Mailbox on the 1000K

Chasing Mailboxes: The Pursuit of Something More

Where does your energy go? What do you choose to pursue? Does each day pass in a blur of routine, or do you save a sliver of time to wonder about the existence of something deeper? You don’t know what the something deeper is, exactly, and you are not convinced it is a thing.

You hold onto an optimistic belief that if you go out in the world, if you work out, read more, eat better, if you try and stretch yourself in some way, eventually you will find it. Your personal pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The sense that your something deeper is out there helps you wake up each day.

Photo by Bill Beck
Photo by Bill Beck

Earlier this week, Josie Bike Life featured me as part of her Women Involved series. (Josie’s been doing a great job highlighting women who ride and also write about bicycling.) Rebecca, of VeloVoice, asked me how I came to my blog name, Chasing Mailboxes.

In part, I called it Chasing Mailboxes because of all the times I’ve been out riding, certain I saw another rider or person up ahead, only to realize upon approach that my eyes were playing tricks on me.

Over the years, I have seen people on bikes, cyclists changing tires, a person waiting to be picked up by the school bus, and even deer standing by the side of the road that all turned out to be mailboxes.

However, every time I see what I think is a person up ahead it piques my curiosity, and energizes me to push a little harder on the pedals.

Mailbox on the 1000K

Chasing Mailboxes also serves as a space to explore that something deeper I’m often trying to uncover.

I write about dreams I thought I had that look different in reality, and unexpected sublime moments. Chasing Mailboxes helps me gain a better understanding of myself and my relationship with bicycling. And through writing, I gain perspective.

My pursuit of the something deeper never ends, but through Chasing Mailboxes I creep ever-closer to it. Thanks for reading along.

Illustration 1: My bike by the pretty flowers

A Coffeeneuring Meander with Cindy C. in North Carolina

Cindy C. of North Carolina participated in the Coffeeneuring Challenge for the first time last year. The descriptive recounts of her rides, diverse beverage consumption, and her conclusion that bicycling might be the cure for the common cold make for excellent pre-coffeeneuring reading.

Enjoy, and thank you, Cindy for the guest post!

Trip #1
Date: Sunday, October 6
Where: Starbucks @ Harris Teeter – Hwy 42 & Buffalo Rd. Clayton, North Carolina 
What I had: Iced Chai Latte & Pumpkin Scone
Total Mileage: 22.28 miles

A very nice trip out and back. It was pretty foggy early this morning but it was lifting by the time I headed out around 9:30. All the spider webs and caterpillar nests were still coated in fog/dew and they looked cool in the trees. With some fog still hanging around it was very appropriate for early Oct. – a little Halloweeny even.

Saw lots of morning glories along the road on the way down. The fog had completely lifted and the sun was starting to come out on the way back. Most of the morning glories were closing up for the day by then. Wildlife count included assorted horses and a couple of dogs that stood in the middle of the road and watched me go by.

I notice the rules do not state the coffee or tea beverage must be hot. It is unseasonably warm for early October in NC. My Garmin reported an average temperature of 78 degrees and I rode from 9:30-11:30.

Too hot for a hot beverage so I went with the iced option. And who can resist a scone – especially a pumpkin one? Although, in the interest of not completely wiping out the calories burned on the ride I only ate half.

Illustration 1: My bike by the pretty flowers
Illustration 1: My bike by the pretty flowers


Illustration 2: Iced Chai Latte & Pumpkin Scone
Illustration 2: Iced Chai Latte & Pumpkin Scone

Trip #2
Date: Sunday, October 13
Where: Bean & Barrel – Chapel Hill, North Carolina
What I had: Ginger Twist Tea
Total Mileage: 22.64 miles

This turned out to be a very nice ride with one of my cycling buddies and some new friends. It’s been a dreary and rainy week.

This weekend I was fighting off a cold and felt a little off. But, I’d registered for the NC Tour de Cure and my friend Jenny invited me to join her team.

