Monday, December 31, 2012

Reflections on the Year - 2012


This does and does not lend itself to a Top Ten list. I like to do a Top "Ten" because 10 is such a nice number. But for a year that began hoping I'd go to Italy or Ride the Rockies, I had to settle for something less. At least that's what I thought. A year in which I rode more than any year before (6,500 miles) there are too many memories to narrow them to just 10.

It was a year in which I did not have a week without a ride. As for what defines a "ride," I do not count the miles running "errands" including 0.5 mile to the Mall in D.C. at lunchtime to play Ultimate Frisbee. I define a "ride" as just that -- it has to be a minimum of 10 miles to make my count. But I did count one ride of less than 10 miles - the 7.6 miles up Mount Washington. Was that wrong?

In all I had 10 days of more than 100 miles in the saddle.

My Top Ten (or 11)

1. Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb - When I first started dreaming about climbing the big mountains in Europe, I discovered Mount Washington. I wanted to do it once and now have ridden it five straight years. This year was crazy because I had all but decided not to go then changed my mind, drove up Friday morning, arrived late Friday, did the race on Saturday, then drove home Saturday night, arriving just after midnight. I remember this one most for the uber nice Gabinksi family who gave me a ride down the mountain: Vic, Alison, Alexa, and Lucas.

The Last 50 Yards

The 50 yards before the last 50 yards
2. Bike VirginiaI looked forward to Bike Virginia for a chance to ride with my cousin, Kay Walborn. We didn't ride much, mainly because she was on course each day before I could ride to the course since I elected to stay at Bethany's and Ashley's places. But we rode some. I also rode with a former work colleague, John Dockins. But mostly I remember being struck by a car. That hurt. But I survived.

Barry with cousin Kay
(Don't know the dork in the background)

John Dockins, Barry Sherry

3. Pedal Pal - Let me be clear - I wish I didn't know what it was to have cancer. But I am a survivor and that has opened some new opportunities for me including being a Pedal Pal for Patrick Sheridan. I rode out on Day 1 with Team San Francisco from Baltimore to Alexandria and rode in with them on Day 70 from Mill Valley, Ca. to San Francisco. But it was mostly about Team Portland and Chey Hillsgrove supporting Jake the Hero Grecco.

Chris, Lauren, Patrick, Jeff
Patrick Sheridan, Barry Sherry

4. Mt. Tam - My friend, Eric Scharf, always said "you have to ride Mt. Tam." And so I finally did. I was on a rental bike and missed my Trek Pilot. I really missed my bike. This bike didn't have the climbing gears my bike did and I was suffering. But the best "compliment" may have been made by Kevin Barnett, when he asked what we did with Peter (Bai) who rode with Rodrigo Garcia Brito and me that day. Kevin said Peter came in immediately after the ride and crashed.

Peter Bai

View from Mt. Tam

5. Mt. Shasta Summit Century - While on the west coast I found the Mt. Shasta Summit Summit Century. Like Mt. Tam, I wasn't on my own bike but a steel touring bike lent to me by Deron Cutright, a friend from our Trek Travel trip to France two years ago. Beautiful scenery and some pretty long climbs.

View of Mount Shasta

Early morning at the ride start

6. 24 Hours of Booty - My first Booty and it won't be my last one. While I joined Team BootyStrong, in Columbia, Md., I rode in memory of Jake and established a team for 2013 - Jake's Snazzy Pistols.

7. RAGBRAI - Every cyclist must ride across Iowa once and this was the year it worked out for me. I can't say it is my kind of event because it is much too crowded but I enjoyed the point to point riding each day. And I killed the mileage knocking out 700 miles in a week of riding from South Dakota to Illinois.
Tractor at a road side Farm stand



8. Jeremiah Bishop's Alpine Loop Gran Fondo - This is a fund raiser for some local charities including the Prostate Cancer Awareness Project. I invited Chey Hillsgrove to join me and we had a great ride until he crashed out.

Barry, Chey

9. Riding with Dad - I never went for a ride with my dad until he turned 82. Memorial Day weekend we rode on the Great Allegheny Passage between Frostburg, Md. and Meyersdale, Pa.

My dad, me, angry sister

10. Civil War Century - One of my favorite rides but wasn't a century. Cut dangerously short at Mile 75 by severe weather I took a shortcut back to the start. I returned five weeks later and rode to Gettysburg by myself to finish the ride.

