Blood pudding, Guinness and a little ‘Luck of the Irish’. For this installment of the Dew Files we sent our intrepid wanderer to Ireland for a St Patrick’s day exploit. Rather than letting Dew loose to partake in the revelry and libations in Dublin, we put him on a fully loaded Sutra LTD to […]
Month: September 2016
Maple City Century – Gravel
On Sunday, I traveled to Honesdale, PA with Eric, Matt, Bob and Kyle, to do the Maple City Century, a mixed terrain 100 miler that consisted of about 85% gravel and dirt roads and just over 9,000 feet of climbing. The route brings you through most of rural Wayne County and borders the Delaware River and New York State in several sections. If you haven’t been to this part of Northeastern PA, check it out, it’s beautiful, especially during the fall foliage season.
100, 62 and 30 mile options are offered. Each route different, but challenging in their own way. The 30 mile option gave riders a glimpse of what pedaling in Wayne County is all about, on mostly dirt and gravel roads.The 62 and 100 mile routes include long, steep climbs through farm land, logging roads and every kind of back road you can imagine.
It was chilly at the start, about 36 degrees, but warmed up to the mid 60’s at mid day. I did not get a chance to sample the 30 and 62 mile routes. I was up in the air about whether to do the 62 or 100 but made a game time decision to push through the 100 mile course. I was rewarded for my efforts with amazing views, awesome rest stops and a chance to ride with some fantastic people. Matt and Bob rode the 62 miler as Matt took care of repairs for the riders at the start and had to wait for the masses to depart. Kyle and Eric joined me on this epic journey.
The 100, left from behind the Post Office in Honesdale at 8:20am and rolled through town with a Police escort. 2 miles later, the gravel adventure began. I compartmentalized the ride into 4 sections, divided by the 3 rest stops. The first section was hilly to say the least. But, anyone who cycles in Northeastern, PA knows there are no flat roads here. Just ups and downs and ups and downs.
The ride organizer made all routes available for download to a GPS enabled device. Cue sheets were also made available. However, the course was expertly marked out with easily visible color coded signs at every turn. At mile 33, we arrived at the first rest stop and were greeted with friendly volunteers and an array of energy bars, gels, fruit, trail mix, water and energy drink. Volunteers signed in all riders, to ensure they reached the checkpoint safely.
The next section began with a hill, just up the road from the rest stop. Another 15 or so miles or gravel and we hit Brown Trout Trail. This extremely technical, section lasted for five miles. With the side of a mountain to the right and a cliff to the left, the six foot wide trail seemed suited for a full suspension MTB, Fat Bike or ATV. With a waterfall coming right through, a washed out portion of the trail required a little hike a bike. This was the most challenging part of the course.
Just as we pushed off Brown Trout Trail, we arrived at rest stop #2. What a welcome sight after bouncing around for more than 40 minutes. After filling bottles and devouring everything in sight, we saddled up and headed out into the beautiful countryside. We saw some odd old homes, rustic churches and more than a few cattle.
At mile 75, we pulled into rest stop #3. This seemed like a great place to sit down and stretch a bit. With only 25 miles to go, finishing certainly seemed like a reality. Just a few more hills and a lot more gravel!
I kept telling myself that the big climbs were behind us. That didn’t work very well as hill after hill punished every weary leg that pedaled on. I have to say that Eric really got me through this ride. He kept me going when I wasn’t feeling too good. As for Kyle, we only saw him for a few seconds at the start. Every time we hit a sketchy section of trail, I did imagined Kyle laughing and riding right through. It was still light out when we rolled back into Honesdale, 8 hours and 47 minutes later. A quick clothing change at the car and a brief walk to the Irving Cliff Brewery for a well deserved post ride feast.
Kudos to Ride Director Zach Wentzel and his staff for putting on a first class ride. The course markers were spot on, the rest stops were fully stocked and the volunteers were friendly and helpful. The course was everything it was supposed to be and more. It’s already on the calendar for next year. September 24th, 2017. Save the date!
What is Gravel Grinding?
It’s 8am on a Sunday Morning. I’ve just unloaded my bike from the top of my car. I’m doing some last minute checks to make sure I have enough food and water to get me through the day, as I’m about to embark on a 30-35 mile bike ride through mostly gravel roads in the Delaware State Forest. That day, I rode through the state forest, onto the pavement for a couple of miles and back into the forest, with a couple of diversions on dirt roads and grassy trails to end with 32 miles of an all road adventure.
