It's about a 6 hour drive to Thurmont, MD, the start point for the Gettysburg Century, which is about 15 miles south of Gettysburg, PA where we stayed. Descending a narrow, shade enshrouded #77 towards Thurmont, I wondered if this would be the 7 mile starting climb for Saturday's ride. Packet pick-up was at 6:00pm so Beth and I continued on to Gettysburg via #15. The speed limit is 55, I settled in at 65, was having my doors blown off by passing cars so quickly got into the flow of things at a nice 75-80mph while wondering where the patrol cars were. After checking in at the hotel, we headed back to Thurmont via #15, again at 75-80mph. Had an appetizer at the Cozy Restaurant where pre-registration took place, picked up a very well designed long sleeve T-shirt and assorted stuff, stopped at the Shamrock Restaurant (very good) and had Maryland crab cakes of course.
I had my ear to the ground and based on many conversations, the century riders depart around 7:30 so a call to Dirty Dan confirmed the start time. Departing the hotel the following morning, Dan called at 7:00am to say he was doing loops in the parking lot but would hang around for our official 7:30am start. We jumped on our bikes and headed out, via #77 on a 7 mile climb through a forest with a boulder strewn river on the right. Absolutely beautiful scene. My legs felt good and we motored by dozens with Dan pulling away several times (by the way, Camp David is to the right a ridge or two over but obviously no official sign of it). We reached the top, having gained 1100' of elevation. The event organizers release the 1600 cyclists between 7:00-10:30am while the shorter routes join and rejoin the 100 route in several places. Therefore, you never leave the unskilled behind for good, encountering their odd moves into the latter stages of the ride.
The first food stop was around mile 30 and above, Dan, having rested, napped, bathroom breaked and eaten a full meal, finally sees me making the climb to the rest stop and took the above image. I noted there was 3400' of climbing already. I stopped briefly and we headed out. I think Dan's strategy was to take long breaks while waiting for me, then hustle me out of the food stops so I'd be even more beaten down then usual. However, I wondered if Dan had the endurance for 100 miles of adopting "the rabbit" strategy since he's working and traveling quite a lot and not putting in the miles.
We arrived at the 52 mile food stop. Well, "we" is not an accurate term, Dan arrived, volunteered to help make PB&J sandwiches, helped out with crowd control and then waited some more for me to arrive, which I finally did with 5400' of climbing. Since the route was to have 7700" I felt great that A) most of the climbing was over and B) I was at exactly 3 hours total time so there would be no "Mountain Mama 2nd Half Swoon". We shoved off and I encouraged Dan not to wait for me. Besides, he's a lousy domestique because he drafts for a few seconds and then speeds off, never to be seen. At mile 62, there is a nasty 3 mile climb that gains 1000' and upon reaching the summit with 6600' out of the way, I was in a very good mood, thinking it was all down hill from here, except of course it was not.
We had passed Antietam Cemetery, gone through Sharpsburg and it was very neat to ride on roads having names I remembered from history lessons attended long, long ago, like Tannytown, Emmitsburg, Cashtown, etc... Then we approached Gettysburg National Park and that was way cool. We had been told to ride single file but that was not realistic as all cyclists were naturally routed through here and the pace, egads. Plus there was a Segway tour of 10-12 to get around, walkers, pleasure cyclists out just to ride the Gettysburg roads, etc... We coasted by.......
....Little Round Top (this image taken later). The rocky area center is Devil's Den, the woods to the left is where the Confederate troops streamed out to take the hill just as Union troops arrived to defend, right of Devil's Den is the "Valley of Death". The museum is a good visit too and was told by a guide that what is on display is only 1% of the collection that is in vaults below the museum.
Back to the ride, I found new energy coming out of G-burg and at some point, discovered Dan had slid back a bit and just then, a 3-some came by and I jumped on. I rode them like a pony and at one intersection, pulled alongside one of them, punched him in the arm and thanked him for pulling for 10+ miles. The last 5 miles was agony as I spit the bit on the 3-some, the up and down and head wind was taking a toll but I arrived at the finish, with a ride time of 6:01, total time of 6:30, 103 miles and 9000' of climbing. As an aside, there was no sheriff/police support on the ride which I thought odd but probably explains why people drive 80 in a 55mph zone. There are quite a few highway crossings that are dicey with lots of traffic and all but 1-2 the event volunteers were at the food stops, which were well stocked. As another aside, if you plan to attend next year register early as they cap the ride at 1600 and look in and around Gettysburg for a place to stay. Gettysburg, the town not the park, was packed on Friday and Saturday night and there are lots of cafes, restaurants (try Dobbins House), bars, etc.. with an interesting mix of historical locations.