London Edinburgh London 1400

Ride Report from David Thompson:

It’s high time that I wrote something about LEL, now that we’re through the Granite Anvil!!

It is a tough ride, but then again they all are.  1400 km, a bunch of climbing, varying weather from south to north and back again, wind…LOTS of wind this time, but always a factor at some point in a long ride…

It’s English countryside.  Rolling at times, flat at others, sheep everywhere especially up north and through Yorkshire where you encounter a lot of the climbing, it’s very pretty but not spectacular (sorry!).  It doesn’t hold a candle to the coast of Ireland, the Rocky Mountains or parts of the Italian rides.  A coastal route could be spectacular, but not this route.  That said, it is pretty, the roads are generally good, the people are friendly (and speak English!), the cars are polite…  Will I do it again?  On those last couple of days, I swore off LEL…but who knows.  Certainly I’ll favour something else that year if there’s a conflict…maybe.  I am a glutton for punishment.  I told Hamid to kick me in the butt if I suggested doing LEL again, but then again, I’ve had my butt kicked so many times, what the heck.

I haven’t looked up exact numbers but I understand that there were about 1400 starters and 800 finishers.  That’s a higher DNF rate than normal due to the wet and the wind — wetter than usual and windier than usual.

My plan was easy – split the ride into four parts and ride 4×350 km days.  That sounds easy but with the wind slowing me down, even though it wasn’t a full headwind, I crawled through parts of the ride north.  Any cross wind starts to bother my knees and they were bothered.  My drop bags were at Pocklington (about 350 km), and Edinburgh (about 700 km).  You only get two.  On the way back, I hit Pocklington again for my third change of clothes, which would be around 1050 km… An even split.

I didn’t book hotels, expecting to sleep in the provided accommodations which are mats on gym floors.  They do an excellent job of managing that, asking for wake-up time, assigning you a sleeping spot and getting you going when you’re ready.  If I did the ride again (see, I’m already thinking that way), I’d continue to use their gym floors.

All, or almost all, of the Controls have food, lots of comfort food, all provided by your entry fee.  I ate too much, which slows you down and got very sleepy from Pocklington to Edinburgh, stopping a few times to close my eyes, get in a power nap.  I slept at the Control before Edinburgh and then only had a short rest (and shower and change) in Edinburgh, simply taking my time getting out of there.

It was daylight when I got to Edinburgh; Hamid was getting organized to leave.  He waited for me at a Control down the road, getting in some sleep, and we headed out together and finished together.  I had stopped at the side of the road a little earlier and slept sitting up on the curb, leaning on a railing…yeah, this is randonneuring at its best!  That was the best sleep I had on the entire event it seemed as I was never tired again…go figure.

Riding together, not in a hurry, we spent a lot of time at Controls.  3 hours here, 2 hours there, until finally we had to start watching the clock or we would run out of time.  We weren’t going to set any land speed records!

At one point we were descending to a Control in the rain, perhaps 10 km out, bothersome cold rain and then the skies opened.  I was right beside a bus shelter and went inside; Hamid and several other riders that were just ahead of me reversed course and came back.  It was like crowding college kids into a telephone booth.  The temperature dropped and everyone was donning additional clothing.  I led a group that were having navigational problems to the Control.  I coached a young rider into wrapping her exposure sheet around her inside her jacket.

The last day, which of course I wouldn’t have even seen had I stuck to my original plan, was the windiest.  30 mph, according to the weather-person, and in our face.  Naturally it was flat with max exposure to the wind.  We were barely making 6-7 mph headway and at that point I informed Hamid that if we weren’t able to pick up the pace, we would actually run out of time.  That didn’t occur, of course; we had a few hours to spare at the end.  We had squandered many many hours getting to that point.  Squandered?  Enjoyed?  It all depends on your point of view.

About 1 km before the end we stopped to take off our reflective gear.  Hamid wanted to be clean for pictures.  Hamid and the other rider with us left as I was stuffing my jacket into my seat bag.  I got on the bike, fell to the side, slipped down into the spiky brambles partway down a slope.  Cursing at my stupidity and clumsiness, I dragged myself up, jersey covered in green from squashed leaves, itchy as heck from the thorns, it felt like I was bleeding all over but of course I wasn’t.  Duh.  In retrospect it’s quite funny.  At the time it was simply stupid!

Ride organization is excellent.  You really don’t have to open your wallet and besides, English cappuccino is crappy.  They simply add what amounts to almost boiling milk.  Technique is lacking.  Caffeine, yes, tasty, no…too hot to drink quickly.

We got ‘er done.  We added to our 1200+ count, FWIW.  I was ready for the Granite Anvil…maybe…

Granite Anvil Pre-Ride #1

Ride Report from Charles Horslin:

I started with Randonneurs Ontario in 2015, having only ridden an imperial century and some bicycle touring experience, I think my longest ride up to that point had been a 180 km day on tour that was probably an all-day experience. I optimistically tried to complete a full series in my first season but a pulled calf muscle ended my 600 attempt. In 2016 I managed to get a full series completed, as well getting a bit faster on my other rides. 2017 started off with a miserable spring for riding and I quickly fell behind on my training plans… work got in the way of my plans for Devil’s week, but also ended up taking me out to Lethbridge for the month of June so I missed out on doing some of the brevets I’d wanted to do in Ontario. I instead focused on riding the steep hills in the river valley around Lethbridge as I was working 7 days a week, 10 hours a day I couldn’t get out for any real distance rides. My focus during this time became about accumulating climbing metres instead of saddle time. By the time I wrapped up my job in Lethbridge a heatwave had set in over Alberta and BC and I had planned a 10 day mini-tour to ride back to Calgary before flying home. For 8 of the 9 days I spent on the road the temperature was in the mid 30° with highs sometimes over 35. Luckily the air is so dry out there that I didn’t mind the extra heat at all. By the time I made it back to Calgary I’d done around 1300 km and over 10,000 m of climbing. I did this trip on the same bike I’d planned to ride the Granite Anvil with, including the same luggage setup and gearing so I figured I could probably make it through the GA, and planned to ride a conservative “full value” ride, hoping to finish around 89 hours and getting as much food and sleep into me as possible.

