Japan Clover Hokkaido 1200

Ride report from Dave Thompson:

The clover Hokkaido 1200 was unique in a number of ways:

  • rushed by flying in on the 13th, check in on the 14th and then riding on the 15th, given the 13 hour time difference from Toronto
  • the predicted weather, rain for three days and then sun… yes, that’s how it was… oh yes, and cold to boot
  • as a ride, 4×300 km out of one location
  • completely foreign culture & food

The trip from Toronto went without a hitch.  The 13 hour flight was followed by sub-2-hours in Tokyo Haneda airport clearing customs and immigration, collecting bags, taking a shuttle to the domestic terminal, going through check-in and bag check and security and boarding the flight to Obihiro on the island of Hokkaido; 1:30 later landing in Obihiro, collecting bags and taking a taxi to our hotel.  I was totally impressed by the efficiency of the Haneda airport operation, in spite of the fact that these were separate flights, not defined as connections.  From noon on the 12th, Toronto-time, we ended up in our Obihiro hotel something like 9pm.  Around 18 hours from leaving Toronto we were a world apart and a day ahead.

There was no time for jet lag.  The next day we were up (Sandy was traveling with me and we met Hamid and Shab at the hotel); I assembled my bike and rode to the ride hotel with Hamid while Sandy and Shab taxied with the bags to the hotel.  Shab stayed there for the duration, working as a volunteer; Sandy had a hotel in Obihiro, did some exploring, visited others at the ride hotel etc.

We had time for lunch and dinner, ride check-in and briefing, sleep and then a 6am start.  The ride briefing was where it finally hit home that the rain was real.  Potential re-routing was discussed in case of road closures.  Heavy rain could produce landslides.  The route didn’t change but the rain came and came and came.

I have to say that the first three days of this ride rank among the most miserable days that I’ve ever spent on a bike.  It was wet and it was cold and it didn’t stop.  Temperatures ranged from 8-12C most of the day; down to 6C at times.  I’ve never, apart from the 2012 BC Rocky Mountain Day one, worn my rain pants for an entire day.  My rain pants got more use over the first three days of this ride than the cumulative use in my entire randonneuring career (if you can call it a career!).  Leg warmers, rain pants, arm warmers, short and long sleeve jersey, heavy jacket, head covering, shower cap … I wished at time that I could cover my face as I was losing a lot of heat from the rain pelting my face.  On day 3, I even wore my heavy wool jersey.  It probably helped but I was constantly on the verge of being too cold.  We stopped at every opportunity for something hot to warm us up — ramen soup, coffee — warmth inside stores was short lived; the soup and coffee only slightly less so.

Day 4 made up for some of this. It was nice to end on a positive note. It started out clear and cool; the temperature dropped to 3C as we moved towards the coast; it then warmed up and finally, finally, I was able to pack away all the extra clothing … sun, glorious sun, how I’d missed you!

The scenery, (ahem … when we could see it), was pleasant but not not remarkable. It’s hard to compare the Hokkaido Island mountains with the Italian Alps. We were never above the tree line.  The coastline was pretty, but so is everywhere else. Rolling farmland is pleasant, some different crops to behold. But… unlike some other rides, it was never boring. There were parts of the Italian ride – endless rice fields, for example – that went on forever. I don’t get as bored with rolling hills, even when it means a long, long time between services.

The roads were reasonable, much better than the lowlands of Italy. Sometimes dodging a crack in the road; a couple of sections where there were annoying rhythmic breaks, but that was the minority. Many kilometers of tunnels, a couple over 5 km, broke the monotony (and the rain!). Those tunnels also cut into the ridewithgps expected climbing, often cutting the tops off those hills. A hundred tunnels? More? I didn’t try to count. There were some long-ish climbs but the grades were never punishing. I don’t remember a grade over 7%.

The services were mostly frequent; well stocked convenience stores with bathroom facilities. Only Day 3, with a pre-warned approximately 100 km with nothing, might have been a problem, but it wasn’t, due to the warning. Besides, I don’t drink much in steady, cold rain. Then again, I don’t eat much from my pockets in steady, cold rain :).

Convenience stores in the area mostly don’t have gas stations attached. 7-Eleven, Saicomart and Lawson are everywhere and many are 24 hour. They all stock Ramen Noodles of many, many varieties and hot water; a selection of sushi-like products and a place to sit. I ate more noodles and rice during those 4 days than I’ve had in many years.