A group of them were getting together to ride today. I said I’d go and meet them so I dragged myself off the couch and over to Chapel Hill. Everyone was very nice and welcoming to the new girl. We had a great ride around Jordan Lake.

While it was overcast and windy there was no rain. Amazingly I ended up with a very fast average speed for me (16.4 mph). I think the wind was really helping the first half of the ride.

After the ride we hung out at the Bean & Barrel and chatted. I felt really good after the ride – I think cycling may be the cure for the common cold!

Illustration 3: Gnger Twist tea after an overcast and windy ride
Illustration 3: Gnger Twist tea after an overcast and windy ride

Trip #3
Date: Saturday, Oct 26
Where: Aubrey & Peedies Grill – 39 N. Main St. Wendell, North Carolina
What I had: Hot Chocolate & Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Total Mileage: 15 miles

A beautiful fall day for a bike ride. Bright and sunny, a little cool so I waited for it to warm up a bit before heading out. A very nice ride over to Zebulon to check out the Ecclectic Intellectual coffee shop.

But, sadness, it was closed when I arrived around 11:30am. It is supposed to open at 10am on Saturday so not sure what the deal was. I headed back to Wendell and stopped at Aubrey & Peedies.

By then I was hungry so I had a grilled cheese and hot chocolate. All in all a great ride even though Wendell and Zebulon were both built at the top of hills so there was quite a bit of climbing involved.

Illustration 4: Hot Chocolate & Grilled Cheese hit the spot on cool fall day
Illustration 4: Hot Chocolate & Grilled Cheese hit the spot on cool fall day

Trip #4
Date: Sunday, Oct 27
Where: BP gas station & convenience store – Hw 96 & Brown’s Pond Rd
What I had: Hot Chocolate & Oatmeal Pie
Total Mileage: 44 miles

It was a beautiful day – perfect weather for cycling. I planned out a nice long route that would pass 4 different locations for a coffeeneuring stop. I was cruising as I passed the first one (Popeyes), didn’t feel the need to stop yet so headed on to the 2nd.

The 2nd opportunity was Shoeheel Grocery. Looks like it is under new management now as Gonzales Taco, Grill & Grocery. Not open on Sunday though (to be fair I don’t know if it was open on Sunday before the change either).

Took a quick stop to get off the bike and stretch a bit. Then headed on to option number 3 – a convenience store at 96 where Brown’s Pond Rd turns into Little Divine Rd. I needed to refill my water bottle by then and they had Hot Chocolate so viola! a coffeeneuring stop.

From there it was a slight change from my original plan. I had planned to head up 96 back to Popeye’s but the road was closed for bridge repair (something I’d noticed earlier as I passed Popeyes). It was down Little Divine and up Buffalo Rd. to the Grocery Bag and it’s Almost Famous Hot Dog.

Not in the mood for hot dogs but I did get some ice cream and took a break before the last 10 miles home. All in all a great ride through the traditional Selma Cyclepaths home turf.

Illustration 5: Hot Chocolate & Oatmeal Creme Pie - Yumm!
Illustration 5: Hot Chocolate & Oatmeal Creme Pie – Yumm!
Illustration 6: Ice Ceam-a-neuring anyone?
Illustration 6: Ice Ceam-a-neuring anyone?

Trip #5
Date: Saturday, November 2
Where: McDonalds – Wendell Boulevard, Wendell, NC
What I had: Pumpkin Spice Latte
Total Mileage: 7.2 miles

Today started off overcast and dreary but the sun started coming out as I was leaving. By the time I arrived at McDonald’s the clouds were gone and it was a bright sunny day. McD’s was the backup destination for today’s ride.

I was going to check out the bakery/cafe in downtown Wendell. But, it doesn’t open unitl 1pm on Saturday. Bummer, because I had to be home by 12 in order to shower, change, and get to my woodwind quintet rehearsal in Cary. I’ll put the bakery on the plan for next weekend.

Today I took the mountain bike out. I don’t ride it much since I got my road bike but it’s great for casual rides through town. In the spirit of coffeeneuring I had a coffee beverage.

