Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Reflections on the Year - 2013


It was a year in which I once rode 109 straight days (a "ride" being defined as one of at least 10 miles), including breaking my collarbone only 10 days into the streak. And I didn't miss a ride. For the second straight year I went over 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles). I finished with 6,350. But the year would end with incredible sadness.

In no particular order I present my Top Ten Moments of 2013

1. Meeting People on the Trail 

I met two groups of young people while riding along the W&OD. In May I met a lost group from the University of Illinois, the Illini 4,000. I rode with them to Vienna before saying goodbye. 

Riders from the Illini 4,000

In July I met a group of young Orthodox Jewish women biking from Miami to New York City with Bike 4 Friendship. When they told me they were riding to Baltimore on U.S. Rte 1 I told them I would take them on safe roads instead. I ended up giving them an impromptu tour of D.C. then taking them through the Anacostia Trail System up to Laurel, Maryland so they could avoid Rte 1.

Some of the Bike 4 Friendship Riders
in Front of the White House
Shaina Myers

2. Ride of Silence

I never participated in a Ride of Silence before and don't want to again but I organized one for a fallen cyclist, James Callahan, who was struck and killed by a 17 year old girl while he was riding on the bike path next to the road. I had never met Mr. Callahan but it seemed the right thing to do. Almost 40 riders including his family members joined us for a silent slow 13-mile ride that honored his memory.

Stopped at the accident scene where
a bagpiper played Amazing Grace

3. Trexlertown

Labor Day weekend I joined friends from Spokes of Hope at Trexlertown, Pa. to ride on the Velodrome as we honored pediatric cancer survivors. Our featured survivor was Duncan Mitcheltree. As I entered the track his mother, Andrea, called my name. We had met last year at Jake's funeral.

Barry, Duncan

4. Key to Keys

(Multiple Journal Entries)

In April I rode with the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adult's inaugural Key to Keys ride, a fundraiser from Baltimore to Key West. There's nothing like the community of survivors and people who hate cancer who come together with a common cause. And when my group did not get a chance to ride across the Seven Mile Bridge, on Sunday after the ride I did my own solo century ride to and across the Seven Mile Bridge - twice.

5. Salisbury Trestle 

My dad had never ridden across the Salisbury trestle at Meyersdale so in July my sister, Betsy, and I rode with the octogenarian from Meyersdale to Rockwood.

Barry, Betsy, Dad
At the Rockwood Entrance

6. Mount Washington

I thought last year would be my last time up Mount Washington. Then I met the Gubinski family and they asked me to come back and ride with them so they would have someone to beat. And I complied. My sixth straight year on that climb.

Alexa, Barry, Vic, Lucas

7. 4K for Cancer
An organization that has become close to my heart is the 4K for Cancer. I rode with Team San Francisco on Day 1 from Baltimore to Alexandria; met Team Portland on the Pike to Bike abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike on Day 2; escorted them from Bedford to Ligonier on Day 3; and rode with them again in Muncie, Indiana on Day 17.

4K on Allegheny Mountain at former Ship Hotel

8. Jeremiah Bishop's Alpine Gran Fondo

Jeremiah Bishop's Alpine Gran Fondo is a beautiful ride and is sponsored by the Prostate Cancer Awareness Project. As a prostate cancer survivor I was invited to ride off the front with pros, Jeremiah Bishop, Joe Dombrowski, Cameron Cogburn and Ben King.

Pros on the Start Line
9. Ride the Rockies

(Multiple Journal Entries)

Ride the Rockies is simply the best multi-day tour I have found. Awesome vistas with screaming descents - four times I went over 50 mph. I rode with six time Tour de France rider, Ron Kiefel, and met George Hincapie, Bob Roll, and Connie Carpenter-Phinney.

Ron Keifel, Barry Sherry

10. Save a Limb Ride

A man grabs my phone as I am looking at Jens Voigt and Ben King and says "jump in - I'll take your picture." And it was none other than Robbie Ventura. At the Save a Limb ride I met Jens, Ben, and Robbie. Too cool.

