Friday, July 4, 2014

Kirby Knob and the Big Hills

The allure of cooler weather, the opportunity to catch a ride back from Berea, and the fact that Thursday was going to be the lone work day in the midst of a five day stretch of providential vacation inspired me to take the day off as well.

I texted the Moz my plan.  He was in.

At 9am we met near Furnace and turned west.  Mandy would be headed to Berea with the kids within the hour to visit our friends Brad and Carrie at their new house.  Jeff and I were going to take the long way.

The ride was uneventful through Irvine.  We picked up Red Lick Road (a fantastic ride itself) headed west, and then detoured over to KY 89 via Murphy Flat Road.  Murphy Flat is an amazing narrow, scenic, smoothly paved road.  It’s one of those rare obscure gems that are hard to find, but easy to revisit once you know about them. 

Murphy Flat Road
Once on 89 we were basically at the bottom of Drip Rock.  It seemed easier than the first time I climbed it. Of course that was last year on a broiling hot day at the end of July.  That was the day  I dropped Jeff somewhere on High Rock Road and continued on past Drip Rock, McKee, Booneville, and five miles past Beattyville before accepting a ride back home with the SAG Queen of the Cumberland Plateau.

At the top of Drip Rock we stopped in Ada’s store.  Ada asked if we were lost.  We both shook our heads no.

“Most of the time bike riders end up here they’re lost.  He took a guy back down off the mountain in his pickup not too long ago.” She indicated the cashier.  He nodded in agreement.

They were somewhat baffled that we would be riding from Powell County to Berea and enjoying the ride through their neck of the woods.  But they were helpful and gave us lots of good info, including the names of some of the dogs down the road that were sure to come after us.

“You just yell ‘Buddy, go home!’ and he’ll run back to the yard.”

We thanked them and continued on, turning off onto KY 2004 within sight of the country store hoping for a nice long, scenic ridge ride.  For the most part it was.  But over the 21 miles of rural ridgetop road we traversed before reaching KY 421 near Big Hill we found some tough riding.  About ten miles past Drip Rock the rollers swelled to big wave size and we groaned with each 40 mph descent knowing it would be followed by a 4 mph climb.

“Shouldn’t one of us be bonking right now?” I asked.  Those relentless non-rollers were the type of hills just made to suffer on.  And suffering is so much sweeter when your blood sugar and electrolytes have abandoned you for greener pastures.  Somehow we were both still cranking along in an unbonked state.

At Kirby Knob (of Boys fame) we encountered a dilemma.  In a fork in the road there was a digi-sign that read:

Road Closed 2.5 Miles

Of course we couldn’t tell which fork of the road was affected.  The sign was exactly in the middle of the two forks.  Jeff solved our problem by accosting a local and asked the way.  She pointed to the right and with heartfelt thanks we were off.

My food was long gone.  My tank was empty.  The miles we were dragging behind us were long and rugged.  I just wanted to reach Brad and Carrie’s to get some food.

The last five miles to 421 would have been enjoyable if we’d not been fighting to get over the smallest of hills.  From the intersection of KY 3447 and KY 421 it was a annoyingly slight uphill grade.  At that point I knew my bonk clock was ticking.  The brick I was dragging got heavier and heavier.

Then Big Hill.  We came off the Plateau (not plaid toe Jeff!) finally with finality.  We came off the Plateau like space capsules on re-entry.  At the bottom we stopped at the community of Big Hill so I could map our last few miles.  It was five few miles.  I groaned somewhat overtly. 

That's a big hill
Neither of us wanted to ride 421, but unless we wanted to do the KY 21 climb up to Indian Fort and add a few miles to the ride we had to go a little ways up that busy road.  It turned out to be a decent ride.  There was a little traffic, but nothing overwhelming.  Bonus that the scenery was still magnificent.

When we turned west onto Pilot Knob Cemetery Road (not that Pilot Knob!) we were within spitting distance of the finish line.  Each hill was a new battle to fight.  Each descent promised miles covered faster.

Finally we saw the house. 

We visited with Brad and Carrie for a bit.  Mandy and the kids had a good day running around Berea.  Jeff, Lily-Bean, and Noel (Brad and Carrie’s five year old) drew pictures on pink paper.  Eventually we headed for home by way of a Mexican fast-food joint in Richmond.  And then the long drive from Richmond through Irvine, and back to Furnace country.  We returned Jeff to his family in a similar condition to how I found him.  It had been a good—if challenging—ride.

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