way toward Prince William Forest, where we completed a 7.3-mile circuit of Scenic Drive.  If you like lots of woods with no terribly significant things to look at, then I suppose the drive was scenic.  It was certainly hilly.  Having been over this route a few times, I was prepared; others less so.  I reached 39 mph on one descent without really trying.  I heard a couple riders remark they had no idea such hills existed in Prince William County.

Prince William Forest

Prince William Forest

Completing the lap, we headed northward out of the park on a gravel road, which was a little nerve racking.  For 1.5 miles, I waited for the flat that (fortunately) never came and I emerged at the park’s northern edge ready for the rest stop at Mile 39.  The hills took their toll on me and I was very grateful for the peanut butter and jelly sandwhiches which race volunteers cheerfully provided me.  I was only four miles from my house and it was an odd feeling to be so tired so close to home, knowing I was about to depart for another 60+ miles of riding.

The gravel road.  I'm not travelling nearly as fast as this pic suggests

The gravel road. I’m not travelling nearly as fast as this pic suggests

Rest Stop at Mile 39

Rest Stop at Mile 39

I was looking forward to getting on the open stretch of road between this point and Haymarket, about 33 miles away.  I’d been a little frustrated at my slow pace caused by traffic lights, guard checks on the base, and the hills in the forest.  These hopes were dashed the moment I left the rest stop and was hit by a stiff 20 mph breeze.  For the next two and a half hours, I pushed my bike along very familiar roads in the county’s “Rural Crescent,” a boundary of sorts set up to protect against suburban sprawl.  The views were pleasant.  The wind was not.  You could not have picked a more damaging direction for the wind – it was pretty much always in my face.  The temperature was climbing into the 90s.  Life was hard.

The Rural Crescent (wind not pictured)

The Rural Crescent (wind not pictured)

I stopped for a breather in Nokesville (Mile 61) and was very grateful for another nicely appointed stop and the friendly conversation from the volunteer who manned it.  The final twelve miles into Haymarket were spent in increasingly heavy traffic.  The cue sheets requested I make use of sidewalks and mixed use paths, which I tried to do.

Here’s the thing about sidewalks and mixed use paths:  they pretty much are awful to ride on, especially when one is trying to log 100+ miles.  They are jarring, with many cracks and the necessary ramps (plus gutters) at every side street.  Your pace is slowed considerably and your body suffers from increased fatigue as it fights over every extra bump.  Eventually, I gave up and simply headed onto the streets and the busy traffic all around me.

A quarry on the outskirts of Gainesville

A quarry on the outskirts of Gainesville

After what seemed like an eternity, I reached the Haymarket rest stop (Mile 72), a bike shop on the main street of the town.  I enjoyed the view of the Blue Ridge Mountains while sitting on a bench and eating another PB&J and a bannana.  I was very much looking forward to having the breeze at my back for once.  After a few minutes I left, hoping the wind would help.

The Madone at rest at the Haymarket rest stop

The Madone at rest at the Haymarket rest stop

It was wonderful.

I was traveling 25 mph down roads I had just struggled on, barely moving at 13 mph.  Traffic remained intense as I headed toward downtown Manassas and the final rest stop at Mile 83.  It was a short ride, but I was glad I stopped.  I would need some of the fluids I took on board for the motorcyclist I would encounter in 15 miles.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

It was quite hot as I left Manassas and pedaled through some of its hilly suburbs.  I faced a brief dillema on Manssas Drive when I learned it was closed for repaving.  Not knowing a way around, I opted for a combination of sidewalks and blatent violation of the road closed sign to keep me on course.  With 90 miles in my legs, I wasn’t interested in a detour.  In short order, I found myself on the Prince William Parkway.  This offered me a choice of riding on the shoulder of a very busy road (55 mph speed limit) or riding on one of the worst mixed use paths in the county.  I chose the road.

Eight miles later, two motorcyclists flew past me.  About three hundred yards after passing me, a vehicle unexpectedly moved into their lane, cutting one motorcyclist off.  He laid his bike down and the result wasn’t pretty.  I didn’t see the accident but was one of the first people on the scene.  I stayed with the injured motorcyclist while his buddy called for an ambulance.  He gladly took all the water I had left in my bottles.  Soon the ambulance showed up and I excused myself to finish my chore.

And make no mistake, this was now a chore.  I was riding on an incredibly busy street with horrible to nonexistence paths/sidewalks on a hot day with no fluids.  I soft pedalled my way back to the commuter lot and finished the 104 mile route in eight hours and 45 minutes.