Jen Voigt, Barry, Ben King
Barry, Robbie Ventura

In Memory of Scott

In August, my friend, Scott Scudamore, invited me to Charlottesville for a practice ride with some kids from the Boys and Girls Club. They were getting in training miles to ride a Century (100 miles) in September and he promised me we would ride up Afton Mountain which "you will really enjoy." 

When the assignments were given out Scott was very apologetic because he was asked to mentor the youngest rider on a shorter route than the other kids. He encouraged me to go ride with the other kids up Afton Mountain. I chose to ride with Scott. He didn't quite understand it was more about who you were with than where you were going. It was my last ride with Scott.

On September 22 he was mountain biking at Bryce Ski resort in Virginia when he crashed and broke his neck. Very sadly and unexpectedly, he died from those injuries on December 29.

Barry, Eli, Scott

You taught me that life is short and to live every moment to the fullest
May you rest in peace, my friend.

Monday, December 30, 2013

A Slow December


Mileage is not a goal. It is simply a byproduct of reaching other goals. And of having fun.
When I went to the 24 Hours of Booty in August and went over 4,000 miles I knew I wouldn't match last year's total of 6,500 miles since I had gone over 5,000 miles at the same point last year (and ended with 6,500). Yet I kept adding up the miles. And in late November when I went over 10,000 kilometers (6,231 miles) I needed only 10 miles per day for the next 30 days to set a personal best for a year.

But I got sick. I picked up an upper respiratory tract infection which grounded me. Literally. I went nowhere. I couldn't ride. Well, maybe I could but it was Zombie Riding. I couldn't feel my body. So I rested.

December was lost except for a ride near the end of the month. At our annual Sherry family gathering at Camp Harmony near Davidsville, Pa. (between Somerset and Johnstown), Saturday brought decent riding weather. There were still some patches of ice or slush on the road but with temperatures in the mid 40s it was an otherwise beautiful day to ride.

My "camp" ride was a typical ride that defines me. First, it was solo as 90% or more of my miles are simply by myself. Second, it had a plan - one that didn't work. Many of my rides go awry somewhere and, frankly, that is an enjoyable part of my riding.

Sherry Family Christmas
I had planned to circumvent the lake (Quemahoning Reservoir) and put in about 30 miles. I didn't want to go too much farther because I hadn't been riding for most of the month. My fitness level was gone.

As I got to the east side of the lake I came to the "Green Bridge" which was an open grate bridge over one section of the lake. And it was gone. In its place was a new bridge that wasn't yet opened. On this day there was no construction taking place and I looked for a place to safely cross walking my bike but it did not look safe to cross. And a freezing lake is the last place I would dare slip and fall.

(Why I didn't take a picture of the new Green Bridge, I do not know. Probably because I have taken so many pictures of the lake that I thought "nothing new here" except there was. There was ice formed in one section of the lake which would make a beautiful photo but I didn't stop. It's a fairly large reservoir with a decent size dam at the far end with a pretty impressive spillway.)

After a couple of minutes of looking at the bridge I followed the detour sign. I didn't know where the road would lead but that's sort of number three - go where the road leads. And it led up. Up the hill I went, crossed under US Rte 219 and as I neared the summit of the climb I reached a farm. Protected by a big dog. Running loose. I stopped. I turned around.

And that was number four. Go where the road leads but be prepared to change your plans. Especially where big dogs live. So I turned around and went back past the lake. I followed the road to Holsopple.

As I was riding through Holsopple I spotted a train station. A train station! Now there is one active track here but who knew there was a train station? And it was in excellent condition. I turned down a side street to get a closer look then saw a local. I asked him about the station and we probably talked for 15 minutes or so.

Train Station in Holsopple

And that was number five. Stop. Talk to a local.

The neighbor wasn't real thrilled with the station. Privately owned he said, he thought the families who maintain it could use their money in a more humanitarian way. Perhaps so but I love seeing old buildings maintained. I listened. I can't even say we had much of discussion.

The train station has its own Facebook page. Quite frankly, I like it.

From the Facebook Page for Hollsopple Station
Leaving Holsopple I rode to Hooversville. It's only four miles but with no shoulders and into the low afternoon December sun. I was not comfortable.

