Lleida-Leon-Lleida 1200

Ride report from Dave Thompson:

During a ride, I write the most amazing blogs, all on my virtual notebook.  Unfortunately it’s virtual.  99% of what I think that I should write evaporates.  A couple of days after a ride, some of it comes back … but I don’t have time for that so you’ll all have to put up with my disorganized thoughts!
First, the ride.
The route is an out and back.  From the town of La Fuliola in the Lleida area to Sahagun on the outskirts of Leon.  Normally I’m not a huge fan of an out-and-back, but making a circle would have shortened the reach and wouldn’t have followed the Camino de Santiago so closely.  That trail weaves back and forth on my route, sometimes paths in the fields, sometimes a slightly separated shoulder to the road and sometimes on the road.   Seeing all the hikers – I’ll call them hikers, not pilgrims – added a measure of interest.
The roads are great, some of the best that I’ve been on for a 1200.  There were very few rough spots, very little trash (glass etc.), not heavily trafficked.  With the Pyrenees to the north, I guess that these are foothills. Towns were close enough together for services although from 2pm-5pm, finding something open can be a bit dicey.  Most towns had natural springs although you have to be on the lookout for those.  Great tasting water, i.e., no discernible taste, and safe to drink, they can be lifesavers in this hot climate.  Unlike Bulgaria, or Italy, there are no roadside springs; only in the towns.
It’s a flatish ride, but not flat.  I don’t remember the total climbing but probably the least in my experience save Florida.  The terrain rolls and only once or twice did I see a grade over 5%.
Windmills are everywhere.  What does that tell you?  You want to be riding with the windmill, not into the headwind.  I was lucky that days 1, 3 and 4 were in the right direction.  Day 2 was a killer, at times having a hard time working your way downhill!
There are canals everywhere moving river water to farmland.  See that overpass … if it’s level on both sides, it’s an aqueduct moving water, not cars.  In some areas the farmland on-grade watering is still used but mostly that has fallen into disrepair and pressure pumps send that water over the crops with sprinklers.
During the day, many of the towns look like small concrete structures, unoccupied and unused.  You don’t know what’s inside.  My hotel 6 km from the start, for instance, built in the 1600s, looks like nothing outside but inside, it’s beautiful. A mixture of huge concrete blocks, brick and stucco, sometimes up to a meter thick to keep out the heat … you don’t hear your neighbors through the walls!
The gps files are setup as 350-250 (turnaround), then 250-350.  Many riders seemed to strike for 350 the first day, to the town of Lagrono, with spouses perhaps transporting luggage.
Oh yes, there are no drop bags.  There is no food.  No sag.  Your registration fee of 15 Euros gets you a cue sheet, a brevet card and a ziploc bag.  If you complete, it also pays for the RM Homologation.  Little hotels in little towns in Spain don’t have 24 hour desks, so you have to be careful that you book something where you’ll land during open hours … or have a spouse :).
Fancesc originally expected around 15 riders.  There were 35.  That “surplus” enabled him and his co-captain Alex, to follow the route and take some pictures.  I had them top up a water bottle once, but that wasn’t what they were doing.
The controls were all open, pick any establishment, other than the 24 hour motel at the turnaround point.  You didn’t have to stay there, just have them stamp your card.  If you hit a town at a time with nothing open, a photo will do.  I took two photos.  Every establishment had a stamp.  My brevet card looks like a well decorated passport.  More often than not, a Repsol gas station served as a control.  They were usually well stocked, even with small packages of meat and cheese.  They carry some soft-ish drinks, but I mostly had one water bottle full of juice – a thick peach, pomegranate, orange – as opposed to a manufactured concoction.  That’s how I got many of my calories.
Sorry Dick & Bob – I know that the juice has lots of carbs but I needed the liquid, not cheese melting in my pockets.
Speaking of melting, it was hotter than Bulgaria, 95F at 9:15 a.m. on the last day.  It was cold on the morning of the 3rd day, starting back from Sagahun, but not as cold as it was in Bulgaria that one night.
My ride.
Without someone to support me, I planned to carry 3 changes of jersey, shorts and socks.  I couldn’t carry much in the way of snacks for a four day ride, so I had to live off the land (aka gas station).  Had I loaded any more onto my bike, I wouldn’t have been able to lift my leg over to get back on!  Luckily I didn’t have long steep climbs to carry that weight.
I planned to stop after 300 km, not the 350 that the gps file implied.  With an 8am start, I didn’t expect that I could make a hotel at 350 before the desk closed.  As it turned out, I was emailing my 300 km hotel to wait, please wait … I arrived just a few minutes before 10pm, their close time. On the third night, that hotel closed at 9pm … I got there at 8:30.
I had a lot of stop time at overnights — 5.5 hours, 5.5 hours, 7 hours.  That last one is probably a record for me.
The one thing that I found about riding another 1200 4 days later is that I wasn’t caught up with sleep.  Early in the morning, in the pre-dawn, I was soooo sleepy.  There are bus shelters or perhaps they are hiker shelters, mostly glass, sometimes concrete, with a good long bench.  15 minutes of instant sleep did wonders on each of the three days.
For the first time ever, on the last day, I carried extra water, and I mean extra water.  2 full water bottles and a huge 2 liter container of water in my center jersey pocket.  I dumped more water on my head and shoulders and drank more juice and water than I’ve ever consumed before.  It’s a dry heat, so they say!
Many of the riders spoke bits of English.  Most establishments did not.  Right on the Camino route, someone would know English, but not off route or at a gas station.
I had three flats.  One on the first day on the only stretch of fresh chip seal on the entire route, caused by a very sharp stone.  The rest of the route is pavement, not chipseal.
The other two flats, on the last day, were simultaneous front and back, seems that I hit a bunch of thorns on the road shoulder.
Early on the first day, I was the Lanterne Rouge.  I caught with a bunch at a lunch spot and ate with them, leaving before.  With my early stop on that day, I was again the Lanterne Rouge, seeing very few riders except those on the return, as I got to the turnaround motel.  It looked like everyone had come and gone but when I was up and in the bike storage room to get rolling again, two other riders were also getting organized.
Lo and behold, as I rolled through another town, I found a large group of riders stopped at a street corner.  I rolled on.
Although it was a push, I kept to my plan of 350 km that day stopping at Tudela, leaving 250 for the last day.  It seemed that other riders stopped somewhere before or after because I saw many early on the fourth day.  I finished about mid pack.  I was nicely on track to finish around 4pm when I had to give in to the heat, stopping at every gas station and bar, topping up water, guzzling some on the spot.  I also had the two flats … and finished at 5:10 pm.  I had oodles of time as the 90 hour mark was 2am due to the 8am start on Day 1.  I had squandered some of the best riding temps of the day being so sleepy and then in the heat of the afternoon, well over 100F, survival was key, not speed.
When I got to the ride end, the two organizers were there to check me in.  Francesc La Porta, the “main man”, has apparently completed PBP 11 times?  I’ll have to look that one up.  Apparently it may be some record shared with a handful of others.  He’s not done yet, will be at PBP next year.
I had two huge beers.  I was so thirsty.  Luckily they don’t do breathalyzer tests on cyclists but don’t ask me to walk a straight line.  I could ride straight and I did, right to my hotel Cal Ball.  Home away from home, I got cleaned up, had dinner and then sleep!
As usual I enjoyed myself.  Different scenery, different food, friendly riders (but not much conversation), adapting my fueling strategy, being totally self sufficient (OK, thanks to Visa).
Is this true Randonneuring – no support?  Some would say yes.  That adds to the sense of accomplishment … but at times we like being pampered, so onward we go!

