Arizona RBA Susan Plonsky recently polled fellow RBAs about characteristics that make their routes special. Here's what they told her.
• There are lighthouses (Texas Brownsville 200, Three Capes 300 in Oregon, Santa Cruz Randonneurs in California), covered bridges (Covered Bridges 400 km in Oregon), and ghost towns (Black Mountain Side 200 km in New Mexico).
• Traveling the oldest continuously-used road in the U.S.; Old Mine Road: Eastern PA 300 km, 400 km, 600 km, 1000 km.
• Riding across the oldest suspension bridge: Roebling's Delaware Aqueduct: Eastern PA 600 km, 1000 km
National Park Brevets
• Zion & Bryce National Parks (Utah).
• Grand Canyon & Saguaro National Parks (Arizona).
Brevets Featuring Natural Wonders
• Highest brevet in North America, and crossing the Continental Divide twice: Grand Loop 300 km (Colorado)
• The lowest brevet: the Palm Desert 400 km (San Diego) which descends to 220 feet below sea level.
• Also crossing the Continental Divide twice: El Malpais 300 km (New Mexico).
• Crossing the Appalachian Trail 4 times and riding on it for 1 mile: Eastern PA 300 km..
• Crossing the Mississippi River: Iowa 400 km & 600 km.
• Passing three volcanoes: Seattle Randonneurs.
• And passing through one of the largest lava flows in the U.S.: El Malpais 300 km (New Mexico).
• The only series to ride past ALL of the California surf breaks named in the Beach Boys song Surfin' Safari: Pacific Coast Highway Randonneurs.
Brevets Featuring Food
• The final control of the Verboort Sausage Populaire (Oregon) is the annual Sausage and Sauerkraut Festival in Verboort, Oregon. (Vegetarians, please pack a lunch.)
• The most caffeinated brevet is the Coffee Cup Classic 300 km (Colorado) Most controls are Starbucks or other coffee shops. Powered by this energizing elixir, riders cross the Continental Divide at Loveland Pass (11,990 ft.) both outbound and on the way back.
• The chile capital of the world is on the Radium Springs 200 km brevet (New Mexico).
Brevets & Other Sports
• The Baseball Brevet (Central New York) starts near the Town of Peterboro, NY, where the second professional women's baseball game was played, and then heads east to Cooperstown, NY, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
• The Boston 300 km shares some of its route with the Boston Marathon.
A Ride Through History
• Civil War history is evident on the brevets of the Middle Atlantic states. The Lost River 200 km hosted by ROMA in Virginia visits the battlefields at Cedar Creek and Fishers Hill. DC Randonneur brevets travel through the battlefields at Gettysburg, Antietam and Harpers Ferry. Farther north, the Berkshire 600 and Boston 600 pass by Bennington Battle Monument in Bennington, Vermont.
• Civil War monuments aside, there is no region of the country with more history than New England. RBA Tracey Ingle puts it this way, "You can't spit without hitting a historic something-or-other." The Boston 200 km and 400 km travel through Concord. The battle there was the initial conflict of the Revolutionary War.
The Boston 300 km travels through Uxbridge, home of the first woman soldier who in 1782 disguised herself as a man to join General Washington's Continental Army.
• New England history isn't just about wars. The Boston 600 km travels through Leominster, birthplace of Johnny Appleseed, and also one of the earliest centers for the development of the American plastics industry. You can thank Leominster for those Pink Flamingo lawn ornaments.
Getting Your Money's Worth
Two brevets are tied for the Most Bang for the Buck. They are: Texas 200 (Brownsville) and the Three Capes 300 km (Oregon).
• Texas 200—In the course of a mere 200 km, one can experience palm trees and coastal estuaries, heavy industry alongside ocean-going vessels and oil-drilling platforms, the Texas-Mexican border—a transition zone between the America we know and a rich, ancient culture we have yet to explore, subtropical croplands, and the windy, wide open spaces typical of the south Texas coastal plains. Pretty reasonable bang for the peso, all on the southernmost brevet route in the continental U.S.
• Three Capes 300—Variety is the draw on this brevet. Over the course of 300 kilometers, riders travel through acres of vineyards and a coastal rain forest, past acres of sand dunes and over a few mountain passes (low passes, but passes nonetheless). Roadside attractions include historic lighthouses, friendly llamas and, for the gamblers, a casino!
Lastly, the Zen Brevet
• Sometimes you don't need to see something extraordinary to have an extraordinary brevet experience. This is from Houston Randonneurs:
"The road to Fayetteville is quiet and pretty, and when we get there, Orsak's Cafe is waiting with sandwiches and homemade desserts. The best thing, though, is the people along the way—waving to us from front porches or tractors, asking where we're riding to this time, stopping to offer help when we are fixing flats."