I also signed up to volunteer for the GA, so I was assigned to ride the first of the pre-rides with Bob Kassel. I’d never met Bob before though I’m sure we must have been on one ride together. I was lucky to have such an experienced randonneur with me and I picked up a lot of small hints and tricks from him over the next four days. Having spent most of my brevets riding by myself I’m pretty quiet during rides and tend to just enjoy the meditative side to cycling.

The GA started at 4am and we set out to begin the very gradual climb away from Lake Ontario and up to the Niagara escarpment. The first few hours roll through bucolic countryside where the humid air was heavy with the smell of corn. Luckily the air was very still and we experienced very little wind on the first day… unfortunately I lost a bit of my adaptation to the humidity in the time I spent out west and found riding in the damp Ontario air to be harder than I remember, and when the sun started to shine during our climbs up the escarpment I found myself wishing to be back in the Crowsnest pass where sweat actually evaporates and has a cooling effect! Luckily for us, Dick Felton and Peter Grant were waiting at a few points along the way with extra water as there are a couple long stretches without services on the first day. Bob and I are on opposite spectrums when it comes to eating, I constantly graze and drink water and he will have half a bottle in the same time I’d drink two. Doesn’t help I probably have 50lbs on him!

The riding into the evening on the first day was on some really quiet back roads that I’d never been on and I enjoyed it very much however I was starting to feel drained and self-doubt was starting to chip away at my spirit and it was during this point I’d begun to think that I’d never make it to Parry Sound, let alone the end of the ride. I was lucky that the control coming up was at a pizza place and I ordered up a nice pie without cheese, charged up my Garmin, drank a bunch of water and a Pepsi and was almost back to normal. We made the last push into Parry Sound along 169 and enjoyed the smoother road surface and low traffic. I think it was around 12:45 when we got there! I am fairly quick with the showers and instantly fell asleep when I got into the bed around 1:30. I think we’d planned to leave around 5am but it was probably closer to six by the time we got out the door. I ate some toast and cereal at the motel before we left, as well as a protein bar to round out the meal.

Day 2 starts with quiet roads that pass serene lakes but relentless small hills quickly become the norm heading out of Huntsville I noticed someone had spray-painted “shut up legs” on Britannia Road at the top of a short steep hill, my Garmin 500 said it was 12% but I think it over-estimates the grade a bit because I was still going 8 km/h! The quiet roads continued until Highway 60 where we had a decent shoulder for the most part through Algonquin Park. The hills in the park get a bit bigger and after every climb there seemed to be another just as high or a tad higher. The terrain seems a bit flatter in the sparsely populated countryside along Highway 127. We stopped for supper at a random country restaurant around 7pm but still had a ways to go to Bancroft. We had dodged many thunderstorms this day but knew our luck would run out before we made Bancroft. It was just around sundown, after we’d passed through Maynooth, that the lightning became more frequent and the skies just opened up for us. It was almost like a monsoon downpour. I didn’t have fenders and it didn’t matter, we were both soaked but my heavy MEC jacket kept the wind from chilling me too much. I very much regretted leaving my thick neoprene rain booties in my drop bag but I did have some plastic bags to put over my socks so I didn’t get cold toes, at least. We rolled into Bancroft around 11:30 or thereabouts and managed to get some newspaper to stuff into our shoes. A quick shower and I think I was asleep by 12:30.

After 5 hours of solid sleep we set out around 5:45 on a cool damp morning with grey skies. Day 3 promised even more climbing in the Ontario Highlands northeast of Bancroft; it delivered on those promises, there were some lovely quiet roads to start the day off with some good climbs but many large climbs, starting with one on Highway 62, then Centreview Road and finally a doozy on Siberia… and that was just the start, many more lie ahead; Schutt Hill and a big one on Highway 28 that had 2 big vicious white dogs at the top that gave chase… they both met my pepper spray and backed off but that was the most dangerous thing on the ride. After a stop at the corner store in Palmer Rapids and a refuel the rest of the day was more downhills than up, but the terrain provided many smaller hills in the Vennachar area to keep the legs working hard until Sharbot Lake and a well-earned supper. We popped in a restaurant and I had a good veggie burger. For most of the day we’d dodged numerous thunderstorms that passed by us but as we ate supper the sky opened up for 15 minutes. Luckily we’d decided to eat that meal in the restaurant instead of doing a snack-and-go. That meal kept me going for a couple more hours, thankfully it didn’t rain on us again. The energy from supper didn’t last and by the time we turned off Highway 38 and we decided to grab 15 minutes of sleep in front of a church in a tiny town called Enterprise. This was such a good idea and that quick nap gave us enough energy to make it to Napanee at a much better pace we’d managed in the hour before. That nap time bought us a few hours of sleep at the very nice Hampton Inn.

