Gloom Ride

Quantico CreekBack in college, this time of year was referred to as “Gloom Period.”  It got its name from the fact that things were pretty gloomy around the place.  There wasn’t much to look forward to and the weather didn’t cooperate to raise our spirits.  Christmas was over and the decorations had come down.  Summer (Spring, for that matter) seemed a long way off.  The sky was gray, the buildings were gray, and our uniforms were gray.

You might say it was gloomy.  We certainly did.

Anyway, those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are all at various stages in our gloom period.  Here in Virginia, things are more brown than gray, but it’s still difficult to imagine warm days in the saddle.  Heck, we just got through dealing with something called a polar vortex.  So in honor of Gloom Period, pictures from Sunday’s ride are presented in black and white.

Longtime viewers will remember I pulled this stunt in 2012.  Sorry for being so repetitive.  At least I picked a different route.  I headed east to Quantico.

I had hoped to take some nice pics of the town’s marina, but it was locked behind two chain link fences.  I moved on to a small peninsula north of the marina and took in the view of the river.


The base does a nice job of creating a park-like setting along the water’s edge.  There are many old trees which add some character to the benches and gazebos.  Here is one of them (a tree, that is, not a bench or gazebo).


And here is a gazebo, with one of the base’s headquarters buildings in the background.


I then zipped over to the boat launch, just a few hundred yards away.  I found a few more photo opportunities there, including a view of the power plant across Quantico Creek.  The next leg of my ride would take me to the plant.  The peninsula where the plant sits is called Possum Point.  In the Civil War, a Confederate battery was placed here that effectively stopped river traffic to Washington, DC.


The railway bridge you see on the left is the main north-south line, connecting DC with Fredericksburg and points to the south.  Thousands of commuters use this every day.  Since bridges are an item of increasing interest, I took a second shot to better capture it.


All this picture-taking took a lot of time and I finally decided that the bike ride would go better for me if I actually rode my bike.  I made my way off the base, rode northward through a few neighborhoods, and finally hopped onto Route 1, where I encountered The Jerk Of The Ride.

Most of my rides have at least one jerk in them.  They are either rude, ignorant, or a combination of the two.  Usually, they don’t warrant a comment, but this jerk did.  He was driving a fire truck.  I could hear him coming from behind as I pedaled northward (near the dot of the “i” in Dumfries on the map above).  His siren was blazing and he was honking his horn for good measure as he fought his way through moderately heavy traffic.  I wasn’t worried – I was on the shoulder.  It was a narrow shoulder, to be sure, but I was definitely out of the road and both lanes were open as the truck approached.

I was hopeful he would turn off his siren or at least stop honking his horn.  Many emergency vehicles do this and it I greatly appreciate that since the sirens are incredibly loud.  I put my finger in my left ear to help in case he chose not to do so.  Not only did the driver not do this, but he laid on the horn as he passed me.  In addition, he stayed in the right lane rather than moving over to the left lane.  He was so far to the right that the edge of his vehicle was on the line.  He went by me at 40+ mph, siren blaring and horn honking.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say he intentionally swerved to the right to scare me.  He missed me by about two feet.  I get it that emergency vehicles have the right of way and all other vehicles are to pull to the side of the road.  I guess the truck driver took exception to the fact that I was merely in the shoulder and not stopped, so he decided to teach me a lesson.  Lovely.

The sound, shock at seeing such a large vehicle only inches from me, the rush of air that blew me sideways, and the fact I was riding with one hand on the bike and one in my ear, made for an exciting few seconds. I managed to stay upright as I reflexively moved to the right and into a nasty section of broken glass and potholes.  I hope that those firemen went on to save somebody’s life, because the driver nearly took mine.  Jerk.

Now, where was I?  Oh yes, heading toward the power plant on the north side of Quantico Creek.  Just a few hundred yards up Route 1, I got onto Possum Point Road.  The road has a nice rural feel to it and it is a shame that it isn’t longer and that you have to travel Route 1 to get to it.  Eventually, a system of pipes joins the road and runs parallel to it.  I’m not an expert on power plants, but my guess is they carry oil to power the plant.


