Friday, May 31

Escape From Lexington: Krampus Out Of Hell

I ambled by the LBS yesterday to pick up a few last minute gels…for the Mohican.  No, I don’t normally snack on them.  What are you, malfunct?
 
Smug guy wearing a beard and cycling cap says to me: “You’re the guy interested in the Krampus?”
 
I’d walked past the Krampus by the door without fondling it, but just barely.
 
“Yeah,” I said suspiciously.
 
Y’know, we have two of them,” he gestured invitingly toward the swamp green monstrosities near the front of the building.  His LBS compadres tittered.
 
C’mere, I’m gonna slap you!” I replied.  I can get away with this because I’m a customer, and the customer is always right, whereas the LBS employee should never, ever, never, ever taunt someone in the throes of Krampus addictionI gave up chasing him around the shop because I didn’t want to deplete my glycogen stores.
 
“I could write you a check,” I offered.  Of course, I know the balance of my checking account—even if there were to be enough dinero there to pay off the Surly whoremongers that have constructed the Krampus in the fiery bowels of a volcano on Mustafar it would leave my family destitute until such time as I could sell a kidney.  But then I wouldn’t be able to ride the fair beast until I’d recovered from surgery so that wouldn’t really be an option.
 
“Or maybe…WHAT’S THAT?!” I cried, momentarily directing their attention to the empty parking lot on the north side of the building as I leapt astride the Krampus by the door, cranked hard to build up speed, crashed through the glass and aluminum opening, ripping the door from its frame, structurally compromising the front wall of the building, and making a spectacular getaway while spinning easily so as not to endanger my success at the Mohican tomorrow by going anaerobic too soon.
 
I’m writing this from an undisclosed location nowhere near a straightline path from Lexington to Loudonville, Ohio.  So go ahead coppers, try and catch me!  I think I’ve got a good shot at winning tomorrow on my new bike with the motivation of the chase.  Your best chance will be at the finish line.  Make sure you grab me when you can.  I’ll be the first guy across; just disregard that physical description you have in your hand right now.  I’ll be in disguise and so will my Kramply steed.  Of course I’ll deny everything and claim to be someone else.  Of course I will.  If you torture me enough I’ll confess, and then you can put me away for a very long time, confiscate my bike, and stop looking for me altogether.
 
Also, as I crashed through the front of the LBS I snagged one of those snappy new jersey and bib kits they just got in.  Those things are sweet.  They should totally sponsor me.  I love the white vintage lettering on the black background.  My size is “fatter-than-average” so I’ll keep wearing the women’s medium I grabbed, but would appreciate it if you would overnight me a properly sized kit to “General Delivery, Loudonville, OH 44842.”  Include instructions for the postmaster to put it in the drop bag at aid station 3 labeled “K. Rampus.”  I’ll have an agent make the swap.  No funny stuff, or the Krampus dies!
 
Well, no, I wouldn't do that.  I'd do anything for love...but I won't do that.

Thursday, May 30

Gawkin at Dawkins

The grand opening of the Dawkins Line Rail Trail in Breathitt, Magoffin, and Johnson Counties will take place on June 15 at 10:00am at the 8.3 mile marker located at these coordinates:

37.736780, -82.900059

Be there; bring the cash, and no funny stuff!  
 
This message will self-destruct…NOW!
 

Anyway, the Dawkins Line has been a long awaited multi-use trail in a rural area that is seeing the sunset of Big Coal over the land and needs a boost to the system.  There are some controversies surrounding the construction of this trail, mainly of user conflicts, historic uses, and the expectations of the local users.  
 
Equestrians are already damaging the surface of the trail--crusher-fines--and making it hard for hikers and bikers to enjoy the trail.  Also, ATVs have run rampant on the trail in the past and it seems that going forward it’s going to be difficult to keep them off of it.  That will be an issue of local enforcement, and dependent upon the will of the agencies involved to keep it under control.
 
A lot of locals are disappointed because of the horse damage and had expected a hard surface trail to be built instead of the soft surface trail that’s in place now.  It will take more effort on the part of the locals and other stakeholders to educate all user groups to be responsible and to be more considerate of the needs of others.  This is not a new phenomenon with the opening of this particular trail.
When it’s completed the Dawkins Line will be 34 miles long running generally southwest from Paintsville along the old rail alignment.  There are at least a couple of tunnels and multiple bridges.  
 
