2014 Hoppy 100 Planning

Mark your calendars, it’s time to start thinking about the 2014 Hoppy 100 – a darn long bike ride interspersed with beer stops. What is the Hoppy100? Read my 2013 recap here to find out.

hoppy100

Every year there are new twists to this adventure, and application of some lessons learned. This year we will call the ride “Less Blood, More Beer” edition. If you were around last year you know what I mean, if not well… be happy it isn’t more blood, less beer.

So, here is what we tentatively have in store for this year:

Date: Sunday August 23th, 2014

Departure Time: Meet at 730ish, depart at 800am-ish

Departure Location: Washington Monument

Distance: I think 50-ish miles, but route is not set. We’ll likely have a short stretch on the C&O towpath (some off-roading is a tradition).

Stops:

1) Mad Fox Brewing (Falls Church) – Traditional stop for kinda breakfast/kinda lunch. If you want to make a shorter route, skip this one and meet at stop 2!

2) Denizens Brewing (Silver Spring) – Maybe we stop in if the brewery is up and running. It’s new!

3) 3 Stars Brewing (DC) – We haven’t visited them before, and it is past due.

4) Atlas Brewing (DC) – This time we’ll find them.

5) Bluejacket (DC) – As time and interest allows, a few samples and maybe food? Honestly, it’s so close to my apartment that it is really a selfish way to end the ride.

Things I can Guarantee:

1) We might get lost once or twice. I haven’t ridden all of this route, so there may be surprises!

2) Nobody will be dropped, this is a long day so it needs to be fun as well.

3) We may deviate from the planned route for any number of reasons (we always get lost).

4) Food stops will happen – specifically at Mad Fox, where we always get food.

5) Nobody under 21 should plan on riding.

6) Zero tolerance for getting on a bike if you have had too much to drink.

7) I take no liability/responsibility for anyone other than myself. Ride along at your own risk.

8) Rain or shine event – (It almost always rains).

 

Let me know if you’re coming!

Long Island Sound Bike Overnight

Before I began writing this I checked the official rule book – a bike overnight need not be soaked in spectacular nature or capped with wild nights around a campfire, followed with mornings of carefully crafted artisinal camp coffee.  When distilled to its essence, a bike overnight should be an the escape from the ordinary, filled with the adventure of flinging yourself into the world knowing that you are both vulnerable, but empowered. However that may come about, it is allowed.  My recent Long Island Sound Bike Overnight was such a trip. With minimal preparations and a strong desire to get out on my bike and clear my head, I set off from my parents house on Wednesday July 2. 185 miles, 2 ferry rides and 1 drawbridge later I returned.

Let’s take a step backwards to how I got here. I had planned on touring this summer for at least a week, but a handful of decisions, by myself and others prevented such a long excursion. In June a window opened around the July 4th holiday, my wife visiting friends out of state and my family willing to host – I absentmindedly plotted out a rough route. I would venture across the sound via the Bridgeport-Port Jefferson Ferry, ride along NY State Bike Route 25/25A to Orient Point, ferry back to New London, CT, then ride along the Boston Post Road, Route 146 and the East Coast Greenway back to Stratford. All told the route was about 185 miles, and I had two days to ride it.

Day 1

Day 1

Day 1 started like a bike overnight should: a light snack, last minute packing, gear checks and reassurances to family members that I would keep in touch on a regular basis. A hurricane barreling up the East Coast threatened to wash my trip out to sea, but that morning I was met with beautiful cool weather and a slight tailwind from Stratford to Bridgeport and the Port Jefferson Ferry. After boarding the ferry, snapping a few photos and deciding against a greasy breakfast, I decided to use my time wisely – by charging my phone and deleting old contacts! Hey – a bike overnight is a vacation, and the seats were comfy.

Leaving Bridgeport

Leaving Bridgeport

The Park City

The Park City

Crossing the sound was a real highlight of the trip!

