Monday, June 18, 2012

Jun-16: IR Pre-Solstice Virginia Border Raid

Irregulars Summer Solstice Rides

The Irregulars have been doing Summer Solstice rides for a few years, now.
As best I can figure looking at my records,

You might think that we jumped-the-gun a bit this year, doing the Solstice ride the Saturday BEFORE the solstice, instead of waiting for next Saturday, which will be closer to the actual solstice, but Ricochet is doing a Tony-mountain-600-brevet on the 30th (link to a Trimble map), and he thinks he should take it easy next weekend, and limit himself to a 40 or 50 mile ride next Saturday.  There were or may have been additional reasons for doing the ride this weekend, but the top of the list was Ricochet Robert's desire(s). 

[Another comment on possibly jumping-the-gun:  I just happened to see the sunrise times for the week between Jun-16 and Jun-23 -- sunrise on Jun-16 was 5:58 am EDT -- sunrise on Jun-23 will be 6:00 EDT. The mornings are already getting shorter; the afternoons will continue to get slightly longer for another week or two.] 

Previous Virginia Border Raids

As best I can figure from looking at my records,
this Pre-Solstice Ride made only the fourth time I've done the "Virginia Border Raid".
  • the first time was Sep-29-2007 -- my first ever 100-miler.  A solo effort as few / none of the IRs were interested in doing a 100-miler -- my, how things have changed !! -- and my then spouse, who had done what we thought at the time was quite a few centuries, was on a bus headed for West Jefferson and the week-long Cycle North Carolina mountains to the beach tour.  (There are some interesting tid-bits about that first Border Raid that are included at the beginning of the 2009-Solstice blog post (see above link); there is also some insight into why the cue sheet no longer matches the map -- basically, I just don't feel like changing the cue sheet to match the map.) 
  • the second time I did this route was Aug-23-2008.  It was the first ever Irregulars 100-miler.  We didn't do Tump Wilkins Rd; we didn't do Belltown Rd; we stuck to the cue sheet except for a 1-mile round trip detour to Nelson, VA for an additional refueling stop.  I was suffering off the back on the climb up from the Tar River on Cannady Mill Rd -- I did not want to turn onto Philo White Rd (because of the immediate additional descending and climbing required), but I was too far back to yell ahead -- the other five made the turn and I followed.  Gosh, but I suffered at the end of that ride. 
  • the third time I did this route was aforementioned 2010 Summer Solstice Ride.  We did NOT detour into Nelson.  We stayed on Cannady Mill Rd and did NOT turn off onto Philo White Rd; i.e., we followed the map (not the cue sheet). 
  • three previous rides on this route.  You may have noticed that I've never ridden the exact same course twice.  One can do that on a non-RUSA ride. 

This Ride
The Gathering

Interest in doing the ride / availability to do the ride, was mixed -- expected crew was 6 to 8 riders.

Rando Byron was a late addition:  he contacted Ricochet and me (and others ?) about doing his "L-L-L" route, but Ricochet and I each replied that we were committed to the Irregulars Virginia Border Raid and each of us extended Byron an invite.  Byron chose the "party-ride" over a solo ride in "L-L-L-land".

An unexpected (to me) addition was JohnD's friend Craig.  Turns out Craig lives near the intersection of Old Stage and Rock Service Station roads south of Raleigh / Garner.  Local randos may recognize that location.

JohnD brought information that BobH (and Norris) had decided to do a shorter ride, and would therefore not be joining us.

Craig would have won the prize for longest trip to get to the start, except that Rando Biker Bob drove over from Graham to join the ride and continue his testing of his right Achilles and to build-up a bit in anticipation of an "insurance" 200k next weekend, and the Tony-mountain-600-brevet mentioned above the following weekend.

Shortest trip to the start?  IvaHawk took that prize with a 5-km cycle from home to start.

Ricochet and Byron cycled to the start -- collecting IvaHawk on the way.  I also cycled to the start.  Longest cycle-commute to the start?  Byron -- by about half a mile. 

Early Miles 

As everyone was accounted for and eager to get underway, we did, perhaps a minute early.  Civilized pace across Pleasant Union Church Rd and on the rollers of Six Forks / New Light Rd and Old Weaver Trail and Whitt and Dove roads into Creedmoor.

We hadn't plan a stop after only 15-miles (Creedmoor Southern States), but sometimes one's bodily functions get off-schedule.

The civilized pace continued up Brogden Rd toward Stem.  Byron was willing to check out the promised rollers on Tump Wilkins Rd (not on the route, and a long-cut), but we couldn't convince Ricochet to go with him -- I could have gone with Byron, but then the main crew would not have known how to detour from the course in Stem to meet back up with Byron and whomever.

Thru Stem and on to Culbreth Rd.  I don't recall anything from Culbreth Rd -- not the sign for "Shoofly", not the rollers that used to seem to be near-mountains, not the conversations, not nothing.