The project has been modeled after the highly successful Virginia Creeper Trail that is of similar distance between Abingdon and Whitetop Station, Virginia.  
 
Unfortunately too much stock has been put in the successes of the Creeper Trail and there has been an excessive amount of credence put into the idea of stamping out Damascus (mid-point of the VCT) trail town clones all over the place in Kentucky.  This type of success is organic and not genetically modified.  
 
I’m not saying the Dawkins Line or any other such project in Kentucky won’t be a success, but you can’t apply the model everywhere indiscriminately and always re-create a Damascus, Virginia.  If the Dawkins Line fails to accomplish all its promised it’s not because Damascus was a bad model, or that the idea was bad, but maybe because with vision there also needs to be a tenacity to see the project through to the end which may be decades down the road. Having vision means also having faith and patience.
 
I have ridden the Virginia Creeper Trail twice and have strongly recommended it to most of my cyclist friends who would be interested in that type of experience.  I'd love to go back soon and revisit it with my family.  And I'm stoked to see the Dawkins Line finished.  Unfortunately the grand opening is the same day as the Preservation Pedal.  Woe is me.
 
Having rained on that parade, let me finish up by saying I’m maybe even looking at doing a front porch tour to ride it once it’s complete. It would only be a 180-200 mile round trip; three easy days would be feasible or two harder days.

[The location for the grand opening ceremony is just west of Dobson, KY]

Wednesday, May 29

The Leadville Saga: Blasting the Mohican

Ack!  Three days!  Three days!  Three days!
 
I’m not nervous.  Nope.  I’m ready to wipe out the Mohican.  
 
[Retch!]
 
Every time I’ve mentioned to someone that I might opt to do the 100k versus the full 100 mile race I get: “NO! You’re doing the hundred miles!”
My wife says: “Go big or go home!”
 
[Retch!]
 
The thing that concerns me is my lack of mileage compared to my preparation for Leadville last year.
 
[Barf!]
 
Leadville…
 
 
The difference is…[hand to mouth]…is that the lesser amount of riding I am doing seems to be of much higher quality.  After Lead…[gulp]…ville last year I identified some of my weaknesses.  I knew I needed to focus on my technical skills.  I knew I needed to be more comfortable riding the distance, not necessarily having ridden a whole freakin’ lot of miles in short bursts.  I knew I needed to go light, leave the hydration pack and kitchen sink behind and trust in my minimal gear and the aid stations to carry me through.  I knew I needed to develop my core and strengthen my upper body.  
 
Of the four things I really only feel like I’m lacking in the last one.  I’ve got two months to condition myself.  After I return from the Mohican I will totally reassess, but I’m confident that my shortcomings will be in overall fitness and in the other areas I will have excelled.  So beginning June 2 I will focus hard on conditioning and strength.  I should have been doing this all along, but with our move and transience since the beginning of the year I just didn’t have the ability to do what I needed to do.  Mine is the training plan of opportunity, not of need.  That goes along with my overall philosophy though: to show the world that an Average Joe can pull this off without investing exorbitant resources in ensuring success.
 
June and July aren’t typically the best months to do hard mountain biking in the Southeast.  It might be best if I focus on general conditioning, dropping the weight, and riding short and hard when I can to build speed.  I know the first two will benefit me greatly regardless of timing.  
 
Since Leadville I’ve ridden a lot more technical singletrack.  On the Cougar Slayer I got comfortable riding clipped in over technical terrain.  Sam and I fell over more times that we could count, and I finally started to be loose on the bike and stay clipped in longer and longer.  The last few months in Colorado I rode a lot of rocky, technical terrain and stayed clipped most of the time.  I took some lumps, but learned to trust the bike.
 
As far as distance goes, the Horsey Hundred was my third century ride ever.  I did the Triple Bypass in ’09, the Corona Pass ride from my house last year, and then the Horsey.  Before Leadville I will have also ridden the Mohican and the Preservation Pedal this summer.  I’ve also done quite a few 60-80 mile rides since Leadville.  I’m pretty good at that distance.  A hunnert is far, and hurts a lot, but anything up to 80 feels fine.  Of course, many of those have been road rides, but most have included some significant climbing too.
 