Halfway between the two small hamlets is a very small one named Blough. Only a handful of houses are here but there's a sign proudly proclaiming Blough to be the home of former major leaguer, Frank Kostro, who earned a World Series championship ring playing for the 1965 Minnesota Twins. I just know I hadn't heard of him which means he wasn't one of the 20 player cards I had for my Strat-O-Matic game for the '65 Twins.*

Card from Baseball-Almanac.com

In Hooversville there is a swinging bridge over the Stoney Creek River. I love riding my bike over that bridge. No pictures. Which was maybe number six. Drain the battery in the cell phone. Oh well.

After a month without any miles (just 144 miles) it was great to be back on the bike. I will miss setting a mileage total for a year but mileage is not a goal.

*Frank Kostro was 5 for 31 (.161) in 1965

EPILOGUE - Feb. 24, 2014 - I just got an unexpected email from the unofficial historian for the Holsopple Station. Who knew anyone read my blog?

"Holsopple Historical Building, Inc., our official name, is a registered nonprofit corporation composed of citizens who are interested in keeping our town’s history alive. We have a board that meets monthly; we also schedule activities throughout the year to involve the community.

"We’ve been working for over 20 years to restore the station. It was literally falling apart when we took over. We have replaced the roof, replaced the bay window, rewired and repainted the station, and installed a new floor—supports, joists, and all—in the freight room. We’ve raised money through chicken barbecues, basket parties, etc., but the largest amounts we received has come from Somerset County’s tourism grants. That enabled us to add outside lighting, sidewalks and landscaping, and paint the interior."

Their eventual goal is to open as a museum. It is a beautiful historic building. If you're in the area check it out.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Robbie Ventura - Photographer


The event was the Save a Limb Ride, a fundraiser for The Rubin Institute for Advanced Orthopedics which, I think, is primarily at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore.

As I was leaving registration I saw Ben King and then Jens Voigt. I went to the car and got some Sharpies. I was wearing my Shut Up Legs t-shirt. I really haven't been following Jens around the world for this moment. It just seemed that way.

In 2011, Adrian Register and I were at the team bus for Leopard-Trek in Saint Gaudens, France. Adrian had his Shut Up Legs t-shirt but when the team exited the bus they had to get to the starting line quickly. I'm not even sure if I owned my t-shirt at that point or if I bought it later.

Ducking back inside registration I asked Jens to sign my shirt. He willingly obliged. I was a happy camper. No matter what would happen on the day it would be a good day.

At 8:00 a.m. we gathered at the race start. The good doctor who was the emcee referred to Jens (pronounced Yens) as Jens (as in more than one girl named Jen). And said he was from East Germany. "I guess it's all one big Germany, now."  I sort of giggled.

As we rolled out it was a cold (it was summer two weeks ago) 48 degrees. And windy.

The course was somewhat difficult. The event website warned: "Please be aware that our Metric Century ride is a difficult and challenging ride with 5,400 feet of climb."

Actually, over 60 miles, nearly 6,000' of climb is a lot. I hadn't read the warning or maybe I would have used the small ring on my triple. I stayed in the 39 tooth middle ring on all the climbs.

I rode for a while with a guy from Fairfax Co. who wore a full FDJ kit. Remember Kentucky Fried Chicken? It was rebranded as KFC to avoid that awful word "fried." This team was named FDJeux.com in 2003 and 2004, then renamed Française des Jeux, supposedly to avoid bad luck, until July 2010, when the name was simplified to its initials. (Source: Wikipedia)

I never got his name. He was perhaps 10 years younger and we seemed to match up in power and speed. Around Mile 30 it seemed every climb, and there were lots of small ones, he dropped back. I always waited. I believe three times he asked me to ride ahead but I was comfortable shepherding him along.

But as we were "climbing" up around Prettyboy Reservoir we were joined by two guys who were methodically, but slowly, making their way up the climb. I stayed with them then soft pedaled at the top but FDJ-guy never did rejoin me. Ever. Even at the end at I think I spent almost an hour at the festival. I never saw him again.

