PA 400k New Blue Redeux

Night riding trials and tribulations.

Last weekend was the Eastern PA Randonneurs New Blue Redeux 400k and the third of four rides in the SR series. I did this ride on my fat bike again, so I’m now only one terrible, terrible ride away from completing the whole series on fat tires.

The forecast for the 400 looked significantly better than the 300 or 200 as far as temperature, wind speed, and wind direction. There was rain in the forecast which was supposed to taper off by the start or shortly into the ride.

I wasn’t completely sold on attempting the full series on the fat bike after the 300 because of how difficult the ride was. After looking at the profile of the 400 though, it was an easy choice. It was basically an extra 65 miles with only an additional 1000-2000 feet of climbing. The 400 this year was a remastered counterclockwise version of our usual route. This year’s route had us starting in Easton, heading north to Wind Gap, then southwest to Palmyra, and generally east to Phoenixville before turning north back to Easton.

We took off at 4 am into a light rain. It was pretty miserable riding for about the first 2-3 hours, but as the sun came up, the rain let up, and we all began to dry off. The worst part was my shoes would not dry off for the rest of the day.

I ended up riding the whole ride with my buddies CJ, Ryan, Nick, and Steve again. It’s always a fun group. These rides can be pretty daunting at times, especially if you’re alone. Riding with friends makes the experience much better, and of course, misery loves company.

We got to ride a lot of rail trails, which was a nice change of pace for these rides. I like getting away from cars, even if it’s just for a few miles.

Highlights of the day include our pizza stop in Palmyra where we were each greeted with a free donut (shoutout to Roma Pizza!), amazing soft serve just down the street from Roma, and The Foodery in Phoenixville where I was able to grab a couple good beers while a hipster with a pink beard tried to convert me.

Fortunately, we had a mild tailwind out and back, so the ride was a lot easier than it could have been. The most difficult part was riding into the night and fighting off sleep. There were a couple times when I thought I might fall asleep on my bike, but music and talking helped keep me upright. We ended up rolling into the finish at about 24 and a half hours.

The 600 is going to be much more difficult. Sufferfest is probably too generous a term for it. At this point, I feel obligated to try, so all I can do is hope for decent weather. The ride is on May 18, so I’ve got about a month to mentally prepare for it at any rate.

Hawk’s Nest 300k…on a fat bike

View from Hawk’s Nest

This past weekend was the Eastern PA Randonneurs Hawks Nest 300k. It was a scenic but difficult ride that demanded more and more from riders as the day went on. Keeping with my goal as mentioned in my previous post, I did this ride on my fat bike.

About 30 of us clipped in to start the ride at 5 am in Easton, PA. I rode with my friends CJ, Nick, and Ryan for the whole ride; they are always great company.

Morning mist

The first half of the ride was really pleasant and included some unfamiliar roads, which was a nice change of pace from some of our old recycled routes.

My memories of these longer rides are always peppered with various images throughout the route. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always make for a great coherent story. We rode through some beautiful vistas at sunrise and in the early morning. We rode down an amazing gravel road heading into Delaware Water Gap. After Water Gap, it was pretty much uphill all the way into New York. This route also featured a little over 10 miles of riding along the Lackawaxen River. This is normally a pretty quiet road, but on this ride, we were dodging runners in an unexpected marathon.

By the time we got to The Corner in Eldred, NY, we had most of the distance and most of the climbing behind us. I should have been worried by how good I felt, but it didn’t sink in until we left the stop that the worst was yet to come. Leaving the stop, we rode straight uphill and straight into the wind. In fact, there would be a headwind the entire way back to Easton.

A few miles past Eldred, we were treated to stunning views of the Delaware from high above. Shortly after this, we turned south down Old Mine Road, which I’m told is one of the oldest continuously used roads in the US. Old Mine Road is infamous to our club’s riders for its pothole filled climb on the approach to Delaware Water Gap. Not only is the road steep, but it forces you to choose your lines as if you were mountain biking. Typically, we’re rewarded with a nice downhill and a right turn onto a rolling road before crossing the Delaware. Not today.

The Lackawaxen River
Crossing the Delaware on the Roebling Aqueduct

On this ride we went left up Millbrook Road instead of right to climb an additional 600 feet up one of the steepest roads I’ve ever ridden. That road was misery. That road stole part of my soul that I will never get back.

View from partway up Millbrook Road

Thankfully from the top of the hill, it was downhill all the way to our next stop in Blairstown. We took a decently long rest to eat and regroup before the final push back to the finish. The final miles were a blur. It was all I could do to even stay awake at this point – about 15 hours of riding after waking up shortly after 2 am. As we walked our bikes across the Delaware into Easton, the finish was only a couple of miles off, and even though there were a few annoying climbs left, it wasn’t too bad. We rolled into the finish at just over 18 hours, 2 hours ahead of the 20 hour cutoff for a 300k. I immediately forgot about how miserable I felt. I was just thankful I got to share the ride with my friends.