Monday, November 11

Breath of Life: Jenny Wiley Tour

I was ready to give it all up.  The cars, the big houses in exotic locations, the gazillion satellite channels, the Rivendell bikes...
I needed to simplify my life, and I was planning on telling Troy during the conference.  No more presidentin' for me. No advocatin', organizational recreatin', no new trail speculatin'.  I was done.  In fact, I'd secretly vowed I was done with advocacy on any level beyond local.  Any advocacy, but especially the bike/ped kind.
I felt a grim determination that I wasn't going to go to any more Walk/Bike Summits or Kentucky Bicycle and Bikeways Commission Annual Conferences.  Wednesday night as Mandy and I wrestled with our domestic environs trying to get the kids and ourselves ready for two days apart while she and I would attend the KBBC conference at Jenny Wiley State Park I think we were both ready to give up on the whole idea.
On top of everything else I was planning on riding from our home in Stanton to Jenny Wiley on the other side of Prestonsburg--a mere 87 miles--and it was pouring the rain and not looking to let up until morning.
Let me cut to the chase...two days later I'm inspired again.  Ideas have been screaming through my head the last day and a half.  I've met so many incredible and like-minded people.  The cycling climate in Kentucky is changing.
Troy threw me under the fat bike before I could bring up my self-impeachment.  He liked taking my name in vain when someone asked the question about where was KyMBA in Eastern Kentucky.  He sent a couple different people my way for their trail projects.
And you know what?  I don't mind.
Mandy called shenanigans on my claims to introversion.  I maintain my reserved status.  I've found an environment where I feel like I thrive.  And I forget...when I got to these things and I'm around other passionate active transportation professionals I feel validated in my own passions.  It's not just a bunch of kids playing in the woods; it's real world people looking at human powered transportation to solve the problems in their world.
I remember why I love this world.  It's more than just riding my bike.  It's more than just a fun job.  It's life.
I did ride from home to the conference.  At 5:45am on Thursday morning I was rushing around trying to decide if I had everything I needed for a nearly 100 mile ride deeper into the Cumberland Plateau.  Finally I had to commit and go or give up.  The world was ugly green...

Off I went...
The Dogrunner was my bike of choice.  I'd agonized for a few days between the Cannonball (Xtracycle) and the sporty-sport bike.  If the distance had been a little less, or if I'd had just a little more time, then I would have easily settled on the Cannonball.  But the problem was that I had 7 hours in which to cover (what I believed to be at the time) 87 miles.  I just didn't think I'd be able to go fast enough on the X.  Currently I have tires comparable to the Kenda Small Block 8s, so fat, but with passable rolling resistance. 
I wanted some cargo capacity though, so I rigged my Axiom carrier rack on the bike not designed to hold such accessories, and slung on my panniers with a light load including a change of dry clothes, food, and my camera. 
The first hour I rode on familiar roads through darkness and chilly rain.  There was little traffic between Stanton and Slade that early in the morning.  They were easy miles.  Then I only had 73 miles to go, and that was better considering my lack of physical activity of late.
Pausing at the top of Slade Hill
On to Campton, and patches of drizzle, with numb toes, cold cheeks, and a body feeling too fat and out of shape.  Oddly I was making pretty darn good time.  23 miles in and the biggest climb on the ride was behind me, and I was averaging 18 mph.
I'd not committed to the entire ride even that far in.  The plan was Mandy was going to drive out and meet me after a half day of work that morning.  I knew I could just pull over and wait for her with a text informing her of my location.
Mentally I wasn't suffering terribly bad even though physically I wasn't feeling great.  I was trying to eat regularly, but I stupidly avoided eating more than 3/4 of a banana for breakfast.  I had plenty of food, but it was just hard to choke it down.  On I rode.
Beyond Campton I was traveling unknown roads.  I'd used KYTC's handy-dandy traffic count tool to plan my route.  I must say that tactic worked wonderfully well.
There was little traffic between Campton to Hazel Green.  All the way on to Salyersville I enjoyed quiet roads.  I stopped at the small road south from KY 134 to Wheelrim.  In the shadow of the Mountain Parkway I tried to force down more cookies and I slugged down a full Kanteen of coffee.

Once back on the road everything changed.  I was still cold, it was still damp and overcast, and I still had 40 miles to go.  But at that moment I was very content in the moment.  I was freakin' ridin' my bike to the freakin' KBBC conference in freakin' Jenny Wiley State Park!
I pushed on toward Salyersville determined I was going to ride all the way.  It was still early enough I could take my time and make it.  I hoped I'd still make good enough time to detour and ride the Dawkins Line Rail Trail.  Picking it up in Ivyton and continuing east to the Hager Hill terminus and then on down to Jenny Wiley would add 10 miles to my ride.
In Salyersville I discovered my lost cyclist's appetite.  And the sun came out.  Mandy texted and said she was on her way and would buy me lunch when she caught up with me.  I hoped I could hold out.
It was cool to see the trail as an option in Google Maps
I rode on in to Jenny Wiley without tackling the entire Dawkins Line, but I did ride a short ways east on it at the Mountain Parkway before continuing on through Prestonsburg and into the state park.  And when my amazing wife pulled up to the front of the lodge I jumped in with her and we went for lunch.  The first leg of what was going to turn into a great weekend was over.
Dawkins Trestle over the Mountain Parkway at Ivyton
The ride from home to the state park went better than I could've imagined.  It was just the right kind of ride for a guy that hasn't been riding much at all and needed something to defib the ole ticker.  I'd chosen a route that was scenic, low in traffic, and fairly straightforward to follow.
I'd had my moments along the way when I wanted to give up.  It wasn't that the ride wasn't enjoyable, but that my body and mind just weren't into the moment.  They were dwelling in the past or delving into the future.  
Somewhere near Wheelrim I finally found a good cadence and settled into a pace I could sustain for a long time.  Despite the fact that I crawled over Abbott Creek in my granny gear I managed to maintain that 18 mph average the entire time I was on the bike.  Lack of activity or fitness or no, I still got legs, and I know how to use them.
My legs carried me 92 miles in just under 6 hours of riding

Actually getting on the bike and riding has reawakened the desire in me to ride again.  After the Iron Horse I think I'd lost that somewhat.  I've been lazy.
But going from the saddle to a room full of cyclists and people interested in cycling and to talk about cycling related issues on a state level...well, that was more than icing.  And it took my renewed feelings of meager enthusiasm and charged my batteries to 110%.
I'll continue with a writeup of the conference in my next post, and I'll wrap up this mini-series with a trip report of our ride of the new Dawkins Line Rail Trail.


  1. I got out the atlas a followed your trip. I appreciated seeing the pictures associated with little printed town names. I would like to do a trip like that one day. Thanks.

  2. I got out the atlas and followed your trip. I appreciated seeing the pictures associated with little town names on the map. I would like to do a trip like that some day. Thanks.