Blue Ridge to Bay 1200k

When I first signed up for the Blue Ridge to Bay 1200k, I was unsure of my ability to complete the ride. It just seemed like so much more than I had ever done. Nervous as I was, I dove headfirst into the challenge and made the drive down from NJ the morning of the ride. Naturally, I forgot my water bottles, and even worse, when I went to turn my rack light on as the pre ride meeting was wrapping up, it would not light up. I took the light apart thinking it was just a dead battery, but it turned out to be a broken solder. Luckily, years of randonneuring taught me to keep two backups of everything, so I was able to zip tie another onto my bag but not before the entire group had already left. Such is life.

The W&OD bike path didn’t have any plans to make my day easier however. A few miles in, I realized that my front tire was going flat and had to stop to change the tube. A few miles after that, my rear wheel came out from under me while braking on a downhill hairpin descent, and I scraped up my right knee (luckily the bike was fine, save the bar tape). Riding into Washington was a real treat. I took my time getting pictures of the monuments and of course the Watergate.

This was the best picture I could get of the Watergate. It’s bad, but I had to. “Very new, very modern.” – Richard Nixon – Forrest Gump

Somewhere on the way to the next controle, I caught up with De’Anna and Steve. Some things are a blur – I can’t remember when, but we caught up with Rudi and Emily at some point later in the day. We realized eventually that we were all on our first 1200k. We didn’t know it and didn’t necessarily plan it at this point, but we would be riding together for pretty much the entire ride.

Gettysburg

Day 1 was without a doubt my worst day. The weather was really bumming me out, and a flat tire towards the end of the day in the dark didn’t do anything to improve my mood. I really owe Rudi a lot for cheerfully fixing my flat for me. By the end of the day, I was seriously considering throwing in the towel and withdrawing from the ride. I decided I would get some “sleep” and see how I felt in the morning.

I woke up a couple hours later, resolved to finish the ride I had spent so much time and money on. The five of us left together or around the same time. We bunny hopped back and forth until the climb up Skyline Drive, which had some of the best views on the whole 1200, and then again through Fort Valley until Front Royal. The remaining 60 miles were stormy and mostly ridden together.

Another couple hours of sleep and we were off again. My memories of day 3 are a bit more hazy, but highlights include a feast of a breakfast from McDonalds featuring hotcakes, apple pies, and a sundae; a tortilla chip stop at Chipotle where Rudi accidentally filled his Camelbak with lemonade and then proceeded to spill it all over by not properly fastening the bladder; laying down in the grass outside Wawa with my long anticipated hoagie (yes they are called hoagies) and chips; and getting shown around the route by Emily who was familiar with many of the roads and sights.

Day 4 featured another rear flat and downpours. I remember questioning my life for a bit until I waterproofed myself at a Burger King. The mental game was never too bad because we knew we were on the home stretch the entire day, even though it was a 200k. I also had the luxury of knowing that my PA Rando friends, CJ and James, were waiting at the finish with the promise of a shower and beer.

I’ve always felt that the ride is defined by the people we share it with rather than the conditions we face on the road. I can think of many times I rode through miserable weather or on miserable roads, but as long as you ride with good people, the ride is never as bad as it seems at times. So even though we faced everything from downpours, to cold, to oppressive heat, I will always remember the BRB 1200 for the friends I made and the experiences we shared.

Awards!

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