Day 4 started off with the nicest hotel breakfast of the ride and I made the most of the vegan options and put a good feed on before we set out. I was relieved that most of the climbing was behind us and that we’d have a beautiful scenic ride along the lake. To start the day off there’s a little climb over a bridge on Highway 49 over to Prince Edward county and thankfully we didn’t take the road all the way to Picton as that’s another little bump I didn’t want to climb… however Gomorrah Road had a little surprise for us hill-wise though it was quite scenic and short so I didn’t mind. We plodded through the county and stopped for a coffee near Consecon but Bob suspects we were served decaf as it had little effect on our spirits and pace. Despite this, I was still feeling pretty good for having a 1000 km in my legs and we made a nice ramble of the rest of the ride. I had a front tire flat just before the control in Colborne, luckily just a small piece of glass that made for a slow leak. The flat at this point made me glad I carried a full size frame pump as I don’t know that I’d be able to manage a 150 strokes on a mini-pump. The control was at a Mac’s so I got a Pepsi and a Cliff protein bar, which seemed to be my magic combination to keep on trucking. We ambled along the lake and enjoyed many scenic views along the ridges. We’d planned a stop in Port Hope at a burger joint voted “best in Canada” and they had a decent portabella mushroom burger so I was happy with that. With some fuel in the tank we set off for the last 65 km of the ride and we had about 7 hours to do it so with the last bit of energy in our legs we set off and endured a bit of a slog up and out of Port Hope and continued along Lakeshore road savouring the views. There’s a defunct oil-burning power plant in Wesleyville that has a tall stack looming but otherwise farms and orchards with views of Lake Ontario made up most of the next 40 km or so. The route criss-crosses a mainline railway along this stretch and there’s one rickety old bridge that looks like it was built a hundred years ago. There’s also a couple of neat little tunnels under the railway too. The ride finishes up with a gentle climb up the ridge that is the old shore of glacial Lake Iroquois, which brings us to the finish at Durham College.

I had some doubts about finishing a 1200 but with good support from Dick and Peter and a great riding partner in Bob Kassel I made it through. Having one 1200K under my belt feels pretty good and I didn’t experience any acute injuries from riding, just a general soreness and some very minor saddle sores… I think I am done with the Brooks Cambium, it just doesn’t seem to be comfortable enough for me but it didn’t hurt me enough to ruin the ride for me either. My Dill Pickle brand handlebar and saddlebags worked really well but I think I should have got a medium sized saddlebag instead of a large for rides that use drop bags. Overall the Granite Anvil route is amazingly beautiful and really shows the diverse geography around southeastern Ontario. I would guess there is maybe 10 km of really rough roads and a few kilometres of unavoidable gravel, but thankfully the gravel was pretty smooth and not a problem on 28 mm tires.

A big thanks to all involved in planning the GA route, and especially Dick Felton and Peter Grant for the support at controls along the way, and of course to Bob Kassel for riding with me all the time on my first 1200K.

Flickr Photo Album

Elephant Lake 200 Permanent

Ride Report from David Hamilton:

On August 2, I rode the Elephant Lake 200 as a permanent as part of my training for the GA 1200. This route begins in Bancroft, wends its way around Elephant Lake to Maynooth and Barry’s Bay, then circles back to Bancroft via Schutt and McArthur’s Mills. Much of the route covers the same hills – I mean roads – as the GA 1200 so I was looking forward to the challenge.

Rather than spend the night in Bancroft before the ride, I left Ottawa early in the morning and began the ride at 7:30. Almost immediately I was hit by some nice long hills to climb but these were babies compared to what was ahead of me. The weather was cooperative: sunny, hot and humid with a SW breeze, and the traffic was reasonably light. This section of the ride was beautiful. Quiet roads, good hills going up and down… I was thinking this route could easily become my new favourite. I rehydrated in Maynooth at the gas bar there and then continued on towards the next control at Barry’s Bay.

Highway 62 was busier, at least until the route turns off at Centreview Road towards Siberia Road. Again, more hills but nothing too scary. That all changed on Centreview Road. The first couple of climbs were really challenging and my granny gear got a serious work out! I thought to myself “so this is what the GA tastes like” and just kept pedalling.

I pulled into the Subway for lunch at Barry’s Bay, still in good time of keeping a 20km/h inclusive pace. Bit of a line up in the restaurant but the A/C felt great. I stayed there about 30 minutes, filled the water bottles with ice and water, and headed back out on the road. By this time, the humidity was intense and I made sure to keep drinking. Moreover, the forecasted thunderstorms looked like they would make an appearance as the skies grew cloudier and the wind really picked up.

The ride towards Schutt was relatively flat. I mean, not “flat” flat but no major climbs.  I stopped at Hanna’s grocery store in Palmer Rapids just before the turn on to Schutt Road to rehydrate again and by this time, the skies were threatening. As I started climbing in to Schutt, I heard the thunder rumbling all around me and the clouds were blackening. I knew there was the little white church at the top of the Schutt Hill and hoped I could make it there before the storm hit.

As it turned out, just as I hit the church, the rain started coming down so I took shelter under the church awning to wait it out. The radar showed some intense cells all around me but nothing sustained, and in fact the rain was just about over in 15 minutes. However, all around me I could still here thunder and see dark ominous clouds. But I was only about 47 km from Bancroft at this point and was ready to finish and cool off in some A/C.

The rest of the ride – mostly along highway 28 – was uneventful weather-wise. Traffic picked up again along this road but most of the cars and trucks gave me lots of space… good thing too as there were no paved shoulders and the sides of the road were crumbling in many places. I stopped at the store in McArthur’s Mills for more fluids around the 180km mark and kept going. There were more hills on this road too, some of them challenging, but the last km or so is a nice downhill into the town of Bancroft. The town was preparing for the annual Gemboree and there was a lot of activity with signage and such so I could imagine the crowds coming in on the weekend.

I finished the ride in just over 11 hours and was happy to have ridden several of the GA 1200 hills. Before heading back to Ottawa, I changed and cleaned up in the McDonald’s, satisfied my hunger with a mighty Angus burger, and got more fluids for the drive home.

All in all, despite the traffic on 28, this is now my new favourite 200 route. Very scenic, great roads, challenging climbs… it’s all there.

Devil Week 2017

Ride Report from David Hamilton:

Early in the winter, I circled the dates for the first International Devil Week hosted by the Huron Chapter and in partnership with the Detroit Randonneurs. Although there wasn’t much climbing on any of the rides compared to many of our Randonneurs Ontario routes, the wind is always a factor when you’re riding on flat, mostly farm land, surrounded by large bodies of water!

The Tour d’Essex 200 was the first ride and there were probably 20 riders out for it. The morning wind was moderate and out of the west, so the pace was good for the first leg to Tilbury and most of rode in a pack. The group began splitting up a bit after that. John and Ben hooked up with a tandem and set the pace. I rode solo for a bit, then met up with Sam from Ohio and Dave from Detroit. Most of the other riders stuck together.

