Pathetically I was planning on riding the Delong-Walnut couplet. It’s mellow for the most part, especially if you can get out and back before the lunch rush of migrant farms hands begins pouring over the roads into Lexington. But then I remembered the bike shop guy (hi Scott!) talking about the Grimes Mill climb.
I had once descended Grimes Mill down to Boone Creek, and then climbed back up the east side to continue on from Lexington to home. I knew it was steep. And I knew it was short. The dreams of fat cyclists are vivid. I hoped somehow I could overcome my sinus funk, have a spike in energy comorbid with some anti-gravity acrobatics and manage to crank off a KOM.
I knew that wasn’t going to happen, but the watery fantasy that I might be able to pretend it could happen got me out of the cube, on the bike, and headed far from the office on a fine late-morning bicycle ride.
Richmond Road is an industrialized grunt along a flow of heavy traffic through the detritus of thousands of vehicles a day moving far too fast. The shoulders are nice and wide and tire-eating with junk. But you can keep up a decent pace all the way out to the interstate. Beyond the Athens-Boonesboro exit overpass the nature of the road changes from bulging arterial to narrow country road. Bonus that you first pass through Athens (pronounced Ay-thens, not Ah-thens) before finding yourself rolling along pastoral ridges.
I was faking it the first half hour on the bike. I’d eaten a bar made from real Laras and drank most of my water. The ghostly headache I’d felt all morning faded somewhere out in the wide open spaces. That aspirin I took from the cubicle farm first aid kit apparently helped. By the time I turned onto Grimes Mill Road (scenic byway) I actually felt like a cyclist and not a fat hog bike thief. I kept up my speed as I descended and rolled on toward the Boone Creek gorge and my destiny.
Grimes Mill doesn’t really compare to Furnace Mountain, Sky Bridge Hill, or Cobhill. It’s eight-tenths of a mile long and gains a measly two hundred and fifty-six feet in elevation and boasts a 7% average grade. There’s a significant reprieve along the way to boot. What Grimesy lacks in teeth (like a mongrel on your ankle) it makes up for in sheer beauty (a showdog nibbling on your toes).
I really think—had I not felt like an escaped cancer patient—that on a good day I could have flung myself more effectively up that climb and showed at least half those Bluegrass boys what a fat Pottsvillager can do on a bike.
Alas, I gave a poor showing. I was 54th out of 68 Strava dorks. Usually I can hit somewhere around the middle. Either I’m slipping in my old age or there are some strong Strava dorks pedaling around the Boone Creek area.
I tried to give it a serious go. I pedaled hard. I pedaled hard until it felt like my face was going to explode. Then I backed off. Then I hit the reprieve. I thought it was over so I slumped over the top tube and pedaled weakly toward Lexington. Until I saw the final pitch. Ugh.
There was no point in attacking then. I had let off too much. Another day. Next time when I feel better. Stronger. Less terminal.
I recovered quickly once out of the gaping maw of Boone Creek; and I pounded on the pedals all the way back to the office, keeping up a respectable speed and even maintaining some extended 22-25 mph efforts on Old Richmond Road.
For a forced ride it ended up being quite enjoyable. The scenery truly is top notch. The ride is quality and classic. Grimes Mill (westbound) is a worthy climb.
Seemingly my best Strava dork effort for the day was along Old Richmond Road. I managed 11th out of 31 Strava dorks with a 19.9 mph average for 5.3 miles. I felt good about that. To maintain a near 20 mph average for that long alone with variable winds and cotton in my head is a personal feat to be certain.
I wasn’t even wrecked when I got back to the office.
Unexpectedly I found myself doing the Pompeii to Paint Creek Loop with Mark after work and had an even better Strava dork moment when I claimed KOM on the Pompeii Climb. It’s another short, steep effort, but the difference is that this hill has historic significance for me. Between kindergarten and third grade I lived at the top of this hill and frequently my mother and I would go up and down this hill to get to town from our house. She would walk and I would ride my trike or bike. Most often she would carry my steed back up, but it was the earliest days of cycling hill climbing for me.
Recently I went out and used Pompeii Hill to figure out how to calculate spot grades. The lower crux is 11% and the upper crux is 12.5%. The entire climb is only three tenths of a mile long with 130 feet of gain; it has an 8% average grade. It’s just the next size down from Grimes Mill. It’s a small and Grimes Mill is a tight medium.
The evening ride was cut short when the spokes in my rear wheel began creaking savagely. I know I’m fat, but I didn’t think I was that fat. I knew my lovely wife was coming out to town for groceries so I called and set up a rendezvous at the Kroger so I wouldn’t have to risk tacoing my rear wheel at 40 mph on the backside of Steamshovel Hill.
Fortuitously we ran into Jeff and his family in the parking lot. Their Monday ritual involves a family trip to get the goods while Jeff rides out from their house, meets them at the store and rides back in the car. Cheater.
Anyway, I swapped rear wheels with him. I figure he’ll hear the creaking, fix it, and next time I see him I can covertly swap wheels back. Or better yet he’ll replace the wheel. Either way I’m golden.