A lovely day for riding: 70s at 9, high 80s at 2:30, sunny, breezy (at times downright windy and in the wrong direction) and thankfully not humid. I wasn't expecting many Oxon Hill members to drive up to Thurmont, and was pleasantly surprised to meet Roscoe William, Linda and Paul Bankerd and guest Andres Valencia, Joan Oppel, Deborah Bowman and Loretta Troen in Thurmont Community Park. We made a nice group of 8 that stayed together most of the day.
The route was a combination of new bits (getting out of Thurmont via Apple's Church over to Mud College and crossing the covered bridge on Waterworks) familiar bits from a 3 Covered Bridges ride I used to lead (until I got tired of always being dropped in the first mile) and roads dimly remembered in the Gettysburg Battlefield from rides done many years ago.
I tried to add the Gettysburg section to that 3 Covered Bridges ride for years, but never got it done. For several years, the route was impassible because Red Rock Rd. was closed. I think the new-looking bridge we crossed explains that closure. Once, we had to abandon the effort because 40 mph winds had left everyone too exhausted to add 10 more to a 50 mile ride.
Today's foray was not without adventure. We crossed the covered bridge on Waterworks Rd. in style, taking a break to snap some photos - even had a visiting photographer take pictures of the group on at least three of our cameras. Then we dealt with Paul's broken right hand STI shift cable.
That makes 3 for 3: Jay on Tuesday, Jim on Thursday, and now Paul today. Can anyone see a pattern here? Have you changed your right hand STI shift cable lately? And do you know "the trick" for dealing with a broken cable on the road?
At least, Paul had a triple. When you tie the rear cable down, you still have the front shifter, and with a triple that gives you three gears to work with. Those three were enough to get Paul up the most significant hill on today's route (indeed, one of the most significant hills in American history), Little Round Top. Some claim a compact double will give you the same low gear as a road triple, but when it comes to disaster recovery mode, I think the triple is the hands down winner.
The adventures didn't stop there. As we went on down Waterworks, photos securely captured and Paul clicking away on his newly-minted three speed, the road narrowed, we passed three bollards in the road -- OK, no problem, the covered bridge is closed to automobile traffic -- and then came to the iron bridge just before Red Rock Road. That bridge has been closed to automobile traffic for years, too, but not for bikes -- but today they had plastic mesh netting up blocking both ends of the bridge.
It was easy lifting the bikes over on the near end, it was half collapsed, but it was Joan-high on the far end. Not so easy getting the bikes up over that, especially not mine, loaded as it was with three water bottles, lunch, camera and the rest of the usual gear.
Energized by our successful portage, we climbed the observation tower on SE Confederate Ave. for a sweeping panoramic view of the battlefield, and then went on in search of the Comfort Station cue'd as a rest stop. Didn't find the one we were looking for, but did find the next one at the Devil's Den -- where we ran into Loretta's husband, who had driven up with her and was touring the battlefield on his own while she rode with us.
After the break, it was up Round Top (not nearly as tough as I remembered from 30 years ago) then left on what we finally did establish was Wheatfield. Navigation in the battlefield is challenging: often there are no signs, and when there are signs, they're usually 200 feet down from the corner. This time, we had to ask. We then went around the Wheatfield, past the Peach Orchard, and out of the battlefield on Millerstown, Red Rock back to Pumping Station, then Middle Creek, Wenschoff and Tract to Emmitsburg.
The group stayed together, more or less (some suffering more from headwinds than others) until the rest stop in Emmitsburg, five deciding to have a sit-down lunch in a restaurant while the remaining three ate their snacks and went on after a few minutes, stopping again for a little A/C, water and a bathroom stop at Mount St. Mary's, entering Thurmont over the Roddy covered bridge.
We set no records - in fact, some of us didn't quite make an Oxon Hill B pace today - but we did have a very enjoyable ride. Here are a few photos from the ride:
and Joan's photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/30856149@N04/sets/72157630028575067/show/