I fell in with the pack again near Leamington and the joys of group riding were reinforced when, as a traffic light was turning yellow, some riders bolted through while others, like me, stopped. Henk tried to beat the light, but he was behind me, so instead of running the yellowish-red, he ran into my leg!

The route itself is spectacular. I’ve ridden it before and appreciate the changes to it around Amherstburg that took us off the Parkway and onto quieter paths and roads. We stopped at the giant Canadian flag along the Detroit River for a photo op before continuing on to the finish.

Day 2 saw a smaller group tackle the Erioh 300. I’m a slower rider so I set my own pace and let the pack go their way, but I met up with most of them at the first control. There was a massive tailwind for about 40km along the shore of Lake Erie and that was way too much fun to have on two wheels. I met up with Jerzy at some point along the way, and he and I “rode” together to Erieau, which really means, he blazed on ahead and I met up with him for a snack at the control.

At this point, the pack had fallen back, enjoying life at the controls and the fine weather. A smaller group of us left Erieau and headed north. Jerzy fell in with Ben and John, and I did my solo. The cross winds were horrific, and the traffic along some of the shoulderless roads was gruesome. At one point, John and Ben passed me and John asks “Having fun yet?” Oh yeah. Loads.

But eventually the winds died down a bit and the ride west along Lake St. Clair was picturesque and much less stressful. Not far from the final control, I ran into construction and the route road was an excavated pit. Hmm. I checked the sandy spots to see if I could track the others who’d been ahead of me but to no avail. A quick check of the smart phone revealed where I needed to be, so I found a way through a couple of trucking yards to the road.

I finished the ride about 20 minutes after the other three riders and was slowly packing my gear away when Sam arrived via taxi with health issues. He had to abandon his ride about 20km from the finish. The rest of the riders all finished up about an hour after my ride.

So, two rides down, two more to go!

The 400 began in Port Huron. Carey and I were going to share a room. Henk asked if he could join us, so we got a cot for him but it turns out Carey couldn’t make it so Henk got the extra bed.  Several of us went out for a massive pre-ride feed at the Golden Corral. This was my first time at a Golden Corral, although I recalled my son’s stories of it from the times he was in Florida for baseball spring training. It is something to behold. Words cannot do it justice. If you haven’t been, you will be at once shocked, overwhelmed, amazed and disgusted. Yeah, you just have to go see for yourself.

The ride itself up the Michigan “thumb” was fantastic. Again, the weather was perfect with not a lot of wind. Beautiful scenery. It didn’t take me long to find my legs and fall into a good pace. At the Subway control, I pulled in just as three Detroit riders were pulling out. We would see each other frequently over the rest of the route. I finished the ride in 20 hours, which was faster than I had planned but I think only because the wind wasn’t an issue, there were no hills, and I didn’t stay long at the controls.

On to Canton for the 600!

Despite my broken shoe, I was confident about completing the 600. I did look at a couple of bike shops in Detroit to see if I could find a new pair of shoes, but with no luck. In retrospect, what I should have done is pick up a pair of flat pedals and worn sneakers, but I wasn’t thinking straight.

As it turns out, the broken shoe was bearable but not a lot of fun. Shortly after the first control in Hell, I shredded my front tire. Tom the organizer had warned us that the route itself wasn’t overly difficult, but the roads were. He was right. Many of the roads had huge potholes, broken pavement, and several other riders also had problems with multiple flats and shredded tires.

Still, I was on a 20 km/h pace and happy with that but it did not last. My legs were giving out and I just couldn’t get them going again. By the time I rode in to Adrian around the 290 km mark, I was done. All three hotels there were booked, so I found a 24 hour Tim Horton’s (!!) and figured I’d refuel and rest there. Alas, it was all closed up, so I went to the Shell station, got what I needed, and hunkered down clandestinely in a stand of big shrubs near the Tim’s. Ah, randonneuring at its finest!

I woke in the morning and decided to follow the 600 route back to the control at 413 km which just happens to be the hotel where we were staying. I cleaned up at the now-open Tim’s and continued along the route. More potholes and messy roads, and this time some rain too. It was extremely humid but fortunately, the sun wasn’t out yet so it stayed relatively cool.

I pulled into the hotel a little worse for wear and was grateful to get out of my cycling gear and into civilian clothes and waited for the others to show up, which they did in the fullness of time.

All in all, I was pretty happy with my rides and really fortunate to have been around more experienced riders. John, Ben, Henk, and Martin taught me a lot about long-distance riding. Next year, I believe the Ottawa Chapter will be hosting the Devil Week and we can all expect a lot more climbing for those rides.

Much Ado 200 Permanent

Ride Report from David Hamilton:

I was going to be in London the June 24 weekend, so I arranged a permanent ride of the Much Ado 200k route. This is an enjoyable 200, basically heading north from London through St. Mary’s and on towards Millbank, then returning south through Stratford.

The weather for my ride was good. Lots of sunshine in the morning as I headed out from the Tim’s, and traffic was light. The first control is 95km in Millbank, so I stopped at a convenience store in St. Mary’s to rehydrate and snack before moving on.

While the skies were good, the wind was not. It was coming out of the west and northwest and it seemed I was going into it all the way up to Millbank. Unfortunately, I was also heading into it again on the return route! Lots of wind. At Anna Mae’s bakery in Millbank, renovations have taken place (I hadn’t ridden this route in a couple of years). It is now really easy to get in, grab your supplies, and get out again. I was tempted to buy some pastries but decided to keep going.

Worst part of the ride: I was heading east from Millbank and saw a beautiful dog apparently hit by a car, dead at the side of the road. I’ve seen all kinds of roadkill on my rides, but this was the toughest. Some family will be heartbroken.