The route was through rolling country roads. The cues were painted on the road. On a group ride I tend to follow (1) people (2) cues (3) maps. In that order. Early in the ride we came to an intersection on a descent. Normally a four way stop, it was missing the stop sign. Following the wheels of other riders, we flew through it and kept going. About a mile later I saw cyclists coming in the other direction. Another half mile I see 10-15 cyclists all looking at maps. Oh oh. Bonus miles!

The last 10 miles I was pretty much in no man's land. I rarely saw anyone on the road up ahead and was not caught by anyone. I had to follow the cues. They were well-marked until the end. I was navigating by feel as I often didn't think I was on the right course.

Back at the finish I went to the festival. There, Jens, Ben King, and Robbie Ventura were signing autographs. I thought about getting them to sign my race bib but what would I do with it? Some had them autograph their event T-shirt, but again, why? 

Robbie took my camera and told me to get in the picture with Jens and Ben. Then a volunteer took a picture of Robbie and me.

Jens and Ben both made short videos wishing Scott Scudamore well.

Robbie's take on the course was that it quite difficult. He said it is much easier to have two or three hard climbs then flat unlike this undulating course. Anyone can ride 100 miles on flat (uh, no they can't), he said, but you really have to be fit to ride a course like today's. He's right. My legs feel it.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Shenandoah Mountain Adventure


When it came time to sign up for the Jeremiah Bishop Alpine Loop Gran Fondo I decided to go for the Medio Route (76 miles) instead of the full 100. Since I always sign up for the most difficult challenge this marked a big departure for me. And a little guilt.

But last year, my friend and a very good cyclist, Mike Reyes, went the Medio route which made me think I didn't always have to do the biggest challenge. Besides the 30 mile difference the big difference for me is gravel. There are two sections of nasty gravel on the Gran Fondo full route which, frankly, aren't fun and aren't good for my bike. Many people bring cyclocross bikes or change their tires to 28cc. I wasn't prepared to do either and didn't want to subject me or my bike to miles of gravel.

Joe Dombrowski

At the start line I was next to pro riders Jeremiah Bishop (host), Cameron Cogburn (winner of Mt Washington Auto Road Hill Climb), Steven Cozza (I think), Joe Dombrowski (Team Sky), and Ben King (Radio Shack but soon to be Garmin). There are two ways to be on the start line at the Gran Fondo. One is to be a pro. The other is to be a Prostate Cancer Survivor. I highly recommend becoming a pro.

Start line: Steven Cozza, Joe Dombrowski (back turned), Ben King

One minute before the starting gun and I looked down and noticed a bubble sized bulge in the sidewall of my front tire. I was screwed. Maybe that explained the two blowouts on the Civil War Century, the last time I used that wheel.

I did the prudent thing. I rolled out with the pros for two blocks then peeled off and went back to my car. There I switched wheels and rode back into the group.

It was a chilly start. While it may have been close to 60 in Harrisonburg, out on the road my Garmin showed 52 degrees in the wooded section approaching Shenandoah Mountain.

The climb went OK. I passed more than I was passed by, many more, and initially was pleased. The first year I did it in 48 minutes. Last year it was 35. Today it was 34 and change. A personal best but not a great improvement.

Honey Baked Ham Sandwiches

When I came to the Medio/Gran split I was glad I was not headed up the gravel road. And I was rewarded with a new view. The Medio route was called the Shenandoah Mountain Adventure which differentiates from the Gran Fondo.

The second rest stop was at the base of the Reddish Knob Climb. Not good. Well, the food was great! Ham sandwiches along with fruit, drinks, energy bars. But after 10-12 minutes of standing around, the lactic acid built up. The start of the climb was painful. But once I settled in it got better until there was a downhill and no pedaling. Then it was like starting over.

This climb is beautiful. The paved road is so much better than the dirt road of two years ago. It was also much harder than I remembered from last year.

Robert Hess of the Prostate Cancer Awareness Project

After the last rest stop it was following familiar roads, until I didn't. Somehow I managed to miss a turn. Usually there are enough cyclists in front that one doesn't need to rely on the painted road markings. But I messed up. When I saw the open road and it wasn't familiar from the past two years and no cyclists ahead, I knew I messed up. I decided not to go back but keep going. I would find my way. And I did.