Quantico Creek is a protected wildlife area and there are signs that state bald eagles nest in these parts.  I think I saw an eagle soaring off in the distance, but it easily could have been a hawk or some other bird.  I’m pretty sure the birds in the below picture aren’t eagles.  It looks like I interrupted dinner.  A bird’s gotta eat, even during Gloom Period.


I climbed the mile-long hill near the plant, then turned around and enjoyed a mile-long descent.  I managed to cross Route 1 without further incident and made my way home, where I stopped to take a pic of the I-95 bridge over Quantico Creek.  It’s not a very attractive place and I wouldn’t want to be here at night.  But it’s a bridge and therefore worthy of your consideration.


And here’s a picture of Quantico Creek, which is considerably more narrow at this point than in previous pics.


At this point, I was five miles from home.  I was pleased with my ascent of the large hill on Van Buren Road. This hill used to be a huge test for me.  I was pleased to see I handled it well despite the lack of miles over the winter.  I arrived back home in good shape, having logged  a little over 30 miles.  Apart from the thirty seconds with the fire truck, it was a good day on the bike.

Here’s hoping you are finding ways to enjoy Gloom Period as well.  I have it on good authority that the weather will warm up in the coming months.  In addition to riding, I’ve taken to working on the installation of my B.E.A.R.D.  Things seem to be moving nicely on that project.  To get us back to color photography, I provide the following update:

IMG_1147 - Copy


My Foray Into The World Of Triathlon

Quantico TriathlonOn Sunday, I swam, cycled, and ran in succession.  I am now officially a Triathlete.  That and 50 cents will buy you a bad cup of coffee.

Here’s how it happened:

The forecast for rain did not disappoint.  I drove to Quantico Marine Corps Base in a pre-dawn deluge.  I unloaded my bike, set up my wares in the Transition Area, got my timing chip (which I attached to my ankle) and got “body marked” (with my bib number on both arms and my age on my calf) all in a pouring ran.  I then took out a Hefty Bag, ripped holes for my head and arms, and waited patiently for the race to start while the rain continued.  It was 65 degrees.  Yippee.

Despite the crummy weather, the mood at the Inaugural Quantico Sprint Triathlon was very upbeat.  The Marines know how to put on a good show and we were treated to loud music with a Marine Corps theme (it’s hard for this old officer not to get a little pumped up when this is playing).  A Color Guard was there and a chaplain gave an invocation.  Naturally, almost no mention was made of the rain.  Marines are cool like that.

We were assigned a bib number based on our estimated swim time.  I found myself in the middle of the pack with 172.  Swimmers would enter the pool at ten seconds intervals, meaning I had another 30 minutes after the official start to enjoy the weather with my new-found friends.  This was the first triathlon for a lot of us so we compared notes on what we should be doing.  Most people around me were worried about the bike portion.  Since I was the only one crazy enough to have logged a lot of cycling hours in the rain I imparted my wisdom, which boiled down to “Don’t worry – you and your bike are waterproof.  Just slow down on turns and hit your brakes early to burn off the water,” and everyone was suitably impressed.

As the bib numbers in the water approached 70, I realized I was way too far back in the line.  The folks in the water seemed to be at my ability.  Sure enough, when I jumped in the water (which was refreshingly warm at 83 degrees) I quickly began passing people.  This is not ideal in a pool swim and there is a little etiquette involved.  You have to tap the person in front of you on the ankle and patiently wait for him to cling to the lane divider or the wall of the pool then you pass.  I did this about six times, meaning I was passing people who entered the water a minute ahead of me.  My estimate for my swim time was eleven minutes.  As it turned out, I finished in 8:30.

I pulled myself out of the pool, suggested to the official that if he wanted to warm up he should jump in the water (which he was thoroughly amused with) then jogged through a nearby parking lot which served as the Transition Area.  I found my bike, put on my helmet, realized I hadn’t put on my jersey yet, took off my helmet, THEN put on my jersey, clear glasses, socks, shoes and finally my helmet.  I grabbed my bike off the rack and made my way gingerly to the mount/dismount point.  There are several ways to get yourself disqualified in a triathlon.  Two of them are handing your bike with your helmet off or unbuckled and getting on/off your bike on the wrong side of the mount/dismount line.  I was careful to follow the rules and went slow so I didn’t trip over myself while running in my shoes.