Again, more wind as I pushed into Stratford. The Lakeside road that goes behind the theatres is beautiful and reminds me a lot of the Rideau Canal back home. Lots of people were out feeding the geese and swans and enjoying the summer weather.

From Stratford back to London, I could see the skies darkening and showers appear in the area. I was pretty lucky, though. I pulled off the road and took shelter under a stand of trees while a shower passed over. Then the sun came out again and it was smooth sailing back to the city.

I finished the ride in 10:48, then the family went out to Spageddy Eddies for a massive noodle feed!

Carolina Spring 1200

Ride report from Carey Chappelle:

In the fall last year Chris and I headed to Carolina for the Taste of Carolina 1200.  Hurricane Matthew was waiting for us, so after declining Tony Goodnight’s route change to reduce our headwind from 130 mph to 100mph, we simply had our dinner and headed back home.

This year was different, Spring … new route … pedalling through Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head … we couldn’t get more excited!

I convinced Chris to take an extra day off work so we could get to the Start in 2 days not one. Then I made reservations at the Four Points Hotel in Charleston, West Virginia for Monday night. Last year we drove by Charleston, West Virginia commenting on how gorgeous this town looked! We’ll … we confirmed that this year!! Dinner at the Pies and Pints downtown …

Followed with breakfast at the Swiftwater Cafe the next morning before heading to the Start in North Carolina.

Once in Durham, NC we booked into the Comfort Inn Research Triangle Park and were in touch with many of the 14 other Randonneurs participating in this 1200, enjoying a great brunch provided by Tony Goodnight. We all knew the Start time was 0400hrs the next day, so many headed to bed around 1830hrs to get some sleep in the bank!

0400hrs on Thursday morning came early, we enjoyed a speech from Tony Goodnight, and an introduction to other volunteers helping us out, then OFF we went!

We could see the American Flag standing straight out with that strong East Wind, but knew eventually, that would be a strong West Wind! Sunshine thru the first day meant putting on Sun Screen early and we did! A first for Chris and me. The roads were in great shape! Many looked newly paved, SWEET! Many farm lands from the 1800’s were still standing and taking a picture or two would have been nice but we don’t go fast enough to take the time to do so! Chris and I were the last to leave the Henderson Checkpoint after having lunch at Subway. We didn’t pay attention to our route sheet, believed in our Garmin GPS to lead the way. At this stage, I felt like I had been on the bike for 3 days, blamed the heat for that one! So, following our Garmin we added 5km just pedaling in circles! We finally decided to head back to Subway and follow our route sheet. No problems then. Eventually we were able to get our Garmin’s working properly and I just told Chris it’s not the Garmin … it’s us, WE have to learn how to use them! Then we passed an interesting road sign … Carey Chappel Lane but again not enough time to take a picture!

Heading towards our next Control, Chris’s right knee started testing him. Many years ago, Chris found he had a cartilage issue that the Doctor’s said they wouldn’t recommend surgery to repair until things got much worse … two weeks before this 1200, Chris pulled the pin on the Bowle Buster 300km Brevet, 56km into the ride feeling incredible knee pain and wanted to minimize the problem asap. Chris visited some specialists and was given the go ahead for this 1200km event.

Once we arrived at the next Control, a store in Gaston, NC we discussed Chris’s issue with Tony Goodnight who CORRECTED Chris’s seat position and iced his knee. Right away Chris felt better and we figured the problem was solved! As a matter of fact, I began thinking I had a problem, couldn’t keep up on the hills with Chris (normal anyway) but couldn’t keep up on the flats either. Thankfully Chris was never far enough ahead I couldn’t see him. At 03:42hrs. Chris and I arrived at our sleeping Control in Elizabeth City, NC had our Control Cards signed and hit the hay. An hour and a half later we were back on our bikes to start day 2 of this event.

Day 2’s route was the section Chris and I couldn’t wait to see! Going on Google Maps many times before this ride had us very excited about pedaling down an island just off the North Carolina Coast! We were experiencing heavy rain and wind at this time, Chris suddenly pulled over to have a discussion … he had just received the WEATHER WARNING on his cell phone. A TORNADO WAS HEADING IN OUR DIRECTION! I suggested we keep going because we would be able to see a Tornado and pedal a little faster if needed! Better than a Hurricane!!  Heading out to the island meant pedaling across a 5 km bridge, then thru the town Kill Devil Hill’s to the next Control in Nags Head, NC. The first sign we saw on the bridge was a GUST WARNING indicating your vehicle could be blown across lanes if the wind was in that direction! OUCH! Fortunately we had an EAST wind and flew in the right direction!

Chris and I were surprised seeing 3 other Randonneurs entering a McDonald’s for a break around 10:30hrs when the Control in Nags Head, NC closed early in the afternoon. This stage had the toughest wind and rain that Chris and I had ever experienced, Chris was ahead of me and protected by some trees, I was in the area without protection and blown off my bike! I was able to hold on to my bike and was expecting one of the neighbours across the road to offer me their garage for protection! I guess they weren’t home, so eventually the wind reduced and I was able to catch up to Chris! We continued to the Control in Nags Head, NC against strong head winds and tons of RAIN! After getting our Control Cards Signed we headed to Taco Bell where we ran into the 3 other Randonneurs that we had seen at McDonalds earlier on … half done their lunch … Chris was so surprised he asked where they had passed us because we hadn’t stopped anywhere!

Despite the weather conditions, the SCENERY BLEW ME AWAY! My daughter, Erika and wife, Donna would LOVE the scenery!! Now on our family’s ToDo list! The horrendous weather was simply Gods message to me … family first! Or so I thought!

Leaving Nags Head, NC, Chris and I figured we were about to enjoy a tail wind, as we would soon be heading West the majority of the time! I even suggested we may not have to pedal the rest of the 1200! Figuring a head wind leaving the island to the mainland was not what we expected … a tail wind … not as strong as the tail wind heading out to the island but better than a headwind none the less! Once we hit the mainland it was OBVIOUS! HEAD WIND HAD CHANGED! NOW FROM THE WEST!!! OUCH!!!!