A Pumpkin Spice Latte sounded good. I’m not a coffee drinker – love the smell but not the taste. This was OK – almost masked the coffee taste enough but not enough to convert me.

On the way home I stopped briefly to check out the Lake Myra Christmas lights. Looks like they are getting close to having everything set up. The lights sparkle in the sunshine. I tried taking a picture but the sparkle didn’t show up very well.

Illustration 7: Pumpkin spice latte and my mountain bike
Illustration 7: Pumpkin spice latte and my mountain bike
Illustration 8: Lake Myra Christmas Lights
Illustration 8: Lake Myra Christmas Lights

Trip #6
Date: Sunday November 3
Where: The Grocery Bag – Hw 42 & Buffaloe Rd, Clayton, North Carolina
What I had: Hot Chocolate
Total Mileage: 25.3 miles

For this coffeeneuring ride I met up with my friend Jenny. Her coach had given her an assignement to ride some hills so we set off in search of hills. It was bright and sunny although quite windy so she should have gotten extra credit for riding hills into the wind.

We had fun riding along and making up the route as we went. We added a coffeeneuring stop at the Grocery Bag (home of the almost famous hot dog). I had hot chocolate which hit the spot.

Later that afternoon Jenny and I met up again at the BikeMS awards party. Our team, the Selma Cyclepaths, took 1st place in the fundraising competition!!

Illustration 9: Hot Chocolate at the Grocery Bag
Illustration 9: Hot Chocolate at the Grocery Bag

Trip #7
Date: Saturday November 9
Where: Eclectic International – 120 North Arendell Ave, Zebulon, North Carolina
What I had: Lemon Ginger Tea
Total Mileage: 14.5 miles

This ride completes the 2013 coffeeneuring challenge! I repeated an earlier route but this time the coffee shop in Zebulon was open.

I had a lemon ginger tea and a nice chat with the gentleman working at the shop. He was telling me about the open mic and live music they have on Saturday evenings.

I will have to go back sometime and check that out.

Illustration 10: Hot Tea and my helmet
Illustration 10: Hot Tea and my helmet

Congratulations, Cindy, on completing last year’s Coffeeneuring Challenge and thank you again for the lovely coffeeneuring narrative!


Fourth Annual Chasing Mailboxes Coffeeneuring Challenge

Coffeeneuring season has arrived! Hard to believe that the Coffeeneuring Challenge is now in its fourth year, but I looked at my calendar and it really is true. From 12 participants that first year to over 125 last year, coffeeneuring continues to grow. I hope you will consider giving it a go this year.

Coffeeneuring is based on an idea from Joe Platzner, of the Seattle Randonneurs. As he discussed life after the 2011 edition of Paris-Brest-Paris, he noted:

A bunch of us have trained pretty hard for PBP. After PBP, I’m probably going to lobby RUSA for an official “Coffee Shop Run” medal. To earn it, you need to ride your bike slowly to a nearby coffee shop and enjoy a fine beverage.

Coffeeneuring, I thought. It’s perfect! I launched the Coffeeneuring Challenge that year.

The Chasing Mailboxes Coffeeneuring Challenge is a relaxed weekend cycling endeavor for cyclists everywhere. If you like riding a bike and enjoy drinking coffee or tea (or even hot chocolate), consider taking on this challenge.

In a nod to the French as well as randonneuring, the Coffeeneuring Challenge has its share of rules. Don’t let them intimidate you, though. As those who have successfully completed the challenge in previous years will attest, they are all manageable.

coffeeneuring challenge

Rules are barely updated from last year. The biggest change to the 2014 challenge is that, due to increased interest and participation in coffeeneuring, I will be offering prizes (an embroidered patch, suitable for application on all kinds of things) at the bargain price (i.e., my cost) of $4 per person (see Rule 15).