The ride was extremely well organized. It’s certainly easier with the clover format. The menu varied from day to day. Rice was always available, of course; soup, salad items, breakfast items usually included eggs; there was enough protein, but certainly not as emphasized as in North America. Some of the wrapped rice items (in seaweed) were perfect for stowing in your pockets, and we did. Ziplocs helped :). Cheese wasn’t in short supply, rather it was non-existent. Even in the convenience stores, any cheese was more of the processed kind.

There was usually one car with volunteers out on the route, mostly stopped somewhere as opposed to cruising. I expect that they assisted some riders who DNF’d. Speaking of which, the DNF rate was 50% and would have been a little higher had the ride organizer not decided to add a couple of hours to the time limit. 75 riders started; 37 DNF’d. Several took advantage of that extra time.

The 4×300 format was interesting. We finished by 9pm (Hamid perhaps 8pm) on day 1, 9pm, 9:30 pm and got lots of sleep. I think that I got 5 hours sleep the first night, almost the same the second night and 3 hours the final night. The 4×300 format means that you need to leave yourself adequate time to crank out another 300 km that last day without running up against the midnight deadline.

A 2400 km ride started a few days before our 1200 km and finished on the same day, same location.  That ride traced the coastline of Hokkaido.  Their weather would have been somewhat different, as we hit some rain that was localized in the mountains

I rode by myself the first day, as usual, the lanterne rouge for a long time. Hamid and I started the second day together and were sometimes separated and he finished just ahead of me. I opted to stop for 15 minutes about 30 km out as I was getting shaky, needed to warm up, figured that I’d have an accident otherwise. Hamid pressed on and had a silly sideways no speed fall, cracking his handlebars at the right shifter. He did another 600k on that cracked handlebar, but that’s another story …. The third day was togetherness in our miserableness all day long. The forth day was glorious and we finished together, many riders behind us.

We saw whales, yes whales, along the coast on the fourth day. One pair was likely a cow and calf and a loner not long after, all close to shore. That was unique!

I’d like to say that I had fun, as always, on this ride. Randonesia isn’t quite there yet. Give me another month or two to blend the entire experience in Japan together and I’ll probably say that it was fun, a good ride. Vinny from Seattle from loved it. He’s used to rain. I don’t have as much personal insulation. Rain only bothers me in as much as I’m on the verge of being cold and I was in that state far too long on this ride.

The terrain was good, the ride was well organized, the volunteers were helpful, the food was excellent, the format was interesting … and we had a little rain :). Let’s leave it at that.

Sandy and I flew to Tokyo the day after, as did Hamid and Shab.  We spent some time together exploring; some time apart.  They headed back to the US two days before us.  As I type this, we’re on the flight to from Tokyo to Toronto, leaving at 5:40 pm and arriving about an hour before we left, on the same day.  That must be quantum physics at work :).

The Tokyo experiences?  Hot as hell.  35-37C the entire time.  In spite of that we saw a lot, learned how to use the subway system (not as easy as you might think) and departed Japan hoping to come back … perhaps not riding … perhaps not in the heat of the summer.

To put this in perspective, Hokkaido is about the latitude of Toronto; Tokyo around Atlanta, give or take.  Several typhoons were affecting the weather; who knows what it might be like in Hokkaido or Tokyo in a normal year.  What is a normal year anyway?  That seems to be changing!

One more thing – Tokyo has two syllables.  Toke Yoh.  Not Toke Ee Oh.  See, I learned something :).

Onward!

Huron Chapter’s Big Bay 200!

Ride report from Carey Chapelle:

The Huron Chapter hosted the BIG BAY 200 this past week-end. Congrats to myself (Chappy), Charles Horslin, John Maccio, Matthew McFarlane, Con Melady, Gwyneth Mitchell, Tim O’Callahan, Liz Overduin and Brenda Wiechers on successfully finishing this scenic brevet and enjoying the 1300 meters of climbing!

Everyone arrived at Tim Horton’s early and thought they were ready to hit the road!

Strangely enough, the 9 Randonneurs pedalled through an intense FOG hoping that moving inland from Lake Huron things would improve!

Thankfully it did! Not just a clear sky, but new asphalt!

We all arrived together at the first Control, the Variety Plus Store in Chatsworth, had our Control Cards signed, grabbed a few snacks and sat down for a photo. You won’t see Chappy because he was the Photographer!

Con, Matt, Liz, Brenda and Tim couldn’t get closer together! Charles and Gwyneth stood close by while John was busy shopping!

Chappy let everyone know that staying together for the next 25 km was going to be unlikely (some good climbing ahead) and that everyone should stop at the General Store in Walter’s Falls to regroup and take some photos.

Once everyone arrived, we took a break from the SUNSHINE!

