Skyline Wintergreen SR600

Ride report from Dave Thompson:

SR600k – what is it anyway ?

SR600k rides are defined as minimum 600k rides with minimum 10,000 meters of climbing.  They have a couple of other organizational quirks — they are directly administered by ACP in France and they are also certified as Permanents from a RUSA point of view.  One other key thing is that no support is allowed, not even at Control points.  Because of the amount of climbing necessary, almost by definition you will be in remote areas without 24/7 service, so the Controls are mostly photo controls to show proof of passage.  Time stamps at intermediate controls are not relevant, only start and finish.  At start and finish you get a store receipt.

I need a plan

Planning for this ride was, in some ways, similar to planning for my first 1200k.  With the amount of climbing, well spread out over the event, figuring out where I would  be at any point in time was hit and miss.  Given that most of the replenishment spots are not 24/7, I needed to know whether I’d be able to get food and water.  I also planned for a sleep stop but needed to know if I was going to get there before checkout time!

Where and when I would hit various points along the ride would allow me to think about how much food and water I needed to carry and with some targets in place, know how I was doing during the ride.

So … I notionally figured out where a 10 mph average speed would put me along the course.  I didn’t want to make this too complicated, so I didn’t allow any time at Controls other than the sleep Control, where I assumed 3 hours.  With the course being 375 miles, that meant 37.5 hours + 3 hours = 40.5 hours vs the 50 hour limit.  Knowing as I rode that I had a 10 hour cushion built into the times written onto my cue sheet for arrival at Control points would allow me to see if I was on track to finish in time.  Trying to figure out anything more precise would be a waste of time, in my opinion.

The following is from ridewithgps, plotting the route and showing the profile.  That profile shows climbing of 37,380 feet but I know that this tool overestimates climbing, compared to, say, my Garmin results.  However, my Garmin results show 35,294, so that’s actually not as far off as I’d thought !  This was a lot of climbing !


So what do I carry with me ?

Which bike to I bring ?  What do I carry with me ?

Do I bring the new one with S&S couplers, front and back racks, front and back bags, etc. etc. or, in other words, handicap myself to the max ?  The alternative is to bring the old Litespeed, rear rack only, bring the minimum to make the climbing easier.  I did some weighing, figured out what else I’d be carrying (food, water, clothing) and yes, I could easily save 5 pounds or save even more if I went with minimum clothing and food on board, but to what end ?  An extra 5 pounds of bike wasn’t going to make or break me, I didn’t think.  A saved 5 pounds (notionally) in gear could very well cause a DNF due to major bonk or, more likely, hypothermia.

The weather predictions that I could see for the area led me to believe that I’d be dealing with high 80’s / low 90’s, temperature-wise.  It seemed silly to carry a lot of clothing.  Even the night-time temperatures weren’t dropping much below mid 60’s.  However, I’ve been riding in that area and had the heat turn to hail almost in a heartbeat, and I knew that at best I’d be miserable, at worst, in trouble.  I opted for light jersey, wool arm warmers, leg warmers (really thought that was silly, but they don’t take much space), skull cap, nothing in the way of rain pants or shoe covers.

It’s time to roll

This ride was tied into a trip to Reading PA, bringing our 7-year-old grand daughter home.  We arrived in Reading on Tuesday; I drove to Front Royal VA on Wednesday, got my bike organized, planning for a 4am or thereabouts, start.  I was up before 3am, had some food and coffee in the room, stashed my stuff in the car, as I’d be returning a couple of days hence, and set off.  It was a comfortable low 60’s; I was also wearing my PBP reflective vest.  Had it been a level ride, I’d have also put on my arm warmers but I knew that very shortly I’d have a long climb ahead of me.

I loaded up the ridewithgps course on my Garmin 705 but it didn’t appear on the map.  Rats.  It looked like it was loading properly but didn’t.  There was nothing that I could do at that point; my cue sheet was in front of me anyway.  We’ve done some investigation on the file and found two things — one is the sheer number of points, which I guess is because of all the twists and turns in the route — second is that it’s an invalid XML file.  I will do some more on this, with Peter Grant’s help, so that we can let Gary Dean (route owner) know for future riders.

Not wanting to take a chance on using my iPhone for pictures and running out of power, I’d decided to purchase a small point-and-shoot to carry with me.  For a little more than $100, I bought the Nikon Coolpix S33, which is waterproof to 30 feet, and a spare battery.  I haven’t done much with it yet to see how it compares, in terms of picture quality, with smartphone pictures, but it did the job on this ride.

I filled my water bottles at the 7-eleven, got my receipt, took my picture and started rolling.  My receipt showed 4:09 a.m.; I was rolling at 4:15, my official start time.  The notional times written onto the cue sheet were based on a 4am start, so that was close enough.

Upward, ever upward

The ride profile shows a good bit of climbing at the beginning without any descending.  Yup, that’s the case.  Up, up, up from Front Royal on Skyline Drive.  At the beginning of the Drive is a booth for collecting fees, as this is Shenandoah National Park.  Needless to say, there was simply a sign saying “go ahead”, as the booth isn’t staffed at that time of day.  In that first hour, I saw one car, clearly not enough traffic for them to pay for a staff.

The thing about the climbing on Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway, is that the grades are manageable.  They rarely top 9% and more typically in the 6-7% range.  The climbs tend to be long, so you can settle in, which has it’s pluses and minuses.  It does mean more time in the saddle, for me, as my style is usually standing up to handle rollers.  It also means that I can end up grinding alone ever so slowly, after a time.

The other thing about grades like this is that they eventually give you the impression that there is more descending than ascending.  Why ?  Well, because 4-5% starts to feel like flat and 2-3% feels like downhill!

The extra time in the saddle also means something else — saddle sores.  Yes, for the first time in my randonneuring, I finished a ride with an actual sore.  I can often end up with tender spots at my sit bones but this time, first time, skin removed.  I believe that this happened late in the ride, with my shorts wet from rain, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’d notionally expected to get to the first Control, Elkwallow Wayside, by 6:30, based on the distance of 24.3 miles.  Adding 15 minutes to that for the later start would make it 6:45; I got there around 7am.  So far so good.  As expected, it wasn’t open so I stopped, rested for a minute, took my photo control picture, and rolled on.  One down.

That first stage was beautiful.  The sky lightened; the vistas of the mountains were beautiful; that one car that had passed me was stopped, occupant out with his camera and tripod, clearly setup to take pictures of the sunrise over the mountains.  I too stopped and took a picture, wishing that I had a good camera with me but not wishing that I was carrying the extra pounds !

and the day goes on

The day carried on much the same, staying within an hour of the notional times, losing a little bit but not much until later in the day as I spent more time at Controls.  My average rolling speed for the entire ride was about 10.5 mph, so not much different than predicted.  Stopped time accumulated as I spent more time at Controls than I normally would but I knew that (or it seemed that) I had lots of cushion and took advantage of that.

