Friday, May 1

Historic Bike Ride #1

Saturday, September 29, 2007 (from my journal)
2:10pm, Home

I don’t know how most people feel after following me around for an afternoon. I know in the past I have seen people fall dead asleep before their feet could cross the threshold into the house, people get agitated beyond belief due to the fatigue and pain of exertion. I have endured tirades of complaint, have aborted Saturday afternoon adventures mid journey to keep familial relations positive.

Now I know how everyone else feels. I am pissed off at me. My body was not ready for the epic ride my brain had cooked up for the day.

I left Stanton later than I intended. Mandy left with the kids to meet her mom around 9:30. Laurie was taking Boone school shopping and I was left with a four hour block to fill.

Bike: in car.
Plan: Ride bike.
Location: Somewhere out of town.

I wrote out an itinerary of where I planned to go. Then I added an alternate route, then a second alternate route with a note saying that it was the most likely route I would take (I did).

I kept hitting snags trying to get out the door. I finally had everything together but hadn’t eaten. I threw some stuff together quick to eat in the car. I loaded the car and hit the road north toward Jeffersonville. And once behind the wheel I was pretty set on my route. I didn’t waver from my intended goal once I was moving toward it.

I parked at the illustrious Doughdaddy’s (used to be R&D) and set about getting on my bike. Changed shoes, made a quick repack so I wouldn’t be carrying gun fanny pack and camera bag. I stowed the .38 in my saddle bag and everything else in the camera bag and I was ready to go.

As I cranked out onto 460 there was a distinct chill in the air. I was almost wishing for a windbreaker, but I knew it would only get warmer and I also knew most of my ride was going to be in the sun.

I headed north on 213 out of Jeffersonville. I love this stretch of road. It follows the crest of a blunt and rounded ridge above Spencer Creek. Once I intersected with 713 I turned west toward Lower Spencer.

I paused before dropping down to Lower Spencer to take my first photo of the ride, looking down into Spencer Creek Valley and across to Harper’s Ridge. Everything was a much more dry brown than it had been when I drove through the area over a month prior. The corn in the bottoms looked like it was ready to be made into fodder shocks.

I coasted down a fun hill to Lower Spencer and took the nearly hidden right onto Harper’s Ridge Road. At first the road name is misleading. It winds along the base of a grassy ridge, along the wooded bottoms of Spencer Creek. It was quiet and cool, but not cold.

I stopped just before beginning the climb to the top of Harper’s Ridge to take a photo of a couple of old buildings below an orchard. They looked industrial, not agricultural in nature.

As I was stowing the camera back in it’s bag an old and wrinkled, but seemingly spry man drove out of the orchard and stopped his truck. As he got out to close the gate to the orchard he waved and said hi and said it was a good day to be riding a bike. I agreed and started to head up the hill, but I was curious about the buildings.

I inquired about them and he said they were once a gas plant, but it had moved over to Clay City. Then AO Smith (a local factory) had rented the buildings for awhile, but it had been years and now they were vacant.

We wished each other a good afternoon and I turned back to the climb ahead. I was dreading it, but it turned out not to be so bad.

At the top I was awarded an amazing view of the broad, nearly flat expanse that is the crest of Harper’s Ridge. I could see why it had been settled and farmed. It was absolutely beautiful up there.

About mid way out the ridge I glanced left, to the south and spotted the north side of the Pilot Knob massif. I had to stop and take a photo.

Later, after dropping down into Slate Creek Valley and climbing onto the next ridge to the north I would have almost the same view, but with Harper’s Ridge in the foreground.

There is a ridiculously steep descent into Howard’s Creek, which was the reason I was riding the loop clockwise as opposed to counterclockwise. Howard’s Creek led me to Slate Creek and immediately after crossing I passed through Howard’s Mill. As you start into the community you think you are entering a much bigger town, and at one point in time it probably was, but now it is just a collection of houses and a couple of churches.

I could feel the approach of the Knobs. As I left Howard’s Mill I passed into a thick hardwood forest. The nature of the land was changing. And also the angle. As I paralleled Slate Creek I began the first significant climb of the ride. It was long and steady at a moderate grade. The plus was that is was fairly secluded with now houses.

Once back on a ridge top I was afforded the aforementioned view of Pilot Knob and I passed through the community of Peeled Oak. I also knew I had to be getting close to route 965 which would be more familiar ground. After I had passed the Baptist church in Howard’s Mill it was all new to me.

When I saw the sign for the 965 junction I knew it was time for a well deserved rest. I laid the bike down in a grassy area at the intersection, took of my helmet and sat down to call Mandy and eat half a PowerBar.

