John's Waterfall 300k Brevet

My Second Brevet

After riding a couple of permanents and doing some full days in the saddle in PA, I felt more confident that I could ride a 300k brevet. This ride started in Ontario, NY, at the RBA's house at 6 a.m., which meant an early rise and drive from Ithaca to the Great Lake shoreline before the sunrise. The weather was forecast to be free of rain and not too hot. The ride is intended to highlight some of the region's waterfalls (Taughannock, Hector, and Shequaga) and four Finger Lakes (Cayuga, Seneca, Keuka, and Canandaigua).

In preparation for this ride, I had bought new tires (Gravelking SS Plus, 700x43). These tires were less expensive than the Rene Herse Snoqualmie Pass I rode until those flats in PA, but promised a little more puncture protection. Maybe I imagined that the Gravelkings provided a little less cushy of a ride. I'm hoping these last at least as long as the Rene Herse.

After Pete (our RBA) gave some instructions and took a group photo, we took off. A couple of fast guys that started with the group were quickly out of sight and finished hours before I did. I rode with Pete and his friend Joe. Each of them had been to PBP and had lots of experience that I could learn from. Our paces seemed to match well, so it worked out for me. A couple had also started with us. The gentleman was an accomplished ultracycling racer and accompanied his better half on her first set of brevets. We had a good conversation for a few miles, then they picked up their pace and were out of sight for a bit.

The ride started easy and crossed the Erie Canal in Newark, the NYS Thruway in Phelps and proceeded on to Geneva on the north shore of Seneca Lake. This was an easy-rolling 67 km section of the route, where the time seemed to pass by with conversation. I told Pete my story of nine flats in a day in PA, and he told me he always carried a spare tire in his bag. I didn't know that anyone did that these days unless they were going on a giant tour. I felt convinced that it would be part of my kit from now on. Before we reached Newark, we passed the couple on the side of the road with a flat who waved us on. I didn't think much of it. We randonneurs are a self-sufficient lot!

We had started off with a couple extra layers, and by the time we reached Geneva (a little before 10 a.m.), it was time to swap the clothes for some sunscreen. After Geneva the route had us head east towards the high ground between Seneca and Cayuga and then ride south along the ridge between the lakes, slowly climbing towards Ovid. When I've ridden south towards home from Geneva, I've hugged the east shore of the lake. I think the lake view is nice, but this approach seemed to involve easier climbs.

The control in Ovid at 100 km was the convenience store at the intersection of 96A and 414, which we reached a bit before noon, just in time for lunch. I had so much luck with chocolate milk and sandwiches on the PA ride, I decided to try it again. Pete got word by phone that the couple we passed a ways back with the flat had had another mechanical. Something was wrong with one of their pedals, and they were heading back to their car to try again on another day. Well, if you're going to have a mechanical, it's probably best accomplished early, so at least you can get on with the rest of your day.

It was another 25 km to Trumansburg and another 5 or 6 to the Taughannock Falls, just 10 miles (I mean, 16 km!) from Ithaca. I've been here quite a lot as it's one of the area's main attractions and located near a Rails to Trails path called the Black Diamond Trail connecting Ithaca to Tburg. The ride is kid-friendly, and my family has ridden here plenty and taken the pleasant walk to the base of the falls on the gorge trail. But we didn't stay long on this ride. A little chat with some motorcyclists about our adventure ("That's a long ride even on our bikes!"), a scribble on the card with the answer to the info control, and we were on our way again.

Taughannock Falls, near Trumansburg, NY Taughannock Falls, near Trumansburg, NY.

A mild headwind was starting to pick up. The temperature was rising, and the hills started to make themselves known as we headed west along the Finger Lakes National Forest to Hector Falls near Seneca Lake at 161 km. I'd passed this roadside waterfall a few times as a runner in the Seneca7 relay race a few years ago. One of my legs of the relay started in Watkins Glen and went straight up to these falls. There isn't much in the way of car parking, and it's easy to speed past it if you aren't paying attention.

Pete takes a picture of Hector Falls with his bike-mounted camera. Pete takes a picture of Hector Falls with his bike-mounted camera.

We descended to Watkins Glen, and we each went our own ways to grab a bite to eat. The most significant climb of the day was coming up soon, so no one wanted to fill up. Instead, I grabbed a sub from Subway, ate half, and made my way south towards Shequaga Falls. At Shequaga Falls, Joe and I shared some chocolate milk and relaxed until Pete arrived.

Joe at Shequaga Falls in Montour Falls, NY Joe at Shequaga Falls in Montour Falls, NY.

The climb out of Watkins Glen wasn't my favorite. I like to go up along Route 14, with a view of the lake when I've made my way to Penn Yan. This route headed up a steeper gradient for about 10 km up onto the north shoulder of the Sugar Hill State Forest. We just took our time in the little chainring and slowly climbed 1100 ft. A friend of Pete we had met in Watkins Glen left us some Cokes on the top of the climb.

The following 14 km was a gentle, quick downhill to Dundee and then some rollers as we approached the north end of Keuka Lake and the town of Penn Yan. Mennonite-driven horse and buggies clip-clopped by us as we rode along. We stopped at a convenience store for a control in Penn Yan at about 220 km. It was about 8 p.m., and it was going to quickly cool down, so we donned the layers and reflective gear and turned on our lights.

Sporting my new look in Penn Yan Sporting my new look in Penn Yan.

There was a little climb out of Penn Yan and then a couple hours in the dark as we headed northeast to Canandaigua at the top of our fourth Finger Lake. At 250 km, the descent to Canandaigua provided a great view. The reflected lights from the homes on the opposite shore were terrific. We stopped in the small city to again refuel and refill the bottles. I grabbed a pack of salted nuts in the store and scarfed them down. Randonneuring is a tour of a region's gas stations. We got back on the road around 10:30 p.m.

Honestly, everything had been fine up until about 260 km in. I'd been feeling good, and my nutrition had been fine, but suddenly I had a bad case of heartburn that I couldn't stop. On top of that, I stared to feel really sleepy. Pete and Joe talked while I tried to listen to some tunes (this has helped in the past). Luckily, the rest of the ride is primarily gentle hills that bring you back down to the Lake Ontario shoreline, mostly downhill. I started to nod off on the bike, something I had yet to experience during previous rides. Were I by myself, I might have dove in a ditch to rest, but I wanted to finish with the group, so I kept chugging along. We finished in a little under 19 hours (an hour early), At Pete's place, we each punched the timeclock, making it feel very official. I packed the bike away on the rack, got in the car, made it to the next open convenience store, drank a V8, and went to sleep in the driver's seat. I woke in the middle of the night and drove home, my second brevet in the bag.

brevet randonneuring cnyrando finger lakes Taughannock Shequaga Canandaigua Watkins Glen Penn Yan Finger Lakes Randonneurs