Monthly Archives: February 2012

Snowball Express

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President’s Day 2012

 Snowball Express

Dave and Karen, a tandem couple, sent out an e-mail invitation to some friends and local bike club members inviting others to join them on Saturday, February 18th, for a century ride, the SnowballExpress, in Schuylerville, NY.  The weather has been so nice this winter that it caught my attention and I did some checking to see how I might be able to do a February century.  First I did a check to see where Schuylerville is and it looked close enough to Albany that I was thinking maybe I could go to my sister’s house a little south of Albany Friday after work and then head to the ride in the morning.  The weather looked good for Saturday and my sister said she would provide a meal I and could spend the night so I told Dave and Karen I would see them Saturday morning.

No one else responded that they planned to go so it was just the three of us.  Dave and Karen had made plans to stay with a WarmShowers host Friday night and were invited to come for dinner.  I left after work and arrive at my sister’s about 7:30 and had a great meal of bean soup, sandwiches, chips, strawberries, and beer.  My brother-in-law Barry brought out a special beer from our trip to the Ommegangbrewery on our visit to Cooperstown over a year ago now.  It’s a great beer.

I was up early Saturday morning before sunrise and on the road a little after 6 for the 70 minute drive to the start.  The morning was clear with light winds and just a little below freezing.  The start is at, John, the ride director’s, house with street parking.  He lives across from a church in a residential neighborhood and when I arrive around 7:15 there was one other car unloading a bike.  A couple more cars arrived and at 7:30 we knocked on the door and John’s wife greeted us and invited us in to register, have coffee and a bagel.  Dave and Karen were running a little late due to some misdirection from their GPS.

At 8:10 we were all outside getting the preride instructions.  Seven riders and six bikes for the ride were all it was going to be today.  John, Dave and Karen on the tandem, Ross who had done rides with John before, Scott with a brand new Kona touring bike that he had just bought on line, Jim who had driven up from NYC for the ride, and me.  As I started talking to the riders it was a diverse group with a range of riding experience.  It was Scott’s second century with last year being his first and he planning on doing more long rides and touring.  JimWilliams is an attorney in NYC and a member of a 4 man team that did RAAM for the first time last year and doing it again this year also as a 4 man team.  One of his team mates this year was featured in the movie Bicycle Dreams.

We started with a gentle climb for about ¾ of a mile past the Saratoga Monument and everyone stayed within sight of each other as we got started.  The roads were in good shape, traffic was very light, and the temps were now getting above freezing.  The ride is flat to rolling and we were doing an easy conversational pace and chatting at times as we rode.  We’d switch back and forth as we went along chatting and getting to know each other.  Since the traffic was light it was easy to ride 2 abreast much of the time and talk.  There were no manned rest stops, or route support, but some gas stations and small convenience stores along the way.  Our first stop was at about 35 miles at a Stewarts and we used the rest room and didn’t stop long.  The ride is laid out as a figure 8 so we were back at the start and John’s house at 54 miles to have some warm drinks and snacks.  I had a couple hot chocolates, ½ a bagel, part of a Pop Tart and some double stuffed Oreos.

We were back on the road a little after 1:00 and the morning sun had turned cloudy and then partly cloudy.  I had checked the radar while we were eating and there were rain and snow showers in the area, but the temps were now up into the mid 40’s so it looked like we would be safe to continue. As we started out John and Scott were lagging a little behind and the rest of us were following Ross that had done the ride the year before.  After 45 minutes or so into the ride we decide to wait and regroup, but after no one was showing up we called to see what happened.  John had gotten a cramp and was walking it out and Scott was in between, but we hadn’t seen him yet.  We described to John where we were and he said he wasn’t too far from there and to go on ahead so we did.  A few miles down the road and a couple turns later Ross said he needed to check the cue sheet.  We thought we finally had it figured out that we had missed a turn and needed to go back.  As we were getting back to the turn trying to decide which direction to go John came up from the wrong direction.  It turned out that the ride last year, that Ross was on, went a different way to get around a bridge under repair, and we had missed some turns and were on the route going in the wrong direction.  But John had not seen Scott and we thought he was probably ahead of us by now and following the cue sheet.  About 15 minutes later we see Scott coming from a different direction.  He had made a wrong turn at an intersection and was coming back to get on the route, so finally we had gotten back together at the 70 mile point.  We took a break a few miles later at another Stewarts.  John was going to take it easy to keep from cramping again.

Jim had mentioned in the early afternoon that it smelled like snow and with the gray clouds it had a winter look to the sky.  After our final break at Stewarts we spread out again with Jim, Ross, Dave and Karen, and I usually in the front group, Scott a little ways back and John taking it easy to avoid cramping.  We had seen a couple flurries in the air before our break, but nothing more than that… until about mile 90 when it started to pick up.  At that point it was going to be a fairly straight shot back with only a couple turns near the end to worry about so Jim picked up the pace and I started to chase.  We quickly got out of sight of the others and the snow went from a flurry to a squall with heavy snow coating our glasses and caking on the front of our clothes.  After a couple more miles Jim slowed because he couldn’t see through his glasses and the snow was hard enough that it was hard to see without them too.  For the last 20-30 minutes of the ride I worked to hold Jim’s wheel and only took a short turn on the front as Jim was fighting to see.   We made one wrong turn as we tried to read the wet cue sheets with our fogged over wet glasses.  It only added maybe a mile or so to the ride.  We saw John’s wife in the car as she came out to see if anyone needed a ride as the snow was starting to coat the grass.  Only John took the ride back with his wife as he was falling further behind.  Everyone got back OK as we made it inside the house to change into dry clothes and get some food.  I had some chips, cookies and soda as we said our good byes and headed home.

The ride was 102 miles and I averaged just 15 MPH.  We did just less than 3000 feet of climbing so I consider that a flat ride which made it pretty nice for a February century.  I had a great time, met some new people, rode a new area, and had a little adventure with the snowy finish.

I stopped back at my sister’s before going home and had some more food and beer.   I got home a little after midnight and had plenty of time to rest before the morning ride at 11 on Sunday.  – Dave W