This type of riding is most commonly called “gravel grinding”. Some call it “adventure cycling” and some refer to it as “all road riding”. Whatever you call it, it’s just plain fun.
Gravel Grinding has been popular in the midwest for the better part of a decade. Many of the big gravel races in the US are found there because of the extensive network of gravel and dirt roads that sprawl across the region. Here in the northeastern part of the country, gravel grinding is catching on. In this area alone, we have access to numerous gravel roads that are part of the state forest as well as the McDade Trail, which is a 32 mile gravel and dirt trail, connecting Milford to Stroudsburg as part of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, along with many other off the beaten path options.
The best part about gravel grinding is that you don’t need a specific bike to get you going. You can pedal across gravel or dirt on a mountain bike, road bike, cyclocross bike, dual sport bike, comfort bike, whatever, just make sure you have enough tread on your tires to shed a little mud and stone. However, most bicycle companies are now producing “gravel bikes”. A good choice for people who just want to have 1 bike. A bike that allows a lot of options for two wheeled adventure. You can hit the gravel, ride in a gran fondo, throw racks and fenders on for loaded touring or just use it as an everyday commuter. Action Bikes and Outdoor, right in the heart of Milford, stock several models of gravel bikes, along with every type of bike and accessory as well as kayaks, paddles and most things for the outdoor enthusiast. Stop in, they are happy to offer advice on where to ride. They even have great paper maps and resources to help you on your journey.
The beauty of gravel grinding is it gets you out of traffic and puts you right in the middle of nature. There’s no need to hammer through the woods. Slow down, enjoy the scenery and take in everything that nature has to offer. You won’t regret it. In fact, there seems to be a growing number of riders in our area that love having the opportunity to pedal in areas that until recently seemed foreign. On both sides of the Delaware River, there are trails and roads that lead to waterfalls, farms, corn fields, breathe taking views, wildlife sightings, streams, creeks and lakes.
If you are up for the adventure, try one of the areas local gravel races. The Maple City Century, on September 25, 2016 starts in Honesdale and takes you through beautiful and scenic Wayne County on mostly dirt and gravel roads. In October, Action Bikes and Outdoor sponsor the Erie 80. An 80K gravel, dirt and paved MTB ride that shows you all
that Port Jervis has to offer. If you are not looking for an organized race, there is usually a group riding from somewhere. Mostly from the shop parking lot.
So if I’ve peaked your interest just a little bit, get out and pedal a quiet country road, you’ll be planning your next gravel ride before you load your bike back on the car.
A Little Gravel Prep
Getting out today was harder than I thought. I got up at 6:30am to meet Eric for a morning ride. I took the dog for a walk and got wet as it rained hard for about 10 minutes. I text Eric and opted for a few more hours sleep over a wet ride. He manned up and went out for a rain ride. I waited until 3pm, when it was dry and the forecast looked clear to venture out into the woods.
I’m planning to ride in the Maple City Century next Sunday in Honesdale, PA. It’s a 100 mile gravel adventure with lots of climbing. So, I wanted to just get a few extra miles in on some loose gravel roads to help prepare for the event.
I rode out of my driveway and up through my community, then veered into the woods via a deer trail and onto Five Mile Meadow Road. I haven’t been on a bike since Tuesday, so I took it easy as I let my legs warm up to the hills. I headed out to Silver Lake Road and climbed up the monster hill before turning left onto Flat Ridge Road.
About halway up Flat Ridge, I met up with Bob, another local cyclist that was also training for the Maple City Century. He was doing almost he same ride that I was doing today. After, pedaling up to Minisink Lake and turning around, I came back down Flat Ridge and took Bob’s advice when I turned right on Coon Swamp Road. Coon Swamp is gravel and loose packed dirt. It continues for a couple of miles and comes to an end at the top of a hill, with a cool camping spot, over looking Coon Swamp Lake.
Coming out of Coon Swamp, just before I got back to Flat Ridge, I was startled as I noticed a black shape in the roadway. It was a huge black bear. I fumbled for my phone to take a photo, but he scampered away as I tried to get closer. Probably better off for me. It never ceases to amaze me what beautiful creatures they are.