We then headed down to the Falls for a photo or two as a few of the Randonneurs had never been there before.

Interestingly, a model was standing under the falls having her picture taken and a couple of us were thinking about heading down simply to cool off but decided to enjoy the scenery instead!

Having completed 75 km, everyone was back together and looked forward to having a lunch in Owen Sound. We would simply get our Control Cards signed at the Tim Horton’s Control then head to the Mexican Restaurant, Casero for FUEL. Con and myself knew how busy this restaurant usually is and just hoped we could find room for all of us … and we did!

http://www.caserofood.com

A big surprise happened next, my daughter Erika and a few of her University friends were out touring the Falls in Grey County and decided to go for lunch at the Casero! We had to take a photo for proof this happened!

All 9 of us headed out together for the last 97 km, going through Wiarton, Sauble Beach and Southampton before reaching the finish in Port Elgin.

On our way to Wiarton, along the Big Bay Peninsula, we passed the Cobble Beach Resort and noticed some carving on a tree!

Having taking the photo, Chappy fell a bit behind the riders and met them at the next Control, the Big Bay General Store in Big Bay where everyone enjoyed some Ice Cream before heading to Sauble Beach for a quick refreshment!

Being 30 km from the finish, we all enjoyed the scenery, the people and quite simply the fun we were having staying together on this brevet!

5 of the 9 riders decided to stop in Southampton at the Outlaw Brewery to try the infamous Blueberry Beer before heading to the Finish in Port Elgin.

A few of the Randonneurs had wondered why Chappy’s wife Donna didn’t do the ride then learned of the BBQ she had put together for everyone. We spent a few hours together, along with Erika and her friends, enjoying the dinner and each other before calling it a day!

Tim and Brenda stayed in town and decided to take a Tandem for a 50 km Cool Down the next day. And yes …. Brenda did finish the Crossword Puzzle on Tim’s back!

North Huron Tributaire 200

Ride report from Carey Chappelle:

WOW!

OK, I’ll let you know how much fun we had participating in Huron Chapter’s North Huron Tributaire 200 km Brevet this past week-end!!!

Marvin Boven, Carey and Donna Chappelle, together on their Tandem, Cori Dean, Paul Dowswell, Jurij Kerzan, Matthew McFarlane, Con Melady and Jim Raddatz all finished successfully.

Congrats to Marvin Boven and Paul Dowswell for completing their first 200km brevet. It was great Meeting you two! Marvin, your wife was awesome being at controls if needed!

Great Meeting Jurij Kerzna from Slovania, on a family vacation …  but joined us on this brevet just for fun! Jurij and Chappy had been in touch via e-mails many months earlier. Jurij had mentioned that he would like to do this Brevet when him and his family were in Ontario and on vacation. He had hoped to rent a bike in London Ontario, so brought his bicycle helmet, shoes and pedals thinking that would happen. It didn’t, but Con Melady stepped up and let him use his Cervelo! Yes his Cervelo! Perfect fit and made for an awesome experience for Jurij!

Great meeting Cori Dean, a woman with a lifestyle that left us questioning where she gets time for one or two brevets a year!

This brevet had a 7am Start and everyone was on time and ready to go. The weather forecast showed rain and all we could see were dark clouds overhead.

Off we went, Donna and myself on the Tandem lead the way as Tandems usually do! A light rain disappeared by the first Control in Wingham. Everyone made this Control a short stop, looking forward to lunch at the next Control, the Bartliff’s Bakery in Clinton. Somehow, the Bakery had room for all of us! With 124 km complete, everyone headed to the next Control, the Black Dog Village Pub & Bistro in Bayfield.

http://blackdogpubbistro.ca

Paul Dowswell, Con Melady, Matthew McFarlane, Chappy, Donna Chappelle,  Jurij Kerzna and Jim Raddatz enjoyed a refreshment after having their control cards signed!

Traditionally, we would get back on route and once getting to the pier … would jump off for a swim! Not this time, I simply took the picture.  Cori Dean and  Marvin Boven were a little behind, so did not get included in this photo.

Heading back to Goderich, our group of 7 road together, got to know a little more about each other and simply loved the scenery.

Con and Cindy Melady prepared appetizers and invited everyone to their home.  It turned out to be a lovely garden party!  The majority of us hung out for an hour or two talking about how much we loved this ride!

Con, Chappy and Matthew were having some fun!