The minimalist in me has come out with a vengeance.  I’ve gone tubeless, cut down to a single bottle cage (up until time for the Mohican), and I’ve pared away most of the extraneous stuff from my bike and kit.  If I could pare the extraneous fat from my midsection as easily we’d be in business.  But the Alpine Odyssey gave me confidence in going fast and light on the bike.It also convinced me that fueling from the aid stations is key;and employing a strategery that incorporates them is crucial to minimalistic success.
 
I’ve neglected my general conditioning.  I’m a dog to apathy.  When I’m tired I put down my tomahawk to feed its laziness.  From the Mohican forward that cannot be the case.  
 
One thing I didn’t fully realize I needed was the company and influence of others.  Riding with Gihoff has shown me other areas where I need to improve and has motivated me to do more than I would have alone.  I kinda wish he were in this Leadville quest with me.  I know we’ll still ride together after the Mohican, but having him there talking about tactics and working through all the racing problems has made a difference. It’s been much easier to get out on the bike and push through some of the harder rides having another person riding toward the same goal.
 
I’m also counting on the “fluke factor” a bit.  The Alpine Odyssey was a fluke.  That might have been my best day on the bike ever, but it was also one of the hardest efforts I’ve ever been confronted with.  Somehow my body chemistry, the weather, gravity, and my mental game all came together that day.  I pedaled like a fiend and the bike rocketed around Crested Butte like nobody’s business.  A little fluke magic on Saturday would be welcomed.
 
This (the past five years) has been a long crazy ride…sometimes I forget how crazy it’s been.  Being on the saddle, hunched over the bars, cranking away…well, you just don’t always get to look around at the scenery, and you should! Mandy and I made a point to take full advantage of living in Colorado and we’re glad we did. We packed in a decade’s worth of adventure during the five years we were there.  To say we maximized our time and broadened our horizons is an understatement.  I’m confident we’ll carry over that energy into the new chapter of our lives here in Kentucky.  
 
The Mohican is the common thread between the two worlds in a way.  It’s like Leadville, but it’s distinctly Eastern.  It has aligned my thinking back to my Colorado programming.  Or it at least has the potential to do so.  I’ve got just under three days to get back into my old skin for a good solid go at mountain biking glory. 
 
We’ll see.
 

Tuesday, May 28

A Hundred Horsepower

I wasn't intentionally ditching Dgeof* and his wife by opting not to carpool with them to Georgetown on Saturday morning.  

Logistically it made sense, even if it would be a bit tricky to get three adults, three kids, and three bikes and all our gear from the ole PC to Lexington on Friday night and then on to Georgetown College early the next morning.

Turns out my mom's family reunion was planned for Saturday as well, and I wanted to have the ability to cut out on my own in case I finished up the ride early enough to get back for it.

That, and a few days ago Mandy and I came up with a scheme to have a Triumphant Return Party in honor of our departure for Colorado and subsequent return (to the same house) almost five years later to the day.  That fell through but may end up being rescheduled.  Anyway, the party idea also caused me to plan on riding the 2013 Horsey Hundred all by myself.

 
Yes, I realize it was a group event.  But short of hanging with Jjefff and Casey I really didn't want to make a social event of it.  I'm not a huge fan of bike club shenanigans.  

Oh, I'm not going to bash them.  For some people it's the perfect kind of social club.  Me, I'm just not into social clubs in general, and corporally eschew running with a pack.  I think my idea of an ideal social club is more of an accidental coming together of a group of random anarchist cyclists.

Let's face it--I'm not a social butterfly.

The truth is, I'm just a whore for the "free" jersey.  The HH was my first of the three requisite century rides to claim my Kentucky Century Challenge jersey.

I'm a big fan of the early start.  I got to Georgetown at 6:00am.  This had the dual benefit of playing to my inner introvert and also making it difficult to find my way around.  There were no signs directing participants to the parking area, and the "Register Here" sign was confusing if you rounded the rec center from the south.

That is my sole complaint with the organization of the ride.  Well, maybe I have one more for later.  But otherwise the course was marked well, the aid stations were spaced nicely, and the route itself was very enjoyable.  

I'm going to say this once (and then elaborate profusely) I went full roadie on this ride.  Jersey guy extraordinaire.  It was quite the roadie-o.