Just after the turn off Culbreth Rd onto Enon Rd, Byron asked about lunch.  Huh?  I told him I like to do lunch on this route in Stovall, at about 60 miles (64-miles would have been a better estimate), but the first intended refueling stop was only another 8 miles or so.

There are a couple nice farmsteads / houses in that 8 miles.  And also a 3-mile trek up a shallow-ish slope after crossing the Tar River.  [IvaHawk asked about a possible "wall" after crossing the Tar River -- not on Enon Rd -- at least not when headed north.  I can't recall ever doing that stretch of Enon Rd headed south, but I think there is no "wall" when headed south, either.  Culbreth Rd near Berea, however, may seem more wall-like.]  No "wall" on this crossing of the Tar River -- however, the northerly / northeasterly wind was starting to wake up.

Have you ever noticed that there is no consistent style or voice to these blog posts?  If you have noticed that, and it bothers you -- read something else.

Past Lake Devin Rd and into the gas station / convenience store at the corner of Enon Rd and US-158.  While at the refueling depot, JohnD told us that he and Craig had decided to do the alternative "Shoofly Don't Bother Me" 75-mile course.  Iva, upon hearing that John and Craig were doing the short route, lamented that they were leaving him on his own to deal with four Super Randonneurs.  :-O

My guess, which I did not voice, because I think Craig could have done the 106-mile Border Raid in style, was that Craig had decided that John had bitten off more than Craig wanted to chew.  [Even if my guess is wrong, is still makes for a good one-liner.]  John got out his two cue sheets; I showed him when to switch back from the Shoofly to the Border Raid cues to eliminate some climbing; I also suggested they might prefer to stay on Cannady Mill Rd all the way to NC-96, rather than turning onto Philo White Rd.  We haven't heard from John, but their cars were not at the finish, so we assumed they got back okay, and we hoped that each had enjoyed the slightly shorter ride.

The Assault on the Virginia Line

Crossing US-158, we were suddenly on Cornwall Rd.  Back / side-roads in North Carolina have a way of changing name at county lines (count on it) and at other unpredictable times.  This name change would be better categorized in the unpredictable category.

It had been a couple years since I had last been on Cornwall Rd -- probably the 2010 Solstice Ride was the previous time.  I had forgotten how nice a road that is -- the surface is excellent, there are easy rollers (that get a bit taller as one gets closer to Virginia) which makes for good cycling, and there are some decent vistas along the way -- maybe you wouldn't try to make a picture-postcard, but nice.  The lush green rural scenes were making the ride definitely a doubly worthwhile experience.  Admittedly, the enjoyment for four of us may have been enhanced by Bob taking a 40-minute pull into the increasing headwind and increasing in size rollers.

I used the last downslope to catapult myself from last in the line to the front; then kept a good cadence, possibly increasing my effort when I saw the warning signs for the curve in the road as we went up the last upslope to Virginia.  The crew all think that I had made a calculated move to take the State Line Sprint.  I don't want to disabuse them of that idea, but I didn't realize we were "at" the state line until I saw the warning signs for the curve.  I hit the pedals hard and kept hitting them harder because I knew that if Byron realized what I was doing ... he would get into Virginia first.

Once the "North Carolina double-yellow center-line" ended, I signaled to slow and stop.  Byron, Ricochet and Bob went rocketing past me, asking what was up.  Once they had stopped, I suggested they turn around and look at the signage.  "Oh, we are in Virginia."

As there was no sign for Virginia:
Four "Super Randonneurs" at the Virginia / North Carolina state-line on an Irregulars ride.
Only two of us have "refreshed" our SR status so far in 2012.
L to R:  Bob, Ricochet, Byron, me. 
IvaHawk in Virginia (too bad his face is in deep shadow).
Iva, not an SR, but he was the only ONE in the group that did the Assault on Mt. Mitchell this year.
Last year, too.
We decided that he could handle anything the 4 SR's might have thrown at him. 

To Stovall and Lunch

When I created this route, I decided "if I'm going to ride to Virginia, I'm going to ride IN Virginia."  So ... the route does a 3 or 4 mile stint in Virginia, coming to within half-a-mile of Nelson, Virginia.  There is a store in Nelson (and not much more).  That store can be useful on a hot day.  The store might also have been useful when Virginia had a lottery and North Carolina did not -- informal "Lotto Centuries" were somewhat popular then -- ask MikeD if you don't believe me.

Anyway, Byron and Bob and Ricochet got up to speed before Iva and me; Iva and I spent most of the time in Virginia at least one or two hundred yards in arrears.  [Snapper -- no farmer was spreading sewage water on the Virginia roads ... this time.]  However, the lead-three slowed just early enough so that Iva and I caught up just before the little nothing of a bump before the route returned to North Carolina.  If I were looking to celebrate hollow victories, I would mention that I managed to take advantage of the three at their reduced pace to go around and complete the State Line Sprint perfecta.  Good thing I decided not to mention it.  :-O

We turned southeastward onto Grassy Creek - Virgilina Rd (which seemingly becomes "just" Grassy Creek Rd at the corner that is Grassy Creek) expecting a nice tailwind.  We were, after all, heading in what we thought was almost the opposite direction as compared to when we had been on Cornwall Rd.  Examination of the map, however, reveals that until transiting Grassy Creek, we were headed mostly due east; since the wind was out of the northeast, a headwind on that section made sense.

