Sunday, March 18, 2012

Potapsco Patuxent Chesapeake - and more

Saturday was Fleche training day.  Mike C, Jack N, and I, comprising 3/5 of our Fleche team: Chain Reaction, completed the new Potapsco Patuxent & Chesapeake 210K (PPC) permanent Saturday, then stretched our mileage after finishing the perm to test ourselves a bit for the Fleche next month.

The Fleche in mid April each year is notorious for dodgy weather.   In that sense, yesterday may not have been an ideal training platform as the weather was, well..., ideal.  We started with temps hovering around 50 and warmed to the low 70s mid day.  A little lingering ground fog burned off quickly as the sun rose.  Early afternoon saw a touch of South Easterly headwind approaching North Beach, which simply made for a nice tail wind after we departed North Beach.  After the fog burned off the sun was bright and I had to apply sun block to my arms, ears and face. According to the calendar spring is still a few days away!

Thanks to Gardner D we now have a RUSA permanent that starts within easy cycling distance of home for most SPP members, 4.5 miles in my case.  PPC drew inspiration from 2 of SPP's favorite club routes to Ellicott City and to North Beach and combined them to create a 200K permanent. From that simple concept, Gardner did the very detailed home work, documentation, and pilot rides required to build a turn by turn cue sheet, select appropriate control points to allow riders flexible start times, adjust to optimize for bicycle safe roads, and get the distance as close as possible but not less than 200K.  Thank you sir, and to all volunteers who have put in a similar effort to build up RUSA's great selection of permanent routes.

From the start in Severna Park it heads up past BWI airport and then NW to the Potapsco State Park and follows the beautiful Potapsco river valley to Ellicott City.  The river is running low right now with little spring melt to feed it since we got almost no snow this winter. That makes this a great time to see the evidence of prior flooding and high water.  The pattern of downed trees, very large rocks, brush and a few odd steel tanks in the flood plain is impressive.  I wouldn't want to be too close when the river is running high with tropical storm runoff or other big event.  Just a mile or two out of Ellicott city Mike C flatted but otherwise the first half of the trip was uneventful.

In Ellicott City the route climbs out of the valley and there are a few miles with some stingers to get your heart rate up before heading back to the airport and then south towards Crofton.  We opted to stop at the Caribou Coffee in Crofton even though it's not a required control.  At 47 miles we were ready for a short break and the next good opportunity for a fueling stop without detour would be North Beach in another 40 miles.  Besides Caibou serves a really really good breakfast sandwich.  It was sunny, we ate outside.

Southern Anne Arundel County is just a nice place to ride. Out of the congestion of the greater Baltimore - Annapolis region, this is scenic farm land and rural communities. The living space is more dense than it is, say west of Frederick, Md but its well out of the city and feels open, traffic is light enough for comfortable cycling. In the spring sunshine it's really a treat.  Before we knew it we were in North Beach and stopped at Sweet Sue's Bake Shop for our second meal of the day.  They make great sandwiches and wraps.  It was sunny, we ate outside, again.  I told you, the weather was ideal.

Then we were on the final leg for home.  Our only drama of the trip was Mike C's double flat when he hit a small pot hole at about mile 100 on this leg. Fortunately he didn't go down and there was no apparent damage to the rims, just two pinch flats.  If you're counting, that's three flats for Mike on the day.  Yes he set out with three spare tubes.  This was about making sure we are ready for Fleche, he is.  So I started to work on the front wheel while Mike tended to the rear wheel (his bike, he can get his hands dirty).  While kneeling to work on the flat, I developed a sudden cramp in my hamstring and handed the wheel of to Jack to put the new tube in.  All the while the three of us were in stitches after someone made a joke.  At a rate of three tubes per hundred miles Mike would need 7 or 8 tubes to ensure successful of Fleche.  In Mike's defense, I was in front and didn't see the pot hole until the last second.  I pointed to it but he had little time to react.  However the incident high lights the good spirits we enjoyed all day.  It was just too nice out to let anything get us down.  More importantly, we were all riding steadily and feeling good.  We were doing what we set out to do for the day, validate that we are ready for an even bigger ride in a few weeks.  That if we continued to eat and drink correctly we could just keep going and that we were ready to handle any likely setbacks or interruptions.

Flats repaired the rest of the ride was uneventful  After signing in at the finish control we headed to Squisito's, a pizzeria right on the B & A trail, for a couple of slices of pizza.    It was a nice evening and we enjoyed our third outdoor meal of the day.  Jeff S stopped by with his son to say hi.  After dinner we headed out for some bonus miles.  Ideally this would have been a night ride through scenic Annapolis and Bay Ridge.  But the pubs and bars of Annapolis were enjoying a perfect storm:  St Patrick's day fell on Saturday with great weather.  Every rookie drinking driver in the state would be out on the roads. So instead we opted to stick to the trail and ride a lap around the airport.  Not as exciting.  But our last task was to ride in the dark while a bit tired after a full day on the bike.  We needed a sense that our lighting and batteries were adequate and feel what fatigue and dark do to our own attention and reaction times.

We still felt strong and competent on the bike.  Mission accomplished.  We headed home for the night.

Thanks again to Gardner for the work to put this permanent route together.  It's a fun, scenic ride.  Every randonneur will enjoy it. Those of us who live near by will appreciate the convenience and likely come back for more.


  1. That route is close enough to make a good reason for a road trip.

  2. Come on down. We now have a 100K, 2 different 200K routes and a 300K all starting 4 miles from my home. Rando heaven.