I went Hammer gel, bib shorts, full zip jersey, clipless pedals, chamois (Cham-Wow!) cream, shaved legs, wrap around shades, bike gloves, CO2 roadie.

Yeah, I said shaved legs.  Mandy suggested it.  And then I couldn't get the idea out of my head.  It was more of a joke than for any practical reason.  The notion that shaving your legs for cycling serves any useful purpose is in itself a joke.  But the silky smooth feeling of the creamy whiteness of my legs is no joke.  I can't stop rubbing them.  As a matter of fact I almost caught the chin strap of my helmet half a dozen times in my spokes while on the Horsey trying to cop a feel of my own legs.

 
The one noticeable effect shaving had on my legs was causing non-aerodynamic goose bumps to form on my legs in the 45F air at 6am.

At 5:49am Ddjefh had texted me and asked:

Are you 20 miles in already?

I didn't see the text, but it becomes relevant later.

By 6:20 I was antsy to get going, for one because I had 104 miles to ride, and secondly because a couple of the clubbers were giving me the hairy eyeball.  I think the sheen on my legs intimidated them. 

So I was off, all alone, just me and the Dogrunner, on my way to roadie-o glory.  Georgetown was quiet as the ole Continentals whispered on the pavement.  The farmland on the outskirts was cloaked in tendrils of fog, the sun creeped over the horizon and washed everything in gold.


I covered the miles to Midway in about 50 minutes.  That's when I saw Yjeff's relevant text.

I replied:

In the parking lot rubbing my silky legs.

Gjeoff:

You're bluffing

So I texted him:

Nope. Me and my aerodynamic legs are in Midway.

Along with this photo:

 
Midway is a cool town.  It was still sleeping as I cruised through.  The first rest station there in town wasn't set up yet, but I was feeling good and in no need of aid.  I pedaled on toward the state Capitol.

When I reached the second aid station at Switzer I was the first rider to have come through.  I'd detoured just before to check out the cool covered bridge, hen refueled and topped off my water bottles at the Switzer Ruritan Club.  I'm not sure what a "Ruritan" is, but I suspect it has something to do with pale shaved legs.


 
After Switzer I left out toward Frankfort. I was stoked to finally get to ride through the state Capitol.  CVP is a fun MTB outing, but I've spent enough time in and around the town to have developed a desire to flash a jersey on it.  Got my wish.  It was cool that the route went around the Capitol building.  I shed my undershirt in the front steps.  The day was finally starting to warm.

 
On into Millville was interesting and I was feeling good.  There was an old abandoned old abandoned distillery between the road and the river.  Before the third aid station I was riding to finish at a five hour pace.  That would soon change.


I cruised in to Millville and eased into the aid station.

"You're in first place!" they joked as I chewed on a cookie.  

"Shaving my legs really paid off!"

We chatted about leg shaving, the weather, and being out front.

"Oh, you're not first anymore," one volunteer pointed over my shoulder as a skinny guy wearing a Crankworks jersey screamed by.

"Where's my bike!" I hollered, spraying cookie everywhere.  Two more cyclists came in as I was stuffing my face.  I hoped they'd notice my shaved legs and not my gut and be too intimidated to try and pass me.  My hopes were dashed.

The first guy in pulled out with me and stamped down on his pedals to break free of my gravitational pull.  The other skinnier guy would pass me miles on down the road, but be unable to reach escape velocity for an equal distance as we'd gotten into the four big climb/descents between miles 50 and 70.  Skinny Cyclist could float up the hills like a birdie, but then I'd come crashing down on top of him on the far side.

 
At mile 70 I realized I was slowing and I was suffering. 30+ miles to go seems so far when you've got more than twice that dragging behind you.  I felt the early onset of a bonk.  In desperation I stopped and choked down another Clif Bar and drank as much water as I could.  I'd reached the point where my body decided it needed to focus on moving and not fueling.  Digestion services were shutting down for the day.

Take special note of miles 50 to 70
 
At one point I saw another rider ahead and set to overtaking them.  I assumed that I was riding faster as I had came up on them, but was confused because no one else had passed me and it wasn't one of the three riders that had already gotten ahead of me.  It was conceivable that someone had started earlier than me, but I just didn't think it had happened.  A few minutes went by and I wasn't getting any closer to the cyclist.  I was cranking along at a good clip as I was past the worst of the climbing by that point and getting close to Bluegrass Airport.  But after initially closing on the rider I then seemed to lose ground.  Maybe it wasn't even a HH rider?