Here’s what you have to do to officially coffeeneur:

  1. Ride your bike to 7 different local coffee shops from Saturday October 4 through Sunday, November 16. Any place that sells coffee qualifies as a coffee shop.
  2. You may also coffeeneur to a Coffee Shop Without Walls. A Coffee Shop Without Walls is a place where you ride your bike to proceed to make and/or drink coffee. The Coffee Shop Without Walls is geared toward the bike overnight or bike camping participant. It also captures the farmers’ markets.
  3. Only Saturday and Sunday rides qualify. Weekday rides are ineligible, unless one of the following applies to you:  a. You have a job that does not have a Monday through Friday tour of duty. In that case, your days off are considered your weekend; or b. You are retired, in which case you may choose any two days to complete your coffeeneuring outings. No other exceptions, unless you can make a convincing case for one.
  4. Only 1 coffee shop per day counts and a maximum of two rides per weekend. If you visit 7 coffee shops in one day, you may choose only one as a qualifying ride.
  5. Jot down a summary of your experience that includes: 1. where you went (address and website, if possible), 2. the date you went there, 3.  what you drank 4. a detail or two about your coffeeneuring ride, including your assessment of the “bike friendliness” of the locale; and 5. total mileage. Also, if you find any “must visit” coffee shops or tea places please share that as well.
  6. Take a photo during your outing, and submit it as verification.
  7. Hot chocolate qualifies, as do tea beverages. Apple cider is also a coffeeneuring-approved beverage. Note: Drinks do not have to be hot! They just have to be coffeeneuring-ish type drinks.
  8. You may not combine your coffeeneuring ride with any other ride such as an organized century, populaire, or brevet. You may, however, combine your coffeeneuring ride with a grocery run, ride to the gym, an informal ride with your friends, or other transportation/utility-oriented ride. (If you do an organized ride, you may do another, separate coffeeneuring ride on the same day, e.g., a pre- or post-event ride to get a latte either before or after your organized ride.)
  9. Your ride must be at least two miles total, but there is no maximum so yes, you could ride 100 miles (or more!) for a cup of coffee.
  10. There are no geographic limitations to the Coffeeneuring Challenge, except that your coffeeneuring must occur on planet Earth.
  11. You have to go to different locales, although you may ride to multiple locations of a chain, if necessary. For the Coffee Shop Without Walls, you must prepare and/or drink your coffee in different places. That means seven different campsites/locales.
  12. Deadline for submitting Coffeeneuring Challenge entries is whenever the clock strikes midnight in your area on November 24, 2014.
  13. Send submissions to me at gersemalina “at” They may be in the form of links to blog writeups, screenshots of or links to your coffeeneuring Tweets, on-line photo galleries with accompanying narrative, Word documents with attached or embedded photos, or e-mail writeups and submissions with photos attached.
  14. Provide all qualifying rides at the same time. That is, send me all 7 together, NOT ride 1, ride 2, etc.
  15. Prizes! You are eligible for a small prize for finishing the challenge. Because of the increased interest in coffeeneuring, the premium will cost $4, which covers my costs. To purchase your prize, you may PayPal me at the gmail address above, or send your money by snail mail like grandma used to do. Email me for my address. If you are an international entry, email me and we’ll figure something out.
  16. Tara Rule: During Columbus Day weekend (October 11-13), you have three days to accomplish two qualifying coffeeneuring rides. (This is the Tara Rule.) Update! Rresidents of Canada may use Canadian Thanksgiving in place of Columbus Day.
  17. Vacation Rule: This rule has been updated! If you are on vacation during the coffeeneuring challenge, you may coffeeneur any two days of the week for the weeks you are on vacation.
  18. Veterans Day Rule: You may coffeeneur on November 11, Veteran’s Day, INSTEAD of the previous Saturday or Sunday (November 8 and 9). Veterans are permitted to coffeeneur on November 11 in ADDITION to Nov. 8 and 9, in recognition of their service.
  19. Buying Beans Rule: You may use ONE of your seven coffeeneuring trips to purchase beans (or tea) from your local roaster or tea emporium for future consumption.


Twitter: The Twitter hashtag for the Coffeeneuring Challenge is #coffeeneuring. Only tweet if you like. This is a no-pressure situation.

