MATES (Mid-Atlantic Tandem Enthusiasts) 2003

DateAugust 6-10, 2003
HostsKim and Jim Pastorick
WhereDickinson College, Carlisle, PA
Who (else) Judy Allison and Malcolm Boyd, Marji Brandriss and Dave Kristol, Marie and Richard Cochrane

MATES (Mid-Atlantic Tandem Enthusiasts), an ETR companion rally, was held this year in Carlisle, PA, housed at Dickinson College. Carlisle is a lovely town, the Cumberland County Seat, that dates back to the mid-1700's and has a wonderful historic district of colonial brick buildings to show for it. Dickinson College is an attractive small college with a fairly compact and leafy campus. The surrounding area comprises lots of farm country with rolling hills, lightly traveled roads, and occasional streams to cross or ride along.

The MATES attendees were housed in Goodyear Dorm, a renovated factory. Our quarters comprised suites that unashamedly display their industrial origins: exposed ductwork and lights, brick walls, stark interiors. Fortunately, it was air-conditioned.

The weekend was organized in the familiar pattern: Those who arrived early enough on Friday had a choice of two rides. In the evening there was an Ice Cream Social. After breakfast Saturday, there was a choice of rides to a lunch stop (Allenberry Playhouse and Resort) and a choice of two short rides back to Carlisle. Saturday dinner comprised a buffet banquet at the College. Sunday began with a Continental breakfast and a choice of two rides. After returning to Carlisle, there was a farewell brunch to let us stoke up for our returns home.

Weather for the weekend was, of course, a concern. Typical of the pattern for the past few weeks, each day was very humid, though not excessively hot, and variable clouds always hinted at the threat of rain. But we figured if past days were any indication, we could probably get our riding in without getting excessively wet, because it hadn't been raining continuously.


Marji and I left Summit a little later than we had planned on Friday, and the three-hour trip got us to Carlisle right around 1 PM, the designated start time for the 33-mile ride. We dawdled a bit in the registration area at the "HUB" (Holland Union Building, the student center), trying to get our bearings, then headed for our dorm room.

Our suite comprised a large kitchen and living room area with two adjoining bathrooms, two (single) bedrooms (assigned to us), and two bedrooms downstairs (a double and a single), which had been assigned to our suitemates, Fran and Neil Toombs of Laurens, NY. The Toombses were evidently out on a ride when we arrived, so we unpacked and got ourselves ready for the 3 PM 20-mile ride.

With our languid pace, we just barely got ourselves to the ride start as the last stragglers were leaving. For the most part, though, we were riding alone through the quiet, rolling countryside, looking at the cornfields and Conodoguinet Creek. (Question of the season: What is the average number of ears of corn per stalk? Inquiring minds want to know.) This pleasant introductory jaunt to the area got us back to Dickinson around 4:30, and we headed back to our dorm suite, where we finally met the Toombses. Although we didn't get rained on, we were still very wet from the humidity, and our post-ride shower was most welcome.

We and the Toombses decided to walk into town to The Back Door Cafe for dinner, a restaurant for which we got a hand-out at registration. When we got there, we discovered that they were closed at 3 PM both Friday and Saturday this week. ("Why," we asked ourselves, "did they provide a hand-out if they weren't going to be open?...") Our stomachs and brains thus discombobulated, we walked further into town, eventually settling on the dining room at The Carlisle Hotel, which turned out to be quite nice, and very reasonably priced.

What wasn't nice was that we wanted to make the Ice Cream Social at 8, and we noticed it was raining when we finished dinner around 7:30. Among the four of us, we had brought exactly one small folding umbrella. While Marji and I huddled under it, the Toombses did a good job of skulking in and out of doorways and under awnings and trees in an attempt to stay dry. We made it back to the HUB a bit wet, but ready for ice cream, which we enjoyed. While there we met another DOGS team we didn't previously know: Marie and Richard Cochrane. I subsequently got their "mug shot" for the DOGS website.

The Toombses left the HUB before we did when they realized they had left some things at dinner, and they headed back to the dorm to drive back to the hotel. When we finally headed back to the dorm, it was raining pretty hard, and we got even wetter than before. After a little reading and socializing, we all went to sleep.


The "Featured Ride" to get to lunch, "A Reverent Ride Through Churchtown," covered 31 miles and included a couple of climbs. There was also a 42-miler "that gets inappropriately close to the Roundtop Ski Area." We decided we weren't up for a challenge and stuck to the featured attraction.

