Cyclists coast county trails


Essex Community College's Dean James Duffy made an announcement that practically won him a standing ovation Monday night in Annapolis at a meeting of riders in the First National Bank Cycle Across Maryland tour.

"You've heard of two cars in every garage, a chicken in every pot?" he said. "Well, we've got a dryer for every piece of clothing!"

As it turned out, CAM-Tour cyclists didn't need the dryers yesterday after good weather on the second leg of their six-day tour around Maryland. But they were still happy to arrive at the college, where they were greeted by balloons and cheerleaders and enticed by a swimming pool and a cool gym.

Yesterday's 55-mile ride from Annapolis to Essex was pure cycling joy, starting with 12 1/2 miles on a paved recreation trail through Anne Arundel County. The smooth, flat trail wound through lush greenery, over wooden footbridges and behind bustling malls. Later in the day, riders took hilly side roads through Baltimore County's diverse neighborhoods, where children came out to wave and cheer.

The trip had a few steep hills, but most would agree it was an improvement on Monday -- a day of rain and flat tires for many of the 1,100 cyclists. At that night's meeting in Annapolis, Jennifer Coyle -- leader of the First National Bank team of cyclists -- reported she'd had seven flat tires.

That's right, seven.

While she no doubt held the record, an inordinate number of riders also punctured tires after Monday's grand send-off in Solomons. And everyone had to endure the rain and wind, which caused whitecaps to form on the Chesapeake Bay and sent temperatures into the 60s.

No one spent much time enjoying the scenic countryside that day; the only concern was reaching Annapolis. Along the way, two rest stops offered temporary shelter, food, snacks and hot coffee.

While these stops serve riders' basic needs, they also take on an emotional significance. Each 20-mile stop is a chance to meet again with friends, who may be riding at a faster or slower pace. Riders compare notes as they rest, telling of experiences along the road.

Ms. Coyle -- the flat-tire queen -- described a phone call Monday afternoon with her boss. She complained, "It's three o'clock, I'm still on the road, it's raining, and I've had seven flats." Her boss asked, "Would you rather be at work?" Her emphatic reply: "NO!"

Scott Needle's next report will appear Friday.

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