Today, for the second year in a row, I woke up at 5:30 and drove over an hour. To do a bike ride. In 50 degree temps. Am I nuts? Well, yes, but that's beside the point. The occasion for my early rumblings was the Potomac Pedalers' Backroads Century in the Shenandoah Valley. Since I am a bit of a weenie, I rode the metric century, a 65-miler squeezed in between Berryville, Wincester and Front Royal, Virginia.
The course takes you through rolling farmland. Other than starting and stopping in Berryville, you never actually ride through a town. The course designers cleverly keep riders outside the mean streets of the northern Shenandoah Valley's metropolises. And they also avoid riding on major highways of which there are a few. It's really nothing but backroads past farms and fields in the weeks just before the trees start their colorful fall display. Early in the ride there are no cars to speak of. Later the church-going crowd appears followed by the late rising heathens of the valley. Mostly drivers are patient with the rolling hoards. Today's ride actually had two rolling hoards. A Ride to Recovery group was riding into Berryville as we were leaving, Apparently, this is a group involved with re-habbing disabled veterans. Many riders wore red, white, and blue outfits. Some bikes and trikes had pole on the back for other riders to push. (I could have used a push or two on some of the steeper climbs.)
The cool temps lasted for about half the ride. I hate to see the summer heat go but I was comfortable wearing my commuting vest over a long t-shirt. My only real discomfort was cold toes caused by my wet shoes and socks. That fogs settles into dew and I walked through wet grass every time I got off my bike.
Eventually, the fog and clouds burned off and we were left with a final ten miles in the 70s, a very comfortable climate for pounding my way toward the finish. I did skip the rest stop at mile 48 but only because I had a flat at 55 and it sucked up 20 minutes of my ride. (It was my second flat all summer so no complaints here.)
This is my favorite ride in the mid-Atlantic. It's right up there with the Erie Canal west of Rochester, the Great Allegheny Passage through Ohiopyle State Park in Pennsylvania, the Maui downhill ride from the rim of Haleakala to the sea, and the ride through the Presidio across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, If you live in the DC area, you really owe it to yourself to do this ride at least once.