However, despite the fact that between Grassy Creek and Stovall the road runs southeast-by-south, we STILL had a headwind !!!  That was disappointing, to say the least.

The gas station / convenience store / deli in Stovall, and the gazebo next to the church across US-15 from the store were welcome sights.

Three Choice Routes -- Which One to Select?

There are three excellent cycling routes from Stovall to hook up with US Bike Route #1 just east of Oxford.

  • The "Flat Way".  Which is what the map and cue sheet for this route indicate.  Which is also the original routing of MikeD's "Kerr Lake Loop". 
  • The "Mountain Way".  Which we had all ridden at least once previously, includes Mountain Rd which has a couple nice mountain-esque vistas AND goes up "Peace Mtn" (often referred to as "Stovall Mtn").  Road gets steep, but not for long, and I suppose not THAT steep, but steep enough.  Search this blog for "Stovall and a Mountain" -- you should be able to find a map.  Alternatively, ride MikeD's Kerr Lake Loop, and experience the mountain at the 100-mile point of that ride. 
  • The "NC Bike Route #4 Way".  None of us had ever ridden BR #4 from Stovall all the way to BR #1.  [I was going to type that none of had ever ridden BR #4 east of Dexter Rd, but Byron related a story about reaching Hicksboro once when doing the rando Kerr Lake Loop and ... it's his story ... maybe he will tell you about it some day if it is appropriate.]  We agreed to try this third way since none of had ever ridden it.  Conclusion(s):  quite a few nice rollers; adds about 5 miles to the route versus the-flat-way; may be tougher than the-mountain-way, if one rides non-conservatively; definitely worth riding again. 

Bringing It Home

We stopped at US-158 (at the "other" store) to top off water bottles, etc. since the water and "etc." options at the gas station in Stovall had not been that good.  Then headed for Raleigh following US Bike Route #1.  We did not make the cue-sheeted turn onto Philo White Rd.  Except for the climb back up from the Tar River on Cannady Mill Rd, the climb on Lawrence Rd, and the Ghoston-Peed-MVC finish, the last 30+ miles were flat and fast (by our standards).

As we approached Ghoston Rd, Byron said something about "racing up Ghoston".  We made the turn and whoosh!!  Byron raced past me and up the hill.  Ricochet came up and also passed me as he seemed to be barely working; however, Ricochet was repeating in his amazement at Byron:  "how does he do that?  How does he do that?"

Here's the answer, Robert:  Byron is 23-years younger than you, and has been riding a bicycle for at least 23 years longer than you.


Byron and Ricochet Robert were waiting in the PUE parking lot for Bob, Iva and me.  They may well have been waiting for about 10 minutes as, by my watch, Bob, Iva and I putzed in the last 4.7-miles on Ghoston-Peed-MVC in 25 minutes.  Bob still reported that his cycle confuser showed 111.05 miles in 7h03m15s of in-motion time.  Pretty good results for us, especially considering that about 64 of those miles were into a headwind. 

More importantly, all had a good day on their respective bikes on a good course with good people.

That is my story, and I'm sticking to it.

commute --> PUE:  Virginia Border Raid --> commute; 129.8 m.; 8h22 in-motion; 15.5 mph.  

Q-1 tot: _22 rides; 1,610.3 m.; 108 h, 42 m; 14.8 mph. 
A-M tot: _20 rides; 1,701.6 m.; 115 h, 24 m; 14.7 mph. 
Jun tot: __5 rides; __693.0 m.; _45 h, 28 m; 15.2 mph. 
YTD tot: _47 rides; 4,004.9 m.; 269 h, 46 m; 14.8 mph. 


  1. We had a good ride back. Sorry I missed the rest of the ride with you guys. Craig did fine, even though 75mi was the longest ride he's ever done.

    Got caught up in a parade going through Oxford and had to do some detouring around it. Also somehow we went the wrong way on Grove Hill Rd and ended up coming down Wes Sandling Rd to 56. Fortuantely this comes out on 56 just a short ways from Gordon Moore Rd which I recognized. We took Gordon Moore to Pocomoke to Bruce Garner, Ghoston, etc. Our mileage was 75.6.

    John D

  2. BTW,, just a note that 3 of the 4 so-called "Super Randonneurs" that were involved in the above adventure plan to do Tony's mountain 600 on Jun-30. Based on the strength, etc. exhibited during the Border Raid, I expect that each of Ricochet Robert, BobB and Byron will have a good time on Tony's brevet.


  3. Excellent account of a fun ride, Martin. I'm just now (June 29) getting around to reading it. As you know, we did it again the next weekend. IvaHawk.