Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Bike to Beat Cancer

I didn't do my Family Camp Hundy for a variety of reason; I'm alright with it. With that "failure" my long-distance efforts have dwindled a bit. The next thing I'm gearing up for is again doing the Bike to Beat Cancer next weekend. I'll be honest. I find the donation begging/asking a bit uncomfortable. That being said, I just have to do it. My friend Drew, whom I rode with last year (along with Matt35) had every intention of riding again this year until he received a pretty miserable diagnosis of a recurrence back in late July or early August. It's back again. They say third time is the charm. Barf! This on really make me mad. Drew has done a great job taking care of himself, eating well, living more naturally, riding the bike. And it's back. And I have no choice but to ride and support him. To further beat the horse good and dead, young Ben, whose brother played tennis for me and whose story also motivated me to ride last year got his diagnosis of a return the same week as Drew. Two folks whom I know and have close connections to.

You can donate using this link: http://www.biketobeatcancer.org/site/TR/Events/General?fr_id=1090&pg=pfind and search for me- Tim Smith- or for our team- Fighting Otters on Bikes. Hopefully Matt and I will be sporting our Team Om Nashi Me shirts from last year.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Mucho Mixed-Terrain

Mr. Crowell and I undertook a Vitamin G Mission yesterday in and around Ferdinand State Forest, as we have in before. Each time I come away humbled but ever hungry for more. It's got more gravel, more nature, more empty, more challenge, and more fresh (albeit humid and occasionally odoriferous) air than the rest of what is Kentuckiana. We've been doing some good mileage, and I needed the crunch of mixed-terrain to help focus the senses. What I came away with was struggle well-earned.

We started with a half-mile downhill which then became a half-mile uphill, all of which set the stage for a very jagged day on the bike. No, we don't have epic 1-hr Rockies climbs, but S.IN certainly does have plenty of mile-longish climbs to satisfy the craving.

This whop-dee-doo downhill early on was particularly fun on the fattie. The Mulkuk doesn't like to ascend, but not unlike during my snow adventures, it really, really likes to go downhill.

Along the double-track in the previous pic I saw a road-like entity going off through the field, and it was marked on my gps. We took it. By the time we crossed the ditch, as you can see, it got more "textured".

Fattie at Enlow Cemetery while Dave fixed a surprising flat.

Weird, abandoned house that shouldn't be.

Our run along Carlisle and Calvert through Siberia was particularly nice. We reveled in the low traffic and the mellower road conditions. Yes, we did have a couple climbs, but, no, they weren't as damn long. We hit Co.Rd.Chickadee and took a brief turn down FerdForestCoRd to find that the derelict bridge had been taken down to our chagrin (take at look at the Oct link from above for pics of the standing bridge- just barely). After that we climbed into Ferdinand State Forest for several miles of yet more gravel, but sheltered on both sides by nothing but forest, green, stillness with an occasional farm. Great stuff.  We suffered passing either a chicken or pig farm that filled the air with an acrid urine smell that followed us for at least a mile. Terrible.  We were further surprised to find a $2 entrance fee to FSF that I hadn't paid on previous trips. Damn gov'ment. We searched and find a very easy short-cut that bypassed the fee and even found a nice picnic spot next to the fire tower. That was the high point of the day. Get it? Funny!

At our picnic amid the fire tower we decided that the full 55-mile route wouldn't be a good idea. Simply stated, the climbing was kicking out butts and we doubted that the later miles would be fun. We found a couple alternates, one including our planned store stop in Birdseye, the other the most direct route back to the car. Leaving FSF we planned to make Birdseye and go from there. Our turn onto E 625 and then the flattish run along S Schnell was a real treat. Finally we weren't climbing like banshees (do banshees climb?), but we still had our gravel and trees. Mmm, good!

At some point we took a minor wrong turn and added a mile and change along easy roads, and at that point decided the most direct would be prudent. We just weren't strong enough for the conditions and wanted to finish with some semblance of pride.  The long climb along 710S was both challenging and delightful; it might have been my favorite road of the day.