Control # 3 at Big Meadows was well stocked and had sit-down food.  I grabbed some cheese sticks, coffee and something else, I forget, which satisfied my hunger at that point.

Control # 4 didn’t have as much, as I recall, in convenience-store type items, but it also had burgers etc. All I wanted at that point was a big diet pepsi, feeling the need for some cold caffeine.  The day was getting warmer but no where near as warm as I had expected.  I’d hit this Control at 12:25 p.m.

From Control # 4 to # 5 there’s a significant descent and you then move off Skyline Drive and onto the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Humpback Rocks Visitor Center is Control # 5 and it too was advertised as having food on the cue sheet but it’s more snacks than food; a selection of chocolate bars, little else.  I was ok, had lots of food on board — almonds, cheese, filling stuff — restocked my water bottles and headed on.  Where I had been about an hour behind plan at #4, I was now only 15 minutes behind plan on arrival.  The extra descending accounts for that speed-up.  111.6 miles now in the bag, I’m getting close to being 1/3 of the way through the ride and rolling for almost 12 hours.

Control # 6 is in Buena Vista, having left the Parkway.  There’s a significant descent to get there as its elevation is much lower.  The roughly 70F riding on the Drive and the Parkway now shows what the elevation has done for the temperature as it’s like a furnace in Buena Vista.  I’m ready for something more substantial to eat as it’s now 8pm against my plan of 7:30 (make that 7:45).  The Exxon/Burger King is good for the Control, replenishing bottles, but the Subway across the road calls to me and I have a chopped salad, which I’ve gotten fond of.  I probably spent 45 minutes or more at this Control.  It’s getting dark and I’m prepping myself physically and mentally for the night ahead.  I’m not in a hurry, no need.

The next stage to Glasgow VA is more typical riding, rolling, turns, some chipseal with loose gravel, traffic.  Refreshing after all the long ups and downs, it’s also short, less than 20 miles, and I arrive just under an hour behind schedule at 10:10 pm.  I knew that this would be the last Control with food & water before my night stop as everything from here to Raphine would be closed.

Control # 8 is next up, and it is up, back up to the Blue Ridge Parkway.  It’s only 11 miles but takes extra time; I arrive at 11:45 vs 10:15 adjusted plan.  It’s dark — yes, you’d expect that — no, it’s really dark.  There are no lights.  I find the sign where I’m supposed to take a picture but the camera doesn’t want to fire the flash or focus in total darkness.  I fiddle with the menus, not something that I’d expected to do in total darkness; bugs are attracted to my bike headlight and mini light on top of my helmet.  I probably could have used a flashlight at that point — I have a small single AAA flashlight that I’ve carried in a pocket before, but not this time.  I eventually get the camera firing the way that I want, get my picture and hit the road again.

When I’d entered the Control, looking around for the correct sign for the picture, at one point I dropped the bike – not me, just the bike.  I was up against a curb and didn’t know it.  Drat.  Luckily no damage but it really went down hard, over the curb and down on the other side.  My front bag was open so a few things spilled out; luckily I retrieved and repacked.

Onward.  The next Control would be my sleep stop at Raphine, 44 miles away.  2/3 of that is riding the Parkway, no traffic, quiet, then a very steep descent / hairpin turns down to Raphine.  I wouldn’t know how steep that road is until the morning, when I’d climb back up !  I pulled into the 24/7 Pilot in Raphine at the intersection with I81, bought some food and drinks, piled those on the front of the bike and headed to my motel, just up the road.  Having arrived at the Control at 5am vs my plan of 3:15, I’m still expecting to make it a three hour stop. I clean up, eat and drink, check email and facebook, sleep for an hour, take my time getting organized and having some breakfast, hitting the road a little before 8am, about one hour behind plan, but that’s ok.

Riding Day 2

Raphine is at mile 227.2, I now have 150 miles to go.  I’m more than half-way finished as I start out again, roughly 28 hours on the elapsed time clock, a few hours less on the rolling clock.

On the way into Raphine, there had been a few drops of rain and I mentally had crossed my fingers, hoping to finish the “day” dry. I was successful, but I saw that it had rained overnight and The Weather Channel in the breakfast area at the Comfort Suites was showing lots of rain.  Oh well, I’m prepared.

Getting back up to the BRP was going to be some work, I knew, from the descent the night before.  Retracing my route, there’s a 4 mile climb.  I didn’t realize until I hit it going up, that some of the up hits 20%.  There’s no way that I could sustain that for so long without completely wiping out my legs.  My bike, including water, gear, food, tops 40 pounds.  That’s almost 1/3 of my body weight !  Furthermore, any climbing at that grade wasn’t much faster than walking.  I admit it, I did some walking.

The other factor for that section was safety.  Traffic was going up and coming down those hairpin turns.

Did I mention that it started to rain ?  No, I didn’t.  The heavens opened; dumping is a more appropriate description.  It rained so hard that water was coming down the road in waves.  It was basically timed such that it came down that way for the entire 4 miles.  It was slow going, but, as I said, not much faster than riding.

Back on the BRP, I’m now retracing my route from the day before, except that the route diverts to Wintergreen.   A one-mile, 15% grade downwards (yes, I was thinking about the trip up), it was lightly raining.  Then there is a 2.4 mile climb at 15+ %, but it varies, so I’m walking and riding.  It’s raining and there’s significant, albeit polite, traffic.

I had no idea that Wintergreen was a ski resort, well, year round resort.  It’s a beautiful spot.  The climbing (ugh) and the location (neat) and the food at The Market (Control) remind me of Whistler BC only on a much smaller scale.  It looks pretty exclusive.

A fellow in a delivery truck recognized me from the road from Raphine to here.  He comments he knows a lot of “younger guys” who wouldn’t attempt this.  I say yes, I’m older and stupid :).

The Market is well stocked; typical resort stuff, not convenience store.  I stocked up, sat down and ate something.  I’d arrived at 11:20, about 1.5 hours behind my tracking time.  I’m in pretty good shape.

Once back on the BRP, I’m retracing steps and photo controls back to ride’s end.  I get to Loft Mountain, # 11, mile 295, about 2.5 hours behind tracking, at 4:35 pm.   I’ve been taking my time. I’m expecting this to be my last opportunity to get food before the end of the ride.  I order some “chicken tenders”, relax, spend more than 1/2 hour.

Big Meadows / Harry F Byrd, is at 323.8.  I get there a little under 3 hours behind at 8:05 pm.  Since my plan has a built-in 7 hour cushion, I’m in great shape.  BM is now closed, but water is available.  I stock up.

The last few hours on Skyline Drive has been like riding through an immense, spread out, herd of deer.  They’re mostly tame, don’t mind me stopping and taking pictures even if I’m only 50 feet away.  I can see why the bag limit for deer hunting in VA is 7, but of course they are protected here in the Park.

On one descent, a doe and three fawns run across in front of me.  The last fawn stops, unsure what to do.  I skid to a stop, barely one foot away.  He/she decides to follow its mother.  Whew.  Hitting a deer of any size could certainly do me in !

