Prompted by a posting to the Bike Washington listserv, I decided to try Atlantic Cycling’s Blackwater Tour this last week, making it my first metric century of the season. I’d never heard of this ride or Atlantic Cycling, but I’ve an affinity for riding in the very rural Eastern Shore, and I didn’t have anything in particular planned for that Sunday morning.

It starts at the Visitor’s Center of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, which reminded me much of the marshes around Savannah (one of my favorite places on the planet). This was an absolutely beautiful area – a flat road inches above the water, and no cars to be seen (or heard). You can tell you’ve exited the park when you start noticing all of the duck blinds (Seems a bit cruel, no? Offer them a refuge, but only if they can make it through a hail of bullets. This is not a ride I’d be making in the fall.). It then loops down through Dorchester County before heading to an out-and-back segment to Hooper Island. All in all a beautiful route, and on a Sunday morning there were only a few miles (out of 65) where I saw more than a car or two at a time). I’ll definitely be heading back there when the schedule calls for some all day road work.

The riders were your typical touring assortment – a fair smattering of club riders, a good number of older touring couples, and a few groups of friends who had coalesced around a more experienced rider friend. I decided to make it a tempo training ride myself, and when the wind really picked up, I connected with a couple of other solo strangers and we shared the work of a three-man pace line for the rest of the ride. People were friendly, but not in your way. Just as I like it.

Atlantic Cycling, for its troubles in organizing and supporting the ride, wants you to sign up as a club member ($10 per season, getting you a nice grey on red t-shirt) and pay $10 for each ride. Registration was quick, and I received a cue sheet and a wish for good luck. I don’t think there is any on-course support beyond the (well-stocked) rest-stops. My only point of complaint was that there weren’t any restroom facilities available at the stops. This wasn’t an issue for me, but it wasn’t good news for a number of riders (esp. women). I’m almost embarrassed to say that I probably ate more than my registration dollars’ worth of food at the stop. I’d gotten in late the night before, and was operating on just a few hours of sleep. Apparently my body thought a good way to make up for that was by ingesting way too many peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

Depending on my calendar, I’d be quite happy to join another Atlantic Cycling ride this season. The route was clear (both on the cue sheet and as marked), and the company was pleasant. It’s not an ideal ride for those who are unsure of their abilities, but I’d recommend it to everyone else.