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Old Rag 200K Fall Edition: Time Sandwich

My. Feet. Are. So. Cold. Even though Felkerino and I waited to start the Old Rag 200K with the sun, it’s one of the first chilly mornings of fall. I had booties in hand, but left them home at the last minute, thinking they would just take up space for the majority of the day. 

Sunrise and cold feet outside of Warrenton

Bob Counts rides up near us and says “I can’t believe my first time riding this was 2004.” Cold feet thoughts occupy my mind and I’m certain Bob said that he can’t believe he’s riding this in 2004. “But Bob, it’s 2020.” I swear I say this, and then realize he is speaking about the past. What can I say, 2020 is confusing.

Felkerino shares that he first rode Old Rag back in the 90s. I don’t know when I first rode it, but Old Rag was my second official brevet ever. It’s a course with only has one significant climb of note – Old Rag, after which the route is named – but keeps coming at you with one big Virginia roller after the other, over and over, for 125 miles. 

Crista, the route designer, once told us that she liked to ride this brevet in springtime. Redbud, cherry blossoms, the green of springtime and all that. It’s certainly nice that time of year, but with the October color going strong Old Rag pops plenty in the fall, too. 

Bob’s 2004 comment must have set the tone, and throughout the ride I find myself encountering the past. All the versions of the Old Rag 200K that I’ve ever ridden layer themselves on top of each other into a time sandwich, and at various points I meet my past self and other randonneurs.

Early miles on Old Rag

Riding up Old Rag with Bill Arcieri. Seeing Chuck and Crista at the top of a rise during one year when they had chosen to volunteer instead of ride. Those intrepid dogs just before the low water bridge. Pedaling with Charlie and Scott through the Hebron Valley. Parking the tandem against the side of the Syria Mercantile – the halfway point – when it had a different paint job. 

Remembering that time when I rode the first half so hard that I ran out of gas for the second half of the ride. Seeing our friend Jon on the side of the road just before Piney Mountain, having had the derailleur rip completely off his De Rosa. 

Bill and Gavin, leaving Syria Store

Perhaps it’s because I’ve ridden this course so many times it’s natural to encounter memories like these along the way. I don’t know. They are so vivid. It’s a novel and weird feeling to be in this kind of time sandwich.

It isn’t all memories on the fall 2020 edition of the Old Rag 200K. Real people accompany us, too. Gavin and Bill show up and we continue our consistent trend of arriving at the control just as Gavin and Bill depart it. Bill Beck keeps us company through the Hebron Valley. 

Bill on Hebron Valley

Dale Houck criss-crosses with us for much of the ride, and watching him pedal up and down the rises ahead of us propels us forward. He is thoroughly delighted by the Laurel Mills Store and its devotion to Halloween. 

Dale at Laurel Mills Store

At times a canopy of fall color surrounds us, while other segments invite us to soak in the colorful hillsides. The lack of randonneur paperwork allows us to ride with our own flow, taking breaks as we want versus what the control card demands. We’ll use our GPS tracks and photos to verify our passage. 

It’s an unceremonious ending for Felkerino and me, as the pandemic means no social gathering at the finish. Still, it feels great to complete the route in daylight under late fall sun.

In the corner of my mind, I spy a past me unpacking from the ride in almost the exact same spot we’re using now. Sweaty and smiling, the crisp sun of springtime shines on her. Here’s to yesterday, today, and the next time we do Old Rag. 

7 Comments »

  1. The best part of riding this in the Fall was the absence of fertilizer on the fields! In past years I renamed the valley near Etlan “The Valley of 10,00 Bad Smells” This year, it was just pretty.

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  2. MG, nice writeup and photos. Really captured some of those feelings of doing multiple years of rides. Guessing that tandeming allows better photos as those are really great.

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  3. Been thinking for the last 2 years. With weather that stinks late in the coffee rides, can we start a month or so sooner? Here in Spfd.,MO. we are having a week of cold rain. My last ride last year was short and cold. Just a old guy(73) who does not like the cold. Thanks.

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    • Dennis, let me think about it! I like starting in October, but I could bump the start up a week. You can always apply for an exception to the Coffeeneuring Board, if you want to start earlier.

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