Brouse’s Beach Brouser 600

Ride report from Carey Chappelle:

Sorry for the delay in sending the ride report for Huron Chapter’s Brouse’s Beach Brouser 600km Event that was held Saturday, June 23 this year. Hope you enjoy our story as much as we enjoyed this event.

Congratulations to Chappy, Chris Cossonnet, Ken Jobba, Matthew McFarlane, Terry Payne, Jim Raddatz, Sergii Tsymbal and Don Williams for successfully completing this 600.

Brouse’s Beach Brouser 600 started at 5am from the Tim Horton’s in Goderich Saturday morning. The night before, Chappy made dinner reservations at the Black Dog Village Pub & Bistro in Bayfield where 4 Randonneurs joined him … Terry Payne, Don Williams, Chris Cossonnet and Ken Jobba.  A few made the comment that they loved the place so much they couldn’t wait to bring their wife back to the Black Dog one day soon!

The next day, everyone showed up at the Tim Horton’s in time for the 0500hr Start. Liz Overduin volunteered to support the Randonneurs throughout the 600 and delivered baggage to controls where plans were made to stop and sleep.

John Maccio lead us on a great pace for the first 5 km.  About 60 km from the start, a farm house with a straw roof was seen!

Everyone arrived at the Control, Sandy’s Family Restaurant in Mildmay, within 30 mins of the opening time! The majority of us enjoyed breakfast, a coffee or two, then headed out.

Now, if you check out the profile for this 600, you’ll easily see that 90% of hill climbing happens in the first 300 km. OUCH!!

Arriving at the Second Control, the Bicycle Cafe, Flesherton, Ontario, one of our Randonneurs mentioned how tough the climbing had been. Having done this Brevet before, Chappy knew the worst was yet to come and didn’t say boo! Everyone enjoyed an incredible lunch before heading out.

Chris Cossonnet, Sergii Tsymbal and Jim Raddatz out in front of the Bicycle Cafe.

The second major climb happened at Blue Mountain’s Scenic Caves Road, 216 km into the Brevet. All we could say was … Who’s Your Daddy!

Once at the top, the majority of our climbing was complete. On route, the Randonneurs went through Meaford and Owen Sound towards the two sleeping controls, Waterview Inn on the Bay (Wiarton) and the Lion’s Head Inn, Lion’s Head. Since the Lion’s Head Inn was not open or available, control cards were signed and a half dozen Randonneurs headed to the Fitz Hostel in Lion’s Head to use as their sleeping location.

Day 2 had Randonneurs who rested in Lion’s Head, doing 227km to the Finish. Sergii Tsymbal    decided not to stop at the Fitz Hostel, continued throughout the night, grabbing short naps to the finish. John Maccio and Matthew McFarlane had planned on crashing in Wiarton at the Waterview on the Bay Resort (control) but John simply called it a day in Meaford which left Matthew on his own. Being Matthew’s first 600 attempt, the Randonneurs Chappy was with, were all concerned, but simply said “Welcome to Randonneuring Matthew!” Chappy suggested to Matthew that he make it to the Fitz Hostel in Lion’s Head by 0600hrs Sunday morning, to join his group. Now pedalling from Owen Sound along the Bay to Wiarton, then along the Bay to Lion’s head, FOG was everywhere making the Rear lighting on everyone’s bike IMPORTANT! It was perfect seeing that everyone had 2-4 rear lights ON!

At 0545hrs Sunday morning, Chappy’s group of six were getting ready to head out for the last 227 km to the finish and wondering if Matt was going to make it on time. Chappy was one of the first Randonneurs that got up early … but trying to get down from his top bunk … had a hamstring leg cramp … bit his tongue trying not to wake anyone else up … sorry Gents!

