Guest blogger Steve Rodgers, head honcho of the Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club of Southwest Florida, recounts his 6 day trip with his friends to the 25th running of Bike Virginia…
Bike Virginia 2012
Five CRBC (Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club) members headed North to Berryville, VA for the start of BikeVirgina 2012 – the 25th year the tour has been run. This year’s event started with camp set-up on Friday June 22 at the Clark County High School grounds. Pete Ahlgren drove Jeff Brim and Steve Rodgers up, and Bill Garrison and Tom Hauser took the Amtrak train to Alexandria, VA which left them about a 60 mile self contained bike ride over to Berryville.
We were initially out of touch with the train riders as Tom doesn’t carry a phone and Bill left his on the train! But they did show up late in the afternoon and manage to get their tents set up right before a good thunderstorm rolled through the area. We also met up with my brother-in-law, Bill Heineman, and his friend from the Columbus, Ohio area, Susan Taylor (both rode with us on the 2010 version of RAGBRAI). Susan’s husband drove their contingent in from Ohio and offered SAG help for us all week long (Tony’s not a rider – tennis and golf are more his speed!). For example, we moved all of our belongings on the third day of the tour to the next camp spot via Tony’s car rather than on the big semi rig provided by the BikeVirginia tour organizers.
Saturday was the first day of riding, and the Tour called it the “Great Meadows Loop”. Rest stops were staged at the Burwell Morgan Mill and Rockland Community Church. There were beautiful views of the Shenandoah Valley with freshly cut hay fields and horse farms; after a quick drop down to the Shenandoah River, we were immediately treated to a 16%+ climb back up, which proved to be almost as difficult as Potter’s Hill was on RAGBRAI, just not quite as long!! A full lunch was served back at the school and for dinner that night we headed to downtown Berryville’s Rose Hill Park for the festivities, including hot dogs from the Boy Scouts, beer from the Beer Garden, cupcakes to celebrate the 25th anniversary of BikeVirginia, followed by ice cream.
Sunday was “The Great Trek North”, a 47 mile ride which relocated our campsites to the Wildwood Middle School outside of Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Our first rest stop was a Jimmy Buffett themed one, with the local wrestling team dressed in grass skirts; another church served as the second rest stop and offered prayers for the bikes and cyclists. We headed straight to the Middle School grounds to find that Tony had already unloaded all our belongings, schlepping them down to a cool spot in the shade of a large walnut tree! All we had to do was claim our spot and set up our tents. After that, we headed back as a group to the lunch spot that was 3 miles back on the route – another feast! Did I mention yet that we ate a lot on this trip?? We rode a bus into Shepherdstown for dinner that night, and got a spot in the Blue Moon Café. By this time we had met a new friend from Maryland, Jen Carey, who had set up her tent near us. She and her friend Eli rode with us for the rest of the Tour and she related to us her many exploits on her road and mountain bikes. She also introduced us to the Stchick (sic) a roller bar to work out your sore leg muscles after a days ride.
Monday’s route was named “The Civil War honor Loop” as we rode through the Antietam Battlefield and stopped in Sharpsburg for the second rest stop and lunch. This was a 59 mile day, and the first rest stop hosted by the Yankauer Nature Preserve volunteers proved to be our most popular one – everything from fresh baked breaks, homemade cinnamon-apple butter, to chocolate chip cookies with bacon in them!! Whoo-Hoo!!! For our evening entertainment, we boarded a shuttle to the nearby Casino where we proceeded to eat (again?). After several trips to the buffet line for main courses and dessert, we headed back to camp, stuffed!
Day four, Tuesday, was aptly named “The Raceway Loop” as we were able to take a fast lap on the one mile road course at Summit Point Raceway after a long pit stop (rest stop) in the pits. Our 61 mile route today would also wind through a long valley with mountains on either side; rest stops at the Welltown Church and Poor House Farm Park that had live bands playing. We hopped the bus that night for a ride into Historic Harper’s Ferry where we dined on sandwiches, home- made chips and beer in a restored pub, saw a quartet of Civil War era players with two of them on “rib bones”, and got some interesting insights into the John Brown Saga via two National Park Rangers.
Our last day of riding was on “The Great Apple Trek”, which ended up with the last rest stop at the Moose Apple Christmas Tree Farm back in Virginia. We cut this day/route short, slept in and started late so we could head straight to the lunch that was set up along the Potomac River near Harper’s Ferry. After saying good-bye to Bill and Tom, who were headed East for a couple of days before they would catch the train for their ride back to Florida, we rode along the Shenandoah River again before finishing up back at Clark County High. We also passed by a huge rock quarry industry that was filling hundreds of hopper cars with gravel – this turned out to be one of the sources of the myriad of trains that we got used to hearing day and night, not something we’re accustomed to here in Southwest Florida!
All in all, we rode right at 250 miles over the five days, and witnessed some of the most beautiful scenery, great people, fantastic support and rest stops, top-notch organization, made new friends, and just had pure FUN all that time. Not to mention – HILLS! Our Ohio friends proved to be more accustomed to the ups and downs, but it really didn’t take too long to get settled into that different terrain. Honestly, I had a tough time keeping pace with my first Saturday ride back here after the trip – I felt like I had been on a leg press machine for a week and had no aerobic stamina at all to keep up!! But that wouldn’t stop me from signing up for BikeVirginia again in the near future!