The Meladys had also made dinner reservations at the Beach Street Station for 8 people at 8pm, 5 were able to make it. If you get a chance to see the Sunset in Goderich, visit the Beach Street Station! An incredible restaurant! Incredible SUNSET! Great food and a great story about the original train station being moved to this location by the water!

https://www.beachstreetstation.com/?utm_medium=referral&utm_source=tripadvisor

 

March to the Nuke 600

Ride report from Tim Ormond:

March to the Nuke, a 600 km Brevet with the Simcoe Chapter, 21-22 July 2018

According to the RO Results page, The March to the Nuke was first run in 2005. That initial edition had six participants: Elias Brettler, Ken Jobba, Anne Pokocky, Steve Rheault, Isabelle Sheardown, and Glen Steen. It used to start in Alliston, but now it begins in Barrie in order to make it easier for members to participate.

Six randonneurs started this 2018 edition: Michael Thomson, Toby Whitfield, Andrea Ferguson Jones, Stephen Jones, Simon Langham, and me, Timothy Ormond.

The defining characteristic of this entire ride was a steady SE wind. For the first 200km, it was our best friend. It literally pushed us from Dundalk to “the Nuke.” The wind did not change direction for the remaining 400km; it only changed in intensity. For most of Saturday it seemed to stick around 15-25km/hr. I have reports from Toby that it became significantly stronger on Sunday.

Another problem was rain. It was in the forecast. I expected it much earlier. I finally encountered it after I left Fergus (476km) at 2:30 am (More on that rain later).

Despite these meteorological buzz killers in the forecast, spirits were high at the beginning of the ride. We rode together until the Stayner area, where we parted ways with Simon, Stephen and Andrea. The climb up Pretty River Valley was challenging, but I think we all felt fortunate to have a tail wind and to have the route’s most significant climb over and done with before the first control in Feversham.

County Road #9 leading into Dundalk was quite broken. Some major roadwork was being done. I was very jealous of Michael and Toby’s wide tires. I was on 25mm 700c. I also think we all inhaled a lot of dust. It was quite a busy road and very dry.

Micheal, Toby and I carried on together to Chesley, wafting on a lovely tailwind. We found the bridge was out in Chesley, so we had to quickly adopt a new control. I suggested Chesley Fuels and Convenience next to Big Bruce (i.e., the gigantic statue of a bull). The bridge in Chesley always seems to be out. Perhaps we should make Fuels and Convenience the official control in Chesley.

From Chesley to Kincardine I got a little carried away. I knew it would be my last chance to enjoy a tailwind, so I decided to make the most of it and increase my speed. I reached Kincardine in 2 hours. It was a risk, it meant venturing ahead on my own, but it also was a lot of fun.

Buoyed by my little adventure, I skirted the Huron coast and then turned into the wind. I expected the others would catch up with me at some point, and then we could work together chiseling away at the wind and the miles. In the mean time, I just played various psychological games to keep myself going.

Eventually I arrived in Teeswater where I replenished my water. From here until Clinton the wind seemed less of an issue. The land was quite beautiful here. These were entirely new roads for me. Unfortunately I was in the head space to push on and did not stop to take any photos. I arrived at the Tim Horton’s in Clinton at 1915.

Between Clinton and Stratford, my computer told me to take Front Road/Perth 32 Line instead of Huron Road. It is a perfectly good road with minimal traffic, but I unnecessarily added some kilometers onto the route. Not sure what I did wrong there. Fortunately, Front Road runs parallel to Huron Road.

The Romeo Street Bridge was out in Stratford. I was aware of this obstacle thanks to Toby and Dave’s warnings, but I had not really formulated a good B-plan before the ride. I wasted a bit of time, but eventually muddled my way across. Along the way, I saw the Boar’s Head, which I believe is the Huron Chapter’s stop on the Much Ado 200. I did want a warm supper, but I also thought I might get sleepy if I had a beer. So off I went to yet another convenience store to serve as my Stratford control. Ice cream, mango juice, water and Coke… and off I rode into the night.

The ride between Stratford and Fergus started smoothly, but gradually descended into the surreal. Worsening weather conditions, coupled with my deteriorating mental and physical state, combined to make for some unpleasant hours in the saddle. At first things were fine. The wind weakened, traffic abated; I was the king of the road.

But then I turned up Sideroad 4, to the SW of Elora. The road surface was very broken. I thought I might break a spoke. I fumbled along grumpily, when my computer angrily chimed, telling me I was off course. I pull out my flashlight. “What? I need to turn into this forest? Oh wait, there’s a trail!” (It was 1:45 in the morning) Off I went, into the forest, along the so-called “Cottontail Road Trail.” Let me tell you, there is nothing cute or fuzzy about this trail. It ends with a swift descent with a tricky patch of sand at the bottom. And before you can enter the road, you have to squeeze through some metal gates. In my sleep deprived state… it was a close call. (After the ride I received Stephen’s warning about this trail and the proposed route changes to avoid it).