Then THEY made a right turn onto a side road.  It was a tandem and they were wearing matching jersies.  I'd been chasing a tandem.  I felt like I did the day I chased the electric assisted recumbent commuting to Golden.  I immediately eased off my pace.

My Grail for the day...

Then I plodded on, cognizant of the mild temps and thankful for them, until I reached the aid station at Keeneland.  My cyclocomputer showed 87 miles.  For the first time on the ride I saw lots of other cyclists.

And here is my second complaint to the organizers of the 2013 Horsey Hundred: other riders.  Specifically, other riders that fail to use good common sense whilst riding in a group, though I suspect with some of them I'd have issue if they were riding alone in a field.  In fact, some of them appeared to be doing just that, except in the middle of a busy road...chasing butterflies.

The Siamese Triathletes drove me bonkers mad.  They had matching jersies, aerobars, and one of them rode the double yellow line except when she was chasing butterflies in the oncoming lane.  I couldn't pass them because the two of them occupied the entire lane.  After I did finally manage to pass them they immediately sped up to pass me.  And then slowed down so I was forced to do the butterfly dance with them all over again.  It really wasn't about competition at that point.  I was 90 miles in and ready to be done.  I was hungry.  Doan get between me and a free post-ride buffet. Don't do it!

I wasn't dead on the bike when I got back to Georgetown, but my excitement level had definitely reached its expiration date.  I was ready to go home.

After the ride I got the following text from Jgephf:

I did some math. Turns out factoring in my hairy legs I averaged 21.3 mph.

Me: Doesn't count

He shot back:

Oh yeah? Well I'm not gonna shave my legs, I'm gonna nair 'em!

I taunted:

Who wears short shorts?  Jeff wears short shorts!

It was a good day on the bike.  At first I felt despair going forward to the Mohican.  How can I expend the same effort on the mountain bike in a week?  Ieff spoke to a guy who's paying a trainer to get him ready for the Mohican.  He told the him that he's crazy for riding the HH a week before.  The guy's trainer has him doing easy spinning all week.

Mandy and I did some easy spinning on the 27 mile Gorge Loop yesterday.  I was feeling it...


My original plan was to rest all week and only do some easy riding.  Gonna stick to that.  Unless I don't.

*names of demon mountain bikers changed to protect...someone

 

Friday, May 24

Shaving Off Uncertainty

It's significant to note that it was five years ago today I drove my family west to live in Colorado.  What a strange but amazing journey it's been.

Last night I texted the Demon MTBer:
“You think I should shave my legs for the Horsey [Hundred]?”
He replied:
“I thought of shaving them for Mohican just so for one day I feel like a real racer but so far I’ve chickened out.”
Me:
“Mountain bikers don’t shave. BCC [Bluegrass Cycling Club] riders do.”
Demon MTBer:
“Not true. Lots of MTBers shave.  You and I are two of them.”
 
Well, now that’s not entirely true.  I’ve never shaved my legs.  And despite this being my 40th year on the planet I still only shave my face once a week.  I would wear a Ducky Dynastic manbeard except for I can’t grow one.
I went on to express my concern that if I shave my legs for the Horsey Hundred that the hair wouldn’t grow back before the Mohican when I would like to show coarser legs.  Jeoph seemed to think that if I got mad enough it would.  I’m not sure what he’s heard about follicle physics, but I just don’t think that makes any sense.
My back yard
 
I’d come down from the mountain just a few minutes earlier, riding high on endorphins from discovering the greater extent of the ATV trail system in the woods behind my house:  4.5 miles out and back.  That was just the beginning. 
I was thwarted by some mud.  Recent rains have made the steeper sections too slick to pedal.  I tried, but failed.  Then I walked up one (that I call the Artificial Gravity Machine) and didn’t think I was going to be able to make it up on foot pushing the bike.  But I did finally reach the crest of the ridge with the resolve that I’d go back and cut some trail to bypass the oversteep 100 foot gain climb. With a nice cut trail and a connector to close the loop on the backside of the ridge I could have a 5 mile lollipop with the stem being quite fun and worth doing out and back.
Artificial Gravity Machine
 