Back on Flat Ridge, I rode on, knowing how lucky I am to have this incredible state game land, with all the gravel emergency access roads, right in my backyard. I descended down Silver Lake Road and hung a left back onto Five Mile Meadow Road. From there, I pedaled through the deer trail and home.
I’ve written about this area a few times before, but I felt compelled, as a new road or trail, especially one that ends high above a lake, providing superior views, needs me to tell you about it, so you can go ride it and see for yourself!
What’s Playing: (What am I’m listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – The Babys – Isn’t It Time
Tour de Force – Day 4
The final day of the TDF is always bittersweet. I’m happy to get home and get back to my daily routine, but I’m also sad that it will be another year before I get to see all the awesome people that I have the privelage to be associated with for the last 15 years.
We started with a transport over to Liberty State Park in Jersey City. After a few wrenches were turned and photos were snapped, we were led out by a multitude of New Jersey Police agencies with a fantastic escort through Jersey City, Hoboken, Fort Lee and all the wonderful cities and towns along the Jersey side of the Hudson River. What came next was unusual. The Port Authority Police Department along with the Fort Lee Police Department and the NYPD, shut down the George Washington Bridge to escort us into the greatest city on the world.
The riders were given the entire right lane of the bridge. Most charity tours are relegated to the bike path along side the bridge. We snaked into Manhattan and eventually onto Riverside Drive for a cool ride above the river and down the west side. We hit the Henry Hudson Parkway and again had a lane shut down for us. For 15 years, we have been treated well by our own department, but never to this extent.
Dropping down to 12th Avenue, we were given free passage all the way to the Freedom Tower and the 9/11 Memorial. After a moment of silence to remember all victims of that horrible day, we pedaled over to Battery Park, where we were treated to a ceremony, honoring our efforts.
As the TDF came to a close, we said our goodbyes and expressed our hope to see everyone next year. Our year end meeting is in October, where we will vote on how all monies raised will be donated. We will also finalize our route for next year and immediately start planning for the 2017 event. You can check out what we do and how we do it by dropping by our web page at http://www.tourdeforceny.com. I leave you with yet, a few more photos:
Tour de Force – Day 3
This may have been the best weather we have ever had for the Tour de Force. Low 80’s and absolutely no wind. The road was flat as can be for most of the way. Really, things could not have gone better today.
Normally, I would take this 1 day that I ride to hammer as hard as I can and finish as fast as possible. But, today, I decided to ride with my pal and ex-partner, Mike and his son Sean. Mike is a unique rider. He is the only person to have ridden every mile of every year for the first 15 years of the Tour de Force.
We pedaled out of Island Beach State Park in Tom’s River, NJ and rode along the coast for the first 35 miles. When we reached Belmar, we rode up on the Boardwalk for a few hundered feet. From mile 38 to mile 49, the route took us onto the Atlantic Highlands Rail Trail. A scenic fitness path, it kept the riders off the busy Jersey Shore streets.
A few miles after coming off the trail, we were treated to a series of hills, that to be honest were just about the only inclines on the route. At the top of one of the hills, a 9/11 memorial sat in a garden, overlooking Sandy Hook and the Atlantic Highlands.
We cruised along the rest of the course together and enjoyed the sea air, all thanks to the incredible effort of our support team. The sag support and rest stops are second to none. These volunteers, are what make this well oiled machine run so smoothly. The local Police Departments took care of the busy intersections, allowing our riders to pass through saftely.
Pulling into the beach in Old Bridge, NJ, where the riders grouped up to be escorted over the Liberty Bridge, I was happy to have had the opportunity to ride today. I jumped into a car and headed to the hotel in Woodbridge, our finish line for the day, to get ready to greet the riders with medals to commerate their amazing efforts. Now, I leave you with a few more pics of this amazing day:
Tour de Force – Day 2
What a beautiful day. Low 80’s and sunny with just a little wind. The day started with a ferry ride from Lewes, Delaware to Cape May, NJ. Getting everyone on the ferry was a challenge with all the support vehicles, but the ferry crew was more than up to the task. The Cape May Ferry is always a nice trip. It gives everyone a chance to talk. Night time is filled with food, spirits and tired bodies. So, a little diversion in the morning, never hurts.
The ride was short, only 54 miles. Out to Rt. 9 with a tour of historic Cape May. The riders pedaled through the fantastic sea air for the better part of 3-4 hours, ending in a parking lot near the Tropicanana Hotel and Casino, in Atlantic City, NJ.
