Weeks ago, Tom H (y'know, author of the book) sent out a call to his Insane Bike Posse to see if any of us were interested in attending the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia's Fall Foliage Event this year. I mentioned it to The Excellent Wife (TEW), who wasted no time in persuading me that I should use up some of the vacation time I invariably lose each year, and go with Tom, etal. So I sent in the requisite gelt and got my spot reserved.
I'll get to the rides and my experiences later, but I just want to rant for a minute on how excellent this was. First, for me, one of the things I did right was to go with a few people I knew. I'm socially inept (to say the least) in new situations, and having people there who'd done it before, and would let me be the "little brother" and tag along, was just the ticket. My thanks to Tom for the invite, and I hope it's extended again in the future. (We went also with Jack H and his consort Dorothy K, who are a great pair as well. Jack seems a bit less taciturn when she's around...)
It doesn't take long at this event to see that much of the energy that keeps it ticking is Linda McGrane, president of the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia. She's a turbine of energy and able to shift focus with lightning speed, and seems to have an incredible memory for people and their individual interests, quirks, and contributions (she startled me by remembering my name when she found I was rooming with Tom; as far as I know, she had no reason to remember that). She's surrounded by the rest of the cast, including her father (who is ninety-one... ninety one!... and when he's not napping on one of the hotel couches, he's being helpful in a dozen ways), and Alan, who always seemed to have a tool in his hand. Alan might be who I want to be when I grow up.
(That's Linda, layin' down the law at the orientation. Alan's to her left, imbibing something-or-other)
From all this energy and (frankly astonishing) organization comes this event, where, for about $200, we got:
- Two nights' lodging;
- Two dinners;
- Better-than-continental breakfast (including a few gallons of coffee to get me started each morning. The hotel undoubtedly lost money on coffee with me);
- Road food;
- Guided rides, and
- SAG support.
(There were also two kegs of beer, five boxes of wine, and some liquor. I couldn't ride on that kind of fuel, but perhaps there are some who can!)
Tom, Jack, Dorothy, and I met early Friday and drove out. On the way, Tom said we might meet a few Princeton Freewheelers (if you're new to this blog, you might not know that's my club), and when we got there, we met Al L, who came out on our first ride.
(Jack, and Al L).
We did this ride, and stopped (maybe in New Oxford?) at this coffee place in a pretty town.
Apparently it was a good idea, because about ten minutes later, two other rides showed up, with about twenty more people.
Back to the motel, for cleanup, dinner (not gourmet, but plenty good enough), and orientation. There were people from Maine, Ohio, Florida... Tom met a former coworker from Kentucky and one of his friends; they came out with us on the next day's ride.
That one went from the hotel in Hanover to Westminster, Maryland. It had a LOT of climbing; different riders came up with different numbers, but my page shows 4000 feet even after adjustment, so that's what I'm sticking with (the ride was advertised with 3100 feet of climb; I don't see how the difference came in, but there it is). The hills were steep, and there didn't seem to be much ridge riding -- we would climb, then drop and climb again. Westminster, though, was pretty, and the ride companions were easy to get along with (as I often am not).
In the evening, there was a big banquet in town, with a couple of (blessedly brief) speeches. Below, the cake; I can't figure out what the logo is. Can you?
Tom had mercy on us (and probably on himself) the next day; we did this (comparatively flat) ride into the Gettysburg park. I was awed by the monuments, and by the awfulness that must have been the battle. Some of the confederate bodies were not buried for years afterwards; there was that much carnage.
And just to show that not all the stupid road signs are in Jersey, we turned here:
But the rides aren't half of the experience for me. This trip is a gearhead's delight. I'm just going to post a few of my favorite bike (and other) pics.
They've got a May trip I'm lookin' at... and, if you join the club, you get a discount. It might be worth the sawbuck-and-a-half.