The Road Back to Start in Thurmont

Rest Stop at South Mountain

11. Livestrong Gala and Challenge -- Given the 1,000 page report by the USADA outlining systematic doping at U.S. Postal and Lance Armstrong, I am still sorting out my thoughts. But thousands of cancer fighters not named Lance support and are served by Livestrong. It was fun being among them, and Lance, for a weekend in Austin.

Always ride for Jake

With 6,500 miles on my butt for 2012, I now have surpassed 10,000 miles for two years and 15,000 for three years. Cancer-free. I can't predict where 2013 will take me although I would like to do Bike Across Kansas if the route is right and Ride the Rockies. A trip to Europe would be nice. And maybe a repeat of Bike Virginia. As for the Mt. Washington Hillclimb, I just received my private registration code since I have ridden it five consecutive years but don't know if I will do that one again (I said I wouldn't and I mean maybe).

The best rides are just following the road ahead and I'll go where the road leads as long as my health permits.


Saturday, December 1, 2012



One thing about distance riding is that you have plenty of time to let your mind take over and absolutely enjoy the peace and solitude on a bike. But when things aren't going so well it can be too much time fighting the cycling demons.

While it sometimes felt that I have made this 70-80 mile ride a hundred times, in truth I have made it less than 15 times. The distance is nice but it's also a dangerous ride with up to 10 miles on some hi-speed two-lane roads with no shoulder. It's a matter of pick your poison depending on which of two major routes to take.

Having a family gathering at Bethany's, it was a perfect day to bike. It was 32 degrees when I left the house. I was kitted up and was toasty warm. I rolled out of the house towards Manassas. I wasn't concerned about time and thought it was a good thing because in the first 10 miles I seemed a little sluggish.

In Manassas I came to a road closure for their annual Christmas Parade. It took me down to Wellington and then over to Ashton Ave. I hadn't gone this way, even in a car, but realized I was parallel to the very busy Sudley Road and was thankful that even though it was a mile or two longer, I have found a safer way through Manassas.

After a stop at the visitor center at the Manassas Battlefield Park, I headed west on Sudley Road. This is a dangerous two-lane road with no shoulder. Coming to the Aldie Market, I stopped and bought two Snickers bars. I was sluggish.

After crossing US 15, I stared ahead at Bull Run Mountain. I got on Mountain Road but was thankful this road was parallel to the ridge and I would mostly be going around the mountain and not over it. At Mile 40 in the town of Aldie, I stopped at the country store and bought a king size Snickers. I was sluggish.

Snickersville Turnpike, aptly named today, is an unmarked two-lane country road which is a beautiful ride. As it approaches the Blue Ridge it may trend slightly uphill but is mostly rollers, some of them pretty steep. It is a continuous ride of up and down.

After 15 miles you reach Bluemont at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountain. And here the road goes straight up. I was worried. I wasn't feeling it. I was sluggish.

On November 9 I had ridden 50 miles but it wasn't really a 50 mile ride. I rode to a doctor's appointment and back and added a little more. That is important because the last long ride I had was on October 21 in Austin at the Livestrong Challenge. I had plenty of short rides but nothing more than 30 miles since.

I felt great that day. After 80 miles in Austin I pedaled faster -- I averaged more than 21 mph over the last 20 miles. Solo. Not drafting in a group of riders. And I know that when the body is trained it knows how to release fat stores so that you can ride as fast, or faster, after 80 miles. Today, I was sluggish. And it was always on my mind. 

Even the flattest section, Sudley Road, I struggled to average a pedestrian 15 mph. Actually, I didn't average 15 mph.

Time dragged on. Every pedal stroke reminded me how unfit I am. The cell phone taunted me. Use it! Call ahead and tell them you can't do it and come pick you up.

Every mile. Every mile I fought that temptation. I got to the top of Snickers Gap (US 7) and knew it was all downhill. Well, downhill to the Shenandoah River then flat, with rollers, the rest of the way.

Turning on Shepherds Mill Road every little rise in the road gave me trouble. As I passed Moose Apple Christmas Tree farm I pulled in and looked at maybe more than 50 cars parked. Although there was a big line waiting to pay for a tree, I went to the front "just to say hello" to the owner.

Moose Apple Christmas Tree Farm

I told him I was there during Bike Virginia and he told me he remembered. He said I was from Woodbridge and worked for the Postal Service. I must be memorable. That good feeling was enough to power me the next five or six miles.

My thought was my next goal - Sheetz. Even though it was two miles from Bethany's I knew I couldn't make the last two miles with a food stop.

I stopped at Sheetz. I ordered food. After paying and standing while waiting for my food I didn't see any seats in the store. I felt too tired to stand and looked for a place to sit on the floor. But I didn't. I was sluggish.

