Wednesday, September 4

Icarus in Biketopia

 Cobhill was a major feather in my cycling cap.  It’s locally significant, but it’s also just a freakin’ hard climb.  What is truly disturbing about the Cobhill climb is that it’s along the Midland Kentucky (State) Bicycle Tour.  That makes it a little more than locally significant.  I’d hate to be the loaded touring cyclist that finds him- or herself laboring like Sisyphus up that road.
Over time I’ve ticked a few such cycling cap feathers.  Ages ago it was Furnace Mountain.  If you head south from Stanton on KY 213 you quickly arrive at the base of a steep climb.  Furnace is about three-quarters of a mile long and you gain just shy of 500’.  It’s comparable to Cobhill in length, but 100’ less gain.  It took me three tries over a few months to climb it on the ole Cannonball back when it was a relatively shiny new mountain bike. Recently my rock star wife rode it first try.  But she’s getting to be quite the seasoned Cumberland Plateau road cyclist.  Gave Cobhill a darn good thrashing up the first half…
One fine autumn weekday in the late ‘90s I first rode the obligatory Gorge Loop.  That was a day I’ll never forget: perfect temps, no traffic, amazing fall colors…sublime.  It was also the first time I rode through Nada Tunnel on my bike.   
After I heard about the Powder Mill Trail (around the same time) I had to go check it out.  It was a locational challenge as well as a bushwhack obstacle to overcome.  I had only a vague description of where the trail was located, and then once I found it I kept losing it due to blow downs and overgrown undergrowth.   I did manage to find it and ride a considerable amount of it, but I’m still not sure it was worth it.
Jeff and I made the cyclo-pilgrimage over to A.D. Ruff’s grave last winter.  I’ve attacked High Rock from all sides.  I’ve made the Lexington to Powell County ride.  I’ve climbed New Virginia Road from Big Sinking Creek.  I’ve ridden at Cave Run.  I’ve tagged all the Bluegrass mountain biking areas.  I’ve done the Horsey Hundred.  I’ve sat on Joe Bowen’s front porch swapping bike stories.
There are minor feathers I’ve claimed: Cane Creek Mountain, the Tarr Ridge climb, Sky Bridge Hill (arguably not minor), Slade Hill (just a long climb), and a few others.  I’ve refilled my waterbottles from roadside springs.  I’ve started ranging a bit further afield to find worthy challenges.  Drip Rock is over in Estill County.  Bear Track awaits out there.  The climb up from Heidelburg…  
I’ve ridden Hart’s Orchard Hill; or as the Furnace Mountain locals call it: Hatton Creek Mountain. That was pretty significant.
So what feathers are left?
Two climbs stand out: Lone Oak and State Rock (Hardwick’s Creek up to Furnace).  Oddly, I’ve never ridden up Hardwick’s Creek only down from the top of Furnace.  Some call it the Buddhist Temple hill.  To me it will always be State Rock. Lone Oak is an obscure gravel road on Big Hardwick’s Creek that ends up near Cottage Furnace.  I drove it a couple of months back on my way to London.  It made me a little queasy.  But it could end up being easier than Hart’s.  Or harder.
It seems I’m going to have to start identifying hidden challenges within the watershed, or I’m going to have to start looking to the surrounding counties and beyond.  I still intend to ride from home to Black Mountain and back.  
I’m working on dropping a few pounds.  I want to become a faster climber.  Why?  No particular reason, only that I want to do it.  I’ll have to be in better shape to get up these nasty little hills in less time.
I see a lot of “softer” challenges like advocacy and opportunity building.  I could start getting more people into riding and convert them into this sick cult of steep cycling. That might actually be a worthy challenge.  That might be Sisyphean in scale.
I also want to get my family refocused on choosing the bike over the car.  In the chaos that has been the past eight months I’ve let that focus blur.  It’s all on me.  I was the one that was initially driving it, though Mandy made it her own campaign, but I was also the one that let it all slip once we got back to Kentucky.
I’ve been lazy when it comes to getting the cargo bikes in working order and in manning up and hauling Beans around.  Boone has been very good riding over the obstacles between us and town on the few rides he’s made with his mom.  It’s time we re-embraced that cyclo-centric lifestyle.
It’s also much easier for us to tour as a family and to bikepackhere.  Just sayin’.
Biketopia is a state of mind.  It’s not really about having bike lanes, bike paths, or bicycle friendly communities.  It’s more about enjoying the bike enough that you just can’t choose a better method of conveyance.  It has a lot to do with planning and choices that leave you prepared for any cycling contingency.  
Update: I have now ridden State Rock.  It's a solid climb, but maybe not as hard as Furnace or Sky Bridge Hill.  It's no giveaway though.  
 

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