Chris and I were headed to the Control in Engelhard, NC. Going north was a break from the wind, I took the lead and over time noticed Chris was falling back. I waited for him and let him know that we had to do a minimum of 15km/hr to be successful in finishing this 1200. It wasn’t long before I lost Chris again, I waited for him and just looking into his face told me his situation. He suggested that I let him go, he was going to DNF at the next Control as he physically couldn’t finish the last 600km. So I took off figuring I’d get the Organizer at the Control to come back and pick him up. Well, this Control had no Organizer and our Cell Phones didn’t work! I walked out of the restaurant looked back on the route and there was Chris heading to the Control. He said he’d finish this 1200 come HELL or HIGH water! So I sat on the window sill as only 3 chairs and a table in this restaurant existed and had something to eat, of course we arranged a chair for Chris.

We left the Engelhard, NC Control around 19:00hrs with three other Randonneurs and headed towards the next checkpoint in Belhaven, NC. The best part of this section was BLUE SKY AND SUNSHINE! The head wind still pummeled us and the sun went down early so we were simply trying to stay in line and on the road in the dark. Everyone’s km/hr was around 11 not 15 and there was nothing we could do about it for a good portion of this section!

Chris and I had been on the road for 32 hrs with 1.5hrs sleep. I was looking forward to getting a Cappuccino or two at the next Control just to stay awake during the night.

Of course we all think about LIFE at different times and this was my time! Chris was a little ahead of me, pedalling like he had no issues. It was between 12 and 1am Saturday morning. I figured we would get no more than 2hrs sleep before heading out for the 250km section Saturday and a few more hours sleep before finishing the 150km section Sunday … I thought how much more I would like to be in my bed at home with my wife Donna or visiting my daughter Erika in Toronto, then pedalling here.

My wife, Donna had surgery on Friday (during this 1200), her secretary took care of her, taking her to and from the hospital in Owen Sound. Why … I wasn’t there. Donna told me not to worry about it, so I tried not to. I was able to touch base with her before and after the surgery, but no one was home with her for the 24hrs needed. Of course she was on the phone continuously with neighbours and friends wanting to make sure everything was OK. I thought of the time my wife spent with me when I went through the Herpes Encephalitis scare in 2005 (and that happened during the March to the Marsh 600!), then the blood clots in my lungs after flying home from 2011’s PBP and then when she was successful doing the Heimlich maneuver on me in a restaurant in Paris, France after the 2015 PBP. The restaurant manager witnessed the event and dropped by to ask if we needed any help … my steak had landed on an Egyptian Lady’s plate and I had gone over and asked her if she wanted Steak or Fish … my wife said you will sit down, eat or drink nothing for at least 10mins … then she asked the manager to drop off a can of Coca Cola saying I needed that right of way. After the Coca Cola and 10mins of not eating, I finished my dinner, my daughter’s dinner, my daughter’s friend’s dinner, my wife’s dinner and the rest of the Red Wine!

OK … I added the story about the Egyptian Lady’s plate but everything else is true!

So, continuing on to the Belhaven, NC Control, 666km into this event I decided I was officially going to DNF, call it a day and tell Chris to continue on. So as we pulled in, Chris let me know he was going to DNF …. so after a couple of minutes I let Chris know that I personally had made the same decision just earlier on and that he WAS NOT the reason why. One of the Organizer’s was there, so we let him know, loaded our gear onto his vehicle, shook hands with the 3 Randonneurs left at the Control and wished them all well.  Chris had a physical reason why and I had just lost interest in finishing.

Chris, the ride Organizer and I headed out to the next Controls before stopping at the Sleep Control in New Bern, NC. The Organizer told us a Great story about this female Canadian Randonneur named Liz who finished three 1200km events in 2013 with the last one being the Taste of Carolina and that it had twice as much climbing and stronger winds then this one. After a half hour or so, I asked if her last name was Overduin, then wondered if I could hide in the trunk!

You’re famous Liz!

This is my only DNF in 20 years of Randonneuring, but I am 54yrs old and know what’s important in life. I will continue Randonneuring when I know that my family has no issues during these incredible rides!


Big Bay 200 & Bowle Buster 300

Ride report from Carey Chappelle:

Unbelievable Week-End! Huron Chapter hosted the Big Bay 200 and the Bowle Buster 300 this past week-end. Six Randonneurs successfully completed the Big Bay 200, they are Carey Chappelle, Chris Cossonnet, Con Melady, Terry Payne, Johnathon Syroid and Robert Woodhouse (likes to go by Woody rather than Robert!).


During the 200, 5 of the 6 Randonneurs hoped to participate in the next day’s Bowle Buster 300. By the end of the 200, Terry’s pain made it clear he wouldn’t be joining us and he left for home after dinner at the infamous Elk and Finch in Southampton. He described the accident he was involved in, last year on his bicycle … flying over the window of a Yellow Volkswagen Beetle and landing in front of an 18 wheeler and after the 18th wheel went over him he was so angry with the comments made by the Beetle owner got up to simply let him have it!


Johnathon rode with everyone up to Chatsworth, then pulled back and continued to be only a half hour behind everyone else at the finish. He had mentioned he would join us for dinner at the Elk … but he arrived a half hour later than the rest of us and we watched him limp up the stairs just to give us his Control Card. Said he loved the ride but experienced some right leg PAIN …none of us would have been able to climb those stairs if we were in his condition. Great accomplishment Johnathon!