Crossing the sound was a real highlight of the trip!

A sister ship.

A sister ship.

After 1h15m I left my ship behind in the village of Port Jefferson. If you decide to replicate this route, do stop in this town for window shopping and maybe some food. It is moderately “New England summer beach tourist chintzy”, but that is ok. Use this time wisely, and get your climbing legs ready – hauling yourself up the sandy bluffs is not fun. The relatively short, but very steep climb left me both regretting and applauding  my decision to pass up on a real (greasy) breakfast when I had the chance.

As I crested the climb, I found myself straining to find the street signs that would get me to my destination, Bike Route 25A – but I could not find any. If you are a GPS user you’ll find your way around – but relying on a cue sheet as I did meant I took the unintentional scenic route. No worries – the shaded and low traffic roads were pleasant – though the views of LI Sound were obscured by large houses on large lots.

Eventually I made my way to my route, and ugh, what a beast it was! I came to find that bike route 25A/25 follows some awful stroads, occasionally punctuated by quaint little town centers that are full of charm. I could have plotted a less direct route and avoided these roads, but I had to cover a lot of ground in two days. I don’t mean to be discouraging though – let me say right now that the overall “concept” of the route is great, but it really warrants 3 to 4 days and some meandering along quiet coastal routes. Use my route as a guide, but try to map our your own adventure if you plan on following in my path!

Follow the signs....

Follow the signs….

I hope I haven’t made this trip sound horrible already. Please, continue reading. Long Island can be a curious place, strange government installations, small weird towns and challenging wayfinding – but it has plenty of charms too.  Chatting with a friendly small town shopkeeper as you gulp down water, accidentally finding a deserted beach, or a restaurant that only sells bacon – I enjoyed each of these things, and I was barely trying! As you get farther out on the North Fork you find farm stands that sell local duck eggs, greens, pick your own blueberries, and corn. You ride past large farms that grow Christmas trees, sod, and McMansions. Constantly switching from high-speed (but wide enough shoulder) roads to quaint country surroundings keeps your on your toes – and you see so many interesting and curious things (hence my recommendation to extend the trip into 3-4 days).  I opted not to sample wine at one of the many dozens of wineries, but I did stop to see the “grow your own” hops stand. Beer and biking – always a great combination.

Found this beach by accident. Hung out for a while.

Found this beach by accident. Hung out for a while.

You have my attention...

You have my attention…

Hmm, will one of these survive 100 more miles on  a bike? Maybe not :(

Hmm, will one of these survive 100 more miles on a bike? Maybe not :(

As the shadows grew longer, I eventually made my way to Orient Point at the tip of the North Fork. I was soaked in sweat, I stunk to high heaven, and could down a water bottle in 10 seconds or less. The cool rippling waves of the tidal ponds seemed so enticing, I stopped and hung out at a few small inlets as I chomped on a little bit of food – but I regret that I did not get in for a proper swim.  Making my way to the ferry, I purchased tickets on shore and made my way onto the vessel just as she was pulling away from the pier. Settling into another comfortable seat, I booked my hotel for the night across the sound in New London before my G’s ran out.

New London Harbor

New London Harbor

With a great maritime history, New London would seem like a great place to stop for the night – but I now recommend Groton, Mystic or Old Saybrook instead. Whereas New London has a rich history, the present is not as charming – and these other towns have embraced the maritime tourism concept much better. Time your tour properly and any of these towns are within reach. If you do find yourself in New London, do not venture to the north of the city to a cheap hotel. My Red Roof Inn was priced great, but it felt quite unpleasant – and the only food within walking distance was an Outback Steakhouse. My meal sat with me overnight and well into Day 2.

Day 2

Day 2

The second day of the tour was exciting for me. Firstly, Hurricane Arthur was nowhere in sight, but his swirling winds promised winds from all directions (better than all headwinds!), and the roads were dry despite overnight rains. Secondly, I felt great physically – with 102 miles down on the first day, the 83 miles ahead of me were daunting, but seemed well within reach.

