Monday, May 26, 2014

A Transportation Stage Deep into the Heart of the Catskills

Finding time to train during the spring remains a serious challenge. With work and family commitments, spring really is the busiest time of year in my household. As the result of a little careful planning, though, it's still possible to get the job done.

This weekend, for instance, we had a trip planned to visit with my in-law's in Andes, NY - right in the heart of the Catskills, so I seized the opportunity to plan a long ride as one of the legs of the journey. Jan Heine of Bicycle Quarterly, refers to rides of this type as "transportation stages." So rising early, I clipped in and hit the road to begin my 75-mile journey.

Undertaking a transportation stage takes a little planning, of course. On Saturday, I prepped the bike and packed a bag with a change of clothes and (mercifully) remembered to attach the bike rack to the roof of my wife's car. Unfortunately, we were out until 2:00 AM on Saturday night, so I did not get the best night's sleep, but the weather could not have been more ideal.

The trip to Andes involves some lovely backroad riding up to the Ashokan Reservoir and then a long stretch heading northwest on State Route 28. Since Route 28 is basically the only road that runs in this direction between the Catskill high peaks, there's no really avoiding it, but thankfully, the road crews have repaved in the past several years so, for much of the journey, I was treated to 10-foot wide shoulders free of cracks and debris.

There's still lots of water running at this time of year, so at various points during the trip, I was surrounded by the sound of rivers, waterfalls and creeks, all of which slow down considerably by late summer.

One of the best things about a transportation stage in combination with a family trip is the inevitable point in the journey when family and rider intersect. On this trip, I texted my de facto crew that some fresh cold water and a little nosh would hit the spot, so shortly after the longest and steepest climb of the day, I saw a familiar blue Subaru pass by complete with waving arms.

After 50 miles, a few bottles of cold water and an energy bar really hit the spot, but it was the "Paris Brest" that really took my breath away, but I decided that this gorgeous confection would serve better as an incentive rather than as a mid-ride snack, and so sent the crew off with instructions to keep the pastry in the shade.

While the casual viewer might see a mocking daughter, a shocked son and a wife trying to get as far from her stinking husband as possible in these photos, I prefer to see love and admiration. 

Finally, the glories of reaching the top of a hill are far greater when achieved by riding a bicycle. In all, I arrived around lunchtime about an hour after my "crew" feeling very grateful for the chance to have both a good workout and a fun day with the family.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Ronkonkoma 200K: Two Ferries, Two Islands and a Very Big Duck.

The Ronkonkoma 200K is one of two brevets put on by the Long Island Randonneurs this season. Only in its second year, LI Randonneurs sure knows how to throw a party. This event had almost 50 starters, many of whom had not previously ridden a brevet of any type or size, which is a testament to the club's ability to effectively spread the word. Having ridden the club's inaugural brevet last season, I knew I was in for a treat that was well worth the price of admission.

This Saturday's event began at 8:00 am at the Ronkonkoma station of the Long Island RR and both the time and the location serve to accommodate the needs of NYC riders who want to travel to and from the ride via public transportation. At the start, RBA Steve and his partners Susan and Dan were filled with energy and good cheer as they signed riders in and offered hot coffee and bagels to all who were interested.

After a listening to Steve's safety instructions and wise advice, riders clipped in and hit the road. The first leg of this brevet involves riding over some pretty flat, low traffic roads that lend themselves very nicely to pace line riding. Aided by some healthy tailwinds, it was not too difficult to keep the pace above 20 mph most of the way from the start to the first control.

We arrived at the control with Steve still smiling as he signed in riders and doled out drinks and energy bars. After a quick pitstop, I headed out in search of the ferry landing only eight miles away.

The delight of our ride to the eastern tip of Long Island at this time of year involved seeing calm blue waters, peaceful back roads, low season activity in the quaint, historic villages, scores of diminutive pine trees and colorful early spring blossoms.

There are also two short ferry rides on this route, which provide great views of the coastline, the smell of the sea and allow riders to take in scenic Shelter Island for all of about 4-1/2 miles.  It's also nice to have a forced rest break while technically moving forward on the route.

Returning to the main island after our second brief ferry ride, we wound our way through the North Shore, which is filled with more wineries and fewer people than it's southern sister. In the final 25 miles, though, the generally flat terrain gives way to a series of choppy hills that were not exactly welcome after pounding out the preceding 100 miles in the 20+ mph range. Ouch!

Finally, what ride to eastern Long Island would be complete without a nod to the great Big Duck?

Up Next: the Blue Mountain 400K organized by PA Randonneurs this coming weekend.