(Cool triathletes will run in bare feet with their shoes already clipped into their bike.  I took a more conservative approach and simply put my shoes on before I left the transition area)

So now I was cycling.  This is something I am comfortable with and I immediately began passing even MORE people.  What I didn’t realize at that point was my low estimate of my swimming pace put me with a group of athletes who were generally not at my ability level.  I therefore was not passed by a single person in ANY of the three events.  While this did great things for my self-esteem, it probably hurt my overall time because there was no one to really push me.

Around Mile 4, we hit the large hill on Purvis Road.  Many riders had dismounted and were walking their bikes to the top.  Others pushed on gamely.  I zipped by them and then enjoyed the steep descent to Horner Road, being careful to slow enough at the sharp turn on the bottom  so I could keep my wheels on the pavement.  The rest of the course was very flat and I reeled in another five or six riders by the time I pulled into the Transition Area to get ready for the run.

Once again, I needed to be careful with what I was doing.  Most importantly I needed to remember to get my running bib out of my bag of stuff.  This bib is attached to a very thin and elastic belt which goes around the runner’s waist.  The bib isn’t necessary on the bike because the athlete’s number is on the helmet and the bike.  Neither of these items go on the run, so you kinda need to remember your running bib or you’ll be DQ’d.

The rain had lessened to a mere sprinkle at this point, so things were looking up.  The running leg was only three miles long on a very flat course, so I was hopeful I could manage it.  I wondered how I would do without my calf sleeves, which have become something of a security blanket for me while running.  Sure enough, my right calf almost immediately felt a little tight.  I dialed back my pace for a few hundred yards and everything seemed to sort itself out.  I then got back to the business of passing people.  My achievement here wasn’t quite as glorious – I managed to get past about five people over the entire event.  Again, nobody passed me.

26:36 later, I crossed the finish line.  There was music and a PA announcer shouting my name and home town to the crowd.  It was a pretty cool feeling to cross under the balloon arch that the Marine Corps Marathon brings out to all their events.  Like I said, the Marines know how to put on a good show.  I got my finisher’s coin, some watermelon, water, and other goodies and enjoyed the after-party in the finishing area.  Since everyone was soaking wet and it was still sprinkling, most people didn’t stay very long.  I was like most people and beat a retreat to the warmth and dry of my car.

I ended up with a finishing time of 69:03, good enough to earn my 72nd place out of 248 athletes.  I could have shaved a few minutes in my transition areas had I been more practiced (fishing stuff out of a hug zip lock bag slowed me down as well) and I believe that I may have pushed myself harder had I been paired with athletes of my ability – that’s my own fault for being way too conservative on my swim time.  Still, it was a nice first effort.

I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  The race organizers were absolutely perfect in almost every way.  They went to great lengths to make everyone feel comfortable, answered every question, and put on a well organized, friendly, and fun event.  I hope they run this event again in 2014.  I definitely want to add it to my list of events I return to each year.

Its hard for me to believe this is my last cycling event of the season.  Complaining about the cold weather and getting ready for my first event doesn’t seem that long ago.  Time to get ready for the Army Ten Miler and the Marine Corps Marathon this October.  Gulp.

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.


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



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.


I was watching the team time trial during the Tour de France and right before I fell asleep due to the sheer boredom of the event, I heard legendary cycling announcer Phil Liggett mention that the riders rode the entire length of the course that morning to familiarize themselves with it.  Liggett went on to say that most teams spend a good deal of time reconnoitering the course for the next day, usually watching a video of key sections while studying the elevation profiles and all other manner of data that will help them perform on the next day’s stage.

So I got to thinking (a dangerous past time, I know), why shouldn’t I do something like that?

And that’s exactly what I did on Saturday when I pedaled to Quantico Marine Corps Base and scoped out the scene at next month’s sprint triathlon.  I wanted to lay eyes on the pool and ride the nine mile course.  Truth be told, I’ve ridden those roads several times, but never with a critical eye and always in the opposite direction than the one I will be traveling on race day.

