Casey Co. MT ramble

SummerCyclingSeason continues in earnest, and I think after the last few days it feels so more than ever. I'm riding very regularly and this June is already my biggest mileage month since the summer of '09, and I have a week to go! Apertome and I worked hard to finally pull off last Saturday's Muscutatuck ride, but yesterday's sort of fell into my lap. The Dauphin needed a ride to camp in Casey Co., and with the wife's good graces I combined a lift down there with my own Casey Co. adventure as I had done in previous years.

I drew up a couple different plans, both including gravel action in the southern, most sparsely populated portions of Casey. I began at camp after dropping the elder off and used 70 and 501 both semi-busy roads to bridge to the more rural and/or more textured options. Because the Blueridge is decided as *not* to be the gravel-grinder of choice, I tried out the C'dale 29er shod with WTB Vulpines, which are noted for their smooth, road-ish worthiness.

The challenges began on the Willow Springs Rd. climb, which was a nice warm-out, challenging but not back-breaking. As you can see in the pic below, things started a bit steamy.

Willow Springs crosses 1649 onto Clear Branch Rd., which the KY transpo map showed as gravel. I found pavement, but the earlier portions provided really nice flow with small rollers and a mix of turns, shade and sun. Willow Springs had trended uphill the entire route, but now on Clear Branch I reaped the benefits of a long, steady mixed descent.
Notice the "Judd" far left. Any relation to Ashley?

Odd dead skeleton of a tree at the top of the hill. Reminded me of Calvary.
Ruing the lack of gravel, at the bottom of a descent I encountered both an interestingly painted house hand the beginnings of gravel which shortly transformed. The early gravel portions were *very* heavy and I had to follow what looked like a water draining even with the 2.1" tires. Once I saw the house and turned the corner, to my surprise I was presented with virtually unimproved a dirt, rock. gravel roadway. Paydirt!!

After a long, steady, mushy, thrilling descent, I encountered something completely new. Clear Branch Rd. emptied out into the middle of Clear Branch Creek. I've crossed several creeks in my mixed-terrain ramblings, but I don't think I've every had to use the creek as a road. I thanks my stars that I had my 2.1"s here. It would have been tough going on a pair of 32c knobbies.

The road crossed back and forth across the creek several times before coming towards the end as you can see below, along with the retaining wall. I can only imagine this as a tough spot to travel through during a really rainy spell. The retaining wall belonged to a house that was only accessible by this road as best as I could tell, and it had "creek road" on both sides.

After the marvelous stretch of Clear Branch Rd., I knew that I might find other mixed-terrain, but it couldn't be any better than that. My route took me along 501 again before turning upward via Matherly Rd., where I encountered a key feature of the middle portion of the route. While climbing I was passed by a descending Amish/Mennonite buggy (sucks to be that horse!). Along the ridge above Matherly Rd. I continued finding the significant influence of an established Amish/Mennonite community all living along the ridge. Earlier I figured that I was one of the few "cyclists" to take in these roads. To my surprise, I first passed a mill with ten or more bicycles parked outside and shortly thereafter I overtook an Amish/Mennonnite gentleman on a Dutch city bike battling the headwind uphill just as I was doing. So much for the "solo cyclist" cred!
What I saw first of this residence was the tents out front. Summer for the Amish kids too!

Mega deer stand? Water tower sans tank? Fire tower?

I didn't take any pics of actual Amish/Mennonite folks because I think it's poor form although I really wanted too. As I understand, the Amish don't maintain any contact while the Mennonites are "Amish light". I saw some different semblances of machinery and such, so I don't know what to categorize these folks as. My route dived down S. Fork Creek Rd., which again was marked as gravel, which is what I found. Good gravel and a good creek valley road.
Beautiful setting here of a house on a hill overlooking the valley below, and the higher hills in the distance. A pic doesn't quite capture it.

To my disappointment, after a short while the road turned to pavement, but the valley roll was still a nice one. One or two pics of the scene below can't capture what I saw. Having some of the hallmarks of a hand-hewn Amish barn, the homestead below was a miniature self sufficient farm. It had chickens, eggs, gardens, a vineyard, several barns in good repair and like the other pic, clothes out drying. I saw the farmer on his tractor with his long while beard and hat and wished I could stop and talk about his lifestyle. It looked enchanting, to be honest.

At this turn I decided to modify my route. I wasn't making great time and I needed to get back to Louisville for an engagement, so instead of turning left onto Sloans Fork Rd.  I continued straight, cutting off a bit of mileage. The "H&H Bicycles" sign amused me, but that bike shop might see more business than the ones in the 'Ville. I have a feeling it existed to service the many Amish 2-wheelers in the area. The further portions of S.Fork Creek Rd. had many signs of the vibrant Amish community here, with a large produce business, another mill, numerous fields planted with tomatoes and at least 4 more buggies. (Again, no pics).

The juxtaposition of the Amish households and the local ones was striking sometimes. The Amish homesteads all exhibited evidence of industry: gardens, laundry, livestock, several non-motorized vehicles, numerous outbuildings, etc. They were all well-maintained and purposeful. In contrast, many of the locals' homes had trash and old jalopies littering the yard. There were mean dogs and a general pall of filth. Industry vs. Sloth. Antiquated vs. Modern. Striking in many ways.

I found less gravel than expected, but more mixed-terrain than was apparent. Many of the roads were patched with gravel instead of re-pavement, so the 2.1" came in handy.

Only pic of an Amish buggy, disappearing behind their greenhouse.

I fell off of the ride on Rayborn Hill Rd. and began my return leg along 501. I was a little tired at this point and ready to face the 8m of boring road riding. In this stretch my hands began to tire of the 29er setup. I very much like the Jones Loop Bar, but the stem is a bit low and my position a bit pitched over to be very comfortable. In some instances my hands were getting downright numb. I'm disappointed b/c I think the C'dale has many nice qualities, but gravel rides at distance are not going to happen, not unlike the Blueridge for other reasons. Back to the (LHT) drawing board.

Shed completely covered with old license plates. Closer inspection showed that they were local but of all types like cars, trailers, tractors, boats and such. Note to the right that the brighter plates are the only more recent ones.

C'dale 29er. If I could get the hands more comfy it would be quite the gravel rig. But alas.

I finished back up at camp with a total of 33 miles, 5 fewer than planned. I encountered less gravel than expected as well, but Clear Branch made up for it. A successful day in my SCS.


Pondero said…
That looks like a pretty nice trip. I loved the creek/road thing, and wish you could have been able to chat with some of the Amish folks. They seem like they've got something figured out.
Apertome said…
Damn, looks like a great ride! Lots of beautiful sights. I have to agree with you -- my 29er is a fun bike, but it's just not as comfortable as my LHT on long rides.

When I was a kid, I used to ride down a creek in the woods in my old neighborhood. I'd just go as far as I could get, or until I got tired. Then slog back. Riding in creekbeds is fun!

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