I’ve now done four centuries (not to be confused with the longer randonneuring brevets, of which I have also completed four) and this was the hilliest.  The 4,327 feet of climbing is slightly more than the Reston Century, which makes a point of telling people it is somewhat challenging.  When the climbing is combined with the heavy traffic, traffic lights, and the difficult stretches of sidewalks/paths, I believe this is the most challenging of the four centuries I have completed.

Many thanks to the ride organizers and volunteers, all of whom were extremely positive and eager to help.  There were more rest stops than I am accustomed to seeing and they were amply supplied to boot.  This is quite possibly the first-ever organized century conducted in the county in which I live and I was glad to be a part of it.

Bristow

Sometimes, goals can be helpful and today was one of those times.  The cold and wind would have certainly kept me indoors but for my goal of reaching 3,000 miles for the year.  I was 35 miles away and it was mocking me.  I would certainly have broken the mark with my evening rides, but I didn’t want to achieve the goal on a short neighborhood pedal.  I was hoping for something more appropriate for the occasion.  So I plotted a 37 mile route through Bristow and set out into the wind.

The wind and the 41 degree day definitely had me riding at a winter pace.  I pulled into the Bristoe Station Battlefield having done 22 miles averaging less than 14 mph.  Welcome to December.  There were even a few snowflakes falling.  Nothing stuck to the ground, but it was my first ride in falling snow.  The Trek seemed unimpressed and behaved pretty much as it always did.  I’ve been riding my hybrid a lot recently, and it’s always nice to hop back on the old road bike, which runs as silent as a submarine compared to Old Ironsides.

When I reached the battlefield, I stopped for a Clif Bar and some Gatorade.  The below view is looking south and Bristow Road is just beyond the fence on the left.

While I was taking in the view, some folks pulled up with three horses for a ride on the battlefield trail.  It was an interesting show, watching the man in the cowboy hat (who was clearly in charge, since he was the one wearing a cowboy hat) lead the horses out of the trailer.

The way home was much more pleasant.  The wind was at my back and the majority of the ride was downhill.  As I neared Brentsville, an enormous brown hawk glided next to me for a few yards.  He was only 30 feet away and was very impressive.

I was almost home when I reached Mile #3000 at the intersection of Rte 234 and Spriggs Road.  I took a picture to capture the moment.  As you can see, the heavens did not open and there were no angelic choirs to commemorate the event.  I realize that a great many cyclists, including most of the regular contributors to this blog’s comments section, do many more miles than this.  In fact, combining my 2010 and 2011 totals would still make for a below average year for the more accomplished riders.  Still, it is a significant milestone for me and worthy of note, if for no other reason than it got me outside on a cold day and gave me the opportunity to see an incredible bird.

Historical Marker Segment!

There is a mystery afoot at Bristow Station Battlefield. The two markers I previously noted along the road are now missing.  This may be my first-ever case of stolen markers.  When I pulled into the parking lot, I spied this new marker.  It is unusual in that it does not have a date indicating when it was erected (almost all of these markers note the year they were created).  Very strange.

Markers noting the location of Confederate encampments and cemeteries are not unusual and the description provides a lengthy and somewhat interesting telling of what camp life was like during the war.  However, I do find it strange that NOT ONCE have I come across a marker noting a Union encampment or cemetery.  The obvious answer is this is Virginia and an in-depth discussion of Federal activity is just not going to happen in these parts.  But perhaps there is something else going on – maybe Union dead were not buried on the field in the manner described in the marker.  Maybe they were shipped to a common location – Arlington National Cemetery for example.  It doesn’t explain the lack of detail on encampments, but does help to address the dearth of Union cemeteries.

No Particular Place To Go

Rte 234 under leaden skies.

My apologies to any offended cycling enthusiasts for titling this post after a song which celebrates America’s love affair with the automobile, but it seemed appropriate for today’s ride.  The skies were cloudy and the temperature remained frustratingly  cool, so I didn’t embark on any great adventure.  I just puttered around the Nokesville area, which I am getting to know quite well.

Brentsville Court House

My first stop was Brentsville, where I checked in on the old County Court.  Built in 1822, this was the 4th county seat of Prince William County.  The building is rumored to be haunted and the TV show Ghost Hunters filmed an episode here in 2009.  They didn’t find any ghosts then and I once again failed to notice any on this morning’s trip.  In 1890, the county moved its seat to Manassas, which was rapidly expanding due to the railroad intersection near the town.  Brentsville’s significance began to fade and today the town has only 2,400 inhabitants.