C.Rd.710S, gravelled, forested goodness

Soon thereof, after bombing a downhill on my pillow tires past a fighting cock farm and passing a gigantic dairy operation we joined our original out route and from that point, we just moved our way home.We slowly "climbed" the 1-mile E Anderson Valley Rd. and then met October Rd again, which shows as a 2-mile acclivity. No wonder we were tired!!! At some point Dave got sort of sick to his stomach, but I was a bad ride friend and just kept pushing (slowly) towards the car. I needed the car.

To be fair, we just sort of crawled in to the car, bought some Gatorade, and skeedaddled.  I would go back tomorrow, in the rain.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Going the Distance

For the second weekend in a row, Mr. Crowell and I have stretched things out a bit. I've got the family camp solo hundy coming up and it would be nice not to die an ignominious death along that route, so our weekends have served as training rides. Today we did our Waterline Rd/Charlestown route, which is a popular, doable 50-miler. To tag on more suffering, we then added a loop to New Washington via Tunnel Mill and back along Chas-New Market and returned to the 'Ville with 75+ miles in hand.  Fact is, I challenge anyone to come up with a better local loop than that combo in the area. It has rollers, a few climbs, lots of empty farmland, and some open sky as well to let the soul soar. It's great, and it was today too.

On the out leg I battled some personal function issues and on the return we battled some heavy downpours, so you can't call it a blessed ride, I guess. It was one heck of a great way to spend the first half of a Sunday. I've been feeling pretty good on the bike, gaining fitness and confidence. Good stuff. And thanks to Mr. Crowell for the company.

Blueridge along a closed bridge. It did the job today as the rain bike.

Google auto-awesome-ing the other side of the bridge

Heavy clouds on our return along Utica Pike, just at the end of very heavy rain.

A well-earned post-ride salute, just before the street was busy with police cars visiting a cop car/drunk guy accident.

As a tag-on, I saw a few nice avians today:

Little Blue Heron **a first for me
Red-headed Woodpecker
Indigo Bunting
Red-tailed Hawk- leering from an electric wire. Didn't flinch.
Lots of LBJs
LOTS of Mourning Doves
Wild Turkeys- in somebody's yard


Friday, August 01, 2014

July's happy ending

I ended July with just a shade over 500 miles, which was *easily* the mileage month of the year. I actually had some opportunities to go for more, but things just didn't click.

One reason was that this past Tuesday, instead of hammering out miles, I did a ride with "no achievements", which will please Pondero to no end. Actually that's a bit of a lie in that I saw some nice birds, and maybe a couple new ones for me. 

 Looks to me like a juvenile Great Blue Heron instead of a rugged old man. I could be wrong.

 Black-crowned Night Heron. He and the GB fellow were within 10 feet of each other, which I deem as somewhat rare. How do you like that floating trash there?

 Turtles, ever popular along the Beargrass Trail

To not be too speciest, I threw in some fauna to balance out the avians. 

 This is a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron at Caperton Swamp.  I can't remember a trip where I saw all three on the same day.

This is a nasty, pasty looking snake curled up on that branch. This is using the telephoto feature at a distance of probably 40 yards. Eww. No me gusta.

19.5 miles on Seafoam

And the full list:

Downy Woodpecker
Tufted Titmouse
WB Nuthatch
Carolina Chickadees
-Beargrass Trail:
Belted Kingfisher
Great Blue Heron
Black-Crowned Night Heron- herons quite close to each other, strange
Mallard duck or Black Duck- didn't know they were so similar
Wood duck
Catbird- munching berries

Barn swallow
Cliff swallow
Great crested flycatcher- apparently pretty common, but only second sighting for me

Baltimore Oriole
Carolina Wren
Indigo Bunting
WB Nuthatch
Kingbird- haven't seen there
House Wren
Kingfisher- pissed as usual
underbrush Hawk- juvenile Cooper's my guess
Blue-Grey Gnatcatcher
Juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron
**Willow Flycatcher- I'm not writing it down, but I'm 80% sure this was a 1st for me. Tiny little bird.
**2 more LBJs- Flycatcher types and 2 or more sparrows I was too lazy to try to ID. Chipping or Song takes care of most.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Big Sinking Creek and the trail that wasn't

Our plan had been hatched some weeks ago, a 3-day extravaganza of mixed-terrain madness deep in the DBNF, an area Patrick and I had toured the previous two years. Based on our experiences, instead of loading in the bikes, we would base ourselves at LagoLinda and do day rides from there, giving us the ability to car camp- Much Easier- and to explore a bit more while minimizing distances.

