The DC Randonneurs Flatbread 200K is a flat course that twice crosses the northern end of the Delmarva Peninsula by first going east from Centreville, Maryland, near the Chesapeake Bay, to Slaughter Beach, Delaware, on the Delaware Bay then making a short trip south to Milton, Delaware before heading west back to Centreville.
I rode this course for the first time last year. Then, the incessant wind made for a memorable experience. Despite that, one year later, I decided to give it another go. As the weekend drew near, I realized that I had missed a few highlights of the route the last go around. I vowed to not let that happen again.
127 miles on a flat course? Sounds like a job for the fixie! (Heaven forbid I should give myself the option of coasting or changing gears.) So I loaded the Rando minivan with the Raleigh and headed out at oh so dark thirty.
Almost three hours later, just past dawn, the riders gathered in the crisp cold morning air for the 7 am start.
After the devastating hurricane Sandy and then a Nor'easter and then temperatures that dipped into December cold, the local weather seemed to pause for a calming breath on Saturday. The sun shone. The air warmed. The breeze, when it blew, blew softly. Saturday was a good day for a long ride with friends.
Randonneurs are a small community. With a couple+ years and a few thousand kilometers behind me, I have a few friends in the community. I saw some of them at the start. Rick, Maile, Chris N. (from PA) and the Andersons were there. During the ride, I met a few more.
We rode into the morning light, layered against the chill. The sun rose, coloring the mist in transparent hues as it hovered over the harvested fields.
We rode into the season of repose.
We rode into the season of repose.
Steve from Delaware remembered me from last year's edition of the ride. Mike from DC rode an orange fixie with bright blue rims. Steve and I would ride most of the course together, sharing the experience of this warm mid-fall day.
Dolce means sweet in Italian. In Milford, MD, Dolce means a coffee shop that offers tasty pastries just under 50 miles into the ride. I skipped Dolce last time. This time I joined the cluster of cyclists that stopped to sip delicious coffee and eat cranberry scones, chocolate covered espresso beans or gooey pecan swirls while taking off layers to accommodate the late morning warmth. What could be sweeter than that?
At Milford, I met Lisa who blogs at Rambling Rider and re-met bloggers MG ("Chasing Mailboxes" and Felkerino ("Daily Randonneur"). Lisa, who usually rides a single, was riding a tandem. MG and Felkerino, who usually ride a tandem, were riding singles. Perhaps that explained the unusual weather?
A group of us, fueled by the natural performance enhancers of caffeine and hot baked deliciousness, rolled out of the coffee shop and accelerated toward the official control.
Arriving at Slaughter Beach marked our completion of the first crossing of the width of the Delmarva Peninsula. We rode 58 miles to get there. The beach is one block from the control. This year I took the detour. The photo op alone was worth it.
We head south for ten miles to Milton. Lunch at Subway. A small group of us leave together turning west and slightly north. In addition to Steve, I ride with Chris from DC, MG, Felkerino and Dave with the long beard.
The group maintains a brisk pace. I occasionally find myself instinctively reaching for the gear shifter the fixie doesn't have. Not a good sign, but the company and conversation are good so I spin the spin I need to spin to stay with the group.
At 106 miles there is a store. It is not a control, but it is 21 miles from the finish and 20 miles from the prior controle. So, if you skip that store, you have to ride 41 miles to finish - after having ridden 87 miles. The group approached the store still maintaining the brick pace. Someone asked "stop or go?" I heard several people respond "Go." I shook my bottles and only heard the disappointing swish of a few last sips. If I stopped, I would lose the group. I had to choose - suffer 20 miles on fumes or stop and solo in?
I stopped. I ate. I drank. Then I got back on the bike and rode alone toward the setting sun.
It was a glorious sunset. In the fading light of the day, soft mist grew in the vacant fields; a new harvest, translucent and ephemeral, gathering before dispersing into the cool of the night.
The Flatbread 200k ends at a restaurant. I arrived as the sun touched the horizon. The DC Randonneurs supply the pizza and draft beer is $2.00 a glass. The party lasted for hours. I met blogger Chesapeake Sailor, whom I knew from our exchanges on the internet. I met a Randonneur for whom this ride marked an R-84. That is a seven year streak of riding at least one 200K ride a month. Seven years straight. And get this, he rode his R-60 when he was 60 years old. Impressed? Inspired? I am.
All in all, Saturday was a good day for a long ride with friends, old and new.
**********************************************************more pictures here