Somewhere along here I have also seen my second bobcat running across the road.  There’s really been little else in terms of wildlife — birds, deer being the majority.

The next Control, Elkwallow, is at mile 351.  I’m almost finished.  I’m about 2:45 behind schedule and expect to make up some of that time on the last leg, in fact, I expect to make up an hour on the last leg, with that long descent it will be a fast 24 miles.  That was not to be …

I pull into Elkwallow and don’t recognize anything.  In fact, I don’t see anything.  Nothing.  Of course I’d arrived here after dawn the day before so perhaps it’s completely dark ?  No, that cannot be … I ride back out to the road and realize that I’ve pulled into Elkwallow Campground, not the Wayside, which is just up the road.

Into the Wayside, I take my picture.  It starts raining lightly, so I put on my rain jacket, wishing that I’d instead brought my light jacket.  Wrong.  I hit the road again.

Where the heck am I anyway ?

About a mile out of that Control, now about 23 miles to the end, it starts raining heavily.  I’m climbing and I run into fog.  No, this isn’t fog, this is cloud.  I’m in the clouds.  It’s so dense that when in the middle of the road, I can’t see the sides.  From one dash on the center line, I can’t see the next.  I’m riding in a 6′ diameter pool of light.  I have to point my light downwards more so that it shows the road and doesn’t just create a blinding white fog patch.

It cools off.  I’m starting to get cold.  There’s nowhere to stop and even if there were, I couldn’t see it.  I’ve been riding the center line to stay on track.  I’m forced to take off my jacket and put on my arm warmers.  I also balance the bike while putting on my leg warmers.  I’ve had the skull cap on for a while.  I’m now wearing all my clothes, my only backup being an exposure sheet !

I stand up and ride, even though I’m going slowly.  I generate more heat that way.

My Garmin loses the satellite, the cloud cover and tree cover (at times) are so dense.  I have no idea what speed I’m riding, just know that it’s slow, riding the yellow line.  I mentally think ok, 5 mph tops, this could take another 4-5 hours; I’m still ok but pushing it.

I start falling asleep, focused on that oh-so-little patch of road.  I’m wandering all over, but I’m only crawling anyway.  I’m going so slowly that the internal battery on the light has no chance to charge.  The light goes off immediately if I stop, which I have to do occasionally.  One time I stop, then start up not realizing that I’m riding across the road.  The light comes on 1 second later and I almost ride off the road (it’s all downhill from there !).

This goes on and on.  I haven’t seen any traffic since Big Meadows, 5 hours earlier.  This could be someone’s definition of hell, endless.  I’m ok.  I stop a couple of times along the road, eat some cheese and almonds out of my bag; food can be such a comfort ! The stop breaks the monotony, keeps me alert.

I start descending.  Soon I can see the sides of the road.  I speed up, a little, not too much because vis isn’t all that great.  I realize that I’m finally, finally on the big descent.  I’ve got a few miles to go but the end is “in sight”, so to speak.  The only thing accurate on the Garmin at that point is the time. Speed is back on; distance is wrong.  Elevation is probably correct, but accumulated ascent is wrong.  That will self-correct when I load the history file, but that doesn’t help me here.  That doesn’t matter, I’m almost finished.

I roll into the 7-eleven and get coffee.  I’m cold but more than that, I need a receipt.  I stand in line.  Who goes to 7-eleven at this time of night ? Only randonneurs know for sure.  My receipt says 2:01 a.m., which puts my time for the ride at 45:46 against the 50 hour limit.  I did not make up any time on that last, endless, completely surreal experience of the last stage.  Every ride has it’s memories, and that one will surely stick with me, one of the strangest experiences that I’ve ever had on the bike.

Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway are so pleasant to ride on.  There is very little traffic, no trash, great roads for riding with a friend as you have an opportunity to ride side-by-side and chat.  The roads are in good shape, easy on the tires and body.  There are enough services, if you plan it out, especially on Skyline Drive.  BRP is another matter — if you don’t leave the Parkway, there’s nothing.

Skyline Drive is by far the prettier of the two.  There are innumerable outlook points, named vistas.  BRP, on the other hand, is mostly treed in with only a few places where you can see over the trees.

Most of the time you are sheltered, so wind isn’t an issue.  There were only a couple of times where you are exposed to the wind, and it was getting windy by the evening of the second day — I got a taste of that at Big Meadows.

I loved the ride.  I would do it again.  I highly recommend it.  Randonnesia has set in already !


Much Ado About …

Ride report from Terry Payne:

Last week we rode the Much Ado About … brevet starting in London. Nine riders started out at 7:00 for a nice ride on a beautiful morning. Carey Chappelle and I had tickets in hand for The Shakespeare Festival’s production of The Taming of the Shrew in Stratford at 2:00. On the way out of town Carey had a flat tire which put us a little behind since we had to cover the first 140 km to Stratford in 7 hrs. Easily enough done but the intention was to do it at a leisurely pace and not be any more sweaty and smelly than we had to be when arriving in our finest theatre going apparel.  i.e., cycling clothes. We rode at a steady pace and eventually caught up to Cori Dean who was riding comfortably along and enjoying the day outside of Sebringville. I later found out that she broke a spoke and wobbled into Stratford and had it repaired for free along with topping up the air and some minor adjustments at Totally Spoke’d bike shop in Stratford.


Carey and I stopped in Milverton to pick up a sandwich to eat along the way but the restaurant was too busy. We knew that Annie May’s bakery which is the first control in Milbank would be crazy busy so we wanted to save time. A Mexican Mennonite grocery in Newton didn’t pan out either. Annie May’s was busy with a busload of seniors so we each picked up some cookies and date squares to go. Outside waiting were John Cumming, Michel Hebert, Fred Krawiecki,  first timer Dave Mott and Steve Wright. Fred plodded on ahead. Carey, Steve, John and I headed to Stratford where we settled into the Boars Head Pub control with 48 minutes before showtime. This gave us enough time to get a hot meal and two pints of beer before riding back to the theatre where we entered in all our glory with a minute to spare. The beer in my water bottle was a classy touch I thought. Had to drink it quickly since it foamed up when I pored it in and my camelback bottle was making farting noises as it released the pressure. Can dress him up …   Just before we left the pub Dave Pearson checked in and continued on ahead.


The play was excellent. It took about ten minutes to get attuned to the olde English and be able to follow along easily. We had joked about possibly cramping up during the play and sure enough my left hamstring went nuts during the second act and all I could do was straighten it out and do a silent scream. After a minute or two of heavy breathing it settled down. It was good thing that there were four empty seats around us so it enabled us to spread out and get comfortable. No armrest wrestling required. Even our musk was covered up by all of the perfume around us. At the intermission we had a glass of red wine with cheese and crackers while having our picture taken posing by the grand piano in the lobby. The play was well done and provided lots of laughs while probably making any feminists in the crowd seethe over the breaking of Katherina  (the shrew) to her new husbands demands. Enough said about that. In whole it was a great experience and our seats were excellent. Actually there’s not a bad seat in the house.