Friday night, Woody, Chris and myself went to bed around 9pm, tired from the 200 we just accomplished and knew we needed a good night’s sleep before attempting the Bowle Buster 300.  At 10:30pm, my wife wakes me up and hands me the phone. I discussed Outage issues with a Bruce Power Manager for half an hour before getting back to sleep. At 02:30hrs, my wife wakes me up again … she had been chatting with my daughter on the cell phone and suddenly had no contact … she was heading to Toronto to find her. She had a shower and I got dressed to join her. Then we decided to call the Condo where Erika lived and were confirmed by Security that she had arrived at 02:06am. NO LONGER AN ISSUE. So, back to bed I went. 0530hrs came quickly, Chris, Woody and myself were on the road by 0700hrs. Saturday was much better then Friday weather wise! Blue Sky and sunshine! We all stopped in Hanover for Cappuccinos, Tea and some snacks then headed out after putting on some of Woody’s Sun protection. 10km later … Chris’s knee pain was OBVIOUS! We stopped and Chris decided to call it a day, wanting his issue to be resolved before our 1200km event next week. Hope everything works out buddy!


Woody and I headed out on our own arriving at the Leeky Canoe in Meaford around 1500hrs. Another GREAT Brunch, a Creemore and then off to Bowle Hill. Woody couldn’t believe we would have a 7km downhill run … until he did the climbing beforehand! We both loved that section of downhill. Woody had never done a downhill run that long in his lifetime. Approaching Bowle Hill, I let Woody know I’d be taking off my jacket, arm warmers, gloves and head warmer before attempting this one.  We both had no problem making it to the top and then we were off to Flesherton for another Cappuccino at the Bicycle Café. Neither of us were hungry so I let my wife know what pizza’s we would like upon are arrival home, thinking 11pm would be the latest. Approaching the turn to Dornoch, the gravel road section, Woody was approaching the top of hill just before the turn and I wished I could have taken a picture … THE SUN was dropping to his right and with the colours of the sky … UNBELIEVABLE! This is what makes this sport SECOND TO NONE!


Of course the General Store in Dornoch was closed, so we put our reflective vests on, marked up our Control Cards and continued on our last stretch, 60km to Port Elgin. I convinced Woody to wear my arm warmers as hand warmers knowing how cold it was getting. Shivered and Shook all the way back! Once in Port Elgin, the Tim Horton’s was closed but we had a Gentleman asking us what the hell we were doing, sign our Control Cards. Got back to my place, showered had a few Great Pizzas from Rosina’s, a glass of Red wine for myself, water for Woody …. Who then drove home because his flight to Arizona was first thing in the morning!!!


PS: I’ve already had contact with Woody, he and his wife are happily on vacation in Arizona!

Rouge Ramble 60 km Populaire

Ride report from Stephen Jones:

Toronto managed to get the first ride of the season in on March 18 despite some questionable weather. Erin, Joey, Brian N, with new-comers Max and Leland braved the rain and wind to enjoy scenic urban Scarborough. The route generally follows the Waterfront Trail, and navigation can be quite tricky, especially where the trail cuts through parks. This time of year, there’s always a concern that trail sections in parks will have snow and ice on the path. But, other than one short section, our roads were bare and wet (so very wet).

We had our first major mechanical of the season when Joey’s rear derailleur cable snapped, dropping his chain into the smallest cog for the rest of the ride. It had the effect of ensuring he was the first up every hill though.

As we got closer to the section along the lake, we could hear what sounded like a train passing by. Once we cleared the last dune, all we could hear was the wind and surf pounding into the beach. Surf isn’t something we get to see a lot of on our rides, so it was pretty cool. The somewhat less than ideal weather did mean we had the trail mostly to ourselves.

The ride was an excellent demonstration of the mantra that there is no bad weather, only bad clothing. I think our newbies went shopping for shoe covers right after the ride.

The plan is to keep offering this ride every spring. If you haven’t done it, you should make the effort to come out as it’s a real change from our typical countryside routes.

2016 Club Awards Presentations

Outstanding Performance on a Brevet – Tim O’Callahan

Awarded to the club rider who has:

Demonstrated significant fortitude, courage, or generosity on a brevet ride.
Demonstrated physical or mental abilities beyond the usual in the conduct of a brevet ride.

Jock Wadley Award (Outstanding Rider)Bob Macleod

Awarded to a club rider who is outstanding in one year or over several years and has:

Shown interest in the club and has provided support and assistance
Helped on rides or helped other riders.

Beryl Burton Award (Best Female Rider) – Erin Marchak

Awarded to a female club rider who is outstanding in one year or over several years and has:

Shown interest in the club and has provided support and assistance.
Helped on rides or helped other riders.

Coronation Cup (Most Improved Rider) – Charles Horslin

Awarded to a club rider who has at least one previous year riding with the Randonneurs Ontario, and has:

Shown consistency in appearing and in cycling;
Demonstrated improvement either in cumulative mileage ridden from previous season, or in brevet finishing times over the previous season.

Rookie of the Year – Joey Schwartz

Awarded to a club rider who has:

Joined the Randonneurs Ontario in the year of the award or who rode their first brevet in the year of the award;
Shown ability in the year & shown interest in the club and in other club riders.

Half Wheel Award – Jerzy Dziadon

Awarded to a club rider who has consistently forced the pace of the group during brevet rides.

Best Fleche Team – Huron Flèche-Air Fiends 421.5 km

John Cumming
Carey Chappelle
Chris Cossonnet
David Pearson

Awarded to the members of the fleche team who record the most kilometres on the club’s fleche ride in the year of the award.

Organizer of the Year – David Thompson

Awarded to that person(s) who has:

Provided support to the club’s riding events in the year of the award or over several years.
Demonstrated care for the wellbeing of the club’s riders.
Consistently taken on the task of organising and supporting club rides.

Special Recognition Award – Guy Quesnel

Awarded to a club rider who has:

Completed a cycling event in the year of the award that merits commemoration.
Made contributions to the club that merit commemoration.

Dan Herbert Memorial Award – Tim O’Callahan

Awarded to a member who has in one or more years:

Benefited the club by mentoring one or more members (generally but not necessarily new).
Mentoring is to be defined as encouraging, educating and assisting riders to achieve their full potential as bike riders and club members.