She said it would be at least an hour later that they would be getting home than she had first anticipated so I decided I would make a quick side trip to Preston (which I had wanted to do initially but was going to forego if time were against me) and I was back on the bike and headed north a few minutes later.

It didn’t take long for me to reach Preston. I love that little community and if I ever get the chance want to buy some land along the old C&O railway there.

I stopped at an old country store which would have been right on the tracks back when the train still went through. It’s called Blevin’s Grocery.

I walked in and it was like going back in time. It reminded me of so many country stores around this part of the country when I was a kid. There were no convenience stores, no chain grocery stores, no Dollar Stores. In fact, Mamaw and Papaw Lacy owned a small country store at Standing Rock in Lee County when I was a baby.

I walked in and an older lady asked me if she could help me. I wanted a drink, as my water was nearly gone, but I had no cash.

“I don’t guess you take debit cards do you?” I asked.

She smiled and said no, but I really didn’t care. I told her that the store reminded me of being a kid and that my grandparents had owned an old store when I was a kid.

She started talking about the store and the town and the railroad. I found myself sitting at a table listening to her tell about being a small girl and living just on the other side of the tracks when there was still a passenger train going through.

I asked her if she knew about the proposal to construct a trail through the area and she said yes. We sat there, my bike helmet between us on the table as I asked her what she thought about it.

She answered almost as if I were pointing a TV news camera at her.

“Well, I think it would be ok if they could keep it cleaned up.”

I wasn’t trying to put her on the spot and she didn’t act as if she felt so. I think she was really being honest.

Then she mentioned that Court Day was coming up and it was always a big event and that I should come back for that. I said I would definitely have to try and that I’d bring my family.

I took a photo inside and walked outside to get a couple photos. The store is also the post office for Preston. I remember that the store in Rosslyn was also the post office.

While I was taking a photo of the store an older gentleman across the street asked if I wanted him to take a photo of me in front of the store. I politely declined saying I really just wanted a photo of the store, but I walked over and chatted with him and another man for a few minutes.

I knew I needed to start heading back and I had already decided not to head up to Blevin’s Valley road and take it back towards Means and 460, but to take 965 back through Hope. It would mean that I would not see another store until I got back to the car, but it would also be the easier route. As I pedaled south out Preston I felt the miles behind me. I only had another two drinks of water, and as I passed the Preston sign it occurred to me that they might have let me fill my water bottle up at the store if I had asked. But no matter, I would be able to make it back to Jeffersonville even if I started to get weak.

It was a little less grueling riding between Preston and Hope than I had anticipated while driving it in the car back in the summer, but after finishing the second half of the PowerBar I began at the junction of 1331 and 965 and finishing off my water I started to feel a little stronger.

I was much more into the Knobs landscape, passing though wooded areas and over small ridges.

Once again, as I finished up the loop along 460 I wished for an alternate route to close it. 460 is just crazy on a bike. There is far too much traffic and no one understands that they don’t have to swerve into oncoming traffic to get around me. There were many close calls today, none for me thankfully, and I’m sure I would have been blamed if one jackass had smashed into someone head on instead of slowing down and waiting until it was clear. But no one was hurt and for that I am thankful.

I cranked slowly into R&D’s parking lot. The last three miles or so I had started to hurt all over. My feet were tingling, my elbows and hands hurt and my rear end was done riding on a narrow seat. But I had to finish it, I had no choice.

I had ridden at least five miles beyond what I am comfortable riding. That is good, but my body says NO.

I stretched at the car before going in and getting a sports drink, Ale-8 and a burger and fries, all of which I consumed in the car on the way home.

I stretched a little more before downloading the pictures but I have been sitting here typing this for a while now and I fear getting up off the couch.

I really want to take a nap. I will eventually eat this banana sitting next to me and my throat is longing for the water in the Nalgene. I guess I’ll call this a done deal and finish up by saying that that was one of the best bike rides I have ever done.

I had begun to feel that Preston should become the bicycling hub of Central/Eastern Kentucky. Once the Lex/Big Sandy Trail goes through (if it does) Preston will be a prime location for the cycling industry in that part of the state.

Bath County is economically depressed, but it has some significant cylcing history associated with it. A.D. Ruff is buried in Owingsville, a quaint little town in the midst of rolling hills and winding ribbons of backroad. Ruff was a founding member of the League of American Wheelmen. I miss my Bath/Menifee/Montgomery County explorations. I can foresee taking my bike back to Kentucky in the future for some low altitude rides.

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