Once everyone was up and ready to go, they looked down the street and there he was …  Matthew pedalling towards us! We all laughed and congratulated Matt on his accomplishment!! We asked what time he made it to the Waterview on the Bay Resort, the Wiarton Control where John and himself had planned on getting a few hours sleep.   He let us know how he was exhausted and found a cheap $50 hotel in Owen Sound, stayed there for 1 hr before getting back on his bike, made it to the Wiarton Control on time and then the Lion’s Head Control on time. AWESOME PERFORMANCE MATT!

Leaving Lion’s Head had Great Scenery along the way to Sauble Beach. A few Randonneurs mentioned how much they loved the gravel roads, fortunately no rain had happened!

Don Williams would lose everyone on climbs … large or small … then catch up and pass on flats. Fellow Randonneurs kept asking Chappy how he could accomplish this. With only a few hours sleep, Chappy let them know Don and his wife have two Mountain Climbing Training Centres downtown TO and were mountain climbers themselves, then suggested Don must thinks his hands will help on the climbs! Don sent us a great picture of the Southampton Lighthouse.

From Sauble Beach to Kincardine, road conditions were perfect. Unfortunately, it started to pour RAIN! Check out Matthew’s picture.

Misty to say the least!

The next control was in Kincardine, Ken Jobba had been riding with Chappy’s group since the start and let Chappy know he was hypothermic and had to take off to warm up.   Chappy’s Randonneurs decided to have a 20 min break at the Bruce Steak House, Kincardine after having their control cards signed at the Tim Horton’s. Well, that 20 min break turned out to be just over an hour!

The McFarlane Family, John Maccio and Liz Overduin met the group there. From left to right, Chappy, Matthew, his wife and daughters, Liz Overduin, Don Williams, Terry Payne, Chris Cossonnet and John Maccio.

Inside the Steak House and looking out, our group noticed the clouds starting to disappear! Once on the bikes and heading towards the FINISH… approximately 75 km away … SUNSHINE! Temperature 26 deg C!

Jim Raddatz was one of the first finishers and let Chappy know that he had stopped with 20 km to go to take off his rain jacket, Ken Jobba briefly stopped to see if he was OK. When Jim looked up Ken was a speck on the horizon. Wow was he flying! The next day Jim’s e-mail let Chappy know he could barely walk!

Just to let you know Jim … neither could any of us!

Matthew’s Family was as excited as everyone else on the finish!

Liz Overduin… Awesome Support! You’re a Great Organizer!

John Maccio … You’re First Class! Thanks for taking the time to see how your fellow Randonneurs were doing!

Additional photos from Ken Jobba:



Sofia Varna Sofia 1200 – June 22-25 2018

Ride report from Dave Thompson:

It’s actually more properly labeled Silven, as that’s where the ride actually starts and ends; three hours from Sofia.  Varna isn’t the mid-point; it’s the first Control on the first day, about 200 km from Silven … but all that said …
Yes.  This was a good one.  But I usually say that about all of them.
First, overall impressions …
There’s some really pristine countryside but in other areas, it seems that once someone throws some garbage, it’s open season to dump yours there.  Roadside bins are overflowing.  It’s a matter of money.  Still, most of our riding was in areas where the scenery was beautiful with endless sunflowers in the flat areas and roadside wild fruit trees.
There are dogs aplenty.  Mostly they they ignored me but a few ran out.  In general they are small and not a problem.  In a few cases they did get the adrenaline pumping!
There is no, repeat no, real bicycle infrastructure.  There are no shoulders.  However, the drivers are courteous, more so than I have encountered on average in North America.  On the last day, a long flat stretch with zillions of trucks due to the highway being closed, you watched your line but there was never a problem.  Pull-offs are every few hundred metres so you can always (and I did) take a break.
If an adult cyclist is approaching you and you have to take a bet as to whether or not it’s a Randonneur … if you have to put down money … say yes.  I only saw 4 other riders!  There were kids and errand bicycles in the towns, but no cyclists.
On the first day we had hot.  It hit 99F on my Wahoo.  It almost hit that on the last day as well.  On the second we had chilly and windy (in our face, of course) to start.  On the third night the temp dropped to 40F and rain; I was on the edge;  I made it.
The route was a figure 8 this year.  Out to Varna then north for the first overnight.  Back to Sliven for the second overnight.  Into the mountains for the third overnight and then back to Sliven.
The first two days were somewhat tough, mostly due to that headwind in the morning of the second day.  A figure 8 makes it too easy to throw in the towel, which is what happened to 5 riders out of 11.  The third day has a lot of climbing into the mountains, up a gorge late at night, water roaring.  Back down that gorge in the morning, the views were glorious and then we climbed … a 30 km climb, up another gorge.  There was payback from that, of course, with a long, long, descent to the valley followed by the seemingly endless ride north on the flat with all those trucks, back to Sliven.  That last bit was the toughest for me, wanting the ride to be over, grinding along a straight, mostly flat, line.
Lazar has run this 15 times now (or 14?).  He changes up the route constantly and this was a hillier instance.  I really enjoyed the ride.  Even that last bit would have been OK had I remembered to bring some music to occupy my mind.  I blew it.
There were 11 riders including Lazar.  Two Russians, one half & half Canadian & American (me), one half & half Bulgarian and American (Georgi), one Japanese and the rest Bulgarian.  For the first part of the ride I was in the front half of the group but then, of course, the DNFs knocked off the back half :).  The Japanese fellow and I traded places throughout the ride; Lazar was the lanterne rouge.
Weather is always a variable, of course.  The Japanese fellow said that it was hotter the last time that he did the ride.  I think that Lazar made this time hillier than most but with those hills (gorges) comes the beauty.  Rolling open countryside isn’t anywhere near as interesting.
It’s a low budget ride.  The accommodations at the start/finish & 2nd overnight at the Omega Bistro are friendly, clean and basic, with great food.  The 1st overnight is what I would call dormitory – three single beds in one room – not shared – private bath as I recall.  The 3rd overnight is rustic; a hostel in the mountains with foam mats on the floor and a shared shower.  The atmosphere more than made up for the rusticity :).  It’s well planned with food stops; coupons for those locations to encourage you to eat there; hosts well prepped to serve good, hearty food.  The route this year went through enough towns that I was never short of food or liquids.
I highly recommend the ride.  Don’t let the almost 50% DNF rate scare you off if you’re considering adding this to your bucket list.  Lazar is even willing to get input from potential riders on the routing.  He’s done it enough that he can cut and paste to please.

