Bicycle Wayback Machine: My Second Year of Randonneuring

Chasing Mailboxes takes another trip in the wayback machine to 2006, my second year of randonneuring. I don’t even remember writing this one, but then again, randonneur Bob Casciato once told me that amnesia is one of the essential qualities of a good randonneur. It seems to be working for me. Hope you enjoy it!

The Wool
I always think a good place to start is with the clothing. This year I developed a devotion to the perfect brevet garb. Wool became a staple for almost all my rides this year, and I completed all brevets sporting Ibex wool jerseys as my top layer.

I discovered the magic of wool and silk underlayers, and the way a base layer can help draw out the contrasting piping or other accents on one’s cycling jersey. I may have completed the brevets feeling weary, but looking like a randonneur superstar.

The Brevets

It is difficult to discern whether this was the year of the Passion of the Brevets or the Passion of the Turkey Sandwiches. I’ll start with the former. No longer a rookie, tandem partner Ed and I reaped the benefits of our initial year as a tandem team being put behind us. Departure times for ride starts, questions of gear, and questions of wrenching (always ongoing) seemed to finally come together. Our system worked well, and it reminded me of how a second year school teacher must feel after the initial year of lesson planning, timing, and all the other essentials have fallen into place.

All the rides were beautiful with moments of epic-ness. I made great progress toward reaching my goal of visiting every convenience store along the East Coast. Other highlights included climbing Big Flat (not flat), riding through Fort Frederick, Gettysburg and Antietam, going up Snickersville Gap, clawing through the Pigeon Hills of York County, and stopping at the Shepherdstown Sweet Shop in West Virginia (the best brevet control ever).

Tales of riders’ tenacity also come to mind—Steve Ashurst and Lynn Ho riding the 300K with no middle ring, Chris Mento’s commitment to brevet bonus miles, and the 300K rider who went off cue to ride up and over Big Flat (not flat), only to turn around and ride up and over it again to get back on course. Good times!

My 2006 Fleche Team

My Torrid Affair with Turkey
Another standout of 2006 was my ongoing love-hate relationship with turkey. During the 300K I could not get enough of those turkey sandwiches I so thoughtfully prepared for Ed and me. Yum! Turkey.

I realized, though, that sometimes, even when you look good, you don’t always feel good… about turkey, that is. The 400K was a story of Ed telling me, “You must eat the turkey!” and me responding, “I can’t eat the turkey!” Yuck! Turkey.

The turkey and I eventually had it out at the 600K, meeting somewhere at the place of, “well, sometimes turkey can be ok.” To this day, I persist in my distrust of the turkey.

The upside of food and brevets was the presence of Lynn Ho’s caffeinated brownies making their way into my tummy at various points during the rides, and finding great little places like the Shepherdstown Sweet Shop, the best brevet controle ever. Everybody needs breaks from gas station dining every once in a while, just to be reminded that it probably is not the best thing to try and live off of kettle-cooked potato chips and Little Debbies. You need a good cup of coffee, too!

My Sexy Randonneur Lifestyle
This summer Ed and I took our tandem and rode our brains out on the Cascade 1200K randonnee. This was my first 1200K and Ed’s first 1200K on tandem. Ed and I rode steadily along, plodding up mountain passes, roasting in the desert, and bombing down mountains. The best part is that we did not have even one argument. We must really love each other.

I completed the ride transformed. At the very least, I know both Ed’s and my rear ends were transformed. Ed fondly calls the Cannondale tandem “the four day spanking machine,” and I have an increased respect for the practical application of products like Lantiseptic and Bag Balm.

I think a 1200K must be the apex of a sexy randonneur lifestyle. My eyes were bloodshot, my face and body gritty with road grime and salt, I was sleep deprived, and I became temporarily insane. My body smelled in terrifying new ways that only happen after riding over 200 miles in one day. So sexy!

Felkerino and me, on the Cascade 1200K, 2006

One of the best things about randonneuring is the type of comments heard among riders on rides, especially the longer brevets. What follows are my collection of random comments heard or thoughts had during the 2006 rides:

Even after two years of discussion about disc brakes, people (especially Chuck Wood and Ed) can continue talking about their magic.

Paul Donaldson asking Matt Settle whether this was the “flat part of the ride,” as we slogged up a hill during our “flat” fleche ride from the Shenandoah Valley to Washington, D.C.

Michael Rowny saying that we were going to be riding our bicycles literally up and down trees during the 600K ride.

Michael returning Chuck’s Camelbak to him after collecting it from the final rest stop of the 600K, and Chuck saying, “Good! I’m glad all my water is still in it!”

Peter Springer riding our brevets on those wide tires, and looking like a little Christmas tree, with a slew of taillights on his back and on his Carradice bag.

Ed asking me if I wanted a turkey sandwich during the 400K, after he had spent the last two hours listening to me express my aversion to turkey.

Wes Cheney and Bill Beck racing by us at the end of the 600K, on fire to get to the finish of the ride.

Michael researching the true meaning behind many of Crista’s cue sheet terms. Terms like rolling, hilly, and scenic seeming to have a direct relationship to mountainous. UM, and EASY TO MISS as euphemisms for bonus miles.

And Finally, the New Addition
After Cascade, Ed became intent on purchasing a new tandem. This December a beautiful burnt orange custom Co-Motion tandem with matching green Brooks B-17 saddles joined our blossoming bicycle family. Even though it is so gorgeous that I am tempted to tell Ed we should hang it above the mantle, we are having a great time getting some miles on this new bike, and look forward to what the 2007 brevet season will bring.

As I mentioned before, I want you all to know that I don’t eat Little Debbies anymore and I seldom eat turkey sandwiches. However, I still indulge in those kettle-cooked chips during rides from time to time!

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