Sunday, January 15, 2017

2016 Highlights

I've done a year-end review for the past several years, and this morning amid the wet, cold, and footie online I realized that I didn't do for this past year. Fact is, 2016 was the hardest for me personally ever. I don't need to share much, but suffice that life was tough. And still is. But, you know, you just have to keep going. I did have some nice experiences on the bike and outdoors and hope to do a bang-up job enjoying my 2017, whatever comes my way.

In no particular order:

  • 4152 mileage- Fact is that number is a bit fudged because of how you deal with mtbiking. I fear the "real" total is a bit less. But that's alright. Fact is, I spent a good deal of time on the bike.
  • My car-free experiment in November and early December went very well. I lost some weight and spent a month and a half do virtually all car-free. It was a fun time. But as soon as it got really cold, I was glad to have something motorized and warm.
  • Numbers show lots of trips on the JonesATB (139) and a balanced approach between the mtJones, IF, and Blueridge (abt 30 each). Those are the 4. I can do everything with those 4. The others in the stable are decoration. The JonesATB was also the mileage winner at 1492.
  • My longest ride of the year was only 57 miles. Oh well.
  • I did very little bike camping in '16. Strange that I had the time to do it, but just didn't. One that does come to mind was me and Dave visiting Clark St. Forest in June, when I did my first hammock camp.
  • The Bee Rock mixed-terrain overnight was definitely a fun one.
  • Mine and PJ's trip to Big South Fork and Bandy Creek certainly turned out differently than anticipated, but it was a fun diversion and one I would like to explore again.
  • I really enjoyed fatbiking at the Falls of the Ohio with Brian in the summer. That certainly was a unique experience.
I didn't blog very much, with my efforts trending towards the visual highlights on Instagram. 2016 was a fog of depression, anxiety, and fear of the unknown. "Make the change a positive one" is what one person suggested to me. I guess that's the task.

Livingston Mixed-Terrain

I need(ed) to get out of town, immediately! Those who know me well know that I've been dealing with some stressful life events in 2016 and into 2017. One way I want to cope is to get fit, ride the bike(s), and have some great adventures. A side note is my ongoing fixation with my Strava Personal Heat Map. As a map nerd, it's such a cool way to document our travels as cyclists, all the many roads we've visited. I wanted to add some more. And, of course, there's gravel, Vitamin G. All these factors contributed to a route I designed leaving Livingston, KY, a KY Trail Town, and one I had previously visited with PJ in 2015. We had done gravel to the south of town and gravel farther east of town towards S-Tree, so this time "north" was the call. While I put out the general casting to call some folks on G+, the only taker ended up being trusty Dave C. He's always game regardless of his fitness level. Assuming we would be hitting gravel and pavement and nothing more serious, the Sogn got the nod for the steed-of-the-day, albeit I shod it at the last minute with the 2.2" Racing Ralphs instead of the narrower Riv tires that were on there. Good choice.

Good ol' Sogn. I've been coveting an updated version of one of these like the Elephant NFE, but I don't know. This one works pretty damn well. Given the rain forecast I grabbed some fender-like objects. It did rain, so my butt was less dirty than DC's.

We opened with 4 miles of pavement including a couple little climbettes to get the legs warm. As you can see, conditions were misty. There might be a DC in this pic, or might not.

Mullins Station Rd. provided us our first pleasant gravel along the train tracks. I like this section because it had a little of everything: train tracks, good surface, funky houses, a weaving interaction with several crossings and eventually dove down into and along the creek. While short, these few miles were fun. And that's the point, right?

In short order, Mullins Station delivered us to one of the finds of the day. Just 6 miles in to our trip and we came across this bizarre limestone quarry and train tunnel, all covered with a blanket of coal remnants and shotgun shells. The pics, especially the one of DC can give you some scale. I suspect many a beer, joint, and condom has been exhausted in this spot. Simply weird and wonderful.

Coal remnants all over the place. It was wet and gooey and not that easy to ride across.

The backside of the cavern where we climbed to.

We spent, probably, 10 to 15 minutes goofing around the cavern and then went further up Mullins Station. Just a mile or two later we ran into a bit of a quandary. The road- seemingly public according to all the maps- had a cattle guard across it, which is very unusual in KY, and a sign for no trespassing. In this area of the country one doesn't trespass flippantly; you could end up with a gun aside your head. Eventually we saw an old gentleman come out of his trailer and he motioned us that it was fine. This morning I checked satellite images and can't see the cattle guards, so I guess somebody took things into their own hands. Just up the road beyond that to the right I saw a home with two horses, but there wasn't a fence. They were loose horses. The bigger of the two gingerly approached us to a distance of 10 yds and check us out before running off. DC got spooked. He *was* a big, damn animal. We passed a second guard on the far side of the hill. I guess horse man had built himself a large horse encampment or something. All very strange. But again, this is eastern KY.