Flickr: You may also share your photos in the Coffeeneuring group on flickr.

Facebook: There’s even a Coffeeneurs Facebook group where you can post and share your coffeeneuring.

Blog it: Let me know if you blog your coffeeneuring, as I will do periodic roundups along the way.

I think that covers it. 19 rules for the 7-ride Coffeeneuring Challenge. I thought I might add more this year, but 19 is quite enough.

It all starts October 4. Seven shops in seven weekends. I know you can do it!

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to put them in the comments section.

1-Passion Bakery

Big Rides Done, Time to Coffeeneur: A Look Back with Tara and Simon

With the big rides of summer behind us, it’s time to start thinking about  fall activities. And nowadays, when I think of fall I also think of coffeeneuring.

I’ll be posting the complete 2014 Coffeeneuring Challenge rules next week, but in the meantime I thought it would be fun to look back to last year with two of the original coffeeneurs, Simon and Tara, of @whatsupwheaton.

I particularly like how they included a quick assessment of the “bike friendliness” of each location. Please enjoy their Coffeeneuring Challenge summary from last year.

As we’ve done since the original challenge in 2012, we’ve completed the challenge as a team, trying to find coffee shops (relatively) near us in Montgomery County, Md.

Two highlights for this year’s challenge were: managing to visit five new-to-us coffee shops, as well as avoiding having to resort to a Starbucks trip altogether, which we’ve done in the past.

1-Passion Bakery

  • Trip 1
    Saturday October 5
    Where: Passion Bakery & Café, 816 Olney Sandy Spring Rd., Sandy Spring, MD
    Mileage: 49 miles round trip

What we drank (and ate): Two small drip coffees, and two croissant sandwiches

A little bit about our ride: On a beautiful sunny fall day, this trip was a new route through the neighborhoods of Olney, on a wooded trail around Lake Bernard Frank, and into the historic town of Sandy Spring. The highlight of this bakery is definitely the pastries, and not the coffee, which was a self-serve coffee-maker, with the carafe of coffee warming on top of it, like you’d see in a gas station. Since we were there at lunchtime, we sat outside and had sandwiches with our coffee.

Bike-friendliness: The bakery has two tables outside, and you can easily leave your bike leaned against a planter or the store itself. As we read in your coffeeneuring updates later that day, we weren’t the only coffeeneurs to visit Passion Bakery on that date!


  • Trip 2
    Wednesday October 9
    Where: Cremcaffe Espresso Bar, 199 E. Montgomery Ave, Rockville, Md.
    Mileage: 28 miles round trip

What we drank (and ate): Coffee and a café au lait.

A little bit about our ride: This was our furlough mid-week ride. It was a cloudy and overcast day, and a very quiet ride up Beach Drive, Rock Creek Trail, following Rockville’s signed bike routes through some quiet neighborhoods and then finally into downtown Rockville.

Cremcaffe serves excellent Bristot Italian coffee, which they brought out to our outdoor table. The counter featured some delicious-looking pastries, which we refrained from eating, only to resort to Honey Stinger Waffles on the way home due to coffee-induced hunger.

Bike-friendliness information: No obvious bike racks, but you could probably lock up at a parking meter. We sat outside, overlooking the parking lot, with our bikes against the shop’s railing.


  • Trip 3
    Saturday October 12
    Where: The Bagel Place, 7423 Baltimore Ave, College Park, Md.
    Mileage: 34 miles round trip

What we drank (and ate): Two small drip coffees, and a cinnamon sugar bagel.

A little bit about our ride: This is a fun ride from our house, as most of the ride is flat and through the woods on Sligo Creek and Northwest Branch Trails. Once we arrive in College Park, we circle around Lake Artemisia.

It is inexplicable to us that College Park, home of our state’s largest university, should lack a legitimate, authentic, independent coffee shop. This bagel place seems to be the next best thing.

If you arrive in late morning/early afternoon, expect to wait in line behind many college students ordering bagels! The Bagel Place offers coffee, in self-serve urns, in a variety of choices from local Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company.

