Thursday, September 16, 2010

PA Randonneurs - Hawk Mountain 200k - Hills and Scenery A-Plenty

My friend Al was in need of his September R-12 Ride.  Given that our local rando group has no more brevets scheduled this year that left us with the choice of riding one of the three nearby permanents, or traveling to a brevet elsewhere.  I spotted a dandy looking 200k on the PA Rando calendar which was touted as a beautiful, hilly tour of Lancaster County, aka known as the Amish country.  Despite it being over a two-hour drive for us Al agreed to go for it.
Old fashioned transport at its best.  A common sight in Lancaster County.
We undertook the drive the night before on Friday, staying at a small inexpensive motel one mile from the start.  In the morning we left our vehicle in the motel lot riding to the start in Ephrata, Pa.  It was a a crisp, clear morning with the air temperature in the upper fifties and little to no wind.  A field of 27 riders clipped in at 7am sharp heading for the first control 48 miles to the northeast in Kempton.  We encounter a few hearty climbs on the way there.  Also, we pass through a small town that was having a yard sale en-masse.  About half of the homes had stuff for sale.  At 8am the streets were crowded with people looking at the used merchandise.  There were even some sidewalk food vendors offering breakfast.  It was quite the sight.

The day would just get nicer and nicer as the temperature rose up into the upper sixties with sunshine and light winds.  The challenge of the course was off-set by the beautiful scenic vistas that were omni-present.  We come across a rider, Eric K, a regular on the PA brevets.  Eric would ride with us for most of the way.  He traveled over two hours from State College, PA for the event.  An engineer starting a new business as a  bicycle frame builder, he was riding one of his own creations.  I enjoyed conversing with him about all things bicycle and randonneuring.
Eric at the top of one of many climbs.  Panoramic views made the climbing more worthwhile.

We arrive at the first control on Hawk Mountain Road, just a few miles from the rides namesake climb.  There were other riders I know there,  Len Z, riding a recumbent that looked a lot like "Mellow Yellow."   Also, Ron and Barb, aboard the purple tandem.  They are all regulars on the New Jersey and Pa brevets.  Despite the control being close to fifty miles in we manage a relatively quick stop.  As we ride out we eye the mountainous landscape knowing we will soon be working our way up.
The mountain ridge beckons us
Al riding smoothly on traffic free roads
Len on the Bacchetta high racer.  Al in background.
 After a few gradual miles on Hawk Mountain Road we start going up what has to be Hawk Mountain itself.  The climb starts gradually.  I manage in my middle chain ring as the switchbacks keep coming.  I'm feeling quite good for the first mile.  As the climb goes on the grade steepens.  I decide to visit granny and save the legs for the sixty plus miles of hilly terrain yet to come.  The rest of the climb goes smoothly for me. On the way up I passed by Ron and Barb, who were so enthralled with the scenery they were not aware they were on the signature climb of the day.  I also passed by Len who had generated enough internal heat on the way up that he needed to peel off a layer.  At the top I wait for Al and Eric who climbed a bit more conservatively than me.  I use the time to send a Twitter message updating the ride progress for our faithful followers.  That would consists of my family and Al's.  The message goes through just as Al crests the top of the climb.  We descend together with Eric not far behind.

Al on the descent
The three of us re-group shortly after the descent only to begin more climbing.  Hill View Road and Summer Road are one continuous hill, but the pretty view makes it worth the effort.  After encountering a few more shorter knee breakers the control in Pine Grove appears. Not being sure what is ahead we agree to take some time to eat some solid food and rest a bit.  The last 33 miles were the hilliest so far.  As we're resting outside the mini-market a rider arrives.  I ask him how it's going and he shows  me a rear derailleur that he's holding in his hand.  He explains that he over shifted on a hill mashing the derailleur into the spokes, breaking off a spoke and the derailleur.  I look at his drive train and see that he has shortened the chain and is running as a single speed in a fairly small gear.  With plenty of time left and only about 45 miles to go he should make it.  Although it won't be the most fun he's ever had.  We leave the control having spent about a half hour.  The next leg is only 14 miles, we all agree to keep the next control to a minimum of time.

The next 14 mile leg consists of pleasantly rolling terrain, which I enjoy more than any other.  We make good time flying up the rollers with momentum gained from the one before.  It's lots of fun and I'm almost sorry when the control point arrives.  I felt like I could have ridden like that all day.  We are now 33 miles from the finish, and having taken a substantial break at the last control we keep this one brief.  Just as we get ready to leave the single speed guy rolls in.  He comments to us that he thinks he may shorten the chain to go with a bigger gear.  After a total of only fifteen minutes the three of us leave together.

The last leg is a fairly tame one.  We manage a steady pace without pushing it.  Al's shoulders begins to bother him, but he keeps rolling,  The scenery is as pleasant as all the miles before and the weather is perfect.  With about 10 miles to go Al announces that he needs to stop for a few minutes to stretch his shoulders.  I agree to stop with him, as Eric continues on the finish.  It takes Al about 10 minutes to loosen up to the point of being able to ride with out excruciating pain.  I take a scenic photo while waiting for him. When he's ready we move on headed for the barn.
My Salsa takes in the local scenery while on a short break near the end.
The final ten miles are on moderate terrain.  Despite Al's pain we manage to keep good time and arrive at the Turkey Hill convenience store, just a few minutes behind Eric.  Tom Rosenbauer, RBA, and Andrew Mead, organizer, are there to greet us.  We process our paperwork and undertake the one mile climb back to our car.  It was a bit of an effort to come out here for this ride with a total of four hours of driving, but as I reflect back it was well worth it.

The next day I make the decision to enter the Natchez Trace 600k in Nashville.  If I can complete the brevet that will give me a second (RUSA) series for the year.  Which will be a fine finish for this season, which so far has been my best ever.

Stay tuned. 

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