Unfortunately again, my route choices placed me on some unpleasant roads, though this was only for maybe 12 of the 83 miles in total. Once out of New London, I was into some real wonderful coastal New England towns. Beautiful river crossings, sound views, beaches, and historic sites were all within reach. People seemed to be in a great mood as they decorated and prepared for the July 4th celebrations on the next day. I stopped into one small beach community and felt like I would have been happy just to stay there for the next 24 hours. Everything was buzzing, but with that quintessential New England feel. It felt like home. I opted to cross the Connecticut River via a sidepath to I-95 which provided some really great views – but I wholeheartedly recommend riding upriver a bit more and checking out Gillette Castle, and crossing on the seasonal Chester-Hadlyme Ferry.

Another beach, yes... but this one was alive with energy!

Another beach, yes… but this one was alive with energy!

The Niantic River

The Niantic River

Eventually I would end up on Route 146, passing through the towns of Guilford and Branford. This route is certainly well known by local cyclists, with large white wayfinding arrows painted along the side of the road. No cues necessary! These small towns offer a lot by way of shopping and sightseeing, and just generally seem pleasant. I took a short detour into what I assume is a neighborhood names Stony Creek (halfway between Branford and Guilford) and found the most perfect lunch spot there could be. A real local gem, the Stony Creek Market had wonderful food, friendly service, and it seemed like everyone knew everyone. I elected to sit inside instead of at the patio picnic tables to enjoy some air conditioning and overheard the owner on a call “ohhh, ok you are so-and so’s mother, yes, roast beef sandwich on your tab, he can come by and pick it up on 10 minutes”. What is this – Leave it to Beaver!?!?

I elected to pick up the Branford Trolley Trail before I rejoined Route 146. The trail is a small segment on an eventual greenway along the central coast of Connecticut,an though it is short and mostly requires walking your bike – you get great views of the salt marshes and harbor.

On the Branford Trolley Trail

On the Branford Trolley Trail

The heat of the day really picked up as I entered New Haven (to the welcome sights of sharrows and bike lanes!), and I got to explore some great parts of the Elm City. Again, if you visit – find time to browse some of the magnificent Yale Art Museum, and have a real New Haven Style apizza! Pick wisely – are you a Pepe’s, Sally’s or Modern type of person? (I choose Pepe’s white clam pie).

Once in New Haven I was also able to pick up the East Coast Greenway – again, it’s nice not to have to focus so much on a cue sheet – just keep an eye peeled for the little placards on street signs and you’re all set. If you have time, visit the beach at Savin Rock in West Haven, it looks great. Myself – I had a beach awaiting me the following day – and all I could focus on was water, and home. By this time I had been in 90+ degree heat since 10am and I felt like I was calculating “only 20 more miles” for about 2 hours.

Eventually, I crossed into familiar roads in Milford, crossed the Housatonic River after waiting for a drawbridge to close (3 times! It was having trouble seating itself) and eventually home to air conditioning, a cold shower, and a beer.

I regret not making this more of a sight-seeing tour – but for my first overnight solo bike trip – it was a great adventure. I pushed my physical limits, got to see some really great towns, felt reacquainted with my New England heritage, and at the end of it – I had family waiting for me to celebrate. Who could ask for anything more?

Again, I highly recommend this route “concept” to anyone – though tweaking it to make it your own adventure is recommended.  Being such a big loop, you can start anywhere and still experience the same sights.

All that is left now is…. to plan my next adventure!

 

 

 

 

(Hint… It is spelled O-R-E-G-O-N, and my flights are booked)

My 2014 Brewvet

The 2014 Brewvet challenge finished up this week, and results are coming in from across the country – I’m very excited to see how many finishers we get! That being said, I need to make my Brewvet official – so here is a summary of my 8 rides. Remember to send your submissions in by June 21!