IMG_0718Temperatures are very hot right now, but I will refuse to complain so I can maintain the moral high ground during my gripes about the cold all winter.  Traffic was light and I made it through the danger area of Dumfries without incident.  I soon found myself on the north side of a loop which circumnavigates the base.  This road is smooth, slightly downhill and has a nice bike path.  Good times.  There were even helpful signs along the road’s edge to make sure everyone knew which side of the road they should be running on.  In typical Marine fashion, they are red and yellow and do not offer much in the way of pleasantries.

IMG_0720After three miles I turned southward toward the older part of the base.  Quantico Marine Corps Base was founded in 1917 on land formerly used as a tourist location and industrial site (an interesting combination, I think).  The soon-to-be legendary John LeJeune was the camp’s early commander and set up a training base for Marines about to serve in WWI.  The town of Quantico remains today, completely surrounded by the base which bears its name.  There are only a few hundred residents, almost all of whom either work on the base or provide a service to those who work there.

The base pool is near a guest inn on the south side of the base.  It has been completely rebuilt and is looking very stylish.  It is 50 meters long, which means I will be swimming the length of this thing eight times.  I was struck by just how far 50 meters looks like when it is the length of a swimming pool.  I looked around for where the transition area might be and couldn’t find any suitable patch of grass.  It appears I’ll be switching from swimming to cycling and then to running in an asphalt parking lot.  I hope I’m wrong.


IMG_0728I then continued the loop that I will ride on race day.  The southern end of the base is not nearly as nice as its northern end.  There is no bike lane and the road is considerably older and full of potholes.  There will be plenty to pay attention to while shaking off any adverse effects of the swim.  I stopped briefly by LeJeune hall to pay my respects to the “Greatest of all Leathernecks,”  whose statue sits outside the building.  Fun Fact:  the man’s name is pronounced “luh-JERN,” not “lay-Joon,” like most people say.  The Marines have made a concerted effort as of late to emphasize the proper pronunciation, which gives me no end of merriment when I have cause to mispronounce it in public settings with Marines present.

The last stretch of the loop is Purvis Road.  It runs through the base housing area and past an elementary school and a high school.  Those buildings sit atop a signficant hill, with a grade that reaches 10% for a brief period.  If I can drag myself over that hill in good shape, then my cycle time will be pretty good, which it will need to be if I am to have any hope of putting in a respectable time in this event.

Having completed my reconnaissance and satisfied myself that I am every bit as professional as the Tour de France cyclists, I pedaled home in the increasing heat.  The total ride was about 25 miles and it was the third day in a row I have cycled, which is a nice little streak for me.  Tomorrow, I’ll be running.  The work of a triathlete is never done.

I will leave you with this artsy photo of Old Glory, taken in front of LeJeune Hall at Quantico MCB.



This weekend’s jaunt took me to Quantico Marine Base, where I hoped to visit the base airfield and the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School (OCS).  As with any trip to the eastern part of the county, this required a successful navigation of heavily trafficked roads.  The springlike weather made the trip very pleasant and may even have had a positive effect on the drivers, some of whom actually stopped to allow me to cross some congested areas.  I didn’t have any close calls with automobiles, which is always a welcome event.

After reaching the base, I made my way to the river and the airfield which sits alongside side it.  There were some great views at this point, but sadly photography of the airfield is prohibited.  Not wanting to spend the rest of my day in the brig, I kept my camera stowed and continued on to the OCS facility, about a mile further down the road.

I found the school to be vacant, probably because there is no class in session at the moment or possibly because the candidates are in the field at the moment.  The first thing I came across was a large “parade deck,” which the candidates no doubt spend many exciting hours on.  As an Army man, I was amused that the Marines would pave over a perfectly good parade field just so they could call it a “deck.”

These were the only occupants in evidence near the barracks.  They were not cooperative subjects and had an annoying tendency to turn their backs whenever I closed to take a picture.

On the opposite side of the barracks was an impressive obstacle course.  When the candidates are not drilling on the parade deck, they are no doubt amusing themselves on this.  Pictured is only a portion of the course, which runs for over a mile.  Good times.

As I left the school, I took the below picture.  I always feel compelled to take a photograph when I cross railroad tracks.  I guess I’m a sucker for the “disappearing into the horizon” image they provide.