We left the theatre after another picture, made our way to Tim’s to fill up our bottles and left town at 5:15. The last 65 km went by easily and we arrived at the Tim’s to finish in 12:51. Fred Krawiecki was driving by after returning from dinner and stopped in for a coffee and a chat about the ride. All in all it was a great day. Everyone finished and enjoyed the day.

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Athens 400

From Luc Fournier:

This brevet has been on my calendar for a few months, I rode it last year and I though it was a good course, in particular for a velomobile with only 2000m of climbing.

Start is at the other end of the city so I had to get up early to get to the start on time.  The air is cold, 9C but comfortable and the sky is clear.  When I arrived at destination, the wind has picked-up, I need to put on my jacket, I wish I had my sleeves but at least I have my warm-up legs.

My friend Alain from Montreal Randonneurs, the one from the Sunshine 1200, came with his Quest to ride the brevet.   Alain came with his camper the night before and parked at our point of departure, he probably had the best sleep and looked refreshed.  Maybe this is Glamdonneuring!  Participants are getting ready, I think we are 7 and noticed that many of them spoke French, we all say hello to one another.  I introduce Alain to the ride Vytas the organizer of the brevet; he said it was nice to meet you because I will not see you again, commenting on the speed of our velomobiles.  I told him well you never know, we may have issues and you will pass us.

I loaded the course on my but my GPS was not showing me the route. At 5AM Vytas gave the start signal but my route did not appear, ah, I forgot to change the colour of the trace so I did change it quickly and I can now see the route.  After the first few turns, I realize that the GPS appears to be giving the wrong directions and realized that while I downloaded the route to my computer last week, I loaded last years route on the GPS; I guess I was not thinking too much, they have two different names!  I figure that I’m still OK, the route is mostly the same but the beginning of the first section and the last segment are different and I let Alain lead as he had the right course on his GPS.  At least I had the right cue sheet so I reverted to the cues to start.  After a few minutes we joined the old route and everything was fine.

Alain and I were riding in front of the group and now that I had the right course, Alain let me lead and he would follow, as I knew the route.  It was the first time that I would ride in a brevet with another velomobile.   After a few minutes, I found myself way ahead, and while he is a stronger and more seasoned rider, he could not keep up with the speed of the DF and I waited for him.  The difference in speed is so noticeable, it is in the order of 5 to 7km/h on the flat.  Since he came from Montreal to ride with me, I wanted to remain with him so I would stop and let him catch-up.  Before we got to Lanark, we encountered a 5km long section of gravel as the road is undergoing repairs.  Riding on gravel is not much of an issue with a velomobile but it tends to dance on the road and going up hill may create traction issues.

At the Lanark control, I was half way through my cup of coffee when Alain showed-up.  I was at the Lanark control a couple of minutes after the opening but I was tracking to arrive before the opening of the first two controls.  At the Desert Lake control, I have time to refill my Camelback, and have my lunch before Alain shows up some 30 minutes behind me.  He had problems with the drivetrain and spent quite a few minutes looking for the source without much success.  I asked me to try his Quest to see if I could figure the issues but in the little parking lot, I could not push his velomobile to see the symptoms.  One thing I did notice was that even though I used to have the same Quest, compared to the DF, the Quest is huge!   By then, Gordon (I think) shows up 45 minutes after my arrival. Alain gives me the keys to his vehicle and said I don’t think I will make it back (we are the furthest part of the ride.  Now we are about to hit the hilly part and his Quest makes a terrible noise.

Alain leaves the control and I climbed on board.  As we started my GPS complained it was low on power so I plugged it into the DF USB port but it did not like it and after a couple of minutes, I connected it on my trusted USB battery and the GPS was happy.  I soon catch-up with him and I follow him on the short but twisty and steep hills up and down.  I can hear the thonk-thonk coming from the Quest drivetrain.

A couple of minutes later, all of a sudden I come around a very tight turn and my chain started making a terrible noise.  I quickly came to the conclusion that the chain had skipped the idler by the jumpy side motion.  Recumbents have idlers to guide the long chain from the crank to the cassette and back.  While it was making a lot of noise from the chain rubbing on the carbon fibre, I caught up to him and told him to stop, maybe I was in major trouble too and would not be able to rescue him.  I looked at the idler but everything is hidden behind carbon fibre, I have seen no instruction on how to remove the rear idler except for a comment that it can be done and it comes out the back.  Now I’m swearing because I can’t believe that such info is not published.  So I try my luck and remove the two blots holding the idler and I play with the chain, maybe I can back pedal and it will move itself out.  It does not work but the noise appears to be less.  I try to pedal back up the hill and the noise is less.  The idler is floating freely inside the shell or so I think.  It appears that there is less noise so I decide to reinstall the bolts and try my luck.  I’m able to re-align the bolt holes using a small hex key and reinstall the bolts.

I get back in the velomobile, and start pedalling but it still makes noise, maybe not as much so I try shifting gears, back pedalling and finally things start running smoothly again.  Alain had given me the keys to his vehicle so I could come and rescue him, he tell me to ride ahead and finish then come back to pick him up, he would limp to safety.  Another rider catches-up to us and continues on his ride.   I said to Alain that I would get back to him when I reach the next control.  A velomobile can be hard to pedal up the hills, but I find myself right behind the Jean Pierre and I pass him on a descent and soon I put a bit of distance between us.  Soon I find my way to Syndenam and on a main road on my way to Athens (Ontario, not Greece).

There are still numerous hills on the road of Athens and the roads also became very busy in the early afternoon.  This year, the 400km brevet coincides with the Rideau Lakes Tour, probably the largest annual cycling event in Ottawa. The Ottawa Bike Club organizes this supported ride where thousands of cyclists are riding from Ottawa to Kingston and back the next day cyclists use are several different routes based on their category.  At the same time 500 – 800 motorcycles participating in the Motorcycle Ride for Dad out of Kingston were using several of the same roads.

I first encountered the Rideau Lake Tour riders on highway 15 where I passed a few dozen of them before a short climb.  This being average cyclists, I was able to pass a few up the hill, only one strong rider passed me in order to find a spot to take my picture.  I soon turned off that road and for several minutes met cyclists going in the opposite direction towards highway 15.

I soon met motorcycle riders on the road, many of them waving at me.  There were several section of open road with good pavement where I could motor along at 50+km/h.  At one point, I was riding above 55km/h and the lead motorcyclist was following me about 10ft behind and a bit to the side then moved right next to me.  The long bearded guy with a companion on the back of the motorcycle ask me “Hey, how are you doing man?”  I did not want to keep my eye off the road for too long, the road was twisty and there could be potholes, I quickly turned my head, I said fine and I waved then he passed me along with about half of the group but by then the road had a small slope so I was picking up speed riding now at 70km/h right in the middle of the group.  All of a sudden I notice they have patches on their jackets they are members of the Outlaws motorcycle… ahem Club.  This went on for a few km until a small hill slowed me down and the rest passed me.  I don’t know too many Randonneurs or cyclist for that matter who can say they have ridden with the Outlaws!

