FRONT ROYAL, VIRGINIA
A group of eight of us who ride from The Bike Lane went out to Shenandoah National Park for "SkyMass" -- a ride up Skyline Drive and over Massanutten Mountain. Many of the riders have been in the group rides out of Reston although I had never spent much time with them before - probably because I was always chasing them.
It was cold at the start - low 40s. It was a beautiful sunny day but windy (blustery) which added to the chill. The cold wind would be with us all day. At the start I saw Dee Reeb who looked absolutely freezing in just a cycling jersey. I wasn't sure what I would wear but since I had a jacket I gave her my warm warmers. And I'm glad I did. I think I would have froze if I had to watch her ride with no protection on her arms.
We started immediately with a 6-mile climb on Skyline Drive at constant 6-7%. With no warmup in the legs, this little climb can hit you hard. But we all stayed together to Dickey's Ridge Visitor Center. After the visitors center we developed more of a gap on the descent. We had a couple sick descents at more than 40 mph. I think the hardest I worked all day was closing a gap with three riders on one of the descents. Pedaling downhill, in the wind, at more than 40 mph and gaining slowly on the group in front is hard work. But I connected at which point I was in their slipstream.
We reached Rte 211 at Thorton's Gap. Panorama, a store on the drive, did not have drinking water, which appeared to be the story of the day. We simply turned and headed out to Rte 211 for the trip down the mountain. Rte 211 is a mountain road that crosses over the Skyline Drive from Sperryville on the east to Luray (Loo-ray) to the west. The upper most section has a number of switchback curves.
One rider took off and no one went with him. The curves were fun to take but I felt trapped 4 or 5 riders back. At a safe opening, I opened up the pace to move to the front and which point we became "organized." I glanced down as I was leaning hard in a curve - 35 mph. Awesome!
I was able to pull my group back up to our first rider and we regrouped at the bottom. We headed over some back country roads to our next store looking for water. We reached Hope Mills Country Store on Rte 522. Closed.
Not to worry. We could take on more water after Massanutten.
We had a couple miles of gravel roads (what was up with that?) and then reached the 3-mile 12% climb up Massanutten. This could be a training ground for Mount Washington. The road was constant 12% although not as long. Or windy. But it was a nice climb with a nice descent on the other side.
The trip down the west side of the mountain took us into the George Washington National Forest where we would stop at a campground looking for water. None.
Oh well. After this descent the road flattened out except for some rollers. Here, three of the guys forced a break while five of us sat back and tried to ride at a steady pace. We caught them at a country store rest stop at mile 62 complete with BBQ chicken. Two riders bought and the rest peeled off a piece or two. It was perfect. Can't imagine eating an entire breast but just a slice was the right amount. And it was good.
Maybe best of all on this day - no road rage incidents. In fact, at one house we passed some folks were sitting on the porch and one guy yells out "GO USA!" Certainly better than being thrown at. It was a wonderful day!
Garmin Stats and Map
84 miles and 6,000 feet of climbing.
Note: All but second photo credit: Dee Reeb (used without permission but she wore my arm warmers for 84 miles)