My trip home was uneventful.  The entire route was only 27 miles and was happily devoid of the drama which I endured during last weekend’s ride.  I returned home with plenty of fluid and I had increased peace of mind brought about by this handsome addition to the contents of my saddle bag.  I suspect it will be many months before I need my emergency stash of money, so it is folded neatly inside a ziplock bag to protect it from the elements.

2012’s Color Is White

I am excited to present a change to the Trek which will fundamentally alter its handling and performance.  It’s an important new piece of gear that I have placed a great deal of thought into.  Like most cycling equipment, this gear will wear out and I hope to come up with a new version each year.  With a little luck, this announcement will become an annual event eagerly awaited by you, Dear Reader.

I have changed the color of my handlebar tape.

Ta Da!

I thought it would be fun to change the tape color each year, if for no other reason than it will be easier for me to identify when a given picture was taken.  This is not a decision to be taken lightly.  The color of a bike’s handlebar tape says a great deal about its rider.  For example, the original color of black says, “I just want to blend in with everyone else using the stock tape that came with my bike when I bought it.”

The color white looks snappy (to me, at least) but it runs the risk of giving the impression that I am a “poseur.” Poseur is a French word for “poser,” which is an English word for someone who takes on the mannerisms and fashion of serious cyclists without actually having the ability to ride like a serious cyclist.  This is a very serious allegation in the cycling community and I will need to be mindful of this issue as I come into contact with other cyclists – an event which occurs about once per every 500 miles cycled.

I took the tape (along with the rest of the bike) on its maiden voyage yesterday.  Winter remains pleasantly mild, but much of the weekend was shot due to rain and personal errands.  With a few hours of sunlight remaining on Sunday, I shoved off for Quantico Marine Corps Base’s “downrange” reservation.  This is the part of the base west of Route 1 where field training occurs.  I had never ridden these roads and was alerted to their existence by Roger, when we met for a pedal last Fall.

Before reaching these new roads, I had to fight my way through the hazards of Dumfries.  I managed this with nothing untoward other than the elevated frustration levels which are normal for me in that place.  I stopped by one of Quantico MCB’s gates to take a picture of a replica of the Iwo Jima Memorial.  This one is considerably smaller than the original monument, which stands next to Arlington National Cemetery.  For those interested in a detailed account of this battle, I highly recommend Clint Eastwood’s Flags Of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima.

After enduring the swarms of traffic along Route 1, the back roads of Quantico were very refreshing.  The roads were quite hilly.  The first 3.5 miles were at a steady 7-8% grade.  This gave way to a series of rollers which had grades of 7-10%.  I think I’ve found a good place for some mountain training, which I’ll need for the Civil War Century this September and its 7,400 feet of climbing.  Sunday’s 30-mile circuit was 1,600 feet, meaning I’ll need to climb at approximately 1.5 times this rate for the CWC.  That is a humbling prospect.

Historical Marker Segment!

It’s been awhile since I have been able to bring you one of these.  This marker is close to the Iwo Jima Memorial outside of Quantico MCB’s gate.  Although I often drive by this spot, I’ve never noticed it before.  In it, we learn the ancient and glorious history of Quantico.  The nearby town of Dumfries used to be one of the largest and most important ports in America, due primarily to the huge tobacco crop which was exported from there.   This fact is remarkable to contemplate as the creek is no longer navigable and there is no remnant of the port facility that once existed.

A Worldwide Cycling Snapshot

Note: This photo was not submitted by a reader

On this weekend, December 3rd and 4th, the Earth hurled through space at a speed estimated at over 400,000 mph while rotating on its axis at a speed of 1,042 mph (again estimated).  On Earth’s surface, approximately 6.978 billion people went about their daily business.

Some of them were riding bicycles.

This is their story.

Some people rode alone.  In France, Gerry enjoyed a solo pedal on his Bianchi out of the Gordon Gorge, which is situated on the north side of a little mountain range behind Nîmes, near his home.  The grade was “only” 5-6%, which is precisely how someone who regularly climbs Mount Ventoux and has logged 10,000 kms this year would describe it.  Since the RVs have departed with the summer weather, the road is reportedly quite enjoyable.  It takes a certain kind of person to scale hills on roads like this and describe it as enjoyable, and Gerry is that kind of guy.