Near Bridgewater

It was a good day. It was fun. I don't regret giving up the gravel and doubt that I would sign up for that option again. I hope they pave all those roads.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Ride of Silence


I never participated in a Ride of Silence before. But when I got a call on September 6 asking if I was OK because a cyclist was killed on Spriggs Road, I knew I needed to do something.

I first went looking to see if the Washington Area Bicycling Association or Potomac Pedalers had planned a Ride of Silence. I couldn't find anything. Then I realized that this was something I would have to create. I contacted my friend, Brad Hancock, and asked what he thought, and he said go for it. We picked today's date, put up an event page on Facebook, and posted in the Prince William Cycling Group's Meetup page and on Potomac Pedalers.

We had no idea how many riders to expect. With wheels down at 9:00 a.m. I rode to Forest Park H.S. arriving around 8:40 a.m. I was very surprised what I saw as I pulled in. There was a good turnout.

Walking around was Carol Callahan. She is the widow of the cyclist, Joseph James Callahan, 66, who was struck and killed September 6, 2013 while riding on a bike path next to Spriggs Road. She was so appreciative of every rider who came out to honor her husband. Two of her sons, Jimmy and Josh, rode with us.

At 9:00 a.m. Carol took a group picture. I then went over the rules (no cell phones, no talking, riding 10-12 mph) and had a moment of silence for Joe Callahan.

We took the bike path, single file, along Rte 234 to Hoadly Road. I led the group and kept it mostly around 10 mph. Once we got to Spriggs Rd we rode on the shoulder. As we passed Coles Elementary School I saw Carol outside her car taking pictures of us. Clearly this day meant a lot to their family.

We turned on Spriggs Road. This road is a four lane road, curb to curb with no shoulder. Although there is a bike path next to it, it is the bike bath that Joe Callahan was on when he was killed. We took to the road and rode in twos.

About 250 yards from Hylton I could hear a bagpiper playing. This was a nice touch. We left the street and crossed over to the bike path, pulling up in front of the makeshift memorial at the school. The bagpiper was playing Amazing Grace. When finished, he stood at attention. We were, true to the ride, silent. He played another number. When he was finished we left.

Amazing Grace

It was only a couple more miles back to Forest Park HS. Even riding down Spriggs we feathered the brakes and kept the speed around 12 mph. Words cannot describe what it's like to ride in silence. Maybe these words can:

The Ride of Silence

Tonight we number many but ride as one
In honor of those not with us, friends, mothers, fathers, sisters, sons
With helmets on tight and heads down low,
We ride in silence, cautious and slow
The wheels start spinning in the lead pack
But tonight we ride and no one attacks
The dark sunglasses cover our tears
Remembering those we held so dear
Tonight's ride is to make others aware
The road is there for all to share
To those not with us or by our side,
May God be your partner on your final ride

- Mike Murgas

(Source: http://www.rideofsilence.org/ros_poem.htm)

It was one of the shorter rides I would do and certainly the slowest. But it truly was one of the most meaningful. May God Bless the Callahan family and it is my hope that this day brought a little more healing to their lives.

Barry, Jimmy, Josh, Brad

Saturday, September 7, 2013

What's in a Jersey?


Group rides that aren't timed often lead to small talk on the road. My experience is when I wear a destination or event jersey someone will talk to me about it. Be it the Mt. Washington Auto Road Hillclimb or Alpe d'Huez, I will have people asking me about the event or sharing their own experiences.

I brought my Ride the Rockies and Spokes of Hope jerseys to wear today unsure of which I would go with. When I wear a cancer jersey very few people will say a word. But I had a feeling and decided to go with my newest kit. I wanted to display the first blue Spokes of Hope kit made (last week).

It was 52 degrees as I rolled out of Thurmont. My legs felt heavy. Very heavy. I refereed a soccer match last night. As the assignor, I had a late turnback of a game and rather than scramble to find someone to take the game I took it myself. 

A Pretty Barn and Horse near Myersville, Md.