After eating and resting I got ready for the last two miles. Crossing US 340 there is a slight hill and I struggled to get up it then celebrated as I knew that was the last hill to climb on the day. One mile later I arrived.

I went in the house to a number of concerned family because I was so late. I explained I was sluggish. Although it has been six weeks since my last long ride I explained how quickly one can lose fitness. I blamed the cold as one burns more calories, I think, keeping warm. And pedaling with tights I figured must slow me down some too.

I was almost too tired to put the bike away but I knew I would have to before I could shower and shave the Movember mustache. I had leaned the bike against my parents' car and now walked it down the driveway. I didn't think much that it didn't seem to roll freely. In fact, I had to coax it down the small hill on their driveway.

At the car I went to remove the wheels. Since I had been pedaling in low gear the chain was on the top sprocket and it's easier to remove and replace the wheels if one moves the chain to the lowest sprocket. I lifted the bike and turned the crank with my hand and shifted gears. The wheel spun. Then stopped. Crap!

I looked at the rear brake and it had somehow been misaligned. The left brake shoe was solid against the wheel. I had just ridden 78 miles with the brake on.

Left pad was snug against the wheel


Of the thousands of miles I have ridden one thing I don't normally do is check to see if the brakes are misaligned. But they can get pushed or knocked out of alignment and it's an easy fix to put them back. One thing you don't want to do is to ride 77 miles with the brake on.

You'll feel sluggish.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Five Weeks Later I Finished


With a feeling that I left something unfinished, today was the perfect day to return and finish the Civil War Century. On September 8 I had begun the climb of South Mountain when severe storms hit. I cut the route short electing to return to the safety of the van.


Library at Blue Ridge Summit, Pa.

A chilly morning, it was 48 degrees when I left home with a forecast of temperatures in the 70s. Arriving Thurmont, I discovered it was something called Colorfest Days and there was no free parking to be had anywhere in Thurmont. I drove up Catoctin Mountain Road about  two miles and decided I would pull over next to the stream, completely off the road.

Covered Bridge near Fairfield, Pa.

I decided to leave the jacket and long finger gloves behind, believing in the forecast. A mistake.

Tunnel in Md. near Blue Ridge Summit, Pa.

I climbed over South Mountain, partly knowing where I was going and partly just exploring. I was surprised when I entered Pennsylvania that I was immediately in Blue Ridge Summit, a small town I had ridden through before on three occasions. And it made sense to me that this was the bailout route for the Civil War Century should someone on the full century route decide after 65-70 miles they wanted to go back to Thurmont. It really is all downhill back to Thurmont from here.

Sabillsville Rd aka Catoktin Mt Route

I had hoped the road markings from the CWC were still in place and they were. Except when they weren't. At one intersection there was new asphalt down and my marking was gone. I went part on memory and part of feel. And I was right. Mostly.

A painted over marking on the road
Gettysburg, Pa.

Leaving Fairfield, Pa. I came to an intersection and did not see any markings and assumed no turn was necessary. After a few hundred yards I knew it felt wrong but I kept going. I sensed where Gettysburg was and figured I could still get there even though I missed the actual turn.

Fairfield Inn, Fairfield, Pa.

Arriving at the battlefield I got back on course. I found one of the markers and it had been covered in black. I wonder if the Park Service did that but wouldn't be surprised if the CWC staff did that after the event out of respect for the battlefield.

Gettysburg National Park

Leaving Gettysburg I lost the trail, or so I thought, but picked it up again. The winds picked up and were in my face the rest of the day. And I was cold. Until about the final 10 miles, the temperatures held steady in the 50s and I didn't have a jacket. 

I wasn't feeling well. Only a 50-mile ride I had four packets of gels/GUs and ate them all hoping it would help. I was a bit light headed but managed to stay on my bike. Unlike most rides, a sense of relief came over me when I arrived back at the car. Fifty (miles) was enough. But five weeks after I started, I can now say I finished the ride.

EPILOGUE - As a testament to how crappy I felt or how strong the wind was, I averaged a higher speed the first hour which included the 7-mile climb from the start than I did the last hour when it was flat.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Knowing When to Say Yes


I don't know if it's me. Or if it's men in general. But offer me help and I'll probably turn you down. Maybe if I accept assistance it indicates a sign of weakness I'm not ready to admit to. So when Greg, and his daughter Sam (Samantha), from Rocky Mount, NC, saw me changing a flat and offered me a ride in their truck, my first instinct was to say no. But then I thought about I had one CO2 cartridge and if I messed that up, I'd have to walk 3.5 miles back to where I parked. And I had wedding to get to.

