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My apologies for the late (next day) posting of this blog; we honestly enjoyed some late night conversation at the track and I found myself drifting off to sleep before I even got the computer turned on.
Friday morning, we broke camp at Gettysburg and packed up our panniers, in hopes of putting in a good day of riding towards Hagerstown, MD. We had spoken with some of the track parents and knew that we’d be crossing some mountainous area so we kept our mileage expectations low.
Following the GPS, we rode down the road which cut directly through the Gettysburg battlefield. The skies were overcast and there was a subtle headwind as Frankenbutt told us about the historical charges that were led from both sides across the road ahead of us. I imagined the fear and excitement that must have been in the youngest, most recent recruits. I thought about the fatigue and disillusionment that the older, more experienced soldiers may have felt. Over 50,000 soldiers died in that one battle alone.
I found myself in a somber mood after leaving the area. Luckily for me, there were big hills ahead to distract me. The head winds grew stronger as we rode through country roads and we found ourselves lucky to make 6 miles per hour. The road ahead was a bit of an optical illusion at times. It looked to me that the road was flat or even sloping downward; it was actually a gradual uphill. For the next 2 hours, we climbed winding country roads until we reached Route 16.
Route 16 was a well paved road with a beautiful shoulder for cyclists and it appeared to be a subtle climb. The road curved around to the right at the top of the hill and I envisioned that there was a nice downhill run on the other side of the curve. I was dead wrong. There was another winding uphill. And then another one and another one. We rode in our lowest gears for another 2 hours as we made our way to Blue Ridge Summit. We paused every now and again to give our knees and our backs relief from the strain. I thought about the Civil War soldiers who climbed these same hills as Lee’s army retreated to Hagerstown following the battle at Gettysburg. I’m sure our bike ride was a lot easier than their march of defeat.
After sharing a pizza and making a sewing repair to Coco’s kennel, we resumed our ride towards Hagerstown. Our GPS directed us off of Route 16 and led us onto Fort Richie Road. I heard my phone ding a few times as we climbed a rather steep road through some of the most beautiful forested area. Ben, from Winchester, emailed us to let us know that according to our Google Latitude location, we were passing right next to Camp David. We then noticed the small “U.S. Government Property, No Trespassing” placards that bordered the road.
It felt like the unending climb and my husband and daughter gave me words of encouragement when it felt like I just couldn’t make it any further up. Like most of the same prior situations, the road just suddenly leveled out. I upshifted and looked as far ahead as I could and noticed a bit of a slope downward. I had been fooled earlier in the day, so I didn’t get my hopes up. But then, my bike started to roll a little faster and the pedaling got much easier. I upshifted again and when I came around the bend, I could see there was a magnificent downhill run ahead of us. I hollered back, “See you at the bottom” and let my hands just rest on my bars, with my fingertips lightly on my brakes.
We were flying down the road at 35 mph and there was not a car in sight. The road curved gently and there were beautiful old trees whose branches reached across the road and gave us cool shade to ride in. It ended up being a 6 mile downhill run that took all of about 15 minutes to ride. It was so relaxing, I wished I could do it again … without the uphill part this time.
At the bottom, our route joined Route 64 and we rode over subtle rolling hills into the outskirts of Hagerstown. We stopped at a gas station to give Coco some water and to take a break. I checked our GPS and was thrilled to see that we were only 6 miles from the track. Frankenbutt checked for a spot to buy camp fuel and restock our food supply since we were down to a pack of tuna and some pita bread. Since there was a Walmart past the track, we decided to drop the Beast, me and Coco’s trailer at the track and then Frankenbutt would ride the 3-4 miles to Walmart, shop and return.
They were holding a practice at the track and we met the 3 people I’ve been talking to about our arrival: Diane, Sherman and Tina. Like most tracks, weather has slowed the start of their race season. I sat and talked with some BMX parents while the Beast switched the clip pedals from her road bike to her race bike. The riders were all very welcoming and in no time, the Beast was riding the track with Grant, Jada, Lily and a bunch more of the kids.
It’s obvious that this track has a lot of heart. Diane, who helped coordinate our arrival, has an adult son who hasn’t really raced in the last few years. That hasn’t stopped Diane from coming out to the track every week and volunteering. Because of recent changes, Sherman stepped up to take on some leadership responsibilities and so have others at the track. We met their former track director, Brian, who has overseen the track for 12 years. He was in the middle of a bunch of riders playing Foot Down (my daughter’s favorite off the track BMX balancing game). The kids were laughing and watching Brian doing tricks. It’s obvious that his 12 years as track director worked because he put the kids first.
When the sky grew dark and most everyone left for the night, we talked with Brian until well past 11 pm. We exchanged stories of road trips and funny life experiences, while we ate our pasta dinner (this time with fresh Broccoli!). He told us how he took some local “powers that be” on a trip to see the Woodbridge, VA BMX facility. He showed them how local support could build a beautiful facility. His pupils didn’t commit to the dollar figures that have been invested at Woodbridge but they did give him the funds to pave his berms and put in a concrete pad at the starting hill. Good job, Brian!
I went to sleep thinking that Brian’s work isn’t done here yet. He loves this sport, and all that it does for the kids, too much not to stay involved. He gives this program at Hagerstown a lot of himself and I think he gets a lot more back then he realizes. He might be taking a break after 12 years but I think it’s just to re-charge his batteries. We all need that and he’s earned the right.