Blue Ridge to Bay 1200, May 31-June 3, 2018

Ride Report from Dave Thompson:

An interesting ride for sure. I’m not sure if I’d do this one again, but I say that about many of the 1200s, for a variety of reasons.

Nick et al. set out to showcase the region. Combining downtown Washington, Annapolis and the Bay Bridge with climbs on Skyline Drive and through one of the Appalachian gaps, hitting the battlefields of Gettysburg — these all provided diversity and challenge. From a time perspective, the long run into Washington and the city riding with a multitude of turns affected average speed more than the long climbs and descents. There’s payback from climbing; none from jogging through suburbia. The route designers did achieve their objectives but it probably made the route more difficult than they expected. Degree of difficulty isn’t all about climbing. It’s a very difficult route for anyone to break 80 hours.

I have a somewhat jaundiced view of heading into Washington; I lived in the Philly area long enough and saw the sights often enough, that it wasn’t new. Skyline Drive is spectacular and the Appalachian Gaps are challenging. In between we climbed and rolled. The run into Washington on commuter paths, 40+ miles of them, was new to me. I was pleasantly surprised that I could make reasonable time but for those who start these rides at a fast pace, the paths are speed limiting. I found it interesting.

The weather was also provided diversity — mostly cloudy the first day; sunny and hot the second day, again with rain late; climbing easing up on the third day and more late-day rain, but it was a long 203 miles; rain all day on the fourth and final 200k, cool and chilling. The rain on the first three days had been warm. You had to be prepared for anything.

At one point with heavy thunderstorms we took refuge at a waste treatment plant and then an open barn. Such is randonneuring!

The DNF rate was somewhat high, around 35% for the 1200k riders. Nick thinks that was mostly due to the weather. I think that it was mostly due to the long riding days. The female DNF rate was zero. The Seattle rider DNF rate was 100%. It’s really too small a sample to say for sure and even if the ride is held every year for the next dozen years, different riders and different weather will produce different results.

I rode with Hamid most of the time except, as usual, that first day. He always gets out ahead on the first day; this time he finished an hour before me. Jerzy from Toronto and Greg, a local rider, were companions for most of the ride. Jerzy slept in after the third day. He was riding strong; it wasn’t due to route or conditioning.

I never felt that I was in trouble time-wise. Nick had made it clear that intermediate times were guidelines; the final time was all that counted. As such, I could plan a reasonable day for that day’s riding. The final day, for instance, turned out to be a 15 hour 200. We warmed up and dried off for extended periods a couple of times.

Volunteer support was good. We started in Leesburg, spent two nights at the same place in Shepherdtown and the third night close to the BWI airport. There were loads of volunteers at the overnights; during the day we saw Bill taking photos and Nick providing water. Shab managed the overnights, doing her usual excellent job.

I enjoy all these rides and this was no exception. It didn’t have the views of the Rocky Mountain 1200 nor the Cappuccino from Italy, but it worked for me.

Devil’s Week 2018

Ride report from Charles Horslin:

The first ride of Devil’s week was the Chenaux 200, a wickedly scenic route up the Ottawa Valley along the huge Ottawa River and across the dam at Chenaux and back down to Quyon to cross back on the ferry. The ferry is pulled by a cable on the shore instead of being a motor boat… kinda neat and very quiet. I thought there would be more climbing but was happy with the few good kickers we had along the way. The forest was lush and quite aromatic at times. Scenery highlights included crossing the only 5 arch stone bridge in North America

Sunday was the Vennachar 300, which was an amazing day on the bike! The scenery was breathtaking and the climbs were challenging. The weather was quite favourable for the first 200k with some sun in the morning to take the edge off the cool air. Soon clouds moved in which kept the sun off us. We had lots of rain for the last 80k but it also brought a nice tailwind and thanks to Peter Grant for loaning me a rain coat so I didn’t freeze. I forgot to pack a few important things for the week, namely my helmet and a rain jacket. Thanks to Peter and Guy for loaning me theirs for different rides! Ben and John were great company all day and we rode a good pace. I think this is a personal best on a 300 for me, 14:54.

