Al riding along a rural New Jersey Road near the Delaware Water Gap
Mid May is usually a pivotal point for me. The longer brevets are just around the corner and I question whether I'm prepared. In prior years I completed a fleche in April which provided the confidence boost I needed. This season I passed on the fleche due to work obligations. I needed a substitute. I'd already completed a hilly 300k on a very hot day in early May. To top that effort the thing that came to mind was something done on consecutive days. I had a free weekend and found that the PA Randonneurs were holding the Hawk's Nest 200k on Saturday. On Sunday, I would schedule a hilly 200k permanent. If I could get through both rides without trashing myself I would feel somewhat ready for what was to come.
Water Gap, PA
As luck would have it my friend and R12 riding companion Al was interested in doing the ride with me. We drove together on the hour plus journey to the starting point, at the scenic Delaware Water Gap. With forms and paperwork ready we check-in with RBA Tom Rosenbauer. There are eighteen riders gathering in the parking area of the Water Gap Diner for the 7am start. It's on the chilly side at 54 degrees, but the weather forecast calls for a mostly sunny day with the high near seventy and winds up to 20mph.
Water Gap, PA to Promised Land, PA 34 Miles
After a brief rider meeting we are released by Tom. We are out of the tiny town in less than half a mile working our way towards some serious climbing. According to the profile the first section is mostly uphill. The next control is about 1200 feet higher in elevation than the start with some up and down on the way. Once the climbing began it was fairly relentless. It served to warm us up nicely. I started the ride with just a long sleeve under liner, a short sleeve jersey, shorts and knee warmers. I expected to feel chilly for the first mile or two, but knew that I would warm up quick. The sun beating down was a big help in that regard as well. The climbing continued up to a town called Sky Top. As indicated by the name we would descend some from there to the Promised Land area, which appeared to be a large State Park. Our control which was just past the I-84 access was an Exxon Mini Mart. We decided to make short order of the stop and moved through rather quickly.
Promised Land, PA to Barryville, NY - 30 Miles
The next control is over 1000 feet lower in elevation leading me to believe this would be a fast leg. We are parallel to the Laxawaxan River which is on our right. The roads are pleasant, the traffic light and the scenery is spectacular. Fisherman with wading boots are in the river everywhere. We ride for a time with the RBA, Tom, who caught up to us along the river. I enjoy conversing with him for a bit and then we let him go as his pace was a little more than we wanted to muster. We would see him again at controls and on the route. Shortly after we came across Harold and Christine who are on their first ever brevet. They are from Long Island and compete in triathlons. They reasoned this ride would be good training. We cross the Laxawaxen River Bridge together and very shortly after the Roebling Aqueduct Bridge where the Laxawaxan joins the Delaware. The cross of the Delaware brings us into the state of New York. Just after the bridge we turn right onto NY 97 for a four mile run into the town of Barryville. I take the lead and hold a steady pace to the control, which is a quaint country store. I enjoy a sandwich and coffee while chatting with the many riders seated on benches outside the store. Grace and Laurent who are regulars on our New Jersey rides arrive as well. It is a very enjoyable rest with good conversation and perfect weather. After a bit we reluctantly push on for the next segment. Harold and Christine decided to leave with us.
Tom Rosenbauer (L), Larry (Center), Chris (R) at Barryville Control
Barryville, NY to Port Jervis, NY - 18.5 Miles
Photos: Views of Hawk's Nest with Christine in the top photo
This leg wins the prize foe easiest to navigate. It basically follows one route, NY 97, to the next stop. It also gets my vote for the most scenic as it passes through the Hawk's Nest area which is the rides namesake. The roadways are pleasant with numerous large rolling hills (250 to 400ft elev gain). They are not particularly unpleasant to me as we are mostly with the wind. Al struggles a bit on this section and we wait for him at the top of some of the climbs. We use the time to take photos of the stunning scenery. The Hawk's Nest is a river gorge. At the highest point the river is hundreds of feet below the roadway. The scenic value is amazing. Soon we find ourselves joining NY 6 again and are back into a populated area. Our control is the Port Jervis Diner just ahead on the right. Tom is there at the counter and signs us in. Since we've just eaten at the last control less than two hours ago we forgo food and refill water bottles at the mini-mart across the street. Harold and Christine opt to join us again for the upcoming segment.
Port Jervis, NY to Layton, NJ -17 Miles
Upon leaving Pert Jervis we cross back into New Jersey where we will remain until the final crossing of the Water Gap to the finish. In the meantime, we have a control between us and the final control. This section is relatively uneventful. While the winds have been strong throughout the day they have not been unfavorable to us. Mostly we enjoyed tail winds with occasional cross winds. We make good progress on the quiet northern New Jersey roads and soon find ourselves at another very quaint country store. After a snack and a coffee five of us depart for the final push home. We are now joined by Larry, a regular on the PA rides.
Layton, NJ to Water Gap, Pa - 26 Miles
In keeping with the river theme of the ride we depart Layton riding close to the Delaware River en-route to the mother of all river crossings at the Delaware Water Gap. The riding is quite pleasant with easy to navigate roads. We stay pretty much together on the rolling hills and pass through the tiny town of Wallpack. After the little town we are on a park service road for about five miles and then we turn on our road to the finish which is Old Mine Road. There is about 13 miles of tree lined roadway and one substantial climb between us and the river crossing. I've ridden this before some two years back on the PA 400k. I have some recollection of the climb, but Al, Christine and Harold were unaware. The climb starts steep and stays steep for about a mile and a half. Since I haven't used the triple chain ring all day I decide to keep the trend alive remaining in the middle ring. I manage to find a comfortable rhythm and keep it to the top. I breakaway from our group and catch up to RBA Tom at the very top. We descend down to the back side of the hill to a stop sign at a T intersection. At the stop sign I decide to wait for Al. Tom continued on. To my delight the first of the group to come flying down the hill was none other than my buddy Al. He managed to keep a steady pace on the climb leaving the rest of the group struggling behind him. There is no doubt he is becoming well programmed to this distance. We continue on with the river showing up on our right. We gain back some of the lost elevation in gradual inclines. The rest of the group has caught back up. Al fades a bit on these last few miles. The effort on the climb had to take something out of him. The road finally narrows to a point where it is only one lane. A traffic light, kind of in the middle of nowhere, allows traffic to alternate. We come across Tom and Grace waiting at the red light. It is a three minute cycle before it turns green. When it changes Al has not yet arrived so I decide to wait for the next cycle. Al comes shortly after the red and we wait the three minutes seeing one car come through the other way. When our turn comes we ride through and arrive at the bridge high above the river which is part of I-80. We use the pedestrian walkway and enjoy the view of the river far below. Once across it is a coupe of quick turns to the starting point. Our finish time is 10hrs 44 minutes, which is a 200k PR for Al by over an hour. He seemed happy with the accomplishment.
We enjoy a slice of Pizza with a number of the other riders before heading out. On the way home I get a call from Paul who wanted to ride the 200k permanent with me the next day. We set a 7:30am start time which will afford me a chance to get a good nights rest and have bike and gear ready. I'm hoping the legs will be ready too. Stay Tuned!