The coffee and bagel served to keep us warm and fortified, as we ended up getting completely soaked in a rainstorm on the way home.

Bike-friendliness information: There are bike racks directly outside, as well as several outdoor tables, if you want to babysit your bike.


  • Trip 4
    Monday October 14
    Where: Olympia Coffee Shop, 7021 Brookeville Rd., Chevy Chase, Md.
    Mileage: 16 miles roundtrip

What we drank (and ate): Drip coffees, made to order, with cookies.

A little bit about our ride: Naturally, we felt obligated to take advantage of the Tara Rule on Columbus Day. Just before the Maryland/DC line on Beach Drive, we took a right into a leafy neighborhood that became the Town of Martin’s Addition, and we then emerged in Chevy Chase.

The coffee shop is in a small commercial strip on the block with a dry cleaners and a small grocery store. This is an old-school full-service diner, complete with counter stools.

The prices for the diner food (omelets, burgers, etc.) looked remarkably reasonable. We ordered two drip coffees to go, and grabbed a couple of plastic-wrapped cookies. There aren’t any outdoor tables, but we took our coffee and cookies to a bench directly outside the diner.


  • Trip 5
    Sunday October 20
    Where: Qualia Coffee, 3917 Georgia Ave, N.W., Washington, D.C.
    Mileage: 19/22 miles roundtrip

What we drank (and ate): Two drip coffees

A little bit about our ride: We got a late start this Sunday afternoon. We rode down Sligo Creek Parkway, cut across to Takoma Park, and then rode down city streets on bike lanes. Once at Qualia, we sat on the front porch with our coffees, overlooking Georgia Avenue. We missed the back patio, which apparently is much nicer.

One thing we learned from this trip was that, if you get to a coffee shop late in the day, you should probably order an espresso drink, rather than relying upon whatever drip coffee may have been sitting around for hours. As much as we’d heard good things about Qualia’s coffee, what we had didn’t live up to expectations.

We went back via Rock Creek Parkway and Beach Drive. Our rides ended in different places because, about three miles from home, Tara got a flat rear tire and decided to sit and wait for Simon to go home and pick her and the bike up with the car.

Bike-friendliness: Qualia touts its bike-friendliness on its website. There are bike racks in both the front and rear of the shop.

6-La Mano

  • Trip 6
    Saturday October 26
    Where: La Mano Coffee Bar, 304 Carroll St, Takoma Park, Md.
    Mileage: 14 miles roundtrip

What we drank (and ate): Americano and a green tea, as well as an apple hand pie.

A little bit about our ride: Another beautiful sunny day with lovely foliage along Sligo Creek Parkway and the city of Takoma Park. We had houseguests that day, so we didn’t want to wander too far on our coffeeneuring adventure. La Mano is the newest coffee place in Takoma Park.

They had just run out of drip coffee when we arrived shortly after noon, so we ordered an Americano and a green tea, instead. Both were really delicious! The coffee shop is in a tiny storefront, but, judging from the foot traffic and the banter between staff and folks who must be quickly becoming regulars, it seems to be doing really well.

Bike-friendliness: Directly across the street is the Takoma Park metro, where there are plenty of bike racks. If you didn’t bring a lock, the narrow sidewalk makes the situation less than ideal. We leaned our bikes against the front windows and kept an eye on them from an inside table.

7-Capital City

  • Trip 7
    Sunday November 2
    Where: Capital City Cheesecake, 7071 Carroll Ave, Takoma Park, MD
    Mileage: 16 miles roundtrip

What we drank (and ate): A drip coffee and a Mighty Leaf green tea.

A little bit about our ride: This began as a quick ride, but with head winds and general fatigue, it was pretty slow-going.

The coffee is always good, and is served in mugs if you ask. The shop always seems to be full of people chatting, studying, and reading.

Bike friendliness: Very bike friendly. Staff and customers bike to the café and leave their bikes in a small bike rack near the front entrance. There’s also a large seating area in front, with umbrella-ed tables, where you can also lean your bikes against a low wall.

