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Smoketown Brawler pre-drive report

by Gardner Duvall

The ride is named in honor of the railroad workers who delivered the modern incarnation of Brunswick, MD, nicknamed Smoketown for the huge C&O Railroad facility that arose in the era of the steam locomotive.  It hurts not at all that the ride ends at the Smoketown Brewing Station.

The ride starts, however, at Beans in the Belfry, which provides a half hour of access before we depart.  The whole route is in the Loudoun Valley, nestled between the Blue Ridge mountains to the west, and the hard to perceive Catoctin mountain to the east.  RWGPS counts 62 feet per mile of climbing with no mountain passes.  We’ll see rollers all day, and to my sense there is more pitch and dip in the second half.

First we cross the Potomac into Virginia, and diverge onto a little gravel rather than riding into Lovettsville.  That choice saves us a smidge of distance and climbing, and some VA-287 traffic, with excellent first views of the Blue Ridge.  After that we ride comfy roads through Round Hill and Airmont.  This stretch has lots of vineyards, wineries, and stone walls, along with supplies in Round Hill.  I’ve never stopped there, perhaps someone else can comment on the services there.

At 31.6 we take a turn into the novel, at least for me.  Rokeby Road carries us through the estate of Paul Mellon, where things go from merely bucolic to jaw dropping.  It’s hard to say why the miles into Marshall seem so distinctly well-healed, but both times I’ve been though there it sure feels that way.

Marshall is the southern reach of the route at 42 miles, and I would plan to eat there in spite of the merits of Middleburg.  Since my car only takes one pedal to move forward, I seized that advantage to explore the midday food in Marshall.  In the order they appear on the route, you could go to 7-11 (R), Cupcake Heaven (new on Main St, R), the Whole Ox (L), Red Truck (R), and Half Past Moon coffee (L).  Cupcake Heaven has baked goods in addition to yummy cupcakes; Whole Ox and Red Truck have some savory options, including some things for vegetarians (a beetloaf sandwich at Red Truck).  I found all the stops satisfying, though I maxed out well before going deep into their menus.  Whole Ox seemed the most intriguing as a lunch stop, with burgers ground on site, lovely pre-made Italian subs, and deli sides.  Go in, even though it appears to be just a butcher shop.

The second gravel section falls between Marshall and Middleburg.  Under the wheels of my car it seemed like it provides three miles of secluded rollers with no long climbs.  There is nothing on this route that would nudge me off road tires.

Middleburg arrives at mile 57, and is the other sensible place to make a food stop.  We ride the length of Main Street and see the customary offerings there.  The next town is Purcellville, at mile 72, with its array of supply options with more than 20 miles yet to ride.

Before we cross back into Maryland at Point of Rocks, there is one deviation from roads we commonly ride.  At Taylorstown we hop onto Furnace Mountain Rd, which goes up the western flank of Catoctin mountain before descending down the same side.  The major note is how the descent steepens towards the bottom, at Lovettsville Rd.

After crossing the Potomac we make our way on the C&O Towpath for the last 7 miles.  This takes you past the wondrous (for its time) Catoctin Creek Aqueduct, and over easy crushed stone except for a very brief detour.  At the end we gather at Smoketown Brewing, with food at hand from King’s Pizza next door.

Who We Are

DC Randonneurs sponsors long-distance cycling events in the Mid-Atlantic region ranging from 100 kilometers to 1,200 kilometers (60 - 750 miles) in length. Rides start from the Baltimore-Washington region but travel as far afield as State College PA, Buchanan VA, and Warm Springs WV.

The terrain we ride ranges from the flatlands of the Eastern Shore to the rolling hills and valleys of the Piedmont and the sometimes steep flanks of the Appalachian mountain ridges to our west. Our routes, many of which we've ridden for years, take quiet back roads through gorgeous and varied scenery, with regular stops for supplies and rest.

Our rides are unsupported. There is no sag wagon, and help of any sort can be miles away on some of the more remote stretches of road we ride. But we ride together, creating bonds of friendship and camaraderie along the way. Our ride organizers and volunteers work hard to make sure that every rider is accounted for, from start to finish.

Our rides are timed, with riders required to reach intermediate control points, as well as the finish, within a set window of time. But our results are listed alphabetically. Our style of riding is know as allure libre, meaning riders ride at their own pace within the limits set by control opening and closing times rather than riding as a group at a steady pace set by its leaders, which is the audax style of randonneuring.

Randonneuring is non-competitive, but we challenge ourselves and each other -- to ride farther, to ride faster, to ride longer than we might have though possible. We aspire to relentless forward progress but take time to help each other when in need, whether that need is for emotional support, an energy bar to cure a bonk, or a cleverly improvised fix to broken equipment.

DC Randonneurs is affiliated with Randonneurs USA and operates according to the rules promulgated by that organization by adoption from the Audax Club Parisien.

Rides in our Club
Membership included for guest registrations

Click on ride name for details
  • Jun 17

    Smoketown Brawler Smoketown Brewing Station - Brunswick
    RUSA 100
    Members: $7.00
    2 registered
  • Jun 24

    Firefly 400 Wawa - Warrenton
    ACP 400
    Members: $7.00
    2 registered
  • Jul 08

    Liberty & Union Populaire Frey's Brewing Company - Mt Airy
    RUSA 100
    Members: $7.00
    None registered

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