Brewvet 1 – May 3, 2014

To kick off the #brewvet I opted to ride to my local beer and wine shop Schneiders of Capitol Hill and pick up something a little interesting – a trappist Belgian Strong Dark Ale – Rochefort 8. Boy did it hit the spot! The spring classics of the professional cycling season are often hosted in Belgium, so it seemed fitting. Unlike the classics, my ride was a short 1.8 miles.

Brewvet 2 – May 4, 2014

The annual Rando Ramble Monument to Monument is not to be missed if you live in either DC or Baltimore. Unfortunately I had ridden over 100 miles the day previous, so a full century to the Charm City seemed daunting. Instead I met up with Bob W. (Mr Ramble) and his crew and rode along for 50.3 miles as they entered, then left the district. As we dined on the sidewalk at Union Station I covertly procured and poured a Great Divide 20th Anniversary Belgian Ale for myself and Bob. The beer was great, as was the crew from Baltimore.

Brewvet 3 – May 10, 2014

Sometimes rides go as planned, and sometimes they end with torrential rain and your crew huddling over a hot plate of vegetarian nachos at Cafe Luna in DC. My third brewvet was the latter, but it still turned out to be a fun, albeit wet, 9.5 miles. To pair with my nachos – a Flying Dog Wood Creek Belgian White (yes, three Belgian style ales in a row!).

Brewvet 4 – May 11, 2014

Ok, ok – no more Belgians (for now). My fourth, and my wifes first brewvet took us deep into Western Maryland and West Virginia on a mothers day C&O Canal ramble. It goes without saying that a stop in Shepherdstowns Blue Moon Cafe was in order for a healthy and refreshing lunch! A Mountain State Seneca IPA quenched my thirst and powered me for the final 30 miles of this 56.8 mile adventure.

Brewvet 5 – May 16, 2014

Isn’t it great when you’ve got a great connection to stellar and innovative beer only a short bike ride from your doorstep? Bluejacket Brewery opened last year in the Navy Yard in DC – and puts out some astounding beers. It’s rare to be able to stop in without sampling two or four tasting size portions of a “new-to-you” beer. So when they announced sales of bottles starting on May 16th, I made sure I was ready to pick some up. I’ll call their “Twit” my Brewvet 5, a tart/sour Witbier. I rode a little extra, ending up at 10.4 miles to work up a thirst – and was happily rewarded!

Brewvet 6 – May 25, 2014

Not all brewvets are adventures, sometimes plain and simple you need groceries and beer for a picnic. Thus a short ride to the grocery store became Brewvet 6 as I picked up a case of Sam Adams Summer Ale to share. On a hot day, this is a great beer to have lying around on your cooler. A scant 1.7 miles.

Brewvet 7 – May 26, 2014

Here is another Brewvet truth – sometimes you simply don’t plan a Brewvet, but it happens. After an awesome 45.6 mile ride out to Maryland and the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge with friends I needed fluids badly. It was a super hot day, and the refuge offices were closed for the holiday so we had to ration our water for the return ride. Nearly home, I stopped in the local corner store for a Gatorade and Diet Coke, when I found a 4-pack of tallboy Bells Two Hearted IPA. The thought of swimming in a cool mountain trout stream entered my head as gusts of chilled air escaped the cold case. Yes, I needed this beer!

Brewvet 8 – May 31, 2014

If there is a celebration of bikes, beer and fun that is better than New Belgium Brewings Tour de Fat then please tell me soon! In its third year in DC, TdF continues to be a fun day of letting loose and being a little (or a lot) crazy. After my volunteer shift was done, I clocked out with a Shift Pale Lager as only appropriate. It’s not often I get to embrace this phrase, but I love when I do “When everyone’s a freak, nobody is a freak” – this is the essence of TdF. Viva la Tour de Fat! 4.4 miles and plenty of smiles!