Riding between Elora and Fergus, things continued to worsen. It got cool and it started to drizzle. Strange to say, but it looked more like snow than rain. Clearly I was starting to hallucinate. Then I saw something squirming on the road. I thought my mind was playing tricks on  me. “Ha ha, I’m such a hallucinator!” The next thing I knew I was right on top of a real, live skunk. I nearly hit the poor fella. Thankfully we both came through our encounter unscathed. I suddenly felt a lot more awake.

After an uneventful 2:31am breakfast at the Circle K in Fergus, I carried on to Shelburne. The rain started in earnest now. The wind was still blowing too. I quickly became very cold and considered turning back to Fergus and finding accommodation. Above all, a hot shower was what I wanted. Instead, I tried an experiment. I had an extra vinyl bag from Velotique I sometimes use for extra storage. This time it served as clothing. I stuffed it under my jersey over my chest and… it was good enough.

I arrived in Shelburne at 5am waterlogged and in low spirits. I hit the Circle K. It actually had stools and a counter! I bought a coffee and settled in until it was beginning to get light. It was a chilly sunrise, but at least it had stopped raining.

The last leg of the ride was an exercise in Murphy’s Law: headwind, and a perpetual climb until Badjeros, and, then, just after the lovely descent into Creemore – more rain. Very heavy rain. Then there was  the other sandy trail just before Base Borden. With my 25mm tires, I had to get off the bike and walk it. After that, my chain sounded like sandpaper grinding on metal, which is essentially what was going on. Thank goodness I was almost done!

The rain pounded me all the way back to Barrie. It seemed to get harder as I approached the ride finish.

Finally finished, my control card was too damp to sign, despite keeping it in a Ziploc bag. The ink wouldn’t come out on the wet paper. I always carry a sharpie with me, just in case. I handed the young man my sharpie and he wrote 9:35am.

My main motivation for riding through the night was to avoid the headwinds. They were still present through the entire night (still holding from the SE around 15-20km/hr). I expected them to only get stronger as the sun rose. Talking after the ride with Toby, I learned I was correct.

We had some attrition on this ride. It’s good to remind each other that riding any portion of a brevet is a major accomplishment, and it still opens the door for interesting experiences and opportunities. For example, Stephen had a knee complaint that forced him and Andrea to pull the plug around Markdale. They still rode over 200k – and they saved a turtle’s life on the way back to Barrie. That seems like a good outcome to me.

Toby completed his Super Randonneur qualification. If I’m not mistaken, this is his first season doing so. A big congratulations to him. I also completed my Super Randonneur qualification for the season – my first time since 2014, so it is a pretty big deal for me too.

Thanks to the club for organizing such a great route, and thanks to my wife and kids for not resenting me (too much) for taking this little adventure.

More from Simon Langham:

Great ride report Timothy.  My ride was a little more solo than anticipated as well, just from the slower side.  I knew I had to drop back from your group after I realised I as at my LT threshold sitting on the rear of the group, not good.  Then later when Stephen and Andrea dropped me on a climb, I knew I had to make some changes to my plan.  I have to thank Stephen and Andrea for the ‘You Can Do It’ speech at the side of the road.

Fun route, neat seeing what I think is a new marijuana operation, razor wire, double fencing, green houses.  More external security than Bruce Nuclear, except for the Armed Officers notices at Bruce.  The rain started for me just after Clinton and kept up until just past Shelburne.   Long time riding into a headwind while squinting to keep out the rain.  Fortunately, once the rain stopped the wind changed direction back to SE so at least I had a bit of a tail wind to head north.  I had a few more stops, including a nap in a gazebo in some town, really not sure where at this point.  Broke a spoke with 23k to go, and being very happy disc brakes are not affected by a wobbly wheel and that a 2nd spoke didn’t go as well, finished with a couple of hours to spare.   First 600 done, and now I just have to start walking normally again.

More from Toby Whitfield:

Simon – glad to hear you made it. I was wondering about where every one else was on the road, so glad to hear your report.

And Tim, great ride report.

The rest of the story from my perspective:

After Tim rode ahead out of Chesley, Michael and I also enjoyed a pretty quick ride to Kincardine, past the eponymous nukes. We got a bit of a shower on the way into Kincardine, which was a sign of things to come, but it only lasted a few minutes.

In Kincardine Michael needed a bit of a break, but I was ready to ride on so we split up there.