Patrick and I had originally hatched the car-based plot, and Timothy and Dave jumped in. Due to that annoyance that is Life, Patrick bowed out and Dave was teetering just days prior, as his neck had flared up. Ultimately I goaded him into coming and we made our way Friday morning for the first day Ride-camp-Ride-camp-Ride was to be the plan, with the longest day on the middle Saturday.

Our plans were further affected after hearing that our weekend was to be a RRGCC work weekend again. It had moved from the August date Patrick and I encountered the previous two years to our very same. They were following us! Point is, instead of riding first and ambling to the campsite we went directly there to reserve a spot before the climbers descended. Once set up, we did our shorter ride first, directly from camp, which would leave us plenty of meal time.

The short day ride was a casual 25 miles with a little mt.bike loop thrown in in the middle and as mystery connection up to road 1036 through a disputed corridor of the Sheltowee Trace trail. Disputed corridors always make for good cycling.

**I would like to point out here that I did not take my camera nor my phone on D1, so all pics are borrowed from my compatriots.

We encountered New Virginia Rd. and it's fun, gravelly, sandstone strewn path until it careened down a ridiculous descent with lots of mid-10%. The brake pads were already on notice. At the bottom began a fun adventure facilitated by a loop I found on rwgps posted by Chris. He's got a couple fun blogs, but this was from the exact area we needed to explore, essentially a series of random oil company service roads deep in the KY wilderness. Although this is a nicy, tidy finite loop, it seemed that every half mile there was yet another road or path going off in a new direction. More, more, more. One take-a-away from this experience was the near limitless amount of exploration to be done.

Aside the cobwebs, this was an awfully entertaining loop.

Random guardrail ghost deep into nothingness.

This is the road. Yes. I'll explain "big sinking creek" in a moment, but this suffices as the roadbed. Glad it didn't rain too much.

KY rockhouse. This is where we lunched/picnicked, overlooking such beauty. Great moment.

This is your answer for the "sinking" mystery. It's called sinking creek because, in fact, the water mostly flows under the streambead and occasionally pokes its head out. We're still mystified at this man-made construction at the mouth of it, but our route basically took us *above* the creek. Except in heavy rain, I assume. then it would have been interesting. 

At the end of our BSC loop things got a bit more interesting. We headed uphill walking across a line of heavy rock until I noticed that our track was going off track; we were on the lowest stretches of New Virginia Rd. We turned and gingerly descended the rock garden to find ourselves in yet another creek bend with an even larger rockhouse. Stranger still were the remnants of a bridge which had fallen into disuse who knows how many years previous. It was all sort of mysterious, soothing, peculiar, and adventurous. We *were* on a portion of the Sheltowee Trace at this point, so Timothy's gps had it as a trail. We were deep in the boondocks we had an old bridge and established recreation trail at our digital fingertips.  

We followed the "road"  to find another rock garden and portage. At some point, yet again, the track was leaving our track, so we descended and followed the secondary path, the one along Timothy's trail. What we found was a stream bed, not a faux sinking, rideable stream bed, but a really chunky, ornery stream bed that hard sort of challenging to walk on, much less portaging bikes. With no beter options we hiked the bikes up the stream bed waiting for our escape. It was a walk, a long wait.

A mile or more of this and we call it adventure.

I was in the lead and sang "Hallelujah!" when I saw the remnants of a green thing off to the right, the remains of a trail/road, which meant the departure from our rocky Hell. My thin-soled shoes had my feet sore, Timothy had fallen on a wrist and knee, and Dave's gimpy shoulders were bound to give way eventually. It was time. We inched up the road, passed some oil pump workers who seemed quite bemused at our sight and eventually found the intersection of 1036, a nice gravel run which Patrick and I had previously trod the previous summer.

