29 August 2011

The Deerfield Dirt-Road Randonnée, a.k.a. D2R2

Details below, but if you would rather make a donation to the "Green River Restoration Fund" electronically [here] by Sept. 11th. I just did.

My original post is below, but I wanted to share the following message from D2R2 creator and manager, Sandy Whittlesey. Hurricane Irene sadly did a number on the roads, bridges, and beautiful land we cycled through. Please take a minute and consider making a donation in the rebuilding effort of this very special community - whether you rode or not...
All those pretty stretches of road along the water look like the rugged Maine seacoast, nothing but the biggest boulders and stones.  We will post pictures in the coming days.  The locals are already taking matters into their own hands, using their tractors to push fill into place.  Entire families are on the river bed tossing stones up by hand to rebuild the roadbed!

The good news is that the Colrain Covered Bridge is intact, and the Green River Covered Bridge at the lunch stop still stands.  Incredibly, (just imagine this picture) the water there came within two feet of the bridge deck, and the force of the water on the abutments made the whole bridge shake!  But it held fast.  Not bad for a stone and wooden structure built during the Civil War!

The park we use at lunch did not fare so well.  It's under a foot of mud.  The fences and retaining walls have been knocked down, the fish ladder is mucked up, and all the fill between the fish ladder and the side of the dam is gone.  All told, it's about ten grand in damage.

I am thus appealing to riders to contribute to the reconstruction of the park.  The neighborhood maintains everything with money out of their own pockets, and they just paid to have the dam area dredged last year.  Even if you only send ten bucks, there were a thousand of you out there, I know we can do this!!

Please send donations to:
Green River Village Preservation Trust
Kim Hamilton, Treasurer
2014 Carpenter Hill Road
Guilford, VT     05301
shadow of Thule rack + frame while on the road
morning mist at 7:30am before starting the ride

Last Saturday this year's D2R2 ride took place as Hurricane Irene slowly headed up the East coast. It was my first trek up to Western Massachusetts for the ride so I would have been mighty sad had the weather infringed on the randonneuring fun! In case you not familiar with the ride...
The Deerfield Dirt-Road Randonnée was conceived in the 1990's as just a favorite dirt-road loop in the hilltowns of Franklin County, Massachusetts. Since its birth as an organized event in 2005, many have hailed D2R2 as the hardest, most beautiful, most fun, most traffic-free, most unique, and overall best ride that they have ever done. However, D2R2 will continue to maintain its original character as just a bike ride –
  • The courses will use the narrowest, oldest, twistiest, quietest, and most-scenic roads available.
  • A range of courses will provide access to novices as well as challenge the world's strongest riders. 
  • D2R2 will never offer prizes for anything other than gags, nor will finish results ever be presented like it was a race. 
  • Riders shall cover the course in a self-sufficient manner, without motorized crew vehicles. 
  • The organization will put as much effort into its food offerings as it does the ride itself. 
  • The event is a key fundraiser for the Franklin Land Trust's efforts to preserve land in the region, but the route sheets will always be available on its website for free.
iconic New England covered bridge at the lunch stop
the reason why I didn't ride with my 23cm/road bike tires -- flats!
This year's R2D2 offered three routes (180K, 115K, and 100K) which entailed lots of dirt, stony washouts, fast descents on some incredible 300 yr old carriage roads in Western Mass. and Southern Vermont. As a first timer I stuck with the 115K route and rather then riding my road bike, I opted to borrowed a cyclocross bike - a Ridely X-Bow which made for a comfortable ride and with 700c X 32 tires I had much better handling power on the steep dirt ascents as well as rocky descents. I would say that my gear ratio of 48/34 in the front and a 12/25 cassette in the back was a little tough - in particular on Patten Road that starts paved at 20% grade I would have loved to have been able to downshift, but still made it (but can't say the same on those jeep track portions!). If I were to do the 180K next year, I would def. want to go with a lower gear ratio. Also, I left my road shoes behind and used mountain biking shoes w/ SPDs.
I rode with Ted and who had his Garmin computer so you can take a look at all the cool stats like elevation, temperature, and his heart rate! In just under 6.5 hours we climbed 6,273' over the course of 74 miles...   

Another element of the D2R2 is the mighty cue sheet. The courses are unmarked thus one wrong turn is very easy to do and can really set you back (we came very close to having that happen). A couple weeks ago, I had posted photos of Ted's awesome mini clip board cue sheet holder SO I was thrilled to spot this guys' cue sheet holder (above). YES, that's a trusty mouse trap and C-clamp!!! Note that you can download the GPS route to your computer but some reason the 115K loop was not working!

It was truly one spectacular ride. Had my iPhone battery not died on me mid-ride, you would be seeing documentation of lots of exquisite randonneur bikes complete with fenders and saddlebags(!), hilly landscapes, dirt roads through the forest, the Little Big House Gallery at the last rest stop, and lots of livestock!  If you are asking yourself 'What Makes a Good Randonneur Bike?' check out this PDF via Bicycle Quarterly.

Thanks Uncle Ted for all your help leading up to the ride - and on the day of!

But alas it was time to get moving since the rain started as we scarfed down BBQ ribs and mac'n'cheese and headed home... as we approached NYC that night, we had a glimpse of something that we'll likely never-ever see again... not a single other car on the Triborough Bridge, thanks to Irene:

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