The turn from the coast meant a turn into headwinds. It was a bit of a slog to Teeswater, going mostly uphill and into a stiff headwind, but a bit better after the turn to Clinton. As Tim said, the roads in that part were nice to ride on. When I got to the control at the Clinton Tim Horton’s I asked them to sign my card and was told that another guy had been by earlier – I asked how much, and they said about an hour, but from Tim’s report it was an hour and a half, so I had lost a bit of time by then.

Then it was a decent ride into Stratford. It was windy, but I was still moving pretty well. Got to Stratford where I had booked a motel room – this being my first 600k I thought it wasn’t a bad idea, and really my wife had insisted on it – and I grabbed some pizza. I had a shower and a 2 hour nap in a comfy bed. Then I woke up and hit the road. At that point (around 3am) it had started raining. When I had looked at the weather report on Friday evening I knew there was some chance of rain, but it looked like it would be scattered. I should have updated my information.

I rode through the night, and really enjoyed that part. This was the most night riding I had done, having finished the 400k a couple of weeks earlier only a bit after sunset and rolling into a populated

area with lots of light. I enjoyed it for the most part. I turned off the backlight on my computer, only letting it come on when it had to give me a turn direction, and just ignored my speed and everything else, and got into just being out there on my own in the dark. At a certain point I realized that the rain wasn’t letting up, so I stopped and tried to add as much clothing as I could in the shelter of a closed convenience store awning.

By the time I arrived in Fergus I was pretty wet, but feeling OK. I had a quick breakfast, and hit the road again. The next part of my journey would be the toughest.

To back up a bit, I had not brought a proper full rain outfit. I usually find that I just get hot riding in a raincoat in summer rain, and it usually is OK to ride with armwarmers and a windbreaker jacket.  Given that the forecast when I packed on Friday was for warm temperatures and only scattered rain, I didn’t pack a rain jacket or other cold weather gear. That was stupid. The rain didn’t let up, the wind was strong, and during the next part of the ride as the wind and the rain battered me I started to slow down and to get cold. I didn’t realize how bad it was for a while, because the relatively moderate temperature meant my extremities didn’t feel cold, and I was not feeling chilled. But, I think that the constant draining of body heat and being so soaked through meant that by the time I crawled into Shelburne, I was in a mild state of hypothermia. I was shaking, and I was looking around for a place to take shelter, warm up, and get some hot food. It wasn’t obvious where that should be when I arrived, as there was no Tim’s or other easy to spot place. I did go into a café that was mostly a breakfast place, and that was perfect. I got some coffee and some soup and began to warm up. I called my wife, who luckily was thinking straight and she told me to ask them for a garbage bag to wear. After warming up in the cafe (and leaving behind a significant puddle of rain dripping off of me) I wandered over to the IDA across the street thinking about other things to keep me warm.  I managed to find some medical gloves (they only had size small dish gloves, which wouldn’t have fit my XL hands) for 17c a piece, and after paying them 75 cents for 4, also asked for a couple of shopping bags. With a garbage bag on my body, shopping bags on my feet, and the gloves, I rolled out of town after spending over an hour getting myself sorted.

There are definitely some lessons learned with that little adventure, which I hope I don’t have to relearn ever again. When I was thinking straight again, I wondered about what I would have done if I had a mechanical or a flat. I’m not sure I would have been able to manage it, and I might have been in trouble. What seemed like wet, but otherwise benign summer weather, turned into something more serious for me.

After that, the wind and the rain didn’t let up. There were some nice roads, some busy roads (I ended up riding on the soft gravel shoulder on the 124 after being buzzed by too many vehicles with trailers, and there was a constant 2 way stream of traffic and no quarter given by many of the drivers). I hit the Cottontail Road Trail that Tim mentioned in the daylight, so I rather enjoyed it (I also have pretty wide tires, so that probably helped).

The wind and the rain never let up. In fact, the wind was shifting to the east/northeast as I was going that way, and increasing throughout the day. The rain didn’t stop until I rolled into the final control in Barrie. After 14 straight hours of rain, as I got to the end the clouds parted and the sky was blue. Oh well.

I finished. I ran into some adversity, but I made it through, and as Tim mentioned I finished my first SR series. Congratulations to Tim for doing the same, and also to Simon who finished his first 600 and to everyone else who came out. Thanks to Tim and Michael for sharing the first part of the ride. I enjoyed our chats and riding with you guys. And kudos to Stephen and Andrea for rescuing a turtle!

Thanks to all of the organizers – looking forward to my next 600 where I am sure I will be better prepared!

Oh, and Simon, I also saw that facility, and realized it must be a cannabis facility because of the high security and greenhouses.