Long Distance Award(s)

Awarded to the rider(s) who has:

Completed the highest number of Kilometres on:

Randonneurs Ontario Brevets – Jerzy Dziadon  4800 km
All ACP Brevets – David Thompson 10578 km
Randonneurs Ontario Permanent Rides – Carey Chappelle 3500 km
Highest km Female Rider – Gwyneth Mitchell – 800 km

Creemore Classic Bowling Champion – Carey Chappelle

Cracker Swamp 1200 October 13-16, 2016

Ride Report from Dave Thompson:

This turned out to be the very definition of a slow, rocky start, for me.  We raced back to Florida from Ontario, arriving mid-day Tuesday and surveyed the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.  Ugh, with missing shingles, soffits blown out, insulation all over the yard like cotton, it was a matter of getting the house in order, quickly, so that I could head off.  The mess wouldn’t go away; I might as well go for my bike ride.

Besides, I had a part to play in this ride.  I’d handled all the swag — engraved glasses, embroidered hoodies and medals; played behind-the-scenes reviewer for Paul Rozelle and now I had to manage Trackleaders.

Matthew Lee at Trackleaders was swamped himself, figuratively with lots of rides and physically as he was also in the hurricane’s path.  He got the 80 SPOTs out to FedEx by 8:30pm. on that Tuesday, which were delivered to me before noon on Wednesday, just in time for me to head to Tavares, 1:15 away, for rider registration.

Dick Felton gave me a hand setting out all the SPOTs on a picnic table, getting them all turned on and registered and then installed on riders’ bikes.  Unbeknownst to us at the time, there were 16 that didn’t register, failed in their satellite connection.  I found that out from an email from Matthew at 1:30am prior to the ride.

Yikes.  We raced around trying to find the riders at 3:30am before the 4:00 start.  I also had a flat, a hotel room flat, didn’t end up having anything to eat and rolled out myself a little after the last rider.  The lanterne rouge rides again!

It got worse.  Not too long afterwards I had another flat.  What the heck?  It was right on the inside, by the valve stem, but everything looked ok.  Perhaps it was a bad tube?  Never so lucky …  I had another flat; same place.  Ok, this is getting tiresome.  The lanterne rouge was falling even further behind.  Everything looked ok with the rim tape and the valve hole, but I laid down some electrical tape at that point, installed another tube, now getting worried about running out, and rolled on.  It didn’t last…

OK, drastic measures are now called for.  I didn’t have a roll of rim tape with me and I’m not sure why the valve stem hole is piercing the tubes — actually it’s a couple of cm from the hole — but I came up with a solution — I used one of those Park Tool stick-on tire boots, poking a hole in it and actually booting the new tube.  That got me a long way down the road…

I called Sandy.  The first Control after the start is actually only a few miles from our house.  Can you bring some tubes?  Bring six.  OK.  She met me at the Control, a gas station / convenience store and handed me three boxes, asking how many tubes were in a box … uh … one.  Oh well, that should do me.

I rolled off ahead of one rider, not quite the lanterne rouge any more.  That did change; I had more flats, installed my spare tire, moving that boot from tube to tube.  I did have more flats over the course of the ride but they were puncture flats, not inside the rim flats.  I guess that’s a good thing.

All told, I think that I had 8 flats that first day, including the hotel room flat.  It was slow going at times, as I rode along checking on the progress of the SPOTS, texting.  The roads were clear, untrafficky.

That first day, we rode basically to the coast, before that first Control.  Riding along Maytown Road, there were miles of utility poles snapped, huge oak trees down, wires buried in the brush.  New poles had been installed — less than a week after the hurricane and people had power.  We’d see more hurricane devastation over the next few days but that was the worst.

The first day was long, especially for me.  Once out of the “flat zone”, I did start overtaking riders, eventually coming in with Geof Simons, Vinny and a few others.  From a 4am start, I had a 3am finish, 437 km behind me.

I had a quick meal, into bed, got 1.5 hours of deep sleep, left at 6am.  It did get better.  I had a 5+ hour stop the next night and a 7+ hour stop the last night, finishing just under 80 hours.  I always consider a 5 hour stop pure luxury, so 7 was amazing.  I didn’t really need 7 at the time but was concerned that I might hit the first real fuelling stop before it opened.  I need not have worried, but it all worked out.

I finished up the ride with Hamid, he, Mark Thomas and Victor S catching up to me at a Control that last day.  I’d lingered for 20 minutes, figuring quite rightly that they were probably a little behind me starting.  I spent another 20+ minutes waiting for them and we rolled on.  Mark rolled off from us at one point and finished first, from our little group.

Jerry C ran into knee problems and had to throw in the towel.  Marion Kusters also had a knee problem; still has.  I’ve got a lingering issue that developed with the inner tendon on my left leg.  I guess that’s what comes of such a flat course — about 14,000 feet of climbing in 1200+ km.

The first day was a big loop to the coast, south and back to the starting hotel in Tavares, north of Orlando.  The next two days were about equal in length, 300 km or so, and loops back to Tavares.  The last day was a 200 km loop back to Tavares.  The logistics of having one hotel, no drop bags, rooms before, during and after included in the price — it really made things easy for riders and organizers.  There are lessons to be learned.  Just as we run a brevet week out of one locations, we could do a 1200.

Paul did an amazing job with the food.  He and his neighbours did all the prep and then the neighbours cooked at one of those trailered grills for the three nights.  Chicken the first night, pulled pork the next and steak at the end of the ride — I’m missing something, as there’s another night in there?  Oh well.

He also brewed the beer and had bottles of single malt, the latter mostly imbibed at the end-of-ride party.  The DNF rate was low, as you might expect.  After that first day, some riders didn’t really need lights; doing most of their riding in daylight.

All in all, it was a great ride, a great experience — it was very interesting being a part of the organizing and then also riding the “main event”.  There are things that could have been done differently, but that’s always the case.  The rider experience was great; that’s the important thing.