Monday, October 24, 2011

Anniversary Weekend

This weekend was Kathleen & I's 18th Anniversary.

So to celebrate, we blew out of town to Staunton, Virginia for the 2011 Shenandoah Fall Foliage Bike Festival. Kathleen made all of the arrangements (credit where credit is due, I can't tell how much I appreciated it), and Friday afternoon we loaded up the bikes and headed out to the Hampton Inn there (very bike friendly). Saturday morning dawned early and we helped ourselves to the complimentary breakfast, before getting suited up to head over to the start. It's a bit colder in the mountains, so it was about 35 degrees or so at 8:00AM when we took off with the intent of doing the Shenandoah Century. Here is what our route ended up being, I'll explain later. It was a beautiful day, and the trees were headed toward their peak in fall colors. Here are some of the local cows heading out for a day of munching as the sun comes up.
The sun came out and it warmed up some, here we are going down the road (which is just a euphemism, there is no flat here we were always going up or down).
The colors were stunning in the morning light.
Here is Kathleen at the top of one of the many climbs for the day.
A little further along a different bit of livestock appeared, I have been told that this is a Llama, definitely different than the cows we had been seeing for the most part.
The scenery was like a picture postcard, truly incredible riding scenery. This barn has seen better days but still managed to be picturesque.
Everywhere you looked stunning vistas.
About 35 miles into the ride, there was a bang, and Kathleen had a flat rear tire. Closer examination revealed that not only was it flat, but it had a hole in the sidewall, which is problematic because the tube will push out there. So while I ate a package of Sport Beans (so we could use the wrapper for a boot), Kathleen set to work changing the tube, it was a pretty small hole so not a lot of drama.
Once we got rolling again, we spotted this halloween arrangement, only a week or so to go.
The vistas were awesome.
Everywhere you looked it was stunning.
Kathleen was also taking pictures, here is one of me coming up behind her.
About mile 40 or so there was a loud pwang, then clanging sound from my rear wheel, based on past experience I knew that could only mean one thing, a broken spoke. I hadn't been feeling my greatest, so we talked it over and opted to shortcut onto the New Hope Loop just before lunch. We rolled on to the lunch stop at mile 50, and it was awesome, as were all of the rest stops on the route (about every 15 miles or so). While we were there the mechanic set me up with a new spoke and re-trued the wheel, again truly awesome support on the ride. Stomachs full and sun shining we were off again.
Right as we entered back into Staunton city limits, I spotted this little scenery right in someones backyard.
Even as we headed back to the start in town the views were still amazing, here is Kathleen with the mountains.
We loaded the bikes back up and headed for the hotel, a shower and figure out where to eat. The room looked like a bike shop had exploded in it by the time we were done.
Then we headed out to the Baja Bean company in downtown Staunton (which for the record is the coolest and best restored downtown small town we have seen). The dinner was awesome, then we headed back to the hotel to vege out and sleep to get ready for day two. Stats for day one for those keeping score, 70.5 miles, 4800 feet of elevation gain, average speed 14.4 miles per hour. Here is the elevation map from Map My Ride, this is the first ride that I believe I have ever had any catergorized climbs, 2 Cat5's amongst all of the hills. Don't believe the elevation gain they have, I trust my Garmin bike computer more (it has an altimeter in it, so the data is realtime and local to me).
The next morning we got rolling a little later, the rides were all shorter so we knew we had more time to do our thing. We did the Headwaters Loop, my map is here, it started and left from Middlebrook which is about 10 miles from Staunton, and headed down into the next county. It was an even nicer day, about 45 degrees when we started.
Here is Kathleen waving at me as I do another no look picture.
It was truly stunning out the roads were really quiet and the views incredible.
This is the top of the first climb of the morning, thankfully we didn't have to climb the mountain in the distance.
I propped my bike up in the ditch and put the camera on the saddle to get a picture of us there.
Kathleen took a video of the view as well.

Then we bombed the first descent of the day.
Everywhere you looked another stunning view.
We stopped for a break at the first rest stop at the Walkers Creek Fire Department, excellent spread with homemade cookies and fruit. We talked about the local area and they told us the tale of Jump Mountain.
According to local lore, the Indian maidens jumped from the cliff at the top to avoid being captured by the white men. We continued down the road and alongside the creek for a little while.
Kathleen got an action shot of me here.
As the creek babbled by next to us.
Eventually we rounded the reached the turn around to head back on the other side of the loop, and started climbing. The mountains here are the same ones we had just ridden by on the other side of the loop.
Kathleen got this great shot of Jump Mountain from here as well, that is the other side of the valley we rode down first.
This tree was unreal in it's color.
Another barn, even more scenic than the last one.
As we suffered up the climb I spotted these tiny flowers in the rocks.
Then we bombed down the other side of the climb to arrive at the second rest stop, we think it was a local church group hosting this one, more great food there and nice people. There is nothing better than a PBJ when you are starving.
Then it was time for more suffering, pretty much uphill until the last drop to Middlebrook.
Kathleen got some great shots on the climb as well.
Just before the end we spotted these guys at a farm, I have been informed that these are alpacas.
Once we got back, we loaded up and headed for the hotel for a shower and FOOD. Stats for day two for the number crunchers, 41.3 miles, 2700 feet elevation gain, 13.9 miles per hour average. Also 1 Category 4 climb, and 3 Cat 5 climbs. We got cleaned up and changed, then headed down the street to Wright's Dairy Rite, and had the most excellent hamburgers, then went out for a drive to see some sights. Eventually we got back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. The self timer on the camera came in handy again, here we are getting ready to head out for our anniversary dinner.
Kathleen had made reservations at Zynoda downtown, it is a farm to table restaurant, most of their ingredients come from the surrounding farms that we had been riding through. It was a great meal, and even their cocktails used local Virginia produced alcohol. Then it was off to crash out 112 miles, and almost 8000 feet of climbing really takes it's toll. Today we got up late, stopped by the Waffle House for breakfast, wandered around downtown some more, then headed for home.

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