As the ride director of the first Valley Veterans Ride for Heroes, I want to thank the 12 Valley VFW’s, who came together to create this charity ride; they have done an amazing job building sponsor support and planning this event. Our goal is for this to be an experience, not just a ride, and an opportunity for riders to see the sights, smell the smells, and feel the friendship in The Valley.
Bucolic is the word that sums up the 54-mile route for me. I previewed the route on Saturday, August 26 to get an idea of traffic as well as the course itself. I really enjoyed it; it is just beautiful and a nice balance of rolling hills, flats, and a few challenging climbs. I’ve ridden since I was a teenager, and have over 100,000 miles in my legs. Right now, I’m riding about 100 miles per week and average between 14.5 and 18 mph depending on terrain. This course is moderately hilling with about 3,000 feet of climbing. I used a 36×52 crankset and a 12×25 cassette, and would suggest a 25-tooth or larger rear cog for comfort on the climbs.
You’ll leave Gypsy Hill Park and have a good warmup as you leave Staunton and enter Augusta County. The first five miles will be a mix of false-flats and climbing, so take your time and find your own comfortable pace. In group rides like this, it is easy to get caught up in the excitement and try and ride with faster riders. Don’t; you’ll pay for it in the last third of the ride as you come back towards the city.
Gear down and peddle easy up Shutterlee Mill Road, until you crest a sweeping right hand curve, and you will see the first of several beautiful rural countryside vistas to come. The downhill on Luckstone Road is the reward for all the climbing you have done.
Once you make the right onto Middle River Road, you will go back in time on the narrow winding country road. Your first rest stop comes up soon at a Historic pre-revolutionary war home. It would be easy to pass this stop by, please don’t. It’s a special place and part of the experience that will leave you with memories of an earlier time in our country’s history. Back on the road, you’ll climb up to Spring Hill, which is where the short and long courses split. We’ll have a course marshal there to help you find your way. Left for long; right for short.
To the left is a twisting testing short climb to Mt. Solon Road. It will level off for a stretch and provide a place for some nice tempo riding. You’ll see the next rest stop at the VDOT maintenance building on the left. Stop and grab a drink or snack, and thank the volunteers for their support and suggestions for the many roads you are enjoying.
Heading northwest, you will pass Natural Chimneys Regional Park, if you’re feeling strong, ride the mile into the park and check out the rock formations; or, you can make note of the location and plan to stop back on another day.
In this area, you are likely to share the road with a horse drawn buggy or tractor. Give a wave to the local farmers as you ride by. You’ll twist and turn, or climb and descend often on these rolling roads. Once on a ride on Thomas Springs Road, a group of cyclists helped herd 12 head of cows back to their pasture.
As you come into Montezuma, you’ll pass a terrific farmers market and hub of activity before you come to a single-lane construction zone. There’s a traffic light to control a single lane of traffic, and riders must obey that light. I took the lane so no one tried to pass me in this narrow section. Please be safe.
Now you’re past the midway point and heading into downtown Bridgewater, and home to VFW post 8644, your next rest stop, which is themed, The Battle of Midway.
As you leave town, you’ll cross a bridge where you will need to prepare to make a left turn onto Airport Road from Route 42. Please take extra caution as you return to the rolling pastoral hills.
The next rest stop features the story of the Jackson Campaign during the Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley. Now, onto beautiful Roman Road; enjoy! After a few miles look for Todd Road, and turn left and climb the hill. (This was where the miles started to catch up with my climbing legs!) First gear and easy tempo are called for—just roll that gear over and over until you reach the top. Breathe easy and let the legs spin on the descent as you make the right onto Mt Pisgah Road.
Make a right onto Limestone Road for a wonderful descent. You’ll cross the Middle River one last time and have an opportunity to take a break at the last rest stop at the Verona VFW Post.
Get onto Springhill Road and savor the mostly downhill stretch back into Staunton. When I got back to the parking lot, all I had was a drink and a granola bar. You can look forward to food trucks, BBQ, drinks and ice cream to choose from. There will also be military vehicles and equipment, antique cars, and other displays.
Melissa Patrick’s organizing committee for the Valley Veterans Ride for Heroes made up of members from the 12 area VWF’s have planned a magnificent event. I’m proud to bring my love of cycling to this ride, and hope we raise a lot of money for Boulder Crest Retreat and help returning vets reconnect with their families.