Others rode in groups, like Brian and Team MK, who held their weekly club ride near Milton Keynes, about 50 miles Northwest of London.  You can see many of the club riders wearing the team kit of blue, white, and orange.  Brian climbed Ventoux on holiday this summer and laments the lack of an Alpine range in England.  This sort of attitude probably explains why he regularly drops riders 30 years his junior.

Others rode with family, as Clive did with his son near Birmingham, England.  Although he owns a road bike, Clive can most often be found zipping to/from work and elsewhere on his mountain bike.  His son is quickly following in his footsteps, or should I say pedal strokes?  Apart from getting his son hooked on cycling, Clive has made great strides losing weight while pedaling about the West Midlands.  We (and by “we” I mean “I”) could do well to follow his example.

Keeping with the family theme, Lloyd set out to circle the inexplicably named California-in-England in Berkshire.  Originally part of the Royal Estate of Windsor Castle, the property has been subdivided and sold several times.  No one seems to know what the connection is to a western U.S. state.  Lloyd taught his son how to cycle on this route and has a pedal with him here on most weekends.

Others explored the elements, like Tom, who lives near the border of Scotland and England.  Tom took time from his excellent bird photography to enjoy a quick pedal to Wauchope after a sleet storm to take in the scenery.  I highly encourage you to visit his blog for some excellent photography of this part of the world.

Not everyone was recreating and not everyone was experiencing winter.  Valentine used his bike to ride into town to buy a chicken.  Since he lives in the Southern Hemisphere (Brazil, specifically), he ran his errand on one of the longest days of summer.  Valentine did not mention how he secures his chickens to his bike, so that shall remain left to our imaginations.

In North America, things were chillier than in Brazil.  Chris made a regular trek to Gathland State Park in western Maryland to enjoy one of his favorite views.  The park is named after a Civil War correspondent who owned this land and wrote under the pseudonym, “Gath.”  His name was George Alfred Townsend (care to guess how he picked his nom-de-guerre?) and he erected the monument in the picture’s background to war correspondents.  Chris will soon make this journey on new wheels for his 1999 Marin San Rafael hybrid bike.  The wheels are due to arrive on Monday.

In New Jersey, it was very chilly (25 degrees, in fact) as Iron Rider headed out with the Pennsylvania Randonneurs on a 200 km brevet up the Delaware River.  The group started just after sunrise and pulled into their final stop with their lights on as the sun was setting.  This was hardly a novel event as Mr. Rider has already earned the coveted R12 Award, meaning he has ridden a 200 km event every month for 12 consecutive months.  He is also a Super Randonneur, with rides of 200k, 300k, 40ok, and 600k in one season.  Yikes.

Back in Maryland but closer to DC, Justin travelled the Anacostia River’s Northwest and Northeast branches up to College Park (so named after the University of Maryland, which is located there).  DC has many miles of pathways and this pic is a fine example of this type of riding.

In DC itself, John took the group project to another level by documenting his entire journey throughout DC.  John is a recent transplant from New England and seems to have taken nicely to the urban cycling environment in his new city.  For several excellent photos of his day, I commend to you his blog.

In Northern Virginia, another person named John was using his bike for yet another purpose – an investigation.  He has been searching for a gold Cadillac which seriously injured some cyclists in October.  He has cycled over 50 miles through the neighborhoods of his home in Mount Vernon without finding the car.  He continues his search and I wish him well.  In the meanwhile, he stopped and posed his bike for a pic in front of this interesting home.

30 miles south of John, Yours Truly was circumnavigating Prince William Forest.  I left at midmorning and the 45 degree temperature made it the coldest ride of the winter for me so far.  I checked in on the US Marine Corps Museum and took a picture.  I finished my ride at 2,923 miles – still short of my 3,000 mile goal for the year.

In central Ohio, Roger found time to squeeze in a quick ride.  His work currently has him in Jacksonville, Florida, and he had flown home on Friday to be with his family.  Sunday night, he was back at the airport to continue his work in Florida.  In the meanwhile, he hopped on his Raleigh and pedaled with friends through some covered bridges with temps in the low 50s.