Hay was for sale, but I wasn't in the market

After Brentsville, I wandered through farm and horse country.  This is always a pleasant ride, even on a drab day.  I then passed through Bristow and briefly got on to Rte 28.  This road is an accident waiting to happen with very heavy traffic moving at high speeds and little shoulder.  Unfortunately, there are few options if you want to get to Nokesville from this area and that is what I intended to do.  I once again cheated death and moved back onto country roads.

It was at this point that I saw the ostrich.

A prime specimen of the great Northern VA Ostrich Herd

To say he (or she?) was out of place would be an understatement.  I cannot imagine why someone would want to raise ostriches, but clearly at least one person thought it would be a good idea.  He enjoyed my company and walked back and forth in front of me, no doubt looking for a handout.  I patiently explained to the bird that I don’t share my ride snacks with anyone.  I don’t think he understood my point.  In any event, I pressed on and crossed over an iron bridge on the outskirts of Nokesville.

The view from the bridge

Just another Virginia cottage

Pedaling through Nokesville, I began to notice a lot of cyclists on the road.  There were a few groups of three or four riders and several people riding solo.  It looks like people are gearing up for the summer cycling season, despite the weather.  I carried on to Carriage Ford Road on the west side of Nokesville, and took in some views of the mansions masquerading as horse farms.

And with that, it was time to once again traverse the hills on Aden Road and find my way home.  In honor of my blogging friend, Rev Rider, I am pleased to report I found one banana peel on today’s ride.  Here’s hoping this is one of the last cool/cold rides of the Spring.  There’s reason for optimism; as I type these words the sun has broken out and the day has turned quite lovely.  If you’ll excuse me, I think I will take a nap on my back deck.

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Cycling Behavior and My Dog: The Connection

On Sunday morning, I took my dog to the local school yard where we met up with a neighbor and his canine friend.  The dogs like playing together and we often let them run free for a while and chase a tennis ball which we throw with a device that looks like it came off a Jai Alai court.  My neighbor and I marveled at the energy of the dogs.  They simply wouldn’t quit chasing the ball no matter how hard they had worked.  I recalled some piece of trivia I once read or heard that sometimes a dog will work himself to death in these situations.  They don’t have the sense to take a break when they’re near exhaustion.  Silly dogs, I thought, this is why humans rule the Earth and you don’t.  We have enough sense to stop ourselves before we die playing a game of fetch.

Then I went for a bike ride and proved that we are not so far up the evolutionary ladder as I assumed.

My goal for the ride was to simply log some miles before next weekend’s Great Pumpkin Ride and check out a few roads that I have not yet been down.  The list of roads I have yet to visit is ever shrinking and I intended to check three of them off my list: Fleetwood Drive, Flory Road, and the eastern portion of Valley View Road.  The weather was nice and the sun was shining.  When I hit the Occoquan River at Mile 11, I checked my average pace and was very surprised to see it was 17.0 mph.

17.0 mph is pretty darn fast for me, especially considering that the first part of this route is mostly uphill.  My personal best pace for a ride over 30 miles was 16.3 mph.  There was plenty of flat land ahead of me and I could build on my initial success.  Lord only knew just how fast I could go!  Throwing caution to the wind and with the same sort of thoughtfulness routinely displayed by my Golden Retriever, I decided to go for it.

Westward on Fleetwood Drive I went, onto six miles of my favorite roads in the area.  They’re flat, straight, and virtually without cars.  I kept my pace around 20 mph.  I could have done a tick more, but this ride still had 30 miles to go and I didn’t want to use up all my energy.  As I swung back onto Aden Road and enjoyed the Church Fall Festival Display ( complete with “Welcome to the Holy Land” colorfully painted on plywood placards resting on hay bales) my Garmin GPS informed me my average pace was now at 17.7 mph.

I zipped past Nokesville Community Park and turned onto Parkgate Drive.  I rolled steadily past farms.  I was feeling really strong.  The sun was shining.  There were bugs in my face.  I rode through small clouds of chaff from nearby farms and the stuff got all over me.  Everything was great!  I turned onto the Eastern (unexplored) portion of Fleetwood Drive and checked my pace – 18.0 mph after 22 miles.

