We finallly pulled into New Castle a bit before 8.00. Standing in the town square directly to the west we found the remnants of the Harvest Moon. And 180 degrees to the east the morning sun welcomed us to great possibilities for a fine day in the saddle. If the lateness and donuts foretold of a black hand o'er us, the two great orbs did the converse.
If the ride was comprised of thirds, then the first included a morning warmup along the lumpy 573 along its serrated profile. What made it palatable was the morning fog, sunrise and pleasant landscapes opening up with the sun. The route turned left for a reasonable run along 22, mostly devoid of traffic this time of the morning. The highlight might have been the herd of very noisy hungry cows just across the road of the machinery below.
Still in our opening act, we took a left on Joe Branch Rd. ready for our gravel descent down to Lockport and the KY River. I think the pictures below tell the story. Those that love two wheels, crisp, clean air, and a bit of texture would have enjoyed themselves immensely.
|A most interesting kickstand|
|Crossroads at Joe Branch and Six-Mile Creek Rd. We would meet this intersection later in the day.|
|Asher pulls ahead.|
|Dave bridging steadily|
After the opening act of our descent, we meet our second with very few pics but lots and lots of grunting. Our turn onto 389 immediately brought us a 1m climb, with two more short-but-steeps thereafter before allowing us some ridge running along the 8m stretch. What can you say? A 4-mile run with two or miles of climbing is just plain tough. Dave fell back a bit while Asher and I marshaled forward before taking a breather after the half-mile grunter up to meet 421. A rest and bit after our turn onto Little Dixie set the stage for our third and final act, one with major gravel, new roads, sunshine, flow, and more clean air. Sound good?
Little Dixie was a new road for all of us. Going south to north, it provided us a 3-mile mellow downhill with lots of rideable gravel. Not just that, we came across a KStateU research center and then a blissful overlook of the valley below, a vantage which I'm pretty sure includes a vista of the KY River valley. Someone had cleared the land for a construction site. How about they sell it to me? Georgeous!
|KSU Environmental Education Center on Little Dixie. Surprise.|
Still in our gravel-bound third act, we made a turn onto Six-Mile Creek Rd., one Dave and I had done coming the other way the previous year. What began as smooth, "genteel" gravel later turned to a thick, rocky, muddy, pot-holed suffer fest, including a mud-puddle run that had my feet wet for the remainder of the day. It was all completely outstanding. Hard, but well-worth it. Dave on his Fargo barreled through, while Asher had very positive comments about how he handled things with his 'cross bike and 35s. I'm going to do a separate post for my day on the Rawland Sogn; it was outstanding.
We cleared the rocks of 6-Mile, and after a break, turned left and faced the 2.5-mile climb up Joe Branch and out of the river valley. Most of that climb was very doable at a reasonable tempo, graveled and somewhat rocky but often provided moderate pitches. Towards the top it hit double digits and finished us off with a nasty kick. We took a turn onto some paved rolling roads to link up to our last gravel of the day along this third act, the "not" road of Barton/Dennen/Flat Rock combo. Having surveyed this area last time, Dave and I had a little better idea of how to provide passage. First you survive the bomber gravel downhill along Dennen. If in one piece, you then choose to walk your bike down what really is a rocky ditch that once might have been a tractor trail. At the bottom of the hill you need to find a reasonable spot to cross the creek. If not lost, you then make your way up the creek and waterfall for .1m and find the remnants of Flat Rock "the road". Amazing stuff, really. Last year it was at freezing, so negotiating the water crossings proved a bit scary. This year, the sun was high and temps warm. We played a bit at the waterfall before find Flat Rock Rd proper. No one was ambitious at this point.
|The topmost stretches of Flat Rock Rd. Really.|
|Native Americans or drunk/high teenagers. You decide.|
|The road portion of Flat Rock Rd. in the distance.|
After the gravel-laden third act, the finale was the 1-mile and change roll back into town. Our ride closed with just short of 47 miles, with approx. 20 of them gravel in nature. As all agreed that this route provided some of the most interesting sections of gravel in our Louisville area, frankly all of the sections "must ride" at some point.
On a personal note, I haven't had a very successful 2012 on the bike. The 6 days of touring were fun, but outside of that my mileage has been moderate with far fewer adventure rides. And some of my efforts have been blocked by poor fitness, a lack of punch or spark. Today, though, I loved it all. Yes, the roller-coaster stretch along 389 weren't too much fun, but I weather those to fully drink up Little Dixie, 6-Mile and Joe Branch, much less a satisfied tiredness along Flat Rock. Finally, a good day on the bike, on a beautiful day in some absurdly nice country. Well done.