Brewvet Check-in

Folks – we’ve just got a hair under two weeks left in the 2014 Brewvet Challenge! There is plenty of time to start your adventure now and complete the 8 rides by June 10th – so get out there and ride!

I’m really encouraged to see at least 20 active twitterati or instagramers updating the world with their progress. Check out a slice of the action that is happening across the country below, and keep up the good work by tagging your post with #brewvet.

Yours truly, @dirteng in Washington, D.C.

@SamuelMoore in Anchorage, Alaska

@htdoerge in Austin, Texas

@ericheier in Bakersfield, California

@keitmo in Seattle, Washington

@jamielynnmorgan from Coeur d’Alene Idaho

@bradswanlund in Bakersfield, California

@stakx in Arlington, Massachusetts

@Astridbear of Seattle, Washington

@randomduck of Washington, D.C.

@pyrtwist of Des Moines, Iowa

@CapCityChewy of Washington, D.C.

@j7rapala of Baxter, Minnesota

Hiking Old Rag

I’m writing this on Sunday evening (though it won’t be “live” until Thursday) and I am still sore from this beautiful hike in Shenandoah National Park. Featuring about 2,500 ft of elevation gain over a roughly 10 mile hike, there is rarely a level section. However, the rigorous climbing is rewarded with the best vistas I have experienced in Shenandoah, as well as a fun and physically challenging rock scramble. I got worried during the scramble when I felt a big “pop” in my right knee, followed by some bad pain later in the evening – but a day or rest, icing and ibuprofen lead me to believe it is a low to moderate grade sprain, not a torn ligament. Phew!

Arrive early, bring about 2 liters of water, a good rugged pair of hiking boots and of course a camera! Great information about the hike can be found at Hiking Upward. A delicious post-hike meal and friendly faces can be found at the Thornton River Grille/The Corner Store in nearby Sperryville, and some artfully crafted wines at Sharp Rock Vineyard, just a minute down the road from the Old Rag parking area.

Whether on a bike or by foot – making an adventure and creating some great memories is always worth the aches and pains! I can’t wait for the next big hike!

IMG_3011 IMG_3009 IMG_3007 IMG_3004 IMG_3003 IMG_3001 IMG_2997 IMG_2995

C&O Canal Piece by Piece – Shepherdstown, WV to Williamsport, MD

In lieu of riding the entire C&O canal in one big tour, Kate and I are trying to break it up into enjoyable day rides in the 50-mile range. We get to sleep in our own bed, enjoy breakfast on the ride to our starting point, and hopefully a nice dinner late in the day to celebrate our accomplishments. Previously we’ve ridden an overnight from DC to Point of Rocks, and from Point of Rocks to Shepherstown, WV. Last weekend however we switched up our routine and started north in Williamsport, Maryland, then rode south to Shepherdstown, WV where we refueled at the always wonderful Blue Moon Cafe.

The weather was phenomenal, which made for easy riding in both directions – save for the stretches of mud that lingered from a rainfall a few nights before. A highlight of the trip for me was riding through the recently repaired Big Slackwater section, where some of the geologists from my office spent many months performing field inspections of the repair work. Once you’ve ridden 99.5 miles on the C&O things begin to feel pretty repetitive, though that also makes the small or unique features or towns stand out even more.

54 miles, one beer (Brewvet #4), one cookie, a chicken salad wrap from Blue Moon and lots of mud later – it’s hard to think of a better way to spend a day.

Williamsport, MD

Williamsport, MD

Like so many miles before - the verdant and peaceful C&O Canal Towpath

Like so many miles before – the verdant and peaceful C&O Canal Towpath

Arrival at Slackwater (from the north)

Arrival at Slackwater (from the north)

A remnant of history at Big Slackwater

A remnant of history at Big Slackwater

Big (Beautiful) Slackwater

Big (Beautiful) Slackwater

Newly re-built bridges.

Newly re-built bridges.

A pause for water and stretching.

A pause for water and stretching.