2018 Much Ado About … To Kill A Mockingbird! 200

Ride report from Carey Chappelle:

This past Saturday, the Huron Chapter Hosted the 2018 Much Ado About … To Kill A Mockingbird! A 200km Brevet that included a play in Stratford.

Congratulations to Darrell Bierman, James Carroll, Carey Chappelle, John Cumming, Chris Greig, Ken Jobba, Con Melady, Rick Meloche, Tim O’Callahan, Liz Overduin, Jim Raddatz and Brenda Wiechers on successfully completing this Brevet. Check out the smile on everyone’s face!

Nothing better then a blue sky, next to no wind and a group of 12 Randonneurs developing an official peloton!

We passed by a beautiful church from the 1800s

The peloton had an average speed of 30km / hr. all the way to the first Control, Anna Mae’s Bakery, in Millbank. Everyone had a quick break then headed out together to Stratford.  OK, 8 headed out together, leaving Chappy and 3 others a little behind as Chappy had a screw loose (not uncommon!) and had to use a tie wrap to support his front fender! Everyone arrived at the second Control, the Boar’s Head Pub in Stratford just after 12:30hrs where a great lunch and a few stories were enjoyed on the patio!

Jim had the best story to tell!

Jim let us know about an incident at Tim Horton’s, Southampton about 480 km into Huron Chapter’s Brouse’s Beach Brouser 600 km Brevet a few weeks earlier. He placed his bicycle by a window where he would sit down inside, enjoy a coffee and a breakfast. He was also offered a souvenir glass Tim Horton’s coffee mug that he couldn’t resist! Carrying the tray, he ran out of room and had to stretch the tray far enough away to get around some others standing in line.  Road Shoes …. Well … ass over tea kettle! Everything was lost along with some of his pride! Fortunately Tim Horton’s staff replaced everything, even a new coffee mug and cleaned up the broken glass!!

Around 1330hrs, 7 of the 12 Randonnuers headed to the play “To Kill A Mockingbird”. The other’s headed out to the finish.

“To Kill A Mockingbird” was simply INCREDIBLE!

This story showed us how much takes place in our periphery and, conversely, how our own lives can be peripheral to others. Mockingbird was concerned not with how racism ends a black man’s life, but how a white child’s psyche was affected by witnessing the events! We were all forced to question yet again what layers of humanity remain invisible to us! I could go on an on but it would simply be better for everyone to experience this PLAY!

To Kill A Mockingbird, a 2hr 40min play had one 20-Minute Interval where the audience could step outside, enjoy some sunshine and refresh themselves. The Ontario Randonneurs gathered together on the second floor patio, enjoyed a beverage and had their photos taken by a couple who were visiting Ontario, from Amsterdam. Liz let them know how she was from Amsterdam, then had them take a photo or 2 of us.

With only 3 mins left, an Audience Alert came out to let us know to return to our seats. The husband of the lady who was taking our photos figured his wife simply hadn’t heard…

We returned to our seats on time and had to simply focus on what happened next. We wondered what compels some to vehemently justify the murder of Coulten Boushie, the assault on Dafonte Miller, the deportation of Abdoul Abdi, the killing of Abdirahman Abdi? What did the justifiers feel was at stake? What part of the centre is threatened if justice is served in the margins? Again, we can only recommend seeing this play to understand what happened in 1930 many years ago!

Exhausted, we wiped the tears off our faces and headed to the finish on our bicycles. Everyone mesmerized with what they had seen … arrived at Tim Horton’s at 19:33hrs had our cards signed, hugged each other then headed home.

WOW!

Tim O’Callahan – Thanks for taking care of the Stratford Festival for us!

Liz Overduin – Thanks for initiating this Brevet, I couldn’t believe we had 12 Randonneurs doing this ride!

Jim Raddatz -Thanks for YOUR story! I’m still laughing!!

Ronde Alienor d’Aquitaine 1200

Ride report from Dave Thompson:

