By Edward Robinson | Permanents Coordinator
A Record of Growth
In March 2004, a handful of RUSA members set out to complete the club's very first Permanent ride. By year's end, individual members had accomplished 90 such rides, with program founder Robert Fry reporting a grand total of 19,191 kilometers ridden. The program gained momentum the following year, when riders completed 282 Permanent rides covering some 58,293 kilometers. The number of routes expanded in kind, culminating in a roster of 107 available courses as the program reached the end of 2005.
Fast forward to 2008: Participation in the Permanents program has skyrocketed over the past two years, encouraged in no small part by the sought-after R-12 Award. The charts on page 8 put the numbers in perspective. The final two columns on each chart reflect that mid-year participation in 2008 is ahead of even last year's pace, exceeding 2007's year-to-date totals by over 220 rides and 46,000 km.
To those of you riding Permanents, and to the route organizers who keep them on tap for all of us to enjoy: Bravo! For those of you who haven't yet taken the opportunity to ride a Permanent route, visit the Permanents page at the RUSA website, where you can search for a route near you — there's probably one close by, along with a route owner who would be pleased to hear from someone interested in giving his or her route a try.
Four RUSA members have logged Permanent rides of 600K or longer this year. Congratulations to Tom Knoblauch, who in May completed the Topeka-Denver free route organized by Spencer Klaassen, for a total of 869K. Likewise to Ed Felker, Mary Gersema, and David Lippke, who in June rode Lynn Kristianson's newly-approved Double Middletown 600K in Virginia. Those rides are the longest Permanent rides yet for 2008.
Speaking of long rides, two members have each recently established a series of shorter routes that, when ridden one after the other, offer the opportunity for rando-style touring over distances exceeding 1200K. John Kramer has a series of six 200K routes that link together to form an Oregon loop of 1239K. John and Rick Blacker recently rode each of those routes on back-to-back days. In the meantime, David Thompson, with the assistance of Geoff Swarts, established a series of six free routes that skirt the southern coast of Lake Superior, with the final route terminating on the lake's eastern shore in Wawa, Ontario, Canada. David and Geoff also recently rode those routes, for a total of 1265K. The two continued their ride, completing a circuit of Lake Superior. Again, congratulations are in order for these four. Contact John or David if you are interested in more information about their respective routes (contact information for both can be found at the RUSA website, where John and David are listed among the club's Permanent route owners).
Many areas in the U.S. remain untapped as locales for Permanent routes, but this hasn't stopped the program's expansion from spilling across our border to the north. RUSA is pleased to announce that members now can submit applications for Permanent routes that extend into Canada. (For insurance reasons, any route with a Canadian segment must begin within the United States. And, as always, a route owner should live reasonably near his or her routes.) As noted above, one such route already exists. So, for RUSA members who live in the northern latitudes, there's no need to let the U.S.-Canadian border throw up a roadblock when it comes to route planning. Doubtless there are scenic, challenging roads in nearby areas of the Canadian provinces that would make excellent additions to new routes.
In other news, Jeremy Noret has taken over routes in the San Angelo, Texas, area that belonged to former RBA Dennis Cook, whose work required that he relocate to College Station, Texas. Dennis already has established his first new route in College Station, and he has plans for more. Pam Wright has picked up a north Texas route from former route owner Ronnie Bryant. It's great to see members taking on routes that might otherwise be abandoned, an issue that's sure to arise more often as the Permanents program matures.
By the Numbers
Randonneurs like to talk numbers — distances, times, velocities, temperatures, weights, and the list goes on. With that in mind, here's a brief look at the Permanents program, by the numbers, as it stands in mid-2008.
Routes. The growth in the number of new routes has been vigorous. Ninety new routes have been added to the Permanents roster since January 1, bringing the total to 448 active Permanents at the time of this writing. It's difficult to predict with any certainty, but we may broach 500 routes by year's end.
Among the year's new routes, several are located in states that previously had no Permanent routes available for RUSA members to ride: Arkansas (2 new routes established by Texan George Evans), Georgia (a route established by new route owner Ian Flitcroft), and Minnesota (3 routes, one courtesy of new route owner Lara Sullivan, the others organized by new route owner David Thompson). Montana saw its second route added, thanks to new route owner Jason Karp.
The longest RUSA Permanent available remains Spencer Klassen's Pony Express, a free route of 2979 kilometers between St. Joseph, MO, and Sacramento, CA. The longest RUSA non-free route on the roster is Paul Layton's Grand Canyon Randonnee, at 1224K.
The accompanying map gives an overview of the number of routes available in each state.
Riders. RUSA's membership has been similarly vigorous in tackling the club's Permanent routes in 2008. Over 800 rides have been completed as of the first week of July, for an impressive total of 163,177 kilometers ridden. As noted, that level of participation is well ahead of last year's, and it has yet to show any signs of slowing.
A glance at the accompanying map reveals several areas where no Permanent routes exist, as well as areas where only a small number of routes have been established. Thus there are plenty of regions ripe for expansion, and I hope members in or near those areas will develop new routes to fill those voids.
In addition, Robert Fry developed and promoted the concept of capital-to-capital routes, the notion being that state capitol buildings might be linked in a web of Permanent routes spanning the nation. That remains a superb idea, and I hope RUSA members who live in or near their state capitals will come forward to establish routes linking with their neighboring capital cities. A few such routes already are in place, but many more remain to be developed.
It has been a great pleasure meeting and working with RUSA members from across the country since taking on the role of Permanents Coordinator in January. My only frustration has been my inability to go and ride the many routes that I get to review on paper. I see so many intriguing place names along the paths of these routes, and so many remarkable landscapes through which the routes are laid. None of us, certainly, will have the time or opportunity to ride them all. For my part, I hope to ride many, and I hope that we might meet somewhere on the road, and say hello.
Until then, safe riding.