Tuesday’s route was the Athens 400. Lovely scenery and an amazing loop through the shield but also one of the hardest rides I’ve done before… could say it had the good, the bad and the ugly. The good part was having a solid gang to ride with for the first half, we had a nice sit-down breakfast at the first control. There is so much history in the area and later on in the evening I saw a nice rainbow. The bad part was the 200km of varying headwinds and another 50km at the end… to top it off the high was only 16 and the low was 8. The rain held off for 250km but came down hard for an hour or two. The ugly part for me was breaking a spoke on the front wheel, a low spoke count one too! Forgetting that my multi-tool has a spoke wrench, I rode the bent wheel for around a 100km before remembering the spoke wrench. Luckily the rims are really strong and I was able to pull enough of the wobble out to stop the brake rub and was able to ride a bit faster. The wheel never got any worse during the ride. It was after sorting out my wheel that I was on the scenic Jones Falls road that the skies opened up and I did get a little cold on this stretch but thankfully it was a short rain and the air warmed up after this. There was about an hour of daytime left at this point and it wasn’t long after that I was treated to a spectacular rainbow which helped raise my spirits a bit. I was able to finish the ride with a couple hours to spare but I did find the last 50km to be a slog through the flat areas with a slight headwind. Randonesia had set in less than 6 hours after finishing and I felt fine the next day! Typical 🙂

To round out the week, Barry’s Bay 600 was the final course on the menu. An epic route through a big swath of the Canadian shield. Our weather was great aside from a bit of headwind during the first 100km. I fell off the back of the group at the first control and did most of the ride alone, which was a nice change after riding with folks for most of the other rides. I tried to keep my control stops a bit shorter than normal to build up some sleeping time. The sun was mostly shining on Thursday but didn’t get too warm. The humidity did get worse until sundown, then disappeared once the night was upon me. I made Barry’s Bay around 2 and managed to get 3 hours of sleep. Woke up and was heading out to Timmies around six. I ate too much breakfast and had a helluva time getting started but managed to keep the pedals turning for a few hours until second breakfast in Eganville. The controls were evenly spaced so that made for a predictable day. I stopped for too long in Calabogie since they had vegan pizza and fried cauliflower wings at the restaurant that was the control! Again I ate too much (story of my life) and had a bit of a slow go for a couple hours. The hills were challenging on both days but worth all the effort, not just for the descents but also the views. The route slowly flattened after leaving the last control in Clayton as we approached the Ottawa Valley and there was a small gang of randonneurs at the finish to welcome the riders back!

All in all I had a wonderful week and would like to thank Guy Quesnel for organizing, providing breakfasts, and supporting on the 400k, Peter Grant for route planning and supporting on the 300k. As well as a special shout-out to Vytas and Colleen for doing dropbags and support overnight on the 600K. We went through some sparsely populated areas and it would have been difficult to resupply without all of them! Also thanks to everyone I rode with, it was a great week of randonneuring.

I took a big pile of photos so if you wanna give ’em a gander they’re all captioned and sorted here:

Randonneurs Ontario Devil Week 2018

Lake Simcoe 300 km Brevet

Ride report from Martin Cooper:

Four riders and three bikes embarked on the Lake Simcoe 300, which circumnavigates Lake Simcoe in a clockwise direction.  Tim Ormond, Stephen Jones, Andrea Ferguson Jones and myself.  We rode east from Barrie along Shanty Bay/Ridge Road with a light warm breeze from the south and the glimmer of early morning light. We all arrived together at the first control in Orillia but on the way out Tim disappeared across the Atherly Narrows bridge which separates Lake Couchiching from Lake Simcoe and it looked like we would not see him again.   The Atherly Narrows has been used as an important fishing location for indigenous people for many millennia.  When Champlain visited the area in 1615 noted that the Huron-Wendat were fishing at the narrows using weirs to trap fish migrating between the two lakes. When underwater archaeologists investigated the narrows in the 1960s they observed wooden stakes driven into the lake bottom. The real surprise was when the radiocarbon dates came back at 5,000 years ago (I digress).

It was a wonderful ride to the next control, which was an information control, a historic plaque for the Victoria Road.  By then the heat was building as we headed south into a headwind that was not yet a blast furnace.  I tucked in behind the tandem and rode the Ferguson Jones train through the flat limestone floored Carden Plain, including a short but bumpy ride along a section of gravel road.  We arrived at Brechin in need of shade and water.  While I was turning the corner to find a convenience store I saw Tim pull away from a corner store. We had a short chat before he headed down the road.  Well on our way to the control at Beaverton we saw Tim heading towards us.  After the usual joking that he was going the wrong way, he told us that he had left his wallet and phone in Brechin…

By the time we reached the control in Beaverton we were in need of lunch and some cooling off.  Unfortunately, the pizza place we chose had no air conditioning so we sat outside and watched a parade of broken down automobiles passing back and forth while we forced down pizza slices that were way too large.

From Beaverton we continued south into the heat and wind until we finally started heading east along to the south side of the lake.  You could feel the cool offshore breeze before we could actually see the lake.  Then it was a pleasant ride along the shore, which was packed with sunbathers and picnickers.  While we were cruising along Hedge Road a dude on a time trial bike zoomed passed us and then sat up.  Stephen took off after him with Andrea and me in tow and we easily dropped him.  It was one of the highlights of the ride!

At about 205 km past the control at Keswick we finally started heading north and west out of the wind.  A sudden but brief cloud burst cooled us down on the way to Alliston.  We arrived at the finish in Barrie at dusk, just under 15 hours after we had started.  About 30 minutes after our arrival, Tim rolled in having successfully retrieved his wallet and phone.

Four started and four finished.  Congratulations to all for a long hot day in the saddle and especially to Andrea for completing her first 300 km brevet!


Fun just seeing the title eh! Everyone enjoyed 2018’s Carey’s Carefree Cruise 400km Brevet. Thanks to Liz Overduin who created this route!

The main goal this year was to WIN the GoKart Championship held at the Kartway in Erbsville. The only time we had done this brevet before, the Kartway was closed. By reversing the route and keeping our time down, we were able to arrive when the Kartway opened at noon. I’m getting goose bumps just thinking about what happened next!

Ken Jobba, John Maccio, Matthew McFarlane and myself (Chappy) signed the paperwork and then entered the racetrack! Fans were too far back, so I had to take our picture!