Greg and his daughter Sam

I was here for the wedding of friends David Vito and Kelley Noonan. I came down a couple of hours early to be able to ride. I parked in Nags Head and headed south on S. Virginia Dare Trail, the road parallel to the main highway. No shoulders but a reduced speed limit. Still, one "local" (I assume, he had North Carolina plates) gave me an ear full of horn even though I was all the way to the right and there was a wide open lane to the left. I gave him a friendly (true) wave.


David, Barry, Kelley
But what's up with the road rage in North Carolina? David and Alistair Hastings had a couple incidents yesterday and Pierce Schmerge said he was yelled at also today. Hey North Carolina: Bike Belong.


At the south end of Nags Head is Cape Hatteras National Seashore. I headed south on the main road, Rte 12, Cape Hatteras National Park Road. Although the speed limit was 55, there was a decent sized shoulder. I went into Bodie Island to see the lighthouse and was disappointed to see that it was covered by scaffolding. 

Bodie Island Lighthouse. Closed for Remodeling.

Heading south again, I wanted to cross the sound but only went about 200 yards on the Oregon Inlet bridge. No shoulder. None. And 55 mph. I turned around.


Oregon Inlet Bridge

I headed back to explore a little more of Nags Head and thought I might try to make it up to Kill Devil Hills and photograph the Wright Brothers' Memorial. But on my way I flatted. I'm not sure what it was that I pulled out of the tire. Possibly a sand spur, which I pulled out of my skin. Ouch!

Pier at Nags Head

My track record with CO2 cartridges is about 50%. If I was in a group ride and messed it up I could always borrow another tube or cartridge. But if I messed it up it now it would be walking time. So Greg and Sam offered and I accepted. And I'm glad I did.

One Property is Footloose. The next is Fancy Free.

I got to the wedding with plenty of time to spare plus I was able to change my flat in my room with a floor pump. Thanks to Greg and Sam and for once I knew when to say yes.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Storms on the Mountain


I planned to get to Thurmont early for the Civil War Century because severe storms were forecast to move into the area around 3:00 or 4:00 p.m. Up at 5:15 a.m., I still got caught in traffic north of Frederick as a "mudder" event with 20,000 participants was also being held and traffic was backed up for miles. I was wheels down at 8:18 a.m. - an hour later than I had hoped.

Ominous looking early morning sky to the west

After a seven-mile warm up climb through Catoctin Mountain Park, ones comes to Wolfsville, Maryland. Just beyond Wolfsville is a hill. It has no name - I just call it "50 mile hill" because two years ago I hit 50 mph on the descent. Like last year, I didn't recognize it when I descended and only hit 47. So I decided I would double back one mile and try it again. I had a head wind and gave it my all and hit 49.1 mph. Sigh. I decided there would be no third time.

I caught, Jeff, who was wearing a RAGBRAI XL (40 years) jersey. I had talked to him in the parking lot briefly and we would ride together the rest of the day. We chatted about family and RAGBRAI. He attended this year with his 16 year old son. As for RAGBRAI, like me, he was basically one and done unless his son wanted to do it again.


As I rode I didn't feel particularly well, especially approaching the climb on South Mountain. I never thought about abandoning or sagging back, I just thought it would be a day where I would suffer through. I usually finish what I start.

South Mountain rest stop

The route took us off South Mountain to Sharpsburg and past the battlefield and cemetery at Antietam. I think there's a 50 mph hill in the park. I'm not entirely certain because when I rode it during Bike Virginia my Garmin was in a pause mode. I thought briefly about riding it today but decided to ride on ahead.

Mount Aetna Rest Stop - Before the Storm

At the second rest stop, halfway at the Mount Aetna fire station, there were some guys with radios and Jeff said they told him the riders should take the bailout route back to start as the storms were very strong. I have no pictures available to share on this blog but looking to our left the sky was already an ominous black color. And it wasn't yet 1:00 p.m. We knew some massive storms were close.

Quietly it seemed riders massed as though there were safety in numbers although I'm not sure that is the case. Just outside Smithsburg we began the climb to go back over South Mountain. And South Mountain stood between us and Thurmont.

Then the rain came. Hard. And lightning. Thunder. COLD rain. Wind. Although it was a tail wind, it also contained lots of debris, mostly leaves and small twigs although it was certainly knocking down branches and trees too -- but we weren't getting pelted by those. It wasn't fun being on the road. Pounded by a driving cold rain and being hit by debris, we stayed on the shoulder and hoped any passing motorists would see us.

