An light-hearted attempt to hit as many tropes as possible while highlighting a couple new brevets in the Finger Lakes.
- a quick personal story of starting rando a few years ago, sort of 1st perm to PBP
- a brief commentary on the difference I felt starting and then encountering many fellow randos in neighboring region, leading to a desire to grow our region's rando scene
- our volunteer contribution...a number of new two new routes that highlight the Finger Lakes region, including the ATFL 400k and Letchworth/Cayuga 600k
- Wrap it up with my readiness to move out of NY, but how riding these rides has given me newfound appreciation for the landscape here
A draft article for "American Randonneur" Magazine
Oh, hello. Thanks for stopping to read my article. I'm glad you're here. Have a seat and make yourself comfortable. Need a drink? Make yourself at home, and I’ll get you one out of the fridge.
I'm looking forward to this. Let's take a minute and get to know each other. I'll start!
So, I'm 55 and have lived in Upstate New York for all of it except for 6 years in my teens and early twenties. I landed on this randonneuring thing just a few years back. Not that I'm new to cycling, mind you. In my teens, I was inspired by Greg Lemond... I loved "American Flyers"... but then I had a family and fell away... but now, I'm back, and let me tell you all about...yada, yada.
Sorry, I’m dating myself. Let me try this again.
Well, I was a bit of a couch potato. You know how it is with a family and kids, right? When I turned 40, I decided to get myself back in shape and started running for a few years 'till my "dad bod," started to hurt...you see, I had this cartilage injury in my ankle from back in the day...
Um...sorry. Maybe I'm starting us off on the wrong "foot" here (haha). Another try...
Hey, man, when I'm out there all night long, rolling over the terrain, no, the landscape, just the wind in my face, the rubber on the road, and my headlight lighting the way, I get this sorta Zen feeling… Do you like philosophy? Because I had this epiphany that these rides are like...LIFE, man, ya know?
That sounds stupid. Sorry. Don't go...
I think everybody needs to get involved in this cycling thing, don't you? I was never much of a "group guy," but then I found my people in the rando crowd. Isn't it something? Folks don't know what they're missing: the simplicity of the bicycle and the independence! the epic rides! the sense of accomplishment and growth! There are some downsides, sure… What about the bonks? I learned how to eat for it, but everyone is different. The pain! You have to find a saddle that's right for you. There are these creams you spread around down there (don't be shy). Here, let me show you my fav...
OK. I give up.
I still feel like a newbie, an amateur, an imposter. I know everyone gets nervous jitters before a ride, but you don't know what it is like for us in the back half of the pack...more like the rear quarter. OK, I'm as likely to be the lantern rouge as not. Thank you in advance for waiting for me at the top of the hill and saving me a burger and a lukewarm drink at the end of the ride. I appreciate it. I really do. I'll take what I can get. I finished...and it ain't a race anyway. That's why I like it, you know.
Did I mention that I live in the Finger Lakes region of New York? Well, I do. No, it's not very close to "the city". You wouldn't believe it, but New York has some truly "world-class" cycling. It's true, trust me! I've ridden in more than one state, so I know! Yup. I could create a route around here that is so gosh-darned beautiful you'd swear you were in France. You would! We have these wineries on the hillsides, apple orchards all over the place, spectacular waterfalls, and lots of cornfields on rolling farmland. World class, I tell ya! And then there are these lakes. I mentioned the lakes, didn't I?
These eleven long, deep lakes are the main feature of the region. We like to pick one and ride around it for fun. I never paid them much attention until I started these rides. But it's so cool to climb out of one of these lake valleys at sunrise or sunset and have the light shimmering off their waters. You should ride with us sometime and check them out. It’ll change how you see the area! Most people see them from the car, but they don’t get to REALLY see it like we do. I was ready to move out of here a few years ago, but now I’m seeing the roads and lakes around here in a brand new way.
What's that? You want to know about the climbs? What's the terrain like? Sure, it can be pretty hilly here. I thought I'd never get up some of these hills when I started cycling again. But I just plugged away at it and learned to take it easy and try to make up my time on the downhill. The first time I tried riding around all eleven Finger Lakes, I thought I would die. It took so long that I had to stop and sleep in a cold ditch in the middle of the night, and when I woke up, I was all stiff and achy. It was Type 2 fun!
Just look at me now, though! After a few years of training, I can finish that ride under the time limit. I did the same ride just this year to qualify before I went to France.
Wassat? Why did I go to France, you ask? Oh, didn't I mention it? There's a big event in France every four years. It's like the Olympics, but for bikes, but no one wins. Everyone just tries their best, and you either finish it or you don't. I did. Believe it or not, it was like riding around the Finger Lakes, except three times in a row. Like I said, it's a lot like France, without the crepes (of course). I'm an expert now, so I can say so. Want to see my medal?
I'm really enjoying our talk! How's your drink? Looks like you need a refill. Here ya go...
It's too bad there aren't more randonneurs in NY to talk to about this. A couple of years ago, I rode some rides in Philly, and there were a bunch of riders there. I couldn't believe how cool it was to meet up at the controls and chat. It was nice and social. A lot of riders volunteer in Philly, and I think it makes a big difference! What do you think? Mhmm... yes, me too, and I'm glad we agree. Please enjoy your drink.
So, I got to thinking. Maybe I could volunteer right here in NY and put a little more "oomph" behind our club. So I did. Be the change you want to see in the world, right? I helped support our region's 1200k (The WNY Waterfalls), helped with the club website, and helped create a few new permanent and brevet routes for the region. We're getting a fresh series together that highlights the Finger Lakes region. Remember, that 400k I did and slept in the ditch? That’s one of them.
Do you need anything to eat? No? Let me know...
The Around the Finger Lakes 400k is already on the calendar for June 8 as an ACP brevet, or you could ride it as a permanent (#4261). The idea is to get you within "wheel-dipping distance" of each lake. It has about 12k ft of climbing, so it was a good training ride for PBP. Maybe it's because I made the route myself, but I don't mind sharing; it's one of my favorites. I know, no one's baby is ugly, but still. You should try it. Bring your family for the weekend. Let them play in the lakes or take a wine tour while we have different fun.
I took some pictures the last time I rode that 400k. I wish I could take a picture of what it was really like. Pictures never seem to capture it, do they?
We're also making a new 600k for July 13. It is a cloverleaf that starts smack dab in the middle of the Finger Lakes in Penn Yan. The first day goes west, weaves between some of the smaller lakes, and heads south through Letchworth State Park, with plenty of views of the Genesee River in the park's 550 ft gorge. The return leg of the first loop runs through some hilly regions of the Southern Tier of New York and then back to Penn Yan alongside Keuka Lake.
After a nap and a buckwheat pancake breakfast (if that works for you), we'll head southeast through Watkins Glen and Ithaca with a few waterfall views, then make our way north on a rail trail and country roads between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes (the longest of the 11). You'll have lots of lake views before rounding the north side of Seneca Lake and heading back to the finish. We named this the "Letchworth Cayuga 600k". Maybe we need a marketing department.
What’s that? Gotta run? I understand. Sorry to have bent your ear for so long. I feel like I’ve monopolized our time. It’s just that I can get on a bit of a roll when I start talking about rando stuff, but it’s been great meeting you. I hope I didn’t scare you away. Don’t forget to register for these rides. Just google “Finger Lakes Randonneurs”, and I’m sure they will come up. Thanks for stopping by!