When I referee I am not one to stand in the center circle. I give the game the effort it deserves and I worked my butt off running with the U16s. I got home after 10:30 p.m. I showered and went to bed.

Now pedaling my legs felt very heavy. I was conscious not to go out too fast but still found myself passing people on the low part of the seven mile climb over the Catoctin Mountain which greets the riders on the Civil War Century.

Rest Stop at South Mountain

I was passing people and eventually realized that everyone I had been riding with were now behind me. I was going out too fast.

Not the bike I rode

At Mile Nine I felt a twinge in my quadriceps. I knew I was in trouble. I was cramping just nine miles into a 100 mile ride. I decided to back off and take it easy and hope to make the full route. It was a beautiful day for a ride warming up to the mid 80s.

Antietam National Battlefield

Navigating through Boonesboro, Md. was interesting. A quaint little town it apparently held a community yard sale on this day. Traffic was backed up or cars were simply double parked. It was a little bit sketchy at times getting through there safely.

A lasting image of the community came when I rounded a curve and saw three kids in the yard, probably 7-9 years old. I called out "Morning!" One of the kids yelled back "GET OFF THE ROAD!" It sort of reminded me of Gene Wilder in Blazing Saddles stating "the little bastard shot me in the ass." I just thought these kids have already learned this from their parents. They don't have a chance to grow up and be a compassionate member of society.

On the climb up South Mountain headed towards Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., I was passed by five riders. One said "I like that jersey." Once over the top I caught the group (meaning they stopped) and stopped with them. There I met Kim Goldman and gave her my card. We talked about the jersey, the organization, and cancer. She invited me to ride with them.

Save for the last hill before Fairfield, Pa., I stayed with them but even then quickly caught back up to them. I generally felt good. After the rest stop we pedaled on to Gettysburg. Fighting off the cramps there were times when I felt good.

The moment of truth came while riding through the battlefield. I had dropped to sixth wheel (last) as we were required to ride single file through the park. There were even three volunteers with signs to remind us. Out of the blue came a loud pop. My front tire blew.

Help at Gettysburg (Josh Sayre)

This was the second time on the day. I never had a tire blow out on me before but earlier, as I was leaving the rest stop at Mile 50, I had a tire blow. Rather than change it on the side of the road I walked 200 meters back to the fire station where I changed the tire. Now just 20 miles later, it happened again.

Would my new friends keep going? Or would they stop and help this stranger? Without a spare tube (already used) I was screwed, But Josh Sayre, riding in front of me, heard my faint yell of "flat" or at least heard the tire blow. He stopped and gave me his tube. The SAG was right behind us so I could use their floor pump. This change was easy.

After a group photo we were rolling again. At Mile 85 we were riding along at a good pace when we came to the last rest stop. They indicated they were not going to stop but I was low on my fluids. Any thought about continuing with them immediately disappeared with a cramp. Our pace up the small climb to the rest stop was just enough to induce more cramps.

L-R: Ben Herbert, Josh Sayre, Kim Goldman, Ben Aiken, Mike Davis, Barry Sherry

I pulled over and could barely lift my leg over the frame. Looking for something, anything, with salt, I found Doritos (yes). I refilled with Gatorade. I drank five bottles on the day with seven bottles of water. I took off for the final 20 miles. And I was deep in the suitcase of pain.

I could find no rhythm in pedaling. When I did I would stay there. Sometimes it was a slow cadence. Other times it was faster. But then a cramp would come and I would have to change position, cadence, and twice, stop to stretch. To make matters worse, although it was all flat, there was mostly a headwind to contend with.

My Salty Snack

The ride was a struggle. Actually, from Mile 60 to 85 it was a breeze as I was talking with the group. But the last 20 miles, riding solo, was very difficult. My skin was white with salt deposits.

The irony is I like distances. I often do my best in the final quarter of a long ride. But I was ill-prepared. I even had a jar of Endurolytes which would fend off losing all the salt and electrolytes. At home. In a drawer.