The big boy who spooked Dave, but the one who sprinted off like a scaredy-cat. Just a weired interaction. Owner man was behind the shack and didn't seem all that interested in engaging with us. 

Our short run along KY 1004 was a very pleasant one. I think this farm is named "Pleasant Valley" for the same reasons.

"Beware of Cow". Indeed.

Poplar Gap Rd. was a 1-mile climb with some dicey pitches at the top. I was having issues getting into my granny ring and actually coasted back down the hill a bit to DC to reconnect and fiddle. Eventually I used my heel to get into the small ring and complete the climb. The "gap" was a neat stone formation- who knows if natural or not- with several options at the top. We took the left gravel option, but the paved road actually passed through to our return leg.

Probably a lot of Trump voters in Rockcastle Co., at least this artist.

Our left turn along what is listed as Poplar Gap Church Rd.  for me, was a highlight, a gravel road cut atop the ridge overlooking the forest and vistas. The fog cut down the view a bit, but gave the woods an ethereal quality. I would climb the 1-mile gap climb again to get an opportunity to roll along this stretch.

Our day changed for the interesting along Poplar Gap Church Rd. After a nice gravel run we came across this creepy cabin atop the hill. After coming round the bend, Dave observed a dog at the trailer behind the creepy cabin. Someone was living up there. Traveling deep you have those "Really?" moments. People can subsist in some amazingly challenging conditions. People are strangely strong. And why do I feel so weak sometimes? 

Just beyond the cabin/trailer combo, this bit of texture announced a "schedule change" in our ride. What had been gravel up to this point was quickly becoming one of our "not roads". I've done enough  of these boondock rides to know that maps do not appear as they should sometimes, and today along "New Hope Rd." we found a 4x4 hunting trail, one not used too terribly much given the briers grown up along it. This morning's research says we were on this section for only a couple miles, but it felt much longer with its rock gardens and mudpits. We have been on much rougher sections, but the newly begun rain and unrideable portions sucked some energy out of us, I think. Fun, but at a cost.  

This is New Hope Church, with his and her outhouses. The rain and mist made for quite the setting.

Somewhere beyond New Hope Church I made a tactical decision. Fact was, I was bonking, wet, cold, and a little verklempt. I was having a good physical day, but a lack of ride maintenance made me decide to cut off the top portion of the route. While not out for many miles at that point, our total time was creeping up, so I need to cut short a bit. A robust descent down 1797 had us turning onto Crooked Creek Rd., which yet again offered great gravel and misty, moody mountain scenery. (Like all that alliteration?). While a little out of sorts, I was able to access my small ring and clear some of the lumpy, steep climbs along Crooked Creek. Crooked Creek was another excellent gravel run.

I really like this stretch along a homestead and field. Just passed this I heard some gunshots. Eventually we rounded a field to find two gentlemen shooting at traps while shooting AT THE ROAD. They saw us and stopped to let us pass, but that just wasn't cool.

This rock formation was for sale. The creek was actually coming up and out of the rock, which was cool. We didn't tary long.

The "adventure" portion of our ride was coming to a close. We turned left and found our other long climb of the day past Great Saltpetre Cave (good review here). We couldn't visit, as that is only allowed in May, I think. We were back on pavement but faced another mile-long trudge, this time with some steadier rain coming down in addition to more fog. DC tailed off the back and I ahead, where at the crossroads I waited for him, all the while getting colder and wetter. It *was* scenic though, in its own way. We eventually stopped at a church pavilion and decided to head straight back and bypass the last short portion of gravel. We found a long, steady downhill back into Livingston and then did our best to practice extremely-wet-clothing management, to good or ill effect. Our short cut only cost us 4 miles, and we found some of the best gravel in recent memory. Success.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Election Day

Some gremlins in the works here at Piso de Smith. I figure going forward is the best way to deal, so forward I did. We're off school today since schools act as so many voting places, so after a fitful and too-short night's sleep I hit the road for a morning constitutional (older use, as I had already...well, enough) to my voting site, after which I walked up for a cup of coffee. I ended with 6.5 miles of pleasant trail and sidewalk walking. And several hours of avoiding the gremlins. Some gremlins struck again this afternoon (after some brief errand riding), so I eventually ambled out so some evening rush hour road riding, using the Blueridge since I knew the weather and darkness would descend. And it did, in fact. I made it home after a reasonable 19-miler out to Iroquois. Tomorrow is a new day.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

What I get for...