Then I checked out the other side of the holler.  I’d hiked it before, but last night was the first time I rode it.  There’s a nice 150’ climb up along the Pond (as my family calls it) along the crest of a blunt ridge.  I’m going to talk to my cousin and see if he minds if I cut a trail down into the dark holler on the far side of the ridge.  It could be a nice descent and add another segment to my system.
While it sounds like I might have attained MTBing nirvana the truth is that access is still uncertain.  There was a time when I was younger that I wouldn’t have thought twice about riding all over those hills.  My grandparents owned the vast majority of the land, and I had free reign of it.  But these days it’s been parceled out to uncles and cousins and my grandparents are in their 80s.  Unrelated neighbors have developed some of these ATV trails and I don’t know exactly who they are.  There is the distinct possibility I could piss someone off with my clacking hubs and ramming speeds.  I need to ascertain the situation before progressing beyond the discreet.
I need to do some research within my family and then perhaps some checking around with people on the creek to see if it’s okay for me to ride and build trails all up and over Kaincaid Mountain.  Maybe I need to form the KcMMBA (Kaincaid Mountain Mountain Bike Association).
In the mean time I will train for Leadville by trying to climb some wicked sick old logging roads.
Y'know what I don't recommend? Bombing through a wall of blackberry brambles at 20 mph on a mountain bike.  Your legs sting in the shower afterward.  A lot.  Made me think thrice about shaving my legs for tomorrow.
There is an ATV/MTB trail in there somewhere
 

Wednesday, May 22

Capitol Voyeur

My first visit to Capitol View Park in Frankfort was everything I expected it to be.  It was a park.  You could see the state Capitol.  On top of that I discovered miles of mountain bike trails.  Luckily I had my mountain bike, kit, and a lunch hour to burn.


At first I felt off my game.  It's was warm, the trails were not 100% dry after recent rains, and I was in a totally new and unfamiliar place.  There was nothing I could do about the strangeness of the place.  I figured out I had too much PSI and let a little air out toward the end of my ride.  Finally, my body just put out the sweat in bucketloads to cool itself down.

It's true what you've been told:  Capitol View Park (or CVP if you prefer) is the midpoint between Veterans Park (VP) in Lexington and Skullbuster (SKB) in Scott County.  VP is an easy distance with a nice, smooth, flowing trail.  SKB is much longer, rough and rooty, and taxes your focus and persistence.  CVP is a good mix.  It has shorter options, a variety of surfaces and terrain, and it gives you opportunity to have a different ride every time.

 
The singular con I have for CVP is that it's a very confusing place to try and navigate on your own the first time.  I didn't get lost exactly, but I ended up turning back instead of exploring deeper because I wasn't sure which trails were intentional and which ones were user created out in the boonies south of the East-West Connector.

If I had felt a little more sure-footed I might have pushed further into the jungles of Frankfort, Kentucky, but as it was I just didn't feel as confident as I usually do in a new area.  I had a much different experience than I did solo exploring at SKB.

 
I saw deer, a big ole black snake, and a surprise(d) jogger.  It was really cool to ride in the bottoms along the Kentucky River.  My last bike ride along the river was The Long Commute Home.

Now, I said I didn't feel sure-footed, but I did feel pretty solid behind the pedals.  I wasn't super fast, managing only a mere 7.2 mph average for my 7.8 mile ride, but I climbed like a surly billy goat.  Short and steep or long and steady...I cranked.


 
After my lunch ride I went downtown for some work related fun.  Then I headed home in the afternoon to sock in a good session on the mower.  Blah, blah, blah.  But an unexpected thunderstorm nixed my mowing dreams, so after the deluge subsided I jumped on the Orange Blossom Special (because it was handy on the Bikeport) and went exploring in the woods behind my house.

When I was younger I used to roam the vast Chainring family holdings utilizing a series of old, old, old logging roads.  They were grown over and washed out for the most part.  Lately I'd been hoping I could get up there and slash and burn my way through to have my own private MTB trail network.  Seems the ATVers/hunters have beat me to it.  Off my back porch (The Red River Regional Bikeport) I rode 0.7 miles into the woods on a narrow two track after a heavy rain, and I had FUN.

I stopped at the bottom of a stout little climb that goes all the way up to a shoulder that would put a determined mountain biker within striking distance of the crest of the ridge.  Oh, and then the miles of ATV trails increase manyfold.