At this point pictures become rare. Why, you ask? Rain, I answer. We rode the steady grades up 1036 until we hit pavement again, and with a general concern of a lack of brake pads, hurtled down the Cathedral Domain descent. We were facing a steady, light rain, one that became a bit more intense as we turned onto Old Landing Rd. This stretch provided up challenging uphills- no behemoths though- or for the first time, a bit of brisk, hypothermic-induced concern on the downhills. The 62F rains were having a chilling effect, but yet another quarter-mile climb did the trick of keeping us warm. We hit gravel again on our left turn onto Beech Timber, and I enjoyed that stretch immensely, even if tuckered from the day's adventure. Funnily, looking at the profile I don't really remember the 13% of Beech Timber exit climb; perhaps I walked. I don't know. We were quite close to camp and rode the last miles as easily as possible.

Once back, the idea of someone else preparing and serving us food was a delightful one, so we somewhat cleaned up and began our first camping night eating fresh burritos, fries, and beer at Red River Rockhouse, where we dawdled for a good while trying to outlast the rain.

It proved to be an interesting day. Very.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Turkey Foot or bust

Our morning began with rain, mist, a wet blanket mummifying all. That said, I believe it was Timothy that got the coffee water started and the breakfast of sausages and Pop-tarts set the stage for what would be very interesting day.  We drove and parked at Heidelberg to avoid the 2 miles of climbing Pat and I did last summer. My camera was jacked at this point, so I have no pictures of the lovely blue bridge, but Timothy took this one.

The roll out from Heidelberg was very chill, as was the turn onto Crestmont. Spencer's Ridge, though, provided us with a warm-up, a nasty grind of up to a mile with lots of pitches in the 10%s. I decided not to burn too many matches so walked a couple sections. I believe Timothy cleared it all. Spencer's Ridge was a rather sparsely populated area with plenty of forest and occasional homesteads. At some point it turned into our beloved gravel. At this point we had what we planned, a gravel ride in the KY foothills. Nice.

This is not Spencer's Ridge, but I like the pic so I'll open with it. Dave at speed soaking in some Vitamin G .

We found our potential turn at around 6 miles onto what may or may not be Rebel Ridge or Radar Ridge, a road that is sometimes listed on some media like Bing, but is not listed on common formats such as the KY pdf maps and Googlemaps. The following series of pics reflect that I wouldn't bring grandma's Buick up or down this road. The night of steady rain made this a slippery, sodden mess, one which none of us were quite prepared for as far as rubber goes.  "FAT BIKE!" became the rallying cry, as I wished for mine, oh, about 20 times down this road.

The opening.

The descent into muddy madness.

This was a common feature, where in the "road" descended/ascended with numerous striations of gullies interspersed. Our tires often couldn't grip the mud on the high side, but the deep side was loaded with rocks an such, so our tires couldn't really handle those either. Sometimes, we walked.

And sometimes we didn't. You may notice a puddle in the middle of the "high side". Well, as you can infer, Timothy met an inglorious interface with said puddle and performed a most dynamic endo. I wasn't too far behind him and caught the entire thing in my mind video. Boom! Splat! I lifted his bike off of him and bade him rest. Nothing was broken; that's all that mattered.

Rebel/Radar Ridge Rd. Sogn. Excellent machine given the conditions, but I did often call out my whimpering battle cry, "Fat Bike!".

As is often the case, pictures couldn't really capture the blessed disaster that was Rebel Ridge. We had found a "not road" and had conquered it after a night of steady rain. We turned south on pavement working our way toward Turkey Foot, but the scenery along the way proved pleasant as well, if a little bumpy. All our drivetrains were beginning to express a certain unhappiness with the RebelRadar Ridge adventure.

Nice country dog.

At the Turkey Foot brown sign, we turned right and almost immediately found a bombing gravel descent. Man, I *loved* that descent save little bit of washboard that almost bumped me off. We saw a few cars and eventually found the bottom where the nose said to hang a right and look for the picnic area. I asked a gentleman in his truck about picnic tables and he kindly motioned just down the road and we found the delight that is the Turkey Foot Recreation Area picnic area. It hugs War Fork, overlooking the creek with its limestone rock house and large stone stops down to the creek. All three of us at some point availed ourselves of a quick rinse in the creek and we set about making a warm lunch with the Esbit stoves. It couldn't have been any nicer (save water, of which there is none, officially. We didn't need to filter but could have). I spent a bit of time watching what I think was a Green Heron flying about the creek. We ate well and gathered our strength for the return. I *love* Turkey Foot.