While the riders in the Mid-Atlantic tended to ride on asphalt, the cyclists of Illinois seemed to prefer dirt.  David certainly did and he took his Gary Fisher Big Sur on a trail near Lake Michigan on a rainy day in the Northeastern corner of his state.  This ride put him over 6,400 miles this year.

Illinoisans were not only riding on dirt, but they were tinkering as well.  Matt had traveled from his home in southern Illinois to Land Between The Lakes, Kentucky, and was bringing his new Gopro camera.  Here we see him before his group ride, making sure he knows how his camera works.  If you’re the sort that is curious about how to make your own modifications to your bike, check out Matt’s blog.

It was raining at Ron’s house as well.  He decided discretion was the better part of valor and opted against cycling in the elements.  His bike remains in his garage, ready for the next adventure.  If Ron’s blog reports are any indication, I do not believe it will have to wait very long.

The rain in America’s Midwest fell in Canada the previous day in the form of snow.  Keith enjoyed a snow-covered trail ride on the way to the Strathcona Farmer’s Market in Edmonton.  That’s right, Keith rides his Iron Horse Commuter bike through the snow to the market.  It takes a special kind of attitude to cycle through a Canadian winter and Keith has more than enough of it!  If Matt’s blog doesn’t satisfy your craving for DIY cycling modifications, then Keith’s certainly will.

Still in Canada, but much further East, James took some time off work (please do not tell his boss) for a quick 30-minute pedal.  His single speed Konia is pictured in front of Lac St. Louis (that’s LAKE SAINT LOUIS for those who don’t speak French) near Montreal.  The Union Flag on the seat post belies his status as a British expatriate.

So there it is – my attempt at capturing cycling around the world on a single weekend.  To everyone who submitted a picture, thank you very much!  Obviously, there were a few areas on the planet that were not properly covered but it is evident from the submissions that cycling around the world can be quite varied yet quite similar regardless of the weather, surface, or type of bike.  I thoroughly enjoyed putting this together and hope you enjoyed perusing it as well.  We may do this again next summer.  Until that time, I suggest we all follow the below example of James and continue to get on our our bikes and pedal!

2010 Wrap Up: Part 2 (The Pics)

As many of you know, I enjoy taking photos during my rides.  Here are some of my favorites from 2010:

Colvin Road, Nokesville

Quantico Wildlife Refuge

Quantico Marina

Prince William Forest Park

Tidal Basin, Washington, DC


Lake Burley Griffin, Canberra

Rte 234 Bike Path

Orlando Road

Start Line, Culpeper Metric Century

Widewater Park

Canova Drive

Cromwell Road, Fauquier County

Hastings Drive, Manassas

Lake Terrapin

Reid Road

Quantico National Cemetery

Prince William Forest & Quantico

On Saturday, I traveled around Prince William Forest and did a couple of laps on Quantico Marine Corps Base.  Although the calendar informed me it was Fall, the weather was decidedly summer-like, with temps in the mid 90s.  I’ve traveled all these roads at least once before so there was very little new to report, other than the Modern Day Marine Expo, which I passed on my way by the post HQ. 

From the outside, there wasn’t much to see other than a bunch of white “beer tents.”  I’m sure it is very nice and the Marines are very proud of it, but I had finished only 20 of my 45 miles and couldn’t be bothered to stop.  Instead, I took my break on a bench at the Quantico Elementary School playground.  It was in the shade and nobody was there.  Much better than a tent full of Marine stuff.

Here is this ride’s installment of “Virginia Historical Marker Picture.”  This marker is on Rte 234, near the entrance to my subdivision, Montclair:

And this is what it looks like in its natural setting:

I finished the ride in good shape and in a better-than-average pace of almost 15 mph.  There was only a small issue, namely that when I got off the bike I had no feeling in the ring and pinky fingers of my left hand.  This continued for most of the day, which was a tad disconcerting.  Some one-handed google searches informed me that I was suffering from handlebar palsy, an overuse injury caused by excessive compression of the ulnar nerve which runs down the arm and (most importantly for this story) the outer portion of the hand, ending in (you guessed it!) the ring and pinky fingers.  It is also responsible for hand strength, which explains why I had a tough time using my left hand to properly operate a clothes pin later that evening.

