by Matt Birnbaum
As we leave summer days behind and move into autumn, we arrive at our Club’s annual Rite of Passage, the Back Roads Century on the weekend of September 17-18. I would like to talk a bit about this marquee event.
Those of us volunteering on the Executive Committee have spent so much time and effort coordinating the Back Roads Century Ride in the past that it squeezed out the opportunity to accomplish other goals in governing our club. So we made some changes a few years ago, including the hiring of part-time event planners, but our level of volunteer effort for putting on this event still remains very high. For those of you who do not know, the event is a year-round endeavor with high volume activity for half of the year. While this year’s event planners have lifted a huge burden off of our volunteer plates, a large team of us (especially Eric Pilsk, Jim Quinn, Martine Palmiter, Linda Kolko, Bob Bernstein, Stephen Krill, Dave Helms, Paul Huey-Burns, and myself) and our two part-time staff members (Brenda Ruby and Sherri Core) have been working steadily in planning this weekend bonanza.
At this point, we have done enough leg work to make this year’s Back Roads Century a wonderful opportunity for any recreational cyclist and their loved ones who join us. The weekend is packed with a long series of fantastic celebrations culminating in the Back Roads Century rides on Sunday, September 18. The fun actually begins on the morning of Saturday, September 17 with two free Club bike tours to Antietam National Park which is commemorating the 154th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam the day we will be visiting. Beginning later that afternoon and lasting through the evening, folks will have a wide array of recreational and cultural offerings for enjoying themselves in the funky, artsy college town of Shepherdstown, doing things like kayaking, hiking, a book reading by a local author, wine tasting, a film festival, star gazing, gourmet dinners, and so much more. Sunday’s Back Roads Century offers five routes for riders of all abilities and preferences while traversing the majesty of the foothills of the eastern Pan Handle. I personally am looking forward to doing some bar hopping on Saturday evening and listening to great, local live music before reuniting the next day with many riding buddies and listening to more great live music at the post-ride party at the historic Bellevue Estate on the bluffs of the Potomac River.
While we are still investing lots of volunteer time in organizing the Back Roads Century, we are no longer so squeezed and can better pursue other strategic goals as well. While we still have so much more to accomplish, I think we’ve done pretty well over the past few years in bettering the quality of the ride experience for riders through better mentoring of ride leaders, taking better care in appreciating the efforts of all of our volunteers, and making needed investments in improving our communications and website. Yes, we need more volunteers and have to institute more necessary reforms to improve our organizational effectiveness, but hey, our club is hip and vibrant.
So let me end this article with a plea for all of you to please support our Club and register for the Back Roads Century now. We do not have many revenue streams; the Back Roads Century is by far and away our main bread winner in paying the bills. We have put our hearts and souls into setting up a great weekend event that we think every recreational bicyclist (and their non-cycling loved ones) will relish. If you have not done so, please register now and ask your riding buddies to do so as well. It’s for all of us and future generations of cyclists.
See you all in Shepherdstown on September 17-18.