Turkey Foot Sogn

All good things must come to an end, so we gathered ourselves for the return leg, unfortunately having to climb back out of the Turkey Foot area. I did manage to clear the climb but don't think I'll win any "achievements" for my effort. Dave visited a church on the main road where they kindly insisted he clean his bottles and then gave him bottled water and tried to give him a hamburger. We returned via the same route for a bit before turning onto what is listed as Wild Dog Creek Rd. or Forest Service Rd. On-line maps have this road in existence, but local KY pdfs do not, so again we dove into another "not road", our raison d'etre.

More nice dogs, more common, in fact, than the notorious terrible KY dogs of lore.

Sorry bud, no snacks.

This pic is somewhat meaningless except that this is supposed to be Wild Dog Creek or Bushy Trail. "Fact is, I don't see any road at all, Sir".

Wild Dog Creek Rd quickly became another wet, soupy mix of forest road, but it was rather flat and the puddles weren't as crazy. We made steady progress here, with me riding in front cleaning up everybody's cobwebs (Timothy had more of that duty the previous day). I though I had taken a pic but can't find it, but there was a single bike track for much of this road, both thrilling and disappointing to think that another cyclist had plowed our not-road within a day or two of us. WDCRd had 2 distinct sections; the pre-turn section was really nice with an interesting pasture break in the middle. I found another hermitage along this section. Great stuff, but deep, deep in the middle of nowhere.

Potential TWS Hermitage. You're invited. We'll ride bikes all day and go to sleep early due to the lack of electricity.

A bit after the pasture break things got more interesting. We met a 'Y' in the road with the truck tire traffic heading left. Our gps track pointed right, but right down a rocky, chunky downhill. Beholden to our technology, we turned right and entered the rather dubious section of WDCRd gone bad. It began to descend into the creek valley, but the surface worsened with each bend. What had been soft mud became steep, rocky ravines with the hint of road. There was a good reason the tracks went left, because only the most specialized vehicle could have taken this on. I rode what I could but eventually found conditions too precarious for me to risk bicycle or knee/elbow safety. We all walked a good portion of this. None-the-less, the creek left the hardwood, deciduous forest from above and we found a layer or mountain rhododendron, hemlock, and pine. It might have been unrideable, but it was pleasant terrain none-the-less.

Timothy with a nice clump of rhododendron and hemlock behind him.

Down off WDCRd, we found Earnestville Rd and the mostly flat run back to the cars. Early portions of Earnestville were quite chunky with big, flattish stones which made for quick riding. Once we crossed 587 we were back in territory I had seen the previous year. Alas, at some point the wheels sort of popped off. I bonked and Dave and I began discussing whether we were going to be able to ride the next day. The bikes wouldn't stop and sometimes wouldn't shift. They- and we- were thrashed and trashed after such a crazy day on the bike. I sort of limped into the parking lot, really glad to have had such a day on the bike, but really, pretty damn tired. I was tired enough to pack up and head home.

Smartly we decided to eat first and make decisions afterward. It had finally stopped raining, so we were able to cook our mix of brats, corn, macncheese, broccoli, berries, and beverages and casually ate things as they were ready. Aside the dampness it was quite pleasant and I decided to at least stay the night, hoping for no more rain.  We all bedded down in the tents a bit after 10, which is really early, but 40 miles of muddy chaos can do that.

Sunday morning we bade goodbye to the third scheduled ride. Our bicycles, and maybe bodies, weren't going to handle it. Trashed and trashed. My primary concern of camping the second night was the fear of another poor night's sleep. Instead I probably slept 11.00-7.30, which for me is a long night. We loaded and finished our trip with breakfast at Red River Rockhouse, me with the same delectable pancakes I had had the previous year. Simply excellent.
Email to mysurly69@yahoo.com