Matthew made it clear … he would be the one to beat!

Chappy was assigned Kart #1 and sat focused before the official Start.

A Shotgun Blast and we were off! The race was 5 laps … the first to finish would become Huron Chapter’s 2018 GoKart Champion! Chappy just about got disqualified after cutting off a woman and her baby who were heading towards their finish. The organizer simply warned him and added at least 10 seconds to his finishing time. Ken, John and Matt were very close behind for the first lap, then John moved out front but still second to Chappy. Matt disappeared so it was Chappy, John and Ken heading towards the finish. Chappy finished first with John second. Ken had just entered his fifth lap and looked into the stands to see John and Chappy signing autographs, he figured he was on his sixth lap … but then realized he had enjoyed the scenery a little too much!

Congrats Chappy!

I guess I should talk about the Brevet, although just a way to pedal to the GoKart Championship and back, we actually completed an official 400 km Brevet. Congrats to Chappy, John Cumming, Jerzy Dziadon, Dick Felton, Ken Jobba, John Maccio, Matthew Mcfarlane, Jim Raddatz and Sergii Tsymbal.

Unfortunately, Charles Horslin’s knee started acting up an hour or so after he started, so he called it a day and let Chappy know via an e-mail. Chappy, Ken, John and Matthew were in the Jen’s Cafe (Mitchell Control) for a Great Breakfast when they found out. The rest of the Randonneurs skipped breakfast, basically had their Control Cards signed, a coffee/pop and a muffin etc., then continued on.

If any of you paid attention to the weather forecast, the week before showed rain, thunder and lightning for both Saturday and Sunday. Ouch!

Saturday morning things changed, clouds all day with a chance of sunshine. Basically the clouds disappeared just after lunch and the temperature started rising!

The second Control being the Erbsville Kartway meant that if you weren’t competing in Huron Chapter’s GoCart Championship, you simply had your Cards signed and continued on, backtracking, which is where Chappy, Ken, John and Matthew ran into a few of the Randonneurs heading to the next Control.

The Coffee Culture in Stratford is the 3rd Control. The place to have a Great Lunch or Dinner is the Boar’s Head Pub. We all sat and enjoyed an incredible soccer game on the big tv!

Leaving Stratford, the four of us continued on … being … the back of the pack and all!

With the outside temperature being 36 deg C, we stopped in Plattsworth, time to sit in the shade and fill ourselves up with some H2O.

After leaving Plattsworth, the Randonneurs headed to the next Control in Woodstock. Once Control Cards were signed and back on track, Chappy noticed a Bowling Alley and suggested … ONE GAME?

Highlight of the Night was seeing what looked like a fellow Randonneur who had missed getting his Control Card signed and was heading back to the Control … but it turned out to be Terry Payne on his new TRUE NORTH!

Terry told us how his wife was relaxing on the couch just before bedtime, he simply dressed into his cycling gear and told her he’d be home around 3…

I know, no questions asked!

As we pedalled through the night, weather was perfect. No wind, >10 deg C and we owned the roads! At the finish we took a great shot of John Maccio and Matthew McFarlane with their Control Cards Signed.

Congrats to Matthew for completing his first GoKart Championship … I mean 400 km Brevet!

Now, being without sleep, John and Matthew suggested that I follow them to ensure we were all driving safely. We loaded the bikes and headed home! Thanks Gents!

Big Chute 200 – Everything but Cold

Ride report from Dave Thompson:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times … ok, Dickens already said that and it wasn’t really the worst …
I love the Big Chute ride.
Half of the day was glorious riding, from Barrie to Honey Harbour, to Severn Falls Marina and beyond, but it was getting hot at that point.  It was windy and a test of our stamina from the Marina to Coldwater, but we made good time, getting there before the ducks were launched.
Every other year I’d seen the rubber ducks in the Coldwater River.  The ducks are numbered and they flow with the river; it’s like a raffle.  A truck backed up the trailer of rubber ducks as we had a cold drink at the convenience store, but we weren’t going to wait until 2 pm, a half-hour away.
Wind from the south, heat and climbing made the next section slow and then we turned east … I said to Henk – I don’t want to ride towards the rain!
Just before we got to 9th line for our run south, the rain started and a HUGE north wind that blew us south along 9th line, out of the rain … but just for a while.  We turned east for the long ride along Shanty Bay to Barrie and the wind from the north blew the rain sideways.  Somehow that ride along Shanty Bay, pleasant on the way out, is always a long slog on the way back, rain or no rain!
So we had, perhaps, 175 km of pleasant, then hot windy riding and then 25 km of rain.  Riding on Essa Rd towards the Tim’s and the end, it seemed that we had to wait at every traffic light in the rain.  Both of us having planned ahead, we had towels, dried off and changed in the Tim’s washroom and headed home.
Leaving at 7 am, we finished at 4:40 pm.  Riding back along Shanty Bay, I was thinking – “am I having fun yet ?”.  Today, randonesia having set in, I know that I had a good time.  I can’t speak for Henk :).

2018 Flèche – A TALE OF TWO FLÈCHES…


From Carey Chappelle:

The HURON BOYZ and The HOGTOWN EXPRESS successfully completed this year’s FLECHE. Congrats to both!

Bob Macleod from the Hogtown Express and myself (Chappy) from the Huron Boyz kept in touch during the 24 hr ride. Both Teams started from different locations at 1800 hrs on Friday, May 18th and finished at 1800 hrs on Saturday, May 19th at the Village in Blue Mountain.

As you may or may not know, FLECHE teams must consist of 3 to 5 bicycles, so if you had 5 Tandems then you would have 10 cyclists. Steve Jones and his wife Andrea Ferguson Jones were on their Tandem for the Hogtown Express along, Martin Cooper, Charles Horslin, Bob Macleod and Erin Marchak.

