Saturday, August 2, 2014

The R-12 Reloaded: JB and George Enjoy a Day Along the Hudson

After letting my goal to complete at least one event of 200K or longer each month lapse after achieving my first R-12 Award, I've decided to reinstitute the practice to help me lay down a strong base for next year's edition of PBP. RUSA's R-12 Award provides both a great structure and challenge, especially for time-pressed randonneurs who live in the northern reaches of the US where frigid weather is a fact of life for at least three months of the year. When I first set out to tackle this feat, I established several local "permanent" routes close to home that I could ride on a whim without the hassles involved with traveling to events far afield.

Yesterday, JB and I got together to enjoy one of these routes that I misnamed the Flatlander's Delight (in contrast to my very hilly Catskill Climbfest). The route starts and ends in New Paltz crossing the Hudson over both the Rip Van Winkle and Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridges and takes in the hills and farmland of Columbia Country. One of my favorites, the Flatlander mixes in great views of the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains with farmland, historic villages and wooded rollers. Over the course of 207K, riders climb about 6500 feet. Not so flat, but not so hilly either.

There are three main control points on the route (in addition to two info controls) that provide the opportunity to refuel and reorient. The Dunkin' Donuts, while nothing fancy, sure is a welcome break at mile 40 and on this edition, JB and I each enjoyed a hot coffee and a muffin before refilling our bottles and applying our first layer of sunscreen.

The next control is not too far down the road and comes after a scenic river crossing, a brief tour through the city of Hudson and a ride through some gorgeous country roads. At the midway point in the ride, things shift from generally flat to quite hilly. To punctuate this transition, there is a simple country deli where I often grab a chicken salad sandwich and a bag of chips. On this day, I followed JB's lead and also grabbed a cold chocolate milk off the shelf, which was remarkably cool and refreshing. 

After a brief, early lunch, JB and I took off to enjoy the choppy, rural roads that come in the second half of this route. Columbia County is quite beautiful with views alternating between farmland and forest. There are quite a few rollers to test your climbing legs on this route and even a few miles of dirt roads to make you feel almost off the grid. On the south-westerly return leg there are even dramatic views of the Catskills range that pop out from between the trees and provide a bearing.

We definitely save the best control for last on this route, though. Taste Budd's Cafe in Red Hook comes at mile 98, which is perfectly timed for a tasty high calorie treat washed down with full-bodied coffee served in a range of styles and temperatures. This time around, I selected a delicious chocolate chip oatmeal cookie and an iced coffee and was not at all disappointed. For the truly decadent, Taste Budd's also stocks a full range of homemade chocolates and fudge.

With most of the ride behind us, JB and I clipped in and made the short trip back to the Hudson. We passed just south of Bard College taking in some lovely roads on our approach to the Kingston-Rhinecliff bridge which brings us back to Ulster County and provides (on clear days) an outstanding view of the full Caskill Mountain range. On this day, though, we were racing a storm home, so the hazy, overcast skies obscured the view and added an ominous feel to the day. We knew full well that afternoon thunderstorms were a likely component of this ride and luckily made it across the bridge before anything too dramatic arrived. We could see the dark grey skies off in the distance, but only felt a few drops as we made the crossing. The skies opened up just enough once we reentered Ulster County to encourage us to stop to adjust our clothing, but we were very fortunate to skirt the heart of the thunderstorm which stayed mercifully off to our south and east as we made the final push to New Paltz.

One of the enjoyable yet slightly challenging aspects of this route for me is that it passes within three miles of my house and takes in some of my daily training roads. This was especially challenging on this particular day since I was left without a car in the morning and rode 13 miles to the start. Since I was not too keen on riding that same 13 miles home after a long and hilly day in the saddle, I texted my daughter who was happy to meet me at the finish with only the bribe of an ice cream cone.

Up next: the Princeton 200K in early September.

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