15 August 2009
The Round Hill Stop Sign
A Cycling Story
Buster led the pace line down Dry Mill Road at 30+ mph. Ahead of us I saw a line of 10 or so cyclists and I knew we were bound to catch and pass them. Earlier in the ride a three man breakaway from the group had been overtaken just before the second rest stop in Lovettsville.
We were biking a 70 mile ride through western Loudoun County. Lou and I met Buster, Kevin, Bob, and Andy at the parking lot of Loudoun County High School. Bob and Andy were new to the group although they had raced the recent crits with Buster and Lou in Warrenton. Kevin was a regular cyclist in the group with whom I had biked 130 miles for the 2007 Reston Century.
We spun up Dry Mill Road to meet Steve, Dave, and Bill at Clarke’s Gap. Then we went west on old Route 7 through Hamilton to Purcellville. After the village of Lincoln the rollers came one after another in the early morning fog. The fog would burn off quickly as the sun rose. There were advantages to starting a bike ride early in the day: Low traffic and cooler temps to name two.
The steep rollers of Snickersville Turnpike never change. They are numerous, short, and repetitive as we worked our way toward Airmont. At the store we refilled water bottles and Bill suggested we do Mt Weather.
“Mt Weather?” I asked. “Do I really want that this morning?”
“I will hear about it later if you guys ride Mt Weather. It is not on my ride list today,” Steve joked.
“Nor on mine,” I replied. “The 70 miles coming up will be plenty for me today. Do you really want to tackle Mt Weather today,” I asked the group.
“You are the ride leader so you decide“, Bill said. ‘We will follow your lead.”
I turned right on Airmont Road and headed for Round Hill. Mt Weather was for another day.
In Round Hill a siren blasted away behind us. Oh geez, what have we done I thought although I knew what it was.
We gained on the group in front using the power of Bill, Dave, and Buster. Quick glances at my computer revealed 33 MPH. My legs were still turning although they felt as if they were pasted on. Well, it was near the end of the ride and I could rest later.
We pulled to the side of the road and halted. A Loudoun County Deputy Sheriff’s car pulled over, blue lights flashing. A burly deputy approached us. I knew we were in for it.
“All ten of you deserve citations for failing to stop at a stop sign. I saw you. I was behind you. There are no excuses. I don’t want to hear any. We have dead people in the county because they failed to obey traffic laws. Our deputies are out in force and will give tickets to cyclists. You are a vehicle and must follow traffic laws like everyone else on the road”.
The deputy was agitated and we were quiet. I nodded while the deputy spoke. I knew he was right. Jay and Dave nodded while we were lectured.
“There are court cases right now where cyclists were cited for failure to stop. So you must obey traffic laws or you will get caught.” The deputy moved toward his car and I realized he was giving us a pass today. Whew. That was close.
“Those cases were thrown out of court,” Lou said
“No, they weren’t,” said the deputy sheriff. He slammed his hand on the roof of his patrol car. “Only one case was dismissed and the others paid fines and got points on their licenses. I can still give all of you tickets and your friends can thank you for that.”
“Quiet, Lou,” several of us shouted.
“But…,” Lou started.
“You want to play lawyer. I’ll give all ten of you tickets and you can argue their cases.”
“Lou, quiet,” I yelled along with several others.
“Yes, sir. We will put a foot down at intersections for safety.”
The officer pulled away and some of us yelled again at Lou. One thing I learned years ago was to never argue with a police officer who could hand me a ticket.
We quietly spun toward Hillsboro. We placed a foot on the ground at all Stop signs. “Look, there is an officer in the bushes,” Kevin joked.
In Hillsboro we stopped to adjust Buster's rear derailleur. Steve and Jay peeled off to ride Route 690 to Purcellville and home. We headed for Lovettsville on Mountain Road. It had warmed considerably and I appreciated the shade. Ahead of us was the dreaded Taylorstown Hill. It was a climb of 1.2 miles with grades up to 14%. It was also the descent (coming from the opposite direction) where Stacy crashed in 2002. Luckily, someone found Stacy, out stone cold, and called an ambulance. Stacy had a broken collarbone, a concussion, and the normal road rash and a dinged bike.
Although my legs were barking like run away dogs it was great fun to chase down Dry Mill Road. We were nearing the group in front. At the top of Clarke’s Gap the group had a quarter mile lead or so. Now the gap was down to 50 yards and we were gaining.
The 7-11 Store in Lovettsville was a welcome sight despite all the Stop signs. A cold Gator Aid hit the spot while I contemplated the upcoming climbs of Taylorstown and Stumptown. A fast descent took us to the bottom of the road at Taylorstown. A good Samaritan had stopped in the road to escort a terrapin across the road. That was something I had done in the past. No point in having a terrapin or turtle run over.
The road surface was rough and patchy adding to the difficulty of the climb. I passed Lou, then Kevin, and saw one of the new members of the group, Bob, struggling ahead. Sweat poured from every pore of my body. Lord, what am I doing here? It hurt. My spin was now a square. The steeper section pulled me down to 7 MPH. Wow. I forgot how tough this hill was. But I knew if I made it through the steeper section the grade was 8-10 percent higher up.
And we have this climb next Sunday I thought. Maybe I’ll skip the Reston. I am getting too old for this suffering.
The climb eased a bit. I gained speed, up to 8 MPH, Hoorah! When I reached the top I shifted to the big ring and took off forgetting the misery of the climb. The road was smooth and I flew down the other side and found the bunch in the shade at Stumptown Road.
“That was a nasty climb,” I exclaimed when I joined them. Kevin and Andy joined us shortly. Lou came in a few minutes later.
“If I had my cell phone I would have called Amy to pick me up on that climb. That’s was the pits.”
I handed Lou my phone. The next climb was also just over a mile, but not as severe as the first climb. The Stumptown climb was the site of a bad crash from last year’s Reston. The road had been blocked with ambulances and we were forced to walk our bikes around the crash scene.
I reached 44 MPH on the Stumptown descent. The leaders, Bill, Dave, Buster, and Bob had disappeared into the Loudoun countryside ahead of me. I waited for Kevin and Bob at Loyalty Road and we made sure to stop at the two STOP signs in Waterford.
When we reached the top of Clarke’s Gap Road we were almost home. The group waited for us at the Route 9 intersection.
We reeled in the front group at the bottom of Dry Mill. Then it was a dash to the unofficial sprint line at the bridge over Route 7.