After choosing from a nice breakfast selection at the HUB, we returned to the dorm and got ourselves ready to pedal. The first 20 miles or so were nicely rolling, including several miles along Yellow Breeches Creek. We were warned about the climbs to come, and they were there. What we weren't warned about is that the climb contained one of those nasty hills that goes on for awhile, then ends with a surprise 10% grade that's hiding around a turn. You wouldn't expect that on "Wharf Road," would you? We like our granny gear.

Along the way we could see it had rained recently. About a mile from our destination, Allenberry Playhouse, we had one last climb, up the aptly named "Bucher Hill Rd." As we started up the hill, it began to rain lightly and continued to do so all the way to the Playhouse. When we arrived, there were many other teams there, milling around or huddling under trees and porch overhangs. We were all early, and the Playhouse was still catering for a wedding party; we had to wait until noon.

Once we got inside, we all got chilled -- we were all at least a little wet, either from rain or sweat, and the air conditioning was cranking. Eventually the staff turned off the A/C, and it got more comfortable, although no doubt they had to air the place out before the next party! The food at the Allenberry was good, but it posed the usual problem with these events: how to avoid eating so much that you can't bear the thought of getting back on the bike. (The chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting was especially noteworthy.)

Eventually we had to face the inevitable when the Playhouse staff started to clean up and take away all the food. We could choose either a 9 or 14 mile ride back to Carlisle, with the former being "Featured" as more scenic. We were perfectly happy to take the shorter ride back, get showered, and take a nap before the Banquet Buffet Dinner. (We missed the Swap Meet.)

Around 6 we moseyed over to the HUB for appetizers, then dinner, in the Social Hall. The food was quite good, again, with notably tender and tasty filet mignon. The one failing was the absence of a chocolate course at dessert. After dinner, Larry Black's son David's jazz band, "Busy Signal," entertained. We left, suitably tired from the day's riding, returned to the dorm, and went to sleep.


For those who could ride on Sunday, there were two choices: a 23-mile ride and a 30-mile ride with an 8 mile (roundtrip) optional climb to an old mansion atop a hill. We grabbed carbs at the light Continental breakfast in the HUB's Social Hall, then set out on the 30-mile ride, which treated us, once again, to tandem-friendly rolling hills through farmland and near streams. Neither Marji nor I felt particularly strong when we started out, but we decided to do the optional climb to Kings Gap at the 10-mile mark anyway. We had been assured that the 4-mile climb was gradual, and we've done longer such climbs in Maine. This climb was as advertised, and at the top we were treated to great views of the hazy surrounding countryside and the tail end of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The sun even obliged by bathing the countryside in golden morning light.

After lingering at the top with other MATES teams, we enjoyed the downhill. We stopped at the Kings Gap General Store near the starting point of the climb for a break before continuing on. Obviously this is a popular biker stop, because a swarm of half-bikes appeared just as we departed.

The remaining 20 miles meandered through by now familiar undulating farm country outside Carlisle before returning to Dickinson. About half-way back we stopped at the Veterans Memorial at Children's Lake in Boiling Springs, where we could see the boiling springs.

We got back around 12:15 and had to plan to get to lunch at the HUB before the cafeteria closed at 1:30. We had to vacate the dorm by 3. Rather than eat as we were, that is, soggy and smelly, we returned to the dorm to shower and begin packing. When it became apparent we couldn't load everything into the car and still leave time for lunch, we drove to the HUB and downed great quantities of more good food. (Dessert included peanut butter mousse pie, an acceptable substitute for chocolate, and a selection of ice creams.) After lunch, we returned to the dorm, packed up, dropped off our keys at the HUB, and headed home, arriving around 5.

Kudos to the Pastoricks, who pulled off the amazing feat of planning this event by themselves (with some help of course) and doing a wonderful job. Oh, and they live in Virginia, not Carlisle!

The local paper wrote up MATES. Our own Malcolm Boyd is quoted there: "We are really an eating club with a cycling disorder."

One other aside: we learned two alternate expansions of "CRABS" ("couples riding a bike simultaneously"): "couples riding and bitching simultaneously" and "couples riding and barely speaking."

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Copyright © 2003, David M. Kristol (text and photos), Marjorie Brandriss (photos)