My 0.7 mile bomb run back home had a nice aesthetic flow to it.  If you can't find me over the next few decades you'll now know where to look...

Tuesday, May 21

A Word On Getting Lost In The Kentucky Wilderness

Tit for tat. 
I texted Gephrey* over the weekend and asked if he wanted to meet up for a go at Hart’s Orchard.  He said he was game, so we set a time to meet at my house, and I went back to the around-the-house chores I needed to get done for the day.  Well, there’s a little back story.  I woke up early that morning and ran from my house to the base of the hill and back.  4+ miles.  Then I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  I’m not sure why I dragged poor ole Djeph into it.
He arrived and we rode up the valley toward uncertainty.  I knew the hill.  I’d driven it many times over the course of my life, I’d even bombed down it on the Cannonball a couple of times when I was younger and stupider. But I’d never tried to ride up it.
Tom said you lose traction near the top. Wait, Tom tried it?  Yep.  My nearly 60 year old father-in-law is a beast.  He cries pokery, but despite his slow and steady pace, he is the tortoise to many a local hare.  He can really throw down the miles.
His account rings true.  I once tried to drive up the ridiculously steep gravel road in my uncle’s 1972 Chevy pickup with bald tires. No bueno.  At the very top I managed to reach the edge of the blacktop with the front tires, but the back wheels just kept spinning in the gravel.  Finally I had to back far down the hill to turn around and retreated.  In a truck!
It had rained the night before Jegh and I made our onslaught, so the road base was nice and packed, tacky, and generally just in good biking conditions anyway.  I figured it was our best chance to reach the summit in one go.
I led the way, cranking upward toward glory, possibly toward a first ascent of Hart’s Orchard on a bike, and then…my lower back was screaming in agony.  Two days of digging around in a tomato bed and heaving furniture and boxes around as we moved back in to our house left my poor lower core unable to cope.
Jhepth continued on.  And on.  And on.  To the top.


