As seen below, I was sporting my Surly Troll as I did on Dave's June IN tour. Patrick had his reasonably new Fargo; I don't remember if he had toured on it before, but he has week-long experience through CA, WA, WI, and MN, so he was the sagacious guy of group. (cue Foreshadowing).
We left Berea, KY and made our way towards Irvine, KY. The run towards Irvine was glorious, rolling, bucolic Kentucky at its best. We had a variety of "whooptido's" which felt almost roller-coasterish. Our first gravel was to come passing through the Central KY WMA- something all the maps showed- but instead it was a nice shaded, paved section of road. We turned left onto Knob Lick Rd. and instead of finding gravel as marked, we found a chill climb past farms and a bicycle front wheel cemetery. I didn't take a pic but the trailer had 4 children's bikes in front, none of which had a front wheel. 499 continued our peaceful run into Irvine where we stopped for lunch at Wendy's. We first tried a local burger joint, but it didn't open until 11 and we arrived a few minutes before to find that they had one picnic table directly in the sun. Nope. The Wendy's, though, was no better as it had been overrun with flies and instead of a large AC it had a small Latin-American-style room unit working over time in the corner. Very few stars. Patrick did end up in a nice conversation with a local about some of our options out of town. We didn't take them, but maybe should have.
We were sort of mildly stuck here on this bridge construction. The surface was in no shape to take and on the left side of the above pic, we were going to have to scale a 15ft steep earthen mound with the bikes. The workers suggested a hidden short-cut down the creek and along the cemetery. Worked like a charm.
We girded our loins and bravery for our after-lunch adventure, an imposing ascent of a road directly behind Irvine proper by the name of Chestnut Stand Rd. I've done some climbing, but none terribly loaded. Patrick has done much more, but of the grinding 8% nature like out in the Cascades. This, however, was absurd. The rwgps gradient is fubared because of our significant walking. Suffice to say the Chesnut Stand climb looks to be one that is at a minimum 1.5mile climb with lots and lots of mid-teens gradients topping out at 26%. I don't know what to say, really. It was steep. It was 1.00p.m. and seemingly the hottest part of the day. Some of it was rideable but much of it wasn't. It was beyond hard.
At the top we found a spot and lay down on the road and just lay there for a while. At some point we got up and continued, finally hitting some gravel at #227, a nice stretch although nothing as epic as what we had just walked and ridden up. We eventually turned left onto Lone Oak Rd and hit a screaming gravel descent which had us stop in the middle to cool our brakes off. At the bottom we made the decision to change course towards Clay City and Stanton and away from the climbs, of which we were supposed to have 2 more. No more walking 1mile climbs with 15%. No.
At Clay City I noticed by rear tire being excessively squishy. Boo. We turned right and traveled along the busy 15/11 and had school buses, trucks and cement mixers buzz us. It was a stressful 5 miles, with a stop at a gas station to fill my rear tire. Patrick saw lightening around that time and then the rain started. After Stanton the rain fell more but we left the traffic and plied flat roads towards Natural Bridge State Park Middle Fork Campground, our camp for the evening. Prior to our final arrival we stopped for a good while at Miguel's Pizza, a somewhat famous establishment for the climbing community. The pizza pie was fine, but the sugary lemonade did more, at least for me. I happened to run into some former students- small world- who I'm sure were impressed with their drowned-rat Spanish teacher at Miguel's. Middle Fork camp was also fine. The tent area was mostly empty, but both sides of the creek bed were surrounded with roads hauling big rigs aft and campers fore, so it wasn't the most restful in the short term. We managed showers (separately. thanks wife.) and hit it pretty early.
|Impressive barn prior to the climb|
|Still in disbelief|
|Sketchy, but provided some calories and water before our run-in with traffic in Clay City.|