Days 1 and 4, riders wear the current year’s jersey. Day’s 2 ans 3, custom jerseys from hometowns and various teams the have been created for the ride, rule the day.
A short day callls for a short post. Here are a few photos from today:
Tour de Force – Day 1
Well, day 1 is upon us. This is the day that first time riders, will find out if they trained hard enough, prepared properly and packed everything they will need for this 4 day event. Each rider, raises a minimum amount to gain entry into the ride. Even the support staff have to meet a fundraising goal. Riders and support staff, come from all corners of the country.
In 2002, our original starting point was the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and we rode to the World Trade Center in New York City. We have done that ride as well as the reverse route several times. We have also ridden from New York to Boston (Yankee Stadium to Fenway Park) and Boston to New York. This year we decided to start at RFK Stadium in Washington and ride to the NYC Police Memorial, around the corner from the World Trade Center.
The Metropolitan Police Department escorted the ride out from RFK to the Capitol and around the District and handed us off to the Pince Georges County Police as we crossed the Maryland line. I drive a support vehicle for 3 out of 4 days, as the logistics of the tour have not allowed myself or my colleagues the opportunity to ride the entire way for several years now. I plan to ride day 3 as that appears to be the lightest traffic day with little to no problems all the way to the finish.
Once we hit the first rest stop at mile 22, we led the riders out 8 more miles and released them at their own pace. Immediately, the pack went from a long sea of blue to a spread out group with each rider finding his or her cadence. We keep cars with the front of the pack as well as a sweep vehicle to trail the last rider. Several support vehicles, buses and trucks are along the route to lend support to riders in need. Mechanics ride back and forth along the route to assist with any issues (mostly tube punctures).
Mile 40 at the Maryland Transportation Authority was the lunch stop. (The tour provides breakfast and lunch each day as well as 4 nights lodging in superior hotels and a banquet on the 3rd night). After crossing the Bay Bridge, riders head over to Rt. 404 to complete the last 60 miles to Rehoboth Beach, our destination for day 1.
Rt. 404 is a long, flat section of road that winds through corn fields in rural Maryland and Delaware. Farms stands are everywhere, offering local fruit and vegetables, giving us the freshest supplies for our remaining rest stops. When the last rider reached the hotel, the party began. The entire parking lot is lined with TDF trailers, with just the right amount of beverages to rehydrate our weary riders.
A few more pics from today:
Tour de Force – Registration
In a prior post, I mentioned a ride called the Tour de Force. This is a 4 day ride from Washington, DC to NYC on or about September 11th. All money raised is donated directly to the families of Police Officers killed in the line of duty. I, along with my brother Mike and my partner Mike founded the tour in 2002. Tomorrow, we will embark on our 15th annual version of this incredibly fullfilling journey.
In 2001, I was a NYC Police Detective, assigned to the Bronx Robbery Squad. Immediatly after the first plane hit the World Trade Center, we were mobilized. My squad commandeered a city bus, cleaned out a Bronx supermarket and we rushed to the scene. I won’t even try to explain the horror that was Ground Zero. We were there for the better part of 2 weeks. In 20+ years in the NYPD, I learned a lot about people. But nothing could have prepared me for how this cowardly act could have such a profound affect on my life and how this amazing country that I have the privelage to live in, would change forever.
Anyway, last night, I arrived here in Falls Church, Virginia to prepare for today’s registration process. At 3pm, the buses from New York are scheduled to arrive at the hotel, carrying the bulk of our 300 riders. Tomorrow we start our first leg of the tour with a 107 mile ride. But, today, I was able to get out at 9am for a 30 mile pedal around the W&OD Trail, a paved rail trail the runs through Washington and the surrounding suburbs.
A couple miles in, I got turned around as the trail ended and went into downtown Falls Church before picking back up again a few blocks away. A woman named Jennifer, who runs a trade association in the Washington, DC area, was kind enough to show me a loop that went around Reagan National Airport, through Arlington, Virginia and back around to Falls Church.
The W&OD is an urban rail trail for sure. However, it runs along the Potomac River in spots and encompasses just enough local park land with beautiful wooden bridges to give it a lively feel. After about 30 miles, I veered off the trail a headed back to the hotel, ready to tackle the day’s events.
Tomorrrow, I’ll have some great photos of the start and I’ll provide some more details about the Tour de Force.