Such variety!  Scenery, organization, sustenance — I was asked whether mentally I wanted to saddle up again after Bulgaria and Spain — the variety alone does it.
This time I had enough sleep between rides. Albeit just another four days break, I stayed put the day after Spain, snoozed and generally doing nothing, drove to France, a 6-or-so hour drive (beautiful through the Pyrenees) and then did nothing for another couple of days.
The Aquitaine ride started at 8pm.  That was my choice.  5am was the other choice.  It made the Col de Soulor a day climb (1300 metres / 2.5 hours) but kind of locked those of us doing the night start (160 vs 80 day starters), riding a lot at night.  Or perhaps that’s because of my choice of hotels … hmmm.
Being very conservative and taking the advice of others, I only planned 430 km that first day.  We could have gone further but we had a hotel and I was ready to stop.  400 km is always longer than my sweet spot.
Days 2 & 3 were around 300 km; day 4 around 185.  We finished Day 1 around 6pm – Hamid a little ahead of me and me a little after that – and planned a start around 2am.  The next two nights were later finishes and we headed out at 12:30 am for the last day – with a 2pm cutoff, we needed to leave some margin for what would likely be a 12 hour ride.
It’s worth mentioning that Hamid, riding ahead of me, had the company of a Spanish rider until said rider didn’t stop at a stop sign and was hit by a car.  Eventually carried away by air ambulance, the last word that we had was that he was in a coma.  We don’t know if he will recover.  Hamid, initially thinking that he was dead at the scene, was pretty broken up by that occurrence.  I came on the scene just afterward and a while later, checked Spotwalla to ensure that Hamid was still ahead of me — yes — as I couldn’t tell who the rider was.
The rolling French countryside is always interesting.  Various Bordeaux Chateaux and into other wine regions sure made me wish that I was on a tasting, rather than a cycling, mission.  With all the night riding … but of course full day riding too … we did get to see a lot of grape vines, endless grape vines!
The ride started out on a bike trail into Bordeaux and then crossed back across the river on a signature bridge, one of the main sights planned into the ride.  From there through St. Emilion, it was starting to get dark and I was riding alone, as usual.  The staged start, a few dozen at a time, meant that those groups passed me and I was, as always, the Lanterne Rouge at that part of the ride.  The first Control wasn’t until km 167, still dark at that point, time for a quick coffee and coke and roll on. Many others were still at that Control.
All through this ride you purchased food.  A few controls had some gratuitous items – mainly fruit – but most everything else had a price.  There was always Coca Cola (Coka), coffee, sparkling water, beer and wine.  Those items all cost the same price at each control although how much you were poured and how much it cost, varied from control to control – there was no standardization.  Food, likewise, varied hugely.  There was pasta available at most, sometimes tomato sauce, sometimes chicken, once duck, usually bread, water was always free.  At an early control they were cooking up a full English Breakfast.  I didn’t realize that until I’d already purchased some other items.
Between Controls there were options as well although some were far apart.  Through one night we had carried some pizza from the night before and stopped at a bench in a town and ate that.  I moved to another bench and took a 15 minute power nap.  Three other riders sat down for a time and then rolled on.
Rolling, rolling, rolling – the countryside goes on.  We dropped down to sea level at one point and were treated to a couple of hours of Atlantic Ocean views.  I guess that if you tried to cover the signature items, those would be the chateaux, the aforementioned bridge, all the rolling farm countryside and towns, the ocean views and the Col de Soulor.  About a 1300 metre climb, the Tour de France will be on that climb on July 27 while we’re doing the Stelvio in the Italian ride … but let’s not get ahead of ourselves!  We were lucky that it was cloudy for the Col.  It could have been brutal.  As it was, that climb took us 2.5 hours.
Shab, Hamid’s wife, supported us from overnight to overnight.  She would check in, move drop bags into the pre-arranged hotels, pick up some food and beer and then we would drink our beer, eat some food and crash for a couple/few hours.   When we left, we would carry our bags downstairs so that she could get them into the car, then she’d go back to sleep (well, maybe, as she’s been known to pay attention to our trackers!).
We stretched it out, using up most of our time.  With that 2pm drop-dead finish time, we left the last overnight at 12:30 am and finished up at noon.  We could have pushed harder but didn’t need to.  We set a cushion time of two hours and kept that cushion time.
Mostly the roads were ok other than 50-60 km late afternoon on the third day when we had rough chip seal that was enough to drive you crazy and uses up a whole lot of energy.  That area cost us at least an hour, perhaps more, which subtracted from our sleep time that last night.
The final day spent at least half our time on bike paths and through some national park closed to cars.  It ended up back among the grape vines of the Bordeaux Chateaux and into St. Medard.  Shab and Sandy were there to greet us!  It’s always great to have cheering fans :).
As an aside, I was looking at the amount of climbing on the rides.  Brazil was about 21,000 metres; DCR BRB 13,000 metres; Sofia 15,000; Leida 8,300 metres; Aquitaine 11,000.  These numbers all come from RideWithGps, so they’re comparable if not totally accurate. BRB probably had the most high grade hills; the Virginia countryside.  Sofia climbs were gentle for the most part, long climbs at 4%, plus or minus.  Aquitaine had the consistently steep Col, ranging mostly from 7-9% with the occasional spike to 12%.

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.