Wednesday, June 5, 2013

CASA Ride, Shepherdstown, West Virginia

As mentioned in a couple of previous entries, I participated in a group ride in West Virginia on May 18. The CASA ride has been a long time favorite of a friend, and he suggested I join him on it. I said yes this time, but signed up for the 25 mile course instead of the 50 as a concession to my current fitness level. There was a century option available as well, but I didn't even consider it. Perhaps another day.

CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate, and the advocacy is for children in foster care. CASA volunteers are trained to investigate cases where children have been removed from their home, prepare a report, and submit their findings to the court and other agencies. CASA is a nationwide program and its CASA of the Eastern Panhandle of WV that's the beneficiary of any fundraising that takes place leading up the ride. Cyclists are encouraged, but not required, to collect money for CASA; being already committed to fundraising for the MS City to Shore I just paid my entry fee and left it at that.

The sight of a mass of cyclists preparing their bikes early in the morning isn't a new one for me, but its not been a familiar one for a while. My last big charity ride was in 2009. I was registered for CASA in 2012 but didn't go because I was in poor condition after surgery; I'd have had problems with the drive down, let alone the bike ride. But in 2013 I am stronger, and I was one of a couple hundred people getting ready in the parking lot and sidewalks of the Shepherd Health Center at Shepherd University.

There is no mass start for the CASA rides. My friend left at a quarter to eight and I was rolling a few minutes later. I rolled down the driveway, turned right onto the road, and was off.

I felt strong, surprisingly strong, as I climbed a small rise. I made the turn from the main street and onto the back roads that made up the bulk of the course, and I still felt in command. "This is West Virginia? The Mountain State?" I thought.

The first problem on the ride came soon after. And it was one specific to me. As I've told many people, and no one believes, I am not a cyclist. Or not a cyclist as most people understand the term. The motion of the bike and my body's interaction with the bike mean little to me. I don't go fast because it gives me little thrill. I'm not entirely sure why I ride a bike, but as far as I can tell its because a bike lets me cover more ground than hiking. When I hike I stop and look at things. When I ride I stop and look too.

And so, when I came across a stream and cattle pasture, I dismounted and took photos.


Other rides poured past me, looking at the road ahead, seeing me standing with a camera, and calling out "are you OK?" "Yes" I said. I was OK. I was doing what I do.

I stopped at this rural church for photos. Again rides passing me assumed something was wrong. No, everything is right.

The first third of the ride was on rural roads, surprisingly flat for the most part. It was on one of these I had my first real problem. When shifting into the big ring I crosschained. I took a minute to fix it, and moved on.

As I reached the nine mile mark I noticed the course switched to a bike path. "Hmm, flat riding" I thought. Never fear. This is West Virginia. The multi use path running alongside Route 9 between Martinsburg and Charles Town is a roller coaster. The climbs were beyond my abilities, and I had to walk them. Aside from the climbs, the trail was enjoyable. Not much could be done for the scenery, because most of it is looking down on Route 9.

After a well staffed and stocked rest stop at mile 16, it was back on the Route 9 trail for another couple of miles, and then back on low traffic roads. While I am sure West Virginia has drivers who don't like cyclists, I've yet to meet one. While waiting for a train to cross an intersection, one driver struck up a conversation with me.

"How many miles y'all riding?"


"Wow, that's a lot."

"Some folks are riding a hundred."

"A hundred!" He shook his head. "I can't imagine spending that much time on a bike seat."

The train cleared the crossing, and the gates were rising.

"Good luck! You'll do OK." And he drove off.

My friend Ed, a native of West Virginia, once said that people in his state are so friendly because they expect everyone they meet to be their friend unless they prove to be otherwise. I think I agree.

I rolled on, but I was growing tired. I was stopping more frequently and for longer. I rested at this farm five miles out.

After walking up a hill that did honor to West Virginia's reputation, I had two problems develop. One is another episode of cross chaining. I need to have the front derailer adjusted. The second is blurred vision. I tried to clean my glasses, but the problem happened again after a few minutes. It doesn't appear to be fatigue related, because my vision restored to normal once I stopped riding. Also, I found all I needed to do when riding was look at the bike frame and my focus was restored. I suspect the script for my glasses needs to changed. 

I rolled back to the Shepherd Health Center for lunch. The CASA rides are known for their food, and Pizza Hut, Chik-fil-A, and the Bavarian Inn of Shepherdstown provided most of the meals. I enjoyed a brautwurst from the Bavarian Inn while I waited for my friend to finish his fifty mile route. I was tired, but for the first time since my surgery I completed a 26 and a half mile ride. What's more, as I celebrated my ride alongside others celebrating theirs, for the first time in years I didn't feel out of place. My rides are different than theirs, but at the end we all come together. Even if its over pizza and brautwurst. 



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A Taste For The Woods: CASA Ride, Shepherdstown, West Virginia

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CASA Ride, Shepherdstown, West Virginia