When we traveled through Boonesboro an hour earlier the temperature hit 90. Now on the mountain the temperature dropped to 66 degrees. This was a massive storm front.

We were guessing the best way back. I know the official bailout route was up ahead in Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., but it seemed we could do better. We passed a road marked Md. 77 with a sign towards Thurmont which really was the best way back. That would have connected us to the road we rode out on in the morning.

Instead, we stayed on course and began the climb up Raven Rock Road (491). Two miles up there is a turn on Ritchie Road, a lightly traveled heavily forested road. Jeff and I opted to stay on the main road hoping it was a direct, or least a shorter way to Thurmont. Turns out it wasn't. In fact, when we reached the top of the mountain we were probably 200 meters from where we would have been had we stayed on Ritchie Road.

Fort Ritchie Road

We turned down Fort Ritchie Road and saw it was littered with tree debris. We were told a power line was down in the other direction.  We found our way through the debris.

Drenched - but safe

Arriving back at Thurmont the rain stopped. Briefly. I started to second guess our decision to abandon but accepted the fact that getting back safely was the most important thing. There were more storms behind this first one and the most important thing was that we made it back safely and can ride another day.

I didn't get to Gettysburg but this still is one of my favorite routes. But I learned additional roads to ride on. And for the first time, the lines weren't too long for the Antietam Dairy ice cream.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

24 Hours of Booty


First the name. The "Booty Loop" is an area in Charlotte, NC in the Myers Park neighborhood where a number of fit people, runners and cyclists, go to exercise. Or maybe look at booty.

A fundraiser for cancer, the 24 Hours of Booty started some 10 years with loops around the neighborhood. Someone else can check my facts but this is pretty close.

Five years ago it came to Columbia, Maryland, then Atlanta (or maybe that was before Columbia) and this year, Indianapolis. Again, check my facts.

Each event is a 24 hour event and benefits the national beneficiary - the Lance Armstrong Foundation (Livestrong). Each also benefits a local charity. For Columbia it is the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults.

Credit: Mark Ricks

I was asked to ride for Team BootyStrong by Bryan McMillan. And so I accepted the invitation. 

My legs

Arriving at registration, I made a "Memory bib" for Jake the Hero Grecco and asked a volunteer to write his name on my legs. I then took my position at the front of the group as survivors were asked to come up front to lead out the Survivor Lap.

Bryan McMillan honored Jake too

There was a DJ who introduced Basil Lyberg, Executive Director of 24 Hours who gave short remarks. After the National Anthem, we were off.

Credit: Mark Ricks

I hadn't been on this 2.1 mile loop before and had no idea where we were going but followed one or two guys in front. After 1.5 miles and a slight downhill I could see the Start/Finish which had a half mile uphill "climb," about a 4% grade. Here I took off just enough to be the first to complete the first lap. And then I rode.


I soon started catching people -- lapping them -- and almost immediately I saw Kevin Barnett, one of the Team San Francisco riders. Kevin and I rode together for a while but eventually I accidentally pulled away. But then I caught my Pedal Pal, Patrick Sheridan.

Kevin Barnett

Patrick or Kevin and I, rode together most of the day. I also rode with Liz Kaplan, a 2011 alum of Team Seattle.

I had decided I would do 20 mile loops, 10 laps, and keep fresh. I stopped at 20, 40, and 60 miles. At 80 miles I pulled over for dinner then turned on the front light that I had borrowed to ride at night. For the next 10 laps I rode with Kelsey Jones, a cancer survivor.

Kelsey Jones. Credit: Mark Ricks

I also surpassed the 5,000 mile mark for the year, the earliest that I have ever hit 5,000 miles. Well, it was only the second time, and that was two years ago in late November.

Credit: Mark Ricks

After 120 miles, just before midnight, the light went out and so I pulled off and went to the midnight pizza party. With no front light, I called it a night and checked into my hotel (even though it was a primarily a camping event).

Night riding at Bootyville

And I'm glad I did. A storm came through and the course was closed for safety. After a short night's sleep and the morning storm I came back and discovered my friends had left. But I found another friend and we rode for 25 miles. Then lunch. Then another 22 miles.

Although there were few people left at 2:00 p.m. I thought it was appropriate that I ride the last lap as well as the first. And we swept up any riders on course so that eight of us finished together. In a storm.

I was first and I was last.

Just as we finished the sky opened up and it was a matter of getting to the car safely.

After the 24 Hours I got home and signed up to do it again next year -- this time riding for Jake's Snazzy Pistols.