Around Round Valley

DateApril 24, 2010
HostsMark Cook and Cheryl Prudhomme
WhereCook/Prudhomme house, Annandale
Who (else) Helen and Bob Bird, Barb and Tracy Cate, Jane and Paul Fialcowitz, Barb Flint and Neil McPhee, Pat and Ed Gifford, Brenda and Larry Isherwood, Susan Nicolich and Dave Snope, Linda and George Wells

[Mark Cook report]
Several anxious DOGS tandem pairs gathered at the recently acquired home of Mark and Cheryl for the first road ride of the season. The weather gods were smiling brightly as teams Isherwood, Gifford, Cate, Fialcowitz, Wells, Bird, Snope/Nicolich and McFee/Flint dusted off their tandems for the day's ride. Two moderate-length circuits of 20 and 30 miles in length were on the docket. Five teams set off on the 30 mile ride circumnavigating Round Valley Resevoir while the remaining three selected the slightly less challenging 20 mile route.

The lightly traveled roads were awash in warming Spring sunshine. The leaves on the surrounding trees are peeking out following the long, cold winter. Tulips waved to us in the breeze as we passed. Brooks along the side of the roads babbled vigorously from recent rain storms. And the reservoir glistened in the mid-day sun as fishing boats dotted its surface.

Pace was moderate and front running teams frequently stopped to regroup. Teams engaged in "catch-up-after-the-long-winter", side-by-side conversations while traversing back woods roads. After all, it's one of the enjoyable aspects of tandem riding. Main ride participants rolled back into the driveway extolling the virtue of riding the beautiful roads of western Jersey. Teams Cate and Fialcowitz spotted a local ice cream shop and just had to stop for a quick treat.

Speaking of treats, the post ride food and snacks exceeded typical DOGS culinary delights - particularly the Fialcowitz cupcakes and Gifford carrot cake. Teams spent the rest of the afternoon discussing everything under the sun - literally. Looking forward to the next DOGS event. It's great to be back in the saddle again!!!!

[George Wells report]
Many thanks to Team Cook/Prudhomme for hosting the 2010 official season opening DOGS ride. Participating were Teams: Isherwood (Larry & Brenda), Nicolich/Snope (Susan & David), Wells (George & Linda), Fialcowitz (Paul & Jane), Flint/McPhee (Barbara & Neil), Gifford (Ed & Pat), Cook/Prudhomme (Mark & Cheryl - our hosts), Bird (Bob & Helen), and Cate (Tracy & Barbara).

There were two routes available: a 30 mile that included more climbs, as well as more scenic views, and a 20 mile version that had fewer climbs. Teams Cate, Fialcowitz and Wells opted for the shorter ride while the rest attacked the climbs with vigor. Following is the experience of Team Wells and some observations of DOGS who rode the longer version.

Team Wells assumed its position of being the in-between team, not as fast as some and a bit faster than others - I guess you could call us Half-Fast. The only time we had to use the "granny ring" was the climb up to the top of Haytown Road. George decided to shift down rather than grind up the climb at this early point in the ride. The downhill side of Haytown required more braking and caution due to the poor surface and twisting route. However, this portion was not that long and we turned onto Cokesbury Road, which is a smooth and fast downhill that led to the light to cross Route 22. This was a blast and Team Wells topped out around 37 mph spinning out our 52x11 gear in the process.

After crossing Route 22, we got back onto the secondary roads that would comprise the rest of the ride. We made a left at Old Mountain Road where the other riders stayed to the right and initiated the climb around Round Valley Reservoir. Old Mountain Road took us past a lot of nice houses with the ones on the left hand side of the road sporting driveways that were easily 15 to 20% grades. (I’d hate to have those driveways in the Winter.) There were a host of runners out on the roads as we cruised up and down Old Mountain Road, taking advantage of three "tandem-rollers" where we managed to get up enough speed on the downhill to crest the next grade with ease and then down again. I have to agree with Linda who noted that these were "fun!"