I was in Athens at 4PM and Alain told me he made it to the next town and his idler was broken, he could not repair it so he would try to find a ride back or I would have to pick him up after the ride.  At the control I ask them to sign my  card and asked if any other rider had stopped, they told me none had so maybe I passed him with the Rideau Lakes crowd or when he stopped somewhere and did not notice.  I had a quick Pizza dinner while entertaining the local people who peppered me with dozens of questions.  It also gave me time to nurse my feet that were getting numb.  When it was time to leave there were probably some 25 people who came out to see me leave.

The ride to Merrickville was uneventful but I was not going as fast as I would have liked, legs tired some wind maybe or the rough roads in places may have contributed to this.  I arrived in Merrickville at the control and immediately, people came to see me.  This being a touristy town, there are many people walking the streets.  I went in to get my card signed, purchase a beverage, the clerk jokingly offered sell me cigarettes. Then I returned to the velomobile.  I answered questions, while I changed socks and the tourists took pictures of the velomobile and then I left.

From that point, I now had to disregard the GPS because of the change in the route.  I was lucky because it was before sunset and I could still read the street signs.  My odometer was a bit off from the cue sheet so I had to be careful.  In a few places, I had to stop to ensure I was going the right way.  I only overshot once because GPS gave me a different name than on the cue sheet but I quickly turned around.

The new route takes you on some pretty damaged roads.  Depending on the pavement, on the same road my speed varied significantly from less than 25 to more than 40 km/h. For close to 8km on Shea Rd, I felt I was riding on a rumble strip and had to slow right down to ensure I would not lose the fillings in my teeth or any part of my velomobile.  Soon I reached the maze of suburbia, it was a real navigation exercise but I make it back. I finished at 8:20PM.

I improved my time over last year but not as much as I could have.   Of course, the time spent waiting for the problems of my friend slowed me down so taking this into account I would certainly have shaved another hour to my time.  The weather conditions were ideal, it was cool sunny but a bit windy.

After I arrived, I called Alain, he could not get a lift on his own so I drove to Syndenam to pick him up.  I arrived after 10:30PM he was in his velomobile shivering in the cold night, I gave him my polar vest and we loaded the Quest for the trip back.  We returned to Stittsville after 12AM.  We packed everything and Xavier from Toronto arrived atfter12:30AM.  I arrived home at 1:45AM, did not unpack and went straight to bed.

Cottage Country 600

From Dave Thompson:

An amazing experience has to have highs and lows, right? This definitely qualifies!

It was epic, an extremely tiring but gratifying ride. How tiring – well, can you imagine a beer in front of her and Liz going to bed instead?

First and foremost, the eight of us started and finished together. That in itself is unusual. Michael, Martin, Arthur, Peter, Dave, Vaune, Kathy, Liz – great riding company.

The route was amazing – I put that in the past tense because it will probably be reconstituted if/when we run this again. The major hang-up is getting from South River to Highway 522 towards Loring. Unless the recent changes to the Highway Traffic Act will let us ride on Highway 11, our only option at this point is Rye Road with its 16km of gravel. I had checked that section out just one week earlier and while rough going in spots, it was do-able. Well, we did it, but in between my checkout drive and our ride, someone had seen fit to do some road maintenance and filled quite a few spots with what we call pit-run gravel aka soft sand. Perhaps it will pack eventually, but that was brutal. Spinning wheels, a couple of tip-overs … you get the idea.

The rest of the route explored as much of cottage country as possible, hitting parallel roads to Highways 11 and 69. Southwood Road delighted everyone, as it had on the 400k the prior week.

The weather could always have been worse but the north wind as we headed north and the very strong south wind as we headed south, then capped off by heavy rain from Orillia almost to the end … well, that just about did us in time-wise as we finished in 39:22.

Other than that wind, we were cold coming into my place close to 1am – yes, that’s 19 hours to do the first 340k. The temperature was in the single digits and we’d had a long day. Everyone enjoyed a hot shower at that point. In Orillia on the return, temperature dropping and in heavy rain, we donned all our clothing for the final stretch. In Vaune’s case, that included a large trash bag, arm-holes cut … yes, we were quite the motley crew!

Nature tried to stop us once more at a road closure. It seems that water had taken out a culvert. Now I think of a culvert as one of those corrugated pipes across the end of my driveway … this one was those large concrete jobs that you can almost walk through, connecting two parts of a lake right on our way east towards Bala. As soon as we topped the hill and saw the huge crane down below and all the trucks, I knew that we were in trouble. There aren’t many east-west routes through this area. This wasn’t going to be eight of us tip-toeing through the water. However … just as Vaune was approaching the workmen to see if they’d let us move our bikes across the piles of gravel that were accumulating on the concrete culvert sections as they repaired the road, someone discovered that there was a walk-around with a little foot-bridge. I’m pretty sure that adding perhaps 40 km to our ride at that point would have sealed the deal, but we lucked out. Back-tracking to 141 then north and east … ugh

The mosquitoes were epic. I’ve never seen them like this. You only had to stop for a second and there were clouds. On Rye Road we couldn’t outrun them, hard as we tried and they bit on exposed skin and through cycling shorts. It was too slow going to stay ahead of the critters. Vaune set a new record for a flat-tire-change in the midst of those Rye Road mosquitoes.

Speaking of flats, the last group rolled into my place and we’d lost Peter. It seems that he’d had a flat 3 km back at the entrance to our cottage road, Osprey. I went out with the car to track him down and he was not too far behind.   Kathy had two flats – one at the house and another early on while on one of our short highway 69 stretches.

We never had much time in the bank on day two. We’d left my place about 1/2 hour negative and were rather pressed to make Parry Sound, 100+ km further on. With only 10 minutes in the bank, we rolled out of Parry Sound and got to Bala with about an hour, used up most of that fortifying ourselves with cappuccino and such (have to have some fun, right?), and used up a bunch more in Orillia as we got reorganized to roll to the finish in the heavy rain. 39:22 is certainly a new 600k record for me. That was one full-value ride!

Special mention must be made of Michael and Martin as they did way more than their fair share of pulling. Michael, in particular, could have finished hours earlier, but elected to stay with the group. At times the group was spread out but we always reconstituted at stops.

Last but not least, thanks to my wife Sandy who organized food and drink for dinner and breakfast and sleeping arrangements. Our washer & dryer have been going full time today as all those towels and bedding are washed.   For me it was a two-snooze drive home. Usually I’m so wired that I don’t need to stop on a 2.5 hour drive, even after a big ride … but not this time!