This was just crazy.  I’ve never held such a stratospheric pace after such a distance.  And the ground ahead was fairly flat for another six miles.  Then I would face over 10 miles of uphill grades on Bristow Road to get home.  I grabbed a Multi-Grain Marathon Bar (which was delicious – thanks, Cathy!) and refueled while pedaling.  I decided I wouldn’t have a break on this ride.  This would be approximately 45 miles without a break.  I’ve never gone that far without stopping before.

And nothing could possibly be amiss about any of this, could there?

I hit the Eastern portion of Valley View Drive and fatigue set in.  I still felt strong, but the end of my endurance was now in sight.  It was just a matter of hanging on now.  I had no hopes of holding the 18.0 mph pace through 10 miles of hills, but the personal best mark of 16.3 was well in my sites.

I hit the hills at Brentsville and pushed through them in good form.  I did dismount ever-s0-briefly to take the mandatory picture at a historical marker and I was once again on my way.  I was feeling drained but I continued to make good progress.  I came out of the hills with six miles to go and hammered it as hard as I could.  I finished with a pace of 17.0 mph, a very significant increase over my previous best, which I sent on a ride 13 miles shorter than the one I just completed.

I then put away my bike, stretched, showered, ate some protein and began to feel terrible.  I slept a bit, drew a bit of a fever, and generally laid about the house not being much use to anyone.  At one point, my dog walked up to me and gave me a look which seemed to say, “Look who the dope is now!” 

And I have to admit, my dog had a point.

In any event, I woke up this morning feeling much better.  The chronic knee pain I’ve been experiencing for 6 weeks is largely gone, thanks either to a lowered seat or improved stretching or both.  I’m looking forward to the Great Pumpkin Ride on Saturday.  Although I may be able to ride it straight through, I have every intention of stopping at some rest areas!

Virginia Historical Marker Segment.  Here’s today’s marker, taken outside Brentsville.  There are a couple of interesting tidbits here.  First there is a cautionary tale about backing sides in a revolution:  choose the wrong one and you’ll find your land taken from you and turned into a local village.  Second, there is the endearing local custom of referring to the Civil War by its lengthier, Confederate, name – even if it means using twice as many characters on a sign clearly pressed for space!

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By the way, if you want to check out my growing collection of these markers, click on the “Historical Markers” folder to the right of the screen.

Memory Lane

 

I haven’t gone over 40 miles since August 8th and with my 65-mile ride 10 days away I figured it was time to get back into the swing of things.  I had my new bike and all the “incidentals” (spare tube, water bottles, CO2 cartridge, etc…) necessary for a longer outing so I was all set.  I headed out toward Nokesville along Bristow Road.  As I descended toward the Occoquan River, it occurred to me this route would take me by many of the sites of my short-but-eventful cycling career.

First up was Brentsville, aka “Brakesville,” due to the multiple mishaps in this locale.  I’ve lost two tires, a spoke, and a pair of pedals in this little hamlet.  I pedaled past the old jailhouse and looked for ghosts.  Still nothing.  On my way out of town, a semi flew past me from the other direction.  The huge gust of wind caused me to lose my vision ever so briefly.  Naturally, this is when the pothole appeared.  I hit it with a thud and waited for the inevitable hissing sound of escaping air.  Amazingly, nothing of the sort happened.

Maybe my luck is changing for the better.

Next up was Bristow, scene of a broken spoke on my August 8 ride.  I was forced 20 miles home on a tire that was massively out of true.  It was so bad, the tire eventually flatted.  Today, all was well.  I zipped passed the Bristow Station battlefield and around a man-made lake.  I headed westward toward Nokesville.

In Nokesville, I stopped at a convenience store for some Gatorade and a sandwich.  Both were delicious.  I filled up one of my 28 ounce water bottles (4 ounces bigger than that on Old Ironsides) with the Gatorade and drank the remainder.  I noted that with my Camelbak I am now traveling with 126 ounces of fluid.  That’s a lot of fluid.  As I was leaving town,  I passed the high school which gave me shelter in a rainstorm and the town park where I once had a pleasant break and ate my first Clif Bar.  Now that I think about it, absolutely nothing bad has ever happened to me in Nokesville.  Given my track record, that’s a fact worth noting.

I picked up Carriage Ford Road and enjoyed a five-mile stretch of roads that may be the best for cycling in the area.  They are relatively flat, very straight, free of cars, and provide lovely farm views.  I passed Dumfries Road, the gravel route that I took (and developed a slow leak on) as part of the “Tenerife Incident.”  At the end of Hazelwood Road, I realized I hadn’t taken a pic of this great stretch and stopped to do just that.