It was a difficult ride. And while I did set a personal best on the climb up Catoctin Mountain, I will remember the difficulty of the day and how ill-prepared I was. But I will remember most meeting new friends on the ride. All because of what's on the jersey.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Spokes of Hope


The father of cyclist Davis Phinney and grandfather of Taylor Phinney, Damon Phinney, created an organization called Cyclists Combating Cancer (CCC) before he died from prostate cancer. CCC historically has been the largest single group raising funds for the Livestrong Foundation.

Spokes of Hope has grown out of CCC as an action group visiting cancer patients and spreading hope. I first met some of the Spokes of Hope last year at RAGBRAI. 

Valley Preferred Cycling Center

I was invited to Trexlertown to ride on the Velodrome during the last Friday night races of the season at the velodrome. This was a UCI (International Cycling Union) event with an international field.

The day kept unfolding with surprises and kept getting better as the day grew older.

Pros Warming Up on the Track

I arrived at the velodrome around 3:45 p.m. for a practice session on the track. Riding on the velodrome is unlike the normal riding we do. This was a 333 meter track with 28 degree banked curves. 

Pediatric Cancer Survivors

We joined seven pediatric cancer survivors including Duncan Micheltree who was being honored. Cindi Hart gave us a quick lesson in terminology and track riding and we all rode off practicing on the track. The kids stayed down on the apron and Cindi took us newbies (me?) in a pace line up on the track.

Paceline on the track

Wild. The bike of choice is a "fixie" which is a fixed geared bike with one speed. When you pedal it goes forward. When it goes forward the pedals rotate. There is no coasting. And there are no brakes.

My very limited experience tells me these bikes are actually safer than a typical road bike. Once on the track if I crept up on the rider in front of me in the pace line my options were to overlap wheels or brake. Braking was out of the question so I overlapped wheels which can be very dangerous on those 28 degree curves. Riding a fixie one can just slow down the pedals.

As I went on to the track I heard my name being called. Very strange because I knew no one here. I did a double take and heard my name again. I saw a woman and went over to her. "I'm Andrea Mitcheltree," she said. "I'm friends with Stacey and Gary (Gravina)."

Barry with Duncan Mitcheltree

Then I remembered. I met Andrea last year in New Jersey at Jake's funeral. I am guessing that Trexlertown is less than 30 miles from Phillipsburg, NJ.

And it was Andrea's son, Duncan, who was the feature of the night. This was so cool.

Duncan with his parents, Andrea and Eric Mitcheltree

After our practice sessions we left the track. I then sent Stacey a message to "come see Duncan and me ride tonight." She was confused.

Three Colors of Spokes of Hope

I left the velodrome and went across the street to the "track." They have a one mile cycling track which is very cool. This is not an oval but a meandering road with three lanes - one for fast cycles, one for rollerbladers, and one for everyone else. What a great park.

The Track at Rodale Park

The people started coming in to watch the races. Once the events started I took a position at the top of the boards on Curve 1. I was shocked when Stacey tapped me on the shoulder. Although I had called her it certainly sounded like they would not be able to make it on this special night.

The Fast Lane

Before the last (feature) race of the night, we were introduced. Spokes of Hope with the pediatric cancer survivors. The crowd cheered heavily and for a minute I inhaled it all but I know it was for the kids - not me. I rode high on the wall and in the back stretch a number of kids held out their hands for me to "Low 5" them. I did. 

Pros at the Start of their Race

The last event was the 120 lap "Madison." Teams of two riders would tag team. The "resting" rider would sweep down from one of the high curves and catch his partner from behind. As he did the front riding would grab his hand/arm then pull him ahead -- a sling shot move, really. Then he would safely maneuver up to the wall and wait for the next lap to change places.

Keep in mind there's no coasting or stopping with these bikes. So if one wants a rest they have to pedal farther during their rest period so they have longer in between their shift at riding all out. Stacey, Gary, and I stayed for all 120 laps. It was an exciting event.

Riding in the Countryside

On Saturday our Spokes of Hope group met at the velodrome and went for a 25 mile ride out to Topton and back. It was a great day for a ride and I think I saw more cyclists on the road than I did cars. This was a special weekend of riding and am looking forward to next year.

Spokes of Hope at a barn in Mertztown



Ride in the Country