Saturday, July 14, 2012

Hawk's Nest 200K - Playing in the street.

Today, I went to the mountains to play in the street.

Ted saw a black bear. He took a picture of it. The  picture shows the black bear standing, nose to ground, next to a white swing set. Its body seems half the height of the swing set.  Thick, rich, black fur. Either Ted has very good zoom or that bear was close.

Ted saw the black bear on the long climb on Route 390 toward Promised Land. I made the long climb toward Promised Land but I didn't see the bear. Maybe it wasn't there when I went by or maybe I was just focused on climbing, turning the pedals, passing the bottom of the ski lift and the "antique store" where "antiques" fill the front yard like a mashed confusion of history's droppings.

Ted showed me the the picture at the next controle, an Exxon Mini Mart:

This is the picture that Ted took.
The first thing I thought was, "Oh wow! That's a big bear." The next thing I thought was, "I'm glad I didn't see it."

Jimmy and I arrived at the Exxon Mini Mart together. Jimmy is a new Randonneur. He passed me on the climb to Promised Land and I caught up to him on the descent.  This was his second brevet. He and his friend want to ride PBP so Jimmy started riding brevets. His friend has not. 

At the mini-mart, Jud checked us in. Jud had a major mechanical and was not able to ride, but instead of complaining and woe is me-ing, he volunteered to spend the day checking in riders at the controls. Now that is Rando. Thanks Jud. 

Jimmy eats a mini mart sandwich. I am ready to leave. I am training for my biggest ride yet and this ride's focus is to practice banking time for a sleep stop by keeping the stops short. So I leave. A short while later, Jimmy appears in my rear view mirror. We ride together to the next controle. We talk, of long rides, tubing on rivers and things that pass the time. I probably talked too much. Oh well. Long rides and stories go together. That's Rando too.

Eldred NY, or as I think of it: "El Dread," has a controle at a cute little deli, called "The Corner" with five little round white tables inside and wooden benches on a long porch outside. The deli sells beer. A nice variety in the glass topped cooler. I look. Look again. Look once more, but resist the urge for a cold one. 

Rick C. (Rexy), Mary and Rick are having lunch at The Corner. Rexy is up from North Carolina. He is riding a fixie for this 10,000 foot elevation ride. That's right - a fixie - one gear, no coasting for 126 miles of climbing and descending.

The Corner's picture window looks out on the long climb that comes after the  El Dread controle. The last time I was here, that view alone was enough to make me take a seat and enjoy a long air conditioned lunch before restarting. This time, I am eager to get going. I am training for my biggest ride yet. I feel strong and ready for this little hill. Jimmy had some doubts about whether he would finish. He stays for a long lunch. I understand completely.

The next section of the course has what may be my favorite section of riding - Hawks' Nest on Route 97 in New York. Route 97 rises from the shores of the Delaware River on a road carved into the side of the mountain. From the little sounds of rippling current, you climb into silence. The sky widens above the trees. The newly paved road serpentines up the face of the mountain, s-curve melting into s-curves. From the scenic overlook, the river and road fun house mirror each other.

Rick (not Rexy) and I climb Hawk's Nest together and then ride to the next controle.

Rexy and Mary are at Flat's Deli when we arrive. I am a little ahead of the scheduled departure times that I wrote in advance on my cue sheet, so I eat, rest room and chat. At 14:36, I announce my imminent departure, based on my preset schedule. We all leave together. 

 The last section of the course has what may be my least favorite section of riding - Old Mine Road. Old Mine road is a pot holed steep pitch of ride with a false plateau that defies you to maintain a climbing rhythm or follow a line. The fact that it comes at 111 miles into the course only makes it worse. The fact that it is even on the course is a reminder that this is a Pennsylvania brevet. But Pennsylvania brevets make good training for tough rides. That is one reason I am here.

Old Mine Road is not the beast it was before. It is still a beast, but I manage  it - in a sweltering, sweat dripping, gnat swatting, granny gear kind of way. It was neither pretty nor graceful, but I got my mass up that hill.

Then Rexy and I rode into the last controle together. Two rides with different starts, different purposes but similar endings. We eat at the diner and, before we leave, the last group of riders arrive. I am pleased to see that the group includes Jimmy. Nicely done Jimmy.

There are times when riding a bicycle means flying over the face of the earth - skimming over its surface on a cushion of air encased in rubber. When your legs connect you to a machine that becomes an extension of yourself, that allows you to touch the earth and the sky and life itself at a speed that is just perfect for perception and appreciation and joy. Pure. Simple. Joy. 

Today, I went to the mountains to play in the street, to fly across the face of the earth  and to feel childlike joy. 

That is Rando too.


  1. That's a gorgeous shot of the Hawk's Nest climb. I've found that photos rarely do justice to the climb, but that did a nice job. I'll have to ride the hills out there someday.

    1. Thanks Aaron. This route is also a permanent, so if you are ever out here, you can make arrangements to ride it.