Monday, July 20, 2009

Montaindale from the Dales

It has now, shamefully, been a month since our Mountaindale adventure, but the recap post is finally here.

As residents of Frederick, we're lucky to have in the area a variety of scenic country roads to ride on, as well as a fairly strong bicycling culture. In addition to useful route search sites like Bikely and, Frederick has its own cycling club, which has its own website, which has its own collection of cue sheets.

Using a pre-existing cue sheet for a ride keeps planning to a minimum. You're given turn-by-turn directions for the entire route and, assuming they're correct and don't land you at a dead end on a cliff, you're pretty much all set. If the sheet comes from a reputable source (like a club), you can rest assured that it's been ridden before and endorsed, in some sense or another, by the riders that made the route available to the public. The downside, of course, is that you're potentially putting your trust in something totally unfamiliar to you. In looking at a list of road names, distances and turn instructions, there's no telling what you are getting yourself into if you aren't already familiar with where those directions will take you.

Before planning our ride, I had hinted to Tonya that we should take a ride heading west along Rosemont Ave/Yellow Springs road and chose the Mountaindale route based on its directional bearings and distance. Having survived the 20 miles roundtrip to church, I figured a 30mi ride would be reasonable and doable. I took a look at the roads on the route, most of which sounded familiar and none of which struck me as being particularly daunting (having never ridden on the majority, of course). Everything seemed manageable, and we set out with positive expectations for the trip.

The cue sheet had us leaving from Whittier Elementary. Leaving from our front door, we elected to bypass the starting line and get directly onto Rosemont, which would take us onto Yellow Springs and out into the meat of the ride.

Riding on Rosemont and Yellow Springs wasn't fun. It was, in fact, a pain in the ass, one that has forced me to reconsider my vow to one day go pick up pizza from Pizza Blitz on my bike. Fairly heavy traffic, a disappearing shoulder, and obnoxious drivers had us thankful to turn off onto Walter Marz and head out into the countryside.

On the smaller roads we encountered fewer cars, thankfully, and the first few miles passed without incident: we came across a remote, half-finished housing development, watched birds interacting with each other, and were passed by a group of Frederick Pedalers who were heading home after riding the same Mountaindale route we had just begun. Obviously they got started much earlier than we did.

The route turned onto Oppossumtown Pike, the scene of one of the rare "distance" rides I did (all of 16 miles) in preparation for riding the Livestrong Challenge last summer. This ride would take us much farther, but my familiarity with that area would serve us well later in the afternoon.

When Tonya talks about this ride now, she has well-defined memories of encountering some pretty brutal hills. With it having taken place a month ago, the details of my own recollection are much fuzzier now than they were in its immediate aftermath. I remember hills we couldn't prepare ourselves for that snuck up on us behind sharp curves. I remember other hills that stretched out straight ahead of us and seemed cripplingly daunting as we approached them, though some turned out to be less painful than anticipated. One in particular sent us on a straight descent for what seemed like a while, with trucks thundering along beside us, before the road tipped up and we huffed and puffed our way to the top.

Hurting for now, but she was a trooper!

Oh yeah, my chain fell off, too

In much clearer detail I remember passing through a quiet wooded area on a small road alongside a creek. Tonya called out to me from behind to take a look at something.

Being insensitive and riding off in front again

It took me a few seconds to register that she'd spoken to me, but between then and my turning around, she ended up on the ground. I raced back towards her to make sure she was alright and found her sobbing and pointing at the side of her brand new Sidi Dominators, scraped up from the fall.

She had seen a baby turtle and was calling out for me to come see it, and she got stuck in her pedals and tipped over. Stupid shoes.

We didn't blame the turtle, though. It was really cute (and very tiny; Tonya knows and appreciates my fondness for things in miniature).

I remember a strange déja vu sensation passing through roads I thought we'd ridden along together during our ride with Whitney and Araminta, or prior to that on the group ride I did back in February. Tonya assured me we were nowhere near where we'd been for the former and likely not anywhere near where I was on the latter. In reality, we were a long ways from home, much farther than I had expected—like, Thurmont far—and we still had a long way to go before we'd make it home.

At some point it started to rain. We realized around this time that we still had 2/3rds of the ride left. Crap. So we kept going. What else were we going to do?

Cut to our second crossing of Route 15, and I realized then where exactly we were and what remaining roads we could cut out to make the trip home go a little more quickly. We elected to skip the Mountaindale General Store and definitely opted out of riding "The Hill"—we'd had enough, thanks. Heading back onto Bethel Road, we turned onto Oppossumtown Pike, still out in BFE but hurrying back as fast as we were able. Going back onto Walter Marz was off the table, as was tackling Christopher's Crossing and Yellow Springs. It was a straight shot on Oppossumtown back into downtown Frederick, but we had one more punishing and tear-inducing hill to deal with. Soon afterward, thankfully, we were back on familiar ground, approaching FCC's campus and closer than ever to home.

1 comment:

  1. You're really too kind. I cried and whined much more than you indicated here. Of course, you were so far ahead of me that you probably weren't aware of it.


    I'm kidding - I'd leave my whiny ass in the dust, too.