The treatment for this condition is rest, usually 2-4 weeks.  I’ll give it six days.  Various websites also recommend frequently changing hand positions  (something I already do) and additional padding in riding gloves (something I will definitely look into).  The hand is already doing much better and I am even using it to type this post – yippee!

Today, I took the Trek back to Revolution Cycles to give it a tune up prior to next weekend’s ride in Culpeper.  The cables, derailleurs, brakes, and whatnot on new bikes have a break-in period.  Small adjustments are usually necessary after the first couple hundred miles.  Such was the case with my bike.  After a few small tweaks and a chain lube, the Trek was right as rain.  I briefly loitered at the glove section, hoping to find a pair of full-fingered gloves for my winter riding.  I found several, but none for less than the cost of dinner at a fine restaurant.  I think I’ll shop around a bit!

Quantico Wildlife Area

I haven’t missed a weekend ride in over three months, but my streak was in jeopardy this afternoon.  Parenting and social obligations kept me off the roads on Saturday and early morning rains and the promise of afternoon thunderstorms put Sunday at risk.  So when the skies cleared and the roads were dry at 2:00, I made my move. 

The weather radar showed a band of thunderstorms moving through the area.  My house was on the southern end of this band.  I hoped I could travel further south to Quantico MCB and miss the storm.  Unlike so many of my plans, this one actually worked.  My wife reported that it rained pretty hard about 15 minutes after I left.  I didn’t feel a drop.

My goal was the wildlife refuge on Quantico Marine Base.  I’ve seen signs for this area on my previous trips but I have never ventured down the path which leads to it.  With the assistance of the wind associated with the storms, I reached Quantico at a pace of 19.5 mph, eclipsing my previous best time by 2.5 mph. Despite the wind, I will take full credit for that mark!  I took the long way around the base to add some miles to my ride and hit the North Branch Trail (so-named because it is on the north bank of Quantico Creek) ready to see something new.  This is what I saw:

I was very surprised by the coolness of this place.  There are several viewing areas along the trail, with wooden viewing platforms complete with helpful signs describing the wildlife you may see in the area.  I ate my Clif Bar while sitting on a bench and thought of my friend, Joel, who prefers traveling by kayak to other land-based forms of locomotion.  He would enjoy this place, I think.  I took a self-portrait and hit the trail.

Quantico MCB has a mountain biking club and is host to a race in the Cranky Monkey series.  I don’t know much about this event, other than it repeatedly dashes my hopes when I look for organized rides in the area, only to see this one.  The reason why this is important to today’s story is because Quantico is home to a gazillion mountain bike trails, or so it would seem by looking at the maps posted along the trail routes.  The North Bank Trail is one of these routes and I traveled it for about two miles. 

The trail was a lot of fun to ride.  I’m not really into mountain biking but I can now at least appreciate what the attraction is.  The twists and turns were fun and you definitely need to have your wits about you.  I was forced to dismount a few times to go over logs or extremely rutted portions that I didn’t trust my tires on.  If you zoom in on my Garmin page, you’ll see portions of the ride where I am apparently traveling in the creek.  Fortunately, that is not the case.  I was either at the viewing stand or traveling over a bridge like this one:

In places, the trail leads you down to the water’s edge, offering nice views.

Eventually, the trail brought me back to Russell Road and I began my journey home.  I felt surprisingly strong at this point, probably because I hadn’t done much riding in the previous week and I was not trying to push a bike with a broken wheel.  It was a refreshing change.  I pedaled through Dumfries and eventually met up with my nemesis, Van Buren Road – three quarters of a mile at an 11% grade.  As is always the case when we meet, I had the distinct impression that the hill was laughing at me.  This was the first serious hill I ever attempted (way back in April). Back then it took me to my lowest gear and nearly broke me.  Today, I kept it in the middle sprocket, stood up on my pedals, and attacked.  It was still pretty tough but I believe the hill now has a grudging respect for me.  I was feeling so good that I took the long way home, adding a couple of miles to my route via Spriggs Road. 

I suspect I’ll be back to the wildlife area again, both by bicycle and other times when I bring my wife via the family car.  It’s a nice place to relax for a bit and enjoy the scenery!