From Kathy Brouse:

OK, time to add my two cents. There are a few details Dave did not mention. Aside from the fact that it was a long, hard and challenging ride (but no one expects these 600 to be a breeze) it was a huge adventure. We were riding in cottage country, remote cottage country – granite shield and Algonquin Park, that type of cottage country. Riding to Dave’s house along this deserted rode close to midnight the sky was bright and full of stars. In the morning as we headed out along the road towards the highway I was upfront with Peter and we came across a moose on the road and further on Michael, Marty, Peter and I spotted a bear on the side of the road!! At the end of the second day, as we rode along Ridge Rd. in the dark towards Barrie the side of the fields were lit up by fireflies, it was magic.

Thank you to Dave for organizing this adventure and to Sandy for staying up after midnight to dish out lasagna to a motley group of cold and hungry randonneurs. How often on one of these long challenging rides do you get to sleep in a comfy bed and eat yummy food without handing over a credit card:-) A heartfelt thanks to the both of you for such a pleasant stopover.

Other memories – strawberry ice cream in Bala, coming off my bike (again) on a cushion of sand, drafting behind Michael T who pulled us north and then south, watching Dave take off into the distance cause I didn’t know he could rock the bike like that, Vaune all agitated and dressed in a garbage bag, Peter Grant and such chivalry as he took charge of the changing of the flats (got to be some perks in this sport for us ladies:-)

A great time, thank you Dave and Liz, Vaune, Arthur, Peter, Michael and Marty for sharing it with me. Now all my qualifying rides are done for PBP, yippee!!

From Liz Overduin:

Thanks Dave and Kathy for taking the time to write reports – I love reading ride reports – even when I was on the ride.

I have decided that I love the 600 km distance – but I would rather do it in 72 hours as opposed to 40 hours! Today I did not go to work – it was unthinkable to even try to weld something! So I had 3 days off anyway!

Dave, it was a great route – the gravel was crazy, but for me, it was the mosquitoes! When we had to walk up those hills in the soft gravel, rather than spin out, the mosquitoes were in heaven! Eight cyclists in spandex! What were they doing before we came along? Within seconds I was surrounded by at least 200 mosquitoes – no exaggeration! I looked over at Peter Grant walking beside me and he also had a swarm around him. It was truly insane! And then Vaune gets a flat! And Peter stayed with her – is there a medal for that?

And, yes, I have let down the Huron Chapter by turning down a beer and lasagna – which was truly regrettable the 2nd day – consider it a lesson learned. All I could think about in that last hour up to your cabin was – I have got to close my eyes and stop moving any of my aching body parts! Nothing else mattered!   Huge thanks to Dave and Sandy for such a great welcome and comfortable place to stay. If we had 72 hours for a 600 we could have enjoyed it so much more!

We all finished – and together – what a great experience – thanks to everyone! Although I had my bear spray at the ready……I never had to use it (does bear spray repel mosquitoes?) If I had a repellent for headwind, that would have been supremely handy!

Congrats to everyone who is now qualified for PBP – you are going to Love it!

From Peter Grant:

Cottage 600 – a very enjoyable bike ride. Great scenery, quiet roads and most important – good company. Thank you Marty, Michael, Dave Kathy Arthur, Vaune and Liz. The 500km of headwinds were a bit of bad luck but overall we had had good weather and that 100km+ without headwinds. And such hospitality at Port Loring. A very special thank you to Sandy Thompson for being up at 1:00 AM with cold beer and hot lasagna for us.

Mosquitoes scare me and my weapon of choice in the spray category was a 37ml bottle of Natrepel which I got at MEC. When Vaune announced she had a flat on Rye Road I reached for it first and sprayed our helmets and probably a lot more. I just checked my helmet and the Natrepel did not melt anything or even make it sticky, maybe just a hint of lemon smell.

Until next time, thank you all for a great weekend!


March To the Marsh 600

From Terry Payne:

On Saturday eight of us rode along Lake Huron at the beginning of Huron Chapters March To the Marsh 600. Carey Chappelle, Dick Felton, myself, Chris Cossonnet, Tim O’Callahan, Ben Merrit, Ali Lalani and John Cumming.  Some were probably apprehensive about what they were getting into, some confident in their chances on finishing and the rest just ready to enjoy doing the ride again. The first leg was relatively easy with warm almost muggy temperatures and a slight cross/tail wind to the first control in Markdale. Six of us arriving at relatively the same time with Dick and Ali coming a little later.

 A little rain started up as we left the control necessitating donning rain gear which was peeled drippily off 15 or 20 minutes later in the heat. John Cumming and I rode together to Bajeros General store for a much needed rest. Every time I get to this point I’m pretty spent after a tough couple of climbs and a pretty constant uphill ride. This is 78 km into a 139 km leg  to the next control in Thornton. As we replenished our bikes and sat eating the 2nd half of our subs purchased in Markdale , Carey, Ben, Tim and Chris came in feeling just as tired. This is a pretty hilly ride and can be draining at times. Dick was pulling up the rear mentoring Ali. The six of us made it into Thornton for a much needed meal before riding off into the rain around 4:00. Dick arrived as we were preparing to leave while Ali was further behind. Ali called it a day in Thornton. He wasn’t feeling it, wasn’t having fun and didn’t want to ride alone into the rain feeling like that. There’s always next year Ali.

On the way to Kleinburg Chris had some problems and was sick so he stayed in a one star palace of a motel and called it quits. His adventure for the night was dodging bugs and smells.I liked ours better.  At this time that is. Had I known what the next 6 or 7 hours would bring I might have joined him. That left four of us to have dinner and a pint in the pub in Kleinburg. Carey was now on his own a short distance behind us. After leaving the pub, I realized that I forgot my arm warmers behind and turned back to retrieve them. They were very much needed later on.  As much as I tried to catch up to Tim, Ben and John I couldn’t. I could see their lights about 200 yards ahead but I couldn’t seem to get any faster than 18 kph. Thought I was bonking or something. It was now raining steadily with the temperature dropping quickly. After plodding along in the dark watching their lights get further away my rear tire went flat. No wonder I couldn’t get any speed up. There’s that brief feeling of hopelessness that accompanies a flat in a cold driving rain. I thought to myself why not embrace this wonderful new experience. I mean it’s always a great time changing a tire on the side of the road while shivering and almost blind in the dark in the mud. I couldn’t feel anything inside the tire which might have caused the flat. Definitely couldn’t see anything anywhere for that matter. Let’s hope for the best shall we. After saying goodbye to the OPP who stopped to see if I was OK I gleefully rode off into the storm. Alliston was the next town but my “overnight” was in Angus 28 km further on at the 380km point. Tim, Ben, and Carey were planning on riding through on this brevet but I doubted that that was very realistic now. I half expected to find them camped out in my room in Angus. The ride to Alliston took a lifetime and by the time I stopped into Pizza Pizza at around 12:00 I was shaking uncontrollably and completely soaked.