Well done, Tara and Simon, and I hope you return to coffeeneur again this year!

Theresa, AA1000K

The Overnight Ferris Wheel: Mile 418 on the Appalachian Adventure 1000K

Felkerino and I returned to the Appalachian Adventure (AA) 1000K course this past weekend to staff the second night of the actual event.

Front group AA1000K

Having ridden the pre-ride exactly the week before, I had a fairly vivid memory of my own shattered mile 418 arrival. The second day took more out of me than I bargained for, and it was only through redemption under the sweet crescent moon during our night ride that I mustered the desire to continue.

Kelly AA1000K

With that as the background, I was curious to see how others would experience this part of the ride. I was also excited about sharing their progress with the outside world.

Lothar AA1000K

Staffing the overnight control was like watching a ferris wheel. The early riders arrived around 8:00 p.m. and people arrived steadily until 12:40 a.m.

Tim AA1000K

Riders staggered their arrivals and departures into four- to six-hour increments. Those arriving at 8 p.m. got off the overnight ferris wheel at 2 a.m. Most who arrived between 10:30 and 11 p.m. departed between 3:30 and 4 a.m.

Nicolas AA1000K

Certain groups chatted more than others. Some had a bit of the randonneur loopies, and everything anybody said resulted in laughter. More than a few people made an arrow straight to the cooler of beer, their reward for more than 200 miles of riding that day.

Riders experienced rough spots during the second day, including mechanicals (a crankarm falling off, for example!), uncharacteristic heat in the region, and passing thunderstorms.

Eoghan AA1000K

Some woke after a shower and a rando-nap and took off into the early hours looking like it was nothing. As one person told me, “Even though you have only slept for 90 minutes, it feels like a new day.”

Riders spent between 3-6 hours on the mile 418 ferris wheel, everyone making sure to keep themselves safely within the control window while bagging as much sleep as they felt they could get away with.

Mike AA1000K

Knowing what the course had delivered over the past two days, I was impressed by the determination of these randonneurs. All committed to finishing, no one lingered past 5 a.m. at mile 418.

As fellow overnight volunteer Matt H. said, I “kept the internet alive” by updating people’s times on the Google Drive Rider Tracking Sheet and posting photos of riders, their bikes, as well as their comings and goings on the club’s Facebook page.

I felt like the town crier, wanting everyone to know about the 1000K participants’ progress. In turn, Matt (who works at a bike shop, which makes him the best kind of volunteer) made sure everyone’s chains were lubed and addressed any mechanical issues that arose.

Matt AA1000K

All had endured 418 miles of challenging terrain and they all did whatever necessary to keep moving and complete the challenge.

Even though their bodies were physically worn and in various sleep-starved states, everyone left mile 418 committed to the full 1000K journey, no matter when it ended. And everyone who rode out that final day successfully completed the ride.

Theresa, AA1000K

I told Felkerino that, as I saw them leave, part of me want to go with them. Instead I thanked Felkerino for making all the chili and keeping the control well-stocked, and went to bed to dream about their progress.

Congratulations to everyone who rode the inaugural D.C. Randonneurs Appalachian Adventure 1000K. You inspire me.

AA1000K North River Store

A Post-1000K Conversation With “Future Me”

Immediately after Felkerino’s and my 1000K ride, I was proud of our accomplishment, relieved that we completed what I felt was an extremely challenging course, and happy that we rode within ourselves from beginning to end.

There were several tough parts, but we did not come close to timing out and, and our bodies held strong. We took time to recover and re-hydrate during hot segments, and smartly navigated thunderstorms on the final day.

We stayed in touch with the other pre-riders to make sure we were all moving along okay. Felkerino and I were able to sleep some each night, and finished in high spirits after three of the most beautiful night rides I’ve ever had the pleasure of doing. To top it off, Felkerino put together what I thought was a helpful ride report for those who would be taking on this same challenge the following weekend.