First day off the bike since September 30th and what do I get but a gunky throat hack. We took a college visit with the younger and then his indoor soccer game afterwards, so there wasn't much time for two wheels. And now I sit here at home with no car and a slightly- not very icky- icky feeling. Damn.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Active October

I'm in the midst of this-and-that, so October was a busy month on the bike. Basically, my son had my car the entire month, so I lived somewhat Car-free. I didn't work every day of the month due to PD days, but of the days that there was school, I commuted by bike to work on every one of them save yesterday, Halloween. I was also on the bike every day of the month, which I'm sure is a first. My mileage ended up being 471, which I've superseded plenty of times, but it was/has been an interesting journey to live a true Car-free lifestyle. I'm sure I borrowed my car somewhere in there, but I did all my grocery shopping and errand running my bike, and only drove if I was driving the fam around for some reason (complicated).

As I begin November I find myself truly car-free. We traded in the Volvo yesterday to bring down the cost of my son's new car, a nice, dependable Honda Accord. He's happy and I'm happy for him. I ended up catching a ride from him because we had to time things for after-school, post-dinner at my mom's for Halloween. Sort of wish I had ridden somehow.  Now I find myself sans wheels, and that's alright. The only drawback I can think of is not being able to get frozen stuff all the way from Trader Joe's to the house; I don't think I'm ambitious enough to use coolers and ice and whatnot. I just won't eat Trader Joe's. And at some point I'll pick up something motorized, maybe even soon.

Lastly, it's been a very warm, dry Fall here- as I'm sure it's been elsewhere- so the riding has been easy. This morning's commute will be 63F and dry, with the afternoon in the upper-70's or even 80's. Yeah Global Warming!!

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Country Ride

Trying to recapture a bit of our cycling youth, i.e. what we did a few years ago, Mr. Crowell and I have take a few country rides of late. This past Sunday we took a route designed by DC out of Sonora, KY, which is south of E'town about 55 minutes south of Louisville. It was new country for both of us. It also added into my new-found obsession with my Strava Heatmap. I don't really care about my segment times (much), but I sure like to fill in more squiggly blue lines on my own heatmap. This 37-miler did the trick. It started cool and misty but ended quite warm, and I personally ran out of water. So be it. I enjoyed myself and generally felt good on the bike during the course of the ride, so it's a win/win in my mind. Some images.

If you look carefully, you might make out the image of a horse-drawn buggy down this road. Where we parked in Sonora, it was church time for the local Amish population. As such we saw maybe 10 buggies making their way. This one in the pic was piloted by a boy of 13 or so, and the other 3 in the buggy were equally young. 

 Some kayakers on the Nolin River. We missed what could have been an interesting portage on the north side of the bridge.

Nice valley, cheeky climb. 

No water at this church. The cheek!! 

 This guy was quite friendly, and as dogs are sometimes wont to do, he followed us for a good while. I almost put him in my randobag and took him home.
Country rides, country roads.

Fatbiking the Falls of the Ohio

Long time, no blog.

Brian S and I took advantage of a dry spell and spent a Sunday afternoon 2 weeks ago to fatbike the area around the Falls of the Ohio. Brian had explored this same area when he was younger, but I have never ventured out on the rocks. I'd say we were out for a good 3 hours and went a grand total of 5 miles, but every one of those miles was earned. While seemingly flat, the constant texture changes in the rock made for tough pedaling, but what a great place to practice riding skills with the constant weight shifts and front-end work. The other drawback was our unseasonably hot temps. We started to bake out there with the rock acting as oven.  

All-in-all it was a really fun afternoon. Here are some shots. The others are on my phone somewhere. Too much tech. 

 Brian's Trek Stache+ bike, which he loves. He decided that the extra width of a 4" bike would be worth in at the Falls, for both sand and rock.

 The Muk, which did the trick. Probably wish I had run an extra 2-3lbs just for safety sake.

Brian for scale at the hydro plant. It doesn't supply much energy, but does some.

Borrowed from the website listed above. Our route took us all along the rock formations to the left to the end of the island, seen as the green area in the center. We made out way back and then took the right bank up past that bulbous formation of rock in the center before bailing and taking a bit of road back. We were hot and tired.
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