The rest of the guys spent the night in Alliston at the Red Pine Inn and were probably tucked in bed when I left for Angus at 1:00 AM. I climbed out of Alliston in the cold and rain and made my way towards bed. After the turn east there’s a delightful downhill I remember from my first time on this ride. Raining, inadequate lighting, sleep deprived and going too fast. Just like now. What a great time for the fates to deliver another flat tire. Changed it halfway down the hill with numb fingers. This time I said to hell with it ” I’m changing the whole tire too”. The big wave from a passing truck was much appreciated. Finally done. Really an experience not to be missed. Oh yeah. Did I mention that my GPS crapped out around the time of the first flat? Reading a cue sheet though glasses covered in water throughout a plastic cue sheet cover covered in water and on a moving bike in the dark. Not to be missed. My head was down to avoid the needle-like rain in my face when I missed my turn to Angus. I kinda recognized some landmarks seen earlier in our ride to Thornton. I knew for sure when with my head still down my wheels slipped out on some wet train tracks and down I went. Thank God for my helmet since I hit the road hard with my head. Didn’t hurt. Didn’t care anymore. I laid there for a minute laughing and hoping a car would run over my bike so I could quit. I was only a few km off route so at this point so what else was there to do but ride back and get to my bed. I rang the doorbell at the Knight’s Inn at 3:00 AM and fell asleep leaning against the door. After checking in, preparing the bike and a 1 min. shower I turned off the light at 3:25.

Morning came at 4:45 and I hit the road at 5:30 after putting on the still wet clothing which was hanging on the heater. I’m guessing that the room smelled great when I left. A coffee and bagel at Tim’s on the way out of town and I was on my way to the Notttawa control. More cold and yet more rain. I don’t know. I think I’m a good person. I don’t deserve this. The restaurant in Nottawa opened at 8:00. I arrived frozen at 7:40 so the waitress had to shake the sleeping and shivering guy outside the door to wake him up. An hour later I felt human again and was ready to do the two long climbs out of the Beaver Valley with joy in my heart. Made it to Walter’s Falls and wasn’t overly surprised to have a flat on my front wheel now. I usually carry three tubes but only had two (which I used last night). A welcome new experience. Patching tubes on the side of the road. This time I found the sliver which caused the flat. Owen Sound here I come. Got off and walked once on the way to stay awake. 40 min of almost sound sleep the previous night.

Left Owen Sound into a decent headwind and battled sleep all the way to Big Bay where by God if I didn’t flat out on the front again. Two rear and two front. It was weird but after I removed the tube I pumped it up and left it for ten minutes while I put things right with my last patched tube. It didn’t have any holes in it and I couldn’t find anything in the tire. Really started to wonder if this ride was meant to be finished. Started thinking about bailing out and maybe even taking the rest of the summer off. Wasn’t as much fun and just started to feel like needless suffering. What to do? Just get on the damn bike and ride. I arrived at the secret control, run by Carey’s friend, just before Wiarton and found out that I was the first one in. I was shocked! I had been riding all day thinking I was at the back sucking hind tit. I thought for sure everyone was waiting in Port Elgin for me so that they could finally have dinner. My stomach was off so I declined anything to eat or drink and took off for Sauble Beach. It was at the point of the ride where you take it one turn at a time. Even the 7 or 8 km stretches seem to take a long time and you don’t dare look at the bike computer for the mileage readings because the numbers never seem to change.

The last leg to Port Elgin was along the lake into a beautiful sunset over the water.  Thirty something km with lots of turns to break it up. This is always a beautiful and challenging ride but never like this before. About 3 or 4 hours longer than usual at 38:35. Carey, Tim, Ben and John came in a half hr or so later and Dick came in with 15 min to spare. We had a wonderful dinner prepared by Donna Chappelle and collapsed into bed. I don’t know if I’m alone but sometimes while riding it just plain sucks. After I finish, it’s a whole different feeling  Wow. I just did that?

Foymount 400

From Peter Grant:

Five guys,  Guy Mousseau, Guy Quesnel, Will Lusby, David McCaw and Peter Grant, rode the Foymount 400 on Saturday. The weather forecast was a cause of apprehension. We would start with warm weather, humidex of 30, followed by severe thunderstorms and a cold front. Continuous rain was in the forecast and night time temperature forecast for Bancroft 2 and Renfrew 6. We might have the chance to experience both heat stroke and frost bite on the same day. Good that I did not write this before we left because it looks a bit crazy in writing.The wind would be south west veering to west and then north. Our route would leave Ottawa to the south west and then west and then north. We would have a tail wind to look forward to after 250 km of head winds.

We stayed together for about 120 km which helped with the wind which was never that strong, just always doing something. Thanks for the pulls guys. In the hills along Buckshot Lake Road the 2 Guys out paced David, Will and me. At the turn onto ON-41 I could hear thunder to the south west and a few minutes later the down pour started. We were all 5 inside the 41 Stop having pizza then and only the Guys toke off before it stopped. I dressed for rain but 5 km later was putting the rain gear away.

I was riding slowly, David rode easy and kept my company all day as the hills passed slowly and the wind played tricks. At the top of Snake Creek Hill is a redneck farm house with a big yellow dog that gaurds ON-28 from cyclists. The big yellow dog had to charge all the way from the front porch and snarled at my left heel. I returned the snarl and he backed off. He looked older and tired this year with deep dark circles around his eyes. It was still hot and he wasn’t really happy to be moving.

Rain came in light spits during the afternoon and the temperature dropped. Palmer Rd was east bound and we began to get tail winds to Quadville where David and I saw Guy Quesnel and Will again. They were entertaining the Quadvillians hanging out at the general store. Guy Mousseau was on his way with the intention of reaching Ottawa by midnight.

Although the sky looked dark and menacing as we climbed up to Foymount, I found the next 75 km more pleasant than the earlier part of the day. The heat was off and there was finally some north wind hitting my face with cooler air. We reached Calabogie just at dusk, the latest ever for me on this ride.
The pizzeria has 1 washroom and 1 by 1 the 4 of us used it as a change room between eating bites of lasagna and pizza. An audience at the pizzeria watched without much comment as we slowly changed to night clothes. I had a wool undershirt and jersey and leg warmers but no boot covers. I got white plastic take out bags to wrap around my feet and we departed for the 99 km section to Ottawa. David laughed at me and said my feet looked like 2 white rabbits hopping down the road as I peddled. I had warm feet though.
The rain was very light and some times the pavement was even dry. Sometimes the tail wind was there and then not. The final 25 km was to the north east and then the wind was in the face and the strongest of the day. We got to my car just before 2:00 am and just in time as the rain drops were big and coming fast. The car rocked a bit with the gusts as I drove home.
Altogether we had lucky breaks with the weather and a pretty good ride considering that a 400 km is always a long ride.

Parry Sound 400 … or … a longer ride than Kathy’s

From Dave Thompson:

Having just read Kathy’s ride report on the Oak Ridges Morraine, I’m spurred on to write mine.