Look at the happiness the Hogtown Express showed around 0330 hrs Saturday morning, that’s right 0330 hrs!  They were in Orillia at the Casino! Bob claims they were not smiling because of the big winnings, but the awesome noodles they had!  I wish that had been us!

Now, the Huron Chapter has somewhat of a different story. As I mentioned previously, FLECHE teams consists of 3 to 5 bicycles, well the Huron Chapter had 3 bicycles and only 3 riders. No Tandem in our group. Initially we had no problems with 5 cyclist participating in this year’s FLECHE. Once the Route was planned two fellow Randonneurs cancelled. Why … too much climbing … and too much distance! Then Jerzy Dziadon asked if he could become one of the Huron Boyz and that brought us to 4 cyclists participating … the more, the merrier!

On Friday, Jerzy planned on driving to Blue Mountain, dropping off his car and pedalling to the START. Sometime during the day, Jerzy let us know his he was having car problems, had made it to Orangeville then decided to head home, now the Huron Boyz were back to three.

The three of us pedalled to the Wismer House in Port Elgin a few hours early to have something to eat and gas up our fuel tanks. Unfortunately, being a long week-end, local police were out and about making sure everyone was playing by the rules and if not ….

We talked about cyclists and automobiles on the road and that rules apply to both. Stop Signs, Red Lights etc. Then we continued on to the Wismer House, sat on the patio in the sunshine, digested plenty of carbs and prepared for our Start! The scenery, road conditions and weather were perfect all the way to the southern end of Point Clark. Here’s a photo of John and Chris leading the way.

Once we turned and headed EAST, things changed. Headwinds, dark clouds heading towards us and a Bridge on route REMOVED. Yes REMOVED. So we headed East a little further to find a road that eventually got us back on track!

Now, having seen the fun that the Hogtown Express had at 0330 hrs Saturday morning, I thought you should know of the fun we were having, we were down to our last water bottle, no food other then M&M’s and peanuts that we carried and that no restaurants or coffee shops existed! Chris noticed a town park with picnic tables under a roofed in area that we could use by taking a quick nap, so we did! Ruffly 30 mins later, we were up, refreshed and back ‘atter.  The original rain forecast had us thinking we’d be wet from 8 am on, well it was raining at 4 am. So we put our weather gear on and headed out.

This is where our story gets even better, having developed this route myself, I didn’t pay attention to detail.

The three of us headed into the Luther Marsh Wildlife Management Area, north west of Grand Valley.  Pedalling on Gravel / Dirt roads that were flooded in a half dozen sections in a 10 km stretch … how did we know it was a 10 km stretch, signs along the way 10 km … 9 km…8 km…7 km.. all the way! Here’s a picture of John Cumming passing through a flooded area with Chris Cossonnet waiting to see what’s going to happen.

With 2 km to go, the most flooded area had to be crossed. I decided to get off my bike and simply walk through it, John followed me … then Chris decided to pedal through it to prevent getting both of his cycling shoes wet. Well, he made it through … but both pedals went fully under water!  Arriving at 0 km to go we finally made it back to paved roads! Yahoo!

We continued on route, Stopped at 22 hrs to record our exact time and location then headed towards the finishing time of 24hrs., knowing that 25 km minimum had to be done during the last 2 hours. Sound EASY? Sure it does, unless your pedalling the route that I created. It turns out that all the North and South roads were GRAVEL, the East and West roads were PAVED. I don’t know why, I didn’t plan on putting us through this on normal Randonneuring bikes, I don’t know how I missed this info …. If one of us had 700 x 23 tires or smaller we would have had to walk a few sections, fortunately we simply travelled at 11 to 18km/hr heading North.  John looked at me and questioned if we were going to be able to get 25 km in the last two hours. I didn’t know, wasn’t sure. Chris has always been my map man, knows where were at, where were going, looked at me and said for the first time “I don’t know where we are or where were headed” he didn’t have that positive gut feeling that I was used to. Well, fortunately we finished the 25 km in the last two hours (actually 40 km) for a total distance of 390 km for this FLECHE.

Now we had 50 km left to pedal to the Blue Mountain Village following our Fleche Route. Having reached the 24 hrs mark, the 2018 FLECHE was officially done, so Chris took us on a different route back to Blue Mountain that had 42 km DOWNHILL. WOW! I will develop a new Brevet using these roads at the finish, felt like a reward for what we had just gone through!

The Huron Boyz rented a Condo in the Blue Mountain Village and were able to use a Shuttle at no cost to the Village (24 hrs / day). Having touched base with the Hogtown Express, they told us some of their Randonneurs were falling asleep during their bowl of soup and would see us for breakfast the next day.

We had a lot of laughs, loved all the stories we told about the 2018 FLECHE and enjoyed breakfast before heading home.

From Bob Macleod:

Thanks for the excellent ride report Carey. The reunion breakfast in Blue Mountain Village on Sunday was excellent – you’d never guess the HURON BOYZ had such an epic adventure the day before, what with all the gravel, marsh, wind and lack of services – congratulations to you Carey, Chris and John.