Hazelwood Road - no cars, all the time

I swung onto Fleetwood Dr and pedaled passed the Merrimac Wildlife Management Area and the gravel road that managed to flat my brand new Armadillo tires.  I’m still shaking my head at that one.  In short order, I was turning right onto Aden Road and steeling myself for the four miles of climbing that were to come.  A couple of miles up the hills I paused at a historical marker which I never paused to read before.  Virginia has signs like this ALL OVER the place, marking the most insignificant of events.  I guess it gives the prisoners something to do.

You'd never guess this place was once the center of county life. It's deserted today - just woods and a Marine base.

A few miles later, I was back on my old friend, Route 234.  An elderly cyclist was emerging out of the tall grass and I slowed to ask him if everything was alright.  I believe he was just “relieving himself,” but I wanted to be sure.  I think I embarrassed him because he chased me down in a couple of miles and made a point of flying by me.  I could have hauled him in, but I was watching my heart rate in an attempt to train myself to moderate my calorie burn on long rides.  Remember kids, when you decide to match skills against another passing cyclist, you have no idea what kind of workout he is on or how far he has already ridden.  Moderate your sense of accomplishment accordingly.

All in all, it was a very nice ride.  Good weather and not a single mechanical mishap as I pedaled past the markers of this summer’s personal wreckage.  I remain concerned about my fitness level for the upcoming 65-miler.  A review of my Garmin data shows my average heart rate steadily climbing throughout the ride.  By Mile 41, it was well into Zone 4 – a bad place for a guy wanting to go another 25 miles.  I’ll need to be especially careful not to overdo it too quickly in Culpeper.

If It’s Sunday, You Can Find Me At The Bike Shop

 

The good news is I got in a 28 mile ride today.  The bad news is I planned to do 50.  I suffered a broken spoke in Brentsville.  This is the third major mechanical failure in the extraordinarily small town of Brentsville.  Everything on my bike breaks in Brentsville.  The Brentsville Courthouse is rumored to be haunted.  I’ve checked it out but never saw any ghosts.  Perhaps I missed one and he really, really, doesn’t like bicycles.

The bike was rideable, the major hassle being that the rear tire would rub against my break pads once each revolution.  That DEFINITELY has a drag effect on the bike!  The last 11 miles were therefore extra special for me as I fumed on my way home.

I brought the bike into the shop and spoke to the owner who now recognizes me on sight.  He said he has sold about 50 Crosstrails and mine is the only one with spoke problems.  We then had a lengthy discussion about how and where I ride the bike.  I assured him I was not deliberately putting it into pot holes or riding off cliffs.  He said there is no reason why it shouldn’t be able to handle a rider of my weight on the terrain I was describing.  His only thought is that perhaps I am sitting when I hit the larger bumps when I should be standing.  Standing on the pedals moves the weight off the back wheel and distributes it more evenly across the bike. 

I told the owner that I thought his service was great, but I didn’t want to continue to need his service every weekend.  He agreed that was a worthy goal.  He’ll be calling Specialized tomorrow to see if they’ll approve swapping out the entire rear wheel.  Their answer will have a significant impact on where I take my future business.

The best part of my ride came when I was almost home, despite the broken spoke and the curtailed route.  I was waiting at a red light when an old man rolled down the window of his car and said, “You are a rare thing:  a cyclist who doesn’t run red lights.”  Glad to be setting a small positive example for the greater cycling world, I smiled and said, “I only get one life.  I’d hate to cut it short by being an idiot.”  The driver smiled and said, “You got that right!” Then the light turned green and we were both on our way.

Vacation Means More Riding

I’m taking the week off from work.  This should allow me to get a few extra miles in and keep up with the visitor totals a while longer! 

Today’s ride was a relatively quick 25-miler in wonderful conditions.  It was overcast and a mere 78 degrees, which I discovered was far easier to ride in than the sunny mid-90s weather of the past few weeks.  I traveled over a route I took a couple of months ago and once again was impressed by how much easier the ride was for me than in my previous effort.

To the kid in the red mustang who screamed at me as he flew past, you’re a loser.

On my way back, I took a quick pic of the bicycle path on Rte 234.  I spend a portion of virtually every ride on this path and have neglected to include a shot of it.  You have my profound apologies.  I also apologize for including garbage in the photo.  The path is actually fairly clean.  Oh well!