In the immediate days after our finish, I caught up on laundry and sleep, and ran the 1000K through my head a few times. Each time, I determined we could not have done much more to have a better ride.

A week passed and Future Me paid a visit. Never a welcome guest, she just shows up and expects me to listen to her. And I always do.

Back Road on the AA1000K. Photo by Felkerino
Back Road on the AA1000K. Photo by Felkerino

The well-rested, introspective Future Me had a different view of last week’s ride. Without so much as a “good job,” Future Me bored into the many ways I could have improved my ride and our overall time.

“You shouldn’t have had that sit-down lunch on the first day. Lost at least 30 minutes by doing that. Why did you stop at that convenience store 40 miles from the overnight? At least 20 minutes down the drain.

“That second morning—what was your problem? It’s called riding a bicycle. It’s not that hard. The rain showers the final day? Seriously, they weren’t that bad. One downed tree is no excuse for a midnight finish.

“I looked at your training and your overall weekday miles were way too low. No wonder your couldn’t finish earlier. No wonder you suffered when you did.”

On and on Future Me talked. Past Me scrambled to respond to the criticism.

“Future Me, you’re living in a vaccuum. You have no recollection of the ride’s terrain, of the heat we encountered during the ride, of the rainstorms that delayed our finish on the final day, the effects of sleep deprivation, of the extra time it takes to do a pre-ride. Who are you to talk down my ride?”

Present Me watched these two Me’s go back and forth like a tennis match. Finally, she started talking too, and the others went quiet for a moment.

“It’s good to reflect on the ride and helpful to identify areas where training or the ride experience could be improved. But nothing looks the same in retrospect.

“It’s easy to look back and criticize Past Me, and to forget all the elements in play as the ride happened. It’s easy to forget the discomfort of the moment, and the feel of unrelenting hills unfurling over a layer of shortened sleep and heat. It’s easy to say more time should have been dedicated to training when you don’t consider everything else that competes for your attention.

“Like Felkerino would say, You have to trust the people who did that ride. You have to trust they did the best they could in that moment.

“You have to see your ride as just that—your ride. Honor and savor it accordingly. Don’t compare it to what others did, or to what could have been.”

Future Me went quiet and Past Me sighed in relief. Present Me showed Future Me the door, and said farewell to her with a smile. She then began to ponder the next adventure.

Sunrise on Day 3. AA1000K

Enduring the Pain Point

Mile 250 of our 625-mile ride. Fatigue courses through my body. My skin has that beat-up feeling from multi-day endurance riding. The sun is shrouded in fog and the road keeps going up.

Mile 372. Crawling through Douthat State Park. It’s peaceful and wooded, but night is falling. And the road keeps going up. And did I mention? We’re crawling.

I’m sick of it all. Sick of pedaling. Sick of riding so many miles and feeling as though I’m making no progress. Sure, the hills make it pretty, but I’m pretty sure they’re killing me. Why am I out here?

I am swallowed by the pain point. Every endurance event has at least one– that segment in the ride where the mind rejects the physical endeavor, and pesters with distracting questions and frustrations.

Why am I doing this? I’ve come a long way, but still so much is left. This is not fun. In fact, I don’t even like it. What would happen if I stopped? The pain point’s questions consume.

I shout down the negative self-talk. Every second I pedal will take me further through the pain point. Every pedal stroke matters. Endure. Endure. I repeat the word over and over, in between the mind’s insistent whispers to stop.

I convince myself the pain point will pass. I tell myself the only way to reach the sublime is through the discomfort that has enveloped me. I must endure it.

The pain point may be relatively short, or it may last hours. But in my experience, it always passes. As long as I keep fighting the mental battle with an unrelenting determination to move forward, I will endure the pain point and I will reach a new place.

Eventually, I claw away from the pain point. I escape its nagging questions and vexations, and a weight is lifted. My cluttered and conflicted mind empties. The present moment and the turns ahead are what matter now.

My head comes up and I appreciate the beauty of the ride experience again. Hello, ride, it’s me. I’m back. I’m free from the pain point. Let’s go.


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