HOGTOWN EXPRESS, with 6 cyclists on 5 bicycles (see names in Carey’s report), completed 368 km with about 1600 m ascent in almost luxurious conditions compared to the Huron team. New Randonneurs Ontario jerseys and cycling shorts had just arrived, so we were all kitted out like a real team. Our route took us northbound out of Markham, circling Lake Simcoe from its south shore eastward, to Honey Harbour on Georgian Bay, and then westbound along the Georgian Shore to Blue Mountain Village. Except for a few short stretches of gravel because of spring construction, road surfaces had good pavement. There was a brisk southeast wind, so most of the time it either wasn’t a factor or helped push us along. Overnight temp’s got down to 9C and daytime highs never exceeded 18C, so quite comfortable, and except for a steady 3 hr downpour starting 8 am Saturday, the weather was dry. Fortunately, we had rest stops with services evenly spaced along the route, with the highlight being the Noodle Bar at Casino Rama (158 km) which was very welcome at 3 am, so we stayed well fueled and hydrated. Scenery was beautiful and traffic volume very light, except for the last 20 km busy stretch into Blue Mountain – so an awesome experience.

This was a 1st Fleche for Martin Cooper and Charles Horslin, so a special congratulations to both of you! Congratulations too for Andrea, Erin and Stephen, who also successfully completed the event.

Another successful and memorable Fleche event!! Thanks to everyone who helped make it a success.


Linda’s Loop 300

Ride report from Carey Chappelle:

This past week-end turned out perfect for Huron Chapter’s Brevet – Linda’s Loop 300!

On Friday, John Cumming decided to pedal from London to Goderich … even with the WEATHER WARNING that was posted! He said he took advantage of not having to pedal with that strong tail wind that blew down trees and electrical lines all the way to Goderich!

12 Ontario Randonneurs successfully completed Linda’s Loop 300. Congrats to myself (Chappy), Chris Cossonnet, John Cumming, Jerzy Dziadon, Charles Horslin, Ken Jobba, John Maccio, Matthew McFarlane, Con Melady, Liz Overduin, Jim Raddatz and Sergii Tsymbal!

Special Congrats to Matthew McFarlane and Sergii Tsymbal for completing their first ever 300 km Brevet!

Originally, I planned on driving to Goderich for the Start on Saturday morning, but Con and his wife Cindy convinced me to stay at their place Friday night. Knowing we had 12 Randonneurs participating in this Brevet, my wife encouraged me to leave sooner than later to ensure I had enough time for myself and the fellow cyclists.

Arriving at the Tim Horton’s in Goderich at 0530hrs, I unloaded my bike and got myself ready to go before meeting my fellow Randonneurs prior to the Start. Confirmed everyone was a member of Ontario Randonneurs and had OCA Insurance along with Safety Vests, front and rear lights, bicycle helmets, I handed each of them their Control Card’s before heading out at 0600hrs.

On our way to the First Control- the Colonial Hotel in Grand Bend, we all road together. Road conditions were perfect, weather conditions were perfect and the Scenery was perfect. Many comments were made early on about how gorgeous the scenery was!

At the First Control we departed in two groups, 4 Randonneurs shared a Large Muffin … John had the TOP and his buddies, Jim, Sergii and Jerzy split the BOTTOM (at least that’s what I remember!). The remaining 8 of us went into the restaurant for a REAL BREAKFAST! Ken and myself shared a table beside Chris, Liz, Charles, Matthew and John. Unfortunately, Ken and myself had a different waitress and watched our friends enjoy their fuel loading a little ahead of us! Con figured it would take too long, so he headed to Tim Horton’s down the street for his breakfast, figuring he’d be back before we were done.

Leaving the Colonial Hotel in Grand Bend we headed towards London and the second Control – Tim Horton’s. It didn’t take long, but Con was able to catch up to us … so much for Tim Horton’s being faster! On occasion we had some head wind. Ken encouraged all of us to cycle peloton style and that worked out perfect! I’ve talked to a few of the fellow cyclists who loved cycling into the wind using that style! Thanks Ken and Thanks Fellow Randonneurs for staying together!

Eight of us arrived at the London Control – Tim Horton’s around the same time. I convinced everyone to make our stop short so we could spend more time at the next Control in St. Mary’s, the Parkview Creamery Bar and Grill. Once there, we enjoyed a fantastic lunch and a beverage or two. A few Randonneurs had gone out to refill their water bottles prior to taking off, but mentioned the rain coming down! Needless to say we hung around another 20 mins or so before heading out.

From St. Mary’s to the finish was 112 km with one stop at the Mac’s / Subway Control in Mitchell. Fortunately, the eight of us had no RAIN and the WIND had dropped to at least half of what it was for the 4 Randonneurs ahead of us! OUCH! Now having said that, the 4 Randonneurs ahead of us went through a BBQ Festival in Londesborough, where the food and beverages were second to none. Too bad that Festival ended at 6pm, our group of 8 would have loved that experience!

After leaving Mitchell, we headed towards the Finish in Goderich. John and Matthew let us know they were going to take a little break along the way, so the rest of us continued on. I was riding at the front of our group listening to stories from Charles and Liz, tears in my eyes … everyone laughing and simply LOVING RANDONNEURING! To top it off, as we got closer to the shores of Lake Huron and Goderich, the view of the SUN GOING DOWN WAS THE BEST I’VE EVER SEEN! BREATHTAKING!

At the Finish in Goderich, we all talked about how GREAT this get-together was. Then those who weren’t driving home Saturday night, paid a quick visit to the Paddy O’Neils Restaurant and Pub downtown Goderich. Con asked me if I would spend another night at his place Saturday night … I couldn’t resist! John and Matthew dropped in to give us their Control Cards and let us know how much they enjoyed Linda’s Loop 300! The next morning, John, Jim, Ken, Con, Cindy and myself went out for breakfast at Willy’s Eatery downtown Goderich. Incredible food and Incredible conversations!

Unfortunately, I left my Cell Phone in my car and couldn’t take pictures along the way. However, John Maccio took a few and posted them on FACEBOOK. Check them out!
Thanks John!