Five brave souls headed out on the inaugural Parry Sound 400k on Saturday.  A new route, largely un-scouted, what would we encounter !?!  An ugly weather forecast faced us as well – warm and dry to start with a tail-wind, lots of rain, dropping temperatures and a head-wind for the trip back.  Remembering what the first day of the Rocky Mountain 1200k was like a couple of years ago, I warned everyone what to expect and told them what I’d be wearing.  They listened.  We were all heavily loaded down to start … we were wearing it all at the end.  Heavy jackets and rain pants were ready to shut out the elements.

Albert Koke, Henk Bouhuyzen, David Pearce, Martin Cooper and I were the brave souls.  We all finished although I’m sure that Albert was using a substitute bike with a motor for part of the ride as he finished about six hours ahead of the rest of us, who rolled in at 5:17 a.m., just beating the dawn and just shy of 24 hours.

The Route

First off, the route is fabulous.  I’d originally called it “cottage 400k” because that’s what it is, a sight-seeing tour through cottage country.  We saw more granite that day than we did on the entire Granite Anvil.    Cottages perched high above the water to deep cuts for the roadways to steep drops from roadside to water’s edge to expanses of flat, bare granite in the Torrance Barrens as we headed north towards Bala on Southwood Road  / District Road 13, 33.5 km of nature designed roller coaster.

From Barrie through Orillia to Bala we lucked out and stayed dry but we could feel the temperature dropping.  Three of us had a hot breakfast; Dave Pearson joined us having coffee; Albert was out there ahead.  North on 169 and Lake Joseph Road to Clear Lake Road was good riding, traffic somewhat busy at times.  It was shortly after Bala that Henk’s wheel problems started … more on that later.

Clear Lake Road … ahem … gravel … remember that none of this route had been pre-scouted.  I was by myself at that point, trailing the others.   It had rained but wasn’t raining at the time.  Thank goodness for fenders, which kept my drivetrain mostly clean. It was slow going and seemed to go on and on, mostly because I had no idea how much more gravel there would be before Parry Sound.   Hitting 141, which is paved, was heaven, but, we only ride 141 for a km or so.  I prayed that the next road would be paved … and it was … that made my day !

It was along Tally-Ho Swords Road that I caught up to Henk, now walking.

518, Hunter Drive and Oastler Park then take us into Parry Sound for lunch, not half the kilometres completed, but taking into account the gravel, probably half the riding.

The route back to Barrie shares some of the same roads except that we turn East on 141 after Tally-Ho Swords through Rosseau.  That too is worth the price of admission !  South on what becomes Manitoba St and to Gravenhurst, we run parallel to Highway 11, cycle restricted at that point because it is 4-lanes.  We then loop back towards Bala on 169 and take Southwood Road’s roller coaster, now back on familiar territory but not really, since it’s dark.  We bypass Orillia on the way south – that’s a part of the route that I will examine as it meant that we had 130kms from the Gravenhurst Control to the end.  Having now ridden the route, I can also pinpoint Controls.

The Weather

I do have to say that we lucked out with the weather.  It wasn’t as bad as predicted.  How’s that for Randonneur Logic ??

We got a fair amount of rain, but never torrential.  It didn’t rain while we were on the gravel road.  We had a SW cross tail-wind as we headed north, which had gradually turned into a NW wind by the time we hit Parry Sound which then helped us for the ride back.  Having the wind partly at our back also meant that we were a little warmer than we would have been with  a headwind.

That said, we were cold but functional.  Dave, Martin and I stopped at a restaurant about half-way between the Parry Sound and Gravenhurst Controls, an oasis of hot coffee.  It didn’t help physically for long, but did help mentally.  We were looking forward to something in the Orillia area but didn’t want to go off-route to find it.  By the end we were cold.  My hands weren’t working very well and it took a long time to get packed up and on the road.

Dave had checked the weather forecast when we were in Parry Sound and reported the wind prediction, which was accurate, and 30% chance of rain.  Well, that cloud followed us, lost us for a while when we stopped for coffee, picked us up again later but allowed us to roll back into Barrie and pack our cars being dry.


Randonneurs Ontario needs a new medal for sheer determination.  Henk would win it hands-down.  Having had a ride-busting problem with his rear hub the prior week, I think that he would have walked the entire route to finish if he’d had the time.  It started off easy … ping … a spoke gone on the front wheel.  Being a low spoke count wheel, it had too much of a side-to-side wobble to turn.  His torx spoke wrench turned out to be the wrong size.  I pulled out my little pliers but there’s so little leverage and so little grip, that I could barely turn the spoke nipples to make a correction.  Henk, however, is a better man than me, or at least has a better grip J.  He managed to loosen the two opposing spokes and slightly tightened others so that the wheel would turn with a slight wobble and a hop.  No one would notice the hop on these roads anyway !

Shortly afterwards, he noticed his rear hub occasionally not engaging.  Yes, that’s the hub that was repaired two days before.  It started out slow then he would have to stop and bang the wheel and finally, 20+ kms from Parry Sound, utter failure.  I’d been dawdling and caught up to him walking towards Parry Sound.  In actual fact he’d only have to walk half the distance because the other half would be downhill and he could ride.  I called my wife Sandy as we have a Parry Sound phone book and she found that there were two bike shops in PS.  Walking, however, would get him there after they closed.  I suggested that he hitch-hike or stop at a house and ask for a ride; he did the latter and passed me sometime as I rode to Parry Sound, trailing the others by a fair bit.  Albert also passed me at this point, but he was already on his way back to Barrie.

While I was helping Henk, all of a sudden my cranks wouldn’t turn.  What ?!?  I figured out that my cassette had loosened and was binding, clearly I need to keep on top of bike maintenance, not having checked that in months.  I tightened the lock-ring by hand, getting quite greasy and dirty in the process, but was rolling again.  Once into Parry Sound, I visited one of those bike shops and they graciously let me use their Shimano lock-ring tool.  I’d pictured myself re-tightening it in the dark and thought that this was the better approach.

Coming out of the bike shop, there was Henk at the convenience store across the street.  He had visited the other bike shop and not only fixed the rear wheel, they lent him a new Mavic Kysrium front wheel, which is what he was riding.  No charge.  He has to go back to Parry Sound to retrieve his wheel, of course, but that’s a small price to pay.  Determined to finish this ride, he set out back down the course to where he picked up the hitchhike ride, then rode to back Parry Sound, then back down the course.  40 kms behind us at that point if you count the back-and-forth, 20 if you only count the route, he would catch up to us before the end.  We saw him shortly after his turnaround point, heading back to Parry Sound.  Me ?  Bail ?  Not Henk !


A great route that I will put on the schedule again.  I will tweak it to break up that long stretch between Controls and see if there is something that can be done about the gravel section, but I doubt it.  There are very few roads in that area that actually go anywhere.  7.3 km of gravel is not too bad, considering the area, especially if you know that’s all the gravel and you won’t be hitting it again on the way south.

I rode my own pace, as usual, and my riding partners waited for me which wasn’t necessary but was much appreciated.

Thanks to Henk, Martin, Albert and Dave for a memorable ride.