Top of Hart's Orchard Hill

 
I got back on the bike and finished the climb with only one stop.  I’d made it at least a third of the way up before putting a foot down.  It’s possible I made it halfway.  Haven’t gone back to discern my true fraction yet.
We parted ways and I bombed back home while Dhjeff returned over Furnace to his domicile.  I was beat.  Beat down.  Broken. Crushed into oblivion.  Not only had I run 4+ miles that morning, but I had pedaled the Ute over Granny Moppet to town to pick up some stuff at the hardware store and returned via Steamshovel Hill Road.  Then I attempted Hart’s Orchard at the close of an afternoon of yard work.
My partner in climb had suggested getting together the next morning to ride farther.  I said I’d have to speak with the significant and get back to him.  After chatting it up Mandy was cool with me MTBing with Schjeph in the morning as her and Casey were going to ride in the afternoon.  Jeiff’s scheme—a worthy one—was to explore a small manmade lake near his place.  It was surrounded by a mix of oil company land, national forest, and private hillbilly jungle.  The crux was that the obvious way in, from the paved county road, had been blocked by some homesteaders and their house trailer.  What was supposed to be a county road that went all the way up to the lake was barred by a private gate.  We were going to go in the back way.
Bright and early I was ripped from slumber by the cruel alarm.  I grumbled something about “why, when my parents asked 7 year old me if I wanted a bike, did I say YES?!”  “When my uncle Terry helped me to learn to ride the stupid thing why did I have that awful silly grin on my face?”  If only I knew that someday I’d be waking up carrying the burden of a promise to go ride with a Monzter…a mountain biking monster that caused the Energizer bunny to wake up in a cold sweat…if only I knew that, I’d have said: “Nope, don’t want to learn to ride that cussed thing. Get. It. Out. Of. My. Sight.”
I had claimed I was going to ride from my house to meet Chjeffph at his house.  That morning I sat on the edge of the bed chanting: “holy swearing cuss!” over and over.  Nope, not going to pull it off with this equipment.
I’m driving.  Oh, did I say that out loud?
I jammed The One in the back of my car and drove out Furnace to the abode of the devil mountain biker.  He had some scheme involving “exploring” around a lake near his house.  I had a feeling the whole affair was going to end in a search and rescue operation. 
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
We followed our noses—though both informed and savvy noses—out Mountain Springs Road into a place where my mental map had a few holes.  I had a pretty good image of the USGS topo imprinted on my brain, but those parallel dashed lines across the paper didn’t tell me what lay before us. I’d seen too many cases where what appeared to be a road on the map was nothing more than an over grown bench or a creekbed.  Djough and I “biked” up Sterling Road recently proving those dashed lines on the Slade quadrangle wrong.
While we were bombing down the rough blacktop road into the enigmatic jungle that skirts the Powell-Estill County line I saw the brown blur of a marker that indicated a Forest road. 
“That’s our road!” I called over the roaring clack of my rear hub.
“Let’s see where this goes; we can always come back,” Joigh countered.  I nodded in agreement and slammed down on the ole Crank Brothers Mallets.
The forest opened up and we saw a cabin off to the left overlooking a small valley below the road on the right.  There were “No Trespassing” signs around the house, but as the pavement degraded to dirt in an instant the road seemed more welcoming than not.  We stopped just a few yards beyond the house and peered down the dirt road into the darkness of the woods.
“We could go back to that other road.”  Mjeef offered.  I looked ahead, not really thinking about the road we’d passed.  The one ahead looked fun.  The very beginning of the dirt section was a series of small sandstone ledges.  It looked rough, rugged, and just…FUN.
“Nah, let’s check this out,” I replied.
He mentioned the signs. 
“Those were back at the house.  The road isn’t posted and it looks like it gets a lot of ATV traffic.”  I wasn’t necessarily worried about being caught trespassing.  I’d been stomping all over those hills and woods my whole life.  I was pretty sure I could talk my way out of any mess.  Wish that were true…
Anyway, down we went.  The road was damp sand and dirt for a while.  We had to skirt the larger mudholes but were staying pretty clean for the most part.  It had rained the night before and the night before that, so I was expecting a full-on hog wallop before the day was done.  I’d not leave disappointed.
The first climb we hit I made it halfway or so, which was farther than Gjaeff, but got hung up on a rock and had to put a foot down.  The finish was a two foot high ledge barring access to the apex of the climb.  Jeff skirted it and I just walked past the obstacle. The next climb he took the main line which turned out to be mud soup, and I snuck right up the obvious ATV detour and almost made it clean (at least in technique).   
The final long climb I hung on for the ride, cranking and cranking until I was free of the pull of gravity.  Jeuff struggled with it for some reason, making me feel somewhat redeemed after my poor showing on Hart’s, but it was really one of those low percentage climbs that I made up in fluke mode.  It was a road-cum-rocky-creekbed covered in a layer of light-weight black mud.  I was plowing through the fluffy stuff on top relying on the “traction” of the smoothed and weathered stones beneath.  The mud held the rocks in place, the rocks provided the traction the mud did not, and my legs shut up and let me do my job.  Sha-ZAAM!

Zhjeff following where I led

I felt good.  Usually I walked where the demon mountain biker bunny hopped and middle-ringed it looking cool and collected. It’s not a competition, but only because Goueff doesn’t do Strava.
At the top we faced a fork in the road.  It was only a figurative fork, but there was a literal split in the road.  Both ways dropped steeply away from the apex of our last climb.  We were looking for the old townsite of Pilot. We’d passed a derelict homestead on the way up and I had a feeling we were getting close, but sitting between the two paths I had my moment of wayfinding doubt.
 
Not my graffiti 
I yanked out the ole cellular phone and let satellites in space tell me where we were. After using the handy compass app to orient myself I made the executive call that the steeper, rockier left fork was the golden path. I was afraid if we went right we’d end up dropping into the Woodward Creek drainage and be funneled miles away from where we wanted to go. 
After a nice technical descent we discovered where we were: Pilot.  And we both realized at the same time that the right fork was the ATV path we’d teed into the last time we’d pedaled through Pilot.  It was satisfying to have (for the most part) followed our noses and found our way.

Pilot, KY
 
A short ride around the south half of the Pilot loop brought us out to paved Pilot Road and the last leg of our journey.  We stopped to take in some fluids and calories before tackling the final rollers back to the mountain biking monzter’s abode. 
I drove back out to civilization with the strong desire to get back real soon to explore even more of that area.  We were right about the brown Forest marker.  That would have taken us right in to the lake where we’d intended to go. 
 Our route (www.mapmyride.com)

* Names changed to protect the innocent bystanders.