Eventually, we had to turn north again, to get back to the HQ of Team Cook/Prudhomme. Crossing Route 22 was not as difficult as I anticipated even though there is no light at this point, because the lights to the East and West of this point did provide good breaks in the traffic flow. Then it was back to the familiar territory of old Route 28, and back towards Oldwick using back roads that, despite being worked on, were not all that hard to ride. It was kind of like a pave section of Paris-Roubaix without the cow dung between the cobbles! Looking in the rearview, I noted a few bicycles behind us and thought that this might be the charging peloton catching us up, but it was only two single riders using the same roads. They caught us at Oldwick Road (Route 517) and we played tag with them until they left onto Rockaway Road where they climbed the grades a lot faster than we did. They did stop for a photo break at a farm and we pedaled on never seeing them again.

This was the start of the long steady climb back to Annandale. While not exceedingly difficult, Team Wells did have to find their rhythm and simply turn over the pedals, adjusting the gears to maintain an even level of resistance. We were in the bottom third of the cassette (26, 30, & 34 teeth) and the middle (39 tooth) ring all the way back to the start point.

We did happen upon about 30 or so single bike club riders at the general store on Main Street. Linda (the public relations officer of Team Wells), waved and greeted the other riders as we headed up Main Street. There were a few false-flats along this part of the route. While they looked flat, there was clearly a grade involved. We maintained our steady pace adjusting the gears to the terrain as it shifted from almost flat to fairly stiff grades. Linda reported our progress towards the next-to-last turn -- Cokesbury Road using the Garmin’s countdown of the distances. I had forgotten that this turn had led to a stiff climb right after the turn. We pedaled past a woman walking her mountain bike up the hill and Linda gave her a greeting. I commented to Linda that this was easier in the car, who in her logical way, started to explain why, which is when I said, "Linda, I’m only joking?" (Linda here: Wouldn’t you think that after almost 35 years of married life, I would know when he’s joking with me?) Shortly, we crested the climb, and descended and took the final left towards the start point.

In all our years of riding with the DOGS, this was the first time we were first back at the start point, having finished 21.1 miles at the same speed that Team Cook/Prudhomme had completed it on one of their training rides - 13.4 mph average. I know this because Mark had shared their Garmin file from their ride so that I could program our Garmin with the route. Needless to say we were pleasantly surprised.

We were only back a matter of minutes before the Peloton arrived, all smiles from a successful ride. We started the normal DOGS post ride chats, cleanups, discussions, and of course, food while wondering where Teams Cate and Fialcowitz were. They arrived later with the acknowledgement that they had stopped for ice cream along the way - perhaps there were no roses out to smell, but the scent of ice cream stopped them cold!

There was a lot of discussion about the ride, how the various teams climbed the grades, what we saw, encountered, and thought, as well as a discussion of upcoming DOGS rides on the calendar. Larry & Brenda were promoting their upcoming off-road tandem rides, and also discussing the finer points of tandeming with a discussion of stoker power levels. (Without that rear-engine, it wouldn’t be as much fun.) Also discussed were the virtues of riding as a group, particularly on the roads where being part of a group makes you feel less vulnerable. Mark did hint that he is thinking about a route taking the peloton to the West which brought about an instant host of suggestions as to various roads to use.

In addition, our hosts shared their stories of remodeling their new home with descriptions of the changes yet to come. Mark had a video presentation on view in their living room of the remodeling. They are justifiably proud of their new place. I have the feeling that there will be a DOGS party at this location sometime in the future.

As with all of these DOGS days, the teams started returning to our off-tandem lives, bidding each other goodbye and planning on seeing each other again. We file this ride away with all the great memories of DOGS rides and look forward to future rides, particularly in places we have not ridden as a club.

Now, my fellow DOGS, it is your turn to invite the rest of us to share your favorite routes with us. We can only promise to show up, ride our tandems, bring some great food (although Team Fialcowitz will be on a cross-country trip beginning in late June, so Jane’s decadent desserts will not be part of this Summer's fare) and generally have a great time together. The Season has officially opened, so it’s time to share your rides. If you missed this one, there should be more available soon. If you’re wondering about your calendar just pick a date that works for you and book the ride.

We will always relish the memories of a day out with our chosen extended family of DOGS members. We hope to see you on the roads soon.

Linda & George Wells

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Copyright © 2010, Mark Cook (text, photos); George Wells (text); Paul Fialcowitz (photos)