8 June, 2014       Eventful


My favorite summer sporting event is the Race Across America or RAAM. It’s bicycling and serious, serious ultra endurance. An Ironman isn’t even a warmup for the men and women who complete this race. It’s eight hundred miles longer than the Tour de France – and finishes five days faster. The main difference: in RAAM, the clock starts when the cyclists pedal away from the edge of the Pacific Ocean in California – and doesn’t stop until they reach the edge of the Atlantic Ocean in Maryland. In the Tour de France, they stop riding (and stop the clock) at the end of each day. They eat a good meal, get a good night’s sleep, then get up the next morning and do it again. The Tour de France is much, much less demanding. RAAM starts this Tuesday (10  June) at 12:00 noon California time (3:00 PM here) and the course closes twelve days later. The winner is expected in Annapolis, MD on Wednesday, June 18 in the early evening. The current men’s solo record of about 7 days, 23 hours was set last year by Christoph Strasser, a 31 year old from Austria. That’s an average of nearly 16 mph non stop. From California to Maryland. If you ride and if you have a speedometer on your bike, crank it up to 16 mph next time you go for a ride. And think about what it would take to do that non stop – for the next week – and you still wouldn’t be done. Including crossing the Rockies. I am an experienced endurance athlete and this race stupefies me. Take a look at the site, read a little bit about it, check back during the week – it is a stunning example of what human beings can achieve.  A week from today when I put up another post, the front running solo men will just be arriving in Kansas and western Missouri. Enough about that.


I’ve never ridden for competition – only for enjoyment. Only, as I’ve said on countless occasions, to “have a good time.” I like Ironmans because it gives a (theoretically) valid reason to ride lots and lots and lots of miles. But this year I’m not doing an Ironman so I’m enjoying my bike time a lot more. Last week I had an unexpected weekday afternoon free so I took an hour ride – and took my “big” camera along – not just my iphone. I only stopped a couple of times, but at one point in eastern Goochland this bluebird posed on a wire:

Beautiful bluebird seen on a beautiful bike ride!

Beautiful bluebird seen on a beautiful bike ride!

This sassafras was growing beside the road where I stopped:

DELICIOUS sassafras - the roots make tea that tastes JUST like root beer!

DELICIOUS sassafras – the roots make tea that tastes JUST like root beer!

This is what the road looked like where I stopped. There are countless miles of views just like this one in a close radius of Richmond. And I never, ever, ever get tired of seeing them. I did my first triathlon twenty-seven years ago and I’ve ridden hundreds of thousands of miles on these roads – and they’re as pretty today as they were the first time I saw them. I’m sure you can see why:

Who could ever tire of this?

Who could ever tire of this?

I should interject that I have done one event this year that included cycling, the Monticelloman Triathlon. And later this summer I’ll be doing the Anthem Moonlight Ride (another of my favorite Richmond sporting events). I got this great hat:

Such an excellent hat

Such an excellent hat

I made it to Bryan Park this week, as I often do, and saw a sight I’ve not seen before. There was a shape in the middle of one of the ponds that I didn’t recognize so I used the zoom lens on my camera for a closer look. I saw it was a dead Canada Goose. I don’t know how it had died; sometimes they get hit by cars in that neighborhood. Anyway, on closer inspection, I saw the snout and eyes of a large snapping turtle peering out of the water – it had found its dinner. Life lives on life:

A dead Canada Goose and a live Snapping Turtle - Life Lives on Life

A dead Canada Goose and a live Snapping Turtle – Life Lives on Life

There are also lots and lots of bugs around – they’re everywhere. I saw this beautiful damselfly at Pony Pasture this week. It almost looks like it’s made of metal:

Looks like it's made of green metal

Looks like it’s made of green metal. And check out that shadow. 

This week, honestly, I had too much stuff. I could have done ten blog posts. Hopefully this will keep up. Until next week,



PS Click on those RAAM links and check it out – it is so amazing.

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It was fun on the last post (So startling) to get a comment from an old family friend about the cabin. Ed lived a few doors down from us when we lived in Vienna, VA in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. He read my musings about trains and the cabin and wrote: 

“…would love to see a pic and your thoughts on the train tunnel between the cabin and the river. Never been more scared than as a kid walking through that at night.”

I’m disappointed that I currently don’t have any good pictures of that tunnel. But I’m going up there this summer. And will post lots of pictures. Meanwhile, this is from Google Street view (!). It’s standing on the paved road, looking up the gravel road in the direction of the cabin. On the right side of the tunnel in this picture, a frigid creek runs through and down to the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. You can see the train tracks on top of the tunnel. At night it was pitch, pitch black:  

Tunnel under the train tracks

Tunnel under the train tracks

If you stand in that precise spot and turn in the opposite direction, you are looking at the South Fork of the Shenandoah River: 

The South Fork of the Shenandoah River

The South Fork of the Shenandoah River

This may give some idea of my lasting fascination with trains and rivers.  

That creek through the tunnel, it started up higher, obviously, went across “the park road” where we’d find caddisfly larva and watercress. Where we’d just get on our hands and knees and drink straight from it – not even cup our hands, just stick our faces right in as it flowed over the gravel. And it would be so, so, bitter, bitter cold, and you’d go down to the river, which would be warm by comparison. And you’d stand at the river’s edge, and if went up to where the creek was flowing into it, it would turn frigid. It’s making me want to go up there just writing about it. I’ll be back up there soon. Have a great week. 

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Looks like it's made of green metal

About Jay McLaughlin

I am a rehabilitation counselor. I have many friends with autism and traumatic brain injuries. They help me learn new things constantly. I hike with dogs at the James River in Richmond - a lot. I've completed an Iron distance triathlon a year for 11 years. My most recent was in Wilmington, NC in November, 2013. I currently compete in mid-distance triathlons. And work and hike and take pictures and write and eat.
This entry was posted in Birds, Endurance, Fun, People, Rivers, Trains and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Eventful

  1. Pingback: Darn his hide! | NEWFAZE

  2. Cappy says:

    Great post, great photos! Love the turtle/goose shot.

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