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.